Finally, a couple of fully sunny days. In the morning I feed the chickens, move the chicks into their mini coop, then set up the solar oven and the wax. Here’s how I do it (with thanks to LDSPrepper).

Bucket of wax, rinsed several times to get most of the honey off. This is a mix of brood, honey and burr comb:

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Pan with an inch of water:

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Cover it with cotton (tied with a rubber band):
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Put paper towel on top, this is the filter:

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Add the wax:

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Set in homemade solar oven:

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Wait all day, turning the oven to the path of the sun once in a while. It goes up to 200F in there. Till you get this:

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And underneath it, beautiful yellow wax:

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Now that I know that it works, I need to scale this up. We got a lot of wax from the beekeeper but it all needs more filtering if we’re going to make candles out of it. I’m on the hunt for the largest pan that will fit that old kitchen cabinet/solar oven.

Yesterday was a bee kind of day for me. I write “kind of” because I didn’t actually get to work with bees, but almost the entire day was related to them.

In the morning Katharina and I (accompanied by her two so well-behaved, understanding-beyond-their-age youngest daughters) met at the deCordova Museum. Our mission was to entice the bees, most of whom were still stuck in the transfer device (since Tuesday), to move into the Haven.

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Katharina – who also blogged this too – climbed up the ladder and squirted some honey and lemongrass essential oil into the top entrance of the Haven.

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Nothing happened. Then she smoked the bees.

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No change. I snapped pictures and stood by with my smoker, wickedly smoking that glorious-scented sumac berry smoke.

Then the four of us got in the car and drove to Tyngsboro to buy some more bee equipment and chat with our bee mentor Rick, who always has a good bee yarn. Once he was at the Topsfield Fair and a couple of teenage girls asked him: so what’s the difference between a drone and a worker bee? Rick answered: “It’s the difference between you and me.” “You mean young and old?” was the reply. He laughed saying he had asked for that one! As we pulled out of his driveway, hundreds of free nursery bees who were taking care of fifty caged queens in a cardboard box on the wall, billowed out. Rick came out, smiling. “They do that every day,” he said with such fondness for these bees. “They swarm but the queens don’t follow, so in half an hour they’ll all be back.” We also met a bee removal carpenter who showed us his nifty home-made bee vac. Never a dull moment!

We drove straight back to deCordova. Still no change. Katharina had been on the phone consulting with Jarrett, the artist, and others, trying to find a solution. If these bees were stuck in the transfer device, they’d surely perish. Jarrett then suggested Katharina climb up there and pry off the small panel on top.

So, the smoker was lit again, the school groups at the museum settled down on the lawns to watch, and Katharina climbed up, but not before I “blessed” her with smoke, thinking it might keep the bees off her if they got angry. But when she got the panel off, the expected riot didn’t happen. The bees slowly walked out and up the Haven front face to the top hole.

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By evening they had all climbed in. We’ll return tomorrow to take the transfer device off so we can examine it for signs of what might have happened, and (if it seems okay) to fix it so we can use if for the next swarm. Swarm season, so rumor has it, has begun!

OVER FIVE YEARS OF RIOT!

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This is the Riot for Abundance for Jan-May 2104. I know. I didn’t keep details for each month, so this is a mix of cold and warm months but averages will have to do. We had two extra adults for a while, but mostly it was for the three of us (two adults, one eight-year-old). Edson fixed the calculator: all go tither to crunch those numbers! And here’s another fun website for the mathematically inclined: Do the Math.

Gasoline.  Calculated per person.

15 gallons pp. per month

36.5% of the US National Average

Electricity. This is reckoned per household, not per person. We cook on an electric stove, had seedlings under lights and on a heat mat for three months, and chicks under a heat lamp for two – accordingly, we usually use the most electricity from March to May.
According to our solar meter, we produced 13749 kWh since the system was turned on in August 2011 and 1831 kWh over the last five months (you can follow our solar harvest live here).  The month of February was particularly horrible: even if the panels hadn’t been encased in snow, this dark dark month wouldn’t have done much better. Check out this graph, of our year-to-date production:
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.As a result of this , we had to buy 857 kWh from Nstar. Our consumption of this amount plus what we produced oourselves (and subsequently consumed), comes to:

537.6 kWh per month

29.7% of the US National Average

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household. It was co-old in the early months of the year. Since the solar hot water panels (installed in February last year) were just as ice-locked as the PV, the furnace also took care of most of the hot water.

 30.81 gallons of oil / month

51% of the US National Average

Water. This is calculated per person. We continue doing well in this category, and I don’t know how.

524 gallons pp. per month

17.5% of the US National Average

Trash. After recycling and composting this usually comes down to mainly food wrappers.

6 lbs. pp per month

4.4 % of the US National Average 

Today I got a call from fellow beek Katharina, who had gotten a call from Haven artist Jarrett Mellenbruch, that a swarm had been caught in Beverly, MA and was on its way to the deCordova Museum. (Read how I got involved in this project in the first place. here)

I gathered my equipment and suit and jumped in the car to meet them. I arrived having missed the pouring of the swarm from the bucket into the transfer device (Katharina has a picture of this on her blog), but was in time to see the bees in that box brought up to their Haven.

