Un-American?

I subscribe online to a small, local, online newspaper, and in each issue, there’s a poll about news or opinion pieces in that day’s paper. 

One of the questions last week was based on a column titled Blue State Residents are “Real” Americans Too. So, the question was, of course, “Are blue-state residents “real” Americans?” 

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of voters answered “Yes.”

However, the percentage of those who said blue state residents were “real” Americans was only 75.4%, with 12.8% saying no, they aren’t, and another 11.8% saying maybe. 

Ponder that a moment, please.

A whopping 34.6% of those responding to the poll thought Americans who live in “blue states” either aren’t “real” Americans, or they just weren’t sure. 

I still find it hard to believe, even if I do I live in a “red state,” meaning the vast majority of people who live here, and thus might have voted in this poll, define themselves as Republicans. 

For the record, I am not a Republican, having considered myself as an Independent until our 45th president was elected. After that, I found myself unable to vote for any representative of a party who would consider him as a nominee for any position in our government. 

Also, for the record, I will admit while our 45th president was in office I often referred to him as our “so-called president.” But here’s the difference between me and his supporters: I never claimed he didn’t win the election. I may have said he didn’t win the popular vote (he didn’t), but that that’s not the same thing.

Nor have I ever said his supporters aren’t “real” Americans.

How in the world is it possible that some people apparently believe they have the right to decide who is and isn’t a “real” American? And what is the criteria on which they make that decision?

Is it based on what others believe or how they worship? 

On the fact that these “not-real” Americans have the audacity to speak against something the “deciders” hold dear?

How can that be correct when the freedoms of religion and speech are listed in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution? 

It’s right there in the Third Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

That’s same Bill of Rights many in the “red states” hold as holy when it refers to the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Unfortunately for them, the Bill of Rights is not multiple choice, but a list of freedoms for all Americans, not just those who agree with you. 

True, it’s taken some time, with the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage coming much later, and we’re still working on it, but I don’t understand how anyone can think they have the right to say someone else isn’t a “real” American. 

On the other hand, South Carolina is a “red state,” and their legislators are apparently trying to outlaw websites tell people how to find an abortion, so maybe those who live in “red states (like mine) believe the freedoms of speech and religion only apply to their own. 

You know from my genealogy posts that my family has been in this country a long, long time. I have many ancestors who fought in the Civil War (mostly for the Union — here’s the story of one — though at least one fought on the opposite side against his brothers). My own father served in World War II, and at least one of my ancestors (possibly more), Zackquille Morgan (my 5x great grandfather) fought in the American Revolution. 

Some might think this “pedigree,” and I use the term ironically, would make me, I don’t know, a “real American?” 

I disagree. I am a real American because I was lucky enough to be born in this country. The Engineer is a real American because he immigrated here and eventually became a citizen, though he is also still a British citizen. Likewise, Darling Daughter is a real American because she was born here and a real Brit by virtue of her father’s birthplace.

If you want to be pedantic about it, and apparently I do, if you go back far enough, we all came from elsewhere.

And, as an American, I believe my fellow Americans have the right to speak and believe as they choose, just as our constitution promises. 

And this means neither I, nor anyone else, has the right to say someone else isn’t a “real” American.*

*I would have to say, however, it seems those who follow the constitution as it’s written might have a very, very slightly stronger claim to being a “real” American. 

Regrets, I Have a Few …

Sometimes, not often, I lay awake at night, unable to sleep because I am remembering things I’ve said or done that I regret.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on Pexels.com Unfortunately, what I’m writing about wasn’t all a dream.

Mostly, I think about words I’ve spoken that I should have held back. It’s bad enough when I know I was I spoke thoughtlessly, but there are many, many things I’ve said because I was so convinced I was right, or at least that I had the right to say them.

I won’t share any examples with you because, frankly, I know I was wrong, and I am ashamed of myself.

And yet, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize what they say is true … the past is prologue, what’s done is done, and you can’t go backward.

On the other hand, I believe it’s good for us to look back on some of our actions with regret, because by doing so, we realize we were wrong. And even if we can’t correct our mistakes, we can try not to repeat them.

Instead, we can move forward and make completely new ones. 🙂

I know I’ve made mistakes, and I’m willing to deal with the consequences, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve also become less willing to shoulder the burden of other people’s poor decisions.

I’ve always tried to look ahead, to consider how my decisions will affect myself and others. Obviously, it’s impossible to predict the future, but most of the time, we can make an educated guess about what might happen.

If you keep making the same mistakes, without learning from the consequences, you won’t move forward.

If you don’t sock away any money, you likely won’t have a leisurely retirement. And in this case, I’m talking about people who had the money and the opportunity to invest, but chose not to do so. I understand this isn’t possible for everyone.

If you jump in and out of relationships without giving them time to develop, it’s likely you will not find a long-term partner.

If you have a partner, and you cheat, you will likely be found out and lose that partner.

Sometimes I think there are people who expect life to always be easy, happy, and fun, as if that’s a God-given right.

It’s not. And let’s face it, life isn’t fair.

I know I was born into a life with advantages others don’t have, and because of that, I’ve always felt it my duty to do the best I could with what I’ve been given. And to try to share some of those blessings and help others when I can.

