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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The Book Signing Event

December 18, 2008 at 1:00 pm (Authors, Beekeeper Dan, Books, Companies, Espresso Yourself, Eydie Wight, Family, Friends, poetry) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

Eydie's First Book Signing

Eydie Signs

Last Saturday I had the “coming out” party for my poetry book at the open house for our county’s Arts Council. I was pretty nervous that no one would show up and I would sit there at the table with an ever increasing mountain of books and a stack of brand new Sarasa black gel pens listening to the clock tick, tick, tick as I tried not to fidget too much in my black velvet skirt, glittery velvet top, and knee high black polished boots. I figured it would have been stretching the eccentric writer persona a bit far to show up in my everyday apparel. Do they make book signing pajamas? Hmmm. They should.

Joanne, Mom, and Eydie

But, not to worry. When Sammy and I arrived Mom and my “earth sister” Joanne were already there and had broken the ice for me. Mom had brought a big batch of my dad’s chocolate dipped peanut butter candy balls and had introduced herself to everyone. My dad’s name is John Richard (he’s called “Dick”) and I tried not to cringe as Mom asked people if they wanted to try Dick’s chocolate balls. It was sort of like a South Park episode. (Brother John here… OMG! It’s as bad as when Granny used to compliment Dad on his cooking… “This is GOOD DICK”).

Dave Snyder Entertains

Friend Dave provides some soothing acoustical jazz on his acoustic guitar as background music for the day. Dave also had several CD’s of his own available for signing (and, of course, purchase.) You can check out his sound at: CD Baby.  Dave also has an independent recording studio in the basement of his home where he records local musicians and poets.  He also generously donates his equipment and efforts as the “sound man” at coffee house.

Mom Loves Shopping!

I signed and sold my first seven books! They were all to Mom! But that was okay! It was exciting! For Mom, shopping is pure joy! The gallery of the Arts Council was chock full of wonderful local artwork for display and purchase.  All artisans are Perry County Residents or members of the Council and the variety and talent contained in our humble country county always makes me proud.  To mention a small cross section:  Framed photography, oil painting, and watercolors,  pen and ink sketches, handmade note cards, a gorgeous hand crafted mandolin (not the best sound in the world when I tried it out, but a pretty showpiece).  Lots of jewelry, dicroic glass, stained glass, ceramic beads, bent wire creations.  Knitted, crocheted, woven and textile hats, scarves, gloves, purses, shawls, sweaters, and coats.  And, or course, books of poetry, local history, children’s books, and novels.  Mom shopped before, during, and after.  My mentor Tony filled his entire holiday shopping list.

Mom, Eydie, and son Roger

Three generations together… Mom, Me, and my son Roger. Roger had orders from the high command to at least make an appearance. I was tickled that not only did Rog show up, but also several of his friends.

Lunch Break!

The afternoon flew by. So many of my friends came out to show their support. Some of them hadn’t even been begged beforehand to casually “stop in.” I signed and sold a few more books, one to a perfect stranger, and then during a lull in the crowd we decided to play the part of “starving artists” and all go across the street to the local coffeehouse, “Espresso Yourself.” There were ten of us including Mom and Joanne, Tony, Siggy, Jonas, Dave, Gary, Beekeeper Dan, Rog, Sammy, and me. Mom and Tony were in rare ribald humor and Dad’s chocolate balls were the source of much raucous hilarity. I smiled so much my face hurt. Of course I hugged everyone and the glitter on my velvet blouse left it’s mark everywhere I went. Tony had glitter in his beard, Mom had a little glitter speck on her cheek, Beekeeper Dan had glitter on his shirt sleeve, Sammy had glitter on one eyebrow, Dave had glitter on his guitar.

Good Spirits

Notice the orbs around me? Some spirit close by that day, according to friend Vikki. I often notice orbs in pictures that we have taken. I’m not sure what they are, combinations of light and reflective surfaces. But, if I let my mind roam into the world of “other” possibilities, I’d have to say that photo orbs have appeared in many pictures where I might expect spirits to take an interest. The Gettysburg Battlefield especially yielded many interesting orbs and shadows.

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Books, Movies, and the Christmas Spirit!

