Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Adventures in Beekeeping

Since the day my package bees were ordered, I have done nothing but wait until May 4th to arrive. I’ve done reading, asked many questions of those that have more experience, and attended lectures with Chase (he and I have poured over the same books). The days leading up to “Bee Day” I watched the weather, made plans on what we would do if it were to be raining, and prepped all of our gear. Chase and I decided on the way we thought was best to install our bees, and planned for the best.
Two days before we picked up our bees, we set out our apiary (to prepare the neighbors for the eventuality of our beekeeping), checked our suits, and I made fondant patties to feed them.
The morning of “Bee Day” we took our time having breakfast, wandered to the coffee shop for special drinks, and looked over one of our books again just to make sure we were satisfied with our plan. The bees were an hour one-way trip for us, and we were both nervous and excited about our adventure.
There is something to be said arriving at a supplier to pick up bees. There were two farm trucks ahead of us picking up 25 packages of bees apiece. The sight, the sounds, the smells, all of it was amazing to be a part of. Chase was admittedly a bit nervous about a package of bees riding in the back of the car back home. I was still keeping an eye to the sky (even though the weather was supposed to be clear). On the way back home we chatted about what we would do if we were stung and how we would react *ahem*.
My biggest concern was that I didn’t just want to dump and run the bees. I wanted to make sure they all got in there and had plenty of supplemental food. I feared they wouldn’t have anything to eat outside of the hive because we still were in the early parts of spring and the weather was cold, and that they would starve in the first two weeks. Ultimately in the end we decided to also put the syrup can that came with them into the hive and put a second, empty super on top of the first one. 
Koda is fascinated with the bees!
Installation went amazingly well. Our neighbor asked questions from a distance (something I wouldn’t have minded so much if I wasn’t handling over 10,000 bees – but at least she wasn’t afraid!), and Chase and I worked together to get Daisy (I named her after my favorite Downton Abbey character), and her colony in to their new home. Satisfied with the installation, we left the open container with a few stragglers outside the apiary and stood back to watch. It didn’t take long for the bees to signal to those still not inside that this was their new home. Amazing. 

She can go up to the apiary and stick her nose right in the entrance!
Chase is becoming a great beekeeper!
They're absolutely amazing to watch!

It was a busy morning!
I think the hardest part of beekeeping is the hands-off part. Waiting two weeks until I could check on them was utterly agonizing. I attended the bee seminar at WWOW where I got my bee fix, not to mention I found an apiary webcam and watch bees whenever I need a bee fix. Like "Bee Day", the two week mark where we could go in and check the apiary was just as exciting.
After graduation, Chase and I suited up and prepped our tools to go into the hive. What we found was beautiful comb built up on the inner lid of the hive, not the provided comb. 

The bees did exactly what they do: they built up. But it wasn't what I wanted them to do! I had followed the instructions from the book (and from the local beekeeping group) and now we were in trouble. I carefully put the lid back down and covered the hive and quickly texted my aunt to ask my uncle questions on what to do. Through our phone call he confirmed why they did what they did, and gave advice as to how we could handle the situation. Chase and I suited up again and went back out to fix things in the hive.

Our peeking in the hive earlier had jarred two of the combs that they had built and they had fallen onto the frames below. Chase and I worked to clear the bees off the combs to scrape them off the inner lid. Only after that did I think to check the fallen comb (and I really think the queen was located on one of those two fallen ones).

At this point I realized that wearing sandals to tend to the bees was probably not the greatest of ideas. I saw the bee go in my sandal, I felt it, and I reacted instinctively. Yup. Stung. Oh my .. I was stung when I was little but I didn't remember it. And everything Chase and I had said about if we got stung about reaction went out the window. I yelled. I cursed. I didn't run around, but I did call for Mom to come out and remove the stinger from my toe for me. I'm happy to say that I am not allergic to bees, but my toe smarts!

Chase was standing at the hive, scraping the rest of the comb from the lid and I begged Steve (who has wanted to have a hands-off part in the beekeeping) to suit up and help Chase. Steve did, and he said it was an amazing experience to be working with the bees, to listen to them humming away and being so close to them. I think he just may be hooked. :-)
Right now I have no idea what the status of our queen is. I carefully looked over the pieces of the comb, taking in account that there were a few squished victims between the larvae-heavy pieces of comb. I saw one bee that was definitely not a drone, but might possibly have been the queen or a worker. Our supplier does not mark the queens, and she was so badly injured I can't say if it was Daisy or not. Chase and I went into the hive briefly the next day and on the 6th frame there was quite a bit of activity in one corner. Chase and I are hoping that she didn't get squished and was back at work laying. 
This weekend we're going to check on the hive again. If I don't see signs of her I'll have to find someone who has queens for sale. We're fighting the clock on this, and I don't want an entire hive lost.