That’s all anyone can do. There’s no promise our lives will be wonderful or fulfilling. The only way that can happen is if we play the hand we’ve got, using the advantages we may have been given. And if we expect another person or a job or a way of life to make us happy, we’re doomed to fail.

I’m sorry my thoughts are meandering. I’m writing partly to sort them out.

You see, The Engineer and I are at a stage where — to use a cliche — we are living our best lives. It’s a life we’ve worked hard to be able to enjoy, and we’re old enough to understand there’s no guarantee we’ll have a lot of time to do so.

So, when I think of others close to me who have made other choices, choices that mean they are not in a similar situation, I feel I can choose to feel sorry about that, without feeling obligated to try to step in.

This makes me feel guilty because I know there are others who would step in and try to do something. And just to clarify, I’m not talking about someone who is starving or homeless or in a situation that is not the direct result of their own decisions.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, so feel free to leave a comment.

9/11 – Let Us Pause to Remember

Photo by Aidan Nguyen on Pexels.com

Let us pause to remember those who died on 9/11, and think as well of those who died later, as a result of that day.

How can it be that our country, which appeared so united in the aftermath of the tragedy, seems now in the process of falling to pieces?

And now, it’s more critical than ever that we work together to at least begin the process of solving the problems we are leaving behind. We owe it to our children, who are being left vast obstacles to their very existence caused by the unsustainable way of life we have created.

We could start by remembering we share this world with millions of other humans, all of whom have their own struggles, that we all inhabit this earth we are in the process of destroying.

That, at the very least, is something we share with every other person in existence.

The war in the Ukraine and the unrest in many countries including our own — these are big problems, to be sure. But if we continue on the road we are traveling, soon there will be no road, no war, no unrest, because we won’t be here.

So, let us pause to remember 9/11 and the days that followed. Let us remember not only because those whose lives were cut short by those inhumane acts of war deserve to be remembered. Let us remember because, despite the events of that day, and the thousands of years of other, equally cruel acts of war, for one brief spell, our country felt united.

Only by making that belief a reality that encompasses all people can we hope for a human future on this green planet.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What We Did on Our Summer Holiday: A Photo-Blog

I’m stealing the title from one of my favorite movies to try to get everyone caught up with what we’ve been doing.

If you’ve not seen “What We Did on Our Summer Holiday,” you must. Go ahead and borrow, rent, stream or whatever it is you do for movies. This post will still be here when you get back.

Okay! Now that we’ve all seen the movie, I’ll warn you this post’s entertainment value pales in comparison, partly because I already wrote most of it once before, only to have WordPress swallow it up and refuse to regurgitate it on command.

I apologize. I’m not as amusing as Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, and David Tennant, not to mention the scene-stealing children actors in the movie. I’m not sure anyone could be.

Grass strip between the corn and bean fields of Illinois

Anyway, first we went to Oshkosh. Well, strictly speaking, first we went to Illinois to our friends’ grass strip, and then we fly to Oshkosh.

Actually, if I’m being completely accurate, first we drove to Detroit to pick up The Engineer’s Little Sister, who came in from England to go to Oshkosh with us, then we flew to Illinois and went to Oshkosh from there.

Whatever.

The point is, we’ve done a lot of traveling in the last month.

Oshkosh was as Oshkosh always is, a whirlwind of catching up with friends from all over, sleeping in a tent under the wing of a plane, cooking outside, and enjoying sights like this at the end of our group’s rows of planes.

Only this year, we had the added pleasure of having Little Sister along. Experiencing Oshkosh can be a bit full on, at least the way we do it, and she was a great sport about all of it, even when I lapsed into mothering mode. She turned 45 while we were there, and to celebrate we went for a ride on the Ford Tri-Motor.

The rides are quite short, but seeing Lake Winnebago from one of these historic planes is an experience to remember.

I won’t go into much detail about Oshkosh, having written about it many times in the past, both on this blog and my old one.

We returned home — happy to once again sleep between sheets and enjoy the novelty of indoor plumbing. A few days and several immense loads of laundry later, we were on our way back to Detroit to bid farewell to Little Sister.

Then, it was time to check the hives we were unable to check before Oshkosh because of the weather.

They all seemed fine — with larvae, brood, and eggs — and we were able to steal a few more frames of honey.

We even saw one or two of the queens. Bet you can find one of them below even though I didn’t circle her.

We did notice something weird.

In all three hives there was more drone brood than we would have expected this time of year.

For comparison, below are photos of worker brood.

When we first saw the drone brood, we thought there might be a laying worker in that hive, but there was plenty of regular brood and larvae, so that seemed unlikely.

We opened the other two hives, and were surprised to discover a similar situation in both.

Complicating things is the fact that queens slow their laying toward the end of summer, resulting in a higher Varroa load. And those nasty mites love drone brood because it’s most similar to their own development cycle, so having a large number of drone brood right now didn’t seem a good thing.

In the end, we decided to get rid of the capped drone brood by scraping those cells off the frames, a disgusting job I won’t describe for you.

Was that the right decision? I couldn’t tell you. I only know we didn’t want to take a chance on our hives becoming Varroa bombs.

We also moved three of the hives, converting the pink nuc box hive into an eight-frame in the process. Now, they’re all on hive stands, instead of being spread out on the picnic table.

