Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day #50: I'm getting worried

I keep thinking about getting that package of several pounds of bees in late March or early April.

I've watched the YouTube videos and the DVD from my bee-supplier. They all show a confident looking beekeeper turning the box upside down and -- POW!! hitting it against the hive to dump the bees out forcibly.

I can't do it. I've tried to see myself cracking that screen-sided crate against the hive, and I get cold shivers just thinking about it. The beekeepers say the bees don't mind. HA! How would they know? Did they ever ask the bees? If I were a bee, would I want to be slammed into my new home? NO, NO, and once again, NO!

Instead, I think I'll just move some of the frames out of the way, open the package of bees, and set it inside. They'll figure out where their queen is fast enough.

If you're an experienced beekeeper reading this and you think I'm nuts -- well, that's what the comment section is for. Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong. I'll listen . . . but when April gets here, I might not heed your instructions.

BEEattitude for Day # 50:
       Blessed are the gentle. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The run-off election here in Gwinnett County GA 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Day #49 Heteroskedasticity

I wonder what a doctoral dissertation for a bee would involve?

As part of my work as a free-lance editor, I work with people from all over the country, editing their dissertations. A couple of days ago, one of the dissertations mentioned "heteroskedasticity-consistent tests."  Try to say that six times really fast. I will say, in defense of the doctoral candidate, he hadn't used the word himself. It was simply cited in his reference list as part of an article title.

Not only did I have to look it up so I'd know whether or not it was spelled right (you can apparently substitute a c for the k and still be correct), I was curious as to what it meant. Once I knew that, I began to wonder what words a bee would use to sound really important in her thesis. Here are a few I came up with:

  • Nectargrination: flying all around the place to find some flowers that have enough nectar to be interesting.
  • Queenification: the process of eliminating a weak queen and producing a new one.
  • Beebreadify: To bring bee bread (a rich mixture of pollen and various liquids) down from the storage cells and feed it to the baby bees.
  • Cleansidepoopifidumpification: Taking the queen's waste products away from her and depositing them outside the hive.
  • Scrubbadubbadadeck: What Frannie will have to do next summer  after a lot of cleansidepoopifidumpification has been going on.
The next time I edit a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation for a bee, I'll know whether or not these words are spelled right.

BEEattitude for Day # :
       Blessed are those who spend their whole lives learning, for they shall either be a fountain of wisdom or a fountain of trivia.
One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Sesquipedalian words that make me laugh 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day #48 The Family History of Bees?

Bees don't need genealogy. When 80,000 bees in the hive are all sisters and have the same mother and won't be having children themselves, it seems a little silly to chart them.

I suppose serious bee breeders like to know where their queens come from. I'll be buying a particularly gentle breed of bees next Spring, and I suppose I'm glad the H&L Bee Farm people know what they're doing, but the bees themselves couldn't care less.

They know when a queen is failing -- not laying enough eggs -- and they get rid of her and create a new queen. Then the new one flies off and mates with whatever drones she finds in the drone-gathering place. Those drones have congregated from miles around -- no telling what their genetics are.

So, after a while, my H&L gentle bees will probably evolve into their own little family with traits that I might not have counted on when I got the original batch. That's life, folks. And it's a logical consequence of "natural beekeeping," letting the bees what they do naturally. Come to think of it, the new queen might mate with drones that are even gentler. Wouldn't that be great?

I've read in several bee books that if an undesirable trait (such as bloodthirstiness?) crops up, it's my job as a bee-keeper to isolate the queen and - - - gulp! - - - squoosh her. I don't know if I'd be able to do that. Hopefully I've never have to find out.

If I do -- you'll read about it here, and you'll just have to imagine the tearsdrops spotting the page.

For now, though, all is well on Frannie's back deck. Of course, there aren't any bees there yet.

BEEattitude for Day # 48:
       Blessed are those who let well enough alone, for they have have a much simpler life. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My granddaughter who called me on Thanksgiving Day. Remembering our conversation lightens my heart. 

[All photos are from the public domain unless noted otherwise.]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day #47 Disgruntled fan

Friday I received an email that said:

"Why didn't you talk about Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day?"

Good question. For one thing, even Google put a roast turkey and a pumpkin pie on the home page that day. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate the fact that we set aside a day for football -- uh, I mean for giving thanks -- but I tend to give thanks every day of my life. That's why I include a gratitude statement in my blog each day. That's why Biscuit McKee, the librarian in my mystery series, writes a gratitude list at the end of each day. That's why Marmalade, the library cat, adds her gratitude list (leftover chicken, the bird feeder, gentle pats, being brushed, this soft chair).

So, for the Thanksgiving Day blog, I talked about the Post Office. If that struck you as being disrespectful, I apologize.

One of the things I've been most thankful for recently has been my getting to know bees better. If you've read my posts with any regularity, you'll know that they have me learning, growing, philosophizing, laughing, and waxing thoughtful about my place in the Universe. Bees have been around a very long time -- 140 million years or so -- much longer than dinosaurs, turtles, and/or hominids. If I can help make their life a bit easier in my little corner of Lawrenceville GA, then I have every reason to be thankful.

BEEattitude for Day # 47:
       Blessed are those who inquire, for they shall find answers. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       You - for reaching out to ask your question. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day #46 Nomophobia

I found a new word! Nomophobia. It certainly wasn't in my Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (published about forty years ago). Usually that old blue book serves my logomanical needs just fine. But English is an evolving language, and we need new words.

