Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hunting Bees

Three of us newbee beekeepers went out on a call Wednesday morning: Farmer Jeff and I and the beautiful Ms. Kristine. A swarm, the second swarm in a week in this particular yard, landed in a plum tree on Tuesday at noon and was still there the next morning.

The rescue/hunting team went into action. We took our extension ladder, our chain saw on-a-stick, a swarm box baited with used drawn out comb, a smoker, bungee cords and our bee suits.

We entered the yard and located the swarm. WOW. The first one I have ever seen UP CLOSE!!!

We received permission from the owners to cut the tree if necessary (it hadn't been pruned in a couple of years, so the trim wouldn't hurt the tree!)

We extended the ladder. Farmer Jeff climbed up and trimmed away all of the pieces of the branch that was sticking out of the swarm. He got down and then I climbed up, holding the open box above my head with my arms fully extended. Kristine was holding the ladder stable as this was going on.

Farmer Jeff then cut the branch with his trusty chain saw and the branch fell exactly into the box, the rest of the bees that had been swirling around flew in, we lowered the box to the ground and cleaned up the vegetation a little more, and then slid the lid onto the box, leaving a little opening. Then we jumped up and down with joy!!!

The entire operation took 45 minutes and Farmer Jeff then asked both of us, "Is that how it normally goes"? To which I had to tell him, ", Honey, this was our first one. Now you know as much as we do"!

Follow up - What did we do next?
(Answer given as though talking to fellow bee keepers!)
We set up a new hive in a new location in the "veggie corral" on a metal box that lifted it off the ground 20 inches. We put in the follower boards in positions 1 and 10. Then we put in new wire reinforced bee's wax foundation in position number 2, and 3. In position 4 we slipped Kristines's built-out frames from which the honey had been extracted. We left position 5 open for the frame that was in the swarm box. Position 6 was another frame of the built out frame from the honey extraction, position 8 and 9 new bees wax foundation.

We lifted the lid off of the swarm box, lifted out the one comb which was COVERED in bees, and set it into the center of the super.

We lifted the branch out of the box (which we had cut off the tree, now covered with bees) and shook it over the top of the new super. Just as we have been told, the bees fell in a clump onto the top of the frames and slid down the sides of the frames like ...honey!

We then lifted the lid to the box and shook/tapped out the remaining bees.

We did all of this with cool and collected heads, no sudden movements and no anxiety (because I felt as though I knew what I was doing!). It was like poetry in motion. I am IN LOVE.

Later that day:
BRAVE Knight Susan captured a wild swarm of bees, Brave Knight Susan moved thousands of bees from box to box.

Gardener Susan was out picking carrots when a bee came charging up and STUNG me on the tip of my NOSE!!! Then she proceeded to call her friends and they got into my hair! During all of this I was swatting at them to get them out of my hair and whacked my blue tooth into the stratosphere.

Sigh...First thing I did was get the last little buggers out of my hair, then rinsed my nose with cold water, then put blue toothpaste on the end of my nose ( a new fashion statement)...and then feeling very silly, rinsed it off and put on some sort of cortisone cream. Sigh...that is how I lost my blue tooth...out in the carrots!

Okay, now feeling calmer, I went outside dressed top to bottom in my bee keepers suit to finish picking carrots! Why didn't I think of that in the first place!

Someone asked me how often I am stung by my bees. The last time I was stung was 40 years ago!!! Really!!!

Here is a video that Farmer Jeff took while I was futzing with the bees!

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Monday, June 01, 2009

A Weekend in Heaven on Earth

This past weekend I was able to visit heaven for a few days...or at least it felt like what I would imagine heaven to be! My father and I have been the fortunate ones to be invited to a quiet and peaceful fishing camp on the Fall River in northern California. It is a 5 plus hour drive and worth every minute.

My father is 84 years old and is mentally sharp now as he was 35 years ago. We spend these 4 days together just chatting about this and that. He is fascinated by geology and we discuss the hillsides as we drive. He tells me about the kinds of rocks, how they were formed, what glaciers will do to rocks, how far rocks fly during a hard volcanic eruption...stuff like that. Now I know where my brother gets his fascination with ...well, everything! My father is a curious man and is not afraid of doing the homework.

I digress...

We left on our long drive on Thursday morning after he got a tour of the greenhouse. Farmer Jeff built it since he last visited here a year ago for our last fishing trip! He also got to see the bee hives, the new sproutlings of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and now eggplant.

We arrived in Fall River just at the precise moment the thunderstorms began. It was quite intense and! I am not one terribly excited by storms, but I felt safe and secure with my Papa there.

The company was wonderful. The host is married to a sweet, contemplative woman and she, in turn, has many sweet friends, several of which were there. Most of the same people have been fishing together for 20 years and have very established routines and relationships. I won't even go into the fabulous food we ate up there...but as a teaser, we had the BEST scones waiting for us each and every morning, thanks to baker Steve!!!

This is Steve with a turtle he found in the middle of the road and rescued.

We fished, we ate, we talked, we slept, we ate, we read, we ate, we fished...for 2 days...and then packed up to come home again! The fishing was great...I didn't catch any but I got to hold my father's rainbow trout (as I removed the hook and slid it back into the water). Papa sketched one afternoon...I took pictures and cooked. My holiday!

Chicken News:
We lost a Marans hen over the weekend. No sign of distress or illness...just dead on the bottom of the pen. Sigh...

Our little gray Silkie rooster, Madison, is finding his voice and testing his moves on the ladies. He isn't very successful, but at least he is a polite suitor.

The little female Belgian Booted Bantam, Lucretia Borgia, is a sweetheart! She is so tame and friendly. I love to hold her as she looks at me in complete bewilderment...

Something I learned today: one of the top 10 searches on the internet is... How to raise your own chickens! GO CHICKENS!!!

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