Some beekeepers say if you move hives, it needs to be two inches at a time, or over two miles all at once. This is because when bees become foragers, they orient to the hive’s location.

If you move the hive more than two miles, they have no choice but to re-orient. If you move it two inches, it’s still close enough to the old spot that they can find it.

Other beekeepers say you can move it however you like as long as you force them to re-orient by putting something in front of the hive (like a big leafy branch).

The first few times we moved a hive, we did this.

Then, we forgot.

The bees milled around where the hive used to be for a couple hours, but then dispersed, and all was well again in bee world.

I still think the branch is a good idea, especially if you (or anyone else) need to be near where the hive was previously located, because confused bees are not happy bees.

Sorry for the anthropomorphizing, but can anyone really say unequivocally bees don’t get unhappy? I mean, no one really knows for sure, do they?

Anyway, all the hives are on hive stands now, which is the first step in preparing them for winter.

We also ended up visiting our friend MJ to have a look at her two hives because she’d seen open queen cells but no larvae or eggs the last time she’d checked one of them.

By the time we saw them, the new queen had started laying, and everything was fine.

Still, it was a good excuse for a visit, and I was able to take a photo of this glorious sunflower from her yard.

In our own yard, the bees have been loving the mint I planted in a pot last year. Wonder if any of our honey will taste minty?

Because we have so little sun in our yard, we belong to a CSA, and I needed to turn my attention toward that to try to catch up on our vegetable and fruit shares. On the drive to the farm, I pass this barn and was finally able to take a photo.

This Mail Pouch barn looks freshly painted, so it’s either not original or it’s been touched up. Either way, I love to see these painted barns, not because I’m a fan of chewing tobacco (or any tobacco really), but because they are pieces of Americana culture and history.

That trip to the CSA farm, along with friends’ “donations” of zucchini, resulted in many jars of hot pepper jelly and zucchini salsa.

Making and canning anything is a little time-consuming, but the results are worth it. In fact, I hope to can some tomatoes this year. I’m still behind on my CSA share and hoping they can provide me with enough tomatoes to get some in jars.

We managed to get in a quick flight to a local airport for breakfast and a wash of the plane (filthy from Oshkosh), and then were off again, this time for four nights camping.

We camped at Mohican State Park in a spot near the Clear Fork part of the Mohican river.

We shared our campsite with this creature, whom we saw every day. It’s a Common Watersnake, and apparently can give a nasty, although not poisonous bite. Fortunately, the breed only does this if a person does something stupid like swing them around by the tail. As it was, we kept an eye on it from a respectful distance, and s/he mostly laid in the sun.

These days, most people camp in large RVs, but we saw a few other tent campers and some small trailers.

I loved this vintage one, which reminded me of the kind of trailer that was common when I camped as a child with my family.

On our first full day, we hiked to where we hoped to put in our kayak the following day, a distance that was supposed to be two miles each way. It turned out to be closer to four, but was a nice escape from a campground that is always crowded due to its proximity to the water.

Beautiful fungi on a dead tree.

There were many fallen trees, some of them across the path, so it made for an interesting hike.

Also, we crossed a swinging bridge.

I was quite proud of myself because I don’t like bridges or heights. Plus, at the end of the day, my FitBit said I had walked over 20,000 steps for a total of more than eleven miles!

The following day, we drove to the put-in spot, kayaked back to camp, and then did the same hike again, only going one way this time to pick up our vehicle.

The scenery was beautiful from the river, but I’d be lying if I said it was a wonderful kayak trip. The water level was low, and we had to walk over slippery rocks more times than I can count. If we do that river again, it will be earlier in the season when the level might be higher.

On our third day, we drove to the Kokosing Gap trail, a bike path we hadn’t previously ridden. We only cycled about eleven miles — from Howard to Gambier and up into the town of Gambier and back — but plan to visit again, if only to dine at the “Howard Hilton.”

Howard is a very small crossroads town, and we were quite taken with this little bar calling itself the Hilton.

I look forward to further exploring the trail.

This stone arch, at Howard, was a railroad bridge, built in 1874.

And this train is parked at Gambier. You’re allowed to ring its bell, so I did. 🙂

As you can imagine, we had to eat heartily to provide energy for all this physical activity, and most of my cooking turned out well, like this chile and pie iron cornbread dinner.

On the other hand, my second attempt at Dutch Oven pizza turned out rather charred.


Fortunately the crust was thick, and there were lots of toppings, so we kind of ate the middle. Lest you think poorly of my camp cooking abilities, the first time I made this, it was perfect.

If you’re into camping and cooking, below is the menu for our trip.

Sun — Ham and cheese baguette (Cut a baguette in half, butter one side, mustard on the other, add ham and cheese, wrap in foil, and grill over fire until done), Grilled zucchini marinated in Garlic Expressions, topped with romano and grilled until cheese melts.

Mon — Breakfast: Tomato scrambled eggs (canned tomatoes cooked in buttered pan until liquid is released and thickens into a sauce, add eggs beaten for scrambling, cook gently until done, add chopped cilantro), Lunch: Sandwiches/veggies/munchies, Dinner: Cornbread and chile — beans, peppers, chorizo, chile powder, 1/2 can black beans, canned tomatoes, cumin — Dutch Oven on stove, Cornbread in pie iron (butter pie iron very well, drop 4 T. cornbread dough, close iron and stick in coals, flipping after five minutes and checking after ten).

