Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day #20 Scary Scary Halloween

Halloween? Oh, witches and goblins and pirates and princesses and honeybees and . . .

Honeybees?  Well, come to think of it, wouldn't that make a cute costume? Imagine a striped costume with wings, toting along a big orange flower:

Yeah, like that.

Or maybe like this... That's close enough to a bee costume...

Oooh! Now there's something scary!

BEE safe on Halloween!

BEEattitude for Day #20:
       Blessed are they who eat honey instead of sugar, for they shall have healthy metabolisms.

Today I am Grateful for:
       My son, and his amazingly detailed photos - and his fire-spinning, which always astonishes me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day #19 "BEEcoming a Better Human"

Here in Georgia, it's getting to be Autumn, and the seed pods on my Aesclepias (better known as Butterfly Weed) are just about all blown away. My son photographed this milkweed pod several years ago. The picture expresses the wonder I feel when I look at my yard gradually folding into its winter rest. I hope it's getting ready for the bees that will join us in late March or early April.

Copyright Yelloideas Photography

I know this is a blog about beekeeping, but if you get a chance to read Animals Make Us Human by Temple Grandin, let me know if you're as impressed with her work as I am. Based on her observations of other animals, I plan to be a lot more careful about the ways in which I look at my bees. I'd like to use the lessons I learn from them to become more fully (good) human myself.

BeeAttitude for Day #19:
          Blessed are they who watch us without judgment, for they shall learn great wisdom.

Something for Which I'm Grateful:
Brown leaves in the bright sunshine against a bright blue sky

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day # 18 "Cinnamon and Honey"

Did you know that honey is the only food on the planet that will not spoil or rot? Or so I've heard. If you put it in the 'fridge, it will crystallize, but it's still honey and still edible. I put it in my tea that way, and it works just fine. If you want to liquefy it, though, just loosen the lid and sit the honey in a container of hot water. It will "melt" and be as good as it ever was. Never boil honey or put it in a microwave. If you do, you'll kill the enzymes in the honey.

Now, if you combine wonderful Honey with wonderful Cinnamon:

Some people claim that a mixture of honey and cinnamon can cure most diseases. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far, but I do know from my own experience that honey has been a very effective medicine for some of what ails me. Honey can probably be used without any side effects - but that's just a guess on my part. 

I found a list that was printed years ago in a crackpot tabloid. The Weekly World News went out of business in 2007, with very good cause - wait till you see the sorts of things they "reported." 

Its list of what honey and cinnamon could cure included arthritis, bad breath, bladder infections, cancer, cholesterol, colds, fatigue, hearing loss, heart disease, immune system, indigestion, influenza, longevity, skin infections, upset stomach, weight loss.(Forgive the poor syntax in the list. I didn't write it! Whyever would one want to cure longevity? Or one's immune system?)

Here's one of their instructions, quoted directly:
 HEART DISEASES: Make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, apply on bread, instead of jelly and jam, and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces the cholesterol in the arteries and saves the patient from heart attack. Also, those who have already had an attack, if they do this process daily, they are kept miles away from the next attack.. Regular use of the above process relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heart beat. In America and Canada, various nursing homes have treated patients successfully and have found that as you age, the arteries and veins lose their flexibility and get clogged; honey and cinnamon revitalize the arteries and veins.

Here's another one:
ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients may take daily, morning and night, one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder. If taken regularly even chronic arthritis can be cured. In a recent research conducted at the Copenhagen University, it was found that when the doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week, out of the 200 people so treated, practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain, and within a month, mostly all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis started walking without pain.

See why they went out of business? Don't you love the "practically 73 patients"? Does that mean 72 patients? And the "mostly all of the patients"? Does that mean mostly all of the 73  (72?) or would it mean mostly all of the 200? The world needs more editors!

Well, let me know if you try honey/cinnamon and have miraculous results.

