Oh, Christmas Tree; Oh, Christmas Tree

How lovely are your branches …

The park walkers have been decorating again, and I couldn’t decide which of these two slightly different angles I preferred, so here are both pics.

I love that the walkers who use this park decorate every year for Christmas. Almost makes me ready to prod The Engineer into going up into the loft so we can get our own decorations and tree down.

Almost.

But not quite yet.

Snow …

… and we’ve not even got the bees treated and winterized yet. The Engineer was out of town for two weeks, so those tasks got postponed.

But mostly this picture is for my friend, Kate, in Australia, who is currently sweating 75% humidity and 85F days. She asked for a snow pic, and Ohio provided the opportunity to take one. ❄️ 😄

We will do the bee work tomorrow and Tuesday. They should be fine.

Enjoy, Kate!

The Nine, by Gwen Strauss: A Book Worth Reading

I just finished The Nine: The True Story of a Band of Women Who Survived the Worst of Nazi Germany by Gwen Strauss.

I listened to the book on audio, read by Juliet Stevenson, and I know the story will stay with me for a long time.

It is a story of “solidaire,” which the Collins Reverso dictionary translates and defines as an adjective meaning “who stand together, who show solidarity; interdependent.”

I am convinced that interdependence and solidarity is the reason the nine survived.

This “standing together” is something the author, a grand-niece of one of the nine, explores in her writing. Her research has led her to believe that women often survived longer in concentration camps partly because they more likely to band together, giving them the strength of a group when sometimes their own strength might wane.

Each woman in Strauss’s book has a distinct character, which comes through clearly. Thus, the women each bring a different strength to the group, and it’s these differences that helped them through the many tragedies and difficulties of their journey.

All were young — younger than my own daughter is now — and active in the French Resistance. All were eventually caught. Some were tortured, a fact Strauss illuminates, but does not dwell on. And all were deported to Ravensbruck for their activities, arriving there in 1944, near the end of the war.

There they banded together and managed to remain together during the many “selections,” somehow avoiding extermination, and ending up at a work camp near Leipzig making guns.

After the invasion at Normandy, the Allies moved through Europe, and it became clear Germany would lose the war. The Nazis responded by forcing those in the camps on death marches, often without food, water, or any apparent destination.

Those who couldn’t walk were put to death. Thousands more — already weak and often diseased from the poor conditions — died on the marches.

The nine in the book chose to escape or die trying.

The story of how they survived, and what happened to them afterward, is something you need to read for yourself.

I will add that this book has made me think about how war is written about, who is chosen to be the “heroes” and who is ignored, why women’s contributions and suffering are often ignored or downplayed, and how ordinary people can be caught up on the wrong side, sometimes against their will. I will ponder on the consequences borne by not only those who lived through war’s tragedies and terrors, but also their children and even their grandchildren.

And I will wonder if — like the nine — I would have had the strength to choose to make decisions based on my convictions of right and wrong and be willing to deal with the aftermath.

Quick Bee Update: Once the weather turned, I took the sugar syrup and honey off the hives, and today I tried a different recipe for bee patties. I learned this new method of making the patties at the most recent meeting of one of our local beekeeping groups.

Based on the speaker’s recipe, I combined one bag of sugar (four pounds) with about 4/5 pint of water and 1 tsp of white vinegar. This I heated to a rolling boil, finally reaching 245F, the minimum recommended by the recipe. After allowing the mixture to cool slightly, I poured it into foil pans to harden. (I actually doubled the recipe, using two bags of sugar, which made three pans.)

If you decide to try this recipe, please be aware that sugar syrup gets very hot, scorches easily, and definitely needs to be watched every minute it’s on the burner because when it boils, it bubbles up quite high in the pan. In fact, I had to ladle some of it out of my pan to prevent a dangerous overflow.

Making it is a hot sticky mess, and it takes a long time to reach 245F.

Will the bees like it? I guess we’ll see!

A Visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art: Doorway to a Different World

Mention Cleveland to most folks, and you’ll usually get one of two snickering comments: “Oh, you mean you live near the ‘Mistake on the Lake?'” or “Isn’t that where the river caught fire?”

Well, yes, the Cuyahoga River was once so polluted, it did catch fire. That fire, the one you sometimes hear about, was back in 1969, and the worrying thing is, it wasn’t even the first time the river burned. Things have since improved, and although I don’t think I’ll be taking a dip in the Cuyahoga anytime soon, I would be open to kayaking it.

I’ll be the first to admit the city still has its issues, and that’s okay by me because it means us locals can generally enjoy the area’s many attractions without crowds.

One of the best attractions (and perhaps most surprising to those who don’t live in the area) is the Cleveland Museum of Art, home to more masterpieces than one might expect and totally free thanks to the foresight and generosity of its industrialist founders.

To me, the Art Museum is the crown jewel of Cleveland’s University Circle museums, and today I met my childhood neighbor and friend Sue for a wander around.

Sue and I had both recently been enthralled by the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition, and ostensibly were visiting the art museum to visit the artist’s works there, as well as catch up on each other’s life.

We did both, but in the process I was struck by several pieces of art I would have sworn I’d never seen before despite visiting the institution every few years.

Of course, there were also some old favorites on display as well.

There are surprises around every corner like this doorway and knocker from the “Isaac Gillet House, 1821” designed by architect Jonathan Goldsmith. I love its clean lines, and this little girl seemed to be quite taken by it too.

Because we were there for Van Gogh, we headed to the gallery that focused on the Impressionists. There we found this gentleman, painted by Georges Seurat as a study for “Bathers at Asnieres, about 1883-84.”


Then it was cotton candy clouds in “The Pink Cloud, 1896” by Henri-Edmond Cross.

Camille Pissarro is also represented, and I was absorbed by his “Edge of the Woods near L’Hermitage, Pontoise, 1879.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Impressionist gallery without Monet, and though Cleveland has one of the huge water lily paintings, I was drawn to this one, “Low Tide at Pourville, near Dieppe, 1882,” because it reminded me of the white cliffs of Dover. When I looked on a map, I could see why. Dieppe, while not directly across from Dover, is close enough that it probably shares a geological history to its English counterpart.

Although I didn’t photograph it, Sue and I took a moment to view the famed water lilies painting and realized we’d both visited the museum in 2015 to see the special exhibit of all three paintings of the triptych on display together. (The other two panels are owned by museums in Kansas City and St.Louis, and the three panels traveled to those cities as well before the individual pieces were returned to the institutions that owned them.)

Then, ah, yes, there were the Van Goghs.

“Two Poplars in the Alpilles near Saint-Remy, 1889”
From the same year: “The Large Plane Trees (Road Menders at Saint-Remy)

And, then there was this, which I’m sure I never saw before in my life!

It’s also Van Gogh, but earlier (1883), “Landscape with Wheelbarrow”
I liked the “Villas at Trouville, 1884” by Gustave Caillebotte, though for some reason I just now had the thought that if the buildings are still intact, they’re probably hotels or AirBnBs now.
Andre Derain puts a different spin on “The Houses of Parliament from Westminster Bridge, 1906.” I can’t say I’ve ever seen old English buildings look quite that colorful!

Sue and I also admired this Calder, “White Loops and Red Spiral, 1959.” (There is also an Alexander Calder mobile, but I didn’t take a picture of it).

This painting reminded me of the aftermath of war. It’s by Anselm Kiefer, titled “Lot’s Wife,” and painted in 1989. Turns out I wasn’t far off, the description says Kiefer was addressing the history and legacy of the Third Reich in his native Germany.

For the most part, I realized the paintings I was drawn to were by artists whose names were familiar, even if the paintings weren’t. While I’d like to think this means I have an eye for art, it’s more likely I have an eye for styles I recognize.

