The Beehive (and other ramblings)

March 4, 2009 at 11:55 am (bee hive, Beekeeper Dan, Bees, Brother John, Family, Hobbies, Insects, Mead Making, movies, poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


The New Hive!

By Eydie Wight

Well, here it is nearly 5:30 AM and another night has passed in work rather than blogging (I’m hearing wheezing, sneezing, and coughing in my after work sleep these days.). Brother John may have to post another yummy recipe while waiting for me to catch up. But, Sammy and I have the weekend off and I have a list. Writing a blog is on it. Somewhere near the top. Along with painting my beehive, filling out Roger‘s Fafsa form for college this fall, cooking the turkey that’s been in the freezer since Christmas, repairing Roger‘s hematite frog necklace for the fifth or sixth time, sending Uncle Dave a get well card, sending Uncle Mike a very huge thank you for doing our taxes, moving the old refrigerator out to the shed so the work on finishing the basement can continue next week and, of course, the usual weekend dusting and vacuuming, laundry and litter box detail. I may hold off on single-handedly solving the national recession until next week. Ditto world peace.

Perry County Council of the Arts - Coffeehouse

Sammy and I plan to sleep most of today, then go to coffeehouse tonight. We’ve been working on the song “Good Riddance” by Green Day and I thought maybe we would have it ready, but we both had a few days of feeling a bit peaked this week and I didn’t have enough time to get my part comfortable. Sammy does the singing and plays guitar throughout and could walk on stage with five minutes practice. I have two measures here, three or four there, and a little chording at the end, but my fiddle has a HUGE problem with stage fright so we’d better practice some more. I do plan to read a few of my poems. Our usual coffeehouse has a nice mix of musicians, poets, and storytellers. I think I’ll read “Street Busker of Her Heart” and “The Musician’s Wife.”

The New Hive!

I think I mentioned in some of the Christmas posts that Santa brought me a “beginning beekeeper” kit. It came from the Dadant catalogue (making beekeeping a family tradition since 1863!) Ever since Sammy and I made our first batch of mead and started having conversations with beekeeper Dan I’ve been dreaming of honey bees, writing poems in their honor, and catching every show I can find on National Geographic and Animal planet about them. Last summer I discovered “wild” Italian honeybees in great numbers all over my flower beds and nearby wildflowers, and became fascinated with them. So, this year, Sammy and I are going to give beekeeping a try.


Dadant & Son's Bee Kit #2

My “hobby kit #2” came un-assembled and contained two medium ten frame supers, an inner and outer top cover, and solid wood bottom board and some essential equipment. (Smoker, gloves, hive tool, feeder, beginner’s book, veil.) This was about $153.00. A little plug here for the Dadant catalogue. Not only does it offer everything a large scale beekeeper might need, but it also has equipment, cool bee factoids, and helpful hints and suggestions for us “newbees” (ha ha.)

I have to admit that my hive sat unassembled in it’s box until last week. It was only partly procrastination on my part. Sigh. Santa had also brought me several books on beekeeping. I made the mistake of starting to read the big flashy one with all the fancy expensive pictures (and I won’t mention it’s name ’cause I’m not going to be very complimentary.) The very first thing the author started opining about was that you should NEVER get an un-assembled hive to start out with because they take a rocket scientist to assemble, the instructions are lousy, the parts are never cut to fit, and it’s all “oh so off-putting.” And of course here I was with the unassembled hive. Then, as I read on, it was a never ending series of “you can’t do this, you can’t do that, people do it that way but that’s WRONG.” I know nothing about this author and she may be a pleasant enough person but boy, I was stressing before I got halfway through. I just didn’t want to read the section on foulbrood, hive beetles, varroa mites, tracheal mites, and wax moths BEFORE I read about joyful, happy, healthy hives. I want the “Joys of Beekeeping,” not the “Buzz about Bad Bee Bummers.”

So I agonized about the whole beekeeping idea for a nearly two months, and then did what I should have done from the start. I talked to beekeeper Dan. His advice was to “put that book down and start another.” He also said, in his gentle way, something that interpreted as, “You’re not an idiot, just sit down and put the darn hive together.” So I did. Both. Seeing as the Dadant catalogue had been my friend, I opened the book that had come with my beginner’s kit, “First Lessons in Beekeeping.” It started with POETRY. I was sold. And, Sammy and I sat down that night and in a few hours had the hive together. It was easy. Once all the pieces were laid out in matching groups, and the nails sorted, the diagrams made sense. We put the whole thing together on the living room coffee table with a minimum of mess. We put the whole thing together while watching “City Slickers” and drinking mead. I was in my pajamas. Putting together the frames with their foundation wax was just as easy, but a bit more time consuming as there are ten frames to a super and two supers. I did that the next day in about an hour and a half while watching CSI New York.

