Autumn Wanderings

Barn near parking lot

It’s been a delightful weekend. Darling Daughter and Best Boyfriend came up Friday evening, and we shared a delicious Indian takeaway, followed by some mead Boyfriend made from our honey.

It was so good The Engineer and I drank finished the bottle. 🙂 Unfortunately for BB, this meant we ended up spending several hours regaling him with details of our past travels. Poor dear!

Saturday, I was a bit lethargic — couldn’t have had anything to do with the mead, I’m sure — and didn’t do much except visit my mom, watch football, (soccer to my fellow Americans), and crochet. 

We made up for it today. The Engineer and I saw off Daughter and BB after a large breakfast of local eggs, Bombay potatoes, bangers, and toast, watched a bit more football, and went for a hike in the Cuyahoga Valley. 

The trail meandered through the woods, and there were quite a few big old trees with massive trunks including this one near the trailhead.

It was fun scuffing through the leaves, stopping to watch squirrels, birds, and chipmunks. 

We took our time, looking closely at interesting natural features like this moss-covered log. The little round things look like acorns, but are actually puffballs. This is a highly scientific term for this particular type of fungi.

No, really, that’s their name. I was making a joke, but I just looked it up, and they’re actually called Puff Ball Mushrooms. I knew them as puffballs from when I was a kid because when you squeeze them, they puff out their spores, and it looks a bit like smoke.

We took a side trail that led to this scenic pond.

Brandywine Falls

This is Brandywine Falls. We’ve cycled to the spot many times, but this is the first time we’ve hiked in. Mostly people drive there, get out of their cars, walk down the staircase you see in the picture, get back in their cars, and drive away.

Still, it’s a beautiful place, no matter how you get there and how much time you are able to spend. We’re lucky to live close enough to take the time to explore the area from a variety of angles.

I took this photo because I don’t know what plant this is and thought someone might recognize it.

Also, I picked up a couple of leaves to identify when we got home. I was pretty sure the yellow one was a Tulip, and I was right. It’s from the Tuliptree. I’d seen leaves like the other one, but wasn’t sure what it was. Turns out it’s sassafras.

I took another picture of the Tuliptree leaf to give you an idea how large it is.

After the leaf identification session, we ate Tomato Leek Bruschetta. 

I’d made Baked Leek and Tomato earlier in the week and had a brainwave that it would be good as a Bruschetta on a loaf of bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

It was.

Girls vs Boys

It’s girls vs boys in all three hives.

The girls (workers) are winning, of course, partly because they far outnumber the boys (drones).

Plus workers have stingers. Drones do not. 

I like to think it’s also partly payback for the drones enjoying a long hot summer of laziness while their sisters slaved.

Drones exist solely to mate with queens. Not all manage this feat which may or may not be a good thing since mating breaks a drone in half, bringing his life to a quick — but I’d like to think exciting — end. 

If the drone doesn’t find his queen, he spends his life begging food and toddling around the hive getting in the way of his sisters.

Those sisters, meanwhile, are in the process of working themselves to death. Not only do they look after their bumbling brothers, they clean the hive, feed and raise the young, make honey, feed and tend the queen, produce and shape wax into comb, guard the hive, and forage for food.

When workers can no longer work, they fly away — often with wings so tattered they barely function — to spare their sisters the labor of dragging out their dead body. 

That’s assuming they aren’t first eaten by a bird, killed by a yellow jacket or poisoned by pesticides.

Even the queen’s life is constant labor — laying up to 2,000 eggs a day leaves little time for rest.  

Still, the drones who didn’t mate get their comeuppance in the fall. 

They are superfluous to the needs of a hive, and as the hive prepares for winter, they’re banished. 

In this case, “banished” means being pulled from the hive and dropped on the ground outside, often with their wings chewed off to make sure they cannot return. Worker bees may even pull drone pupae from their cell and push it out the hive entrance. Occasionally, they fly away carrying a full grown drone.

This is an interesting sight since drones are so much bigger than workers. The first time I saw it, I thought, “Why is that bee flying so strangely?” They look as though they can barely maintain lift. 

The worker bee goes back in the hive to continue her work. 
The drone is expected to die.
And so he does. 

