Friday, June 28, 2013

What Do I Really Want?

Nearby, there's a small farm with a petting zoo that we like to visit. No matter how often we go, there is always something new to see. Last week, it was a pregnant goat that had escaped her pen.

Attracted by my daughter's cup of feed, she head-butted the bottom rail of her fence until she broke out. At that point, she followed my little goatherd everywhere, led by the promise of grain in a plastic cup.

We were delighted, of course, by the goat's interest. However, I also found it very odd that she should want that feed so much. Now that she was out of her pen, she was surrounded by the most succulent greens like clover, dandelions, and plantains. By comparison, the grain seemed so unappetizing. I felt a bit sorry for her -- I mean, it seemed terribly sad to be so conditioned to having those dry, dusty pellets that she couldn't recognize a far better option when it was presented.

But the goats, it seems, are not the only creatures on the farm that don't know what they really want.

Whenever we visit the farm, I also get a kick out of observing the "city folk." I admire them for wanting to expose their children to the joys of non-human creatures, but at the same time, their reactions to the farm and its livestock sometimes make me laugh. (Sorry if that seems condescending. I don't mean to be snobby, but I can't help but be tickled. After all, if I may quote Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, "for what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?'')

On another recent visit, I watched one such carload of people unload just as we were leaving the farm. Their teenaged son raced toward a fence and began yelling. "Hey, I want a horse! Are you gonna buy me a horse?" When his mother (I assume) replied in the negative, he started whining, "How come? If dad were here, he would get one for me. Dad gets me anything I want!"

This sort of badgering continued for a couple of minutes when suddenly the boy's attention was distracted. He exclaimed, "Oooh! That's the one! That's the horse I want!"

I glanced toward where his outstretched arm was pointing -- at a llama. At that point, I ducked quickly into the car. After all, it seemed rude to laugh so loudly out in the open.

But these incidents have me thinking. I know what I want, but do I know what I really want? Sometimes, I'm not so sure, but I'm glad there is a Good Shepherd who knows what's best.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  
Psalm 23

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bees are Here!

Sunday morning, I arrived bright and early in Brewster, NY to pick up the two top bar nucs I'd ordered way back in January. I had left the house at 5:30 am and had enjoyed a lovely sunrise and relaxing roadtrip. By the time I got to the farm, I was revelling in an absolutely glorious morning.

When Beekeeper Mike met me there, he delivered some bad news. Over the spring, in addition to the super rainy weather, he'd had five bear attacks. The most recent one had come just a few days prior to my arrival and had ravaged one of my nucs. So today, I'd be taking just one them home.

Here is what his top bar nucs look like. They're pretty rough. Not nearly up to my woodworking husband's standards. Just a few pieces of cheap wood and wire mesh stapled together.

The entrance to the nuc was duct-taped, but as you can see in the photo below, it was leaking bees through all kinds of cracks.

Fortunately, I had read a review of that particular apiary somewhere online and was prepared for this possibility. After the nuc was in the car, I wrapped it up in bedsheets to keep the bees inside.

After signing the disclaimers and getting my receipt, I waved a cheery goodbye and headed back home with my precious cargo. I had reached the end of the farm's driveway when I heard a buzzing noise. "Oh, that's nice," I thought, "They're keeping me company." Then a quarter-mile down the road, I noticed that the buzzing was getting louder and sounded more frustrated.

I glanced at the rearview mirror. Several bees had escaped the confines of my sheets and were unhappily trying to find a way out of the rear window.

A little more than halfway home, I had to stop for gas, and quite a few -- at least twenty or so -- bees had begun congregating in the back of the car. At this point I was kind of regretting that I'd taken my Flex, which is a basically a station wagon, which means an open trunk that is part of the interior cabin -- and not my husband's sedan.

The trip from the farm to my house is about 90 minutes, and I'm not normally a speeder, but I'll wager it took me considerably less time than that. And I think I made it home just in time because toward the end there, the number of escapees had doubled, and the buzzing was getting a little too close to the back of my head for perfect comfort.