The Villanelle

Winter Morning

As I write this it’s now Saturday morning. Coffeehouse went well last night. It was a packed, appreciative house with a pretty even mix of musicians and poets, about a half dozen of each. I read three poems and received an official congratulations on my recent “specialty”award for a poem I had entered for our county’s annual poet laureate competition called “Winter Morning”. The poem was a villanelle. Now for those of you who aren’t into this stuff, maybe just skip this part. You’ll find It’s going to be boring. A villanelle is a highly structured poem consisting of 19 lines and only two different rhymes throughout. It has five tercets (three line stanzas) and one final quatrain (four lines.) The first and third lines all rhyme. The second lines all rhyme. In addition, the poem has two “power lines” that are used throughout the poem. They are the first and third lines of the first tercet. The first line becomes the third line of the second tercet, the third line becomes the third line of the third tercet and so on. The quatrain has the two power lines as the last lines of the poem. One of the most famous villanelles is Dylan Thomas‘ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.

Well, I’m an “old hippie” free verse poet by nature. I don’t rhyme, it stresses me. But, like a dog with a bone, I had to try this villanelle thing if for no other reason than the gauntlet had been laid down before me. So for weeks I agonized. At first I tried this Celtic story of murder, kidnapping, betrayal. My power lines were “‘Tis naught but one left to tell the tale. With voice that falters and lips that pale.” I had rhymes of: tale, pale, fail, sail, ale, nail, jail and: greed, need, freed, bleed, deed, mead. Maybe it would have worked. But it made me crazy. Then I tried a magician story. I had: mage, stage, wage, page, cage, age, rage and: illusion, delusion, confusion, profusion, exclusion, occlusion. Again, though the possibility was there, it made me crazy. Finally, in the wee hours of the deadline day for the competition entries, as my friend Lynelle and I communicated with each other with increasingly frustrated and desperate e-mails, I put together an idea while I was standing at the kitchen window drinking coffee and waiting for dawn. It made me crazy. But, I agonized on and ended up hand delivering it to the arts council gallery with ten minutes to spare before the deadline, saying that it was “The worst piece of crap I’d ever written.” Go figure it would win. My villanelle experience is, I hope, laid to rest eternally.

Back to the Bees

I’d better finish this up soon so I can wake Sammy and we can go accomplish our daytime Saturday errands. Two of which are buying paint to paint the outside of my hive to weather proof it and calling Bjorn Apiaries to order “nucs” for beekeeper Dan and Sammy and I. A “nuc” or nucleus (I just love learning this new “beespeak.” I probably will get stuff wrong or misuse terms and I would appreciate being corrected by those more knowledgeable than I) is a good way to get started. It contains four or five frames of nurse bees, brood, food, and a queen which is introduced to the incipient colony. I wanted to order Italian bees (Apis mellifera ligustica) because that’s what my “wild” girls were that I enjoyed watching as they foraged on the property last year. I think this apiary may have only Russian Carniolan (Apis mellifera carnica) which is what beekeeper Dan wants. That may be a good idea in the long run as the Carnolians seem to be more resistant to some of the bad bee bummer mites. So much to learn!

I have learned that beekeeping is an up and coming area of interest. Those that were wholeheartedly into knitting and bead stringing the past couple of years, and gardening and canning last year, are looking at beekeeping. Any why not? Beekeeping (so I’ve been told and have read in numerous sources) is relatively inexpensive, relatively easy, less time consuming than most gardening, harvesting, canning experiences, and can be done in very little space. There are even New York City beekeepers who have rooftop hives and bees that co-exist with the flowers, musicians, homeless, and knock-off watch entrepreneurs of Central Park! Honey has long, and I mean like Biblical, ancient Egypt long, been a natural sweetener. It has medicinal uses for healing wounds that “modern medicine” has given up on. Honey makes mead, mead makes one happy, therefore (a little twisted Aristotle) honey makes one happy. I could go on and on extolling the virtues of honey, propolis, beeswax, and honey bee pollination services, but let me just end with some way cool facts I lifted from the Dadant catalogue:

  1. If honey bees ceased to exist today, about 1/3 of all the foods humans eat would disappear
  2. It would take one ounce of honey to fuel a bees flight around the world. The average honey bee will make about one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
  3. The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
  4. A honey bee visits 50-100 flowers during one collection trip.

And now I must get out of my pajamas, take Sammy to our favorite little restaurant “The Joyful Bakers” for breakfast as I promised, and get to the post office, hardware, and grocery store. The sun is shining, the sap is flowing in the maple trees (although I don’t think any of the neighbors have tapped their trees yet,) my tulips, daffodils, and surprise lilies have broken ground in the front flower bed, and we were just visited by two whitetail deer that we could see from the kitchen window. It is a propitious day, rife with possibility.

