Monday, January 31, 2011

Day #111 White Wax and Cardboard Boxes

This past week has felt like a bonanza. Four separate orders of beekeeping supplies were delivered to my door. Four boxes of magic. At least it feels like magic to me. I now have a hive perch, an “inspector’s jacket,” three beetle blasters, a bee brush, an Italian hive tool, and a whole bunch of other goodies. Yeah!

One of those other arrivals was a one-pound block of white beeswax. As I get my top bars built, I’ll be applying a thin line of beeswax along the length of each bar, so the bees can use it as a roadmap for where to build their combs. I’m not sure the wax is an absolute necessity, but the bees I’ve ordered were all raised on man-made foundation. These sheets of plastic are stamped with a raised pattern of hexagonal cells that have been coated in beeswax. The bees follow that pattern in drawing out the comb (making each cell deep enough to hold eggs, baby bees, nectar, honey, pollen—all the necessities of life in a thriving hive.

But I want my bees to form their own comb, with no plastic guiding them. I’ve heard and read that a line of wax centered on the bottom side of each top bar will at least get them started in the right place. After that, it's up to Mama Nature. The problem with drawing comb completely all by themselves is that it takes a tremendous amount of effort and resources on the part of the worker bees. And, before they can draw the comb, the hive has to be warm enough to keep the wax malleable as they form it.

It will be my job as a beekeeper to make sure there is enough room in the hive so the bees don’t have to store their nectar in the brood chamber (because that would mean the queen would have no cells in which to lay her eggs).

My cats are delighted, because the four orders mean cardboard boxes for them to hide in. I have an empty bee hive in my living room, boxes everywhere for the cats, shelves overflowing with books I love, music on public radio. Life is good.

BEEattitude for Day # 111:
       Blessed are the beekeepers who give us enough room to grow, for they shall find honey in abundance. This beginning beekeeper hopes that is right . . .

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My new hive net, so I’ll be able to enclose the nuc and the package I pick up in South Georgia in eight weeks. I don’t particularly want a bunch of stray bees getting out of the nuc on my back seat and flying around the car for several hours while I’m driving home.   

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Day #110 Beebles

Okay. I admit that there are times I get absolutely zany. This is one of them. One of my favorite toys used to be a giant bubble-maker, a huge plastic loop that my kids could dip in a bucket of soapy water. The worm-like giant bubble trail that wove around behind them when they rotated or trotted across the yard always made me laugh.

Where does the zany come in? I was just thinking about my bees. If I ever try to blow bubbles on my back deck after the end of March (which is when I’ll get my honey bees), I’ll run the risk of having the bees fly into the bubbles, which will then make them . . . groan . . . beebles.

Sorry ’bout that.

BEEattitude for Day # 110:
       Blessed are those who laugh with their children, for – years later – they shall be filled with joy when they remember.   

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The Friends of Smyrna Library and Sisters in Crime, who put on the Murder Goes South conference yesterday. I attended, and it was loads of fun. Join us next year…   

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Day #109 Gwinnett Environmental & Heritage Center

If you've been reading my blog from the start, you may recall that I was inspired to keep bees after speaking with various beekeepers last September at the Gwinnett Environmental and Heritage Center. It's that kind of place -- they pull together fascinating people and fascinating information in thought-provoking, fun exhibits.


Yesterday I dropped by there to see Your House, My House. What fun! I got to step inside a Navajo hogan, a Malaysian stilt house, and a Fijian M'bure. I also got to try to put the roof on a Mongolian ger (rhymes with dare). That one was a model about 3 feet in diameter, and I struggled to get poles threaded into a wooden circle and attached to leather brackets spaced around the circular wood frame wall. After it was together (sort of), I had to place a canvas top over it and get the hole in the canvas to line up with the wooden smoke hole. I will admit that it was lop-sided when I finished, but I still had a good time. Give it a try sometime. The exhibit will be there through April 8th.

