Thursday, March 28, 2013

Now we are three

It's really spring here.

I can tell because trees are blooming and I'm taking lots of pictures like this

 The first of a less-welcome spring sign happened when I walked into the house yesterday, and a child said, "You really need to see this."



"Man! Did they swarm?"

You see, when I had checked out the hives in the early afternoon, making sure that all was well in the newspaper-combined one, I noticed that the other hive, the one with only one brood box, was looking significantly busy. I filed it under "give that hive more room," and just hoped it would work.

Hoping apparently doesn't deal with spring build-up. They had thrown off a rather nice-sized swarm.

Fortunately, we have the Most Attractive Apricot Tree Ever, or something like that. They landed where every swarm landed last year.

I deputized a photographer and got to work. First, I humped out a new brood box and honey super, plus an inner and outer cover.

Nice-looking bunch, eh? They were about 12-14" long, plus a small sub-swarm on a lower branch. I figured the queen was in the big bunch, so that was where the effort would be concentrated.


I set up the new hive box (right where the collapsed one was yesterday, of course) and got to work. One good shake while holding the bucket underneath.

And the bulk of the bees "fwumped" right into the bucket.

Easily poured into the waiting box.

They just flow down in. I went back and did a secondary shake, and got the stragglers set up to walk into the front of the covered hive.

When I went out in the evening, happy sounds were coming from the hive, and since it's rainy this morning, that's probably a nicer place for them to be than the tree. I don't know now if one swarm means the original hive is happier and less likely to swarm, or if they have the proverbial bits in their little teeth and will spend all spring splitting. It will be a good test of my beekeeping chops to see if I can manage them well.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...

Some marriages are made when eyes meet across a room. . . and they know.

Some arise out of more prosaic circumstances. The phrase "Do you have a cold chisel?" will  prompt giggles and knowing looks at my house.

Some relationships grow, and with shared experiences and the passage of time, develop into deep companionable partnerships.

Some marriages aren't so much of a choice. The families decide that the young people will be best served by this pairing, at this time, and from what I hear, it works out fairly well a lot of the time (barring abuse, but come on folks, this is a fairly lighthearted post).

With that in mind, I pulled a yenta today. When I collapsed the hives into smaller bodies, one looked questionable. A frame of eggs was dropped in, so if they wanted, they could bring up a queen, but over the past week, traffic in and out of that hive had dropped precipitously. Well, bee traffic had dropped. Ants had sped up their six-legged highway, and it was time.

Without smoke, I jacketed up and lifted the honey super and queen excluder off of the "doing well" hive and set it aside. Then, a sheet from today's newspaper laid atop the exposed, nicely full, bottom box.

I lifted the single hive body off of Failing Hive, and popped it atop the newspaper. Honey super and queen excluder back on top, despite the way that would strand hive #1s bees above hive #2. . .

When I went back out later, the temperature had dropped quite sharply, and the bees were all indoors. There was an unhappy buzzing coming from this new union. Will it be a successful marriage of two hives, in which both become something bigger than they were apart?

Or will it be a massacre of the weaker hive? I won't know until a day or so goes by, but smaller hive wasn't going to make it anyhow. Besides, "Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while"

Thursday, March 21, 2013


This is a story of three apricot trees.
Two trees, out front, are "Royal Blenheim," in back, a "Katy."
The Katy is the oldest, the front yard trees are roughly the same age.
They develop slightly differently, though.

The Katy blooms and leafs out first -- it's just a wash of spring green right now.

The slightly larger Blenheim is next -- still blooming, but at the end of its run for this year.

Finally, the one to the east end of the yard, still a bouquet.

They're not wildly different, just enough to notice.

Elsewhere, I'm trying to make a bird-free microclimate:

Bird netting -- threadlike nylon fishing net, cuttable as each intersection is a knot -- up one side, and Reemay along the other. Unfortunately, I may have out-clevered myself. The triple trellis of twine precludes arching netting over the bed.

With luck, the beans will be robust enough once I pull the covers off to resist the birds. One of the pleasures of growing things is trying out new approaches. Sometimes they work, sometimes they're information for the next time.

I really just want beans.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Laying foundations

Raise high the roofbeams, carpenters!
            Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Up with them!
            Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
A bridegroom taller than Ares!
            Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Taller than a tall man!
            Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
Superior as the singer of Lesbos—
            Hymenaon, Sing the wedding song!
—to poets of other lands.

I used to read just to read. Stories went by like potato chips from a bag, leaving crumbs and a greasy ring. Sometimes it's still like that. "She'll read anything," they joked, "Even the back of a cereal box."

It was true. It is true. How can one not? Well, except that there isn't as much time. Even the quickest reader needs to show some discernment if time with books isn't going to be all junk. And maybe I'm so full of stories that my bucket is spilling over. As I move around the garden, snippets of writing, essays about gardening, thoughts and musings coalesce in my head. Carrying a voice-activated recorder would probably be smart.

But then I'd have to polish, to work, to get those essays out there.

Time be time, but it might be time to get the writing half of the reader dusted off.

Meanwhile, there are beans to plant, and bean beds to ready. Solving a problem before it's really presented, on the memory of the last time the problem showed up might be smart. And it might be work that is all for naught. I won't know if the very tall beans from last year will be better supported with a Very Tall Trellis or if I've spent an afternoon tying knots for no reason.

Not just twine and bamboo; it's soup and bean salad, green shoots pushing up through prepared soil, rough with hay and leaves, birds to thwart as they try to pull out sprouts before their time.

Calculating stresses, figuring out plans of attack, and wrestling with paragraphs that, like the beans, haven't yet manifested. If I can imagine bean plants and a harvest months from now, I can imagine an essay with polish, that says what I mean it to say. In the future.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Cake and swag

The birthday was celebrated in the nicest sort of way. The birthday girl:

Birthday cake, after takeout Indian food, consumed with family and neighbors, all sharing wonderful stories of the new grown-up as a baby ("Look at how young you guys were!" was perhaps my favorite quote) and themselves as eighteen year olds. Some of the stories made me even more grateful for the kind of eighteen year old I have! There were playing toddlers, the eighteen year olds of tomorrow -- and that's about how fast it feels!

She wasn't the only one to get a gift yesterday, though. The nice people at Home and Garden TV gardens (whew!) sent over a product for me to try, and I'm sold.

It's Worker B Rescue Putty. So great -- beeswax, honey, and olive oil. It's similar to a balm I made but the honey makes it much creamier. Maybe I'll finally heal my winter-rough cuticles. And I'd still be happy to blog for the nice HGTV folks, OR be a subject for a makeover show, just sayin'. . . Anyhow, if you ever wonder, "Should I buy this product for my very own hands?" the answer is probably heck, yeah!!

Eventually I will get back to blogging the garden, as my bird-defeating netting finally showed up!

Monday, March 4, 2013

An Adult

She's much bigger now.

Happy 18th birthday to our first finished object.