Thursday, March 31, 2011

Day #170 Credibility

In 1938, Bodog F. Beck, M.D. and Doreé Smedley wrote Honey & Your Health. The subtitle was a nutrimental, medicinal and historical commentary.

Sounds great, eh?

They start out talking about the ways honey has been used in the thousands of years that people have known about honey.

Ø  A pot of honey on the breakfast table is one of the oldest traditions that is still in effect for many people.
Ø  Egyptian tombs show paintings of folks harvesting honey using smoke as an aid
Ø  Ancient Greeks thought regular eating of honey would help them to live longer
Ø  Ancient Romans held honey-harvest feasts, much like our modern-day Thanksgiving
Ø  Honey was often used as a medium of exchange, all the more reason to celebrate the harvest, because honey meant prosperity.

So far, all of this sounds credible. I haven’t gotten to the part yet about how honey is used successfully in the treatment of all sorts of medical conditions, although I’ve browsed through the book and found many statements I concur with.

But then, I glanced at page 80. “The average back-lot beekeeper of a small city or town harvests between fifty and one hundred pounds of surplus honey a season.”

That sounded about right. Beck and Smedley lost points with me, though, when they wrote that, in an area with abundant nectar plants, an industrious beekeeper, who was willing to learn the most up-to-date methods, could “increase this yield to two hundred pounds of honey a season per hive.” Maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but that sounds way too high to me.

They went on to say that under “special conditions and ideal management, the yield may be stepped up to three hundred or even five hundred pounds per hive.” Grrr! Do you know how hard a beekeeper would have to push a hive to get that much honey? Over-management is one of the factors in the Colony Collapse Disorder that’s been rampant in this country. European countries have not experienced CCD. Doesn’t that tell you something right there?

Greedy people trying to get every possible dollar out of their hives ought to be strung up by their toes. A truly good management practice (respecting the natural way bees operate) gives the bees a break and results in a reasonable amount of honey per hive.

So, Beck and Smedley, I’ll read your recipes for good health and maybe follow a good many of them, but I’m going to ignore that other bunk you wrote.

BEEattitude for Day # 170:
       Blessed are they who give us a break and let us behave naturally, for their honey shall be infused with love and good health.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Singing with the Gwinnett Choral Guild    

p.s. I'll be teaching a seminar for Booklogix on April 16th. Here's the link to their April Seminars page:
If you can't attend in person, you can hook up to it as a webinar.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day #169 Gotta Lighten Up

Okay. I’m tired of grumping about the rain and worrying about what it’s doing to bees throughout the area. And the birds shaking off their wet feathers and trying to find food. And the various animals, and people, too, who are caught unavoidably in the rain.

So, here are some pictures I took last week to remind us all that weather does change if we wait long enough.  

Delphinums as Epcot Center,  and

a friend I met underground at Animal Kingdom

BEEattitude for Day # 169:
       Blessed are the patient, for they shall eventually be recompensed.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The camera Millie loaned to me for my trip

And now a note about the devastation in Japan:
My good friend Doug Gazlay, who is a musician/writer/producer in Atlanta, has composed a "SongForJapan" to help raise money for relief efforts there. If you'd like to download the music from CDBaby, a hefty portion of the proceeds goes to a good cause. Here's a link to the song trailer.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day #168 Rain, Rain, Rain

Other than a short break on Sunday, just long enough for me to dig up those hostas, it’s been raining since last Saturday, and I just read that it’s supposed to keep going, with thunderstorms no less, at least through Thursday.

Other than the inconvenience of trying to keep the bird feeders filled without getting the seed soaked, rainy days have never bothered me. All in all, I enjoy cloudy days and rainy days. Maybe it’s because I have vitiligo, a condition where there is little or no melanin in the skin, so there’s nothing to protect me from the burning rays of the sun. I go through most of the year with long sleeves or a sunbrella. Yes, that’s a word. I invented it.

