Sunday, February 2, 2014

Is Anybody Out There?

I apologize for the time warp, but there's so much more time to post during the winter, when I'm not actually handling the bees.  

Aug 2013:

I thought all of our bees would be dead by now.  What with no viable queen laying since May, they should be.  Granted, we picked up some homeless bees during the Black Forest fire, but that was in June.  It's been at least two months, during which there has been no worker brood.  What the hell is going on?  I'll tell you one thing, being a beekeeper isn't boring.  I'm sure it will be keeping me on my toes 40 years from now.

After the last hive check, where we removed the second deep box due to the drop in population, we assumed it would only be a matter of weeks before it was completely empty.  There was no sign of Queen Catherine, the Carniolan queen I tried to introduce in July.  Then I get a message from Dick saying that there were still bees flying into the hive.

Sarah, Jason and I drove out and suited up to check for ourselves.  This is what we discovered:
Pile of earth beneath where the hive used to be.
A gopher (or something, not ants) had built a little hill of earth beneath the hive.  And there were still bees left!  We knew it wasn't viable, so we made the decision to walk about 100 ft away from the hive, shake off the bees, and load the bee-free equipment in my car.  We packed it all up and left nothing but a pile of dirt with lonely bees flying around it.  

I had a few stowaways in my car, but none of them bothered me on the drive home.  I unloaded the equipment and stored it away for the winter, with plans to start again next spring.

I love bees.

Monday, January 27, 2014

They Might Be Finished

Well, they might be finished, but they sure as hell don't fit.  (silent scream)  That's right, I'm talking about my Camp Loopy project 1 Skew socks, the ones that were supposed to be finished in June.  Hah!  I knew when I started the heel I'd gone too far in the foot pattern.  I should have stopped at 6.5" and instead I went 7.5" before I'd noticed.  Instead of ripping back like I should have (banging head into desk repeatadly) I told myself it would be ok, my fat feet would take up some of the length, I wasn't quite on gauge anyway, it would all be good.  Well, it's not.  It's about 1/2" too long in the foot.  Since the toes and heels are designed to fit snugly, that's not a good thing.  No, they won't shrink in the wash (unless they felt, which is BAD).  So instead of fitting size 6 feet, they are more around a size 8.5.  

I am nearly heartbroken.  Nearly.  I love the yarn.  I love the pattern.  But they are just socks, after all.  
The almost finished socks

Into the gift box they go.  So who wears a size 8, 8.5 shoe, anyway?  Anyone?
Turns out, my little sister does!  Yeah!  So I made them a Christmas present for her.  Of course, I forgot to get a picture of the finished, blocked socks.   Typical.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Skirting a Fleece

My Spinning Study Group at Green Valley Weavers had a little fun outside two months ago.  One of the lovely ladies, Heidi, brought FIVE Cheviot fleeces to be skirted and shared with the group.  Skirting involves removing the really dirty parts, anything matted, the course sections along the edges, and any second cuts (where the fleece has been clipped or sheared twice, leaving short pieces).  We skirted . . .
Skirting in process.
and skirted . . .
More skirting
And skirted.  We filled up so many bags that everyone got to take home as much fleece as they wanted.  I got a little bit from three different fleeces, and it's interesting to see the difference in coarseness even between each sheep, much less as compared to another breed.  Additionally, I brought home a big bag of the dirty bits to add to my compost bin.

As part of our "study" we plan on using a variety of methods to scour, or wash, the fleece.  I'll let you know when I decide which method I want to use, and how well the process works.  I better hurry, we're running out of nice days! 

On a more practical note, apparently I should get my tetanus booster updated if I plan on playing with raw wool.  Who knew?
A fluffy Cheviot fleece

Friday, August 16, 2013

Campfire Games

The August challenge for Camp Loopy is out, and I'm still working on July!  THIS ONE I WILL FINISH!  No, really.  I'm on track for this one.  I've finished 4 triangles and am halfway through my Wingspan

From The Loopy Ewe blog:
The Challenge for Project Three – The project needs to use at least 800 yards, single stranded. That’s the only requirement! So you can knit a sweater, or a vest, or a blanket, or a bag, or a shawl, or anything that uses 800 yards in one project.