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Spiders, Snakes, Aphids, and Bees!

September 21, 2008 at 11:30 am (bee hive, Bees, Brother John, Jasper, Plants, Recipes, Wine Making) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Snakes And Bugs And Bees... Oh My!

Today was another of those days when the place for morning coffee was on the deck. I opened the door, let Emy cat out and fended off the boisterous good morning activity of the dogs. I wasn’t out for more than a minute before I went inside to grab a jacket to throw over my pajamas, and slide my new moccasin birthday slippers on my feet. The temperature had dipped down into the 40’s over night. I am surprised that the home hummingbirds are still present, active, and seemingly in no hurry to leave. They continue to dive bomb each other, hover in front of my face, and perch on top of my wind chimes. Emy discovered a few days ago that she can jump on top of the deck rail and walk along it, tantalizingly out of reach of the dogs. They whine, they entreat me to get her down so they can chase her, they finally pretend indifference until she casually strolls over to where I am now leaning against the rail and rubs her face against mine. That does it, the dogs explode in a frenzy of jealous barking, making so much noise I have to trick them away from the house with a stick I throw far out into the yard so that Sammy has a slight chance of continuing his sleep.

Today is the last day of vacation! I love the changing of the guard of the seasonal flowers. Right now there are asters of all kinds in the un-mown areas of the yard. New England Asters willingly cluster around the mailbox, their light blue flowers seeming to glow in the morning light. Small white asters (I’ll have to look those up in the flower book) grow in abundance, creating bushy clumps. Fortunately none of us are allergic to goldenrod, because it is everywhere. My thoughts this morning, besides a song that is stuck in my head, are on wine. (The song, by the way, is “By the light of the silvery moon.” I don’t where all these obscure tunes come from, but this one must be one of my mother’s old barbershop quartet tunes, because it’s not only in my head, it’s in my head in four part harmony.)

Wine, we plan to bottle the blackberry wine today if all goes well. The wine has “cleared” and is a gorgeous color. I keep telling myself what the wine book says, that the wine must “mature” but the little voice inside my head (I think it’s the same voice that’s singing baritone) says, “Drink it. Drink it. Drinkitdrinkitdrinkitallnow.” But don’t worry, the last time I listened to that voice it was telling me that “no, of course not, bell bottoms will NEVER go out of style.” As I wandered around the yard I took notice of several fat rose hips on the Jacob’s Coat of Color Rose. My old wine book mentions that one of the truly exceptional elites of the homemade wines is rose hip wine. The author of the book only made a few bottles a year and prized them above all other. I don’t have nearly enough rose hips of my own, but I know a place where the multi flora rose (wild rose) grows thick. I went there a few years ago to pick some hips for rose hip tea. Like the blackberry session, each fat rose hip pulled me further into the brier warren until I suddenly found myself surrounded on all sides by impenetrable thorns. Thorns grabbing my shirt, pants, gloves, hair, holding me fast until some handsome prince came to magically free me and kiss my waiting lips…Right in the middle of THAT pleasant daydream a deer leaped out of the briers, not more than three feet from me. Well, by the time I tore my way out of the warren, yelping all the way,with the deer gracefully leaping unscathed in the other direction, I was pretty sure I would need plastic surgery and a pint or two of blood.

It’s not unheard of to have September frost, and I’d been planning all week to take the house plants inside for the cold season, so we decided to make that one of our last vacation projects. We really only have one southern exposure window downstairs in the spare bedroom, and each year all of the “big” plants get crowded around this one window until the room looks like something out of Jumanji. When I met Sammy and we began our courtship, he had one fairly big avocado tree that he had grown from a seed. At the time we met this tree was decorated with colored lights and red bows and was Sammy’s Christmas tree. I promptly named her “Iris” and would blow big Co2 laden kisses on her whenever I saw her. (Plants like that, you know. They don’t even care if you’ve had garlic, or Kosher pickles, or never brush your teeth-not that I know about that one, but I know someone who does!!!) Anyway, now, some four years later, Iris brushes her head on the ceiling and throws her arms out in a six foot span. Her “little sisters” (also grown from seed) number four, and we’ve even given some away to loving homes! We also have a beautiful “walking” iris we got as a start from my dad, a robust calla lily, some elderly Dieffenbachia, and a Mimosa pudica (“sensitive” plant). This plant curls it’s leaves up whenever they are touched, then slowly unfolds them again. All in all there were nine plants to bring in. Before they left the great outdoors each plant was trimmed of wind tattered or bug eaten leaves, re-potted if needed, had a scoop or two of potting soil added to “top off” the pots, and was sprayed with a soap solution to kill off aphids.