(c) Yelloideas Photography

Still, honey and cinnamon both have a lot going for them. I wonder if the two of them together are more effective than each one alone would be - sort of like a good marriage, a respectful partnership, a clown fish and an anemone, or a well-functioning beehive. 

I figure it can't hurt - and it might help - so I'm headed to the kitchen to spread some honey and cinnamon on a slice of the homemade bread that a thoughtful neighbor gave me. Yum! It's guaranteed to cure my snack urge.

I'll eat it while I'm looking at my bright yellow hive and planning which perennials I need to plant this fall.

BeeAttitude for Day #18:
     Blessed are they who write the truth. We bees don't care, but we know that humans will respect such people.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Day #17 "H & L Bee Farm"

Today (Wednesday) I drove four hours (one way) to check out the H & L Bee Farm in Ocilla, GA, and five hours back (there were accidents on I-285). It was well worth the trip!

Not only did I see the hives up close as Brenda drove me around the Bee Farm on an electric cart, I came home with my very own Deluxe Garden Hive in "Rubber Duck Yellow." If I could figure out how to do it, I'd show you a picture of it. I'll have to ask my granddaughter to teach me how to transfer a picture from my phone to my computer.

Now, at 7:30 on Wednesday evening, the hive is sitting in my dining room, with a cat perched on top of it. I haven't put it out on the deck yet because it's pouring, and I don't want the wood to weather any more than necessary. It will be fresh and ready to go when I get the bees in late March or early April.

I've already ordered them and put down a deposit.I'll be getting a nuc and a package. Don't know what those are? You just wait. I'll explain it all in a later post. Meanwhile:

[I know, this is a book, not a hive, but the color is right]

The nice folks at H&L gave me a CD called "Getting Started with Bees." Terry Hester, one of the owners of H & L said it wasn't a Hollywood production. Nope! But it's full of downright helpful information, and now I've seen how to light a smoker, how to place a package of bees in my hive, how to inspect the hives, and so much more.

BeeAttitude for Day #17:
   Blessed are those who put bands around their wrists and ankles, for we shall not get caught in their clothing and they shall not get stung, so we shall go on to live and produce more honey.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day #16 "1,340 stings"

Well, this is good. I just read that a lethal dose of venom would come from getting ten stings for every pound of body weight. For me, that means 1,340 stings. Guess I'm safe, because I just can't imagine that I'll make that many bees feel threatened.

On a happier note, bees beat their wings at a rate that's about half-way between mosquitos and grasshoppers. Aren't you glad to know that? I'm just glad that bees don't whine like mosquitos. I think that would drive me nuts. Instead, I'm looking forward to lazy mornings sitting on the deck listening to the hum of the bees as they work while I sip tea and write. The cats can look out the window, if they'll get out of their paper bags first.

Life is good.

BeeAttitude for Day #16:
      Blessed are they who respect all animals, for they shall be more aware of what we can teach them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day #15 "More Fun Bee Facts"

I used to think I worked hard at caring for my children when they were babies. All those wide-awake nights, all those feedings, all those diapers (cloth, not disposable!), all those little hand-sewn outfits...

Well, I don't know what dinosaurs had to go through to rear their babies, but we humans have an easy job compared to bees. Before the queen bee can lay an egg, 25 to 30 bees work about 41 minutes to prepare the cell for her. Then, once the egg has become a larva, 1,300 bees visit it, doing baby-tending stuff. In fact, each larva will get 7,200 bee visits during its stay in the cell. Once it hatches, 60 bees work at cleaning the cell to ready it for the next egg.

Once again, I took these facts from The Beekeeper's Handbook, that was loaned to me by an experienced beekeeper who belongs to the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club. I think this link will get you there: Beekeepers are generous people, willing to share their expertise. I'm going to have to get my own copy of that book, though, so he can loan his copy to somebody else.

One more fact: One bee can collect anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 grains of pollen at a time. I keep being amazed by these little critters.

BeeAttitude for Day #15:
    Blessed are they who advise brand new beekeepers, for they shall help us bees get better treatment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day #14 "Ever seen a corbicula?"