The floods in 2009 weren’t any fun, but my neighborhood was safe, even when the creek that runs through my back yard grew from a gentle two feet wide to a raging torrent that I measured (after the floods were over) at more than 50 feet wide. It was easy to measure. The plants were all bent sideways

But now, with my bees arriving in a couple of weeks, I’m beginning to see rain in a different way. If my bees were here, now, in all this rain, at the end of winter with their honey stores somewhat depleted before the strong nectar and pollen flows begin, they’d be pretty unhappy, fairly restless, and possibly awfully hungry.

Think about it. If you can’t fly in the rain because the water weighs down your wings, and you’re stuck in one room with 20 or 30 thousand sisters, wouldn’t you get a bit grumpy?

BEEattitude for Day # 168:
       Blessed are those who are patient, for they shall eventually get what they need.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The squirrel-guards on the birdfeeder poles. So far, they’ve kept the squirrels on the ground, cleaning up the fallen seed.   

Monday, March 28, 2011

Day #167 Screened Bottoms

Check one more thing off my to-do list! Sunday I managed to staple screening onto the bottom of the hive body that will play home to my package of bees in a couple of weeks. I haven’t been able to find any screening with 1/8” squares, so I took two layers of ¼” screening and offset them, then stapled them in place. I hope it works the way it’s supposed to.

The idea is that the various little mites and beetles that bother bees will fall out of the hive through the screening on the bottom. I can just see me going on beetle-patrol, stepping on those suckers when I find them underneath the hives. The screening is supposed to be fine enough, however, to keep out robber bees from other hives. It will also prevent mice from crawling up through the bottom.

Sunday was a busy day. I also dug up some hostas to give to my daughter and to my friend Millie, then planted buckwheat in their place. Presumably, buckwheat flowers last longer than hosta blooms, so the bees ought to be happier. It seems as if everything I do lately ends with the thought I hope this works.

BEEattitude for Day # 167:
       Blessed are those who try, for they shall succeed sometimes.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The New American Shakespeare Tavern, where I saw Two Noble Kinsman last night. One more play to go (Edward III next week), and I will have seen all 39 plays by (or attributed to) Shakespeare.      

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Day #166 Hive Autopsies

I’ve been reading about how to do a hive autopsy—that’s the process for figuring out why all the bees in a hive died off.

I hope I never have to use this knowledge. Natural Beekeeping, the book I bought recently, has a chart (I love well-organized charts) with all the symptoms in the left column and the probably causes in the right. The last symptom on the list, caused by pesticides or chemical poisonings is: “Sudden collapse of the hive. Numerous dead bees lying around in front of the hive with their tongues sticking out” (p. 61).

If that image isn’t enough to stop you from using pesticides on your lawns and gardens, I don’t know what will. The thought of all my brave little worker bees dying, gasping for air, with their little tongues flailing, brings tears to my eyes – and I don’t even have my bees yet.

BEEattitude for Day # 166:
       Blessed are those who refuse to buy pesticides, for they shall contribute to the health of Mother Earth, and the world will be a better place for them and for us, the bees.  

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Cowan’s Book Nook in Ellijay, where I signed my books yesterday. They’re having to close that store (not enough sales), but they will keep their store in Blue Ridge GA open.
FRANattitude for Day #166
      Blessed are those who buy books from real bookstores, for they shall help keep that breed alive and well.  

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day #165 A Gentle Approach to Beekeeping

I found yet another good beekeeping book and have been entranced with the philosophical attitude of the author. Ross Conrad wrote Natural Beekeeping: organic approaches to modern apiculture to put together in one book all the information it took him years to accumulate as he was mentored by various beekeepers.

That’s one great thing about beekeepers. There’s no such thing as too many bees, and every beekeeper I’ve spoken to has been delighted to share information with me.

Here’s a gem I found in the first chapter:

“The honey bee inspires me to work into my daily life this lesson: that we should take what we need to live in the world in such a way that we give something back and improve upon things, thus making the world a better place.”
                       --Ross Conrad

He said that when he went into the bee yard with no protective clothing on, he had to adjust his attitude to one of ease and grace so as not to alarm the bees. When he did that—when he was careful not to hurt them or frighten them—they responded gently to his presence. But when he went in there suited up as if he were afraid of an attack, he was less careful, ended up hurting bees through his inattention, and consequently was stung as the bees reacted to his carelessness.