Hence http://www.dictionary.com/ and nomophobia. That's a fear that probably creeps up rather often in theaters and at large family gatherings -- if the family matriarch insists on the turning off of cell phones. Nomophobia, you see, is "the fear of being out of cell phone contact" -- certainly not a fear that ever affected me growing up and doesn't worry me now. You see, I enjoy solitude. I am quite capable of leaving my phone behind when I go the The Shakespeare Tavern or a Thanksgiving dinner. That way I can thoroughly enjoy the conversation.

Bees don't have to worry about nomophobia or any other kind of fear. They do their jobs efficiently and quietly (except for the buzzing). That's why I spent part of Thanksgiving day simply sitting on my deck imagining  what the bees and the hives would look and sound like like when they're operating next spring. I had a cup of my favorite Tazo Chai tea in hand, and a good book manuscript to read (the one I'm writing!) What could be better?

BEEattitude for Day # 46:
       Blessed are  those who are complete unto themselves, without electronic gadgets, for they shall be able truly to enjoy the moment. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Thanksgiving leftovers 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day #45 The Post Office

Yesterday I went to the post office to mail a package to a friend in Australia
and some books to the Bartram Trail Regional Library in Washington GA. They’d bought some of my books, and I told them I’d donate some others. I love libraries. Anyway, while I waited in line, one of my favorite postal workers, Debbie, told a man at the counter that the way to measure a box was along the longest side and then all around the shortest way. How on earth would anyone ever remember that? But then she added, “Head to toe and around the waist.” Don’t ya’ love it?

The bad news was that the postage for four books to Australia was over $40. On the other hand, what’s the cost of flying a really long way? I guess $40 is well worth it, since hand-delivery would be impractical.

Bees never have to worry about that sort of stuff. They gather their pollen and nectar within a five-mile radius of their home hive. Of course, large commercial beekeepers transport hives all around the country on huge flat-bed trucks to follow the large commercial crops, rather like my flying to Australia to deliver a present of books. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we encouraged bee tending all over the country?  Think of it. Every house with a hive or two. Every orchard or garden with dozens of them. Let the bees do their thing. Don’t worry about medicating them. Don’t use pesticides on the crops. Don’t try to force honey production.

I know – that’s a Mother Earth News kind of mentality – and there are plenty of folks who simply aren’t interested in keeping bees or eating pesticide-free food. But, just for a moment – imagine! Wonderful, isn’t it?

BEEattitude for Day # 45:
       Blessed are they who, like our field bees, deliver gifts, for they shall rest assured that their hive is safe.
One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The nice people at the Lawrenceville GA Post Office on Buford Drive. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day #44 Reaching Across the World

On Tuesday, I mailed some of my books to two people I'd met through the internet. One is working on her Doctor of Divinity degree; we correspond through emails and Skype. I may be editing her work, but I'm also learning a lot from her.

Another is a science writer who works for NASA. I subscribe to NASA Science News, and I kept noticing her name listed as the author of articles I truly enjoyed reading. Finally one day, after reading her explanation of "Curiosity" (a space exploration vehicle trudging over the dusty Mars landscape),  I clicked on her name. Ah-ha! A link to her email. So I wrote her a quick note about how much I had enjoyed that particular article. She manages to get wry humor into most of her articles. In this one, she'd said that exploring Mars was much like finding your grandmother's dusty journal in an attic. Of course you'd read it! And you'd find out that "Granny was a pistol."

Here's what I said to her in my first email after I introduced myself briefly:

           I am so impressed when I read a scientific article that is as lucid as yours was. Your image of exploring grandmother's dusty diary was truly brilliant.  The "bird-dog" simile was equally effective. Thank you for your meticulous detail and your fine writing. You're going on my gratitude list tonight because of the joy I felt reading about "Curiosity."
          Best wishes,
 p.s. I have read my grandmother's diaries -- and she WAS a pistol!

She replied and, over the past year we've kept up quite a conversation. She finally got around to reading my first mystery, and then asked me to send her another one. The same thing happened with the doctoral candidate in Australia, who is working her way through every one of my books.

Well then, where do bees come into all this? Think about the folks who emigrated to the New World in the 17th and 18th centuries. I'd be willing to bet some of them were beekeepers. The sailing ships then were rather like the internet now. They carried letters (emails). They allowed forays into new realms (like internet searches). The beekeepers, finding bees in the Americas, would have recognized them and their value, much the same way I recognized value in the NASA article and the dissertation.

Queen bees, on their maiden flight, during which they go to where the drones gather (a new territory indeed for the young queens) and mate with a large number of drones from differing bees hives (colonies). They bring the resulting genetic variety back to their hive in the same way that ideas from the New World mingled with ideas from the Old.

So - pull out your granny's old diary. You never know what you'll find. Maybe she kept bees.

BEEattitude for Day # 44:
       Blessed are those who explore new worlds, for they shall find nectar in abundance. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My connections with Mesheril and Dauna

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day #43 Watching Toddlers

Well, a dear young friend of mine asked me to babysit her and her two toddlers Monday. She's extremely restricted for the next few months, until her baby is born. Don't you love it when the doctors tell the mother of two small boys not to lift A N Y T H I N G ? Hmmm... Don't think I could have managed that years ago when my kids were small.

Although, come to think of it, when my children were 2 and 5, my appendix ruptured. I thought it was a torn muscle and walked around for ten days caring for my children until I was finally way too sick to function. By the time I went for a check-up, I had peritonitis. Probably should have killed me -- but it didn't. The emrgency room people were appalled that I had driven my kids to a sitter and then myself to the hospital. This blogger is one tough cookie!