Okay - I'm better today. No more sniffing in my tea.


Do you know what a corbicula is? Neither did I until a few minutes ago when I read it in The Beekeeper's Handbook. I think I've read about it before this, but it only this minute sunk in. A corbicula is a pollen-collecting "basket" shaped like a flattened depression surrounded by curved spines of the outside of a bee's hind legs. Worker bees have two of them, one on each back leg. When they're fully loaded with pollen, the bee looks like it's toting a pair of cute little yellow saddlebags.

I looked for a photo of a corbicula, but the closest I could find was a butterfly bush with a yellow butterfly (in my daughter's yard).

I can't wait to see my honeybees all yellowed up.Only six more months until I get the bees. Then, who knows how long it will "bee" until I see the corbiculae filled with golden particles. Reading about it sets up some glorious anticipation. Temple Grandin, in her book Animals in Translation says that anticipation is often more satisfying than the end result. I saw the movie Temple Grandin and was so impressed I'm reading her books. So far, though, she hasn't said anything about bees.

BeeAttitude for Day #14:
     Blessed are they who respect us for who we are and what we do, for they shall be satisfied with their lives.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Day #13 "I'm wondering if I can stand it"

If you're looking for a funny blog this morning, this one won't be it. Come back tomorrow, when I promise I'll be brighter.

Last year, between the end of October and the middle of December, I had to have three of my beloved older cats put down. Waldo had battled kidney disorders for several years; Harley developed an enormous brain tumor; and Jazzminka had squamous cell carcinoma.

All my cats have been rescues, but often I felt that they were the ones who had rescued me. Jazzminka cured my thyroid, for instance. I'd given them all a good indoor life, with as much affection, brushing, and holding as they wanted. Twelve years ago Waldo wandered into my garage bleeding and starving, and never wanted to go outside again as long as he lived. I could leave a door open, and he wouldn't approach it. They had plenty of exercise, for they all loved to run up and down the cat trees and ramps that grace my house. But then, one day, for each of them, it was time to let go.

At beekeepers meetings, I've heard of people who've lost entire hives. There are so many ways in which honeybees can be threatened. The fact that bees have, as a species, survived for countless years (a lot longer than the dinosaurs lasted), still does not guarantee that the hives I'm planning for my back deck will make it.

As with my cats, I can give them as much nurturing as I'm able, and something still may happen that will doom the hive. Right now, I'm wondering if I can stand it. At least with my cats, I was able to hold each of them as they made their transition across the rainbow bridge. But it's hard to hold a bee.

Worker bees in the summer have a life span of five or six weeks. But a hive, the social unit of the bee, can last for years and years. Until pesticides or inept beekeepers get in the way.

I'm going to go make myself a cup of tea and sit in my rocking chair, where Miss Polly or Daisy will find my lap. Purrs help combat sadness. So do sunrises and writing and farmer's markets and singing and reading and having lunch with friends and . . .

Maybe I'm not so sad after all.

Beeattitude for Day #13:
    Blessed are they who love without reservation, for they shall have full hearts.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day #12 "Handmade Soaps and Beeswax"

While I was in Washington DC last week, I went to the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market on Sunday morning. What a great collection of people who care about the environment. I wandered from stall to stall, talking to everybody. Met some beekeepers, knitters, soapmakers. You name it, there was someone there selling it.

The soap I bought is made from an olive oil base. It's probably just as well it doesn't contain beeswax. It's very hard to buy beeswax that isn't polluted with some amount of toxins, since beekeepers for so long have medicated their bees, and the meds pass right into the wax the bees excrete. Not from that end! The wax comes from special glands on the front of their tummies.

Back to the soap - here's their website, in case you're interested:

I think I'll be okay once I actually have my bees. They don't like smelly stuff like hairsprays (neither do I) or heavy perfumes, but the soap fragrance is light and wonderful. I'll let you know next spring what the bees think of it.