After all, he is incapable of work, therefore unable to feed himself. (Seems there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.)

There is no room for sentimentality in a beehive. If a hive is to survive, it must get through winter by living on honey made during the summer. Dead weight must go, and drones certainly fall into that category in the autumn.

Two of our hives had a lot of drones this year, and there’s a good reason they did. 

As usual, it was the fault of the beekeepers.

Remember that pretty comb the bees made earlier this year? The pieces we attached to the frames with rubber bands because we didn’t want to waste their hard work?

The two hives made those entire frames into drone comb. Since they had plenty of worker bees, we decided to leave it go and see what happened. (We’d also been treating for Varroa, so theoretically they shouldn’t have become a Varroa bomb even though Varroa love drone brood.)

What happened was an overabundance of drones resulting in a mass cleanout of them in the last week. 

I didn’t take a picture, but if you want to see what it looks like or read more about it, you can go here or here. Our hives didn’t have quite as many dead as the first link, but we did have larvae similar to the picture. They look kind of like mummified white bees on the ground.

Anyway, we won’t do that again. 

Still, that’s how you learn. In beekeeping, as in many things, the books and classes only take you so far. 

A Quick Overview of Our Beekeeping Adventures and Misadventures:  This year, we started with a nucleus hive with an overwintered Ohio queen, and a package of Saskatraz bees from California. Both did well and started making swarm cells, so we split them.

The split from the Ohio hive was put into a nuc box, and they successfully made a queen.

The split from the California hive was done by separating the two deep boxes, leaving the queen in one, and making sure the other had eggs. After more than a month, there were no signs of a queen.

We combined the two splits, putting a double-layer screen board between them. Ten days later, we removed the screen. The merging of the hives was successful, though there were some dead bees outside (fewer than 100) the morning after we removed the screen.

Today, when we checked, we could see that hive is now flourishing.

In the meantime, when we last looked at the Ohio hive (Buzzers Roost II), it was boiling over with bees and they’d started making swarm cells again.

OOOOOOOHHHH, NOOOOOOO! They can’t swarm now! A swarm this late in the year will never survive because they won’t have winter stores, and the hive they leave behind might also be weakened.

We closed the hive and thought about it, ultimately deciding to make it so they couldn’t swarm. A hive won’t swarm without a queen, so we destroyed the queen cells and put queen excluders both above and below the box with the queen. 

Was this the right thing to do? Will it succeed? Today we removed the second queen excluder, reasoning that it’s getting cold enough that they certainly won’t swarm now. 

Will they? Will they? All my fingers are crossed in the hope that they will not!

California Girls was also doing well when we last checked it (about ten days ago). I can really smell the honey when I walk behind it. 

Tomorrow, we will start Formic Pro treatment for Varroa once more — two strips in each hive for ten days per strip. By the time they come off, the Goldenrod and aster flow will be done, and we’ll begin a heavy feed on all three hives.

At least that’s the plan. 

To tide you over until next time, here’s some pix of our lovely ladies bringing in pollen.

Raccoons and Skunks and Cats, Oh My!

It’s undoubtedly fortunute one rarely has the opportunity to get close to a skunk. My past encounters have mostly been of the olfactory type, catching that distinct scent while driving past a flattened black and white grease smear on the road.

Then there was the time I opened the sliding door to our deck and stepped out to discover one under our bird feeders. One quick whiff and a view, and I was back inside before I knew what to think. 

So imagine my surprise when I looked up from my seat at the campfire to see what looked like moonlight moving in front of our tent and discovered it was, in fact, not moonlight, but a small skunk. 

I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. Aside from my gasp, our reactions were the same, a watchful stare as we slowly backed away from one another. 

It was quite a luxurious creature, with a wide white stripe from nose to tail, and as I said, it emitted no scent, though it did lift its tail at me when I later surprised it on my trek to the bathroom. 

I wondered if this lack of scent meant the animal hadn’t had recent cause to spray anything, but mainly I was just glad I hadn’t become a target. 

We had other visitors. An equally small raccoon whose inquisitiveness far outweighed its common sense dropped by each night.

Photo by anne sch on Pexels.com

Despite shouts and claps to see it off, the animal wandered around our site as though it lived there or something.