That made me glad about my bee-clothing choices. I do think I’ll be more comfortable with a veil on at first. But with my long-sleeved white shirt and long white pants (the ones I bought at Good Will several months ago), I think I’ll be just fine. I haven’t bought any gloves, because when I had a chance to remove that frame from Rob Alexander’s hive a couple of weeks ago, I needed all the dexterity available—and that would not have been possible with gloves. I would have been accidentally squashing bees right and left, releasing those attack pheromones that indicate a threat to the hive. No wonder some beekeepers get stung a lot.

BEEattitude for Day # 165:
       Blessed are those who approach the hive as if they were on our side, for we shall respond to them gently.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The half-barrel I’m going to grow my morning glories in.  

And Cowan's Book Nook in East Ellijay, GA, where I'll be signing my books today. Stop by and say hello -- and buy some books (no matter who wrote them!) 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Day #164 No Bees at Disney World

I've just returned from four days in Florida. Yes, even though it was a vacation, I took my laptop so I could post each day. And no, I didn't mention Disney because I feel funny telling the world that my house is unattended (except for my wonderful friend Millie who stops by frequently to take care of my cats any time I'm out of state).

There's a lovely flower show going on in Epcot Center. And I spent most of the time looking for honeybees. I didn't see a single one. I guess they can't encourage bees there because of the thousands of people who might bother the bees by flailing their arms around. Still, with all the busy-ness going on around me, the place seemed oddly silent without any little buzz-ers flying around. Disney doesn’t seem to welcome bees.

The good news: there were bees in the 3-D program It’s Tough to be a Bug at Animal Kingdom.

You’ve probably been there—maybe many times—so I don’t need to talk about all the goings-on in WDW. My feet may take a few days to recover; you know that feeling.

Did I have a good time? Yes.

Am I happy to be home? Yes.

Will my bees have a happy welcome here when they arrive? YES!

BEEattitude for Day # 164:
       Blessed are those who welcome bees to their flowers, for they shall have the music of our buzzing.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The Animal Kingdom employee whose eyes lit up when she told us about her favorite white rhinos.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Day #163 Puns at the Soccer Game

I can't think of anything stupendous to write about, so I'm going to tell you about what happened last Saturday on the sidelines of my grandson’s soccer game.

My co-grandparents and I stood there cheering until Bill Martin, known to all the grandkids as Paw-Paw, said he had to ask me a question. “Sure,” I said. He glanced apologetically at his wife and asked, “Do bees poop?”

Now, this was a logical question coming from someone who is a family doctor (intestinal information fascinates docs) and also from someone who doesn’t read my blog. He came from the hospital to the soccer game. He’s always caring for a patient. He founded (and is the head doc at) the Hope Clinic in Lawrenceville. How could he possibly find time to read blog posts?

So, he didn’t know about my blog entry #86 (January 6, 2011) where I explain about cleansing flights. If you missed that one, you might want to look it up.

At any rate, we stood there making bee-poop jokes and missed the last three goals of the game. As the final whistle blew, I said, “Whoops! We haven’t been watching!”—at which point Bill said, “Guess you’ll give us all a stinging reprimand.”

It went on from there, but I'll save the rest of the puns for another--when I can remember what they were. The good thing about not recalling punchlines is that every joke I hear seems brand new to me, since I can't remember what's coming.

BEEattitude for Day # 163:
       Blessed are the grandparents, for they shall have grand-fun in life.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The morning glory I planted next to Faye, who grows near the corner of my deck. Yes, of course I name my trees.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day #162 A Pretty Good Life

I heard from H & L Bee Farm, saying that the pick-up date for the bees probably won’t be until April 10th. Part of me says phooey because I want to get them sooner, but another part of me is relieved. There’s still so much to do before they get here.