Tues — Breakfast: Ham and eggs, with home fries, on tortilla if desired, Lunch: sandwiches/veggies/munchies, Dinner: Camp quesadillas — tortillas, chorizo (fry ahead), salsa, guac, olives, beans, cheese, done in pie iron, toppings: guacamole, salsa.

Weds — Breakfast: Cereal, milk, Lunch: Sandwiches/veggies/munchies, Dinner: Pizza — pizza crust (make ahead), sausage (fry ahead), onions, peppers, olives, cheese, basil, pepperoni, fresh tomatoes, garlic.

Thurs — Breakfast: snack bars, bananas, melon.

It was a great trip from the misty mornings …

… to the beautiful sunsets.

Kayak and Bike Day Plus Some Lake Erie for Good Measure: A Photoblog (photodump)

The Engineer and I have been quite busy all summer. Between beekeeping, getting the plane annual done, prepping for my sister-in-law’s visit and Oshkosh, every day has felt like a marathon right until we collapse on the couch to watch David Tennant’s “Around the World in 80 Days.”

However, well over a month ago, a friend invited me up to her lakeside condo for a day out, and the only day we could find that would work for both of us was Thursday. Thus, two days ago, she picked me up for a day of wandering around Vermilion, Ohio and lunch at her place.

It was lovely. There’s just something about being around water that stills the soul.

Vermilion is — and I hesitate to use the word, but it fits — quaint with beautiful planters downtown and the biggest Black-eyed Susan blossoms I’ve ever seen.

Then, yesterday, The Engineer and I took a day off together. We kayaked six miles on the Tuscarawas River, then cycled eight on the Towpath.

Lunch stop
Lunch by the river
Lock 4 on the bike path

It was just what we needed, and though I was Very Tired last night, we are now ready to face the final lap in our race to get everything done!

Ninety-six Pounds of Honey …

… is a lot of honey.

Actually, it was more like 98 or 100 pounds, but at a certain point, one gives up caring about the exact number.

Since we’d been working on the plane annual for two weeks, we certainly didn’t plan to extract honey this weekend, but apparently the bees thought differently.

We’ve been treating them for Varroa with Formic Pro and gotten the first strips in, but ten days later when the second strips were due, it was too hot. The temperature has to be 85 F or below for the first three days after putting in the strips, and we’ve not had three days in a row below that temperature for quite a while.

You can do two strips at once for 14 days, but when we’ve done that in the past, we ended up with dead queens, so we’re more cautious now.

Normally when we’re treating, we don’t open the hive even to look in the honey supers, but they’ve been crazy busy, filling the frames this year, and we were afraid they’d get too crowded with no place to move out of the brood nest. And when I looked in the directions for Formic Pro, it says don’t disturb the brood. By looking only in the supers, at least we’d be following the letter — if not the spirit — of the law.

So, Saturday, we peeked, and it was a good thing we did because we ended up swapping out fifteen frames full of honey for fifteen new ones. And there were eight more full ones we couldn’t switch because we were out of new frames despite investing in (many!) new frames this season.

A frame full of honey
Some of the frames we pulled were what we call “bulgers.”
Can you see why we call them “bulgers?”
Bulging with honey!

The bees were also festooning. That’s when they kind of chain together, and supposedly they do it mostly when they’re building comb.

There are lots of theories about why they do this, but nobody’s quite sure. Whatever the reason, it’s a neat thing to see.

Anyway, because we needed empty frames to replace the eight full ones, we had to extract sooner than we planned, and that’s why we ended up extracting honey on the 4th of July weekend.

In the end, we pulled honey from thirty-four frames*, including ten we’d already taken out and frozen** for forty-eight hours.

Actually, since our friend MJ had her very first honey harvest(!!!) and brought frames to extract with us, we pulled from thirty-eight.

Here’s MJ using a knife to uncap her frames. Interestingly, her honey had a strong mint flavor despite mint not yet being in bloom. Both she and I noticed it, so perhaps the bees foraged on another flower in the mint family.

It was a long, hot, sticky, exhausting day.

Long enough and sticky enough and exhausting enough that we decided to finetune our process.

We’ve always drained the extractor into the filter, and then into a bucket for jar filling, but with this much honey, the procedure became bottlenecked at the filter.

Also, despite being fine in the past for less honey, our little plastic extractor really wasn’t up to par for the amount we had to extract.

End result: yesterday, we ordered a new, larger extractor and decided in the future we will extract one day, and filter and fill the jars later.

However, these decisions were made after slogging through the old way and spending yesterday finishing up the cleaning of the many tools we use, melting wax, and then cleaning again.

We had talked about going out to celebrate our big honey harvest, but we were so tired we ate leftover pizza on Saturday and ended up eating dinner Sunday at ten pm, so still no celebration.

Today, I began the semi-final step in rendering the wax and began filtering the honey that drained from it when I did the first melting. Then I steam-mopped the floor.

I’m trying a new (to me) method of rendering the wax, putting the chunks in cheesecloth immersed in hot water (in the roaster I got for $20 just for bee work).
The last of the honey from this extraction — we’re fairly confident there will be more because we left a lot of almost-full frames in the hive.