Beeattitude for Day #12:
   Blessed are they who come to us not wearing perfumes or hair spray, for they shall not confuse us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day #11 "Could I Carry 115 pounds?"

I just read that a bee can carry 85% of its body weight when it's fully-loaded with nectar.

My gosh! I'd have to carry 114.75 pounds to do that kind of work. Okay - go ahead and do the math.

Not only that, but I'd have to carry it up to 29 trips per day. Do bees get coffee breaks?

Actually, they do get breaks. They fly into the hive and sit there for a short while, resting; but then they're right out the door again. Feisty little critters, aren't they?

Beeattitude for Day #11:
     Blessed are they who keep bees, for their gardens (and those of their neighbors) shall be pollinated.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Day #10 "3,500 Bees per Pound"

Fun Facts about Bees:

1. A "fully-loaded" bee flies 6 to 9 miles per hour
2. When a bee is "empty," she lazes along at 8 mph
3. Bees can fly up to eight miles from their hive, but they usually stay within a 2-mile radius
4. Nectar Collecting:
        100-1,500 flowers per load
         up to 29 round trips per day
         a trip can last from 5 to 150 minutes
5. In order to produce 150 pounds of honey, the bees in one hive have to fly the equivalent of 13 trips to the moon and back again.

I have 590 more days to go on my blog. I wonder, in terms of effort, how that compares to even one trip to the moon. Bees are amazing, aren't they?

I pulled these tidbits from The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro & Alphonse Avitabile.

Beeatitude for Day #10:
            Blessed are they who care enough about us to learn what we need, for they shall be full of interesting facts to astound their friends.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day #9 "Just sit 'em out in a field . . ."

This afternoon I rode on MARTA back from the Atlanta airport, and I got to talking about beekeeping with someone who sat down near me. A young soldier sitting in the next seat spoke up and said his parents kept bees, and that he'd been around them since he was two years old.

"All you need to do ma'am, is just sit 'em out in a field and watch them. There's not an awful lot to it."

Well, that's my thought, pretty much, too. I do want to be a bit more involved, though, which is why I'm spending all this time reading about bees and beekeeping.

Tomorrow, after I get back from my dentist appointment, I'm going to plant some red clover seed on the side of my front yard. I bought it through at Rancho Alegre. Hopefully it will bloom next year just in time for me to sit in a nearby chair and watch the bees collecting nectar for clover honey. Gotta figure out how to call the rain so the clover will germinate . . .

(c) Yelloideas Photography
NO! ! ! I don't want this much rain ! ! ! Hmm . . . Any good ideas on how to prevent that?

BeeAttitude for Day #9:
            Blessed are the “natural” beekeepers, for their honey shall be pure and their bees shall be happy and healthy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Day #8 "Just a spoonful of honey . . ."

If you approach a honeybee hive on a warm morning, you're liable to see a whole bunch of bees flying in circles around it. These bees are memorizing what the hive looks like from many different angles. They fly fairly close to it, then in ever widening circles, just like Rilke, who said he lived his life that way. By studying the hive in relation to the landmarks around it - a tree, a large shrub, a shed, the corner of the garage - they lessen the chance of their getting lost when they go out on their foraging flights.

Those flights, during which they collect the nectar and pollen that supports the hive through the winter, are the last of the jobs they perform for the hive. In its entire life cycle, a single honeybee produces one-twelfth of a teasoon of honey. That's right. It takes a dozen bees to create the spoonful of honey you put in your tea this morning.

Let's hear it for the honeybees!

592 days to go in this journey. Wonder if I'll make it?

Beeatitude for Day #8
            Blessed are they who appreciate bees, for they are a blessing to us.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day #7 (only 593 to go)

Have I mentioned yet that I gave up sugar a few weeks ago? It was working just fine until I attended a Board meeting in a gracious old house -- and there were bowls of candy corn here and there around the place. So much for my resolution.