The kids I watched this time around were a delight. Two loving, happy, bright little boys. I had a great time and laughed enough to make my sides sore.

I wonder if bees love each other? Is hive discipline the same thing (sort of) as two parents who lovingly teach their children? I don't know. What do you think?

BEEattitude for Day # :
       Blessed are those who raise their children well, for they shall be doubly blessed when they are old farts (like our beekeeper). 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Her sense of humor.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day #42 How about four (or even five) winners?

So, the question (on day #37) was:

Why did the bee cross the road?

And I couldn't decide who should win. What do you think?
Here are the answers - in the order I received them:

a, Just bee-cause.

b. Because "A Taste of Honey" was on the marquee of the drive-in theater across the road.

c. Because the chicken didn't want to any more.

d. Bee-thoven was playing in the concert hall across the road and over the hill.

e. Bees don't need a reason. They just have to bee.

f. Duh! The hive was over there, dude.

Now, I ought to warn you that three of these answers came from one family, which is one reason I wouldn't dare pick a winner!

BEEattitude for Day # 42:
       Blessed are those who are kind to chickens. Those birds need all the help they can get.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       My furnace, installed six years ago by Cool-Ray, and still running just fine. (Brrr! It's cold outside!)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day #41 Singing is Like Buzzing

As I write this, it's 6:30 Saturday evening. I just got home from an all-day rehearsal for the Gwinnet Choral Guild, and boy, did I have fun. I simply love singing with that group. The conductor, Phillip Shoultz, is dynamic and exacting, and kind at the same time. He can pull music out of us that we didn't know we had in us. I enjoy being held to a high standard of excellence (is that phrase redundant?)

We're getting ready for some upcoming concerts, rather like bees preparing for the winter. They gather honey -- we gather song. They dance -- we sing.

We're going to do our annual Messiah Singalong on the Sunday after Thanksgiving at Lawrenceville (GA)Presbyterian Church. Come on along and sing a hallelujah or two. The two Christmas concerts will be Saturday December 4th and Sunday the 5th. Details are at the GCG website.

"But, I live in Texas," you say.  Or in Louisiana or Michigan or Australia. Well, just as there are bees practically everywhere (except Antarctica), so there are singers. Check out your local high school. I bet their music department is putting on a concert of some sort.

After you hear the singers, tell me all about it.

Just 129 more days until I get my bees! Do you think you can stand waiting that long?

BEEattitude for Day # 41:
       Blessed are the singers, for they shall have rich lives indeed.

Two people I’m grateful for right now:
       Veronica and Millie, who cared for my cats while I was in Colorado. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Day #40 Whew! I'm home

I keep hearing all this flap about not letting people on the internet know when you're not going to be home. Well, I took that seriously, so for the past week, I've been blogging from my sister's place in Colorado. We had a fun time together. We talked, talked, talked, laughed, laughed, laughed, and ate, ate, ate.
(Beth Stallings Photo)
Bees in a hive are all sisters (except for the drones, who get thrown out of the hive once winter comes). If I had a brother, I wouldn't do that to him. I'd want to be as good a friend to my brother as my son and daughter are to each other. But, back to my sister. Diana is an artist who has created a series of fabric art pieces (quilts/wall hangings/and such) that SHOW what depression feels like. The series she created is called "The Ragged Edge," and those twelve pieces hung at the Walter Reed Institute the summer of 1991 as a part of their DART (Depression Awareness/Research/Treatment) Program. She's currently looking for a museum or a corporation to display them in a permanent collection. Her talent continually astonishes me. She was diagnosed when she was in  her forties, and has had twenty or so good years since then.

If you know anyone who is depressed (or who you think might be), please check out my sister's website http://www.depressionvisible.com/ and get her book Depression Visible: the Ragged Edge. I don't know whether bees ever get depressed. I would imagine they don't, but then again, how is one to know?

At any rate, Diana is a joy to be with now. While I was in Colorado, I took her to a meeting of the Pikes Peak Branch of the NLAPW (National League of American Pen Women). What a dynamic group of people! I belong to the Atlanta Branch -- an equally powerful bunch of professional women in the arts. It's a delight to be able to talk with creative, artistic women, all of whom understand what we're going through as we strive to create our art, whether it's through words, music, paint, or clay. Rather the way all the sister bees in a hive cooperate with each other and appreciate each other's skills. I was buzzing with energy after the luncheon on Thursday.

After the long flight home, though, I feel sort of like a foraging bee must feel when she's flapped her little wings hard enough to carry her several miles from her hive and back home again. Do bees ever hang their tongues out and pant? For that matter, do bees ever sweat? Who knows?

My flight landed in Atlanta at 10:00 pm, and my dear friend Millie met me at the airport and drove me home. Bless her! I greeted my cats, wrote my gratitude list, wrote this blog, and then pretty much collapsed. What is it about sitting on an airplane that's so ennervating? The lack of oxygen? The enforced inactivity? The proximity of so many overwrought people worrying about their schedules and fiddling with their electronic gadgets?
(public domain photo)

Why can't we people be more like bees and simply do our jobs without the constant worrying? Worry wears our wings out.

BEEattitude for Day # :
       Blessed are those who look while they fly, for they shall see the world from a higher perspective.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       My sister, Diana Alishouse 

Reminder: Check out her website to take a look at her art pieces that SHOW what depression feels like. While you're there, think about buying her book, Depression Visible, for a friend who is depressed or who lives with someone who is bipolar. I never really understood what my sister was up against until I read her book.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day #39 Beetles for Breakfast?