We’ve had so much rain I haven’t finished staining the deck yet. I don’t want to be slapping a paintbrush around while my bees are getting used to their new location.

Meanwhile, all those seeds my grandchildren and I started inside are outgrowing their little pots, but it’s still a bit too early to transplant them outside.

I don’t have my boxes branded yet, although my branding iron from Brand New is waiting patiently in what used to be the family room but is steadily being transferred into the Bee Equipment Launching Pad.

On top of work (5 doctoral dissertations and 2 novels to edit, plus my own book to write, a seminar presentation to prepare, and some book clubs to speak to), I agreed last week to serve as the treasurer for the Gwinnett Choral Guild. It’s a community 501(c)(3) choir, and I know I really should do my part, which is why I agreed to take on the position. Everybody’s busy, so the simple fact that I’m busy is not an excuse.

Still, I’m drawing a line here and now:

I’m not volunteering for ANYTHING ELSE!!!!!

I’ll work. I’ll do what’s necessary around the house. I’ll connect with my family and friends. I’ll give blood every other month. I’ll knit and sing. I’ll walk and garden and read. I’ll uphold my volunteer commitments, care for my cats, take care of myself, and play at beekeeping.

Come to think of it, that sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?

BEEattitude for Day # 162:
       Blessed are those who know what they want to do in life, for they shall be infinitely satisfied.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My comfy old sweatpants    

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day #161 More jobs for bees

We left off yesterday with the little nurse bees feeding the larvae for six days. At that point, slightly older bees move in to cap off the larval cell so the pupae (that’s what they’re called at this point) can continue growing for 12 days into a baby bee. Those babies emerge and start cleaning cells.

Meanwhile, the nurse bees have gone on to other jobs. Up until they’re about 20 days old, they’ll be capping cells, constructing new comb, tending the queen, guarding the entrance to the hive, fanning the hive to heat or cool it as necessary, accepting nectar and pollen brought in by the forager bees, and packing it into cells, and curing the nectar into honey.

During their busy days, they also have to find the time to take orientation flights, circling the hive until they can recognize it from any angle. Gradually their flights get longer, so they can always find their way back home.

All this in three short weeks.

After that, the glands that produce wax and larval food have shriveled up, so the bees become foragers, traveling up to five miles from the hive to find nectar and pollen.

And it takes twelve bees to make one teaspoon of honey. If you’re ever lucky enough to get some Bees Knees Honey, you’d better appreciate all the work that went into it!

BEEattitude for Day # 161:
       Blessed are those who do their jobs well, for their hive shall thrive.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The pole bean plants that are beginning to twine up and up.    

Monday, March 21, 2011

Day #160 You can't beat a good mechanic

Dan Palmer at AutoStop in Buford has been servicing my cars for more than ten years. First it was a little gray Maxima, then it was LadyBug, my little red Mitsubishi truck, and now he takes good care of ElliBug, the champagne-colored Nissan—the one who has her very own trophy for “the car with the most polka-dots.” (See Day #106  - 1/26/11 for a picture.)

Last week I had an oil change and regular vehicle check, and I got to thinking about how good it is to be able to trust that the person servicing your vehicle will do a good job. That, of course, led me to thinking about bees.

Yes, I know, EVERYTHING leads me to thinking about bees lately.

But bees trust each other to do what needs to be done in the hive. The newly-emerged  (and still rather wobbly) baby bee has her specific job, cleaning and polishing the cells, getting them ready for the next round of egg-laying by the queen. It’s kind of like the oil-change of the bee world.

As she gets a bit older and her exoskeleton hardens a bit, she begins to care for the brood (those are the newly-hatched and very hungry larvae), feeding them royal jelly for 3 days. For the next 3 days, she feeds them regular old worker food, sometimes called bee milk. But this little bee is not simply pulling bee milk from a faucet. Nope. She has to manufacture it from glands in her head.

During those 6 days, each larva increases 500 times in size. That takes a lot of bee milk from those dedicated little workers.

The worker bee still has lots more jobs to go through during her lifespan. But those will wait until tomorrow’s blog.

