Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day #505 Beach Report

Happy Leap Year Day. I thought you might enjoy seeing a little bit of my vacation.

I didn’t see a single honey bee at the beach. Of course, I do wonder if bees like the Atlantic shore. The wind was pretty stiff most of the time.

I didn’t see any bees in Karen and Dan’s yard either. 

This yellow flower bloomed on the sand dune beside the shore, just at the base of an observation platform. I spotted it after the sun came up.

Even though there were no bees, I did see a couple of little critters that I’d like to share with you. 

The closed shell you see on the left contained a live animal, and I had to give it a little kiss before I eased it back into the receding tide. 

This other little guy was as perky as they come. Too bad s/he was empty. Of course, if there had been anyone home, the shell wouldn’t have looked like a face.

Looks rather like Chewbacca, doesn't it?

I found this announcement, from a lighthouse commission report in 1868.   

It still has a good message today.

My shins are still sore from the miles we walked along the beach at daybreak (and midday and sunset) -- but it was worth it.

Thanks, Karen and Dan.

BEEattitude for Day #505:
       Blessed are those who watch where they’re flying [or walking], for they shall see wonders.

 And, of course, Polly found a box while I was gone...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day #504 Sense of Perspective

You know what the trouble is nowadays with taking a vacation? When you get back, you have several hundred emails to go through.
It feels like punishment of a sort, plowing through the junk to get to the few jewels here and there.
When bees fly back to the hive after a long foraging trip, they get welcomed back—because they’re carrying nectar and pollen—and there’s probably no buildup of extra chores they have to do. Of course, on the other hand, they don’t really get any sort of vacation. Ever.
I had a chance to watch the sunrise over the Atlantic; I saw dolphins; I ate yummy food I wouldn’t get here in Georgia (at least, not in my house, since I don’t like to cook); so, I guess 200 emails is a small price to pay for such a great time.
And Erica is doing much better, by the way.
BEEattitude for Day #504:
       Blessed are those who sty in touch with old friends, for they shall have a sense of perspective. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day #503 Whew! Home!

Thank goodness for friends and family. Whenever I leave for a few days, I have to arrange cat-sitters to come in to feed and play with my girls (and scoop the litter boxes). Thank you Veronica and Millie! Of course, it’s easier now that I have two cats instead of the eleven I had at one time. All of them indoor cats.
Come to think of it, when I had eleven cats, I didn’t take many trips.
That’s what so comforting about hobby beekeeping. Beekeepers truly are not necessary to the health of the hive. A beekeeper could go away for weeks at a time, months, years even, and the hives would keep going. They might swarm. They might re-queen themselves. But they’d most likely survive and would probably even thrive (as long as neighbors within a five-mile radius don’t use pesticides and herbicides).
Rob Alexander, the beekeeper who is caring for my two hives, told me that mine were the healthiest in his bee yard, probably because I never bothered them very much. Instead of opening the hive boxes once a week or so—which is what most backyard beekeepers do—I just let them grow. Yes, I did feed them during that horrible spell of drought in August when there was NO food available for them, but other than that, I pretty much left them alone, particularly after I developed an allergy to bee stings.
Yesterday I couldn’t come home to bee hives on my back deck, but I did come home to two loving cats who, contrary to the myth perpetrated by dog-people, do not ignore me.
BEEattitude for Day #503:
       Blessed are those who live in harmony with the world around them, for they shall have ample honey, glorious sunshine, fresh water nearby, and bounteous pollen, which is all anybee needs.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day #502 Driving Home Safely Today

I hope the 8-hour drive is uneventful. I’ll be listening to the last 8 or 9 CDs of Pillars of the Earth as I drive. That 36-CD set was the biggest recorded book I could find in the library. Or rather, it was the biggest one I hadn’t read yet.
There is something so anonymous about Interstate rest stops. The constant round of unnamed people using the restrooms, eating, stretching, and diving back into their cars, all of which look so similar. 
EllieBug stands out like a clown at a funeral. People laugh and point and give me a thumbs-up as I drive. I’m happy to brighten their day a bit.
Please wish me a safe trip home today.
BEEattitude for Day #502:
       Blessed are those who fly carefully, for they shall return to the hive in safety and be welcomed joyfully.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day #501 Bees with Back Problems?