Oh, yeah. It probably does. 🙂 And so, apparently, did a feral cat who stalked through a few times.  (Note: The picture above is not actually the raccoon we saw, but you get the idea.)

We were camping at Mohican State Park (Ohio), and our site was right on the river, as you can see from these photos. 

It’s a beautiful area, with lots to do: hiking, biking, canoeing/rafting/kayaking, and more. We planned on canoeing, but the river was too high for the first two days (see pictures above). It dropped by the day we left, but the weather had cooled, so we decided to save that adventure for another time. 

Instead, we went cycling on the Richland B&O rail-trail. It’s a nice bike path, level and mostly flat as rail-trails tend to be. There’s also abundant shade with trees growing on both sides of the trail for most of the way. The route is about 18 miles long and bisects three small towns at almost exactly six mile intervals, which provides ample opportunity for food and drink stops. We’re not what one would call “serious cyclists,” so this suited us fine. 

We rode about eight miles, then turned back to the middle town and stopped for a snack and a cold drink at a local bar and grill, which had outside tables. 

Unfortunately, after exiting the patio, we soon discovered the tube in my rear tire had gone kaplooey, and there was lime-colored gunk all over it. This, we learned, was called a “slime” tube, and is meant to self-patch most holes. 

Obviously, it hadn’t worked, and The Engineer had to ride the remaining four miles back to our vehicle on his own while I went next door and had ice cream on their patio.

There’s a silver lining to every cloud, if you look hard enough, I’ve found. 

 

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

An equally silver lining was the fact that the next day we got the last tube of the correct size at a bike shop (Ashland Bike Company) in a neighboring town. I use “neighboring” in an extremely loose sense since the shop was a good 35 minutes from our camp. It was also another slime tube, alas.  

Still, I’d been trying to find a spare since I got this bike (about a month ago), but COVID has caused bike parts to be in short supply, and it was a pleasant surprise to find any kind of tube that would fit. 

Better yet, there was a brewpub with outdoor seating (Uniontown Brewing) across the street from the bike shop, and they had a “Two sliders with a side” for $10 lunch special. We got perch and fries — a slider each, with the fries to share — a perfect size lunch and perfectly delicious. 

Then, it was bike repair (thank you, dear Engineer), and back on the trail. 

I love homemade signs, don’t you? They add such character to a place. 

I also love Mail Pouch Tobacco barn paintings because they always make me think of my grandpa who chewed the stuff. It was gross, but I loved Grandpa, and seeing these barns reminds me of him. The guy who used to paint them (without a template), Harley Warrick is long dead, so sightings of his work have become fewer and fewer. 

The one I photographed looks like it’s in the country, but it’s actually right behind the trail parking lot, smack-dab in the middle of the small town of Butler, Ohio.

We didn’t eat all our meals out as I am still trying to expand my camp cooking repertoire. This meant the first night’s dinner was quesadillas made in the pie iron. They were delicious, filled with chorizo, onions, beans, peppers, tomatoes and cheese.

Breakfasts were an egg and home fries scramble or breakfast fajitas (basically egg and home fries scramble in a tortilla). 

We were also going to have a Chicken Tikka Masala type dinner made in the Dutch oven. This ended up as a rather charred Tandoori Chicken with the sauce burnt black on the oven because the fire was too hot. 

And yet, I shall persevere. Sorry, but I erased the picture of my failure after posting on Instagram, so you don’t get to see it here. 

I’ll share other photos. They’re prettier anyway.

Ohio Barn
Log Cabin at Campground
Panorama of Gorge near Mohican State Campground

Lastly, I feel compelled to mention an RV we saw because if you don’t live in the US, you may not believe the size of some of these trailers. This particular one had two side doors and a rear patio! 

It looked something like this. The model is called a “Road Warrior,” and it’s considered a “toy hauler,” because evidently the patio part is where you haul your “toys.” You can order a side patio too, on trailers ranging in size from 41′ 6″ to 44′ 4″. If you’re interested in buying one, go here, but have your checkbook handy. They cost from tens of thousands of dollars up to over a hundred thousand, and don’t forget you’ll need a vehicle capable of hauling the behemoth!