Below is an example of this, painted by Andrew Wyeth, it’s called “End of Olsons,” painted in 1969 as the final work produced at the “rustic Maine home” of a family he befriended.

“Gray and Gold, 1942” by John Rogers Cox. The juxtaposition of the clouds and wheat made me feel like I should be choosing which way to turn at that crossroads. Sue said it looked like that scene near the end of “Castaway” (with Tom Hanks), and I immediately could see what she meant. It really does!
This fire screen was designed by Paul Feher and produced at Rose Iron works in Cleveland in 1930. So, not only is it classic Art Deco, it also has a local connection.
For those of you who think Georgia O’Keefe only painted flowers, here’s “Cliffs Beyond Abiquiu, Dry Waterfall, 1943.”
“The Farm at the Entrance of the Wood, 1860-80” by Rosa Bonheur

It was good to see some female artists represented!

This one’s a Hopper, “Hills, South Truro, 1930,” and I think I like it because, like the Wyeth and Cox paintings above, there’s such depth to the landscape.

Below are two more that made me feel the same way, as if I could just become part of the painting’s world.
“The Doge’s Palace, Venice, 1826” by Richard Parkes Bonington
“Pollard Willow, after 1804” by Pierre-Jean Boquet

After all the paintings, it was time to visit some old friends, so we headed to the two small niches containing the Tiffany glass and the Faberge items.

Below are two views of the same Tiffany window, as well as some examples of the company’s lamps.

I didn’t take any pictures of the Faberge items because I couldn’t seem to get a good perspective, but they are decadent and bedazzling.

And we didn’t explore the other half of the museum, heading instead for lunch in the little onsite cafeteria, although I did pop into the Eastern art area to take a photo of this glorious prayer niche.

I also took a picture of this, which I think is just a vent or access door to the heating systems or something. They’re all over the building, but I thought it was wonderful that something functional could also be made so beautiful.

Finally, on the way home, I caught this image of one of the wonderful arched bridges on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

My route to the museum takes this route, which is through the Cleveland Cultural Gardens, another Cleveland treasure. These gardens are designed and cultivated by 33 different cultural or nationality groups along Martin Luther King, Jr. and East Boulevards in Rockefeller Park. The gardens were mostly vandalized and ruined when I first began visiting the museum, but in recent times, they have been cleaned up (and also, I think, extended). You can read more about them here.

Thanks for allowing me to share one of the reasons I love where I live.

This Fruit Was on Sale A-Pearantly

And I had ginger in the freezer, plenty of sugar, and some pectin, so things went pear shaped today.

Pear Ginger Jam

I also made a first attempt at creamed honey, but we won’t know how that works out for a week or two. Of course, I’m not sure you can actually ruin honey, short of cutting it with corn syrup as I’ve heard they do with some imported honey. So, if worse comes to worse, I’ll use it in my tea.

The pear jam is delicious though, if I do say so myself. 😊

Snow

This is not a great photo, and I’ve been lazy about blogging, but here’s a picture of our snow-drenched yard to tide you over until I feel inspired again. And, yes, I use the word “drenched” intentionally because it is a very wet, slushy snow that will melt quickly because I hear it will be 60F again on Wednesday.

Still, winter is definitely coming despite our having a warm fall full of halcyon days and beautiful colors.

Feeling Saucy

Darling Daughter went apple picking and was coming home for the weekend so I asked her to bring me some. When she didn’t say yea or nay, I went apple buying.

Of course, she did bring me about a half bag, which meant I had plenty with which to both make apple crisp and bring out one of my favorite household devices to make some applesauce.

You can find food mills at Lehman’s, if you want one of your own.
Gosh I love that place and am always glad of an excuse to visit. It’s worth a post all its own!

