Hats Off …

… to Mom for finally giving therapy her best effort. She’s been walking further each day — using a walker (obviously) and with a lot of help getting up, but she’s making progress. Her doctor put her on Memantine for her dementia, and she seems (slightly) less confused, which I think helps. She also “self-propelled” her wheelchair all the way down a hall to lunch a few days ago. The goal is to get her strong enough to transfer from bed to chair/toilet with only the help of an aide. Reaching the point where she can get up by herself and walk with the walker would be a huge accomplishment, but may prove beyond her ability. Still, it is so wonderful to see her moving again. As my brother said, “I thought she was going to stay in a chair forever.”

… to our hives. We’ve realized we left our honey supers on too long because none of the six had as much honey as we’d like to see going into winter. Most of what they’d made was in the honey supers, although in our defense, the queens were laying so many eggs, many of the deep frames were filled with brood from May on! At one point, we had to borrow ten deep frames of honey to keep various hives from getting too crowded (to try to prevent swarming), so we had that to give back to them.

Also, we have a lot of goldenrod, and they were bringing it in (you can tell by the smell), so we left the boxes on for that. Since the Yellow Jackets were always present, trying to rob, we were reluctant to really open the hives and check things out. Once the goldenrod ended and the nasty yellow things calmed down, we went through them all. What we saw made us immediately start feeding thick syrup (2:1 ratio of sugar with some Honey B Healthy to stimulate their appetites).

Some of the hives responded by draining the jars. Others were a bit slower. And we discovered a ton of dead bees on the pull-out part of the bottom board I’d won. It was a different design than the others we have — kind of like a metal tray. I can’t say I recommend it. They seemed to be get stuck between the board and the bottom screen of the hive. Unable to reach food, they died.

Below is a diagram from https://bee-health.extension.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Parts-std-hive2.jpg, The bit that’s pulled out on the bottom board is what I’m talking about.

Because we saw the mother (queen), and she was still laying, we decided to feed them along with the rest, and hope for the best. Unfortunately, the next time we checked, the population remained small. Ultimately, we chose to move them into a nuc box, which would be easier for them to defend.

Another option would have been to kill the queen and try to combine the hive’s population with another hive. Two reasons we didn’t do this are: 1) We’d have had to find her again, and 2) If the problem is something more than the bees just getting caught downstairs, we wouldn’t want to spread whatever caused the problem to another hive.

Still, I’ll be very surprised if they last through the cold weather, which makes me sad.

This week, we’ve been taking the final steps to winterize. To our surprise, those hardworking sisters were still bringing in pollen! Yesterday and the day before, it was only a few bees, but today there were lots coming in just loaded down with orange protein!

The nights have gotten too cold for them to take liquid food, so the jars came off. In their places, we added supers filled with the honey we’d been saving, topped with either sugar bricks or newspaper with sugar spread over it.

The latter is called “mountain camp feeding,” and is a method we haven’t used before. The sugar is supposed to offer the added advantage of absorbing some of the moisture in the hive.

Moisture in a hive is a very bad thing for a variety of reasons. Go here, if you want to learn more about the havoc it can wreak.

Most people use sugar bricks, fondant or the mountain camp method in late winter or early spring, but I’m paranoid about the prospect of them running out of food, especially when it’s extremely cold and we’d be reluctant to open the lid.

Today, we wrapped and covered. In the past, we’ve used a variety of methods to keep our girls warm and dry. In the picture below, you see hive wraps, hive cozies, and some insulated boxes The Engineer made.

The grey and pink covers are foam insulation, the two outer hives on the right stand have bee cozies that just slip on, and the two hives in the middle of the stands are wrapped. I see they now make the wraps with velcro, which ours don’t have. In the past, we’ve used tape and rope to keep them on, but this year, we’re just using tape.

Prior to starting the whole winterizing procedure, we treated them one more time for Varroa.

All that remains now is to cross our fingers and hope … and tend to the woodenware. The Engineer spent a good hour or two scraping propolis today so we’ll be ready when spring comes, and the photo below is his.

If you don’t keep bees, you may not realize what a job this is, but he’d much rather do that then think about Christmas gifts and cards, which was on my schedule.