Ah, well, they probably think we’re crazy for camping in a tent. 

 

Making Memories

My mom turned 90 last week, adding celebrating a landmark birthday during a pandemic to an already lengthy list of life experiences. 

She’s been in lockdown at her nursing home since March, and back in May, we realized making her day special would require an extra dose of creativity. 

Darling Daughter mentioned she’d read about getting people  to send postcards for a special occasion and the “Postcard Project” was born.

Here’s what we did:

  • Listed everyone in Mom’s past and present who we might be able to enlist in sending her a postcard for her birthday. 
  • Reached out to friends and cousins to help locate even more people who would want to participate.
  • Sent postcards, address labels, stamps, and a note (see copy at bottom of this post) explaining what we were doing. In several cases, I sent multiples of all of the above, asking them to share with anyone they thought might like to join the fun. 
  • Mom’s address labels have my address on them because I act as her Power-of-Attorney, so all the cards came to me. Initially, we considered delivering them as they came, but in the end, we chose to be more dramatic, presenting them all on her birthday in a keepsake box my brother bought. 

Results:

  • So far, Mom received over 75 cards and postcards, and stragglers are still being delivered. Some people sent birthday cards instead, and others sent both.
  • Several took the time to share memories of times they’d spent with her, while many simply wished her a happy 90th birthday. 
  • Some were a mystery (at least to me), either because they were unsigned, or because I didn’t recognize the names. 
  • She received cards from nieces, nephews, her daughter-in-law, her one remaining sibling, my in-laws in England, her grandchildren and the grandchildren of a nurse at her facility who visited often in the past and now can’t. There were cards from our next-door neighbors when we were growing up, and members of the church we attended then, as well as my brother’s church, which she has occasionally attended.

Conclusion and advice:
This project was a success. Mom was clearly touched both by our efforts and the fact that so many people responded. She also likes having the box in which to keep the cards, and we expect she will read them from time to time in the future.  

One of the reasons I’m sharing this experience is because you may have relatives or friends with similar events approaching, and postcards proved to be a good way to include others when physically getting together is unwise.

If you decide on a similar project, I’d advise an early start. We began in July for an end of August birthday.

I’m embarassed to admit I already had all the postcards we needed in my card drawer, many of them in themed books of cards. If you need to purchase cards, you should probably start even earlier. 

It’s likely many people responded because we made it easy. They got the cards, stamps, and address labels. All they needed to do was write something and send it, although a few took the opportunity to send a card that meant something to them (and hopefully my mom). 

I read all the postcards, although I stopped short of steaming open the cards in envelopes. In doing so, I was reminded of something, which is the second reason I’m sharing this experience.  

The memories people shared were not huge events, but small moments. Making eclairs together. The bathing suit Mom used to wear, and my cousins’ summer visits with her and Dad before us kids came along. Going camping with our church campers’ club. 

What all these have in common is simply this, enjoying each others’ company by spending time together. 

Sometimes I think we get so enamored of our next big plan that we forget to enjoy the present. Or perhaps that’s just me. 

The Postcard Project was a reminder to stop, to take a breath, and to focus on what’s in front of me. 

The Letter

Dear family and friends of Helen,

It’s hard to believe Mom will be 90 next month! She’s as feisty and beloved as ever, and we’d hoped to celebrate this landmark birthday in a big way. 

Unfortunately, COVID-19 had other plans. When I wondered aloud what we could still do to make the day special, my daughter Sarah gave me a suggestion, which became the “Postcard Project.”

For Mom’s birthday, we would like people from all phases of her life to send her a birthday postcard. I hope you’ll join us.

Attached is one postcard (or more), address label(s) and stamp(s). All you need do is share a memory or birthday wishes, attach the stamp and label, and drop the card in a mailbox. 

I’ve tried to choose cards that seemed appropriate, but if you have one you’d rather send, please feel free to do so. 

Thanks for your help . With your assistance, we can make Mom’s day one to remember.

Kym and Sam 

Mom (around 1948)

Is a Car in a Parking Lot Worth More than One in a Bush?: Proof You’re Never Too Old to Do Something Stupid

I’ve been driving over forty years and have driven mainly manual transmission cars for at least the last thirty.

