I hope I’m wrong. I don’t think I am, but one can always hope. Really.

Yesterday I did a long hive inspection. It was warm and there was no wind, the bees were flying, and it was time to find out what’s happening inside. I did short inspections before, but this time I pulled out frames, broke the boxes apart (that took some wrenching: the bees had glued them together), and went all the way down to  the bottom board.

The idea was to clear the screened bottom board of dead bees so I can do a mite fall test and then to treat appropriately. This is what I found:

A carpet of dead bees, thousands of them, at certain points piled half an inch thick.

The bottom box was mostly empty of honey, pollen or brood, so I decided to take it away. There was one frame with some pollen and honey, and I exchanged that one for an empty frame in the top box.

The top box had very few bees in it, I’d guess less than 10,000. There was one frame with some eggs, pupae and capped brood, but in some cells I spotted two eggs. That is usually a sign of a laying worker – a bee who has not mated and who therefore lays only unfertilized eggs, which will turn into drones, which are pretty useless to a colony. I could not spot my blue-dotted queen, or any queen, for that matter.

And so my bees may be dead, only they don’t know it yet.

What to do? I could hope that it’s a juvenile queen, who hasn’t got the hang of it yet. Or I could ordering a new package of bees, which will prove difficult, as most suppliers were sold out months ago. I could order just a new queen, but this little colony of mine may be too small and weakened by mites to be able to support her efforts.

I think I’ll wait and see.

It’s ironic that this is happening, because in the meantime Transition Wayland (I know, I owe you a long update about that) has started a BEEwareness project. This project will

  1. educate about the necessity and predicament of the bees and other pollinators by movie showing and expert speakers
  2. offer a workshop on building a Top Bar Hive and the basics of beekeeping
  3. offer hive openings and tours of apiaries in Wayland
  4. put together a Wayland beekeeping support group
  5. which group will also be able to purchase supplies together

Ambitious, no? We’ll start small, and we’ll start with my hive, which…

Well, hopefully it’s a juvenile queen.

Today I found a study in contrasts in the boot of my station wagon: a cello, a chain saw.

Once home, we hooked a rope to the car, tied the other end around a log in the big pile, then I reversed to pull the trunk out so DH could cut it up.

DH and I work together really well. Neither one of us had ever done anything of this kind. In preparation, DH watched YouTube videos and read the manual.  Then we went out and laughed a lot because we couldn’t get the darn thing started. Then it did start and we got serious. Not having any experience or any other tools  we ran into some difficulties, and we took some time figuring out the solutions and ways to prevent it from happening again. We got better at anticipating other problems, got more creative. Did you know that chalk comes in really handy when cutting logs greater in diameter than the bar of your saw? Also pieces of already chopped firewood, as wedges and stops… We worked together, wedging and pulling, gauging.

Three hours later we got one log done. Twenty-five to go.

I’m happy we bought the chainsaw and that we are doing this job ourselves instead of paying five times the amount to let someone else do it. Granted, the professionals would  take two or three days and we’ll probably take a couple of months to get it finished. And honestly I’ll never feel entirely relaxed while DH is wielding that machine. But we’re working together, outside with our hands, using what tools and ingenuity we have. We might both have PhDs and drive Volvos, but we aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty and getting the job done.

I read somewhere in an article on Transition a saying that I could take as my mantra:

We are the people we’ve been waiting for!

Such honest accomplishment, along with accountability, and hope. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could say this of themselves? Don’t sit around and wait for someone else to do it. Just do it!

These carrots were seeded in our garden in September 2010 and harvested and eaten in April 2011. Extra sweet.

Just a quick word, here. I read only the headlines in Google News. That’s the extent of exposure to the Main Stream Media (MSM) as I can stand. And still, I’ll have to quit doing just that.

what’s coming out of Fukushima is radio-active poisoning, first of all, *not* falling stock market prices! And yet it’s the latter that gets the headlines. How screwed up is that!

We have sold our health and the health of the planet to the lowest bidder.

Our insane wood pile after tree removal

I received a large box in the mail on Friday, the kind of box that could only house… plants! Fedco. Of course they had to arrive on the busiest weekend since last Summer. Of course I wasn’t ready…

So after our Earth Day Celebration I stuck almost all of ’em in pots. Tere were some herb plants like Good King Henry, Asclepias tuberosa, Butterfly Weed, Lavender, Marshmallow, Arnica,  Black Cohosh (or Black Snakeroot), and Valerian. There were also 2 pieces (?) of Canadian Wild Ginger and I couldn’t even tell what was the top and what the bottom, or where vis-a-vis the soil line it had to go. And 1 Purple Coneflower – of the 12 seeds I put in downstairs, only 1 germinated, so I have high hopes for this plant. Last but not least there was the Elecampane. What an interesting, fat, huge root. It reminded me of the mandrake in Pan’s Labyrinth. This one I put in the herb bed up front, which gets a lot more sun now that the trees are gone.

Then there were some bushes. I put the Red Pearl and  the Regal Lingonberry in pots. But I planted the Belle Poitevine Rose in the East bed, next to our “official” (not our mudroom) front door. What a robust plant. Prickly too! And the two Bluebell Grapes I planted next to the kiwi vine that went in last Spring and that is, to my great relief, budding. (So are all the other bushes I planted last year.)

