Archive for October, 2012

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Me as a beekeeping mentor?

October 27, 2012

I am a laissez faire beekeeper – or – perhaps more accurately – a lazy fairy beekeeper.  I am not worried about maximizing honey production, breeding queens with particular characteristics, or moving my bees from field to field as pollinators for hire.  DSCF1276Although not opposed to taking a bit of honey now and again; I otherwise assume that bees know how to be bees better than I do – so bzzz and let bzzz.

Perhaps because of my Earth Mother leanings it is only natural that I have become a mentor for a local Montessori class of 4th – 6th graders.  The Montessori philosophy: “To aid life, leaving it free, however, to unfold itself, that is the basic task of the educator” (Maria Montessorri, http://www.alfredmontessori.com/montessori-philosophy.htm) is not terribly different from my beekeeping philosophy, granted, to a different end.  I just want healthy bee colonies – not educated ones (to bee, or not to bee…).

So not too long ago I received an e-mail from a Montessori teacher asking if I’d help them as they venture into the world of beekeeping.  Now I am no expert beekeeper.  I’ve had hives only since 2009.  I explained my philosophy, my l limited knowledge, my newbee status.  Jane still wanted me to be their mentor.

Earlier this month I met with the class and talked about bees until all of our attentions flagged.  DSCF1320Yesterday, though, the class took a field trip to my apiary.

We opened a couple of hives – just took the lids off – it was only in the 40’s and I’m still concerned the bees got too chilled.  We looked at my Langstroth vs. my topbar hive.  It isn’t much of a comparison at the moment.  The topbar bees absconded this summer.  Can’t blame them, with a severe drought and not much nectar, they were having a heck of time building comb.  I hope they found a happy place. 

I don’t know how I’ll do as a mentor, I suspect I’ll learn more than the students, and about more than just bees.  I’ll keep you posted.

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A Disposable World

October 24, 2012

Not too many years ago, 2006, we redid our kitchen, including all new appliances.  We opted for a gas cooktop and an electric wall oven.  Today I’m glad I took the advice of a saleswoman and did not buy a combination oven and microwave. 

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On Saturday (always on a weekend) the microwave quit.  It would hum along but do nothing.  My daughter insisted it made her food colder – a nice trick if it were true.  Luckily the appliance dealer we prefer is located in our small town (supporting local businesses and all).  Also luckily, I have a 17 year old son who can easily carry a medium sized microwave.  So yesterday it went to the microwave hospital/appliance dealer.  Today we got the bad news.  It would cost $100 more to fix it than to buy a new one.  Isn’t that about the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?  The new one will cost $250.

If I were wealthy perhaps I would stick to the principles underlying a greener world and have it repaired regardless of the cost.  But I am not wealthy and so we have ordered a new microwave.  At least I am fairly confident the old microwave won’t end up in a landfill since in our state appliances have been banned from landfills since 1994.  Most likely some components will be disposed of as hazardous materials (mercury switches and the like) and the rest will be sold (or given away) for scrap, and with any luck, recycled.

What a shame that a) the microwave lasted only six years, and b) repairing it costs more than buying new.  I was so hoping this would be the heirloom microwave I would will to my children for them and future generations to cherish.  Maybe they can inherit the new one.

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Update after a long hiatus

October 21, 2012

It has been over 6 months since I last posted.  I give no excuses; it just happened.  But here’s a bit of a catch up.

One of our llamas died in the spring.  She ate some hemlock.  That left us with just Serendipity – and a lone llama has a propensity for getting into trouble.  SerendiptiySerendipity kept finding ways to escape our field.  One day a woman pulled into the driveway to tell us our llama was in the park that borders our property.  It took my husband, this woman, and 3 more passers-by to herd her back into the field.  She had so much fun!

And then the first day of school she did it again.  I got a call from the high school principal telling me he’d let my son out of school to help wrangle the llama.  She clearly needed friends (and we needed to upgrade the fencing).

Acci and Cheetah

The fencing was upgraded and my husband found a local llama farm that needed to downsize, and that is how we ended up with Acci and Cheetah.

Acci and Cheetah are older than Serendipity.  We don’t know for sure, but think Serendipity is about 4 years old.  Acci and Cheetah are 8 and 6 years old.  All three get along quite well, not super chummy, but they hang out together (but also spit at one another for the slightest offense).

No pictures of the flower or vegetable gardens.  We had a severe drought and very hot temperatures and everything was just fried.  Finally, in September, the tomatoes started to fill out and ripen – but not at anywhere near the rate we are used to.  We still have plenty of tomatoes, but also occasional frosts; we eat what we can.  Tonight, my husband made some green fried tomatoes for dinner, and oven roasted potatoes (also from the garden).  Mmmm.

The honey bees had a time of it too.  I obtained two swarms in May.  One I put in a Langstroth (the rectangular boxes) with some old comb from previous inhabitants, and one I put in the topbar hive.  Those bees, though, had to start from scratch, with no comb.  The drought was too much.  The couldn’t bring in enough nectar to both build comb and store honey, so eventually they left in search of better digs.  I hope they found some. 

The other hives, however, are doing quite well.  My husband and I put mouseguards on the hives today (so mice don’t winter in the nice warm hive) and rearranged boxes as we saw fit.DSCF1276  I like to have the bulk of the bees and their honey start at the bottom of the hive so they can work their way up during the winter.  I also moved a box of honey from one very strong hive to a weaker one.  I’ll feed the two weakest hives also so they can store more honey until it’s too cold for them to move about.  Fingers crossed this will get them through the winter and early spring.

That’s the short version of the last 6 months.  I’ll try to write more before another 6 months slip by.  Until then, enjoy the Autumn!