And I still managed to forget to set the parking brake.

Upsides:

  • I wasn’t in the car (could also be viewed as a downside because if I’d been in the vehicle, I would have hit the brake).
  • It was parked on a very slight incline – obvious downside being there was an incline at all.
  • We have insurance … which includes rental car coverage while my car is being repaired.
  • Nothing mechanical was affected (except a slight disaligning of the steering).
  • The damage to the body could have been much, much worse.
  • It’s always good to be reminded I’m not as smart as I think I am (though I could probably think of less expensive ways to be reminded).

Addendum: When I was writing this post, WordPress wouldn’t let me preview it, so I waited a day to do so before publishing. Sometime during that 24 hour period, they switched from “classic editor” (aka what we’re used to) to “block editor” to “improve user experience.” I’m rapidly coming to believe the phrase “improved user experience” is a catchphrase that really means a bunch of techies trying to show the rest of us how stupid we are. In this case, it’s a bit like when Microsoft “improved” Word to make it try to read our minds and format our writing how the program thinks we want it, the problem being that’s not necessarily how we wanted it.

My “improved user experience” added about thirty minutes to the time it’s taken to write and post this.

At least I got a bonus opportunity to reflect on my own fallibility … in case the car in the bushes wasn’t enough to remind me. <laughing>

Camping Without Air Conditioning and Appliances

This post has its roots in a review of a campground.

You see, I’m the cautious type and like to know something about where we are considering putting down (tent) stakes for a few nights, so I looked at reviews online before making reservations for our most recent expedition.

Most were positive, extolling the privacy of the sites, the beautiful setting, and the plentiful recreational opportunities in the area.

However, the most recent review, posted that very day, was negative to the extreme, which I found a bit worrying … until I read it.

One of the reviewer’s main complaints were the fact there were no full hookups for RVs. I’ve just checked on the reservation form, and yes, it does give “full hookup” as an option, but when you look at the specific site (which comes up when you pick a date and spot), the spots for “Sewer hookup” and “Water hookup” are blank, which I would take to mean these services are not on offer.

Even worse (in the reviewer’s opinion), the electric power was such that campers are unable to use any appliances while running the air conditioning.

There were also no dumpsters or trash bins near the campsites, something I would take as a positive rather than negative due to smells and yellow jackets.

And apparently there were (gasp!) bugs in the shower, both dead and alive.

I’ll admit sharing the shower with six-legged creatures is not my favorite part of camping, but it’s something I’ve come to accept as part of the back-to-nature experience.

The last complaint concerned the water — apparently smelly and disgusting.

When I was young, my family camped quite a bit, and I’ve experienced enough bad water to take this seriously enough to haul some from home in case the reviewer wasn’t exaggerating.

Readers, I am not above enjoying modern comforts, nor do I begrudge others doing the same. It was hot enough the first few days of our trip that I’d have gladly availed myself of A/C if we had it. Also, I can understand someone wanting to use a crockpot or other convenience to make cooking chores easier.

But, if that’s the type of camping you require, perhaps it would be wise to ascertain that it’s available before setting out.

Please don’t think I’m criticizing anyone for their choices. It’s okay if you want air conditioning and to use your appliances. Just don’t criticize campgrounds for not providing the power you need when they’ve clearly stated they don’t.

Or maybe just check into a hotel. That’s the choice I make (and The Engineer wisely follows) when I’m not up for insects in my shower and having to walk a quarter mile to use the toilet.

I think there are two things people call “camping.” One involves a tent or small camper; the other uses massive trailer that requires a truck to tow the behemoth and/or another vehicle being towed.

When I talk about “camping,” I mean the former, but here in the US, when most people discuss camping, they generally mean the latter, something I call RVing.

Both activities involve traveling and setting up “camp,” but diverge widely from there, so much so that I find myself asking, “At what point does it become less like camping, and more like taking your home with you?”

That’s what some people — mostly retirees — do. They sell their home, buy a gargantuan trailer, and travel the country.

To this, I say, “More power to you!” If you’ve reached the age of retirement, you certainly deserve a few comforts.

The people I’ve known who made this choice don’t call it “camping” either; they call it RVing.

Okay. I’m climbing down from my soapbox now because I want you to know we had a great time.