I got to thinking about what happens to bees if they have back problems. They probably just die. I never heard of a bee chiropractor.
I’d like to tell you a story.
Years and years ago, in what feels like another lifetime, I was the passenger in a car that was hit, and the door caved in on me.
That was before I knew about chiropractors. A visit to an orthopedist resulted in nothing except that I saw some really cool X-rays of my now-crooked spine, that, when viewed from the back, went down, over, down, the upper vertebrae nudged to the left and stuck there. The damage to my neck and back left me in pretty bad shape, and I limped around for days, finally giving up in pain and despair and simply staying in bed. I wanted to die, I hurt so much.
We had some friends who lived near Washington DC at the time. Karen found sitters for her children and drove to Vermont unannounced, breezed in and took over the management of the house. She cared for my children, cooked meals, cleaned up, babied me, and eventually got me up and walking. 
When I finally went to a chiropractor, doubled over with the pain, I walked out after the appointment upright for the first time in weeks.
So, I’m going to praise chiropractors for the rest of my life. I’m also feeling pretty grateful to Karen. She moved from DC to Florida several years after she saved me, and I’ve seen her only once since then when she and her husband Dan drove through the Atlanta area. 
But for the past couple of days I’ve been visiting them in their comfy house in Ormond Beach. I had intended to leave my phone turned off and buried in my suitcase the entire four days, but I chose not to, since my niece is still hospitalized, and I didn’t want to miss any updates. The good news is that her eyes are open now, and she is able to recognize people. Keep the good thoughts flowing her way, please.
My first goal in coming here to Florida was to catch up with Karen on a lot of what I’ve missed for the past few decades; the second was to walk barefooted on the beach.
Now that I’ve done those, I’ll be heading home tomorrow.
And I might even have some pictures to share with you.
BEEattitude for Day #501:
       Blessed are those who keep in touch with old friends, for they shall feel a deep sense of connection.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day #500 Five Hundred???????

What is there about list items with a couple of zeros at the end?
When I started this blog in October of 2010 and pledged to write every day for 600 days, I found it hard to believe I’d get to 200 or 300, much less 500.
Some of you have been with me right from the start, some of you are relative newcomers to the Bees Knees Beekeeping Blog, but no matter which category you fit into, I’m grateful for the fact that you choose to spend a part of your day with me, here in the midst of these musings of mine.
Pat Gerard, the archivist who is beginning to catalog my papers, has informed me that this blog holds an important place in my writings. She’s printing off each post on archival paper so the collection will have a chance of surviving several hundred years at least.
What on earth will people in the 22nd century think about these ramblings of mine, assuming that someone out there finds them in the course of a research project?
Should I be mindful that I’m writing for posterity? Well, I don’t think so. I’m writing for you. And for myself. I'm writing for members of the beekeeping community as well as for people who don't know one end of a bee from another. 

I hope that in the course of this journey with me you’ve learned a little bit about honey bees, a little bit about conservation and ecology, a little bit about approaching life joyously, and a little bit about the value of laughing hard every day.
If you have, I’ve done my job. I’m awfully glad you’re along for the ride!
BEEattitude for Day #500:
       Blessed are those who feel the wonder of the world around them, for they shall be endlessly amazed. 

p.s. Thank you for all your encouraging emails about Erica. The good news is that the breathing tube is out, she's been able to say a few words, and her feisty, wonderful self is apparent in those sparkling eyes. We're all breathing a lot easier now -- especially her!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day #499 Thanks for the help

Thank you to Petie and Billy Ogg, who contacted me with suggestions about WiFi/DSL and such. Yesterday I went to the AT&T booth in the Mall of Georgia and spoke with the manager, who set me up for an installation appointment on March 3rd. The bottom line will save me about $40 each month. Hopefully, this will work.
In the meantime, I’ll muddle my way through each day, trying to get this blog posted. It’s worked so far, but I’m looking forward to letting go of the daily WiFi struggle. “Push the easy button,” to quote you-know-who.