I found these two ger photos at


 As I was leaving, I stopped at the front desk to thank them and to tell them that I was starting beekeeping as a result of that exhibit they'd had last year. The woman called out the Education Program Coordinator, Brian Sterne. Seems he's a beekeeper, and he has a top bar hive, which is precisely the kind I want to build over the summer. He gave me a lot of good advice on how to craft the top bars.

Beekeepers are very special people, ready to share their knowledge and to encourage newbies in the field.

BEEattitude for Day # 108:
       Blessed are the exhibit-makers, for the delight they bring shall filter back to them.  

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Holtkamp Heating & A/C Inc., the sponsors of “Your House, My House” at GEHC.    

Friday, January 28, 2011

Day #108 Honey Labels

I had so much fun Thursday unpacking my order from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. I'd ordered (among many other things) labels for my jars of honey. I don't even have the bees yet, and I'm already anticipating a wonderful harvest -- probably because I spoke with a young man at Staples when I was buying a new printer. He said his uncle planted clover, and his bees doubled their honey production. Guess what I'll be planting around my garden in the spring? Quick, Frannie, order some more seed!

At any rate, I'd ordered a template to go along with the labels. Now I have labels that say:

Bees Knees
Lawrenceville GA
16 oz.
Imagine that wording on this label:

Brushy Mountain Honey Label

BEEattitude for Day # 108:
       Blessed are those who sell honey, for they shall have more money to buy plants that we bees love.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Patra, the woman who delivers my mail each day    

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day #107 Credit Cards

I have one credit card, and only one. I pay off the entire balance every month. I’ve taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I believe in absolute fiscal responsibility. I keep very good financial records.

That said, this month I goofed. When my credit card statement came, I found a $10 charge on there that I swore I could not possibly have made. I called USAA and explained to them that I’d never been to that particular hotel, which was way too fancy ever to charge only $10 for something; they reversed the charge, but they gave me the phone number of the hotel so I could check to see if anyone had counterfeited my card; I called the hotel.

Some nice young man spent time and effort researching the charge and finally told me that it was a valet charge. Ohmigosh! I’d completely forgotten a friend of mine needed to go to downtown Atlanta that particular day so she could attend an awards luncheon. For various reasons, she couldn’t drive, so I acted as chauffeur and ate lunch with her. When I went to get the car after the lunch, I didn’t have any cash with me, so I put the valet charge on my credit card, but then my friend handed me $10 in cash and took the printed receipt.

Sum total of it was that I forgot to enter the charge in my Quickbooks program. Grrr… These programs only work if you actually sit down and put in the information. Anyway, I then had to call USAA back again so they could re-reverse the charge.

Credit is never an issue with honey bees. Maybe that’s because they’re smarter than we are.

BEEattitude for Day # 107:
       Blessed are those who pay attention to what they’re doing, for they shall be less confused in the long run.

What Fran is grateful for right now:
       The two people at USAA and one at Twelve Atlantic Station who graciously spent their time helping me.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day #106 The first bee of the season

Last Monday, I walked around the car and saw a honeybee(!) perched on the car just below the passenger-side window. The first bee of the season.

My first thought was that, with nothing in bloom at this time of year, I’d better whip out some sugar water to feed the little girl.

Fortunately the reasoning part of my brain took over. You see, if I had put out food that she and her hive mates could eat (and she definitely would have told them about it), then they would be fooled into thinking that this one slightly warm day was an indication that spring was here. They probably would have speeded up egg production, which would have resulted in an increase of baby bees before the plants in Georgia were ready for them.

That would mean either that I’d have to keep feeding them sugar water (NOT good for them – it’s like raising a child on nothing but potato chips) or else all those excess bees would die off. As it is, the bee looked at the yellow spots on my car, decided they weren’t edible, and flew off. I have no idea where she came from, but you have no idea how happy it made me feel to see her.

Here’s a picture of my yellow-spotted car right after she won a trophy at an antique car show last year. I wasn’t competing, but EllieBug was definitely the only car there dressed in polka-dots, so Gail Dunn, the organizer of the show, gave us a trophy for “the car with the most spots.”

