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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Today we took the floppy plastic off the hoop house. We want to re-bend the hoops, because most of them have un-bent themselves so much that at the top they meet in a point, which cuts into the plastic.

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But we’ll only do that next weekend. In the intervening week I hope the rain will soak those beds. After months of no irrigation, the soil in them is dry and dusty and there was no a worm to be seen.

While clearing the hoop house of all the stuff I had stashed in there that shouldn’t get wet, I found the beginning of a hornet’s nest. As I picked it up I found the queen attached to its underside. I quickly pulled the nest away from her and then ran off with it. Here is it: she had just laid eggs in it:
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The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is situated in Lincoln, the town to the north of us. Still, though it is only a twenty minute drive away, I had in all the years of living here never gone there until my friend A managed to pry me off my mountain and out of my town and took me there.

I had vowed to take Amie too, but that didn’t happen until another friend got to meet the artist Jarrett Mellenbruch who was setting up a bee-related art project called Haven at the museum.
Jarrett is based in Kansas and was in town only to set up the structures for the project: two bee houses mounted on 16-foot poles. The other part of the project – the live bees, swarms more specifically – still need to be found. Jarrett set up bait hives in the neighborhood – I’ll try to get a picture of their ingenious design – but he will also have to rely on people letting him know about swarms, and beekeepers getting them, and a beekeeper climbing up there to hive them.
So he found a perfect collaborator in my friend, Katharina, a beekeeper, a member of the BEElieve network, and a climber!
I am also the first two, but though I don’t mind heights, I do mind ladders, stairs and escalators. Still, I’ll be helpful, holding the ladder, taking pictures and video when she’s hiving the bees. I’m also on several “swarm lists” – lists of people willing to go and take away a swarm.

Anyway, on Wednesday I took Amie to the park to show her the Haven project, and we got to visit a nearly empty park on a wicked sunny day.

I wish I could have taken video so you could hear the song, but as we had reached this art work right before the park closed, the landscapers were hard at work with wood chippers, stump grinding, and leaf blowers: a right racket!

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Amie was really most interested in climbing this tree, which has undergone some serious graffiti and still stands strong.

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We stumbled upon “Acorn Head” by accident and were wondering what it is he sees all day, all night.
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The “Dancing Man” in the background is my absolute favorite. It’s deeply moving how he twirls up out of the rock, into the sky.
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We found some cairns and weren’t sure if they were art works. Some were tumbled, one was still beautifully perched. The crumbling ledge that was the source of the rocks was right there, so we decided to add to the display.
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The result, with the other one in the background:
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And there, lastly, was one of the Havens.
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And the other one:
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My last blogpost worth that name is from March 14, and I haven’t figured our Riot since December last year. One of the reasons for my silence was overall business (explained below), but the main culprit was that all the sites I maintain were hacked (same server). We had to shut down the Green Team site completely, saved most of the Transition Wayland site, and the blog, well, as you can see, most of the sidebar features have disappeared and, as you can’t see, the editor is a right mess, but here’s an update anyway.

Here’s a roller coaster run-down of events.

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On April 21, my parents-in-law arrived from Chennai, India. On Tuesday, my friend and fellow blogger, Katharina, dropped off the 15 chicks that remained in her care – she was on her way to DC and the Reject and Protect Rally. On Wednesday, add to this menagerie my friend R’s 16-year-old, mostly deaf dog for dog-sitting. And me and R saying our goodbyes and leaving all this to them, not to mention the care of the garden and chickens, and the hundreds of seedlings in the basement.

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Where was I off to, that was so important that I could leave all of them, especially Amie (for the first time for so long)? It was Stephen Jenkinson’s Orphan Wisdom School, and I will have to write more about that later. R and I were there, all wrapped-up in the goodness and sorrow of words, till Sunday, when we drove back in one non-stop haul (11 hours). R extracted her dog from the sleeping house, and I crashed, exhausted. The house returned a little more to somewhat normal when Katharina took all but our four chicks back a couple of days later.

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That Sunday Earth Day happened (more on that later too), along with Amie’s orchestra concert at Jordan Hall, and her grandparents’ surprise 40th anniversary present(s) and surprises(s).

Amie named the chicks and started “training” them. Always a joy to watch.