The Engineer and I also reached the momentous conclusion that we have to start selling our honey. We are simply expending too much effort and spending too much money to sustain it as a hobby without an influx of cash for the end result.

In other news, our “comb in a jar” experiment has taken a leap forward as the bees have finally(!) moved into the jars.

The bees are making comb!
The brown powder is cinnamon to keep the ants out of the jars.
Fresh comb is beautiful, isn’t it?

We looked in today when we put the second Formic Pro strips on the hives, and it looked like the bees were filling some of the comb.

How exciting is that!!

If you’re curious what 96 pounds of honey looks like, here’s a couple of pictures which show both the honey and part of the mess in the kitchen after the honey extraction.

A lot of makes a lot of mess!

*If you’re good at calculating, you’re may wonder how we ended up with thirty-four frames because 10+15+8 = 33, not 34. It’s because we missed replacing one frame somewhere, which means a hive has only nine. Although bees are notoriously picky about their space, this isn’t as big of a deal as one might expect. The fact is some beekeepers run nine frames instead of ten because they think the bees make more honey that way.

**The freezing is to kill any wax moth eggs in the wax so they don’t hatch and destroy the frames of comb. If the frames are being extracted immediately, it doesn’t matter because the wax is separated and rendered before any eggs can hatch.

The Roar

A few months ago, I saw The Chicks were coming to our neck of the woods, and I texted Darling Daughter to see if she’d like to go.

A month or so passed before I heard from her, mainly because she wasn’t sure of her schedule at her old job. In April, she started a new one that’s a lot more flexible and she texted to say she’d like to go.

We settled on it being an early birthday gift for her, and I bought the tickets. I’ve been to a few concerts in the last few years, so I’ve gotten used to the price of tickets and the ridiculous so-called “service” fees they tack on for the pleasure of using their computer program to buy the tickets. I’m not sure where the service comes in because the customers do all the work involved in purchasing them, and then spending the day of the concert hoping nothing goes wrong with our phones or the network because God forbid the concert producers allow a screen shot or a printed ticket.

Nonetheless, I was shocked when the no-service fee for each ticket was over $30.

$30! I know I’m showing my age, but I can remember when the whole ticket cost that much!

Still, although I hate paying an exorbitant fee for nothing, I was happy to buy the tickets and plan an evening with my daughter.

And having now been at that concert, I can tell you every cent was worth it. I just wish more of the money was going to the artists because they deserved it.

Here is where some of you may want to end your reading because I’m about to share some opinions you may not want to hear.

There are a few things I want to say, and as The Chicks say, I’m not ready to make nice.

First up are my reasons for liking The Chicks: They say what they think, they don’t walk it back when things get tough, and from their songs, I know I share many of their opinions.

One of these opinions is that the recent decision by the Supreme Court may not be wrong in terms of its reasoning — after all Ruth Bader Ginsberg disagreed with the way women’s reproductive rights were made into law — it is nevertheless wrong. In my heart I don’t believe that’s the six justices really struck it down because it was not a good decision to begin with.

Rather, it’s the fact that they, like those who put them in power, believe it’s okay to enforce a so-called Christian morality on everyone.

I take issue with this type of thinking for several reasons, and I’m not even talking about the supposed separation of church and state.

First, in my sixty some years walking this earth, I’ve noticed that those who proclaim their morals and beliefs the loudest are often proven to be hypocrites. Our legislators are no exception. Go here and here for examples.

Also, in saying the right to an abortion isn’t a constitutional right so women shouldn’t be allowed to have it as an option is a case of stating the obvious since women aren’t mentioned in the Constitution.

At all.

At least not until the 19th Amendment passed giving us the right to vote. (And wasn’t that just super generous of the powers that be?)

In addition, a decision that refers, even in a footnote in a draft, to the “domestic supply” of infants for adoption sends shivers down my spine. The words “brood mares” and “cattle” come to mind. Especially when childwelfare.gov says “The number of children and youth waiting for adoption from foster care has increased throughout the last decade.”

I also find it problematic that the people and legislators applauding this decision claim to be pro-life but are perfectly fine with the US not providing paid parental leave.

But, hey, no problem. We’re in good company. After all, the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga also don’t provide this benefit, and look what economic powerhouses they are!

I’m not even going to talk about our government’s shortsightedness in allowing one company to have such a large share of the baby formula market that the result of shutting down of their production facility (with good reason), paired with the supply chain issues caused by the pandemic, left parents struggling to feed their babies.

Yes, I know some people will say, “But breast milk is free and a lot healthier for babies!”

First, not every woman is physically able to breast feed. Second, it’s only free if you ignore the time and effort of the mothers.

Yes, feeding your child is part of being a parent. That doesn’t mean it’s quite as simple as people like to imply. I breastfed my daughter for six months, with each feeding taking an hour and spaced every two hours.

I was happy to do so. I was also lucky. I was physically able to feed Darling Daughter, and worked at a job that allowed me to use my sick leave, as well as providing unpaid maternity leave. I was also fortunate we could afford for me to do so.

This is not the case for everyone. So please don’t talk about breast milk being free.

Another issue with the recent SCOTUS decision is the fact that in kicking abortion regulation back down to the states, they knew quite well the decision would immediately trigger many complete bans on the procedure.