December 13, 2008 at 5:15 am (Authors, Beekeeper Dan, Books, Brother John, Christmas tree, decorations, Espresso Yourself, Eydie Wight, Family, holiday, hot chocolate, movies, poetry, Recipes, Terry Pratchett, The Hogfather) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!!

By Eydie Wight

Lot's of Ornaments!

Well, Brother John has been wonderfully patient with my absentee blog-ism. The last week has been filled with social events, Sammy’s tooth extraction, un-successful hunting, decorating mayhem, and the advent not of a calendar filled with little doorways and goodies but of our busy season at work. ‘Tis the season to be wheezin’ as we respiratory therapists like to say.

Last Saturday I had the “coming out” party for my poetry book at the open house for our county’s Arts Council. I was pretty nervous that no one would show up and I would sit there at the table with an ever increasing mountain of books and a stack of brand new Sarasa black gel pens listening to the clock tick, tick, tick as I tried not to fidget too much in my black velvet skirt, glittery velvet top, and knee high black polished boots. I figured it would have been stretching the eccentric writer persona a bit far to show up in my everyday apparel. Do they make book signing pajamas? Hmmm. They should.

But, not to worry. When Sammy and I arrived Mom and my “earth sister” Joanne were already there and had broken the ice for me. Mom had brought a big batch of my dad’s chocolate dipped peanut butter candy balls and had introduced herself to everyone. My dad’s name is John Richard (he’s called “Dick”) and I tried not to cringe as Mom asked people if they wanted to try Dick’s chocolate balls. It was sort of like a South Park episode. (Brother John here… OMG! It’s as bad as when Granny used to compliment Dad on his cooking… “This is GOOD DICK”). The Arts Council has a gallery of rooms dedicated to the work of local artists. There were artworks on the walls, framed photography, note cards and pictures, music CD’s, jewelry, knitted scarves, purses, and hats, woven textile clothing, and sculptures done in all sorts of media. They had set up two tables for us “Authors” to sit with our books. They had even made a sign. The sign had my name on it. Spelled right and everything. My friend and mentor Tony arrived, our friend Dave was there to provide some acoustic guitar background, fellow poet Siggy set up at the next table and Jonas was there with his book about a half hour later. Suddenly the gallery was filled with people. They were shopping. laughing, eating cookies, pate, and Dick’s chocolate balls. Sammy and I uncorked bottles of our homemade elderberry and blackberry wine and things had the making of a holiday party.

I signed and sold my first seven books! They were all to Mom! But that was okay! It was exciting!

The afternoon flew by. So many of my friends came out to show their support. Some of them hadn’t even been begged beforehand to casually “stop in.” I signed and sold a few more books, one to a perfect stranger, and then during a lull in the crowd we decided to play the part of “starving artists” and all go across the street to the local coffeehouse, “Espresso Yourself.” There were ten of us including Mom and Joanne, Tony, Siggy, Jonas, Dave, Gary, Beekeeper Dan, Rog, Sammy, and me. Mom and Tony were in rare ribald humor and Dad’s chocolate balls were the source of much raucous hilarity. I smiled so much my face hurt. Of course I hugged everyone and the glitter on my velvet blouse left it’s mark everywhere I went. Tony had glitter in his beard, Mom had a little glitter speck on her cheek, Beekeeper Dan had glitter on his shirt sleeve, Sammy had glitter on one eyebrow, Dave had glitter on his guitar.

That evening Sammy and I “found” our favorite Christmas movie for this holiday season. My friend Carole had said her son had told her she “must see” the movie “The Hogfather,” a TV movie from 2006 based on the Terry Pratchett novel. We sat down to watch it, not knowing what to expect, and it was great. Wonderful music score, twisted characters, fantastic sets, dark humor and witty asides. I had gotten together all my paraphernalia to wrap presents and ended up sitting with the same unwrapped present in my lap for over an hour until I just gave up and moved to the couch. As good as the movie was, it was in two parts and nearly four hours long. A combination of the excitement of the day, the couch, the couch blankey, my pajamas, and elderberry wine soon had me romping in dreamland.