While I was re-potting and puttering and rearranging, our cats were having an adventure. Sammy called me downstairs from the kitchen where I had been stuffing a pickled egg into my mouth (and yes, Brother John, you DO have to chew them at least once!)

NOTE: Brother John here… you may be interested in knowing that I do NOT like pickled eggs! Probably comes as a surprise to my family. See? You learn something new every day!

Sammy had that mildly interested, not distressed at all, manly tone to his voice so I suspected immediately that the kittens had “found” a new toy in the basement, one that Sammy wasn’t real comfortable with. The toy turned out to be a little ring necked snake. These little guys are hardly bigger than a good sized earthworm and are pretty laid back. Not, of course, when they’re being batted across a concrete floor like an air hockey puck while being chewed on from the backside up by two brave kittens honing their hunting skills. (I guess snakes have a backside…) Sammy wondered aloud two or nineteen times if there were probably more snakes in the basement. We did have a nice sized garter snake in the basement beside the soda tub on our wedding day. Sammy’s not overly fond of snakes. Or the multiple ladybug infestations we get inside the house each winter after the stove is fired up, or the rather large (actually very, very large) hairy wolf spiders that take up residence also in the basement come winter. I actually had a spider one year, before I met Sammy, named Tawanda. She was very curious and liked noise and vibration. Often she would “come out” to check out company. My sister-in-law and her husband were visiting one late fall and we were sitting around downstairs enjoying the wood stove and drinking beer. Enough beer that when all of a sudden my brother-in-law’s eyes bugged out of his head and he said, “Ohmygod, what IS that?”, Tawanda looked much bigger to him than she really was. Tawanda had come over to investigate and was nearly on his foot. Tawanda’s body was about the size of a somewhat flattened walnut. I had difficulty preventing George from flattening her more. Finally, they took pictures and went home claiming I had a pet tarantula.

Today was the kind of day that called for a woods walk and hot soup. I’ve been hungry for a thick, full bodied, stick to your ribs soup or stew. I bought the ingredients to make potato soup but then as the vacation days went by the ingredients disappeared. The milk went into cereal, the sausage went into pizza, the onion went into spaghetti sauce. The potatoes are still there, waiting patiently as potatoes do. I’m like my Scottish friend who, when I asked him what his favorite food was, said “Stovies”. I said, “What’s that?” He replied, “Any thing that’s made from potatoes and cooked on the stove.”

I did get a little bit of a walk in. Just as I was finishing re-potting my plants, Sammy came down the ridge with the camera in hand and said, “You have to come see this. This is incredible.” I said, “What’s that Sweetie?” He said, “Bees.” Well, I was pretty sweaty despite the cool day so I broke off some of the lemon balm that grows by the basement door and rubbed it on my arms. I walked up the hill toward the “orchard” where we have our six fruit trees. To the right of the orchard is the ‘upper pond”. This is an eight by eight round pond, about five feet deep, that is fed by a spring that runs all year long. Sounds lovely but two years ago some tree roots in combination with winter burrowing bull frogs resulted in a series of leaks. Now there is only about two feet of water in the pond, but it is nice, clear water. Between the orchard and the pond is a large patch of yard we decided to let fallow this year. It is covered at the moment with the bushy asters I need to identify. It was also covered with Italian honeybees. Not covered by a swarm, these little girls were busy gathering nectar and pollen from the asters. It was so covered I heard the busy hum of hundreds of bees before I even got close. I watched them for the longest time. I wonder, who has hives near here? I know all the neighbors, in fact, should we take to this beekeeping life, I plan to ask them to let us hive the protected niches of their fields. Could these fine little Italians be a wild hive? If so, will they be okay for the winter? They had such delicate little flights from tiny flower to tiny flower. They were happy bees that day and I wished them a safe trip home and safe winter.

Jasper had, of course, followed me up the hill. He patiently waited for me to interview the bees, and then, when I started back down toward the house, ran a little way up the hill and gave me a look that said, :”Come on. Up this way.” So I followed him up. Jasper is my hiking buddy. He loves the winter, and likes nothing better than the woods in snow. One year he and I set out after a storm had given us several inches of white powdery snow. It was so cold and dry the snow kicked up in plumes as we made our way up the ridge. I lost sight of Jasper, not difficult since he’s white, so I called him. All of a sudden he was there above me, on an outcropping just exposed enough to catch eddies of wind that swirled the snow around me. I had a sudden image of myself in buckskin and furs, my long black hair plaited as I searched beneath the snow for wintergreen berries to take back to add to venison jerky for trail mix to feed the tribe. Jasper and I shared one of those moments when the world is is suffused with joy and all of heaven stops to approve. Today we just walked up to the top of the ridge and then raced back down. Actually, Jasper was the only one racing, but I let him think he won.

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