In my state (Ohio), the striking down of Roe v Wade was followed by putting the “heartbeat bill” into effect. This means abortion is outlawed from about six weeks into a pregnancy, with exceptions made when “necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or to prevent a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” The law also defines what it considers a serious risk.

Having never had a regular menstrual cycle, I wouldn’t have even known I was pregnant at six weeks, yet the legislators of the state of Ohio have decided I would be legally bound to complete a pregnancy from that point on.

No exceptions for rape or incest, apparently, so that’s great too.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I have been tamping down my anger about these kinds of laws for a long time.

So, here’s where I offer some examples of women I’ve known who experienced unplanned pregnancies.

One of them, in a new relationship, married the sperm provider and had the child. The male progenitor of this union — I can’t call him father — never even came to see his daughter until she was six weeks old, and the married couple was divorced within the year.

Another acquaintance, also in a new relationship, had an abortion. The couple eventually married, and are still married many years later.

A third acquaintance, in a commited relationship, decided to have the child but ultimately ended up raising it herself.

A fourth acquaintance, not in a commited relationship, carried the child to term and gave it up for adoption.

My point is, none of these women and/or couples made their decisions lightly. And no matter which choice they made, it affected them for the rest of their lives.

Surely, the person making the decision should be the one most affected by it. That right doesn’t belong to some legislator or judge who won’t be the one experiencing pregnancy, going through labor, and raising the child (with all the joy and heartache that entails) or giving it for adoption (which I know can result in a different kind of heartache for both the child and the birth parents).

Instead of outlawing abortion, our legislators should be able to hammer out a federal law that provides reasonable limitations on the procedure, while also writing into law both a woman’s right to choose until a certain threshold and exceptions for rape, incest, and danger to the mother’s health.

While they’re at it, perhaps they could codify paid parental leave and the right to have all methods of birth control paid for by the insurance company provided by our employers (instead of allowing the employer’s beliefs to trump our own).

Those who feel strongly against abortion or birth control don’t have to use it, but neither would they have the right to enforce their own beliefs on others.

It’s clear The Chicks have a similar outlook, and so do many of those who attended their concert. When Natalie Maines mentioned the recent SCOTUS decision throughout the night, the crowd roared. It was the loudest, most enthusiastic group of concertgoers I’ve ever heard.

I roared too.

It was the first time in a very long while that I’ve felt such solidarity with a big group of people. To be able to express our fury at the decisions being made for us was — and I hate this term but no other will do — empowering.

Now it’s up to us to vote our beliefs so we can turn to righting other wrongs those in power want to ignore.

Like climate change.

And why the US has so many mass shootings compared to other countries.

On that subject, I will mention one last thing about the concert. At one point, a series of black and white slides were projected on the screen behind the band. Each slide had the name of a place and the number of people killed.

I was grieved to realize we’ve had so many mass shootings that I couldn’t remember the stories behind most of those numbers, although I know many of them were children doing nothing more than attending school.

Yes, our leaders are great at protecting the unborn. Maybe it’s time to turn their attention to those already here.

Split Shifts

Honestly, I don’t know how people who have large apiaries do it, especially those who do it as a side hustle. I suppose the more hives you have, the less you fret over each. That’s certainly been the case with us. I mean, we fret in the sense that we try to do what’s best for them, but I think we’re a little calmer about the possibility of things going wrong.

Thankfully, we seem to have settled with six colonies, at least for the time being. Still, we’ve had to split our hive checks into two days. It’s just too hard to go through six hives in one go. Hence the double wordplay in the title — it’s split shifts because our bee duties have been split into two shifts, and split shifts because four of the eight hives we’ve had this year were the result of splits.

Today, we checked 1A, 1, 2, and 2B.

1A was split from 1, taking the original queen with it. It’s our only eight-frame hive, and it’s pretty packed. If any of our hives is a candidate for swarming, it’s this one. The fact that there were eight or ten queen cups on the bottom of a couple of frames would lend weight to this possibility. With the discovery of eggs in several of those cups (turning them into queen cells), a swarm becomes even more likely.

Since we also saw the queen — and she was clearly laying well — we’d normally split the hive, but frankly, we’re running out of room and supplies, despite having spent about $400 on wooden ware in the last month.

Instead, we took out that brood-laden, multi-queen cell/cup frame to move to another hive and added another honey super because the first one is full of capped and uncapped honey and nectar.

They may still swarm, but we bought Swarm Commander to spray on the little bushes the last swarm picked. According to several people who should know, if you spray a little on a cotton ball and attach it where you want swarms to land, they’ll go there.

Apparently, nothing else does the job quite as well. I sure hope they’re right because it’s $35.95 for a 2 ounce bottle!

We moved on to 1, last checked on 20 May. There was a queen present on 11 May, but no larvae, eggs, or evidence she was laying. When we looked on the 20th, we didn’t see any either, so we’d given them a frame of eggs to make a queen if they needed one. Now, we’re questioning if we bothered to look in the super because today we did, and there was brood, eggs, and larvae. We didn’t see the queen, so we took out the queen excluder, hoping she’ll move downstairs where there’s more room.

There was also lots of honey in the supers, so we swapped two fully capped frames for some empties.