Bees don't have that problem. A honeybee would never say, "Gee, I'm tired of being a vegetarian. I think I'll try to eat a cow." Humans are omnivores. That's what gets us into trouble. Because we can eat such a wide range of foods - and because our bodies seem to need that wide range - we lay ourselves open to temptation on every side.

Bees have been gathering nectar and pollen for millions of years, and they've done just fine with that standard diet. They feed their babies honey and pollen and Royal Jelly. And water. That's it. Sounds very uncomplicated, doesn't it?

Well, I'm in a mood right now that has me thinking that simplicity is a particularly good idea. Maybe it's all the sugar I've been ingesting. Sugar makes me grumpy, and I don't like that. Maybe I should go watch a bee for awhile--if I could find one. How long till Spring, when I can have bees right here on my back deck?

Beeatitude for Day #6:
            Blessed are they who eat local honey, for they shall be healthier as a result.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Day #6 (only 594 to go)

To bee or not to bee . . . that is sort of the question.

I'm pretty sure I'm not dreadfully allergic to bee venom, but there's a niggly little question in my gut about it. What if I put all this work into setting up a hive and then find out I swell up like a pumpkin when I get stung? It really would bee (sorry) better to find out ahead of time, don't you think?

So, I'm going to find an allergist who can test me. I'll let you know how much it costs so you can add it to the list I made a few blogposts ago.

This is a short one. It's 11:11 p.m. as I write this. I've been at a reception that was great fun - harp music, poetry readings, and lots of great conversation, but now everything's cleaned up, the guests are all gone, and I'm kinda pooped. So good night. This post is scheduled to go out into the world at 12:01 a.m. That's because I can never remember if midnight is supposed to be AM or PM. Ditto with noon. Bees don't worry about stuff like that. They're sound asleep at 11:11 p.m.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Day #5 (only 595 to go)

My sister called me several days ago and asked, "Did you know that Granddaddy kept bees?" Well, no; I hadn't known that. It seems my grandfather, who was a Mississippi farmer all his life, used to have beehives. He kept them for years, never used any protective equipment, and--we would guess--got plenty of honey from them.

Then, one day, my sister told me, he got badly stung, had a severe allergic reaction, and got rid of his hives, never again to keep bees.

The trouble with third-hand stories like this  is that one can't get details. My grandfather died years ago. And my dad has been gone for eight years. I never thought to ask him about his father's role as a beekeeper, because I didn't know to ask. Was he really stung by the bees, or did he perhaps stumble on a yellow-jacket nest? I'll never know.

What other stories have I lost along the way, simply because I didn't know what to ask about? What are the stories that you haven't heard - or haven't told anyone?

It's time to start writing down our stories, so that grandchildren, nieces, nephews, siblings, children, will have a way of connecting when we're not around to answer the questions. I have copies of my grandfather's diaries. I can't recall ever having seen a reference to bees. But then again, I wasn't looking for that when I read through them.

Time to go back and read them with a specific topic in mind. There's no telling what I'll find.

Beeatitude for Day #5:
Blessed are they who keep their hands in their pockets when visiting us, for they shall not frighten us with flailing arms.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day #4 (only 596 to go)

I attended a meeting of the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club last Tuesday. Since there were so many of us there who had never kept bees, the leaders went through ALL the equipment needed for a beekeeping operation. This is, of course, assuming that one wants to harvest honey. The equipment is for the convenience of the keeper. It is not a necessity for the bees. After all, those critters have been around since before the dinosaurs. We know that because a honeybee, trapped in amber 14 million years ago, recently came to light.

So, they don't really need us, but we sure need them. Think of every fruit or veggie you've eaten in the past twelve months. Not the grains -- wheat and oats and such are pollinated by the wind. The fruit trees and gardens, though, whether huge commercial operations or small back-yard plots, need bees. NO BEES translates to no food for us. I sure don't want to live exclusively on oatmeal and rice and whole wheat bread.