Here are some things I'm thinking about:

1. bee types:
Italian Cordovan honeybees are gentle, and they make great honey.
Russian honeybees frequently have an attitude, but they make great honey, too.
Still, why would I deliberately choose grumpy bees?

2. beetles:
Bees in a hive that sits slightly elevated above a concrete slab have a better chance of defending themselves from SHBs (small hive beetles), since the housekeeping bees can grab the beetle larvae as they hatch and throw them out where they will proceed to roast on the sunny concrete (rather than burrowing down into the soil and  multiplying).

3. breakfast:
I apologize if you're eating breakfast while reading this blog entry. You see, I write murder mysteries, and I have a cast-iron stomach when it comes to discussing poison, knives, bullet wounds, and other such gore over a meal. I have to watch myself in a restaurant lest the people at the next table call the cops after hearing me brainstorming about ways to kill off a character. So even something as awful as SHBs (and they are awful, considering what they can do to a hive of bees), is fair game as I sit here writing this post that will be published at 12:01 a.m. tomorrow. Whoops! Did I forget to mention that, as I type away, I'm eating Greek yogurt (from Cabot Farms) with cinnamon on it?  And wondering . . .

Hmm . . . Beetles could add some protein . . .

p.s. Did you read Day #18? It's all about cinnamon and honey.

BEEattitude for Day # 39:
       Blessed are they who eat a good and varied diet, for they shall be healthy. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       My adventuresome spirit and my openness to new ideas.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Day #38 Tea and honey and good friends

I have a dear friend who likes tea as much as I do. She moved away from Atlanta quite some time ago, and I'm glad to say she's happy in her new place, but I miss her. Particularly when I sit down to have a cup of tea.

Before Kathi left, she and I visited Teavana, and bought an Imperial Blooming Tea Set. I think that's what it was called. Close enough. Anyway, it had two very tall lidded jars, and two cannisters of "blooming" tea balls. Those are made up of flowers surrounded by white tea leaves, all of it hand-tied into a tidy little globular bunch. Kathi took one jar and one cannister, and I took the others.

How does it work? I thought you'd never ask. You take a jar, pop one of the bloom balls into it, add hot water (if the water's boiling, it will make the white tea bitter, so be careful!) and watch as the ball swells, opens, and unfurls the flower buds within. It's amazing, and lots more beautiful than those monster crystal things that grew in the bathtub when I was a kid. Plus, you can drink the result. Of course, add honey first, preferably from local bees..

Kathi, if you're reading this - and I know you are - go get your bloomin' apparatus and let's have a cup of tea together. next year, I'll send you some honey! It won't be local to where you are now, but it'll be heartfelt and friendly.

Here's a link if you want to get Kathi's meditation CD. It's called Forgiveness: Journey to a Peaceful Heart, and it's really relaxing. Plus, it helps with those cranky old forgiveness issues we all seem to have. Sure did help mine!

BEEattitude for Day # 38:
       Blessed are those who sweeten their lives with friendship, for they shall find support when they need it. 

Some women I’m grateful for right now, women whose friendship I can count on:
       Kathi and Shar and Diana and Darlene and Millie and Debby and Cindy and Veronica and Geri and Nanette and Lyn . . . My gosh, I'm blessed indeed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day #37 Here's another bee joke:

I had so much fun with the last bee joke (see Day #24) that I want to do it again. Here goes:

Why did the bee cross the road?

Send your answers to me, fran at franstewart dot com, or put them in a comment below, and I'll post the winner in a few days.

BEEattitude for Day # 37:
       Blessed are those who love to play with words, for they shall be eternally entertained. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The sunset last night and the sunrise this morning. I  know - I listed two things, but it's my gratitude, so I can get away with it. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day #36 The Power of the Written Word to Eliminate Toilet Paper

If you're a member of the Atlanta Writers Club http://www.atlantawritersclub.org/, you've already read something like today's blog, because I'm taking one of the columns I wrote for their monthly newsletter and adapting it a bit. Here it goes:

Over the past month, my life has taken quite a turn, and it’s all - well mostly - because of two particular books: No Impact Man by Colin Beavan and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver.

Colin decided he would try to live one year without making any environmental impact. Some of the life changes he made, such as no paper napkins or paper towels, are ones that I’d already adopted years ago, but I still have a long way to go.

Colin Beavan chose, for instance, to use no electricity. He, his wife, their daughter, and one dog lived in a ninth floor apartment in New York. No elevators (electricity!) meant an awful lot of stairs. No electricity meant no light bulbs. Locally-produced candles solved that problem.

And no car. So they walked, biked, or rode scooters made from all used equipment. Did I mention that they vowed to buy nothing new (other than food from local sources)? And, they came out with a way to live without toilet paper. Don’t ask me how they did it. Colin refused to give specifics in his books - he said it was too personal a topic.

So, I sat down and tried to figure out how they could have accomplished that. Why cut down trees to make a one-use product that will be flushed into the sewer, to be dealt with in a water treatment plant (which we pay for with our tax dollars)? I eventually developed a real good system. No, I’m not going to tell you how I did it. You’ll have to come up with your own solution.