EllieBug's Trophy Dec. 2009
Now you’re going to want to know why I put spots on my car . . .

It’s so I can find her in a parking lot.

BEEattitude for Day # 106:
       Blessed are they who look for spring, for they make the spring appear.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Pete Ogg from Texas. She emailed me late on Day #105 to ask where the blog was for the day. I’d left it in draft form instead of hitting the publish button. So, it came out about 17 hours later than it should have – but, thanks to Pete, still made it on the right day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day #105 Gargoyle and Mistaken Identities

I finally sent in that order! Soon I’ll have a bee brush (you know about those because I’ve talked about them before in this blog) and a frame perch (so I won’t have to set frames on the ground) and an Italian hive tool (skinnier and lighter-weight than the regular ones) and a hive net (so I won’t get risk letting loose bees roam around my car when I pick them up from H&L Bee Farm). And a few other things as well.

So, I’m going to go make some lists of things I still have to do to get ready for my bees. While I’m doing that, you can check out Gigi Pandian’s blog. She’s a photographer who shares her photos of gargoyles. Like this one:

(c) Gigi Pandian

She explains that Le Penseur (the Thinker) is one of the most famous gargoyles in the world, but it’s not really a gargoyle. Read her blog  to find out why not.

This started me thinking about how many people blame bees for stinging them, when most likely it wasn’t a bee at all, but rather a wasp, hornet, or yellow-jacket. If you think Le Penseur is a gargoyle, are you more likely to think a hornet is a bee? Well, you won’t make that mistake anymore – not with Gigi and Fran around!

BEEattitude for Day # 105:
       Blessed are those who share their photographs, for they shall bring joy to others, and that joy shall be reflected back to themselves.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The birds flocked in my front yard.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day #104 Smelly Feet

Queen bees have smelly feet, and that's what keeps their workers happy.

(c) Yelloideas Photography
The tarsal glands on the queen's feet ooze with pheromones (chemical substances) that ebb and flow. The mandibular glands in her mouth do the same thing. Nobody’s figured out precisely how many pheromones are present, but it is known that they are precise indicators of the queen’s health. Changes in the balance of pheromones let the worker bees know what shape their queen is in. If she smells right, she’s okay. If something goes wrong with her, her feet change their smell and the workers know they have to do something.

Public Domain Photo
The attendant worker bees constantly groom the queen, and this spreads the queen smell throughout the hive. The bees are so sensitive to the smell of their queen that when a queen is disabled or is removed from the hive, the workers all know it within minutes and spring into action to correct the problem.

As any bee can tell you, you gotta have those wonderful, informative, smelly feet!

BEEattitude for Day # 104:
       Blessed is she who knows (nose) what’s she’s doing, for she shall, like us bees, be productive.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The New American Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, where there’s a marvelous production of Twelfth Night during January. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day #103 Ah-ha! A Solution to My Dilemma

All this time I've wasted grumbling about not having a table saw—and yesterday the light dawned. I called H & L Bee Farm, the people I bought my five-frame garden hive from several months ago, and asked if they would be willing to sell me the hive components so that I could put them together and paint them myself.

The answer? Yes!

So, I'll pick up those extras (one cover, one deep hive body, and five honey supers) when I get my bees in eight more weeks or so. By the time my bee colonies are ready to split, I'll have happy new homes ready for them to move into. And I'll be able to use top bars instead of foundation, so I'll be able to harvest delicious comb honey. If you're wondering what I'm talking about, go back to Day #1, where I explain what foundation is.

Now I just have to decide what color to paint the new hive. Any suggestions?

BEEattitude for Day # 103:
       Blessed are those who are open to inspiration, for they shall be pleasantly surprised.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My old high school buddy, Ellen, who said she’d send me some Macadamia Nut Honey from her sister-in-law in Hawaii.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day #102 Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!

Yesterday I called to ask about being tested for allergy to bee-stings. The first thing the woman asked was, “Have you ever been stung by a bee?”