Yes, there were a few bugs in the shower — a couple of small Daddy Long Legs and a cricket.

No, the water didn’t stink.

Yes, we had electricity, but we didn’t use it.

And, yes, the garbage bins were in a central place, away from most the sites.

You know what? It was a beautiful campground, with large private spaces and clean restrooms.

IMG_3879
This is our new (to us) tent. It’s an 8-person Cabela’s Alaskan Guide and was a bit of an extravagance since we’d only replaced our old 4-person version with a new one a few years ago. I saw it on CraigsList, and the temptation of being able to stand inside our tent was just too great.

Plus, it was a deal and almost new.

We’re big fans of dome-style tents because we’ve had several, and they’ve held up in storms that took down most other nearby tents.

I was also eager to use our new (to us) Kelly Kettle  which I’d recently bought on eBay. Naturally, we’d experimented with it in the backyard, but now, we’d be using it for the purpose for which it had been purchased. After years of pumping our little single burner camp stove for what seemed like hours, we would finally have hot water for tea in five minutes.

IMG_3876

Kelly Kettles (and their competitors, Ghillie Kettles) are sometimes called “Volcano Kettles” because the devices “consist of a water jacket surrounding a fire chamber which creates an upward chimney draft ensuring efficient and rapid boiling even in windy or wet weather.”  (Description care of Wikipedia. Click through if you want more info.)

They’re more common in England, and I’m explaining them here because they are brilliant — a simple design that works. And you can fuel them with almost anything, although we cheated a little and brought sticks and leaves from home.

I also took a hint from a YouTube video and lit the sticks with cotton balls rubbed with Vaseline.

Yes, The Engineer and I actually spent an evening watching Kelly Kettle videos on YouTube.

I know. We’re weird.

The other important thing is to point the bottom hole into the wind. In fact, it seems like the windier it was, the better the flame.

IMG_3878I was so excited, I brought one of my teapots so we could have proper tea each morning.

As an added bonus, I soon realized the kettle is also great for heating water for dishes.

One of my best buys ever. Seriously.

And while I’m sounding like a camping nut and bit of a spendthrift, let me tell you about my recently acquired Lodge Camp Dutch Oven.

It’s the smallest one, just big enough for the two of us, and I’ve been experimenting with cooking a variety of dishes on the fire. (Go here for details on previous meals, though I managed to erase the pictures on that post. :-%)IMG_3877

On Tuesday, we had burgers and local corn. We were going to have green beans with garlic and onions (all from our CSA share), but left the pot on the fire for too long. The beans were charred twigs with small other small black bits that had been onion and garlic. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m sorry for not taking a picture so you could see.

Wednesday, I licked my wounds and returned to an old favorite we’ve made for years called “Sausages and Other Stuff.” The recipe is sausage (usually bratwurst, but could be Italian or any other kind), and the “other stuff” usually includes potatoes, onions, carrots, a bit of butter, and whatever other vegetables we have on hand. In this case, it was zucchini and garlic. We used to make these by wrapping it all up in multiple layers of heavy-duty foil, but this time we used the Dutch oven. It was delicious.

On Thursday, I attempted pizza. IMG_3859
I redeemed myself because it was perfect! I made the dough at home using author Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent “Friday Night Pizza” dough recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, topped with canned sauce, fresh basil, onions, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.

Maybe I only remember to take pictures of my triumphs?

As I mentioned, it was hot and humid the first few days (upper 80s and felt like 100% humidity), so naturally that was when we decided to cycle. We never found the actual rail-trail we were looking for, riding instead on a connector trail but never connecting. Instead, we did a few miles and had a nice picnic instead.

Since we were using the bikes to get to and from the shower and took another short ride on our way home, we did manage to get in about 20 miles total.

The day we chose to kayak was cloudier and a little windy. IMG_3843IMG_3844
The park was a marsh with abundant plant life, which meant some shallow paddling in places, but it was beautiful and peaceful, with Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, some diving water birds, and many dragon flies. IMG_3851
The evening was lovely, cooler and breezy, a perfect night to sit outside, which is what we did, eating our pizza and chatting.