Then, the Kingsolver book changed the way I think about food. She and her family vowed to live an entire year on food that they had either produced themselves or that came from within their county. I’ve been telling myself for years that I should go to farmer’s markets more often. For that matter, I know I should learn to cook, a skill that has eluded me since childhood. Listening to her (it was a CD version, read by the author), I saw the light. So, I’ve gone to farmer’s markets and have signed up with www.gwinnett.locallygrown.net so I can order SOLE food (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) and pick it up at Rancho Alegre in Dacula once a week. I made pickled beets a few weeks ago, and you would have thought I’d invented something divine. Don’t laugh. A year ago I would have scoffed at the idea of pickling anything.

I won’t belabor all the other changes I’ve made, but suffice it to say that the total effect has me feeling like a brand new person. All because of two books. All because of two writers. Pretty impressive, eh?

I can’t claim to write words as powerful as Beavan and Kingsolver, although I do spend a great deal of effort revising until my novels say precisely what I want to convey. And I always try to include good information about bipolar disorder, suicide prevention, ethical treatment of animals, and even blood donations, for heaven’s sake! Perhaps my work doesn’t have quite the same impact as Beavan or Kingsolver’s work, but I’m doing what I can.

And now that I'm getting into beekeeping, I have a feeling my next Biscuit McKee mystery will have little winged critters in it. Whatcha wanna bet?
p.s. When I first wrote this post (way ahead of time because I knew I'd be busy this particular day and wouldn't have the time to write it), I forgot to check the PUBLISH LATER box to schedule it for November 16th. Instead, I hit the PUBLISH NOW button, and sent it out to my devoted followers. So, you may have read this information once as an Atlanta Writers Club member, once as one of my followers, and once again today. If so, I applaud you. I promise not to goof again, unless I forget.

BEEattitude for Day # 36:
       Blessed are those who live elegantly and simply, for they shall bee like us. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The writers who have helped to shape the way I think. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Day #35 More than eight thousand acres

I keep getting more and more impressed with bees.

If foraging worker bees fly out two miles from their hive, the circle indicated by that radius encompasses 8,042.5 acres. That's a lot of pollinating.

Of course, if they can find ample nectar sources within 100 yards of the hive, The Beekeeper's Handbook says they have six and a half acres to cover. I'm making lists of the kinds of plants I can plant in my yard. We're at the end of the planting season here in Georgia, though, so my little bees are going to have to spread out a bit when they get started in the spring. I hope I can spread good bee-safety-energy around a few thousand acres.

Do bees have guardian angels?

BEEattitude for Day # 35:
       Blessed are they who plant good food for us near our hives, for they shall have longer-lived bees. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       Oatmeal for breakfast

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day #34 Pollen Pockets

Way back on Day #14 I talked about corbiculae, the pollen pockets that bees have on the sides of their back legs. I've finally found some good pictures. I went to the Library of Congress website http://www.loc.gov/ and searched public domain pictures. Then I picked one of the choices they gave me (animals) and searched for bees.

That's why my posts recently have had so many photos in them. They don't come through with as much resolution as the originals, but you'll get the idea.

Here are a few that show the pollen clearly. See the sprinkles of golden pollen all over this bee's body?

And this photo shows the corbicula on her right back leg packed with pollen, like a little saddlebag:

BEEattitude for Day #34:
           Blessed are those who pay attention to details, for they shall have much more fun in life.

One thing I'm grateful for:
          The chance, occasionally, to experience different climates in this vast land of ours, and to know that bees are (almost) everywhere.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Day #33 Dancing with Bees

Well, I don't exactly dance with them. Not yet. But I'm looking forward to the time when I'll know that those forager bees are in the hive dancing their little hearts out.

It takes a high degree of cooperation amongst the members of a hive to collect, store, prepare, and protect the pollen, nectar, and eventually, the honey. If the older forager bees simply wandered around looking for nectar, there's a good chance the colony would starve, since good food sources that are relatively far from the hive might be visited by only a single bee,
like this one.The bees have it all figured out, though, which is one reason they've managed to survive so long. They dance. Now we all know dancing is good for you, but for the bees it's absolutely critical. When a bee finds a nectar source, she collects some, brings it home, and uses dance movements, either circles or figure-eights, to tell the other foragers not only that there is nectar, but also how far away it is, and in what direction.

                                                                                      The round dance tells the other bees that the nectar source is within 100 meters (that's 300 feet or so) from the hive, but the round dance can't tell the other bees which direction the nectar is in. For that information, they need the figure-eight, often called the "waggle tail" dance for an obvious reason. The bee waggles her tail. The way she's lined up in relation to the sun gives the direction. And the speed of her dance tells how far away the source is.

So the foraging buddies head out exactly to where they've been directed, and find that patch of michaelmas daisies, like the bright pink one above..

On cloudy days, the bees can still see the sun because they can sense ultraviolet light.

When another bee brings in info about a different source, she tell them which way to go, and more bees pour out of the hive to go get this new bunch of nectar.

Amazing, eh?

BEEattitude for Day #33:
      Blessed are those who dance in joy or in sorrow, for they shall find their direction in life.

Something for which I'm grateful:
      The fact that I can dance - as if no one were watching

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day #32 The Birds and the Bees

No, I'm not writing about THAT. I'm writing about birds. And bees.

You see, they go together. A yard that is bee-friendly, with lots of nectar-producing plants, will probably be bird-friendly as well.

Some time ago, I started a running list of bee-friendly plants that I keep adding to as I think (or read) of new varieties. Viburnums and asters and zinnias and sunflowers. Bee balm (of course) and cleome and sages and daisies. Wax myrtle (male and female to get the fruits) and cardinal vine and Batchelor's Buttons. Elderberry and beautyberry and blackberries and raspberries. And elderberries.
     I already have a huge tuplip poplar and a bunch of Rose of Sharons in my front yard and an entire deciduous forest in my back yard.