For those of you who don't knit, 800 yards is A LOT of yarn.  The scarf I'm knitting now is only 500 yards, and I've been working all month on it.  I don't think I've even done a project which used 800 yards before.  Nope. Not so optimistic about this one.

The Wingspan was finished!  Final count was 13 triangles, and I think it turned out beautiful, if I do say so myself.

Ummmm, I haven't even cast-on for my third project yet.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Goin' On A Wabbit Hunt

I can totally sympathize with Farmer McGregor.  Screw Peter Rabbit. 

Since redoing the front yard, I've been chasing rabbits out of there, but it hasn't stopped them from digging holes and eating my new plants.  Some of them haven't made it, and will need to be replaced.  Mr. HPL informed me he's been chasing them out of the garden several times a day, too.

This means war.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Last Steps

Sarah and I performed another hive check on Sunday, and what we found wasn't good.  Actually it was what we DIDN'T find.  No Queen Catherine!  There were actually still bees left in the hive, a very small population, but enough to care for some brood, if there were any.  We went through every frame, and no queen, no eggs.  No dead carcass with a red dot on the bottom board or in front of the hive.  Did she fly away?  Was she killed, even though they appeared to accept her fine?  I hate not knowing what happened!  If I don't know what it was, how am I supposed to correct it so it doesn't happen again?  Arrrggghhhh!!!

Only a few frames of bees left

Both Sarah and I working without gloves. Granted, there was only a small population of bees.
The only good things about Sunday's hive check was that my niece Enya helped out again, and I worked it without any protective gear.  Sarah also did it without gloves.  We did put our veils on when we shook the remaining bees into one box, but I think we're getting more comfortable and less jumpy.  Due to the declining population, we took off the second deep box, and brushed or shook all the bees off of the frames into the bottom deep.  We put the best frames into the bottom box, and packed up the others. 

Enya helping with the honey extraction
 Oh, and we got a little honey.  HONEY!!!  There was one frame we pulled that had 1/2 of one side with capped honey.  Not much, just enough for a taste, right?  Wrong!  With Enya helping, we scraped the capped honey into a strainer lined with cheesecloth, sitting over a bowl.  We crushed it all up, breaking open all of the honeycomb cells, and let gravity do it's work (hence it being called the "crush and strain" method).  After letting it sit for a few hours, with periodic smooshing, we ended up with 2 small jars of golden elixir.  At least the day had a sweet ending!

Our first honey!

Monday, July 22, 2013

First Steps

7/16/13  It's a good thing I checked on the bees last night.  Queen Catherine was still in her cage!  Even poking the hole in the candy plug hadn't encouraged the bees to eat enough of it to let her out.  Then I was an idiot and placed the cage with plug-side down, completely forgetting that if/when any of her attendants died, gravity would have them falling and blocking the path out.  Which is EXACTLY what happened.  Only instead of falling, it looks like one of the workers actually died while eating.  So strange!  I pulled the screen off of the cage, and encouraged Queen Catherine to walk out into the hive.  Only she didn't want too, and nobody can MAKE a queen do anything.  So I waited.  And waited.  Finally, I pretty much had to dump her out onto a frame.  Even then, she was slow to walk down into the hive.  This gave us (myself, Mr. HPL, Dick, and Dick's neighbors) time to watch her though. 
Queen Catherine (with the red dot) walks down into the hive
She is definitely not as large as Queen Beatrice (may she rest in peace), and I will continue to worry about how well she was mated until I can see a good brood pattern.  Hive population continues to decline.  Refilled the syrup feeders, but only time will tell if these bees will make it.  This is another instance where a second hive would be helpful; I could shake a couple frames of bees into the weak hive to add workers to take care of brood, or I could just swap a frame of capped brood into it, so the newly hatching bees would take care of the queen and housekeeping.

Have I mentioned I don't have much patience?