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Our days warmed, with some summery days thrown in, especially Mother’s Day, which we spent out side working in the garden, planting, among other things, lots of strawberries and blueberries. I also finished the drip irrigation in 90% of the garden, all of it running smoothly off the top IBC tote, simply by gravity. The chicks too enjoyed their first outing into the big world.

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I picked up new bees too: two packages. What a joy it is to see them fly again. In other bee-related news, Katharina, who is also a fellow beekeeper, roped me into helping her out with helping the young artist Jarrett Mellenbruch set up and maintain his Haven project at the deCordova museum. More about that soon, too!

My parents-in-law went back to Chennai, and the house is emptier. I like a crowd of animals, so I am glad for the bird song in the house: the chicks, though they now look more dinosaur-like, still squeak quite sweetly. And there is one more bird…

We finally got a friend for Amie’s parakeet, Kiwi, who lost his mate a few months ago. Kiwi had spent some time at Katharina’s (we’ve a veritable animal exchange going here) where he received a mirror, and he had fallen deeply in love with the bird in that mirror. That is why Amie decided to get a green parakeet, female though (hopefully), who looks like that mirror bird. Introducing a new bird is always tricky, so we had them in separate cages at first – having bought a huge new cage. But after some hours Kiwi was trying to push his heard through the bars, and they were singing to each other, so the next day we let Kiwi into the new cage and all was well.

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That’s my quick run-down of events. Lots to flesh out. I will do so, soon, promise! Now let me click the “publish” button and see how this looks!

Amie and I finally cleaned the seedling containers, then fired up the heat mat and the lamps in the basement and sowed seeds. We’re a little late. Last year I put in the first seeds on Feb 24. We sowed:

  • lettuce
  • mache
  • chard
  • kale
  • spinach
  • onions
  • leeks

I need to order some seeds: celery, parsley, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards.  For starters.

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This has been/still is a hard winter. It’s been one snow storm after another, with long stretches of below freezing temperatures.  Three weeks ago I caught a bug which developed into pneumonia – hence the silence here – and now that I’ finally up and about, Amie caught something as well. That’s how it goes. The winter was hard on the bees as well: all three colonies are dead of starvation in boxes still half full of capped honey.  They just didn’t have the chance to break cluster and move toward the honey.

But things are stirring. Before yesterday’s snow flurries we actually saw dirt. Then it got covered up again, but all that should be washed away by tonight’s rain and tomorrow we may see some outdoor activities. I plan to wash all the seedling trays and pots so I can start the basement garden. If I’m up for it, I’ll also clean out the chicken coop: there’s some good compost in there after months of deep litter.

A couple of days ago I (hot-water-bath) canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting in big jars on my counter for seven weeks. I usually don’t can kraut as it pasteurizes it (duh!) and kills off all the good bugs. Still, I had too much of it to keep in the fridge, and as I’m the only one who eats it round here, I decided to reserve one jar for the fridge and can the rest.  I hope the canning doesn’t make it too soggy. I like it crunchy.

 

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My house is on fire. It took me a while to realize it and I’m still not doing much about it, but there are good reasons for that.