“Then we don’t need to test you. The only way you’ll show an allergy is if you’ve already been stung once.”

I knew that. I remember a high school science teacher who was also a part-time farmer. Once, he brought in the head of a cow he’d slaughtered and we got to . . .  well, I won’t go into the fascinating details since you might have just eaten breakfast. But he also taught us about allergies and how they worked.

Now, I have been stung before, but never by a bee. There was this wasp once, when I was maybe seven years old. My family had stopped at a little refreshment stand near the Lorelei Rock on the Rhine River. I swear I wasn’t doing a thing to the wasp, but he took offence and attacked the inside of my right elbow. I probably screamed, but all I really remember is looking down at that gorgeous wasp-waisted body—well of course it was wasp-waisted—and wondering how something so beautiful could be so mean. Then the lady behind the counter asked my father in pantomime (our language facilities were strictly limited) for his handkerchief. She doused it in cognac, which astounded my mother greatly, and bound my arm in the odorous white fabric. After that I don’t recall much of the trip except my generally whiny attitude.

When I was in my thirties I had a run-in with some ground-nesting yellow-jackets. Yuck!

And then there was the time my three-year-old granddaughter trooped into a hornet’s nest. I flew into action, dragging her away from them and beating them away from her. I was so concerned about her, I never noticed the multiple stings I received. Not one of my favorite memories.

But bees? Never. Of course, once I’m opening their hive next summer, they are liable to show some concerns. Every beekeeper I’ve talked to has said, “You will get stung.” Okay, but I still bet the bees will be nicer about it than those other critters were.

Hornets and yellow-jackets and wasps! Oh my!

BEEattitude for Day #102 :
       Blessed are those who help the injured, for they shall reap what they sow.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       That dear lady at the roadside stand all those years ago.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day #101 To treat or not to treat

This is so cool! I went back to do some re-reading in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, and found yet another reason—very clearly expressed—for why it’s not a good idea to feed bees sugar water (except when the bees are getting first established).

Bees apparently self-regulate the size of their colonies based on the amount of food available. When there is less food (in the form of nectar and pollen) the queen slows down on the egg-laying. When they stop rearing brood for a time, it interrupts the life-cycle of the diseases and parasites that grow in the brood chambers.

When beekeepers feed the bees constantly from early spring to late fall, the bees never get that “message” that it’s time to slow down, so the parasites keep right on multiplying. Then the beekeepers find it necessary to treat with antibiotics like Terramycin  and Fumadil.

Do you really want to eat honey that has antibiotics in it?

Even the use of so-called natural treatments (like dusting with powdered sugar) interferes with the microbial culture in the hive.  Just because something is natural, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea. As Stiglitz and Herboldsheimer wrote in The Complete Idiot’s Guide, imagine “using the oil of the poison ivy plant as a massage oil.” Hmmm.

I’m more and more glad every day that I’ve decided to let my bees simply BEE.

BEEattitude for Day #101:
       Blessed are they who let us BEE what we want to BEE, for they shall help populate the world with healthy pollinators.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My new wood carrier, a birthday gift from my massage therapist, Karen Krotz
My ebooks are on special sale now (only $3.99)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day #100 Warré Hives

Warré (pronounced war-ray) hives look like regular old beehives, except that they are top-bar hives (which means the bees build the cells all by themselves, rather than starting out with pre-formed plastic—i.e. human-made—sheets of foundation). I just found out about Warré hives on the internet, and I even downloaded the plans—39 pages that assume one has a table saw. Doggone it!

Now, I figure that bees have been building hives for 140 million years utilizing whatever old hollow trees they could find. So, instead of freaking out about needing a $$$$$$ table $aw $$$$$$$$, I'm going to build some 4-sided boxes without tops or bottoms, throw in some bars across the top of each box, build a roof, and see what the bees do with the result. I'd better use screws instead of nails, so they don't fall apart.

