Bee-Keeping, The Third Year

Fall                                                         Full Autumn Moon

Our revels now have ended.  The very last of the year’s harvest, four-foot long decorative squash and birdhouse style gourds, Kate brought in yesterday. 

The bees are done for the year.  Two colonies will die over the winter and the third, with luck, will survive.  Even if it does, this is my last  year for overwintering colonies.  The part-time, small quantity operation we have here doesn’t justify the extra work of mite treatments, concern over various ailments only caught by colonies that survive from one year to the next and the inhibited production of the colony developing as a parent colony.

Artemis Hives now has two honey harvests under its belt in this, the third year of bee-keeping here.  Kate and I have developed a work flow.  She takes care of wooden ware, uncapping frames and bottling while I put foundations into the frames, manage the colonies, remove the honey supers and bring them to the house and insert them in the extractor.

Three hives, or even two, will make honey enough for us and our friends.  The process is more straightforward after three seasons, now heading into the fourth.  The bees have become part of our life here, like the perennials, the vegetables, the orchard and the dogs before them.

We also have the beginning of a label collection with 2010 and 2011 labels designed and produced by Woolly Mammoth Mark Odegard.

Impish and Knowing

Spring                                                               Waning Bee Hiving Moon

Talked to the grandkids on Skype.  Gabe’s linguistics have made a jump and Ruthie seems to have rocketed past the early years of childhood and landed in an elementary school body.  2011-04-01_0742

Jen went to crossfit this morning.  If you’re not familiar with this gonzo approach to fitness, click on the link.  She’s gonna be tired.

Skype has increased the quality of long distance communication with kids by a geometric factor.  We tickled Gabe, watched Ruth move gracefully through the house.  We saw the expression on Ruth’s face as she dumped out a box of soft building blocks.  It was impish and knowing.  We saw Gabe do his mad face and his happy face.  Wonderful.

I decided the other day that the only way I’m going to get good at Tai Chi is to practice, practice, practice.  I go through the form several times, all the way through the single whip, the last and most complicated move we’ve learned.  Doing it in the morning, as a moving meditation and a general loosening up of the body for the day is where I’m headed.  Right now, though, I’m doing it before I do my aerobics.

The daffodils outside have finally begun to approach the image I had in my head all those years ago when I began to plant bulbs.  My first and most memorable bulb planting event was on Edgcumbe Road in St. Paul.  I began putting them in sometime in the mid-to-late afternoon, just as the snow began to fall.  This turned out to be the Halloween snow storm which eventually dumped 2 feet of snow on the Twin Cities.  I got the message.

Kate made me a quilted piece with a bee and the words Artemis Hives on the side.  I’m going to staple it up in the shed where I store the bee equipment.


Imbolc                                                  Waning Bridgit Moon

Sheepshead tonight.  I took in honey for Ed, Dick, Roy and Bill plus honeycake that Kate made from our honey.  Artemis Hives honors the ancient Greek Goddess of the hunt who also had honeybees within her domain.  Worshippers took to her altar honeycake as an offering.  My original idea was to call Artemis honey, “The honeycake honey” and include honeycake recipe and a bit about Artemis with each sale.  Might still happen, some year.

The card gods were good to me tonight, again.  They gave me three good hands when I dealt, a good position when playing sheepshead.  Ed and Bill both spoke about their wives with Bill reporting the good news that Regina’s cancer score has already begun to trend down after only a brief time on the hormone therapy.  That’s the kind of news it’s good to hear.

Ed’s wife has challenges surrounding a knee replacement gone bad compounded by her other health related issues.  She’s in a transitional living facility right now while they try to calm her body down.

As life goes on, I appreciate more and more the precious nature of the relationships I have at this sheepshead table, at the Museum, among the Sierra Club folks and the Woolly Mammoths.  Each place enriches me and gives me a place to just be, be who I am.  What a gift.

So, good night to you and to Artemis Hives matron Goddess.

Bee Diary: Honey in the Jar

Lughnasa                                    Waning Artemis Moon

The waning Artemis moon has a golden hue tonight, honey colored, as it sits on the northeastern horizon.  A band of clouds created two dark lines, parallel to each other and about a third of the way down.  It looked like a view of the moon from an ukiyo-e print.

We have bottled our first honey.  Those four frames from the package colony, not even full frames at that, yielded almost a full gallon of honey.  We strained it through a coarse, medium and fine filter and put it into half pint jars for the most part.  It looks beautiful and very satisfying.  Artemis Hives has begun to produce.  I think I’ll tip a half-pint out in the woods to honor the namesake goddess.