Some new “campers” had pulled in next door while we were gone, leaving their air conditioning running while they went somewhere because there were no people and no vehicle in sight. On their return, they apparently disappeared into the camper.

We never did see them, though they eventually turned off the A/C.

Sigh.

Yesterday, we packed up, returned to the marsh for our second little bike ride, stopped at another nature preserve for a picnic lunch, and met some more dragonflies. IMG_3865IMG_3864
On the way home, we stopped so I could get locally made ice cream.

It was delicious, a fitting way to end to a wonderful trip.

 

 

 

 

 

Honey and Queens: A Quick Bee Update

The Engineer and I did a quick hive check today of three hives, without going into MayBees at all. We hope they’re in the middle of queen rearing, which can be a fraught time for a hive.

They certainly act a bit fraught, still bearding (though not all the time now) and very active, so we’ll wait at least another week or two before we take a peek.

We did look at the supers and top box of California Girls. I’m a little concerned because there are an awful lot of drones in the hive. I think they hatched from the comb we attached to the frame with rubber bands, but we didn’t go deep enough to see if this is the case. It’s a little worrying, but there were plenty of workers too.

As I said, this was only a sneak peek, mainly to look at the supers because we were pretty sure they needed extracting.

We were right. One super was full of honey, most of it capped.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

They were just starting on the second super, but we still have the goldenrod/aster nectar flow in August/September, so I expect that will fill also. And, the last time we looked in the brood boxes (deeps), they had a fair amount of honey and pollen there.

We need to take a deeper look soon, just to stay on top of things. For today, however, we put an escape board between the full super and the just-getting-started super to get the bees out of the full one so we can extract its honey.

Buzzers’ Root also got a brief check of just the honey supers, and we were pleased to see both full of mostly capped honey. They got another honey super, topped by an escape board and the two full supers.

Here’s a picture of an escape board from BetterBee.eb1_nEscape boards work by making it easy for bees to move back down to the brood boxes, and difficult to return to the supers. (They like to return to the brood boxes during the night when it’s cooler.)

There are other methods you can use to remove bees from the supers, but the escape board has worked for us in the past. If you’re interested, you can click through to HoneyBeeSuite for information about the other means of clearing bees.

The important thing with an escape board is to remove it within 48 hours. If you don’t, the bees will figure out a way to get back to their hard-earned honey.

Our last task today was to have a look at NewBees (II). This is the first split we made this year, and it isn’t as active as California Girls, Buzzers’ Roost, or even MayBees.

My theory is that’s because it’s a split, so it’s a smaller hive. “But, Kym,” you say, “MayBees is a split also, and you say it’s crazy full.”

At least, that’s what you’re saying if you’ve been paying attention.

Hear me out. We’ve had two packages of Saskatraz, and from what I’ve observed, they  build their population quickly. Also, we split Buzzers’ into the NewBees hive several weeks sooner than we split California Girls.

Thus, California Girls was very crowded by the time we split it. Plus we split it into two deeps, rather than using a nuc box with three frames of bees and two of pollen and honey. So MayBees started out with more population.

At any rate, NewBees (II) seems fine. We saw eggs, larvae, capped brood and, once again, The Engineer spotted the queen.

Can you?QueenUnmarked

Did you find her? I’ve marked her on the picture below. QueenMarked

And here she is, unmarked, but all on her lonesome, which is unusual. Usually queens are surrounded by workers.IMG_3298Her laying pattern is a bit spotty, not as compact as we’d like to see, but she’s still young, and the hive’s two boxes are getting a little full (mostly of honey), so maybe she feels like she doesn’t have enough space to fill a frame with eggs.

We’ll be adding a third box to give them some room before the week is out to combat this.

In less welcome news, we also saw two hive beetles, our first (and second) this season. The Engineer killed one, and the other was already dead in the trap, so we put the trap back in to catch any of the beetle’s mates that might still be around. (All four hives have traps since we’ve had issues with these nasties before and prefer to avoid them if possible.)

Here’s some pictures of NewBees’ honey.

Sorry, I just looooove to take pictures of all that sweetness!

