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 off...as 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. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ready for some football!

This New England girl is soooo ready for football tonight!
The rain is pouring where I live, about 45 minutes away from Gilette Stadium.  My house is like the calm before the storm.  Friends will be here soon, 
I am hydrating now cause there is gonna be some drinking and eating up in here!
One game at a time in the post season.  I am so excited we have made it this far.
The kielbasa is ready...
and we couldn't have a big game without these(thank you pioneer woman)

It is a little strange playing the Colts with no Peyton Manning.  Have I said how much
I hate really dislike Peyton Manning.  I really don't like any Mannings for that matter.  I even have a 
neighbor called Manning and I don't like her either. 
Now I know I sound like a hater, but we all have our own idiosyncrasies and 
this is just one of mine.
Here are more...
I am waiting for friends to get here.  Not too many, it takes away from the game and I miss stuff with too many people over.
Commercials are the time to talk.
None of my extended family will be at my house.  The Pats seem to lose when we are all together and they are all too superstitious to come over.  
I don't like beer but I will drink beer when football is on.
My kids don't like football but I make them watch a little with me anyways.
I really don't like the Saints (though I have a deep affection for the city). Their coach has
sneaky eyes.  Don't trust someone as far as I can throw them with eyes like that.

That's my story and I am sticking to it!

All I can say is Go Pats!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Glogg...it does a body good

Yes, it is freezing!  We luckily have not had the snow in Massachusetts that other places have gotten, but it is freaking freezing!  On days like this, there is only one thing to do and that is drink and I love to drink Glogg.  It is the Swede in me.  It connects me to my family.  The recipe was handed down to me from my grandfather.  It is the sure thing to send you off for a nice winter's nap and it doesn't hurt that it is so yummy!

I down loaded the app A Beautiful Mess

and turned the above picture of my Glogg into this...


Monday, January 6, 2014

The Crawleys & the ill-fated reign of Queen Wilbanks

Oh Crawley family... I have missed you so.

I am just hooked and have been since the beginning.  Downton is just another world that I love to visit.  
I can't wait to see where this season takes us. 

Watching Downton last night reminded me of a little 'royal' drama I had this past August.  I began bee keeping this past year.  We went on vacation in August for 2 weeks.  Everything looked good before we left but there was succession afoot!

Long story short, it appeared that my bees tried to make a new queen and offed the old one, poor Queen Talulah(rest her tiny little bee soul).  However, offing Queen Talulah is fine if there is a new queen laying eggs, but there was no sign of a new queen and my hive was in danger of dwindling and not making it through the winter.

Enter Queen Wilbanks...

She was beautiful and as lovely as her name implies with a Tiffany blue dot on her back to mark her.  I was warned to keep her extra safe.  The worry was that there was a queen in the hive, although not being productive.  I was told I would know or should know pretty quick.  What my bees told me was that they were 'all set'.  They didn't need no hoity toity Queen Wilbanks coming in.  They made their own queen and she was going to start laying in her own sweet time, which of course she did... 2 days after I paid the $25 for Queen Wilbanks.  There were a few bees that just plunked down on that queen cage and tried to sting her.  It was fascinating and here is how it went down...

What this past year of beekeeping has taught me is to trust my instincts.  My bees were never aggressive but I noticed a hugh change with them once Queen Talulah was gone.  They were calm as could be.  When I would open the hive they were like, "Oh, Hi" and then just go about their business.  That is the sign of a happy hive and a hive is happy because they are happy with their queen.  

Queen Wilbanks was passed on to another bee keeper in need of a queen.  Now I have Queen Lucy.  A little scrappy and knows her roots.  She is a queen hailing from the great state of Massachusetts.  I am hopeful she will pull the girls through the winter and we will have a happy hive come spring.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

back on the blog... and a question of "Sponge worthy"

It has been a long time, but I am back.  I have thought a bunch of times about jumping back into blogging, but where to start, what to say? Blog the good? Blog the bad?  I again thought about this last night while playing pitch in only the crazy rowdy way my family plays cards.  There were 12 of us.  It gets a little loud and gets a little crazy! Since it is still the holidays, my mother had this table cloth out on display.

It reminded me that life is all of it, the good, the bad and the ugly (along with a many other adjectives, but you get the point)

This table cloth was started by my grandmother in 1953 and continued by my mother after my grandmother passed.  Christmas and New Years my grandmother would have family and friends sign it.  Then she would embroider over the signature.  Immediate family included pets names as well(obviously).  There are our young signatures as kids and our adult signatures all grown up and some with our married last names.  Our children have shown up once they were old enough to sign it.  They are the great grandchildren of the woman who started it all.   After 60 years the table cloth has seen many changes with people who have come in and out of the lives of our family members.  There are the ex-wives and ex-girlfriends of my cousin and uncle.  There are friends so dear and some friends not so much.

The conversation over cards then turned to 'Who is signature worthy?' and it reminded me of Seinfield and Elaine's classification of men.  Either they were 'sponge worth' or they were not.

Now,  I know there are a few signatures I would rather not remember but, we all came to the same conclusion.  The table cloth is a true history of us.  The ex's, the friends not as dear as they once were and then the treasure trove of signatures of all the special family, friends and pets who have touched us and left their imprint on our hearts and souls.  

My grandmother didn't judge who was signature worthy, she just had them sign and thankfully so as we are left with a true family treasure and a unique view of our history.  In blogging or scrapbooking,  you can omit and overlook things you would rather not recall.  Remembering the not so good can be just as important as remembering the good.  It tells you where you have been and shows you where you are going.

Happy New Year!