I'd love to get to the point where I don't need to feed the birds with purchased birdseed, but my yard simply isn't big enough for all those plants (not to mention the seventy others I have on my list). Birds need so much in the way of varied habitat. Bees are the same way. I'd like not to have to feed them sugar-water, but when I get that three-pound package of bees next spring, they're not going to have any honey stores to feed themselves or the babies that the queen will soon start laying.

That means I'll need to feed them.
So, I'll keep on going to Wild Birds Unlimited for my birdseed.
and I'll crank up the sugar water when the time is right.

BEEattitude for Day # 32:
       Blessed are those who plant yummy flowers, for they shall be surrounded by beauty and by happy bees.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       Miss Polly, the cat who is curled on my lap as I type. And Daisy, the cat who is perched on my shoulder. I know, I know -- that's two things for which I'm grateful. But there's no such thing as too much gratitude.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Day #31 Guard Bees

I thoroughly enjoy the meetings of the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club. Tuesday evening I learned that a hive's first line of defense is the Guard Bees. Sounds terrifying, doesn't it? Read on and you'll find out that it's NOT so scary.

When guard bees get alarmed -- say you're approaching their hive too fast--do they sting you? Nope! Remember, if they sting you, they die. So instead, they go through this little routine of head-bumping. That's right. They fly right at you and run into you -- usually on your forehead.

That ought to be enough to warn you off. It sure would make me decide to wait until another time to check the hive. Luckily, I'm not going into this as a business, so if I can't harvest honey one day, I can wait until another day when the bees are calmer and it's no big deal. If I were using the bees as an income-producing work force, I might have to go ahead and open the hive even though I'd been head-bumped a number of times.

After the head-bumping, if the person isn't smart, the guard bees get more serious. Hope I never run into that situation . . .

If you want to check out the Beekeepers Facebook page, here's the link:


BEEattitude for Day # 31:
       Blessed are those who learn our language, for they shall be sting-free (pretty much).

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       Geri Taran, who is a bee-buddy of mine.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day #30 Digging under the driveway

When Brant Keiser from Keep Smiling Plumbing came here to replace a dead toilet last Friday, he noticed that my house, built in 1985, still had the old brittle horrible blue poly pipe running from the water main to the inside of the house. He saw it because he was down in the crawl space checking out my water heater that hadn't been working well. He recommended Jeff Guinn who owns Bulldog Plumbing. Brant does plumbing inside houses. Jeff works outside. Anyway, Jeff came over right away and gave me an estimate for replacing the blue stuff. He came back Monday to dig under the driveway and down to the front of my house, bore a hole through my foundation, and connect the new pipe. Whew! I'm happy to say it all went well, especially considering the fact that on Monday, just before Jeff got here, the outside pipe sprung a leak. If all this flap hadn't happened, I'd be swimming in a sea of mud.

Blue poly has a life expectancy of 7 to 14 years. Mine lasted 25. Hallelujah!

The other good news is that I had an opportunity to clean out a lot of the stuff in my garage (Goodwill, here I come!) to make room for the new water heater. Brant said a water heater had no business being in a crawl space. I trust my plumber, and I'm glad he's the one toting toilets and water heaters around, so I don't have to learn how to do it.

Speaking of heavy equipment, on the toilet day, Friday, I had three trees removed. One had fallen across my power line; one had obviously already been dying since most of its leaves fell off in June, and the third one was leaning precariously over my roof. E-Z Out Tree Service did a great job. The logs that remain, because I asked for them, have a gorgeous sunburst pattern of dead wood in the center of each of them.

With my new cell phone, I took some pictures of the wood, but now I can't figure out how to get the photos out of my camera and into my computer. My granddaughter says I can't email them to myself because I don't pay extra to have text messaging capability. And I don't have a little USB doohickie. Technology makes our lives a whole lot easier -- except when I don't know how to use it.

What does this have to do with bees? Well, it makes me glad I don't have the bees yet, because I'd hate to think of any of them being run over by the heavy equipment the workers had to use. I know, that's stretching it a bit, to make a connection like that... but I can't think of anything else to say about bees right now. I'm too busy contemplating my weary checkbook.

BEEattitude for Day # 30:
       Blessed are those who drive slowly in residential neighborhoods, for they shall keep us bees safe.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The sunlight filtering through the many healthy trees I have left.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Day #29 My new end table

Imagine this:

Rubber Duck Yellow Hive from H&L Bee Farm

Imagine it sitting in my dining area where I have to walk around it every time I want to go to the kitchen.

Now imagine it sitting in my living room as an end table. Much better, eh? It will have to sit there only until late March or early April, when the bees arrive.

What did I do with the previous end table?
             I'm taking it to Goodwill tomorrow.

What will I do when I lose this end table?
             Buy another hive - maybe a blue one, so I'll be ready when my bees outgrow the yellow hive.

BEEattitude for Day # 29:
       Blessed are they who can laugh at their furniture, for they shall not be tied to meaningless things. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The new gate on my back deck.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day #28 Grannie's Bee Lessons

My grandkids came to visit Friday night while their mother was at an awards dinner for The Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville. We had great fun. We ate stove toast (I don't have a toaster, so I toast bread by buttering the slices and frying them in a saute pan until they're golden brown - the kids think it's goumet fare). They drew monster pictures and fancy designs. We heated up some soup and ate it. They told jokes. We made butter from some extra creamy goat's milk, and ate it on crackers. We baked Grannie's special Molasses Chewy Cookies, and then we ate some of them. Let me know if you want the recipe. I'm going to try to make it with my homegrown honey next year.