Tomorrow is extraction day, which will be a hot mess, but very rewarding, although more for us than the bees. 🙂

The plan after that? Give NewBees (II) a new box, do a thorough check of Buzzers’ and Cali Girls, and move Buzzers’ to a lower stand, which The Engineer will be engineering in the next few days or so.

Then, sometime toward the end of the month or the start of August, have a look at MayBees to see if they’ve managed to requeen.

After that, it will be time to treat the hives again, start prepping for winter, and hopefully have another extraction of goldenrod honey (if the bees don’t need it for winter food).

We love our bees, even when they sting. We’d love them even if we didn’t get any honey, but I must admit extracting and adding up how much we’ve got is always a thrill.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

Home Run by a Nasty Woman (Me)

I hit a home run the other day, but not on a baseball diamond.

Long story made short: There is a woman whom I believe lives in a nearby city. She shares my last name, not my first, just the last, which is a fairly common one. This woman must be a piece of work because this week, because three times in the last five or so  years, I’ve been contacted by collection agencies looking for her.

They have called Darling Daughter at college, which really made my blood boil.
They have contacted our former tenant who lived upstairs from us.
And they have called me. Multiple times.

The first time the issue came to light, they contacted my boss at work, which is illegal. I happened to answer the phone and attempted to set them straight.

After that first spate of incidents (contacting me at work and DD at school), I managed to trace them to an address and wrote a letter threatening legal action. The phone calls stopped.

The second time, I told them I’d been through this before, and would take legal action if they called again. The didn’t.

Like any sane person, I don’t answer my phone unless I recognize the number. But last week I got a voice mail concerning this woman, saying she was going to be investigated, and they would be coming to all “known addresses” for her, including mine.

Can I say again I have never met the woman and have no idea how my name got mixed up with hers?

So, I called and left a message to that effect. “This is not her phone number. This is not her address. I don’t know her.”

A few days later, they called again. Same message, with the addition that the “investigators” would be visiting this person’s place for work.

Given the fact that said woman is regularly in trouble with the law, I don’t think she has a place of work.

But I do, and it would be pretty easy to find out where it was, I’d think.

So, I called back. Although I was polite, it was clear from my voice that I was annoyed.

The man on the phone’s immediate response?
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, sweetheart.”

Excuse me?

Sweetheart? (Strike one.)

Steam coming from my ears, I tersely responded, “Don’t call me sweetheart.”

I think he said something like, “Calm down, Ma’am.”

I tried to explain the situation, that I was very angry for being harassed about a woman I never met.

He told me to “Watch my tone.” (Strike two.)

Sorry? Watch my tone? I’m the one whose house and place of work is being threatened!

This man, who never gave his name, said my phone was linked to ________ (The Engineer’s name).

I said, “That’s my husband.”

He said something about my husband being related to this woman and demanded I give the phone The Engineer.

Of course, I refused. The Engineer’s family all live in England, and besides, why did this man think he had the right to demand I do anything?

Even writing about it makes my heart beat faster in anger.

This man continued to insist we were somehow related to this woman, that I didn’t know everyone my husband knows (likely true, but I do know his family), and that we are listed as “known associates” of the woman.

I said something like, “Well, we aren’t, and I don’t want you calling me again.”

That’s when he said, “I don’t intend to call you because you seem like a very “nasty woman.”

Home run! Three sexist, condescending remarks from a complete stranger in almost as many sentences.

When I hung up, he was threatening these “investigators” would be coming to our house, and said I’d better “have my ID ready,” and telling me to “let my relatives know” they were looking for this person.

I was shaking when I put down the phone.

After I calmed down a little, I called the police to at least get this experience on record.

The officer was great. Took all the information, reassured me they weren’t coming to my house, and even called this man back.

She said if I told him I wasn’t related to this person, they had to note that on my file and not call again. And when she called him, he said he’d already done so.

Yeah. Right.

I bet he was a lot nicer to her than he was to me.

Later, I realized, of course they can’t come to our house unless they are accompanied by an officer of the law, which would mean they’d have to have a warrant.

Otherwise, it would be trespassing.

Still, it was a very unpleasant experience all around, not least the fact that a complete stranger felt he had the right to threaten, use an endearment, tone police, and insult me because he didn’t get what he wanted.

Nasty woman?

In this situation, I’ll take that as a compliment.

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