  1. For one, my house is really too big for me. All the water pipes, the heating systems, the gas and electricity lines… they’re all over the place, pretty extensive, and their sources are far away. My walk-in fridge, for instance, is supplied by a massive network of trucks and middlemen over two-thousand miles in diameter. Also, when I built my house, during the fat and innocent years, I didn’t think them through, so they’re cheap, wasteful, vulnerable. One center or line goes down and I get burned. All that is true but that’s how it is.
  2. And, though I feel the consequence, the cause – the fire – is too far away, out of my reach. I can’t do much about it. Others are working on it. My getting all worked up over it doesn’t help.
  3. But I do act! See, this fire burns in little pockets everywhere. I spend some of my time and energy putting out some of these little fires – the ones that touch me the most. Where I can’t reach I pay money to help someone else do it. Whenever I put out a little fire, I rejoice, because in my little-fire-perspective I am absolutely victorious. Yes, my joy is momentary, because three fires sprang up while I was tending to one. But then I get to work on another one.
  4. The fire, as a whole, burns quite slowly. Thank goodness this allows me to relax a little. It’s not that urgent, we have time to fix this.
  5. About those occasional sudden flare-ups due to high winds. They’re scary, especially when those closer to me are affected. I recognize myself in them, only it was them who got burned, not me, so that’s where the comparison ends. When I do get affected, I help, of course, and am greatly relieved when it’s put out, which it usually is. I am really too exhausted after that to accept that I didn’t put out the general fire, that I can’t put down the wind. Why rain on the parade?
  6. You know, you can’t expect me to worry about this all the time. There are so many people in the house and they too are working on putting out the fires. Maybe they don’t know about the general situation yet, but soon they will get the big picture, and then they’ll really get to work. Then we’ll beat it! I’ll have to wait for them.
  7. It’s true that there are too many people living in my house. I don’t know how that happened, or how it came to be that decision-making goes to the one who bought the loudest, most expensive mic and I realize that that’s the one who has the most to gain by doing nothing. I can’t shout louder than them. As for everyone else, they’re all over the place with their priorities and strategies. Whom to follow?
  8. Let’s face it, the situation is awfully complex, as complex as the weather! You can’t with 99% certainty predict the weather. Or 90%. Not even 70%. Or even 65%, which is only 5% less than the impossible 70%, and in the context of this massively complex system, 5% is nothing. But then you can’t even have 60%, or 55% certainty.  Science just isn’t there yet. We need to wait till Science can give us models that give us at least 40% certainty. 50%, at least. Better make it 60%, because so much seems to be riding on it.
  9. But so science is now pretty certain (not absolutely certain) that I am the cause of the fire. My “lifestyle” is what feeds it. Believe me, it’s an unintentional consequence. It’s not my intention to set my house on fire. So I’m not really responsible for that consequence.
  10. Also, my lifestyle is embedded in my culture, and it’s not called “the dominant culture” for no reason. If I don’t live this lifestyle my friends and neighbors will reject me. As an outcast, I’ll be entirely powerless. Why give away what little influence I have?
  11. As I said, I am only one of all the people living in the house. If I stop, the others won’t. It won’t make a difference. So why should I stop? Why should I sacrifice while everyone else keeps on partying?
  12. Enough about me; back to my house. If you’re suggesting that I could at least rebuild it and make it more resilient, then I hate to say it but it’s too late, I’ve no more money, it’s all sunk into the old infrastructure and I’m ruining myself as it is, trying to shore that up.
  13. But alright, let’s say that I am the master of the house, and I say, rebuild, sacrifice, save the house! It wouldn’t be democratic. To compromise on our democracy is worse than letting the house burn. And if we go back to the Dark Ages, what would there be left to live for?
  14. Look here, what I really hope for? Technology will save us! If we can use our technology to set fire to our mighty house, then we can use it to save us. It doesn’t exist yet? True, but look at all of us, good-willed, clever, well-informed, civic-minded people. We’re a global community, a tribe, if you will, spread far and wide but real tight and caring. And we’re putting our heads together, sharing our collective genius to save this thing. Together we’ll find a way. Maybe it won’t be me, but some genius among us. It’s only a matter of time.

Though recovering from a cold (my first time ill in over a year: a sure sign that I’ve been overdoing it a little this month), the sun and comfortable temperatures (around freezing) lured me out. I’d been looking at that dead hive (Hive 4) and it nagged at me. So I took the sled out there, dismantled it (two deeps, one super) and sledded it to the house. There I went through frame by frame, shaking out as many dead bees as possible. This hive died of starvation, though there was evidence of some hive beetle pressure as well. Nothing is as disheartening to a beekeeper as seeing this:

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A carpet of thousands of starved, cold-killed bees on the bottom board. And this:

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That’s half a frame of capped honey right there. The small dark cluster of dead bees, burrowed deeply down in their cells,   is where they hung on till the cluster was too small to stay warm and survive. The honey was right next door! This super was half full of honey still, but the bees didn’t have a break in the cold to move over to get to it. But fortunately there was no sign of disease or fungus: all the frames were clear and clean.

There was a lot of capped and uncapped honey in there – the mix makes it tricky to extract. The uncapped honey at least has started to crystallize:

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As this can’t be extracted, I’ll feed it to the surviving hives. I stashed all these boxes and frames on the porch, making sure to put a tight lid on them so no mice can get in. I had a devil of a time cleaning up the mess. They ruined quite a bit of wax but the worst was the droppings all over the place!