And another thank-you to my dear friend from High School, Ellen Norton, who sent me a tall graceful bottle of pomegranate vinegar that she made herself. How delightful a taste, Ellen. 
And, by the way, while I'm cleaning up loose ends, when I told you on Tuesday about Jeanette Meierhofer and her life coaching, I neglected to give you her contact information.
All of her work is done by phone, unless someone lives in central Atlanta, in which case a face-to-face appointment can be scheduled. So, if you’re interested in experiencing Jeanette’s special way of helping you focus your thinking, you can contact her at
The bees are beginning to explore, looking for nectar and pollen. For next year I absolutely HAVE to plant more early-blooming shrubs.
BEEattitude for Day #499:
       Blessed are those who liven up their yards with food for us bees, for they shall have the beauty of flowers and the deliciousness of honey.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day #498 Helebores

I haven’t seen any bees on the helebore -- yet -- but I’m hoping they’re getting some nectar from these early flowers.
There was ice on the bird feeder this morning, but it wasn’t very thick. I have to admit I have no idea how honey bees, birds, or small animals of any sort manage to make it through long cold winters.
I think I’ve gotten awfully spoiled living in Georgia. Of course, in exchange for mild weather, I’ve given up being able to see the stars at night. Sometimes I think it’s worth it. Sometimes I don’t.
BEEattitude for Day #498:
       Blessed are those who help the birds, for they shall see joyous feathered flights.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Day #497 Life Coaching

As I’ve told you before, this year is turning out to be one of major soul-searching on my part, and major changes in the way I approach life.
I’ve shared with you my attempts to overcome my fear of horses, my journey into the worlds of technology, my Silver Sneakers exercise program.
Another bugaboo has reared its head. I signed up for a life-coaching phone session with Jeanette Meierhofer, someone I met years ago at the Shakespeare Tavern. I made the appointment on something of a whim, but the results of it surprised me.
What I hadn’t consciously recognized is that I’m afraid of dying. I never, ever thought of myself as dreading the final reaper. I’ve shared with you how peaceful my father’s death was, and how I wanted to choose a death like his, for he showed me that dying could be a conscious, loving choice. 
I’ve always scorned Dylan Thomas and his insistence that one “not go gentle into that good night--rage, rage against the dying of the light.” 
But, that was when I was in my thirties, forties, fifties. Now that I’m halfway through my sixties, I’m beginning to realize that I might not have as long ahead of me as I thought I’d have.
And I don’t wanna go. I want to rage against it.
There are still too many books to be read, too many books to be written, too many places to visit. There are grandchildren to watch grow up, friends to laugh with, songs to sing. Thank goodness I talked with Jeanette about my fears. When we started, she asked me where, on a scale of 1 to 10, my fears lay. I felt like a basket case. My fear was up around a 7 at least. She listened compassionately, asked intelligent questions, and left me with a couple of assignments (should I choose to do them). By the time the appointment was over, my fear level had dropped to a 5. That felt like a big change to me.

And then I watched the movie The Children of Chabannes, a documentary about people who were rescued as children from concentration camps and taken to a school at Chateau Chabannes, in France. These people, the ones still living, were in their seventies, eighties, and nineties, and were still going strong, still living productive lives. What wonderful role models. “Jeanette was right,” I told myself. “I don’t have to shrivel up. I can keep right on living a productive life.”
Once I slept on it, I was down to a 3 or 4.
So now, all I have to do … is … do it!

