Monday, April 30, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

hive check

This blog, in it's various versions (The Lazlo Files, etc.) is easily the most consistent and easily accessible personal record keeping I've ever done. How sad is that? I'm a librarian for God's sake! 

Anyway, it seems safest, if I ever want to FIND my beekeeping notes, or refer to them again at any point, that I put them here. You know, since I have to check my blog if I want to fill out a doctor's form that asks how much one of my children weighed at birth.... 

Please tell me you guys have to do that? No? 

Well anywho. Stop reading if you don't care about the whole bee business, because this is just basically for my records. 

My trusty beveiled assistant and I opened the hive on Tuesday evening, with the children fighting over the best view from the girls' second story window. We found drawn comb, brood, what looked like drone cells, and even a few honeycomb cells. There was not as much comb as I was hoping to see. I'd like to be present the next time a friend opens their hive so I can compare. I definitely see why pros say new beekeepers should start with two hives.

We didn't see the queen but I wasn't really looking for her. The bees were very docile and didn't seem to mind us until I really got up in their business. Unfortunately they were not being guided by the frames, and were drawing comb BETWEEN frames, so that when I pulled one frame out, it's comb stretched between two frames, and dropped to the bottom of the hive. This happened to the two biggest sections of comb. Bad news bees. I came prepared because I thought this was a possibility with the foundationless hive. I used rubberbands to brace the comb back into a single frame. When I ran out of bands, we used twine. The bee cluster was entirely in the lower box, no movement into the upper, and there was comb on only about 4 out of the eight frames. I put one frame back in out of order, which you're not supposed to do? But I had disrupted the hive long enough at that point and every time I move a frame I'm afraid I'll crush someone important when I'm putting it back. Man they just do not take the "get out of the way of this object that's going to crush you" warning seriously, do they?

I also had my first experience with the banana smell. Just a slight sweet wiff of it, and the bees were definitely buzzing in a louder and more annoyed manner after that. Hence no pictures, and we closed up pretty quick.

Folded cardboard egg cartons are working great as smoker fuel, and I am LOVING all the amazing work the bees are doing in the yard. This time last year I had seen all my tomatoes flower with absolutely zero subsequent plants and this year they are all just about falling down with the weight of their fruit. THANKS BEES!

I can also see the temptation to go with some wax foundation maybe in the upper frames. Can someone tell me if I can buy foundation stamped with the bees natural comb measurements? I mean, it HURT to break that comb apart- all their hard work? And I hope they can use it still with it sort of shoved back into the frames, Michael Bush style, but it's not drawn from the top down like they do on their own, so I don't know.

Anyway, there's the update for 4/24. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

grandad's house

We snuck out of town on Friday afternoon for a quick trip to visit Beaumont. We got the tail end of blackberry season, so the girls had some fun snacking.

We all got some thorns too, but they're worth it, of course. 

We probably picked about two cups of berries total, but sweet Shawn told the girls she would make a pie out of their berries (and supplemented with the gallons of berries she's got in her fridge). 

Janey remains a bit of a liability to have along on a berry picking mission - few of the berries she picks make it to the basket. She does however, bring lots of morning glories. So there's that. 

On the way home we visited some awesome friends at the beach, and then we took the ferry home! 

Exciting stuff, kids running around the deck while I anxiously count the number of lifeboats... My family would save bread for weeks leading up to a ferry trip. Then we'd stand at the back of the ferry and toss it to the seagulls. I did not share this nostalgic remembrance with the girls. Not coincidentally, I also did not bring a hat. 

Chase and Wren stayed on the top deck and saw LOTS of dolphins. 

Janey wanted to be closer to the action - we spotted two dolphins in the channel and watched them jumping over and over. 

It was a good trip and it's good to be home. We'll go visit Beaumont again in May (for my dad's birthday!) but it feels like every weekend between now and then is already packed. Spring goes by so fast!

Friday, April 13, 2012

visiting the lake

I'm trying to prepare myself for the summer -- it's coming. Pretty soon now it's going to be me and these three, all day every day. There are some things I'm really looking forward to- not packing lunches, not forgetting to shove a girl scout tunic in a backpack, not shoveling out from under the weekly paperwork packet I find in each bag...

Pink skinned sandy children who sleep REALLY well at night because they're so worn out. Serving hot dogs and watermelons for dinner as often as I can without risking rickets. Seeing Wren dive to the bottom of the pool for diving sticks, and hopefully, seeing Jane swim all on her own this year.

Going to the beach for the first time with poor little neglected Ben, and back to the creek of course, and going camping at the Guadalupe river again, and the Pedernales, and maybe even making it out to Garner State Park although I heard it's already all booked up. 

I'm looking forward to lazy mornings where we're not rushing out the door to do anything in particular, and lazy afternoons where Wren has disappeared with a book, Jane is watching My Little Pony for the 57th time and Ben has taken everything out of the tupperware drawer and filled it with dishwashing detergent...

Okay so there are a few things I'm not looking forward to exactly. But that's the point of a preparatory jaunt to the lake. To help me remember what I'm getting into, and just how much fun it CAN be. So when I'm pulling the 4th roll of paper out of the toilet in a day, somewhere in mid-July, I'll decide to load up all the kids in the van with the swim bag and head to the lake. I'll watch them jump off the end of the dock into the water like they're stuck in a time loop, and then when they all fall asleep at 6:15, faces in their watermelon slices, I'll make margaritas and get ready to do it again the next day. 

Wish me luck. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012


We got a call on Friday night, just after we got the kids to sleep, made drinks, and sat down to watch Community... Our friend was on his way from a beer tasting (oh dear) to the post office. To pick up our bees. 


We all ran around in an adrenaline fueled craze, trying to get things ready before they got here, and of course forgetting everything important. Like the fact that your first foray into beekeeping should probably not happen while 100% of you are slightly buzzed. It's so weird how when you have your arm, up to your elbow, in a box full of bees, you sort of forget all the instructional youtube videos you watched on how to get the queen cage out.

Especially if the guy holding the flashlight in your pitch dark yard does a lovely grand jet´e every time anything buzzes next to him. I'm not going to name names or anything. But yeah. 

We got them installed in the hive and my heart rate took another hour and a half to normalize. After some pretty crazy agitated buzzing the first morning, today they seem to have settled down and started foraging. They found the water and the we rigged up a little mason jar feeder to help them out while they're getting established. 

So far we've had no stings, and other than a fight over what to name our new Queen Bee (Jane says Lily, Wren says Nancy Drew and Chase says Susan Bee Combin'), the kids have been interested but not really TOO interested. There's a gate to that part of the yard, and the bees haven't been coming into the rest of our yard so far. Sadly, but luckily in this case, I am pretty terribly bad at flower gardening. So there's not much to draw them here. 

Bonus silly face Wren

Sweet Wren. That's about as much of her face as I usually see these days. Either over the top of Nancy Drew or behind the wii controller. 

Here are the ladies, all moved in. That wire box is the shipping container, and we moved it after the stragglers finally made it into the hive last night. Tomorrow I get the smoker and open it back up to check on them and make sure Lily/Susan/Nancy's out of her candy-plug cage. Wish me luck! And Benedryl!