For somebody who's never liked to cook, I sure do a lot of it around my grandkids.

Anyway after the cookies, they asked me about the yellow four-tiered hive I have sitting in my dining room. So I took it apart and explained all the pieces. Then the questions came about how the bees operate, how they find the flowers to pollinate, why there's only one queen per hive, why to use a queen excluder (one of the parts of the hive), and how bees find their way home if they fly five miles away from the hive.

We talked about bees for about two hours. For a fifth-grader and a second-grader, that's a long attention span. Then it was time for them to leave. I sent them home with some cookies in a bag.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day #27 My azaleas will have a new life

Well, my handy man came by today (Saturday) to dig up the azalea roots that had stymied me. If you'll remember, I cut them down to prevent my bees from gorging themselves on toxic azalea nectar, but I was left with huge masses of thoroughly entrenched roots that my poor shovel and I couldn't get anywhere with. So, my handy-dandy handyman, whose business is called All Things New, came with his son and dug them up for me.

I figure that was quite a sacrifice. Look what I lost:

I tended to be happy when I was sitting beside the azaleas in the spring. I even color-coded my turtleneck to match them:

But Mark is taking them home to plant in his yard. They get a new life! I'm not a murderer! His yard is, he assures me, farther than five miles from my house, so I won't have to worry about my bees eating these azaleas or any of the others that, according to him, cover his yard from one end to the other.

Not that many of my neighbors have azaleas, either. In fact, in the spring, my yard has always been the one really bright spot in the neighborhood. What on earth am I going to plant that can take their place? If you have any ideas, I'd appreciate them! They have to be plants that thrive in Georgia, though.

BEEattitude for Day # 27 :
       Blessed are they who save plants (even if we bees shouldn't eat them), for they shall live surrounded by beauty.

More than one thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The men who cut down my dead trees Friday, the inside plumber who installed a new (NON-LEAKING!) toilet Friday, the outside plumber who will come on Monday to replace the old blue line from my water meter to the inside of my house, my son who helped me shred up a driveway full of dead azalea branches Friday. People (not things) are what matter.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day #26 Do bees ever get jealous?

I do wonder sometimes whether jealousy is a strictly human emotion. I've never heard of a jealous bee.

Now, bees are territorial.  They protect their hives. A wasp who wanders into a beehive is going to be in trouble. And a newly-hatched queen bee will do her darndest to kill off the as-yet-unhatched competition queens. But I've been reading lately about ways to combine hives, because the more bees a hive has, the more likely it is to make it through the winter. "More bees" means "more workers," which translates into "more honey and pollen stores."

I'm going to have to learn a lot more before I ever try it -- heck, I have to get my bees first, which is still five months away -- but once I have them, how will I know whether a hive is weak, whether a queen needs to be replaced, whether there is enough honey for them to survive the cold weather?

I think I'm going to need a lot of encouragement when it comes time to harvest my first batch of honey. What if I take too much?

Oh quit it, Frannie. People have been harvesting honey (that's a euphemism - it really amounts to robbing hives) for a kazillion years, and there are plenty of books and articles and even YouTube videos about how to do it. All it takes is a bee veil, a bucket, a warm knife, and a whole lot of courage. I'm not afraid of the bees. I'm afraid of my lack of expertise.

To get back to the jealousy idea though, when I look at videos of all those thousands of bees in a hive, each one going about her work, each one intent on doing what needs to be done, I think there isn't room for anything as petty as jealousy. Of course, bees aren't impressed by designer shoes or stock portfolios, which probably goes a long way to explain the difference between bees and us.

BEEattitude for Day # 26:
       Blessed are those who do what needs to be done, for they shall thrive. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The rain that is helping to sprout the red clover I planted for the bees.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day #25 Do you ever thank your poll workers?

"Busy as a bee" took on a new meaning last Tuesday, when I volunteered as an elections official. This is the third election I've worked. In the same way that most people don't know what goes on inside a beehive, I think most people never think about what it takes to facilitate an election.

Each election starts (for the poll worker) several months in advance. The person who is in charge of the precinct has to get her team together, and then be sure that they're trained properly. In my case, Juanita (our precinct leader) let me know when the special training sessions were held. Then it was up to me to attend one. I had to reschedule my chiropractic appointment so I could attend on a Friday morning. I had to go Friday because I was scheduled for a book signing on that particular Saturday.

Then there was the online training, which took several hours. We had to pass a test after we went through the training in order to be eligible to work the polls. Whew!

The Monday evening before an election, all the poll workers congregate at the precinct to set up the voting machines, be sure all the crates and boxes and files and folders are present and accounted for, and arrange the tables in a way that makes the flow of traffic simple and easy to understand. Sometimes this works better than other times. this year, for instance, we received a "suggested layout" from the elections office. The end result was that when voters began to bunch up, as happened quite often on Tuesday, I got to play traffic-coordinator. I felt like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. You can go this way, or you can go that way...

Monday night, we all set our alarm clocks ("set two so you'll be sure to get up on time!" say the instructions) at a ridiculously early hour. Tuesday we have to be in the precinct by six o'clock so we can be sworn in (raise your right hand...), post all the outside signs, and set up all the last-minute equipment. Then, we have to stay there until everything is packed up at the end of the day. In our case it was nine p.m. we had a running competition going as to how many voters our precinct would process in the twelve-hour period. About ten a.m. I guessed we'd have 1,141. The final tally was 1,146. Yeah! I won!