Yeah, I know, I have to be really specific about the distance between the bars if I ever want to steal—er—harvest honey. I can do that. Of course, with the way I build, those boxes are liable to look a bit lop-sided. But, hey, they're going on my back deck, and I can't imagine the bees will give a hoot anyway.

BEEattitude for Day # 100:
       Blessed are those who do the best they can with what they have, for they shall never be uptight. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My dad, who taught me how to swing a hammer
My ebooks are on special sale now (only $3.99) at:
                Smashwords  and

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day #99 Ninety-nine? Hooray!

When I started this 600-day project more than three months ago, I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to keep it up. So today, I’m going to celebrate a bit. Let’s see…how should I do this?

1.       Eat chocolate
2.      Read another bee book chapter or two
3.      Write another blog entry
4.      Pat a cat or two
5.      Order the rest of the beekeeping supplies I’ll need next March
6.      All of the above

What do you want to bet number 6 wins?

BEEattitude for Day # 99:
       Blessed are those who persevere, for they shall accomplish much.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Warm homemade bread drizzled with real butter   

My ebooks are on special sale now (only $3.99) at:
                Smashwords  and

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day #98 Rain

Well, first it snowed, and now it's raining, and I'm wondering how bees get by in a downpour.

I'm pretty sure a lot of bees don't make it back to the hive when it rains, since they can't fly with wet wings. Imagine how much a drop of water must weigh compared to a whisper-light bee wing. And they'd probably get pretty cold without their sisters to cluster with.

Boy, do I take my roof and my furnace for granted!

BEEattitude for Day # 98:
       Blessed are those who build hive bodies for us, for they shall sleep well, knowing they are saving us bees.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Cool-Ray Heating and Air, the folks who put in my good furnace.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day #97 January Building Project

I just realized it’s January.
Dumb, huh? Of course it’s January. But January in a normal (i.e. pre-bee) year was just a time to gather my momentum for the coming year.

This time, it’s Uh-oh! Only about 9 weeks left! And I was planning to build a top-bar hive to put my package of bees in.

I have some plans I bought from Now, all I need is:
        lots of wood
        a bunch of wood-screws
        two hinges
        a rectangle of glass (so I can make a viewing port)
        some steel thingies to brace the angles
I’d better visit Home Depot tomorrow.

I could also use a friend with a table saw. Know where I can get one of those?

BEEattitude for Day # 97:
       Blessed are those who plan ahead, for we shall settle happily into our new home and produce great stores of honey

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My wonderful sister who, I hope, is having a delightful birthday

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day #96 Cleaning Out My Closet

Cats wear fur, bees wear fuzz and wings, people wear -- well, as far as I can see it, we have way too many choices. A dozen or so years ago I visited a long-lost cousin in Tennessee, and she showed me through her house. Her closet was the size of my living room. I felt completely overwhelmed. My clothes closet was half the size of her linen closet. How can anyone ever choose when there are so many possibilities available?

Still, even with relatively few choices, I've found that sometimes I put an outfit on, only to sigh and replace it with one I'm more comfortable in. I read once that we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. I think that's right. Last week, when I was talking with my Master Mind partner, I decided that I would delete a quarter of the clothes in my closet -- all the ones I don't like wearing anyway.

I went through my closet and pulled out everything that I didn't absolutely love to wear. Loaded it all in the back seat of my car to take to Goodwill. And there it still sits, since the ice is so bad I can't get to Goodwill. Or anywhere else.

Things will melt eventually, and in the meantime, my closet has in it only what I will wear with joy.

Of course, this whole past week I've been wearing nothing but sweats. When one is snowed in, it doesn't make sense to dress up.

A quarter of my cousin's closet would fill a small U-Haul. Have you cleaned out your closet lately?

BEEattitude for Day # 96:
       Blessed are those who live simply, for they shall not be confused. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       All the room I have.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day #95 Walking, Driving, Flying

Well, the power hasn't gone out yet, so all those posts I wrote ahead of time simply meant that, while I was sitting snug at home, unable to drive anywhere, I had more time to write. Sheer heaven for a writer, to be given all that time by Mama Nature.

