Solar Tracking

Solar Tracking
Canning and drying have begun!

Monday, June 25, 2012

bee SwarmS

The top bar hive swarmed today—twice. It was wild…

Last Sunday, I harvested three bars of honey from the hive. I knew that the bees had been really active for the last month, that two of the bars were cross-combed, which is really tricky to work with, and that the bees needed some space to prevent swarming (or so I thought…), so we went into the hive and hauled out the messy comb. It was a pretty efficient process. Because the tricky comb was down on one end, we could just lift it out quickly and hang it on the rack while we resettled the hive. Then I swept bees off and began the straining process. By the next morning, I had a quart and a half of lovely honey. However, a few days later, I noticed that some of the bees were not going back into the hive at night, but were hanging out in a big clump over the entrance. Did I take out their preferred hang out comb? I wondered. Why are they staying out all night in the rain? Bees are mysterious and my book is no help.

This Sunday was warm, sunny, and a bit muggy. The bees were bopping around in the back while we ate breakfast and started laundry. When I went outside around 11 to hang the first load, I heard the dreaded sound of a swarm—it’s loud! The sky around the hive was full of bees, all darting around in a huge cloud. I waited a few moments then went back to see which hazelnut branch they were settling on. Slowly, they gathered in a long, dripping formation down one of the small leafy center branches. There goes my queen, I thought, and turned into the house to call Rich, who loves to capture my swarms for his spare hives. He was gone, but his wife brought over a nuc (a small hive) and I placed it high on the ladder. Hopefully, the bees would just move in. This was all quite normal; the hive swarms every year and Rich captures them.

About an hour and a half later, I heard the sound again! Had they found a new home so quickly? I walked back to see where they were heading and more bees were pouring out of my hive. No way! I yelled for Mark and we stood, amazed, as they flowed out of the hive and took to the air. Ten minutes later, they were choosing another hazelnut branch. Mark headed back to the house. I stood watching as a second huge clump of bees began collected in the tree. “Where there any left in the hive?” I wondered. “How did they all fit in there?”

Just then, two college girls came riding bikes down the alley in bikinis. They screamed, swore, dropped their bikes, and ran down the gravel road in flip-flops. I could hear them shouting at their guys…”Oh My God!…Bees!…huge!…After us!…Our bikes!” One young guy came hustling over to see.

“It’s ok,” I heard him explain. “They’re just moving their queen. They won’t bother you.” He brought his girlfriend down with him and stood in the road, bare-chested. Bees flew all around him, bumped into him, and he smiled. “It’s so cool.” He proceeded to tell a tale of a swarm on his back porch last spring, and his friend who keeps bees, and how he was scared, but once he understood, he was really interested. “I like this kind of stuff,” he announced. “I used to keep unwanted reptiles.” We stood watching the swarm for ten minutes or so, transfixed by the motion of the bees. I explained that this was really weird—bees don’t usually swarm without a queen and I’d never heard of more than one queen per hive. (I checked in Sue Hubbell last night and she gave short mention of a secondary swarm possibility…)

The swarm formed another long clump on a hazelnut branch a few feet way and settled down for the evening. They considered Rich’s box, but did not move in. This morning, while I was hiking, Rich came by. He took one swarm and left the other in a temporary box in the back yard. Bees were moving in and out of both hives this afternoon in equal numbers while a few flew around the hazelnut, looking for their lost family. I guess I’ll be heading into the hive as soon as the sun comes out to see what’s going on….