That was Saturday, a good day indeed. Sunday I got up early, did the house chores, and started in on my unfinished wrapping. It was a gray, dismal day and as I rewatched the first part of “WolfieThe Hogfather” I wrapped, and wrapped, and wrapped. The stuff was multiplying, I swear. Now, somewhere in the murky ghosts of Christmas past my mom started the tradition of labeling the packages in cute or sometimes just strange ways. Instead of, “To Eydie, from Mom” a package might read, “To Good Girl Eydie Lynne from Barbie Santa.” Or, “To Johnny from the Wolfie Santa.” (What!!! Mom didn’t call me “Brother John” back then???!!! And I miss my Wolfie!!!) Thanks to me, this year we have, “To little Mary from The King” and “To handsome Sammy from the fashion Santa.”

Sunday evening I decided to put up the tree and decorate the house a little while Sammy put up some outside lights. The plan was, this year, since no one will actually be at home for Christmas, to decorate minimally. Sammy helped me bring down the Christmas storage bins from the attic. There were eleven of them and the 30 gallon tree container. All stuffed full of treasures from my nearly five decades of Christmas. I have one lone surviving angel hair (long since banned) ornament from when our Pop-paw was alive. I have a few pieces of Granny’s holly and ivy dishware. I have an ornament I gave big Roger the first year we were married and a half dozen frog ornaments that Greg had collected. I have Rog’s “Baby’s first Christmas” ornament. I have a ballerina, unicorns, a banana, a Boeing plane, Sherlock Holmes, a Scottish bagpiper, Mr. Potato head, and the Mystery Machine from Scooby Do. My life chronicled in ornaments.

Of course I ended up putting out far more stuff than I’d planned because I like my Christmas stuff and I want to look at it for a few weeks. It’s glittery and shiny and full of memories. Better than a bag of gingersnaps and a half gallon of vanilla ice cream to dip them in. Although I wouldn’t say no to eating the aforementioned while I admired my Christmas decorations while sitting on the couch watching part two of “The Hogfather.”

Sammy did manage to get a little deer hunting in during last week. Our work schedule wasn’t too conducive to prime hunting times so we gave our Amish neighbors permission to hunt up in our deer stand. They got an eight point buck and two doe so far from up on our ridge. Two were from our stand, one from theirs. I hoped Sammy would have some luck, but I didn’t relish the butchering process that follows. The year after my second husband died our unidentified neighbor, knowing we counted on venison as a major meat source, offered to share his deer meat with me if I would process it. I jumped at that idea, and sure enough, he arrived one morning with a gutted, skinned, and quartered deer. The first bit of processing is to cut out the tenderloins, the most tasty and tender back strap of the deer. Around here it’s jokingly called “poison meat” as in “You don’t want that old poison meat, you’d better give it to me.” Then the steaks are cut out, chunks are cut for stew meat, and the bits and pieces are ground for burger or made into jerky. I have my Granddad’s jerky recipe. I may include it on the recipe list, but then again, maybe it will remain a family secret passed down through the generations. But (as usual) I digress. The year my unidentified neighbor brought me the deer three of his brothers showed up through the season with deer for me to process and share in the meat. I suspect their mom, knowing I wouldn’t have time to hunt that year, made sure I was taken care of. One reason why I love living in the country.

Sledding Disaster

The unidentified neighbor has nine brothers and sisters. Their mom lives on the “home place” and throughout the year the whole clan shows up for summer picnics and swimming in their big farm pond, the men all come and bring their sons (and a daughter or two) to hunt deer in the fall, and or course, everyone shows up for Christmas. One Christmas when Rog was young there was a big snowfall just before Christmas vacation started. Then there was a freeze so the snow stayed around. The farm has a perfect sledding hill and that year it had a perfect crust for tobogganing. Some of the teenage boys built a big ramp about halfway down the hill and would ski or snowboard off it. All the neighbors, including me, my second husband, and Rog, showed up for the sledding. There was a bonfire to stand around and thaw out in front of, and some of the dad’s were engaged in building competitive snow forts for later snowball battles. We all took turns going down the hill. Mostly toboggans, but some runner sleds, snow tubes, a big tractor inner tube, and some sheets of paraffin coated cardboard. The hill was fast enough that the runner sleds and toboggans were too fast for me. I like my sledding sedate. So I took one of the snow tubes and happily slid down in lazy spirals and curves along with the toddlers. Unfortunately one of those lazy spirals brought me, now sliding backwards and all unknowing, onto the path of the big ski jump ramp. Next thing I know I had an excellent view of the downward slope of the hill. Unfortunately it was an upside down view as the tube performed complete 360 in the air (with me still hanging on out of desperation and shock.) The tube and I landed to applause from all and sundry and calls of “Do it again, Mrs. Hall. That was soo cool!” I gathered my wits and waved as my heart slowed from it’s trip hammer pace and I (hopefully) nonchalantly ambled off in search of home, pajamas, and hot chocolate.