(c) yelloideas photography

The equipment, though. My gosh! I could spend a fortune on this endeavor. Of course, there are ways to cut corners. Instead of spending $63 on a huge white bee suit with built-in elastic straps to seal my pant legs and wrists (so bees won't crawl in there to investigate), I went to Goodwill and spent $8 on some oversized white pants and long-sleeved shirts. I figure two layers of each with something like velcro straps around my wrists and with my socks pulled up over the pant legs will do me just fine. I am NOT going to post a picture of me wearing them, but I figure the bees won't care how silly I look.

Why are beekeeping suits always white? Bees get really curious about dark colors. So if you visit a hive, wear light-colored clothes.

I will invest in a bee veil -- don't want to get stung on my face or neck in case I do something dumb to upset the bees. You see, honeybees are very gentle. Unless they feel threatened, in which case it is their duty to protect the hive. They will literally give their lives to protect the hive and the queen. If a worker bee stings, she dies. So, a $35 bee veil is a good investment. Cheaper ones (that still work well) are half that price. I jsut saved $17!

And a smoker. This is a fat can with a tube-shaped exhaust at the top and a bellows attached on the side. You start some newspaper burning in it, stuff in a bunch of pine needles or other such fuel, close it up, pump on the bellows, and smoke will drift out of the tube. Smoking the bees will calm them. At the meeting we were advised to buy a smoker right away and practice, practice, practice, so that when the time came to calm a suspicious hive, we wouldn't have our smoker go out at the wrong time. $36 for a good basic smoker. Should last for years.

Four dollars will buy me an Italian hive tool and another four for a bee brush. One helps open a hive that's stuck shut with propolis, and the other is for gently brushing bees off a comb when I need to take it away from them.

$22 for a frame holder, a metal doohickey that I can hook over the side of the hive body so that, as I lift out frames to inspect them, I don't have to set them on the ground and risk squashing bees, stepping on the comb, or getting grass or dirt stuck to the foundation.

Gloves are a good idea, and there are styles that range up to $17, but one of the books I read suggested getting some yellow rubber gloves from the household department at the grocery store. They work just fine. Eventually, the goal is to get to where you're comfortable not wearing gloves at all. If you get stung -- refer back to the hive tool. It's good for scraping out the stinger.

I'm up to $143 so far (if I added correctly), and I still don't have the wooden hives or the bees. I'll worry about that later. After all, this is only Day #4.

Beeatitude for Day #4:
Blessed are they who wear light-colored clothes, for we shall not pay any attention to them.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day #3 (only 597 to go)

Last night, I couldn't seem to sleep, so I got up and wandered out onto my back deck, where the bees will be installed come Springtime. I sat there for quite a while, absorbing the night sounds, full of insect noises and, unfortunately, the rumble from Interstate 85 a mile or so away. Fortunately that sound was somewhat muffled by all the trees behind my house.

Whales used to be able to hear other whales' songs half an ocean away, but now, with all the underwater noise from ships and boats and subs, and the supersonic booms from the air above, the world of the whale has shrunk. Honeybees, though, communicate mostly through smell and movement, so I don't think they're affected so much by our noise pollution. At least not in my back yard.

If you remove a queen bee from her hive, the workers will almost immediately know that they are queenless, because her uniquely-scented pheromones will no longer be present. The workers then will begin forming extra-large queen cells and stuffing them with Royal Jelly, the protein-rich substance that creates a queen bee.

Strange bees that enter a hive are challenged by the guard bees -- those strangers don't smell right. Baby bees that have died before emerging smell different than healthy babies, and the nurse bees will empty the cells of the corpses, pass the dead bees to the house bees to toss out of the hive, and clean the cells to make them ready for the queen's next egg-laying pass. Bees smell the pollen and nectar on their incoming hivemates; they smell the consistency of the honey as it is gradually evaporated to the correct consistency.

And then there's the movement. The ways bees dance to communicate is intricate enough to need entire books to explain how they do it. Suffice it to say that a foraging bee can fly home and do a special dance to tell the other bees the quality of a nectar source, where it is (both the direction from the hive and the distance from the hive), and probably a bunch of other things I haven't learned about yet.