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer Solstice

Early summer has settled on the Willamette Valley. On Solstice morning, I rode out to Sunbow to spend the morning mulching tomatoes and pulling oversized weeds away from purple cabbages just starting to head up in the fields. The light was glorious—clear blue sky, bright sunshine dancing on leaves. The fava beans were shoulder high. Some parsnips were going to seed in one corner, mustardy yellow flowers in umbel spray formation. On the ride home, the air smelled of ocean, and forest, and earth mingled together in the light breeze, with a little cow poop thrown in. Wild daisy, dandelion, and vetch bloomed by the side of the road. Wheat straw mulch had sprouted and the seedheads were formed and turning golden.
Back home, the potato beds were waist high and blooming, the young jays arguing over whose yard this is, and I harvested a quart and a half of honey from the hive on Sunday. We had peas and cauliflower for dinner last night—so nice to eat a vegetable with substance, after months of greens—and I’ve been picking raspberries along the berry alley for about a week.
We had company for dinner on Solstice evening. We ate outside for the first time this season. Goat cheese and crackers, olives and pickles to start, followed by salmon, fresh salad and broccoli, rhubarb and berry pie with ice cream. Fresh mint tea. It was light until after ten. We did not have to get up in the morning…Summer has begun.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

End of the School Year Checklist

End of the School Year Checklist:

Graduation and dinner with Leslie—check
Art Ride around town—check
Romeo and Juliet projects—check
Deep sighs—check
Big note on the board “No Yearbooks out during class or they are mine!”—check
Scent of Junior Campout—check
Weird clothes to school—perhaps the pants with a bit of paint on them—check
Green checkout sheet in my box—check
Staring out the classroom window—check
Cardboard and art supplies creeping forward into my room—check

Why are we still here?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

This I Believe-- For Ana Lind

I believe in the art and science, the system, of housekeeping, of home making.

I believe that you must know how to feed yourself: how to take beans and pasta, sauté homegrown onions, celery, and garlic, add tomatoes roasted and canned in a summer hot kitchen, a roasted red pepper, some zucchini, basil and parsley, and mix them all together into a soup that will carry you through a long week of work and meetings and grading papers. You should know how to bake bread—or at least muffins—to go with that soup, and maybe some oatmeal raisin cookies as well. You could even learn the more arcane arts of fresh cheese making, of gnocchi and pasta, of beer brewing and food preservation and fancy meal planning. But you must know how to cook. I believe all good things start around kitchen tables, around meals shared amongst strangers.
I believe in the weekly rituals of house cleaning, of bringing order back from the brink of entropy, of establishing the patterns of the week. While the bread rises and the soup simmers, clean the bathroom, scrub the kitchen counter, hang up the still clean clothes. The blankets need airing, the sheets and towels should be changed. Put away the books and projects left over from the busy week. Find all of the mugs tucked under chairs and beside the bed and wash them. Plan out the food for the week and grocery shop, so you know, in advance, what you’ll eat on Wednesday night. I believe we need to establish order in the physical world to establish order in the mental one.
I believe that you should grow some of your own food, so that you know, in your soul, what fresh food means. I believe in small herb patches: the scent of just picked marjoram cooking with garlic and onions at the beginning of the soup, chives and parsley chopped into cottage cheese, mint tucked into the pitcher of sun tea brewing on the doorstep. I believe in lettuce and broccoli jumbled together in a raised garden bed, in a community allotment full of potatoes in July, in working on a local farm, listening to the rustle of wheat in the summer air. Then, after you have raised the food, save some of it for winter. Make jam and pickles. Dry some fruit and herbs. Stash a couple of winter squashes under the bed, if you must. I believe that eating your own food at every meal—even if it is just the parsley—connects you to the cycle of the earth.
I believe in hand washing dishes while meditating on the nature of reality, in sorting laundry and hanging it out to dry in the cool morning air, in mending shirts and knitting socks and hats. I believe in eating off of the Good Dishes by candlelight some nights when you are dining alone, in inviting people over for dinner and setting a beautiful table, in carrying a mug of tea into the vegetable garden on the Summer Solstice.
I believe that, in establishing the rituals of housekeeping, you are connecting yourself to the core of the world, to the cycle of the earth, to all who have come before and those who will follow. If we all care well for our small personal homes, I believe we will make better choices for our larger home, the planet.