BEEattitude for Day #497:
       Blessed are those who serve as role models and show the rest of the bees how to live, for they shall leave the hive a better place.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day #496 Some Advice, Please?

I’m getting fed up with my WiFi setup. My house is on the back side of Hog Mountain. Not on the top, mind you, but down a ways, and the land behind me slopes up away from the stream, leaving me in a dip. 
People who live farther up the street from me get a fairly good WiFi signal. I don’t.
I keep getting ads about bundles and packages -- all of them touting that not only will I get high speed internet service, but my TV will never look better. Trouble is, I don’t have a TV, don’t want one, and don’t intend to pay for that kind of service when I don’t need it.
Does anybody have some really good advice about how to get good, dependable WiFi service all by itself? Something that will work here on the back side of the mountain?

BEEattitude for Day #496:
       Blessed are those who can live without technology, the way we bees do, for they shall have few headaches.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Day #495 The Rabbit and Bee Bill

The Georgia House of Representatives recently passed a bill to prevent local municipalities from passing laws that prohibit Georgia residents from gardening or from keeping honeybees. Here’s the text of House Bill 853:
“No county, municipality, consolidated government, or local government authority shall prohibit or require any permit for the growing or raising of food crops, rabbits, honeybees, or chickens, with the exception of roosters, in home gardens, fully covered pens, hives, or fully covered coops on private residential property so long as such food crops, animals, or honeybees or the products thereof are used for human consumption by the occupant of such property and members of his or her household and not for commercial purposes.”
The trouble is, the bill is stalled in the State Senate’s Rules Committee. If it doesn’t make it out of there by March 7th, it’s dead, so I’ve written emails to the various players asking them to support the bill.
Did you notice they’re not allowing roosters? I suppose that’s a good idea, since roosters aren’t necessary for egg production. I rather like the rooster who lives in the lot on the other side of my stream, though. He crows at dawn. He crows whenever he feels threatened (I think). He crows just about any time he feels like it. And that’s okay with me. Of course, he’s not right beside my windows.
How does your local government deal with bees and rabbits and chickens?

And -- a very personal note -- would you please send prayers, good thoughts, good energy, good vibrations, or whatever you call it, to my niece Erica? She's in the hospital in Colorado, and I'm deeply concerned. I was living with my sister when Erica was born. She's always been a dear person, and I'd like to see her pull through this in the best possible way.
BEEattitude for Day #495:
       Blessed are those who are aware of what is happening around them, for they shall avoid harsh surprises. 
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day #494

Friday evening I took two of my grandchildren to the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern to see Romeo and Juliet. More than 400 years since that play was first performed, and it’s still wringing tears from audiences.
Every time I see it, I hear at least two or three lines I could swear I’d never heard before.
I’ve noticed a change over the years, though. When I was in my twenties and thirties, I got caught up in the tragedy of the story.
In my forties and fifties, I studied the emotional makeup of the various characters.
Now that I’m in my sixties, I want to take those two youngsters and shake them. 
     “Tell your father, Juliet. He likes Romeo; he’ll holler a bit, and then he’ll say okay.”
     “Romeo, listen to the Friar, for heaven’s sake. ‘A pack of blessings light upon your head.’ Juliet’s alive, you’re alive, you’ve been banished when you could have been executed. All will be well.”
Or, all would have been well, if Romeo hadn’t gone nuts with useless grief and killed himself.
Of course, if those two teenagers had listened to the voice of reason, we wouldn’t have had a play that lasted 400 years.
I guess it’s just as well. 
BEEattitude for Day #494:
       Blessed are those who write well, for they shall live long through their words.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day #493 A Sense of Time