So, the good news is the hive is queen right and they’re making honey. The bad news is she’s been laying in the wrong place.

On the other hand, some beekeepers swear the bees make more honey if there’s no queen excluder to hinder their work, and I’ve kind of wanted to see if this is true.

Maybe this is our chance to find out.

One worker, who apparently took offense at our presence, stung me through my glove. I can’t blame her for being cranky. It was a hot day (mid 80s), and the hive was crowded, especially upstairs in the “nursery.” It hurt a bit, but the stinger scarcely penetrated the glove. Of course, the bee’s crankiness cost her a lot more.

There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere … something about a person’s bad temper causing them more pain than it does others maybe?

Next, we came to #2, the one where we watched the queen emerge. When we last peeked inside, we saw the queen — who was nice and big and therefore clearly mated — but no evidence she’d started laying.

We went through the bottom box … and found lots of pollen, nectar, and honey, as well as some comb they were drawing.

Thinking something had happened to the queen, we put the brood-laden frame with queen cells in the box.

I love the pattern made by the varied colors of the pollen.

It wasn’t until we reached the top deep box that we found what we were looking for — brood, eggs, and larvae, followed by a spotting of the queen.

Can you spot her?

I’ll make it a little easier for you. Here’s a couple with The Engineer’s hive tool pointing at Her Loveliness.

Are you ready for a challenge? See if you can find her below!

I’ve circled her. Did you spot her?

So, what will happen to the queen cells from the other hive? Our hope is if the bees are happy with their queen — and they have no reason not to be — they’ll ignore those eggs and let nature take its course.

Still, who knows what goes through their tiny little brains?

Last up was 2B, the hive from the swarm. We have a board with mason jars acting as a honey super for this hive, in the hope they will make comb in a jar for us.

So far, all that’s happened is the comb “starter strips” keep falling down, and the jars have gotten moisture in them, which we’ve tried to alleviate by adding a couple of sticks beneath the board and an inner cover with a front entrance to allow more circulation.

Since we had to do some repair work on the starter strips, we decided we might as well check that hive too.

We spotted the queen, as well as some larvae, eggs, and brood, and the bees have been making comb.

However, they still have three empty frames in their living quarters, which explains why they’re not interested in making comb in jars.

When we took the jars off to repair their strips, we discovered the ants had moved in. We’ve been ignoring ants around the hives ever since we learned they produce formic acid (the same stuff we use to get rid of the dreaded Varroa Destructor Mites). Still, nesting in our experimental comb honey jars before the bees even got in them was pushing it too far, so we used the old cinnamon trick to discourage them.

In writing this just now, I’ve had the idea that perhaps we should steal some brood from the crowded hives, say 1 or 1A, and put it in this one to give them a little boost. I’ll have to discuss that idea with The Engineer to see if he agrees.

In summary, today we checked four hives and either saw queens or evidence one had been busy laying in all of the colonies.

Later this week, we will check 3A and 3B. 3A should have a queen because when we split the hive, we moved her into that colony. 3B is the tall nuc, which may or may not have a queen yet. If they do, she’s probably not started laying.

After that, hopefully sometime next week, we’ll treat the hives, probably with Formic Pro since most of them have brood.

Welcome to the OH Honey Apiary!

From left to right, we 1A and 1 (checked today and currently sporting heavy beards), 2 (also checked today), 3B (tall, skinny pink nuc we will check later in the week), 3 (on picnic table), empty nuc box (in case a hive wants another option to swarm to), 2B (swarm hive with comb honey setup).

Other than that, we’ve enjoyed seeing Tears for Fears and Garbage (a Christmas gift from Darling Daughter) at a nearby venue. We were very grateful DD sprang for pavilion seats (for us oldies) because it poured buckets as soon as we got out of the car.

I’ve exited the shower drier than I was when we got to our seats. Fortunately, it was warm so it didn’t spoil the evening.

Two days later, we went camping for four nights where we dined on such delicacies as pie iron samosas.

Once again, we snagged a site by the river, so fell asleep to the rippling of the water.

It was delightful.

Although we left the kayak at home (we were driving to Columbus and didn’t want to leave it in a hotel parking lot overnight), we hoped to rent one for a days paddling. Unfortunately, the river was too high, so we spent two days cycling a nearby rail-trail

Near one of the trailheads, there’s a grass strip. We paused a moment to envy the pilot who was using it.

It’s a nice bike path. I recommend it if you’re ever near Mansfield, Ohio.

After camping, we threw all our gear into the van and went to Columbus. There, we ate gyros with Darling Daughter and Partner. It was so pleasant to see them again … and to enjoy dining in their screened-in porch.

We were in town to see the Beach Boys, who were performing a free concert at Columbus Commons, (another outdoor venue, but one without pavilion seats). Disappointingly, a major storm came through just as the gates were supposed to open. Because it was significantly cooler than the previous concert night, and we’d already had our outdoor shower for the week, we decided to skip the concert.

Instead we enjoyed the novelty of a bed that wasn’t the ground and food that hadn’t been cooked outside.

It rained all night, so this decision turned out to be the right one, at least for us.

On the way home, we were passed two R-Vs. Both had unusual spare wheel covers, although I was only able to capture a picture of one.