Five days after the Sunday night snow storm, the Georgia schools are still closed,
as are government offices and just about everything else. If we were bees, we'd just cluster together and vibrate to stay warm. But we're not bees. We need to go farther than the five-mile radius that bees fly in the summer. And we still need to get places in the winter. So, when something like this snow comes along, we're STUCK. We live in a car-centered culture, where just about everywhere we need to go is farther than walking distance. In fact, our idea of what walking distance is has changed drastically over the years.

I walked to school each day when I was a kid. Some years it was more than a mile. I never stepped into a school bus until I was a senior in high school, when we lived on a base that had no schools, so we Air Force brats were sent on a bus to Mascoutah, the nearest town.

Now, I live within two miles of a grocery store, but would I consider walking there and back to buy my groceries? No. And I'm within four miles of the library -- ceertainly a walkable distance. But again, I wouldn't dream of walking. Why? There aren't any sidewalks for more than half that distance. And no decent shoulder to walk on. I believe in walking for my health and because it feels good, but I'm not willing to put my life in danger in order to do it.

So, I guess I'll drive. As soon as I can get on the road. When ever that will be.

BEEattitude for Day # 95:
       Blessed are the animals that walk and the animals that fly and even the people who drive. We bees know that how we get around isn't as important as what we do when we get there.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The skylight that finally isn't covered with snow anymore.    

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day #94 Bee Dreams

I've been dreaming about bees recently. Now don't go all Freudian on me. I think it's just that I'm spending so much of my free time (when I'm not writing or reading) with bees on my mind. Even when I knit, I think about bees. Or when I wash dishes, or any of the other myriad tasks that fill a day.

I'm getting ready to send in an order for beekeeping supplies. The smoker I already have (even though I can't figure out how to make it work), but I need a hive tool and a bee brush--yes that's what I said, a bee brush--so I can gently brush the bees away from any particular area where I need them gone. I'm also seriously thinking of buying some labels for the honey jars I hope to be able to fill. Two nights ago I dreamed that I gathered in my first honey harvest. By the end of the dream I was covered in sticky honey, with a faint coating of pollen and a fair amount of glue-like propolis all over my kitchen counter and the floor. To say nothing of the cat hair stuck in the lot. Yuck!

Oh dear. What will I do with the cats while I'm trying to cut off the honey comb?

Last night I dreamed a better dream of comb honey on breakfast biscuits, probably because I'd been talking with my sister about how wonderful comb honey is and how hard it is to find. There wasn't any cat hair in that dream, so maybe there's a way to deal with this. And maybe I'll figure it out.

BEEattitude for Day # 94:
       Blessed are they who take no more than they need, for we bees shall replenish their stores. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The honey in my tea. It's not Bees Knees Honey, but next year at this time, it WILL be! I hope. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day #93 Birdseed for breakfast?

Right at the moment, which happens to be 10 a.m. on a very snowy, schools-closed, roads blocked, skylights covered, January 10th Monday morning (this is one of the blogs I wrote ahead of time in case the power goes out later today), I'm sitting at the table that nestles into my bay window watching the birds. I have lots of feeders out in the front yard, and those are mobbed this morning. I went out just after dawn and set a big tray of seed on the five or six inches of snow that fell last night, so the ground-feeders would have something to eat. As soon as I came back in the house, the first brave bird descended, checked out that unusual object, and discovered FOOD. Within moments a hoarde of birds fluttered around it, warming their tummies and my heart.

So, although I've never fed the birds on my back deck, not particularly wanting to encourage the leaving of bird fertilizer on the wooden planks, this morning was an exception. I swept away a swath of snow near the door, used the broom handle to write my grandchildren's names in a stretch of untouched snow, then scattered a few handfuls of seed on the bare flooring, wondering how long it would take the birds to find this new food source. By the time I walked from my back door to the bay window, they'd found it.