In any case, I raced into my driveway, unharmed and unpunctured. (A fact which seems to provide a bit of amusement to some of the more experienced beeks on one of the forums I follow.) The bees didn't seem any worse for wear either. I choose to believe they enjoyed sightseeing for a change.

I love how he insisted on protective clothing from
head to leg but then decided to wear flip-flops.
Later that afternoon, my young assistant and I transferred the bars from the nuc to the hive. We couldn't find Queen Hippolyte (Hippolyte was an Amazon, who were all women, so the name seems rather appropriate, don't you think?) which was a bit disappointing. However, everything looked great. Lots of drawn comb and brood.

It's been so much fun watching all the girls. I think this is going to be a really great summer.

The Top Bar Hives are Finished (Almost)

The top bar hives that my DH has been working on all spring are done, just in time for the bees' arrival yesterday, but more on that later.

Today, I thought I'd show you some photos of the project that has been occupying so much of our time and energy for the last few months.

As you can see, the beehives were a family affair with everyone getting to do something. Even the littlest squirt got to glue in biscuit joiners and do lots and lots of painting.

Of course, the results were not always up to my husband's more exacting standard of work. The paint job in particular looks like it was done by a two-year old -- because it kind of was.

The boys sometimes really surprised us with some excellent skills. This was their first time chiselling, and our firstborn in particular did a super nice job. Even better than his (ahem) old man. (Sorry, honey, but you did an awesome job overall.)

Of course, DH insisted that we inscribe some messages to "encourage" the bees to do their very best. His messages tended to have a socialist bent like "Gather nectar for a better tomorrow" and "Honey & Life!" Some of them bordered on cult-like (Praise to the Great and Glorious Keeper!)

By contrast, my inscriptions were much more commercialistic and jingly -- Got Nectar?, Don't Bee Evil, Happy Hour at the Top Bar!, etc. I suggested that we should keep notes and see whether the communist or free market hive performed better, but alas, as it turned out we only got one of the hives we ordered. But again, more on that in the next post.

So anyway... Drum roll please.... It's time for the big reveal.

Ta-da! Aren't they bee-utiful? DH did a fantastic job, I think. The hives even have doors on the sides that open up to observation windows so that I can watch the bees inside the hives. Plus the bottoms are screened with a trap door that opens so that debris can fall out, or to allow extra ventilation on super hot days.

One of the boys christened the hives Earth and Water. So I guess DH will have to work on Air and Fire next spring.

Oh right. I almost forgot. The title of this post indicates that they're not quite finished. I suppose I should explain that. We're waiting for some small Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs to arrive, and those will be the finishing touch above the entrances. Every barn should have an ornament, right? Even a honey barn.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Barefoot in the Park

Today was a welcome respite from the seemingly non-stop rain we've been having. To celebrate, the kids and I took a walk through Elizabeth Park, which boasts "the oldest municipally operated rose garden in the country."

We couldn't have picked a better day for it. The blooms were glorious. And even though the trellised roses haven't opened yet, they have lots of buds on them, so we'll have to go back again soon.

However, this is the thing I wanted to share. This weathered old bench seemed so lonely to me. In a park that is otherwise immaculately groomed, this bench stands out for its neglect. It looks like it will be swallowed up soon.

The bench bears a plaque dedicating it to the memory of Frances Perelman. Who was she?

In my mind, I picture a silvery-haired lady, but beyond that, I can't imagine. Was she shy, sassy, wry? Was she short, tall, slim, pudgy? Did she wear glasses? I don't think she came to the garden alone -- at least not usually. I think she came with someone special because somebody loved her enough to want her name to be remembered. I try to picture Frances, but the only thing I really understand about her is why she liked this quiet corner tucked away in its shady place.

Weeds poke up through the slats that form the bench, but I make the kids sit for a spell. I take a seat, too. I can't really explain why this is important to me except that she was important to someone and brightened the world for a time. That seems reason enough.

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