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Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 2)

September 8, 2008 at 7:13 am (Barbara Kilarski, bee hive, Bees, Books, Carboy, chicken coop, chicken wire, Chickens, Fenton, honey, Jasper, Lunaria, mandolin, mastiff, New friends, pit bull, Ranger, sedum, Stonecrop sedum, vines, Visit, wisteria) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

I was out on the deck playing a little mandolin and enjoying the evening when I heard the sound of an approaching motorcycle. Beekeeper Dan had arrived. He was greeted by the boisterous and inquisitive Love Mongrels. Felon is a rescue pit bull who at 50+ lbs. thinks he is a lap dog. I’ve tried my best, but he thinks all visitors will welcome his habit of jumping up and butting his head into whatever part of the anatomy he can reach, until he gets petted. Fortunately Dan has two dogs of his own and took Felon’s rude demands pretty much in stride. Jasper was a little better behaved, but I did catch him peeing on Dan’s tire as we went inside the house. I confess I pretended not to see. Just one more pebble dipping my judgment scales to the “hell side”…

We went inside and I showed Dan the flower seeds I had packaged for him and explained that the Lunaria (money plant) was a biennial. I had wanted to include some Cleome seeds but they weren’t quite dry enough to harvest. Cleome, I had discovered when my friend Carole and I visited Scotland a few years ago, is an undesirable roadside weed there and exists in prolific abundance. I find that even though it has a somewhat rank and stinky smell, it has a beautiful pink flower and bees and butterflies absolutely love it.

Sammy and Dan briefly discussed the Beatles motif of our kitchen and then we hauled out for perusal the wine carboys. The Minsi mountain mead stepped up to the plate and showed a little fermentation activity to “Pappa” Dan. Then we were ready to go check out the ‘bee zen” of our property.

Before we discussed bees, however, we went out to the shed to show Dan our current dog house and fenced in run. This was the proposed site of the future possible chicken coop. Dan had brought me a book to borrow called Keep Chickens! by Barbara Kilarski. The existing dog house could probably hold a small pony. It was built when our two dogs were an Old English mastiff (210 lbs) named Fenton and an akita-lab-mastiff mix (110 lbs) named Ranger. Like our dogs now, those two never really spent much time there. Only when we went on vacation and during deer hunting season when local hunters do cross our property. The fenced in area is roughly 20 ft X 20 ft. and shaded with a beautiful wisteria vine. I hastened to explain to Dan that the run has never doubled as a maximum security prison, despite its look. It just happens that our Shepherd/husky mix Jasper can climb anything. When we first got him I would put him in the run when I went to work and come home to find him sitting on the deck. We spied on him and found that he was hooking his hind legs on the wire of the fence and climbing over. So my husband put up inward slanting chicken wire along the top. I came home the next day, Jasper‘s sitting on the deck. We spied again. He was jumping on top of the dog house roof, then up on the roof of the shed, then down to the ground. So my husband put a wire enclosure on top of the dog house roof. Next day, Jasper on the deck. Spy result: He would run and hurl himself against the back of the shed, reaching high enough to catch paws on the edge of the dog house roof where it met the shed. Then he would use that corner where the two buildings met to give enough leverage to literally scale the fence around the dog house roof until he could reach the roof of the shed, then jump to the ground. We gave up but left the dog run as it was.