The device has a nifty 3D printed top part (purple) with a funnel that fits with precision into the slot in the Haven box.

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Brian, who had caught and brought the swarm, climbed up the ladder to install it. Katharina belayed. The museum had already closed, so there was a small audience.

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We stood around waiting for the bees to move in. So far the cold weather had worked to our advantage, making the bees cluster and walk around a bit stunned. It helps to not have them fly all over the place. But now they were clustering inside the device. It was also getting darker.

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Here is Katharina checking whether the bees are moving into the Haven.

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We had hoped they’d crawl in pretty fast, but then it started raining and the device didn’t seem to empty out. So we decided to leave it there and come back in the morning.

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Here’s Jarrett’s plaque:

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And here’s Katharina, waving hello:

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I’ll update tomorrow. Hopefully these bees will like their new home. Also, now that swarm season has started, we’ll hopefully have a second swarm soon to put into Haven no.2.

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Yesterday Wayland Walks, a very active offshoot of Transition Wayland, arranged a long mushroom walk with author/adventurer/mycologist Lawrence, aka Larry, Millman (picture). It was packed with discoveries, learning and humor, as Larry has a great way of sharing his knowledge and is a fountain of mushroom lore.

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It had rained just before the walk so I had fresh mushrooms growing on the wood chips in my garden paths. I plucked one and brought it, and Larry identified it as…

King Stropheria, aka Winecap

Well. That’s the mycelium I purchased and then “sowed” in 2012 (blog post here) and that never materialized, where I had sowed them, at least. So I doubt this is that mycelium, but somehow that’s what was growing on these wood chips.

Larry called them “Grade B Edibles,” but he couldn’t dampen my joy. My mycology hobbyist neighbor had said not to eat them (she never eats the gilled mushrooms, as the majority aren’t edible). Larry would say: they might edible, but they might be the last thing you eat. But so these are edible.

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I plucked another one this morning and made this spore print of it. Wild!

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Seems like ages ago when last year in August I harvested all those plump sumac berries from our Town’s Dump. I cut them up, then put them on screens in my storage attic, and forgot about them till last week. I went up there and brought the berries down.

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I was worried the berries weren’t dry enough, until I lit them in the smoker. They were easy to light with the help of some paper.

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With only a few puffs and no reloading, they smoldered and smoked for a good 30 minutes. The smoke also smelled great (better than burlap, my usual go-to fuel), and it was thick but cool.

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I’ll be harvesting more berries come Summer!

Over the weekend it started. The non-stop tiny patter-patter of black specks raining down from on high. You stand still and listen and it sounds like fizzing.

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We thought they were seeds on the patio, as much as possible under the umbrella, and didn’t think much of it, except : what fecundity! Billions of seeds!

Fecundity is about right! It’s inchworm poop! It’s these guys:

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Making this:

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It is covering everything. It crunches underfoot on the patio stones. When wet it stains brown.

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It’s not good to have so many inchworms, or cankerworms, in your garden. Not, IMO, because they get into your hair and clothes (and ears!), or ruin the BBQ or a drink left uncovered by adding protein, but because they’re obviously having themselves a banquet. So far only the big adult trees are their feast, but they’ll survive (I’m told). The as yet small hazels and the cherry tree are suffering too and them I’ll spray with an organic pest-repellent. Everything else seems fine, so far. I’m trying to find the positive side to this: this poop must be pretty good fertilizer, don’t you think?

About a month ago a man calls me up on the phone. “You’re a hard person to find!” is the first thing he says to me! “So how did you find me then?” is the first thing I say to him (after “hello?”). “Librarian.” So I knew it was about bees.

Bob is an elderly gentleman who is about to move out of my town after decades of living here. He also used to be a beekeeper, until about ten years ago. Now he was cleaning out his basement and wanted his bee equipment to be used instead of tossed. That’s where “the bee person” came in. That’s me.

I went to his house and it took me two trips with a fully loaded station wagon to take away what still seemed usable. Some of the boxes and frames we had to put aside, since there were too rotted away. But most of it was saved, including gallons and gallons of old honey. It still smells fine, but Bob couldn’t tell me what chemicals he used in the days of that honey, now 10 to 15 years old. I took it, and I’m still trying to decide what to do with it…

But here, in the meantime, is the stash, which is our beekeepers’ group’s treasure, not just mine.

The collection in my carport before sorting:

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Three top feeders; all of it will need a thorough cleaning:

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Two deeps:

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Two shallows with honey-in-comb-frames. Bob also gave us the containers to store them in:

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Box full of unused medium frames (no foundation):

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Two mediums with more foundationless frames:

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Four screened bottom boards, some with bee escapes built in:

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Plastic bin extractor:

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Antique metal extractor – I need to find out what the drum is made of:

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Many good-sized chunks of wax (with regard to the dirty fingernail, scroll down one post):

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Bob even gave us three cartons of ball jars and two cartons of these plastic honey squeeze bottles:

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Gallons and gallons of old honey:

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I planted all the dry beans in between sprinkles of rain. The perfect day: overcast, a little cool, the promise of rain. All but three beds are now occupied: squashes, zukes and cukes and tomatoes, peppers and eggplants still need to go in. And potatoes.
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