Years ago, if people wanted to know what time it was, they would look up at the sky. Pre-dawn, dawn, early morning, mid-morning, late morning, midday, and so on through sunset and dusk and night.
Those estimates were good enough.
The same is true, I would imagine, with bees. With all diurnal animals, for that matter. If it’s not yet dawn, the bees stay in the hive. When it’s noon (assuming the day is relatively clear) the foragers had better be outside foraging.
But what about the nocturnal animals? How do they tell the difference between 10 pm and 3 am? There’s no sun to see the position of. The moon does shift, of course, but it does so on a nightly basis. Can raccoons or bats tell the difference between a gibbous moon and a half-moon, other than the amount of light being spread?
How does the possum visiting the earth at the bottom of my bird-feeding station know s/he has four hours left before daylight?
The trouble with asking questions like this is that, not only do I now know the answers, but I don’t even know where to find the answers.
If you know, please enlighten me.
BEEattitude for Day #493:
       Blessed are those who find answers, for they can feel a well-deserved smugness.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 492 Pollen Time

Well, it’s official. The bees have been collecting pollen here in the metro Atlanta area. The reports are that it’s yellow, red, and sort of a bright orange.

The only things I can see blooming in my yard are daffodils, Vinca Minor, and Hellebore, but there must be other flowers out there if other beekeepers are reporting pollen-collecting.
The birds are certainly going through mealworms like crazy, which means they’re thinking about nesting and egg-laying.
Even though it’s hard to believe, spring is on its way.
I remember that first bright, light spring green. I was first aware of it when I lived in Vermont. After a long, hard winter, suddenly there was one magical day when a wisp of green hovered in the tree branches.
I don’t see that so much here in Georgia. Spring is still a magical time, but not quite the same as it was up north. Here Spring oozes up on you; it Vermont it springs forth. Maybe it’s just that we longed for Spring a lot more when the weather had been dropping below freezing on a regular basis.
BEEattitude for Day #492:
       Blessed are those who appreciate all the seasons, for they shall be aware of life, and life shall surprise them beautifully.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day #491 Learning New

Tuesday evening, the Gwinnett Beekeepers Club had an open forum meeting. That meant there wasn’t a regular speaker. Instead, the club president, Tommy Bailey, who served as a mentor to me when I was starting as a beekeeper, answered questions.
Tommy considers himself a “natural” beekeeper. He doesn’t medicate his bees, since he’s convinced that ultimately weakens the entire bee population. His policy has always been -- if a hive is strong, that’s great; if a hive is weak, that’s too bad. His tendency, he told us, has been to let the weak hives die off.
But now, he’s learned a lesson from another beekeeper. It makes so much sense. Here it is:
The strength of a hive depends primarily on the genes of the queen. If she’s a good layer, then the hive is more likely to survive. If her genes create bees that are capable of fighting off the varroa mite (a major killer of honey bees), then the eggs she lays will hatch into bees that know how to distinguish between larvae that have the varroa mite and ones that don’t host the mite. If those bees know what they’re doing, they’ll kill off the infected larvae, and the hive will thrive.
So -- and here’s the reasoning that makes so much sense -- if a beekeeper has a weak hive, instead of letting it die off, cleaning out the varroa-riddled comb, and introducing a brand new package of bees -- instead of that, just put a new, stronger queen in there. Within six weeks, every bee from the old, weak strain will have died off, and all the remaining bees will be from the new genetic strain. They will clean out the larvae that are infected. Voila! a saved hive.
Just goes to show you, even after years of beekeeping, it’s possible to learn earth-shaking new ways. Even after years of being afraid of horses, it’s possible to do some re-thinking. Even after years of resentment or anger, it’s possible to forgive.
Take your pick. We can all learn something new.
BEEattitude for Day #491:
       Blessed are those who provide us with good houses, for they shall have honey in abundance.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Day #490 You Know What Day It Is

You see, I used to hate Valentine's Day. The reason (I know now after years of working on myself with a great deal of help from some very wise mentors and friends) was that I didn't like myself very much.

All that has changed.

Day ! ! ! ! ! ! 

I tell my editing clients that they’re allowed only one exclamation point per chapter.  The "point" (pun intended) is to make the writing powerful enough to eliminate the need for excessive punctuation.
Today, as you can see, I've chosen to make an exception to that rule of mine.