To convert the former dog digs to a chicken coop will be relatively easy. All we have to do is put some type of covering over the open run such as a mesh or chicken wire. Then we’ll have to cut an opening in the bottom of the dog house to be able to clean the droppings out, and build some type of shelf inside for nests to be off the ground. Dan also suggested some posts here and there for roosting. We talked about chicken eggs, and free range chickens, and my bad experiences as a kid with broody chickens. Tactlessly forgetting that Dan raises happy chickens who are pets and family members, I indelicately told the story of Great Grandma and the blindfolded chicken. Seems that when my Great Grandma was a young girl (about 14) she was sent out to kill an old chicken for the stew pot. Her mother went to check her after some time had passed and found her sitting on the chopping block with the bloody axe in her hand crying her eyes out. A neighbor heard some commotion and looked out his window to be met with the sight of a half headless chicken (like Nearly Headless Nick for Harry Potter fans), flopping past his house sporting a gingham blindfold around its head. Apparently not content with blindfolding the chicken against the coming judgment day, Great Grandma had also closed her own eyes at the moment of truth and missed!

I thought it prudent at this time to steer the focus away from the topic of chickens before I made gentle Dan cry, and talk about bees. Dan said the bee hives should face in a south easterly direction where they will receive the morning sun. The lower part of the yard was too close to the road. Our “traffic” is meager, but I did have a brief image of our Amish neighbors and their buggy meeting our future bees under less than happy circumstances. It would take more than a good will gesture cake to fix that bad bee business. (Yes, I did welcome them to the neighborhood with a Better-Than-Sex cake but I didn’t TELL them that’s what it was called so that was okay, right?)

We walked up past the garden and to the upper edge of our “orchard” (six fruit trees) and found the future spot for our bees. The bees like a clear “runway” back to their hive and we keep the orchard mowed. I asked about mowing. Dan said mowing doesn’t usually bother the bees as long as you mow so the clippings shoot away from the hives. Makes sense. On the way back down to the house we found several tomatoes for Dan and I showed him the “wild” honeybees on the sedum. He said they were Italians, meaning the original bee ancestors came form Italy. These honey bees have golden abdomens with dark stripes.

Blueberry Cobbler

Back at the house we sampled my blueberry cobbler and kept loading Dan’s backpack with canned tomato juice, pickled beets, blackberry jam, blueberry cobbler, tomatoes, a couple of books, empty honey jars (returns), and a lamp or two (remember Steve Martin in “The Jerk?”). I was a little worried that his motorcycle would just upend and leave Dan weighed to the ground by the backpack, waving arms and legs like a flipped turtle while he feebly tried to raise a helmeted head, but my overactive imagination gives me these little visions from time to time.

Sammy and I stood outside for a little admiring the broad expanse of Milky Way that stretched across the sky. Then we went inside, he to watch the republican convention, me to contemplate chickens and the image of myself licking the remains of the blueberry cobbler from the dish. It was a good day.

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Beekeeper Dan Comes For A Visit (Part 1)

September 6, 2008 at 10:03 am (Bees, Carboy, honey, New friends, Recipes, Visit, Yeast) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )


By Eydie Wight

A visit from Beekeeper Dan

We had been anticipating a visit from Beekeeper Dan for a couple of weeks and just couldn’t seem to get schedules to mesh, so when he let us know that yesterday would work out, we were tickled pink. The day before we had racked our wines from carboy to carboy to get rid of the first lot of “settlement” (dead yeasties and fruit pulp and such) and had been delighted to find that our mead was not in “stuck fermentation” as we had feared and agonized over for better than a week, but was still working, just working at it’s own slow pace. Sammy had worried so much that he had driven after work (night shift) to our local wine making supplier and slept in the car (again) until they opened. He was advised to go home, have a home brew and relax and let the mead ferment at its own pace. That was okay with us, even though our yeasties ride the little yellow school bus, we still love them!

