Thoughts on “The Only Woman in the Room,” by Marie Benedict

Photo from Sourcebooks.com website

Hedy Lamarr.

The name conjures up a sultry Hollywood star from a time when movie actors and actresses (an acceptable term back then) and their lives seemed as unreal as the films they made.

Few people know Hedy (real name Hedwig Kiesler) was woman who fled nazism and an abusive, powerful, arms-dealing husband to come to America.

That she, along with composer George Antheil, invented a radio guidance system for torpedoes that used frequency-hopping to avoid jamming by enemy powers.

Or that the same technology they developed is an integral part of a device most of us use every day.

I know these things because I was fortunate to receive an ARE (advanced reader’s edition) of Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room from Sourcebooks. (And thank you, Sourcebooks, for that!)

You may recognize Benedict as the author of The Other Einstein and Carnegie’s Maid. If you don’t, the titles alone should clue you into the fact that this is an author whose historical fiction hones in on the little-known stories of the past.

Women’s history, to be precise.

I enjoy Benedict’s books because they aren’t doorstop-sized tomes, but enjoyable, quick reads that nonetheless manage to teach me something.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against doorstop-sized tomes, but they are an investment of time and energy, and quite frankly, sometimes I don’t have enough of either.

Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking Benedict’s writing isn’t well-researched because it’s accessible. In fact, it’s the opposite. By coming to know her subjects so well, she makes them easily understood by others.

So, if you’re looking for good historical fiction about the unsung women of history, pick up a one of Marie Benedict’s books.

The Only Woman in the Room is freshly published and should be available at your local library or bookstore.

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And now, a brief update on our bees and crazy Ohio weather.

Yes, this is the same backyard and hive that was 50 something Fahrenheit and busy with bees only yesterday. And the “less than one inch” of snow that was predicted has somehow become 3″ on our deck railing.

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New Year Update: The Bees

Since I became a beekeeper, many people have asked about what we do with the bees in winter, often mistakenly saying, “They hibernate, don’t they?”

As you can see from the above video (taken today when the temperatures were in the 50s), this isn’t true.

Bees remain active in the winter, forming a “bee ball” to keep warm when the temperature drops. When it’s warm, they take the opportunity for cleansing flights. (You can read more about this in my earlier post: https://thebyrdandthebees.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/bee-poop-a-winter-peek-under-the-hood/).

The bee ball is continually in motion as bees from the cold, outer edges are replaced by bees from the warm center, thus keeping all (or at least most) of the bees warm enough to survive.

However, if a hive is too small, there may not be enough bees to keep the temperature high enough for survival, and the bees will freeze to death.

Starvation is another danger, caused by the bees not producing or storing enough honey for winter, having a greedy beekeeper take too much honey, or because the bee ball is too far from the honey to be able to reach it.

Winter is always worrisome for beekeepers, but for now, both our hives appear alive and well.

Did you notice Buzzers’ Roost bees seem to prefer the top exit, while FreeBees like the bottom? Why? My guess is it reflects where most of the bees are in the hive, which likely means that’s where the bulk of their honey is.

How do they decide where to store their honey? No one knows but the bees, and they aren’t talking. Folk wisdom says bees tend to start lower in the hive and move up, but we all know bees don’t always follow the rules.

For more information, check out this post from “Keeping Backyard Bees”: https://www.keepingbackyardbees.com/what-do-bees-do-all-winter/

New Year Update

After six weeks, two runs of antibiotics (along with two other prescriptions), and innumerable over-the-counter remedies, I finally feel like myself.

My daily chores, including helping Mom, no longer feel like insurmountable tasks.

And despite a somewhat bumpy holiday season, Mom’s also making progress. Not quite her previous independent self, but moving in that direction.

Christmas was low-key and lovely, thanks in part to Darling Daughter being home with her boyfriend (BF), though I must admit a (small) part of the wonderfulness can be attributed to the fact that they willingly(?) took on dish duty.

And everyone (including DD, BF, and The Engineer) was assigned a part of Christmas meals. Mom was not assigned a part, although she gamely offered to help.

The assignments were as follows:

 Breakfast
Dutch Babies (not the diaper-wearing kind, see here for a recipe), scrambled eggs and toast, along with fresh blueberries, real maple syrup and butter, and Mimosas [Buck’s Fizz to my anglo-centric readers]): All cooking done by me. All cleanup by DD and BF.

Dinner
Turkey, bread sauce, stuffing, Yorkshire Pudding – Me
Brussels sprouts and gravy made from the Bisto his sister sent (because he always says I make it too thick) – The Engineer
Carrots (because DD and BF do not like sprouts) – BF (grown by our CSA and done up deliciously with butter and honey)
Mashed Potatoes – Darling Daughter
All cleanup — DD and BF

Post-celebration snack during traditional family Scrabble game
Mixed cheese plate with crackers, honey, and home-made hot pepper jam (delicious, although I may have been the only one eating the jam) — Me

It was great.

Well, I thought it was.

I’m not sure what everyone else thought because by that point, I was falling back into Sinus Infection, stage 2.

I do know how Mom felt about it because at her appointment on the 26th, she basically told her orthopedic surgeon the holiday was “Meh.”

At the time, I nearly jumped out of my chair because I felt like I’d made such an effort, despite still feeling so crappy.

She’d shared a wonderful breakfast, lovely gifts, and a delicious dinner with her family. What more did she want?

When I asked myself that question, the answer came almost immediately. What Mom wants is to not be old, with a broken elbow, depending on everyone else for the smallest task.

Sadly, I can’t make that happen.

What I can do is help her while she needs it, and try to help her become as independent as possible, given her age and physical condition.

So, that’s what I’m doing.

Thankfully (as I said earlier) it no longer feels like an insurmountable task.

 

 

 

I Need a Little Christmas Now!

I’m failing at the “goodwill to men” part of Christmas. 

In fact, I’m failing Christmas full stop, and can’t raise the energy to care.

Usually our cards go out the day after Thanksgiving. This year, I’ve sent exactly two.

Forget decking the halls. The decorations are still packed in their boxes.

The Engineer and I did get them out of the loft, and bought our living tree, temporarily stationed in the garage where it makes me absurdly happy to see it every time I pull in.  This is some progress, I suppose.

But, this is the time of year I’m normally busy delivering plates of baked goods, and the oven has been stone-cold all month. 

By now, maybe you’re wondering how a Christmas-loving elf becomes a Scrooge, a Grinch, a fill-the-stockings-with-coal holiday drop-out.

Well, my mom fell on November 1. She went out with her cane, rather than her walker, and did a face-plant at the Verizon store. It’s a struggle for me to not to assign blame, so I will only say after she broke her forearm (both bones) in March, I have refused to take her anywhere without her walker.

This is because I noticed her doing what I call a dipsy-doodle — losing her balance briefly and recovering with a little side-step. She’s too heavy for me to pick up if she falls, so when she goes with me, she takes the walker.

She wasn’t with me. Furthermore, she’s an adult, certainly capable of making her own decisions, even if that choice results in a bruised face and broken (the orthopedic surgeon called it “crumbled”) elbow.

Do you know what happens when you are eighty-eight, live alone, with arthritis in your left shoulder and atrial fibrillation, and you break your right elbow (after breaking the same arm seven months earlier)?

They send you home from the emergency room with a note to see the orthopedic surgeon the following week.

Chance would be a fine thing. The earliest appointment available was November 26 — twenty-six days after the fall — although ultimately, she got in earlier due to a cancellation.

The ER report also recommended following up with her GP, but they always say that. As far as I know, no one told my brother the GP was the one who might help us coordinate care for our mother.

Here are some of the things Mom could not do unassisted:

  • Dress.
  • Feed herself anything that required cutting.
  • Use the bathroom.
  • Write anything.
  • Walk, even with a walker (it takes two hands to steer).
  • Shower.
  • Put in her hearing aids.
  • Clean her false teeth.
  • Feed her cat.
  • Clean the cat box.
  • Do dishes.
  • Sweep the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Pour a glass of water.

Yet, they sent her home. And for various reasons, after about a week, the bulk of her care ended up falling to me, which meant going over each morning to help her dress and get set up for the day, and going back in the evening to get her to bed.

In between, I was terrified she would fall again, until finally she suggested checking herself into a nursing home for a few weeks until we could sort out some help.

There, at least, they had nurses on duty, aides to help her shower and dress, and a doctor to keep an eye on her progress. 

The downside was, she mostly sat in her room. And then she caught a cold, which turned into a respiratory infection. 

Still, it gave me time to organize some non-medical help for her. To my surprise, the doctor at the nursing home also wrote orders for a nurse, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist. 

Meanwhile, on the day before I took Mom home (and several days before all the help kicked in), I got the flu, followed by a sinus infection and bronchitis. 

The last time I felt that bad, I had pleurisy (which was way more painful, but a lot shorter lived). I could hardly raise the energy to get off the couch, but the thought of Mom sitting there waiting, unfed, unwashed, undressed, forced me to go. Because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sure who would. 

I should mention that I have several friends, as well as a cousin, who expressed a willingness to help, but, well, you can’t exactly expect a friend to clean your mother’s false teeth, can you?

To complicate things, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the doctor, even when I knew I needed antibiotics, because the last few times I saw a doctor, I was charged not only for the doctor and prescription, but also a “facility fee.” The Engineer calls this a charge for “the pleasure of walking on their tiles,” and since it was over $200 to essentially pay their electricity bills, I just couldn’t do it. (See my previous blog on the subject.) 

Finally, I remembered some drug stores have clinics with nurse-practitioners and/or physician assistants. I went to one of them for a total cost of $109, plus about $5 for the prescription. 

I know this post sounds whiny. Be thankful I didn’t have the energy to write it earlier when I was really feeling peevish. (And can I just say here what a brilliant word that is? Peeeee-vish. Somehow it sounds exactly like what it’s saying.)

Things are finally getting better. Mom has a helper three mornings a week, which means I’m only “on duty” for the remaining four, and she can get herself to bed. After she sent the aide home early one day, I’ve also signed off laundry as a task for the aides, instead of dragging it to my house and back. 

This has freed me to do things like buy Mom a lift chair and one with arms for her kitchen table (to better enable her to get up on her own), take her to the doctor, buy groceries, and all the rest. Thankfully, I’m feeling well enough now so these no longer seem like insurmountable jobs. 

I even got out for a walk today (walking, Yoga, and Pound class having been distant dreams for the last six weeks).

The “walkers” have been trimming the trees of our beautiful park as they do every year. The sight always makes me smile, and I’m sharing these pictures in the hope they’ll do the same for you.

Also, if you feel the need to hear the song that’s been rolling around in my head for the last week and a half, visit here to see a Youtube video of “We Need a Little Christmas” as sung by Johnny Mathis. 

Eventually, I expect to feel energetic enough to put up a few decorations, wrap presents, and bake. It may not be Christmas as usual, but it will have to do. As John Lennon supposedly said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” (I just looked it up, and Lennon may not have been the first to say this.) 

To sum up the Christmas part of this post, I encourage you to read some of the  “Christmas Notes” on my original “Reading, Writing, Ranting, and Raving” blog. Just search “Christmas,” and see what you get. If this is too much work, go here to see the best Christmas carol ever, performed by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I realize this is only an opinion, but I am a Christmas song aficionado, so feel my thoughts on the subject should bear some weight.

As always, I am grateful for your readership, and I promise not to make a habit of writing posts when I’m feeling cranky.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas.

Bee update:
We winterized the hives a few days after Thanksgiving. First we pushed them together as close as we could, fit foam insulation between to keep in the warmth, and wrapped them together. We also put in shims, fit sugar patties in the open space, and put more foam insulation under the outer cover. The Engineer built a little shelter for them, which I’ve mentally dubbed “La Hacienda de la Apis Mellifera,” which if I’m translating correctly means “The House of the Honey Bee.” IMG_0855

On sunny days like today, a few crazy girls come out for little flights, even when it’s only in the thirties. Inevitably, a few end up in the snow. One of the (many) reasons I love my husband is because he always goes out, scoops them up, brings them inside to warm up, and then returns the survivors to the hive. 

Have a honey of a New Year.

 

 

Morning Feedings

It’s been over twenty years since my last one, but I’m back to morning feedings. This time, however, the process doesn’t involve getting up at 4 am, and there is no milk involved.

As you may have guessed, this time around I’m feeding bees, and they eat (drink?) sugar water. A 2:1 mixture, if you must know, with some “Honey-B-Healthy” essential oil mixture to pique their appetite.

And you thought essential oils were just for diffusers.

We’re feeding because we’re trying to help the hives store enough honey for winter.

On our last full hive check before things cooled down, we discovered FreeBees had very little to show for all their activity. Despite the abundance of nectar they had previously stored, they didn’t have much honey. Lots of nectar, but not much honey.

Yet, Buzzers’ Roost was getting heavy, as displayed by the picture below.

It was time to remove the honey supers (the medium-sized boxes generally used for honey that’s meant to be harvested). FreeBees’ needed moved because they needed feeding, and Buzzers’ because we were going to take a little honey for ourselves this year.

An argument could have been made to just move the smaller frames of honey down into the big boxes on Buzzers’ hive because we’re not 100% sure even they have enough, but after two years, we decided we were taking some.

Here’s how that worked:

Morning 1: Take super off FreeBees. Remove queen excluder, and replace with escape board. (For a picture, go back to this post: https://thebyrdandthebees.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/minding-our-bees-and-qs/.) Put super back on. Make feeding mixture and put in large mason jars with holes punched in the lids (pointy bits facing inside of jar).

Morning 2: Take super and escape board off FreeBees. Put deep hive box on top of inner cover, but below outer cover. Invert jar of syrup over something to provide bee space for bees to get beneath it to eat. Encourage bees remaining in escape board to go back in their hive. Move on to Buzzers’ and repeat steps from morning 1.

Morning 3: Repeat steps from morning 2, but do them on Buzzers’. Extract honey from two frames. Return those frames to bees to clean. (We stuck them in the upper deep boxes because the day after we extracted, the weather changed. It’s been too cold to actually get into the hive.) Also return the two full frames of honey we didn’t extract. Freeze remaining frames. Clean all equipment for next year.

I’m starting to think we should focus on harvesting propolis instead of honey.

Every morning since: Replace jars with ones that haven’t been outside in the cold. Not sure if this is necessary, but someone at a bee club meeting once said bees don’t like cold food. True or not, it’s been a good way to keep track of how much food they’re consuming.

We’ll continue the feeding until they stop taking syrup. Also, we’re hoping for a nice day to have one more look inside the boxes. And we need to treat both hives again before wrapping them for winter around Thanksgiving.

But back to our first honey harvest. We took two frames, which we extracted without an extractor. If you’re curious how this works, go here: https://www.keepingbackyardbees.com/extracting-honey-without-extractor/.

This is probably between four and five pounds of honey. I bought honey in the quart jar, and it was labeled as 2.25 pounds. We aren’t selling any so it doesn’t matter.

As things stand, I don’t think FreeBees will survive the winter unless they somehow manage to make enough honey from these feedings. We had a big goldenrod flow, and they seemed to be gathering as much as Buzzers’ so I’m not sure what went wrong

The two things I do know are I don’t really know anything, and anything could happen.

We can feed them, but in the end, the bees’ survival is up to the bees.

Weight and See

Summer is slowly winding down, and the bees have been making the most of the fine weather. They’ve been in a foraging frenzy, perhaps sensing the forthcoming temperature changes.

They’re finally visiting the goldenrod in their own yard!

It cooled down over the weekend, with rain on and off all day today. Each time the showers stop, the foraging begins again.

And yet, when we checked the hives a week or so ago, Buzzers’ Roost had no honey, and FreeBees had very little. Instead, we saw loads of pollen, lots of nectar, and a surprising amount of capped brood.

Still, with all that nectar, there’s bound to be some honey soon.

Check out the graphs below. Notice any trends?

The first two graphs show the weight of the hive over the last month — finally trending upward. The next two show a week each, and you’ll notice daily ups and downs, probably from when the foragers are out.

So, we’re not too worried about honey levels, at least not yet.

Below is a picture of a frame containing both nectar and pollen. We also found several that were filled solely with nectar or solely with pollen. Theoretically, we should be able to identify the source of the pollen by its color, but unfortunately, I’ve not found an accurate chart online. Here are links to two if you’d like to try: Sheffield Beekeepers’ Association and Metrobeekeepers.net. My guess is mostly goldenrod because the fields are full of it.

While we had the hives open, we did alcohol rolls on both. This is supposed to be a more accurate way to count Varroa.

Our count was a big fat zero on both hives.

Yeah, we must have done it wrong.

Either that or the hive beetles are eating them. Don’t even ask how many of those we found. It was too many to count.

Little bastards.

The weird thing is, the bees mostly ignore the beetles. Once in a while, they’ll herd a particularly brazen one into a corner, but then the bees go back to whatever they were doing, and the beetle scuttles away. (Unless we get it first!)

There was propolis everywhere, especially around the beetle traps, which makes me wonder if this is the bees’ response to the pests. There were a few beetle corpses in some of the propolis, so who knows?

Unfortunately, our girls don’t seem to grasp that the traps are there to help them and had propolized the openings where the beetles are meant to enter. At least one trap had every opening completely blocked.

But let’s get back back to the subject of the main hive pest — the dreaded Varroa. For two years, we’ve used drone foundation as part of Varroa control, with very little success.

Last year, the hive used the drone foundation mostly for honey.

This year, both hives have ignored them.

Until now.

This year, a few short weeks — okay, a few short months — before the workers start kicking out drones (to lower the number of mouths they have to feed in the winter), FreeBees has decided to make drone cells. Half the foundation was full of capped drone brood, and there were more cells on the top of some of the other frames.

Weird. Also unusual in placement. Drone cells are usually at the bottom of hive frames.

Whatever. It’s their hive. They can do what they want.

As we’d been instructed, we removed the drone foundation and opened the cells to check for Varroa, but found none there either.

I can’t believe there are no mites at all, but am willing, even eager, to believe the treatments have been working, and the threshold is safely low.

Just to be sure, we will treat both hives with Oxalic Acid before winter after we take off the supers.

I’m still holding out hope that we might be able to pull at least one frame of honey for ourselves.

Dr Warwick Kerr, the “Man Who Created Killer Bees”, has died | Bad Beekeeping Blog

It is with regret that we report that the humanitarian, geneticist, and scientist, Professor Warwick Kerr, passed away this morning, September 15, 2018. He was six days past his 96th birthday.  Dr Kerr, a Brazilian bee scientist, had one of the most maligned lives of any research scientist. He will be remembered by some as…
— Read on badbeekeepingblog.com/2018/09/15/dr-warwick-kerr-the-man-who-created-killer-bees-has-died/

Sarah Jane, Jacob, and Julia

I started climbing the family tree again last night and found myself back on the branch of Sarah Jane Daugherty Feather(s) Scott. (Click through for background on her story.)

Somehow I had stumbled across the Ritchie County (WV) page of the USGenWeb Project. Most the project’s sites are hosted on RootsWeb, long offline, but now coming back up.

Browsing through the Scott Cemetery transcriptions, I came across the following:

Amos M. Scott
Born Aug. 28, 1845
Died Dec. 11, 1918

Sarah J., wife of Amos M. Scott
Born Nov. 1842
Died Oct. 7, 1901

Charles E., son of  A.M. & S. J. Scott
Born Dec. 3, 1883
Died Aug. 4, 1884

? W., son of A.M. & S.J. Scott
Born Dec. 30, 1881
Died July 26, 1882

Alfred G., Son of A.M. & S.J Scott
Born Mar. 10, 1876
Died July 20, 1877

Look at the dates of the children’s deaths, born over a period of six years and dead before any of them reached their first birthday.

Above these dates are two others, who proved to be Sarah’s grandchildren through her eldest son Aldine (whose father, Cornelius, was killed in the Civil War).

Willie I. Feather
Feb. 10, 1898
May 8, 1906

Edna Feather
Aug. 3, 1893
Apr. 18, 1900

I moved on to the Reeves Cemetery transcriptions, and discovered Jacob — Sarah’s brother who fought for the Confederacy — and his wife Julia suffered their own share of sorrow.

Julia wife of Jacob Daugherty  Aug 30, 1832  Aug 27, 1891
Jacob Daugherty  June 27, 1892  May 15, 1908
Children of J. & J. Daugherty
E. U. Wm  Aug 18, 1857  Sept 20, 1861
Mary C.  May 10, 1853  Oct 8, 1861
Allis L.  Jul 21, 1864  Aug 11, 1868

Two children dead within eighteen days of each other at a time when Jacob and Julia’s home counties were in the process of seceding from Virginia. The secession could only have added to the emotional turmoil Julia and Jacob were feeling at the death of their children, especially since we know, in the end, Jacob decided to fight on the opposite side of his brothers.

Thinking perhaps the Butchers (Julia’s family) were Confederates and had influenced this decision, I had a look at one of her brothers (Valentine) and learned he fought for the Union. Of course, there may have been others in both families (Daugherty and Butcher) who favored the Confederacy, and we can never truly know why another person makes any decision.

Yet when I think of these families, I don’t think about the men and their big decisions about who to fight for. I think of the women and how they paid for living in a time where the death of a child was the possible price of having them.

Having seen how quickly a child could be taken, did they cling more tightly to ones that remained or followed? Maybe the knowledge of how easily their heart could be broken made them more reluctant to let a new baby into that heart. Perhaps these losses were accepted as part of the sorrows of living.  Life was hard. Children died. And I’m sure the war magnified the hardship exponentially. Yet each of these couples had other children that survived to have children of their own.

As I discover this type of hardship in my family history, I am forced to recall that these same hardships — child mortality and civil war — are a daily reality for others, and I hope that this realization continues to spur me toward a more charitable way of living.

 

 

Cleaning House

I wrote too soon about the microfiber strips staying in the hive.

While doing dishes this morning, I noticed something yellow near Buzzers’ downstairs entry. I thought it was a leaf until it began moving. I got out the kitchen binoculars for closer look, saw a small regiment of workers inching this out of the hive, and laughed out loud.

This yellow scrap is all that remains of one of our would-be beetle cloth traps.

Different queen. Different race. Different bees.

Same reaction.

Will they do this to all the strips? Will FreeBees do the same? I’ll keep you posted.

We do not like this yellow strip.

We do not like it, not one bit.

We do not like it here nor there.

A beetle trap? We do not care.

We do not like it on the floor.

We do not like it in our door.

We do not like this yellow strip.

And now we have got rid of it.