Cardinals, titmice, towhees, wrens, chickadees, and a few others I can't identify. Even a downy woodpecker stopped by to investigate the goings on.

Now Daisy, her whiskers twitching, is perched on the corner of the table, quivering. No wonder I don't have a TV. This is much more interesting.

Next year, if it snows again, I'll be able to look out on my deck and see the birds and the bees. Hmm...

BEEattitude for Day # 93:
       Blessed are those who feed the birds, for their ears and hearts shall be filled with singing. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Wild Birds Unlimited, where I buy all my birdseed

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day #92 Bee Suits and Police Dogs

I tried on a beekeeper's suit a while back. The beekeeper it belonged to was a large man, at least six inches taller than my 5'7". When I got it on, all you'd have to do to make me look like the Pillsbury Doughboy was to insert lots of air. Thinking of that reminded me of a police dog I met in May of 2010.

Last year I participated in the Gwinnett County Citizens Police Academy. Two evenings a week for nine weeks. Boy, did I learn a lot.

The subject of the last class before we graduated was the K-9 Corps. One of the K-9 handlers came with his dog and told us about the training, the expense, the funny things that happened, and the not-so-funny. We saw some training videos and asked lots of questions.

Then the officer said, "Is there anyone who'd like to volunteer to get in the Michelin Man suit and give it a try?" My hand was the first in the air.

One thing I learned growing up was "Never Volunteer!" Trouble is, if you don't volunteer, you miss out on a lot of fun.

You also miss out on being scared enough to pee in your pants. Well, that's an exaggeration. I went potty before they zipped me into the suit. Thank goodness!

Fashion Statement

Waiting for the command to attack

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

I CAN'T GET UP ! ! ! !
I couldn't bend in the middle enough to stand up, so the officer grabbed the suit at my shoulder and mid-back and hauled me to my feet.

I sure am glad my bees won't be able to knock me over. I hope...

BEEattitude for Day # 92:
       Blessed are they who are spontaneous, for they shall have good stories to tell.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Knowledgeable people who take the time to teach me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day #91 Bees in Eleven Weeks

Happy 1-11-11  !-!!-!!

After writing yesterday's blog about planning ahead -- just in case, I looked at my calendar and did some counting. I'll be driving to south Georgia in just eleven weeks (or maybe twelve, depending on when H and L Bee Farm has them ready) to pick up my honey bees.

The trouble is -- I don't know what the heck I'm going to do with them when they're here. Oh, I know lots of bee theory. I've read dozens of books and perused multiple internet sites about beekeeping, written by highly knowledgeable beekeepers. Part of me feels prepared. And part of me is scared speechless.

You know what I'm having the most trouble with? Lighting the blinkin' smoker. Smokers can be fancy copper, or utilitarian steel. I'm showing you a picture of each. Mine's the steel one.

A beekeeper uses smoke to calm bees before opening the hive. A smoker is a special gadget that provides a place for the smoke-producing fuel, a spout to funnel that smoke out in a particular direction, a bellows to push air into the fuel chamber to increase the amount of said smoke. That's about it.

Those suckers get hotter than you-know-what, so one is advised to have some handy bricks or a concrete block nearby on which to sit the smoker once the bees are settled down.

It needs to be nearby so the beekeeper can quickly add more smoke as necessary (in case the bees get a bit of an attitude).


How the heck do you keep the thing lit?

I've watched videos about it. I've read descriptions of what to do. I even watched an experienced beekeeper light a smoker when I was first getting interested in keeping bees. So, I know how to do it, right?

Tell that to the incalcitrant smoker sitting on the bricks on my back deck. I can't get it to keep burning. I get one or two big poofs of smoke out of it, and then it dies.

I have only eleven weeks (or twelve) to figure this out.


BEEattitude for Day # 91:
       Blessed are those who remain calm, for they shall accomplish more. 

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       For heaven's sakes, bees, quit telling me to remain calm when I'm in a panic attack ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !  

       Forget I said that. I'm grateful for you preachy old bees, because you're usually right, doggone it.