Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Throw back Thursday...a little cuckoo

My grandfather passed away three years ago at the age of 92.  
When my father was in the service and dating my mother, he was stationed in Germany.

He brought two cuckoo clocks home with him.  One for his girl(my mom) 
and one for her parents(my dad was no dummy).

When my grandfather passed, we had the job of cleaning out his house.  We all got together at his house.  We relived old memories, it was very healing.  It was the house they raised their children in and welcomed grandchildren and great grandchildren to.

There were only a few things that I really wanted.  A bench, 
the cuckoo clock and Christmas decorations.

I felt like the clock was link to my Dad and my grandparents.  It isn't the fanciest of cuckoo clocks out there, but I just loved it.  I have always loved cuckoo clocks and I think a lot of it has to do with hearing the story about how my dad brought the clock home from Germany.

My mom had found a guy who tuned it up for my grandfather before he passed.  It was important for my mom that the clock work for him as she knew he was not long to be with us.  The clock man told my mom that the clock was missing a trim piece on the top.  He tried very hard to find the piece to put the clock back as it should be but couldn't find it. My grandfather couldn't remember whatever happened to the piece.

Three years later, this past October I was at our town's Octoberfest.  The historical society in town always has a barn sale.  Honestly there is usually just a bunch of junk but I like to try to support them and buy something.  This October, I hit the jackpot.

I saw this box and heart skipped a beat.

The clock was a mess.  Missing the little hand and all.
But it had the piece!
I bought the box for $20. I would have paid more.
How could it be that it was mid afternoon that this box was still there.
I truly believe there was a little Devine intervention
or at least my grandfather pushed me in the direction of the box and 
everyone else away from it.

I got it home, cleaned it up and then
the moment of truth.
It fit and everything is now as it should be.

It makes me so happy every time I walk by it.
I always make sure if we have a family gathering at my house
that the clock is wound.
Every 30 minutes there is a cuckoo to remind us that my
grandparents are still with us.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

hope lost...the day my bee hive died.

Sometime between January 13th and February 1st my bees perished.  I called them the Delta Nu's like the little sorority of sisters they were.  The had kicked out the frat boys(drones) for the winter and hunkered down to try to make a go of it in this very cold New England winter.

The Delta Nu's had the deck stacked against them.  They superseded their original Queen in August.  RIP Queen Talulah and enter Queen Lucy.  Because they made their own queen and would not accept the Queen I tried to introduce (Queen Wilbanks) I had to wait them out and hope for the best.

Their numbers dropped but then Queen Lucy began laying eggs like gangbusters and the Delta Nu's seemed very happy.  I thought they might have a chance.

I didn't think they would make it through the polar vortex, but when they did I had new hope for their survival.

My son and I were excited to see the girls fly on Saturday as we were due for temps in the 40's.  When we saw no bees flying the first part of the day I knew something was wrong and this is what I found.

all dead, not an ounce of life left.

It was very sad, but it is nature and life. 
No guarantees.

The my hive was like the little hive that could until it couldn't.  
This has been a tough winter and I knew it would be a challenge for them to make it.

I have dusted my self and picked myself up.
I have ordered my packages of bees for the spring and will start a second hive too.

Hope springs eternal.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bees of hope...

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the polar vortex up and left.
My man knew I was worried about my bees and the extreme cold.

He sent me this text
on that warm balmy day On January 13 when the temperature
crept up to 43 degrees.

I thought phew! We made it through.  Smooth sailing to spring thinking
we would not see temps that cold again. Well...think again.
It is freezing AGAIN.  Temps in the single digits.

I saw our state bee inspector(Ken) tonight at a lecture he gave at my kid's school.
We are very lucky that he lives a town over from us and is 
always very available for any help or mentoring.
He keeps hives near my house and I have been able to go check his hives with him.  
Just a wealth of information.
He has over 60 years experience keeping bees.
He has worked on the Harvard Bee Study, 
the USDA Bee Study and the NASA Bee Study.
It is fascinating to hear about the studies he is involved in.

When I started my hive last spring he told me to take some advice that new
beekeepers don't want to hear.  He told me to use 3 deep hive boxes.  
Rather than two deeps followed by a honey super.
The trick he explained will give me another deep box of frames with drawn our 
comb for expanding to a new hive.  Or if I have a swarm and I am lucky enough to catch it, I will have drawn frame all ready for a queen to lay eggs in.  
Drawn out deep frames are like gold.  Just think about the jump start a new hive will have with a few frames already fully drawn out and ready for the queen to lay her eggs in.
The trade always things come with a trade off and that meant 
no honey harvest for me this year.
I left it all in the hive.  I actually had to spin out some frames in the fall.  We had a crazy
nectar flow in September and my hive became honey bound.  I was able to spin out the nectar and freeze it.  Then after the nectar flow stopped, 
I fed it back to them and they were very happy.

I am worried about my hive and honey stores with this cold.
The bees need energy to heat the cluster and 
that means they are eating a lot of their honey.
 I worried about going into my hive in this cold.  
Ken told me to get in there and to check for honey stores.
I know what I am looking for.  If the cluster is still low in the hive I still have honey as they will work their way up.
If the bees are high up in the hive, get a sugar patty in there.
I was a little overwhelmed with the things I was reading about sugar boards people make.  
It just seems complicated!
Ken assured me that they are not necessary, just make a sugar patty and that way I can get it closer to the cluster.  I have a spacer I can use if I need to so there will be clearance for the  sugar patty.