Sitting in a molded plastic school chair or standing on a gym floor (there are no other choices) for fourteen hours gives job security to chiropractors. The good news, though, was that even though we stayed busy as the proverbial bees all day long, we also got a chance to say hello to some of the most responsible people in this nation - those who choose to vote. And don't get me wrong. We DID get breaks - so we could go stand in the linoleum-floored break room and eat from the great pot-luck goodies that we all brought in.

Today, my feet are still as sore as a bee's wings. I think. When I get my bees in the spring, I'll have to ask them how they feel after a long hard day of foraging.

BEEattitude for Day # 25:
       Blessed are those who vote, for they shall have the right to complain. 

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The one and only person last Tuesday who said, "Thank you for working here at the polls." 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day #24 We Have a Winner . . .

Three days ago I asked you, "How can you tell if a bee is hyper?"

The winning answer came from Pete Ogg in Houston:

"You can tell a bee is hyper if she breaks out in hives!"

Petie emailed me with the answer and said that it's rainy in her part of Houston. She's been a regular follower of the bees knees blog since it started.

I'll probably come up with another question at some point. If you think of a good bee joke, though, email me and I'll put it in the blog.

BEEattitude for Day # 24:
       Blessed are they who laugh, for they shall experience the sweetness of life.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       The guy from E-Z Out Tree Service who, later on today, is going to take out the tree that fell across my power line. Wish him safety and speediness, please!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day #23 Scents and Scentsibility

For reasons I'll explain later, as I was writing yesterday, I meant to type the word centimeter, but it came out sentimeter. Before I corrected it, I connected it to sentiment. As I played around with the words (writers do that sort of thing) I came up with:

        Scentimeter: what a worker bee uses to distinguish her hive mates from outsiders
        Scentillate: the action of making bees curious by wearing a particular perfume
        Scentiment: the warm feeling I get when I recall my dad's Old Spice aftershave, hoping the bees would have liked it if they could have met him
        Scentient: really, really smart about figuring things out by using what they smell like
        Scentsibility: What inspired Jane Austen to write as she sat among the beehives in her family's garden.

Did Jane Austen have bee hives? I don't know. I can't recall her mentioning bees in any of her books, but I'm sure there are Austen devotees who could set me straight.

That's enough for now. If you come up with any other scentsible words, put your two-scents worth in a comment below!

Good news: Yesterday I took out my little plastic ruler with the inches on one side and the centimeters (see? I told you I'd explain my thought processes!) on the other. I measured the itty bitty hexagonal ridges on the foundation and found that they are indeed SMALL cell (as opposed to STANDARD size). That means I'll have a better shot at raising healthy bees who can naturally oppose the various mites and beetles that attack the larger honeybees raised by large honey-sellers.

Incidentally, STANDARD in this case means what the large corporate manufacturers and beekeepers have decided to sell and use, so they can push the bees into growing bigger and storing more easily-extracted honey. The bees had nothing to say about it. The bee standard is small.

BEEattitude for Day #23:
       Blessed are those who train their noses, for they shall avoid unpleasant surprises.

One thing I am grateful for:
       My various grandchildren, who delighted me and scared me silly with their Halloween costumes of ladybug, pirate, and ghouls, and who also shared some of their candy with me.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day #22 Bee Queen Wings

It's (relatively - if you're an experienced beekeeper) easy to spot the queen. She's the one with the short wings. Not really. They're the same size as the wings of the workers, but her abdomen is a great deal longer than theirs, so her wings just look shorter.

Her first few flights allow her to orient herself to the hive so she can find her way back to it. Then she takes off to the drone-gathering place. Don't ask me how she knows where that is - it probably has something to do with smell, but nobody seems to know for sure. After she's mated and returned to the hive, the workers start feeding her lots of good bee food, and her abdomen increases greatly in size. As well it should, since she's going to be laying anywhere up to 2,500 eggs a day for the rest of the season, and for two, three, or even four years after that.

She'll never use her wings for much, unless the hive has to swarm. If the workers decide to leave the hive, they stop feeding her as much, so she'll slim down to a weight where her wings can support her. When she's slender enough, half the worker bees in the hive leave, enticing her along in some magical unknown bee language. They all go find another place to live, and the remaining workers get busy on the queen cells they've built up around some regular old eggs. By stuffing those cells with Royal Jelly, they actually create a new queen.

And you thought the queen was in charge????  Nope!

BEEattitude for Day # 22:
       Blessed are those who tread the ground lightly, for they shall not hurt our food sources.

One thing I’m grateful for right now:
       Smiles and hugs from my grandchildren.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day #21 Answer this Bee Joke

November? I never quite got used to February, and here it is the eleventh month already.

This time of year, beekeepers are usually feeding their bees sugar water. Does this have roughly the same effect as all the Halloween treats on human youngsters? I'd love it if I could have bees that gathered nectar most of the year and went into winter with plenty of honey and pollen stores made from abundant nectar plants.

JOKE TIME: How can you tell if a bee is hyper?
Send your answers to me fran@franstewart.com and I'll announce them in one of my upcoming blogs.

BEEattitude for Day #21:
       Blessed are they who avoid excess sugar, for they shall BEE calm. 

Today I am grateful for:
       Public Domain Photos that allow me to show you bees in their natural beauty,