Tomorrow I’ll work first on the divide, since I know it has very little honey in the supers.  It plugged up the third hive box with honey back in late May, early June.  After that I’ll move to the parent colony.  The parent colonies produce the most honey because they are vigorous and are not storing honey for the next year.  It will be interesting to see how much we get from the parent colony since next year, if everything goes well, we’ll have two parent colonies and two divides.  Four colonies should produce plenty of honey for our own use and to give as gifts.

It’s going to be hot with dewpoints in mid-70s.  That’s good for working with the honey because it flows well when the temperatures are high; that’s bad for working with the bees because I have to wear a veil at least.

We bolted the honey extractor to the deck instead of using the honey house.  Did that for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s much further from the colonies and second, it’s much closer to the kitchen.  Also, the mess, and it is a messy process, can be contained with drop cloths.

And I Just Sat Down And Wrote This

Summer                                    Waxing Grandchildren Moon

Night again.  Serenity.  That place to fall into where the universe catches you, holds you in its arms, then you remember that the universe is your body and those arms are your arms and so you sleep.

There are bad things out there:  Democrats pulled back the climate bill.  Geez, guys and gals.  The oil well may be capped but the oil gushed into the gulf cannot be played backwards into the hole.  Only in the movies.  Bernanke said we may face years of a restricted labor market.  And the Republicans want to deny unemployment benefits.  One of the greatest ironies in modern political history may be the news about Cheney’s health.  He could need a heart transplant.  More like an implant.

There are good things out there:  Financial regulation passed.  It’s weaker than it should have been, but it is.  I finished the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  The garlic is ready to bring in and Artemis Hives has produced its first honey.  Blooms fell off the potatoes so we should get some new potatoes in two weeks.  The World Cup is over.  Football training camps begin soon.

We live in a world which we did not make, a life we did nothing to gain and move toward an end we do not comprehend.   To make your way here a clear eye, a straight heart line, a curious mind and a poetic soul will help.

A Herd Remnant

Summer                                               Waxing Grandchildren Moon

The thundering herd of 11 Woolly Mammoths had dwindled to 5 by the time it found the outer reaches of urbia, the ex part.  Tom, Bill, Frank, Mark and Stefan joined me to make 6 of us for the July 2010 meeting.  Kate put together sandwiches, hor d’oeuvres, her rhubarb pudding with nutmeg cream sauce and various vegetables.  The food kept us all this side of the tar pit for another 24 hours.

We had a pre-meal excursion through the dog-proofed garden and over to Artemis Hives.  Various questions were asked and some were answered.  Most kept a respectful distance from the now upwards of 100,000 total bees at work.  It was fun to share the bee keeping work and the colonies with the crew.

Since I learned the cut comb method of honey extracting from Linda’s Bees, I gave each Woolly an aluminum foil square with the first ever Artemis Honey to leave the hives.  It was a signal moment for me and a highlight of my evening.

We checked in, discussed the natural world and listened to a couple of excerpts from “Hair”, reminiscing as we did about the 60’s, that moment in our lives, the unusual and powerful forces at work then.  Woolly Scott plays drums in a rendition of Hair directed by his son in Carbondale, Colorado.  He will be out there the whole month of July and shared some powerful emotional moments he has already had mounting this late 60’s classic musical.

The second picture itself took me back to those times.  I had forgotten the pure, animal joy of having long hair and flinging it around to the Doors, or Led Zepplin or the tunes from Hair.  Being stoned helped, too.

Mark Odegard, our only dam lock keeper, reported on his 7 pm to 7 am shifts at the #1 lock and dam.  There is a peregrine falcon nest nearby and he has observed the rearing of two peregrine chicks, including a late phase in which they peck so fiercely at their parents that the parents stand outside the nest and drop food into the razor beaked young.  I have known parents of adolescents who might have benefited from the example.

He also saw one chick’s first flight, a tumbling, gliding, clumsy landing affair.  Night on the river casts a spell, he says, and all down there succumb.

Kate and I, introverts by nature and preference, have just finished a week with the grandkids and their parents followed immediately by several days of preparation for visitors.  It wore us out.  We got up, ate breakfast, went back to bed and got up again around noon.  I’ll probably get another nap in before workout time.  Next time we’re going to have a cook, a cleaner and a gardener.

It is quiet here now.  Blessedly so.