BEEattitude for Day # 160:
       Blessed are those who know how to repair things, for they shall be ever safe.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The fresh lettuce I ate from my own garden!   

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Day #159 Reflections on the floor

Miss Polly goes nuts every afternoon when the sun shines in through the bay window and hits the plastic sign that hangs from the bottom of a wind chime. Don’t worry. I have no plans to enter my house in a decorating competition. At any rate, the sign says:

Writer at Work / Do Not Disturb

Polly pays no attention to the words whatsoever, as she launches herself across the keyboard of my laptop to pounce on the reflection skittering around the room. I must admit that I add to the chaos by blowing a stream of air onto the sign to make it gyrate. I needed to take a break from that one particular paragraph I was having trouble with anyway, right?

How do I ever get anything accomplished without hiding in my upstairs office (which happens to be off limits to the cats)?

But the other day I had a disturbing thought. What if the reflections worry the bees? After all, I can clearly see the back deck from this window, and when the sign spins, it reflects light not only onto the inside walls and floor, but also back out the window—crossing over the exact spot where one of the hives is going to sit.

Oh dear! One more thing to worry about! I’ve heard that bees can get their navigation instincts messed up by cell phone waves. I hope that’s not true, because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. But I can position my curtains so they protect the hives from the spurts of reflected light.

Whew! One problem solved.

BEEattitude for Day # 159:
       Blessed are those who look at life from our point of view, for they shall become increasingly inventive.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Fresh organic lettuce from    

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day #158 The Case of the Disappearing Hosta

Remember back in the fall (Day #27, November 7, 2010) when my handyman, Mark Hensley of All Things New dug out the roots of the azaleas I didn’t want (since the flowers can result in toxic honey) and took them home to plant in his yard?

Well, it turned out that he accidentally dug up a hosta that had grown amidst the roots of the azaleas. You know hostas—come late in the autumn, those leaves die back and disappear.

Lo and behold, when Mark came by this quarter, he brought me a big pot with my hosta in it. The shoots surprised him when they started their springtime sprouting.

Mark could have so easily kept the plant, and I never would have known the difference. I would have assumed that it had been destroyed in the azalea-war.

Integrity. The Mark of a good person.

BEEattitude for Day # 158:
       Blessed are they who prepare a home for us bees, for we shall settle in happily and brighten their days with our buzzing.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My dependable car 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day #157 Potatoes in a Garbage Can

I found the coolest book at the library: Grow Great Grub: organic food from small spaces by Gayla Trail. It's a good enough book that I plan to buy a copy so I can make notes in the margins. She said I could grow potatoes in a trash can, as long as it was more than 18” tall. A clean garbage can.

So, I unloaded a blue plastic behemoth that’s been sitting in this garage for six years and in the one at my previous house for at least ten years. It held odd tools and long scraps of wood, all of which I stashed here and there around the garage, contributing to the overall happy clutter. Drilled some holes in the bottom of the can and filled it with 5” of potting soil.

There were these two already-sprouting potatoes on hand, one of which I found in the back of my refrigerator drawer. [Don’t raise your eyebrows at me. I have a botanically-interesting ‘fridge. So there.]

I cut each potato in several pieces, each with an active eye, and let them dry for a couple of days. Then I plopped them in the can, covered them with another 2 or 3 inches of soil and waited for them to grow up through that layer. I keep piling more dirt on them as they extend upward. Eventually the can will be full, the shoots will leaf out, and finally will flower. That will make my bees happy!

Once the leaves yellow and die back, I’ll be able to harvest pounds and pounds of potatoes without having had to do any weeding to speak of. That will make me happy!

The bees win / I win.


BEEattitude for Day # 157:
       Blessed are people who write helpful books, for they shall be loved by their readers, and we bees shall praise them for the way we benefit.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       My thrifty cell phone from Consumer Cellular   

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day #156 Two weeks to go till B-Day

B-Day (Bee Day) in two weeks! or maybe three . . .