I saw this food mill at Goodwill several years ago and felt compelled to buy it because it reminds me of my parents and grandparents. It’s identical to the one they used to make applesauce, grape juice, and tomato sauce for canning. I know it’s good the wooden plunger/pestle on the Goodwill one looked new because it meant I wasn’t taking home anyone else’s leftover juices, but I can’t help missing what the Antiques Roadshow folks would probably call the “patina” of our old one. Never mind. By the time I’m done with it, mine will have a patina all its own.

But back to the applesauce. If you’ve never made any, you should. It’s super easy, and with a food mill, you don’t even have to peel the apples.

It does mean coring a lot of apples, however. I was about halfway through mine in this picture. Aren’t they beautiful?

I know it looks like I’m showcasing my Warther’s knives, but I actually had them out because I wasn’t sure which was best for the task. (The answer was all three were fine, but the one with the slightly longer blade was slightly better.)
Warther’s is another place that deserves a post of its own. If you’re ever anywhere near Dover, Ohio, I highly recommend stopping.

Even the scraps looked pretty, but maybe that’s because I love locally grown apples.

Next I cooked down all those beautiful apples. I sort of followed this recipe from BHG.com because I was looking for a recipe using honey instead of sugar, and I was smitten by the option of using ginger instead of honey.

Once the apples were soft, I put them through the mill!

These peels and the cores were all that went into the compost.

And here’s our applesauce! I’m hoping the pretty blush color will distract you from the buckets of bee syrup and honey on the counter.

I was going to use our honey, but then I thought Akron Honey’s Bourbon Barrel Honey might add a little oomph to the flavor. I think it does too. You don’t actually taste the bourbon (though that’s a thought for next time — using bourbon to replace at least part of the water the sauce is cooked in … hmmm), but the Bourbon Barrel Honey seems to add some depth to the flavor.

My bourbon honey is all gone now, which makes me a little sad.

Of course, the ginger is also a great addition. Since I didn’t have enough crystallized ginger, I just added some ground until it tasted right to me.

I got four pints and a little extra to take to my friend when we go to dinner tonight.

And that was the end of a saucy kind of day!

At Seventeen

There’s a song by Janis Ian that takes me right back to high school.

“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful …

It’s a great song, no doubt about that, capturing just what it was like to be an “ugly duckling girl like me.” At seventeen, it did indeed feel tragic that few — make that zero — teenage boys saw below the glasses and crooked, chipped teeth to my inner beauty.

I suppose many teenagers are self-obsessed drama queens. At least that’s what I tell myself whenever I look back and realize how many kids I saw every day who were dealing with problems and issues quite beyond my comprehension.

Then I start working on genealogy and feel even more guilty.

Yes, I’ve been crawling around the family tree again, and this time my focus was Charles Christian Bird (alternatively Christian Charles Bird), born in 1844 in Ritchie County, Virginia (newly formed in 1843 from parts of Wood and Lewis County).

In the 1860 census, Charles had attended school within the previous year. He turned 17 early in 1861. His birthday was 2 January if we believe findagrave.com, the 28th January if calculated from listing from cemetery reading in usgwarchives.net, or the 16th February if we go by the U.S., Headstone Applications for Military Veterans database.

He had a twin sister, Elizabeth, but I can’t find a birth record for her either, and the record for her death doesn’t include a birth date.

Sigh.

Still, such discrepancies are not uncommon in genealogical records for a variety of reasons. Many of my ancestors lived up in the mountains and sometimes didn’t get around to recording births until one of them had cause to go into town.

What’s important is all the sources agree on the year of Charles’ birth, and two agree on the date of his death. The outlier for the death date is based on reading a 100-year-old tombstone, so it’s quite likely the second numeral was simply worn away.

Here are a few more dates:

17 April 1861 — Virginia passed the Virginia Ordinance of Secession, thereby seceding the state from the no-longer United States of America.

11 June 1861 — Delegates of the western counties of Virginia met in Wheeling and nullified the Virginia Ordinance of Secession, thereby seceding from their former state of Virginia.