Division of labor — that’s what it’s all about!

Last of all, hats off to me, only this time I mean it literally.

I got my hair cut recently, which means the beautiful knit wool headbands my friend Lynne made me aren’t always enough to keep the heat in now, and I decided to crochet myself a beanie from a pattern I’d used before. (Thank you, Lynne, I do still wear them, just need something with more coverage for those very cold mornings!)

Because I have plenty of scrap yarn (both donated — again, thank you, Lynne — and bought at thrift stores), I decided to use what I had.

I’m not very good at the whole “gauge” concept, and if you knit or crochet, you can guess what happened next. I ended up “adjusting” the pattern to what I thought would fit me with varying results.

Like the Three Bears, the first was too big.

The second wasn’t quite right either.

So, I made another, which turned out fairly good, but the color was wrong for my coat. I may give it as a gift, so I’m not showing it here.

The next one was made from velour yarn and looked like a tea cosy. It’s been repurposed as such.

But, finally, finally(!) I made one that works. Matches purple coat — check. Fits my head and does not look like a tea cosy — check and check.

I would have modeled it for you, but today was a no-makeup day, and sadly I’m too vain.

If you’d like to try your hand at a tea cosy, I mean beanie, you can find the pattern here. It really is pretty easy, even if you have to adjust for different yarns and head sizes.

And on the plus side, our local thrift store is getting two hats out of my venture as well. 🙂

P.S. I apologize for neglecting to post in the last weeks. I could offer many excuses including the fact that we took a little trip to Kentucky and Tennessee. Mostly though it’s just trying to get into a new normal that involves working around my more frequent and longer visits with Mom. I feel we’ve dodged the bullet this time, but I know the gun is still out there in our future, loaded and waiting. And yes, I do realize this is a dark image. I’m using it anyway because it’s accurate.

9 thoughts on “Hats Off …

  1. I’m glad that your Mom is improving so well! I know it’s hard to be dealing with this, but at least you know what to expect (sort of). Beekeeping sure does take a lot of work! I’m happy that there are people (like you and your husband) who are willing to make the sacrifice to ensure the bees stay around. I learned crocheting many, many years ago from a co-worker at my first job out of high school. I have never made anything, so I appreciate your talent. I’ll sew stuff for Natalie, but that’s it. I’ve made a couple of nice costumes for her. She’s pleased with them, so then I am, too. Used to do ribbon embroidery, but the old hands aren’t what they used to be.

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    • Oh, Sue, I’m so grateful Mom has improved. I really was beginning to give up. As for my crochet “talent,” I only make very simple stuff that I can do without much thought. If I did anything more, it would not be relaxing. And I gave up sewing years ago. After four years of home science and having always enjoyed it, I didn’t do it for a few years and found it only frustrating when I tried again. So you are one up on me with that. 😉

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  2. I’m glad to hear that your mom is doing a little better.

    Hope your bees have a good winter after all that you’ve done to help them get through it! Such a lot of work!

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  3. I’m so happy to hear your mother is improving, the best Christmas gift you could ask for, and truly something you can be Thankful for. As for the hat photography, I have discovered that if you just don’t wear make up, eventually the vanity fades and that’s just how you look now. I admit to wearing lipstick when I look too washed out, though, but it’s the kind that won’t come off unless you really scrub, so I can stop thinking about it!

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    • Sometimes I wear makeup, sometimes I don’t, which is a big change from several years ago when I didn’t consider myself dressed without it. But my eyebrows seem to have disappeared due to age? chemo? Doesn’t matter, but I feel like my eyes disappearr without them! 😉

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      • Mine never really grew back after chemo, so about 10 years ago, I had them tattooed. It was a game changer, my face came back into focus. What was there was already grey, so I persuaded the tattooist to use grey rather than the brown she thought was better. When it was done, she agreed I was right. They look as they would if I had brows and looked after them… It’s not especially painful or difficult and the results are spectacular. I’ve also never had to have it redone (so far!). Do consider it.

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      • I seem to be lucky with my cosmetic tattoos, they last a good long time. Or perhaps it’s who and where you have it done. I had eyeliner done many years ago, and was grateful for it when my eyelashes fell out!

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