And there's still so much to do. We’ve had so much rain lately that I haven’t finished staining the deck yet. Don’t want to be slapping stain around while my brand new bees are getting used to their brand new location on my back deck. So far I have half the deck stained with one coat, and I need two coats over everything.

Then, all those seeds my grandchildren and I started inside are outgrowing their pots, but it’s still a bit too early to transplant them outside.

As far as my wonderful work goes, my 6th Biscuit McKee mystery is still in one of its numerous drafts, and I have five amazingly productive doctoral candidates whose dissertations I’m editing, as well as two novels. I’ll be leading some classes and doing some book signings and speaking to some book clubs.

On top of all this, Monday night I agreed to serve as the treasurer for the Gwinnett Choral Guild for a two-year term starting in June. Egads! It’s a community choir, and I know I really should do my part—which is why I volunteered. But I’m so busy . . .

Can it, Frannie. You’re in control of your own calendar. If you’re busy, it’s your own responsibility, so that’s not an acceptable reason to whine.

Okay, okay! But I draw the line HERE. From now on, I’m not volunteering for ANYTHING else.

I’ll edit and write. I’ll do what’s necessary around the house. I’ll donate blood every other month. I’ll knit and sing. I’ll connect with my family and friends. I’ll walk and garden and read. I’ll uphold my volunteer commitments. I’ll play at beekeeping.

Hmm . . . That sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?

BEEattitude for Day # 156:
       Blessed are they who appreciate their lives, for they shall glow with well-being.

What Fran is grateful for right now:
       My editing clients    

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Day #155 Sitting at the polls

Yesterday I worked at the polls all day, hoping the roof wouldn't leak (the way it did during the election last November) and hoping we wouldn't have another tornado (like the one we had on election day last November).

For this month's election to replace the somewhat ignominious Chair of the County Commissioners, who chose to resign rather than face an indictment, eight poll workers began work at 6 a.m., when we turned on the machines we'd set up the previous evening, and swore (or affirmed) to uphold our duties as election officials.

By 7:15 we'd had two voters. By noon, there'd still been fewer than a hundred. When the polls closed at 7 p.m., our machines showed that 189 people had voted (out of the 3,533 registered voters in our precinct). Calls to other precinct managers reported similar dismal results. In fact, our precinct was one of the more heavily attended.

Something is wrong with this picture. Five percent of the voters are deciding who will lead Gwinnett County, one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. Five pathetic percent.

Bees don't do it this way. People who don’t know bees, think the queen must lead the hive, but it’s really the worker bees—all of them—who make the decisions. The queen doesn’t have a vote, and the drones aren’t eligible either. Still . . .

100% of the eligible bees
5% of the eligible humans


I figure if I don’t vote, I don’t have the right to complain about the results.

Do you vote whenever you have the opportunity?

BEEattitude for Day # 155:
       Blessed are those who exercise their civic rights. If they acted like us bees, everyone would behave responsibly.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Gentle rain.    

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day #154 Time for the next bee joke

Okay. The county I live in is having a special election today for County Commissioner, so try this one:

What’s the difference between a bee hive and a polling precinct?

Send your answers to fran at fran (no spaces, of course) or post them in the comments below (if you can get that to work—grrr!)

BEEattitude for Day # 154:
       Blessed are the poll workers, for they are like bees!

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       Pot luck lunches    

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day #153 Taking the time to say thank-you

Sunday afternoon the Gwinnett Choral Guild performed at Spivey Hall. What a glorious place to perform. No wonder that hall is a favorite of world-class musicians.

At any rate, after the performance was over, I wandered out through the lobby, heading toward my car. I was stopped, though, by two women who took the time to add their personal thank-you for the performance. They mentioned specific things that had brought them joy, such as the power of the Gospel Magnificat—and said that they’d both cried when we sang the hauntingly poignant Prayer of the Children.

It was so thoughtful of them to hang around for a while waiting for us to appear from the back halls, just so they could give more than the applause we’d received in the hall.

I’ve decided that for the coming week, I’m going to go out of my way, at least once each day, to say thank you. Won’t you join me in that endeavor?