The 50 strawberries crowns are still in my fridge. They’ll go in tomorrow, along with lots of vegetable seedlings.  We have many more bushes and vines coming, I really need to start prepping the place. I’m afraid I filled  up all my large pots today!

In other gardening news, we received our hoop bender from Lost Creek and we’ll be moving and rebuilding the hoop house next weekend if we can persuade some friends to help. It’ll be good to be able to get all the seedlings out of the living room. And out of the basement too: the mice are going wild down there! They went through my lobelia like a grass mower, and they’ve ruined all the wormwood seedlings (luckily the wormwood I grew and transplanted out last ear survived the winter and is growing again) . They’ve dug up lots of other seeds. And I’ve caught  not a one. The glue traps are obviously not working either.

There is lots of mycelium growing in the mushroom bed (didn’t have many mushrooms last year but might this year) and… a few days ago we ate our first lettuce from the garden (the hotbox). Yum!

It’s already 6 April but I know I doubt I’ll have  time at the end of the month, so here are our numbers for March + 5 days of April. It’ll all even out. Our first year’s averages were calculated here, our second year’s averages can be found here.

Gasoline. Same as usual. I’m doing a lot of driving around for Transition (paradoxically).

10.83 gallons per person pp. per month

25 % of the US National Average

Electricity. The calculator reckons per household, not per person. We are rolling on the solar PV, so in a few months this number will look very different. That number is up quite a bit this month, as in previous years, because I’ve got a heat mat and a whole battery of shop lights on 16 hours a day to keep my seedlings growing.

579 KWH (all wind) per month

15% of the US National Average

Heating Oil and Warm Water. This too is calculated for the entire household, not per person.  We are planning on running a long line of PEX underneath the solar array for an outdoor shower in Summer. Busy busy…

32.3 24.7 gallons of oil per month

45% 40.1% of the US National Average

{UPDATE} 3 Jan 2012: The way I have been calculating our heating oil consumption is by reading off the furnace how many hours it ran, then multiplying it by .85 because that’s the amount of gallons of oil I *thought* it used. Now DH just told me that our furnace is more efficient than that and the correct number is .65. Hence the correction.

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

10 lbs. pp per month

7% of the US National Average

Water. We brought  our usage down by yet another percent from last month. Don’t know really what it is that makes the difference. I guess we’ll just keep going the way we have been…

426.3 gallons of water pp.   per month

14 % of the US National Average

April Fools!

– contrast with –

3 April

Those seedlings are still sitting on my window sills (inside) – and of course the spinach has bolted. I might be able to plant them out tomorrow, if the rain lets up and if it doesn’t snow!

Downstairs in the basement the lights and heat mat are working on the newly seeded tomatoes, peppers and eggplants. And I have mice, again, of course. I bought the cheap wooden traps and the mice have been getting fat on peanut butter. Today I switched to glue traps. Yep, sorry, no more live trapping.  They ate all my Good King Henry, Sea Kale and Echinacea seeds!

stack of PV panels

We’re doing it, we’re putting solar PV on our roof.

Though many went before it, taking delivery of the stack of panels felt like the first step. It was the first time something happened, not just talk and research and calculations. It was also irreversible: that’s $16,100 worth of panels, paid for and delivered, sitting in our carport!

This week the second big step follows: the taking down of about 10 big trees in order to get the shade off the roof. Next we enter the paperwork with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Then we wait. When we get the funding, the panels will be installed sometime during the Summer.

It’s a big project and I must admit I am nervous about it, for three reasons.

First of all, it involves a large amount of money up-front, and it has wiped out most of our other plans for the summer, like chickens and drip irrigation. But (on paper) the thing pays for itself in 7  years, and then we should get about 13-23 more years of use out of it.

Also, we use 390 KWH a month, on average, so this system should be able to take care of all our electricity needs (using the grid as the battery). And that doesn’t mean that we’re going to party it up now. On the contrary, we’ve already decided that we can become a little more frugal, so we can plug in an electrical on-demand water heater and take our hot water off oil. (That’s still being researched).

Moreover, this electricity will be renewable, non-polluting (as of installation), and decentralized. It will be an eye-catcher too, a statement, and an opening for a conversation.

My second reason for hesitation is the real costs of these panels. I am not ignorant of the manufacturing or “back side” of solar, which includes:

  1. toxic chemicals: arsenic, cadmium telluride, chromium, and lead.
  2. greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide from coal-driven plants, oil used for transporting the parts and the panels

I’m still trying to figure out what those are for our system. The amount of facts and especially opinions on the net is staggering. I’d like to talk with people like Richard Heinberg and Bill McKibben, who are aware of all the facts and who try to live a principled life, about their panels.

Last, but nor least, there’s the trees. It will take one day to take them down, and the whole summer to cut them up into firewood and to grind out the stumps. Their removal will drastically change the aspect of our property,  and for the better. It will:

  1. bring the sun to the garden.
  2. free up  land for more perennials and herbs.
  3. free up land for an orchard (every tree down will be replaced by one or two dwarf fruit trees),
  4. make possible the glass porch up front that could warm up our main family room in the winter – resulting in less oil again.

Sometimes changes and the resulting opportunities, though for the better, are overwhelming!