Mission this weekend...Get into that hive!
I will let you know how it all goes.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Huan ying (literal translation - welcome exchange student with the offending odor)

Welcome to Zixun (aka Max).  
He is a 7th grade student staying with us from China until Thursday.
We are not new to the exchange student thing, we had Jack from Korea last year.
  That was interesting.
I'm gonna be honest, regardless of where these kids come from they are still teenage boys.
They are like herding cats.

Poor Max. He does not understand a lick of English.
I showed him 3 times how the shower works cause guess what, the kid needs a shower.
He is a stinky 13 year old boy and 
there is always one thing that can effect the way I interact with people and that is smell.

I am not proud, just being honest.  If you stink, I will still talk to you if I have to, 
but it is very difficult for me to have a poker face.  
I used to work with this guy who had halitosis. It was so distracting.  
All I could think of was the poor person who had to pucker up and kiss that stink.
I also will not buy anything I don't like the smell of.  Lip gloss, moisturizer, you name it. If it doesn't pass the smell test, forget about it.


This was a last minute thing and my kids were already booked to go on a ski weekend with boy scouts.   I didn't think it would be that big of a deal.  Now I have Max and he seems very confused and very overwhelmed. I have tried to explain that I have two boys and they will be home tomorrow.  I don't think he gets it. I think that he thinks he is stuck with this old lady (isn't everyone old when you are 13?) He doesn't like cookies. He doesn't like tv. It is snowing here so we are in for the night. We have a puzzle started and he was very excited when he saw that.  He worked on it for and hour.  I sat down wind and watched a little tv.  After an hour I don't think he got one piece. 

Interesting is about the only word that comes to mind... Interesting.

He has been in the states for a week so he isn't dealing with the exhaustion of travel and time change.  I think he is now dealing with the "holy shit" moment that he isn't in Kansas China anymore. 

Here's hoping Max is smelling as fresh as a daisy tomorrow and
 we find some adventures he will enjoy.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

moving on with thoughts of spring chicks...

The snow is falling, 14" is forecasted to fall overnight. 
Now that football is over for me I am left with a little bit of a void.  
If my Pats made it to the Super Bowl there would have been two additional weeks of football fun before the truly cold  hard reality of winter hit.  
The post season is such bliss until it isn't.  
It just wasn't in the cards this year.  
It is time for this New England chick to rally.  It is only January for cripes sake! 
I don't care what the ground hog says, winter is just long here, shadow or no shadow.

However along with the cold it is also catalogue time.  
Seeds, plants, chicks and bees, oh my!
Just what this chick needs to rally a snowy day away.  

We have a few plans this year.  We plan to get some additional egg layers.  
Our girls have hit the two year mark.  Their production just ain't like it used to be.
I had to.....(gulp) wait for it....
I had to buy eggs to make Christmas cookies this year!!!
Now I love my girls, but I thought we had an understanding.

Anywho, time to order some hens and decide on meat birds.
I have decided after last year that I will only order my chicks from McMurray hatchery.  
Last year we ordered our meat birds from Meyers and we lost 5 chicks out of 35 before 2 weeks.  
Some losses are to be expected but that was just too many.  
I have to honest, comparing past years, I just think the McMurray has better stock, gene pool I guess.  
I really know nothing about gene pools and stock.  All I know is my observations and that is what I believe.  I will also only go with Cornish Roasters.  The X Rocks are big, but I think the Cornish seem healthier and taste delish!
Though we only have the meat birds for 6 weeks from chick to butcher, it is a commitment.  
They eat, they poop, they drink ALL DAY!
That means lots of clean water, lots of food and lots of fresh shavings. 

They come home from the post office...

Oh they are so cute...

They then transition from "so cute" to sitting by the water or food all day.  Some of the bigger ones will try to position themselves between the water and the food for the least amount of movement to fill their faces.

The fateful day arrives.  I thank each of them before they get crated up, that is my job.  Calm is the mantra, we don't want any chickens stressed on the way to the butcher.

My Dad's dump truck is the best for this job.  Easy to load, easy to clean out.

We purchased the two large white crates at a ridiculous amount of money(I think $60 plus shipping per crate) My husband made the wooden one and then we improvise with the milk crates.  The white ones are the best because of the height.  They just plop down and don't try to walk around.

We wire tie cardboard on the tops of the milk crates.  We use the milk crates for the bigger meaner birds that might be aggressive or for smaller ones that might need a little protection on the ride.

It is a 25 minute ride there, which my husband does.  I stay back and clean the coop.  After about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours they come home ready to be weighed, ziploced and frozen.  
We do rinse them when they get home before we bag them.

Being prepared is the key.  We have everything ready the night before so things go smoothly the morning of. Since it is summer we are also sure to have lots of ice for the ride home.

It is a lot of work but I think worth it. 
Time to get ordering, that 5:45am call will come from the post office before we know it.