Sunday, November 30, 2014

Stay calm and remain purple

Here's a secret I'd like to tell. I love Advent better than Christmas. Advent's the journey, the seeking, the waiting. I have to give credit to my parents, who really did a nice job building that sense of anticipation, with the decorations slowly increasing over the weeks, only to culminate in the fully decorated Christmas tree that appeared in our house no sooner than on Christmas eve, around 5pm. This is the time, as I will have you know, when the Christ child delivers presents to German children. It must be that Baby Jesus, Santa and Father Frost and whoever else is in on this global game of sneaking and scheming, have split up the geographical areas and delivery times to make it all feasible? That is what I tell my children to explain the difference in my culture growing up, and theirs, which needed to match that of their school mates and friends.

But back to Advent. I like to have an advent wreath or other seasonal vehicle for four candles every year. We usually craft it together now, the kids are old enough to help. This year's version recycled the log tea light stands the husband made last year:

And back to the meaning of it all. We shall light one candle more each week, as we wait. And wait we will. With music, hot cider, cookies, and reading stories of St. Nicholas. In this sea of red and green and golden and glitter and shiny instant gratification, we are going to:

Friday, November 21, 2014

{this moment}


{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A visit to a foreign world

Sometimes you just have to break out of your world, and go visit someplace else. Except there is that pesky carbon footprint thing, and that money thing, and that time thing ... so we 'get away' to a few local hide-outs once in a while. This time, we went to South America. And by that, I mean the excellent Maya exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science. Insta-transport into a totally foreign world. 

We learned about glyphs, kings and calendars. We sat for a while (too long, say the littles - too short says the oldest) drawing, reading, learning, in the peaceful darkness of the exhibit.

Then we took a quick stop in the tropics on the way to lunch - the butterfly room is always a treat for the senses. Then, from far away across the world, we smelled good things to eat.... and went to have lunch before returning to our own little world.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Just puttering

We're all coming off a mighty high of activity, weekends filled with a birthday party for the middle, and a concert where the oldest played, and a visit from the grandparents, the 25th anniversary of the wall in Germany being broken down... altogether wonderful stuff. But phew, I'm ready for a little rest before the holiday flurry sets in. Talking about busy, here is the bee hive cake I made to order for the birthday:

In the gardens, clean-up is ongoing, now that we are seeing the first frosts. It is always such a nice surprise to find a few leftover scarlet runner bean seeds, like pearls on a string.

Together we can(ned). In this case about 30 quarts of apple sauce, made from 2 bushels of utility apples bought at my favorite local orchard. This should get us through the winter nicely.

So we're putting up, and puttering around, clustered around the wood stove these days, because we've resisted turning on the heat just yet. Hope you're staying warm, too!

Friday, November 7, 2014

{this moment}

{this moment}
A Friday SouleMama ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

That's a wrap

This has been a weird bee season for me. I had split my 2 hives into three earlier in the summer, and things had been going fairly well before August. But after we came back from our travels, again, there was no honey in those supers and two of the hives were very light on stores. One of them was in the middle of what might have been a supersedure, or the remainder of a hive after a swarm had left, hard to tell. No honey, no brood, no queen, I think they may have swarmed. I tried not to mess up the existing swarm cells and decided to feed heavy syrup to support them. Alas, a new queen never did make it, and the hive succumbed to some crazy robbing attacks. I ended up finding a ton of drowned yellowjackets in the feeder. They came in the bottom entrance and fought their way all the way up to the top feeder, so that was not a good sign at all. I watched that hive slowly die and cleaned it up today.

Very not very fun, seeing this pile of dead bees. Sigh. 

I had made some candy boards, just to prop up the two other hives and add them to my layer structure that worked well last winter. Here they are. It's basically a 2in frame the size of a super, with 1/2in hardware cloth as a bottom. In that, I smeared a mix of sugar (10lbs), water (2 cups) and a tad of vinegar (2/3 Tbsp) and HoneyBeeHealthy, which dried into a solid mass. I blocked out holes so the bees can access the top entrance and for condensation to go through the hole in the inner cover, like so:

I put this candy board on top of the 2 deep super I'm trying to overwinter. Then followed the inner cover, and on top of that goes an empty super filled with straw. I staple window screen to the bottom to keep the straw in place. You see the straw boxes in the front, but the hive next to it still has the feeder on. I took that off, with almost a gallon of syrup left in it. Lesson: Bees can only take syrup during warm weather, and that seems to run out around the middle of October around here.

Then on top of that, I put the outer cover. The whole sandwich tower was then wrapped in roofing paper. A job much easier done by 2 people, but today I was alone and wasn't feeling well to begin with. The bees don't like the stapler and who can blame them. They also don't like scary large flaps of tar paper flopping around in front of their entrance. I just don't like doing this job because it requires me to let go, lose control, let them do their thing. For me as the beekeeper, it's just wait and see from now on until March. Nothing more I can do for them.

You see in the foreground an empty top feeder that the bees were cleaning up. After a while I had the distinct impression that the robbers were back and I ended up blocking the top entrances with some wadded up paper towel. Because that entrance leads straight to the candy!
You can also see some clever stacks of that kind of plastic board that lawn signs are made of. A friend gave them to me to slide under my screen bottom boards. I like that solution, didn't require picking up those heavy deep supers to close up the bottom, plus they seem pretty good for insulation!

So hopefully, this is it for bee season in my own yard. Just like last year, I don't feel particularly confident, but only time and the kind of winter we will have will tell.... Luckily I'm the praying type.