The whole “seceding from the secession and being admitted as a new state” was somewhat controversial, but there had long been tension between the farmers of west Virginia — who owned less acreage and didn’t depend on slaves — and those in the east who were disproportionately represented in the state legislature. If you’d like to read a little more about this, you can do so here, but far our purposes, it was basically a case of poorer “mountaineers” not wanting to fight a civil war for a cause they didn’t believe in.

This decision wasn’t universally supported, even in what eventually became West Virginia, and I have at least one ancestor who fought for the Confederacy. He’s mentioned in a post about his sister Sarah Jane and also here.

However, the Bird (sometimes spelled Byrd) family must have felt strongly about the situation because on 18 August 1861, two brothers — Charles and 21-year-old Davis (who was already married and possibly had a child on the way) enlisted in Company E of the Sixth Regiment of the West Virginia Infantry at Harrisville, (West) Virginia.

Their 22-year-old brother, Wesley Samuel — the eldest of their siblings and my 2x great grandfather — didn’t enlist, waiting instead to register for the draft in October/November of 1863.

Wesley was the lucky (or possibly the smart) one. Although he didn’t marry my 2x great grandmother until 13 April 1862 and or have their first child, William Francis on 25 June 1862 (if the death certificate from West Virginia Archives is correct) or 28 July 1862 (if findagrave.com is right), he never had to go to war. (And yes, your math is correct. William Francis was apparently — how shall I put this? — extremely premature.)

Wesley’s younger brother, Davis, was less fortunate. His muster cards reflect a lot of time on guard duty, although he did spend two couple of months building a blockhouse at Brandy Gap West Virginia Railroad tunnel. He also became ill twice during his three-year tour of duty, being noted as “present,” but “sick” for both November/December 1862 and January/February 1863. Then in 1864, the January/February card notes him as absent, “sick in hospital at Clarksburg since January 23, 1864.”

Davis was discharged on 10 September 1864, and returned home to his wife and the son who was born while he was at war. His second child, a daughter they called Lucinda, was born the same month her father was discharged.

Wesley and Davis lived to see West Virginia recognized as a state on 20 June 1863, raised their families, and died within a month of each other in 1909.

Charles never made it to his eighteenth birthday, or even out of Harrisville, dying of Typhoid on October 20, 1861, two months and two days after he enlisted.

OH Honey Apiary: We Make Mistakes So You Don’t Have To!

If you recall, we spent much of the end of August and start of September treating our hives with Formic Pro. Sadly, halfway through this treatment, we were dismayed to learn from a company rep who spoke at the End of Summer Classic that doing the one-strip treatment doesn’t affect the mites in the capped brood.

Since killing the mites under the the caps is one of the reasons we use Formic Pro, this was quite a letdown, and we’ll be re-thinking our treatment in the future — possibly trying the two-strip method again. (We switched to one strip after having lost multiple queens when we did the two-strip in the past. Apparently, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.)

But this week, we were finally able to have a look inside our hives.

It was a coolish morning, so we waited until early evening (the warmest part of that day) and started with the original OH, Honey hive. This is the colony that made it through last winter, the one from which the other two hives were split, and the only one we got honey off this year.

Because fall is setting in, we are trying to take all the hives down to fewer boxes and decided to begin by removing the second honey super.

We took it off, brushing the few bees that were on the frames back into the hive and set the box on the deck, planning to go back to it later. For some reason, neither of us completely thought through the consequences of this action, but if you’re a beekeeper, you’re probably cringing because you can predict what happened.

Everyone else will have to read the rest of the post to find out.

We finished reviewing all the frames of that hive, cleaned out all four of the beetle traps, and sprinkled DFM on the top of the frames.

It’s a strong hive with plenty of bees, and if it doesn’t have as much honey as we’d like to see … well, there’s time yet before it gets really cold. In addition, it still has a lot of brood. At this time of year, that causes the niggling concern of it possibly also having a large Varroa load, as well as the worry of going into the winter with more bees than the hive has food for.