As a writer, I'm a firm proponent of the power of the written word, but I must admit I'm awed by the ways whales and honeybees talk to each other. Wouldn't it be fun to speak their language?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day 2 (only 598 to go)

Well, Day #1 was great fun. Just getting the blog started felt like quite an accomplishment. Almost like the feeling I got when I made pickled beets a week or so ago. What do pickled beets have to do with bees, other than the common first three letters? I'm glad you asked.

You see, bees are incredibly tidy little critters. The worker bees spend their entire life cycle moving in a methodical way from one task, such as cleaning out the brood cells, to feeding the babies and attending the queen, to fanning the honey (that evaporates the excess water and gets the honey down to 18% humidity, which is what keeps the honey from going bad), to working as guards or house bees, and then on to the outside foraging jobs. I may have skipped a job or two, but you get the idea.

Anyway, the house bees are responsible for picking up any garbage and tossing it out the door. If a mouse sneaks in to try to rob the honey, the guard bees sting it to death. The trouble with that is that the house bees can't pick it up and toss it outside. So the bees coat the mouse with propolis (that's a glue-like substance that they make from tree sap). The coating keeps the mouse from rotting and stinking up the hive, rather like mummification, although I must admit I've never smelled a mummy.

But I was talking about beets. I went to the Lawrenceville Farmer's Market a couple of Saturdays ago and picked up, among other things, a big bunch of beets. Had fun introducing them to my grandchildren, who had never tasted raw beet. After that, we cooked one and they ate it with gusto. (I have wonderful, culinarily adventuresome grandchildren.) Over the next few days I ate beets for breakfast (they made the eggs turn pink), lunch (they don't taste great in lasagna), and dinner (pretty good). I'd bought too many beets, though. So I pulled out an old Betty Crocker cookbook that I'd gotten as a wedding present in 1968. And I pickled the remaining beets! That's not exactly like propolizing a dead mouse, but it did prevent the beets from getting slimy.

I'll give you the recipe (for beets, not mouse), just in case you're interested. If you're not, just skip down to the Beeatitude for the day.

Cook a bunch of beets (boil them for a while).
Peel and slice them. Put the skins in your compost pile.
Mix a cup of water, a half-cup of vinegar, a cup of sugar (or substitute agave nectar), and a stick of cinnamon. I didn't have a cinnamon stick, so I just threw in a half-teaspoon of the stuff.
Pour all this over the beets and let them sit overnight in the 'fridge.
Betty Crocker started with a can of sliced beets. That's no fun at all.
--End of Recipe Portion--

Beeatitude for Day #2:
Blessed are they who plant bee-friendly flowers, for they shall have music all summer long.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 1 (only 599 to go)

I never knew there was so much to learn about bees. There seems to be a drastic division within the beekeeping community, with those who advocate the large-cell foundations, which result in larger bees that are more prone to attack by varroa mites (nasty little buggers) on one side, and the so-called "natural beekeepers" on the other. Guess which side I'm on?

I learned about the natural approach through reading The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping. I checked it out from the library, but have ordered a copy from my favorite independent book store, Cowan's Book Nook in Blue Ridge GA. I plan to use only the small-cell foundation, so I can have healthier and, I would assume, happier bees.

What's foundation, you ask? Well, it's a sheet of very thin beeswax that is stamped in a pattern of hexagonal ridges. When the bees build comb, as they've done for more than 14 million years in the wild, they don't need foundation, but beekeepers find that by giving the bees the foundation to start with, the bees create honeycombs that are more convenient for said beekeepers who want to rob -- er, harvest -- the honey.

I think I'm going to start with one hive with foundation already in it, and one hive where I give the bees a chance to build their own. Then again, since the only thing I know about bees comes from the fifteen books I've read so far, I may change my mind by day 60 of this blog.

I'll keep you informed every step of the way.

Beeatitude for day 1:
Blessed are they who use no pesticides, for they shall be healthy - and so shall we bees.