BEEattitude for Day #490:
       Blessed are those who love themselves, for they shall then be able to love others without reservation.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day #489 Theater Week

What an amazing week this is turning out to be.

Yesterday I went with my dear friend Millie Woollen to the Aurora Theater in Lawrenceville to see Body of Water. I hadn’t known anything about the show ahead of time. We both have season tickets, so we just show up regardless of what’s playing.
Body of Water turned out to be a moving, disturbing, challenging, funny, sad, excruciating play about memory loss. I came out of it determined more than ever to appreciate each moment of my life.
Later on this week I’ll be going to the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern to see Romeo and Juliet TWICE. The first time will be with my daughter and two of my grandchildren--the two pre-teens. I love watching their enthusiasm over the way the actors carry them along through the story.
And then, a couple of days after that, I’ll go back to the Tavern to see the show again with Millie. We both are Club Ticket Holders, which means we see every show there, too. And, because I like to take my grandkids, sometimes I see the shows twice.
There’s something about live theater -- good live theater -- that simply cannot be explained to someone who’s never seen it. I have on occasion seen the same Shakespeare play three or four times in the same month, and it has different nuances every single time. The Shakespeare Tavern is an “Original Practice Playhouse,” which means that they perform the plays as Shakespeare’s company did, with the actors acknowledging the presence of the audience. That means that the mood of the audience -- always a variable from night to night -- determines in part how the show “feels” that evening.
If you’re ever in the Atlanta area, do yourself a favor. Take in some live theater! I’ll vouch for these two outfits any day.
BEEattitude for Day #489:
       Blessed are those who work at what they love, for they shall spread joy in their wake.
The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day #488 Daisy Horse

You asked for a horse report, so here it comes.
I had my second appointment with Daisy the Horse and Jerry (the therapist) and Lissa (the other therapist and horse owner) in the Flying Change program.
Meeting my fears and doing something about them in a safe environment is, on the one hand, invigorating and, on the other hand, exhausting. I came out of the two hour session with wobbly legs and shaky hands, but with a big grin.
When I first arrived, I took this picture of some of the other horses up in the pasture, tucked under the overhanging branches of tall pine trees.

Jerry and Lissa weren’t there yet, so I took a sneak peek at Daisy. I tried to take a photo of the two of us together.

Daisy has had some problems with one of her back legs, and it’s all bandaged up in purple. They use a different color wrap for each day of the week to show that the medication has been put on it that day. 
I talked to Daisy for a while, until Lissa showed up with the carrots.

Finish what’s in your mouth first, Daisy, and then you can have the rest of this.

You may remember that I told you last month that Daisy had lost an eye. In these pictures you can see the empty socket. When the eyeball was removed, the vet covered the hole with skin stretched from the surrounding tissue, and, although you can’t see it in these pictures, the skin has gradually grown hair. So Daisy has a fuzzy eye socket.

After I brushed and combed her, we let her out of her stall so she could munch grass in front of the barn -- there’s an enclosed courtyard there. And I had a chance to approach her when she was out in the open. It felt scarier to me than being in the stall, although I suppose I should have felt safer outside because I could easily move out of her way.
I even got in a hug.

And then Lissa pointed out that Ben, a very young horse, was watching me over the fence, so I worked up my courage to go talk with him. At one point he snuggled his muzzle into the crook of my elbow and just stood there.

Next month I’m going to try to put a halter on Daisy.

You've been with me through the whole bee process, so you might as well come along on the horse project.

And, I have to show you this:
When I got home, Daisy had a great time sniffing every single finger. She could tell I'd been scratching somebody other than her.

BEEattitude for Day #488:
       Blessed are those who help others allay their fears, for they shall leave the world a better place for their having been here.

p.s. my smart phone ain't so smart. She knows only that one joke. Ah well...

The teeny details:
my books: Please buy them from an independent bookstore or directly from my website.