Still, we plan to start feeding this weekend and treat one more time with Oxalic Acid in October or November (when the queen has stopped or greatly reduced her laying). Fingers crossed these actions will address those issues.

On to Split #1. This is also a strong hive, as you can see from the pictures below.

Here’s a view from the side.

There are actually clumps of bees, where they are buzzing around on top of one another.

We spotted our beautiful golden girl (the queen).

I’m not going to point her out. By now, you should be able to recognize her. 🙂

This hive was in a similar state — lots of bees, brood, and not as much honey as we’d like to see.

But they’re still bringing in nectar and a surprising amount of pollen, and as mentioned before, we’re going to start feeding them.

We were finishing up with the beetle traps and DFM when we began to realize there were a lot(!) of bees in the air around the hives, and they were starting to ping our veils.

There was also a some air combat between bees and other bees, and bees and Yellow Jackets.

Realizing what was happening, we immediately closed up the hive, and started to put away the gear.

It was then we noticed the box we’d put on the deck.

It seems the bees had noticed it too because it was surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects.

We had broken a cardinal rule in beekeeping: Don’t leave honey or nectar sitting around because it will result in a robbing situation!

I didn’t take pictures because, well, even if you’re a beekeeper, tens of thousands of bees flying all around you can be a little distracting.

How could we have been so stupid?

And not only had we left the box out, there was also a bag of dirty, dark, old comb sitting in our deck box. With the deck box lid open.

We’d cleaned some frames the day before, and The Engineer was going to burn the mess that came off them after we finished our hive check. He’d put the bag in the box to protect it from the bees, but forgot to close the box.

Did I mention the foundation we’d cleaned and pressure-washed was draining on a bench on the front porch?

Well, yes, dear readers, it was. There were interested bees around it too.

Not only had we put out a super full of nectar to tempt neighborhood bees (including our own), we’d also offered several side dishes.

It was, as we say in the aviation world, a Charlie Foxtrot.

There were bees everywhere, fighting each other to take that delicious nectar back to their hives.

What did we do? What could we do, but start brushing the bees off the main attraction, and tucking those frames one by one in a closed box. Of course, a few bees ended up in the box, but we dealt with that later.

Then, we moved the bag of old comb to the front of the house and covered it with a bucket, covered the clean(ish) frames with a towel, put away all our tools, went inside, and let the crowds disperse.

Clearly, our plans for grilling out were off the table. Dining out was now on the agenda because, frankly, the idea of trying to cook was not enticing after such a tense experience.

Amazingly, neither of us got stung, and the three bees that followed us into the house were caught and released to go home.

Within an hour, life was pretty much back to normal … except all through the next day, foragers were checking out our deck, hoping for another smorgasbord.

It was our own fault. Bees are preparing for winter now, and although they are still out foraging, the pickings are much slimmer than earlier in the year. Beekeepers have to be extra careful not to offer any enticements to would-be robbers.

We are normally very careful about this — covering the comb and propolis we remove from the frames, placing it in a container and not just dumping it on the ground, cleaning up any honey, sugar water, or nectar spills.

But this time, we messed up.

Unsurprisingly, it was with some trepidation that we approached our third hive when we checked it today.

We went through the super, brushing the bees off each frame, and tucking those frames into a closed box.

Then, we removed the top box, covered it with a towel, and began to look at each frame of the bottom box. We were glad to see they’d begun to cap some honey — more than either of the other hives — and there was less capped brood. This probably indicates the queen’s laying is slowing, and the bees are turning their attention toward winter provisions.

By the time we got to the top box, our girls were beginning to dive bomb our veils. They were obviously done with our ministrations.

We took a quick peek at a single frame upstairs, cleaned the beetle traps, sprinkled the DFM and got the heck out.

You see, we learn from our mistakes. If you’re a beekeeper, hopefully you can too, instead of having to make them yourself.

They’re still bringing in pollen!
Guess which hive we inspected today! (That’s The Engineer beside it, swatting Yellow Jackets).