In our twenty-four hours at home, we managed to get the camping gear unpacked, although not re-packed, and The Engineer cleaned the van. I got in a fast visit to my mom, did the laundry and made a dish for the Memorial Day picnic we were attending.

I made this super-easy and delicious cinnamon cheesecake. I’ve seen a similar recipe made with lemon, which I’ll try sometime, but I don’t usually have lemons on hand, so it will wait until we’re not quite so busy.

The picnic was yesterday (another hotel night — thank heaven for The Engineer’s points from all his nights away before retirement), with lots of delicious food and good company.

Thankfully, this week we have no plans that involve overnights away because, in addition to bee work, we want to try out the kayak on our local lake, get some house work done, and prepare for our garage sale.

I’m looking forward to having two days with nowhere to go but inside a garage full of our cleared out stuff!

A Plea

I’m not sure how many people realize women in the U.S. are not accurately represented in crash tests of motor vehicles.

Don’t believe me? Go here, here, here, or here. Even Business Insider and Consumer Reports have something to say about this travesty. In fact, Consumer Reports states that “Women are 17% more likely to be killed in a car crash than a male occupant of the same age,” and that a seatbelt wearing female is 73% more likely to be injured.

Now, come the groveling. I am begging you to please take five minutes and leave a comment on the NTSB website asking them to rectify this situation. You can cite any of the article above or refer to the “Verity” website, where they even offer some examples you can adapt to suit your style.

It’s not an exaggeration to say this action could help save lives.

So, please, please, please, please(!) take a few minutes to remember the women in your life. Click the link. Leave a comment.

Please.

Minus One, Plus One

Well, I’m not going to bore you with the details, but when we inspected Hive 2A (the split from #2), we discovered it had the original queen. This was the hive where we ended up doing a “walkaway split” by putting frames with eggs in both the original box and the split and leaving them to it. We did this because when we went through the original box, we didn’t see the queen.

Having found the original queen, we took the hive down to one box and called our friend MJ to take it for the nuc we promised her.

We also have another friend coming on Sunday for a nuc, which would take us down to five hives, but after MJ took hers, we were temporarily at six.

Today, we inspected the hives with new queens to see if there were eggs. When we finished, our apiary looked like this.

Yes, we have seven hives.
Again.

You see, we looked inside Hive #1 (second from the left), which we last left nine days ago with a new queen. Today, we found no queen, no eggs, and no larvae. Either she didn’t mate successfully, the bees didn’t like her and killed her, or she just hasn’t started laying and we missed her.

Any of these possibilities is as likely as the rest.

We stole a frame with eggs from 1A to put in. If they are queenless, they can make a new queen. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Having a break in eggs hatching might be a good thing for that hive anyway. They are still very full.

Then we looked in Hive #2 — the hive where we watched a queen emerge. We didn’t see any eggs there either, but we did see the queen. She is gorgeously big, which should signify she’s mated successfully and just hasn’t started laying. So fingers crossed for that one too.

Last, we opened Hive #3. It was full of brood and bees, likely from the eggs and larvae that were in it when we last checked. But we didn’t see a queen or eggs, and it was full(!) of queen cells. Like, maybe 25 of them?

So, clearly if they have a queen, they’re not happy with her. And why would they be if she’s not laying?

The question was what should we do with all those bees, brood and queen cells? If we did nothing, we would almost certainly end up with another swarm on our hands.

The logical solution was to split the hive (again), putting brood and queen cells in both, along with honey, pollen, and nectar for food.

The only problem is, we’re now back up to seven hives, and will only go down to six instead of five when we give away the split.

In the end, I expect this situation will resolve itself because I find it hard to imagine we’ll have six hives going into winter.

The problem is we’ve been waiting to treat the hives because I’ve heard it’s pointless to treat only part of an apiary because bees do sometimes “drift” into neighboring hives and can take those nasty Varroa Mites with them. I’ve also heard it’s not good to treat when they are in the delicate process of making and/or accepting new queens because the smell of the Oxalic or Formic Acid can mask the queen’s pheromones.

Unfortunately, we are stuck playing the waiting game. In a week or ten days, we will check the hives again, but I’ve given up trying to predict what we’ll find. We may have to just treat them no matter what state they’re in. This is the time of year when Varroa can really take off, but you sometimes don’t see the problem until August when it’s too late to do anything about it.

In other news, we went to Michigan for a concert and came home with a tandem kayak.

This is not quite as impetuous as it sounds. Because we enjoy canoeing and kayaking, we’ve been considering making such a purchase for several years. We just didn’t plan on acting on the idea this week!

However, we were cycling on a riverside path in Ann Arbor, and the people in the water looked like they were having so much fun! We discussed the idea again, and when we got back to our motel room, I looked at the REI website because I have a 20% off coupon for their yearly anniversary sale.

The ones we liked were a little more than we wanted to spend, so I looked on Craigslist. Lo and behold, twenty minutes away there was this beauty being offered complete with life jackets, paddles, and scupper plugs for what seemed quite a reasonable price.

We made an appointment to see it, found there was an REI store within two miles of our hotel, and bought what we needed to strap it to our luggage rack.

It was as good as it looked online, and the deal was struck.

Yesterday, we drove to the Watercraft Agent and registered it.

I can hardly wait to get it on the water!