Friday, April 6, 2007

The Queen is Gone; Long Live the Queen

Before I get on to what people really want to know, some knitting content. I'm still very much not finished with the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, and there goes finishing March's sweater in March. That sweater is going to need a few quiet, kid-free hours (babysitting!). I realized that I needed some easy knitting-to-go, and so cast on for April's sweater. It's a top-down yoke sweater

using E. Zimmerman's percentage system from a knitlist pattern for Thing 1. I'll let you know what I think of it when I'm done. I'm using Paton's Classic Wool, and it's probably going to need a mock turtleneck under because it's a little scratchy and the neck is close-fitting. The colorwork is going to be a mix of stripes and stranded patternwork done with a coordinating self-striping yarn. I don't know how it's going to work, but the benefit is that it's fast enough to rip it out and redo if I don't like it. The collar looks wonky because it's going to be folded (that ridge is the purl turning ridge) and sewn down. After biasing the last hem I tried to knit in, I figured that I'd rather sew it later, and I wanted to make absolutely certain, after the fiascos with the orange sweater, that it was loose enough to slip over her head without drama.

You wouldn't know it, looking out my window to the grey, sort of drizzly morning, but it really is spring here. Bees, flowers, and at my house, eggs:

But, spring, to me, is now pretty much all about bees. The swarm I'd picked up and gotten stung for, after seeming well-established, flew the coop. Literally, as I'd put the hive in the chicken coop. I wish I knew why, since I did everything I know to make them happy. They were more than two miles from where I'd gotten them, they were in a nice hive, heck, they'd even started to draw comb - isn't that beautiful? -

and found pollen to put in it.

But who knows what goes on in the minds of bees?

I was bummed, to say the least. Then I had the brilliant (to me) idea of posting a "swarm wanted" post on Freecycle and on Soon enough, the emails started pouring in. Unfortunately, they were along a few different lines: "I'd love local honey; my husband has allergies," "I used to have a swarm, but they flew away," and my favorite (and still ongoing) one, "I'm making a film about Freecycle, can I come when you get one?"

So I just resigned myself to waiting. Yesterday is our big out of the house day. I even left early for Park Day with the homeschoolers. You know, an old house with four messy children, two not-completly-neat-but-not-as-messy-as-the-kids adults, and pets, needs daily vacuuming. The Hoover canister that I got second-hand probably wasn't meant for this kind of work. I had gone to the local vacuum store and drooled over the Mieles, but had talked myself out of the expense. I figured I'd just get along with the old one for a bit longer.

The carpet beater head on the Hoover started smoking yesterday morning. Since the whole vacuum was now also randomly turning off, I deemed that the Last Straw, and hied me to the vacuum store. I walked in and said, "I want the least expensive, large-capacity Miele you have." I think he was a little stunned, but I don't like to mess around when my mind's made up. Unfortunately, the box wouldn't fit in the bike trailer, so I left it there for later.

After a full day of play, I biked home, jumped in the car, went back to get the vacuum and pick up a quick dinner, and finally checked my email.

A swarm! Just a few streets away, and they wanted it gone. So I packed up a box and my new pheromone lures from the beekeeping folks and went over there. It was full dark, but I could tell it was large, about as long as my arm, and nicely placed. It was my good fortune that the homeowners had a large bucket, and I placed the swarm box (knothole taped shut) underneath the swarm and left it overnight. For comparison purposes, the box is 16" on its wide side:

This morning at (yawn) 6 am, I was back, with reinforcements in the form of a full (new) bee suit, new gloves, clippers for the branch, bee brush, camera, and my grandma's sheet. I also figured out a way to tie my veil that perhaps is the proper way, as it makes a firm seal around the veil part and my shoulders. I felt much more confident.

The swarm hadn't moved.

So I set up, opened the box, and clipped away the branches that are obscuring the middle of the swarm in that picture. A couple of them had mini-balls of bees on them, so I shook those into the box. Then I lowered the branch and cut it from the tree. Plop! Branch and bees, all in the box. There weren't many stragglers at all, and I spent some time making certain I'd picked up any big bunches of missing bees on my brush and putting them right in front of the entrance. They liked the pheromone, and were going inside as fast as they could:

Finally, I pushed as many as I could manage to inside the entrance hole and took the low-tech hole cover and sort of scooped them along, figuring that they'd rather be with the queen and their sisters than my grandmother's sheet, nice though it is.

Once done, I taped the box well shut and rolled any stragglers up in the sheet:

Brought 'em home, dumped 'em in, and have left them alone. I managed to bring one in on my veil, I think, because as I was nursing the baby, I felt those tell-tale little feet on my neck. So I slowly and carefully got up tossed the baby to her father and shrieked my way around the room until it flew off, then we took it outside. There are some still hanging out in the small box, and I'm afraid they're going to get very chilled, so I'll go out tonight and finish putting them all in.

Cross fingers for them staying, and for more swarms. We're planning to build more hives this weekend. Oh, and maybe knit too.


amanda j said...

Why would any sensible bees choose to leave that lovely honeycomb??

What an adventure. I'm glad your husband has good reflexes - flying babies can be difficult to catch at times.

Jennus Interruptus said...

How exciting! Makes me wonder how much land you're on -- I always picture you in kind of a residential suburb type thing, but chickens and bees AND building more hives? You'd be a very interesting neighbour.

meg said...

Awww- too bad about the first hive- ungrateful little wretches thought they were! Glad to read that a new, better behaved group has been located.
I love the color of the Paton- I used it on two of the felted bags I did last year, mixed with Soy Wool varigated.
Hope you all had a lovely Easter- the weather was reasonably cooperative here, though rather windy. Yes, Tracy is known for the wind- we are just at the base of the Altamont hills, where all the windmill farms are located.

Rain said...

What is it about those tiny feet that can get you into a blind panic? I think you're one brave woman for keeping them.

I love the colour for the next sweater, hope your plan goes well.

bfmomma said...

WOW! You *have* been busy! I was so bummed about the first swarm leaving--I'm glad you sandwiched that story with the new one :)

Yay, bees! (I really don't find them particularly exciting, but your story-telling makes them fascinating!)

Jacquie said...

Good luck with these bees. Wherever the other bees went I hope they are OK. What a mystery!

Katherine said...

First of all, I can believe that someone making a film about Freecycle would want to talk to you because it completely cracks me up that you were asking for a(free) swarm of bees. I'm so glad you got one - and a new bee suit - and I can't wait to hear if they're still with you.

Second, I've thought about making an EZ sweater for a bit so I'll be excited to see how it turns up. It is a great color.

And lastly, please do tell how much land you are on. Although maybe you don't need that much if the bees can room with the chickens?

Yarn It said...

You are brave to do the bee thing! I would have done the toss and run too. Good thing your husband was there! That cracked me up.

allisonmariecat said...

The color you chose for the April sweater is so perfect for spring! I think as long as you finish your March sweater sometime this year, you're fine, right?

Holly Jo said...

Wow. Bees! I loved the picture you had of the swarm. They are so cool. The comb that was left behind was beautiful.

suzee said...

You just continue to be my hero. Your days as described make me want to lie down with a cool compress.

I will refrain from making "busy as a..." comments, but there it is.

Alisha said...

Hope the bees comes and swarm and stay.....I think LOL

Neat to see your photos!!!