I had been having a shamefully laid back day off. I had slept the long sleep of one who was avoiding watching the the republican convention (or any other convention) and woke up early. It was promising to be a scorcher of a day, hot and humid, but the morning offered a coolish breeze as I fed the shed cats and house kittens, cleaned litter boxes, rinsed and refilled water bowls, rescued Guido’s tank mates from his cannibalistic hunger, and fed the dogs. Sammy has decided that we should try to limit our power usage to off grid hours so he had done a load of laundry near midnight. As I hung the clothes out on the line the hummingbirds seemed to be fascinated either by my pajamas or Sammy’s socks and underwear because they hovered for seconds at a time in front of me in a rather quizzical fashion.. Best not to speculate the ADHD mind of the hummingbird. House chores done, I poured my second cup of coffee and wandered out back to check out my fine bed of Stonecrop sedum that was in full bloom. It was covered with honeybees and I couldn’t wait to show Beekeeper Dan. They were beauties, amber abdomens with black stripes against the pink sedum flowers. I watched to see where they went as they flew off. Somewhere into the sun…

Next thing I knew it was time to take a nap. Night shifters as we are, day time functioning requires a mid afternoon nappy. I melted into the bed even before Sammy had finished checking his E-mail. 45 minutes later I sat bolt upright, gasped, and said, “Granny!” Sammy said, “Wzzzt wzzmm?” I said, ” I don’t have any food made to offer Dan!” My grandmother (Granny to us, God rest her soul) would have been appalled that I had company and didn’t offer to feed them something. It’s the code of the country that as soon as someone crosses your doorway you start trying to stuff food into them. I can remember coming home from college to visit my Granny and Granddad and no sooner had I hugged and kissed hello than Granny was pulling out platters of sliced ham or turkey and Granddad was taking a pan of cornbread out of the oven and soon the table was groaning under the weight of “a little snack to tide you until supper”. Sammy was, by this time snoring again so I laid there and quietly tossed and turned and fidgeted and wracked my brains for an idea. We had been putting off going to the grocery store for several days to maybe over a week or so and Old Mother Hubbard ruled the pantry. I had racks of canned stuff I was going to share, but few people other than me can really sit down an enjoy an entire meal of pickled beets.

Blueberry Cobbler

So I lay there, mentally going over every offering of cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Freezer! I had it! The frozen blueberries from neighbor Dot! The day was saved and Granny’s spirit could rest easy. I got up and in short time had made a blueberry cobbler. Easy, and soooo tasty. Dot had frozen her blueberries in one cup baggies so I took four of these and ran cool water over them in a colander until they had thawed. In a medium saucepan I mixed a half cup of sugar and two tablespoons of cornstarch. To this I added the blueberries and heated the mixture, stirring constantly, until it boiled. This was allowed to boil for one minute (stirring) and then poured into an ungreased 2 qt. casserole. The oven had been preheated to 325 and the blueberries were placed into the oven while the topping was prepared. The topping consisted of a half cup of exceedingly lumpy brown sugar, a half cup of flour, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a half cup of some multi grain high fiber cereal with oats and bran flakes, honey “clusters”, and rocks and twigs. A third cup of margarine was “cut” into this and this topping was crumbled on top of the blueberries. This was heated through until the topping was browned and crunchy. Since the topping was already crunchy this was a little hard to assess. I winged it and hoped for the best. If you don’t have any “twigs and rocks” cereal a half cup of oatmeal will do. And it really is better if the brown sugar isn’t lumpy. I had to beat mine with the side of the meat tenderizer until it submitted to my demand. (A recipe for Eydie’s Blueberry Cobbler)

Then I put together a care package for Dan of some of my recent canned goods, some flower seeds I’d been collecting (lunaria, hollyhock, poppy, zinnia, and marigold), and his empty honey jars and wine bottle. Next I did a quick poop scoop of the area around the house. Nothing kills the mood of a nice visit more than a shoe full of dog poop. The evening was shaping up nicely so I sat out on the deck with the mandolin and worked on the waltz “After the ball was over…”

Dan arrived on his Italian motorcycle. The purpose of his visit (other than a visit) was to asses our property for “bee worthiness” and discuss the best site for a hive. We also wanted to “talk chicken.” Sammy and I had been meeting such happy, friendly free range chickens over the past week that we wondered if a few might like to join our household. (And not be terrorized by the other animals. I, for one, have heard Guido express a fondness for chicken, should one ever pass near his tank.) More about our visit later.

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