Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Not Ready

(December 2014) It is likely to hit 50 degrees here in the not-so-frozen North next

week.  That is good for the installation of the french doors in our dining room, and my cousin’s repair of our outdoor grounded outlet, and replacement of floodlights. That is bad for my bees.

Normally at this point, they would be nicely encased in a robe of snow. That prevents the considerable heat inside from dissipating to the outside.  Their need for food is less when they are crammed into a ball, not moving much.  When it warms up inside the hive, they get more active and move around more, eating.  It means there will be less food in the cold weather when they really need it.  Winters like this, they starve.

I took no honey off them this year, wanting them to live through the winter, so I have done all I can.  When I open them up next week, I may find them to be aggressive and to have “broken cluster.”  They are good bees, and I’d like to have them make it.

I’m not ready to lose my first backyard hive to winter.  I already lost one this Spring, possibly because they swarmed, possibly because they drifted.  Possibly because they were poisoned.  This summer I saw unmistakable signs of pesticide poisoning in bees returning to the hive - or rather trying to.  They convulse on hard cool surfaces before dying.  Surfaces like concrete, and pavers.

Also, not ready to lose my new-found cousin.  Spouse to my third cousin, he was a fisherman from Unalaska, and continues to be  a vital presence in the lives of all who love him.  He is one of those forces who clearly only inhabits a physical form, and is not altered by what ever condition that physical form may be subjected to.  

I never finished this post.  All sorts of things sloughed off my plate while we waited for Vern to live his last moments.  Bills, yarn, work, artifacts - many things went missing in the weeks before he died.  I am still recovering them from hidden places.  His widow has moved on and away, living the life she put on hold for so long, under the sea.  I come away with a freezer full of venison, a remote connection to a kindred spirit with whom I share blood and spirit though not a life.  Some one who propels my thoughts about inheritance in eugenic directions that makes me uncomfortable, or perhaps simply more comfortable with supernatural explanations of a few threads of  commonality.

But mostly I am left with a self-absorbed fascination with her - is this what my life would have been without the moderating influence of my life?  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Rapists Do Not Wear Snowshoes

Vortex be damned, I went out skiing tonight.  It has warmed up quite a bit, but we are headed towards another cold snap in two days, and I have spent the last 7 standing at my desk, stressing out about work.  I needed this, particularly after my platelet donation went badly last Saturday, and I ended up with a sore, bruised arm that hasn’t served me well since.  But last night I caved and took some Advil, which braked the pain, and I woke with a better outlook on my capabilities.  Long stressful day of working on a couple transactions my clients want to close next week.  I have pushed off as much administrative work to other firms and my client as possible, and now the remaining drudgery falls to me.  So while tomorrow I’ll be scrivening again, tonight I was skiing.

Layers of wool, and synthetics and silk, and I trekked down to the lake.  I tried skiing around the edge tonight - I would normally strike out into the middle first thing, but I resisted, and followed the less windy edge for a quarter of the circumference, then headed in to ski the Roberts Bird Sanctuary.  It’s only a half moon, but the clouds were low enough to catch al the city lights and make it bright as a full moon night.  No lights in the sanctuary, but I could see well enough.  It has been a long time since I was out at night like this.  I have gotten more fearful, and Lake Harriet is quieter in general than Lake Calhoun, where I am used to walking.  I’ll have to get comfortable with Lake Harriet again, particularly those long portions of he path that are far down from the road and dark.  But tonight all was bright, and I could see that snowshoers had passed through before me in the fresh snow.  I wondered if I should be concerned about passing through the Sanctuary, which was not likely to be heavily trafficked tonight.  Dog walkers and runners were keeping to the lake, where the walking path is plowed.  I wondered who else might be out at this time of night, going through the Sanctuary, and decided that it would be other people like me.  People who wanted to seethe scrawl of snow etching along the tree branches, and listen to the wind toss the high up branches of the cottonwoods, from the quite stillness below.

The tree branches snapped against each other like a crowd listening to slow jazz, and occasional squeaks of tortured wood reminded me of an anguished sax.  The snow in the Sanctuary was drier and I could glide much better than on the lakeside, but once I got out, the snow was wetter, sticker.  I learned that in sticky snow, I should ski wider, to guard against a fall.  I had the center of the lake to myself.  Stopping there, I looked up and felt vertiginous - there are a broad gap in the clouds, and a might night blue sky was rich and deep - the moving scudding clouds in the south, and the trailing layers of clouds moving in resembled reef contours falling away into inky darkness.  It looked like a sea-shelf, and I felt ready to fall down along the face of it - or dive.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Since you’ve been gone…..

All that’s left is a band of gold.  I’m singing that song in my head to the bygone bees of the last 10+ years since I started beekeeping.  When I started back then, a lot of old timers were getting out.  It wasn’t the same, they said.  I chalked it up to old-timer resistance to change.  They didn’t like all the chemicals, and honey harvests were poor.  I didn’t know what they were talking about - in my first year beekeeping, I harvested 240 pounds from two first-year colonies with enough left over to successfully overwinter both hives.  I didn’t use chemicals on my bees, never have since and never will.

It was never so fine again.  I came to understand what was different over the years, witnessing greater pest and disease loads, vanishing forage and heart-breaking contortions of bees dying en masse.  On the plus side, I’ve seen the resurgence of urban agriculture, including bee-keeping.  I’m pleased to begin writing about my efforts to establish bee hives at our new home just East of Lake Harriet, a neighborhood where people are gardening, GHOs court boisterously at night, and coyotes and bunnies share the streets with dog walkers, skiers, bikers and school children.

Wedding Photo: Dancing with Dad
And that band of gold?  Well, after 28 years as a couple, Carolyn and I got married this year, a happier occurrence than the song would indicate.  But the band of gold I’m thinking of as I write this post is the circle of pollen left in the crown of a composite ray-flower, with too few pollinators left to harvest it.  I’m a little sheepish to admit it, but one of the reasons I am excited about out new house is the giant old crabapple in the front yard, and the oddly pollarded lindens all along the side of the house.  Bee trees galore.  I hope to have two hives, if the neighbors all allow.  Our backyard neighbors have a highly allergic family member, but will gladly consent anyway.  That bodes well for the others, I hope.

A friend sent me a link to a great article about how Australian researchers are using technology to study the problems plaguing bees.  It was great for the research description as well as for the fun of seeing technology employed with such delicacy and skill:


So there is hope, even though in China people are conscripted to go out into the fields and hand-pollinate crops with small brushes because the pollinators are too few.  Sadly, some think this is an improvement, because they do a better job than the insects.