I wonder if bees have a way to say thanks? Surely, when a forager bee unloads her pollen and hands off her nectar to one of the house bees, the bee on the receiving end must wiggle her thanks one way or another. How else could bees have functioned so well for 140 million years?

BEEattitude for Day # 153:
       Blessed are the music-makers, for they shall feel a deep and abiding connection with each other.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The audio book (The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane) that kept me company on the long trip to and from Spivey Hall. It’s a great story that weaves the lives of women from Salem Massachusetts in 1692 (witch trial times) with the life of a young graduate student in the 1990s.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Day #152 Busy, Busy Day

What a fun and busy day I had yesterday!

My grandson’s team won their soccer game. It was his very first soccer game – glad I could see it. He was having such a good time, he danced around the field, and then made a really good save while he was playing goalie.

When I got home, I spent a number of hours staining my deck (I do that every two years) because I wanted to get it done before I pick up the bees in three more weeks. Only got half of it done, and only one coat on that, but I’ll keep plugging away at it.

Then, in the afternoon, Rob Alexander, one of the co-leaders of the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club, hosted all the club members at his place so we could watch as he opened and examined three of his hives. We all brought our veils and smokers for hands-on experience in how to put the blinkin’ veils on in the first place (where are these long cords supposed to go?) and how to light the smoker.

Then came the really fun part – the bees. Lots of bees. Thousands of bees.

Part of the job of a beekeeper is to examine the hives as soon as the weather warms up in the spring, to make sure the queen is actively laying eggs and the worker bees are finding nectar.  Rob’s hives were quite healthy, I’m happy to report. One was even at the point where the bees were getting overcrowded, so he put on an extra hive body (he set an empty hive box on top of the full one so the queen would have more room to lay her eggs in).

He gave those of us who wanted to, a chance to pull out an active frame. My gosh, it was heavy with all that honey and all those bees. I couldn’t get my bifocals working well enough to see the eggs (they’re teeny white rice-like wiggles). Apparently the ones I’ve been looking at in books are magnified. But I DID see some of the larvae all curled up in their little cells looking like fat little C’s. C for cute!

We spent such a long time asking questions and poking around the hives, the bees in the third hive got a bit perturbed with us. Rob ended up being stung four or five times—and one of those times I had to scrape the stinger out of his thumb, since he was holding a frame and didn’t want to take the time to set it down. The faster you get the stinger out, the better.

We all benefited greatly from the experience, and I for one feel even better about my decision to keep bees.

BEEattitude for Day # 152:
       Blessed are those who help others to learn, for they are useful indeed.

One thing Fran is grateful for right now:
       The New Dawn Theater in Duluth, where I saw a fun presentation of Pride and Prejudice last night. I TOLD you I had a busy day!      

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day #151 Blueberries

In January I ordered six blueberry plants from the extension service. Their flyer said that the pickup date would be March 10th. That sounded like a very long time to go, so I didn’t bother trying to figure out where I was going to plant them.

All of a sudden, it was MARCH! So I walked my yard and tried to visualize 8’ tall bushes, each of them 4’ wide. I found room for five of them. Fortunately, I have a dear friend whose birthday is today. She has a lonely blueberry bush in her yard, so I asked her if she wanted another one. She said yes.

The pickup place was at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, and once I found the right entrance, the process was so well-organized. They had dozens of volunteers to gather the plants and help load them into the cars. I’d brought some heavy cardboard boxes along with me. The bushes were anywhere from two to four feet tall. I was very glad the stems were flexible enough for me to fit them in the back seat. Sometimes I miss my old truck.

It’s rained several times over the last few days, so the ground was ready for new plants. And, of course, my compost pile had plenty of good earth that I could mix in with the dirt from the five holes. I managed to get my knees thoroughly muddy, and my fingernails had enough dirt under them to start a whole package of seeds in. I love dirt!

BEEattitude for Day # 151:
       Blessed are the people who fill their yards with plants we bees love, for they shall have gloriously healthy flora.

What Fran is grateful for right now: