Mid-Summer Swinging

O will you lay with me
Beneath a shady tree,
On a ship we’ll set a sail
Row out to meet a whale,
Under the clear bright skies
We’ll swing and shut our eyes,
O will you come with me
Out to the apple tree.

summer days . . . rains washed out the patchwork shovel mending of the driveway, re-rutted and grooved them anew, similarly in the garden . . . the bales of straw we so cleverly laid out on pathways have kept the weeds down, however, they have also sprouted! What a chortle!

the beds are giving chard and peas,
hairy motherwort, nuzzling bees,
the ‘new’ garden flower
blooms magenta hour after hour,
ladybirds spotted inside the fold
sit dark red on yellow quietly bold

the old mulberry tree fallen over long ago has rejuvenated and sprouted shoots, with a bit of pruning and clearing of thorny thicket we climb around and upon the gnarled intertwined trunk . . . in crevices where bark has decayed there’s plants sprouting and down low from out of cracks, mushrooms climbing; what a tree, majestic is she!! . . . we enjoy fruit and shade at her side where she does abide with a bramble left behind her where rabbits reside . . .

this solstice we gathered and celebrated mulberry, hummingbird, hollyhocks, and daily lilies, simple pleasures with daylong arms and firefly nights.

Loving Kindness

“I bow to true Buddha-nature, equally innate in one and all”.

~~Lama Surya Das

Woodland Gnome has shared a journey through her beautiful garden with a meditation by Lama Surya Das in a post aptly called Loving Kindness. I’ll echo her sentiment in unison saying, “We all need a bit more loving kindness in our hearts and in our lives”.

Bees:Deux

Eleven days ago, after daytime preparation,  we rehived the new package of bees early in the evening.  First we put the queen cage in and left the plug exposed so the bees could eat her out.  Put the two fondant screens in, then the box, minus lid and can, and closed up the hive.  Left the bees for 4 hours, and when we went back most of the bees had left the box so we only had to shake out those who were left.  Closed up the hive and left the syrup on top.  Checked the next day to see where the queen was, and her cage was empty so we removed it.

Afterward we didn’t go to the hive for about four days, and then on the fourth day toward the evening it looked like ALL the bees had clustered outside the hive above the entrance hole. Called our beekeeping neighbour who had a few ideas, one of which was that they were getting ready to swarm (oh no, thinks I, not again!!!).  He suggested we put them back in but to rub peach leaves on the insides first.  . . . he swears that the smell keeps them hived.  He also suggested we put a board on the screen bottom incase it was too cool inside.  Off we went to our woodworking neighbour, (yes, we have awesome neighbours:0) who cut us a board.  Then we gathered peach leaves off the tree.  When Michael got home we were all ready.

Opened up the hive, it was empty since the bees were all clustered outside, but there was a bit of comb in the back.  Wootwoot!  Rubbed the peach leaves all over (it smells great) and covered the screen with the peached up board.  Then Michael scooted the whole cluster of bees onto a piece of cardboard and put them back into the hive.  Closed it up again and so far we’ve seen them coming and going, so we’re hoping it’s all good inside and the peach leaves and board are keeping them there.

Learning these bees is pretty interesting, and I’m still wondering what they were doing outside . . .  did the dog disturb the hive trying to get to the syrup, so they evacuated temporarily?  Was it the open bottom?  Maybe they were having a gathering of bees on their front porch?  Were they hanging out for a queen bee and drone mating ritual?  The last one is my favorite idea, I like the thought of the whole hive gathering to watch the queen fly way up to mate with the drones, then usher her back into the hive to lay all those eggs . . . . though if that was the case, we were party poopers busting up their party!!  What was it they were doing??? . .  .. .

:::Three months later:::they swarmed again!! This time they told us something:: it wasn’t for want of food.  The pine pollen was enough for them as was what we’d added; it was however the location . . . . ideal as it seemed to our human eyes when hiving, a few months later it was too overgrown and shaded to be comfortable for bees.  There are two hives worth of bees in the woods somewhere, hopefully thriving and happy in their new homes built from scratch.  We’re going to leave our beekeeper dreams for a bit, as well as conclusions, and see what we learn as students of the bees instead, something tells me they know more than eye, and in the meantime we’ll read The Bee Tree and perhaps one day we’ll find them when it’s time . . . tis a beautiful mystery for now!

Bees: Deux: Preperation

Alright!  The package of bees we ordered from Draper’s came this morning and we went to pick them up from the post office.  We’re waiting till evening to hive them, so in the meantime we’ve been brushing sugar syrup on the screen of the package with a toothbrush.  They’ve been eating it up all afternoon.  I made the sugar syrup by boiling a handful of lemon balm leaves, a couple of tablespoons of dried lavender flowers, 2 cups of sugar, and 2 cups of water until it was syrup like (drizzle some on a plate, when it cools you can feel if it’s syrupy or too watery).  I also made a batch of fondant.  This was made using the following recipe:

8 cups sugar, 2 cups already boiling water, and 10 drops sweet orange essential oil (optional)

Stirred the sugar into the boiling water and let it boil away until it began foaming and frothing.  Once it foamed, I let it boil for about 5 more minutes, then turned the heat off.  Every two minutes or so, the mixture was given a good whisking with a wire whisker, for about twenty minutes or until it became like fudge (you’ll know it’s getting close to fudge-like when it becomes puddingish) . . . . the whisking is crucial toward the fondant making process, so whisk away!  By the time it was fudgy, it had cooled considerably and I left it on the countertop till it was completely cool . . . .  it tastes pretty good  with the orange oil ;0)

What I’m doing with the fondant is icing it onto a screen, which has been staple gunned onto a top bar.  This fondanty bar will be placed into the hive for the bees to eat from.  I made two of them and there’s plenty to refill the empty screen once they’ve eaten it all up.  It’ll go on one end of the hive and should be easy to take out and replace without disrupting the bees too much.  Seems simpler than putting a jar of syrup into the hive.  We’ll find out the reality soon enough!  I’m also going to leave a mason jar filed with syrup, inverted on a chicken watering tray, on top of the hive.  Will refill that as it empties too.  This is the feeding strategy we’ll implement, along with some fondant mixed with bee pollen that’s smashed into patties . . . . these will go on the hive floor.  Sounds like a lot of food, right!?!  After  last time, maybe we’re overdoing it a bit but hopefully they’ll be happy with the offerings and stick around.

Bee dreams

We go through a five gallon bucket of honey every ten months, which we’ve been buying bulk from a local beekeeper.  Last year we thought we’d try beekeeping ourselves, so we visited with the beekeeper who told us most of what we needed to do to keep bees.  First thing was having a beehive.  We had already identified what we wanted out of a hive:  mainly better pollination around the grounds, honey, propolis, wax, and comb, and something that wouldn’t grow out of proportion to the previous goals.  Everything we heard or read about the Langstroth hives indicated that they eventually lead to commercial production, which is not our dreamsong.  While reading all the beekeeping information, we stumbled on a type of hive that seemed ideal for our purposes: a top bar hive, which apparently originated in Greece.

What made us interested in it was the fact that unlike the Langstroth hives, which need more boxes added to them as the hive grows and then new hives set up into which more growth gets transferred, the top bar hive seems easier in terms of management.  Apparently when the colony grows too big, the extra bees can easily be released into the wild; how great is that?!  Also, what appealed to us is the fact that the bees are left to their own instincts as to how they want to set up their colony as opposed to the Langstroth into which pre-drawn foundations are inserted.  Most literature seems to validate that top bar hives are healthier, perhaps because the bees are following their own dreamsong while building their homestead, rather than forced to work with what we have provided for them.  Either way, we settled on a top bar hive rather quickly, and our neighbour . . . . a blacksmith, silversmith, and woodworker by trade . . .. built us one out of locust with the plans we gave him, although we did play with the idea of using a barrel plan instead.  It’s four feet long roughly and has dividers, so we can increase the number of bars as needed.  That was last year and by the time it was done, it was too late to put any bees into it.

Forward to this year.  Our friendly beekeeper got us a box of Italian bees with a queen.  She’s called Elizabeth.  The box was picked up yesterday and brought home.  Along the way a bee suit was borrowed from another beekeeper who lives down the road.  Once suited up, we all checked out the bees  . . . . they were balled up around Elizabeth in a cluster, a quiet cluster . . . . then we followed Michael (the bees are going to be his domain :0) to the hive and watched as got the bees into their new home.  First he banged the box on the ground a few times to loosen the bees up from the cluster they were in.  Then he removed the syrup can and the queen’s cage, after which he poured the bees in  . . . . he had removed four top bars first and he put these back on after the bees were in.  This is when he opened up the queen’s cage, plugging the hole with his fingers while he removed one top bar and released her into the gap from her cage.  Bar back on, he put the metal roof back on and weighed it down with four bricks, leaving behind a small tin of sugar syrup on the roof.  He also left two of the three entrance holes open.  Last night was pretty cold, so we’re assuming they’re huddled inside and keeping warm as we haven’t seen or heard them.  Can’t wait to see where this goes  . . . .

. . . . well, five days later, it went empty; as in we went to take our daily look and the bees were all GONE instead of clustered up on one side like they had been, with a few bees coming and going from the tin can of syrup.  We began thinking over what had happened. First we looked over the hive carefully,  to see if it had been built right.  It was built exactly to the specifications of the design we picked, which was to a hive in use by it’s designer: successfully.  We concluded that the hive is sound.  Location?  We had it placed with a northern windbreak from trees, mostly dappled sunlight and some shade late in the evening, on a flat surface close to a water source but not so close as to be damp …. figured the location was good.  Then we came to food . … we ended up with the realization that a tin of syrup, even replenished daily, is simply not enough to get a hive up and running.  After all, the bees have to draw out their own foundation from the top bars before they can set up house, and a tin of syrup sitting outside suddenly seemed very tinsy and paltry for this task.  From a bees perspective, the hive and location may have been good but if they didn’t have food they’d all be dead, hence they chose to buzz off and find greener pastures.  At least this is what we have concluded.  So when hiving bees, we have learnt that food is extremely crucial and since we’re going to try it again, we have a new plan for the feeding, stay posted to see how that comes about :0)  Suffice it to say, a tin can of sugar syrup daily is probably NOT enough and we will not do it like that again!!!!

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