These busy days

I have once again neglected my spot in the blogosphere and I feel guilty for doing so. I have been reading (and commenting) as usual, but my own writing has fallen to the wayside. Journaling in general has taken a back seat to recent activities (I realized last week that it had been a month since I updated Chase’s journal…oops). Part of it is because I have been busy with end of semester dealings, part of it has to do with things being busy at work, and another part is that I felt I didn’t have much to share and therefore I just didn’t write at all. Steve has been spending most of his time out of town with work so after I get home from work, and from picking up Chase, I usually found myself grabbing a quick dinner and settling in to knit (there is always room for knitting) and watch TV.
Now that things have quieted down (somewhat), I am hoping I can get back on a somewhat regular blogging schedule. I knew back in the middle of March when I came down with bronchitis that I would be heading into a busy spring (of course these are the things one thinks about when they’re sick instead of, you know, getting better).
In April I was hoping to have all of my classwork for the semester done by the time we went to Traverse City, Michigan for the annual spring barbershop convention. One class was complete, but leading up to the day we left for Traverse City, I still had to wait to finish a class (turns out the final wasn’t available until the first week in May, so I was far ahead of the game).
Spring convention was an eye-opening experience for all the choruses who went. Steve’s chorus came in 5th this year; a disappointing blow to their cumulative egos especially considering they had been coached for months beforehand (to be fair all of the performing choruses scored worse this year than the past year by roughly 3 points each – I think it’s because there were two new judges). But it seems that they are going to pick themselves up by the boot strings, dust off their keisters, and work harder for next year.
Traverse City was a wonderful experience for me. I’ve never been before and I was looking forward to seeing this part of Michigan. I had already researched a coffee house and a yarn shop (priorities!) and was not disappointed by either. It actually snowed our first night there. When we left on Sunday to come home, Steve took me out to where the cherry orchards were and I got to see all those lovely trees. I’d love to go back again during their cherry festival and see everything in bloom.
The first weekend of May brought with it one of my dreams coming true: It was Bee Day! I'll write more about beekeeping and the adventures/mishaps we have had since that day in another post.
Mother’s Day weekend I went to WWOW again with Dale. She and I had an excellent time together. The weather was chilly (we had frost Sunday morning and Monday morning!), but overall it didn’t put a freeze on our good spirits. We’re both hoping to go back again next year with my Mom with us.
I think what was so different about the beginning of May was that Mom was not here for our birthday. This is the first time in many years that she has not been here, but don't fret, it was for a good reason. Mom opted to come in after Mother's Day to be here for my graduation. She just went back to Indiana today and I miss her terribly. This visit didn't seem like it was very long, and the fact that for two days there was lots of activity and family gathered, I think it felt even shorter.

Graduation. Technically I graduated and received my degree back in December. The school only walks students once a year so this was a delayed celebration. Up until the night before, I honestly was more excited about it being two weeks since the bees arrived compared to walking (I really will get that post up!). Maybe it was because I had earned my degree already so I wasn’t stressed to the end of finals hoping to pass. I’m not sure, but I only had a slight flitter of a butterfly as we were finally entering the stadium and from that moment on, I spent my time smiling and enjoying the day. My brother, Adam, and his girlfriend Candace, actually came up from Indiana to watch me graduate. Dad and Fara came from DE, of course. Add in Steve, Chase, Mom, and Steve’s parents and I had quite the cheering section. One of my co-workers also was graduating so we sat together and cheered for each other. It was nice to have a familiar face in a sea of graduates! My brother and his girlfriend and Dad and Fara all went home Sunday afternoon. 
When did Chase get so tall??

While Mom was here I took a day off from work so we could go to my newest favorite yarn shop in Plymouth, MI and also visit the farmers’ market that is held on our street. Unfortunately my work hours will prevent me from visiting the market this summer, so I wanted to get a visit in and see the new vendors while I could. I will probably need to take some time off later in the summer so I can see all of the fruits and veggies that come in to season!

Of course while Mom was here we spent much time knitting and sipping coffee at the local spot. She is busy working on my Christmas sweater and I am working on a cowl for myself (I’ll share more info on the Yarn Along post). Mom also decided to put her Cajun cookbook we gave her for Christmas to good use and ordered in crawfish to make etouffee. Chase was hopeful to rescue one of the crawfish from the boiling pot and keep it as a pet in his aquarium, but sadly the crawfish did not live for more than a day. I also learned out that I have apparently developed an allergy to shellfish. I find this extremely disappointing as I do enjoy shrimp (and this is something I am going to have to remember for the future). 

And now the house is quiet again. Steve had to head out of town for work on Sunday, but is due back in tonight and is working locally for the rest of the week. Chase has been keeping himself busy with Scouts and end of the school year activities. Hard to believe he is on the cusp of being a middle-schooler.

I think that is about it for updates save for those additional posts I need to make... ;-)