Today, I went down to check on the bees (and on the farmers). Starting out, the day was dour. My route is Hwy 52. It took me a while to get there, because Hwy 94 was backed up and stagnant while cops and swineherds rounded up the escapees from an overturned swine truck in Maple Grove. I was fortunate to be able to abort my entry onto 94 and take an alternate route to Hwy 52.I've driven this route many, many times now. It has been many years visiting my farmer friends followed by years when I would visit the farm for the bees as well as for the friendship.
The Flint Hills Refinery is located on Hwy 52, just at the place HWY 55 splices off toward Red Wing. It looks different every time I pass it. Like a lake or mountains, it takes on the character of the day. At night, it looks like the Emerald City in black and white.
This is the road (Hwy 57) into Wanamingo, the town where I purchased my first beekeeping equipment.
My beekeeper hang out is also in Wanamingo, and I like to stop in often and spend as heavily as I can, supporting the excellent work of the couple that owns the place. Fresh, wholesome food, friendly service. I grabbed lunch for the 3 of us, as well as house-made treats to take home with me, jumped back in the car and headed out on Hwy 50. Turned back because I forgot the Jones' grape soda for the convalescent farmer and picked up another molasses raisin scone, because I had inhaled the first one be the time I had reached the town limits.
A short stint back on Hwy 52 and then I turned onto the farmer's lane, above.
And turned in at the farmer's gate. We had a short lunch, and a chat about the author-farmer's latest project while the farmer-farmer slept a well-deserved sleep. Then I braced myself for a look at the bees.
This is the beekeepers gate. It leads to the driveway pasture, that leads to my bee yard. The hay bales are proudly home-grown this year by the farmers. It was cheaper to make hay themselves rather than buy it this year.
I am borrowing a friend's car. Our household is just completing our first year with only one car, which has been a wonderful thing for me, but not so wonderful for the other one of our pair, so she is glad to have the use of a second car during the busy holiday season. Being a borrowed car, it has been outfitted only with emergency stuff (food, blankets, etc. in case one goes off the road in a blizzard and wants to live to see another summer), but not the key to said beekeeper's gate. I could have gone back to the farmhouse, and from there trudged up the trail to the sheep barn near the bee yard. But it was much easier to scale the gate, with a shopping bag, holding 20 lbs. of sugar and my hive tools, in hand. I do love climbing a fence, almost as much as I love climbing trees.
Down the driveway pasture, I was greeted by the sheep. I wonder why sheep's fleeces don't felt or at least get dready while they are wearing them? These sheep were wet with snow, and will rub against each other and anything else they can find to rub on. They wonderful about me, "What is that? Does it have fresh flakes of sweet hay for me?" I was thinking, I wonder which one of you I will be eating next year? Since the farmers began their life on the farm, we have been the beneficiaries of their toil. Eggs, chickens, duck and lamb have all found their way into our larder. We are happy to pay the costs of production of this wholesome food directly into the hands of our beloved friends who work so hard and so sustainably, to supply it.
The bee yard looked great - the stacks of equipment were still tightly wrapped. The hives themselves are unnaturally tall for this time of year, because the feeding box is still on. Earlier last month, when we were still having warm days, I snuck in a last feeding of sugar syrup, counting on being able to properly wrap the hive and remove the feeding apparatus later. The black covers are intended to fit lower down on the stack, and provide a barrier to the wind as well as to concentrate warmth from the sun. Since warm air rises, I hope that they are helping insulate the stacks at the top. The boxes below are tightly sealed together with propolis, so I'm not concerned about drafts into the interior of the hives, but did hope to be able to shift the black covers lower. As I was planning, the wind kicked up. A brutal sharp wind.
I unclipped the gate to the bee yard, and stepped in. The sky had cleared and the cold air was being pushed around by the air that had been warmed by the sun. I crouched down behind the stacks, looking for shelter from the blast. I could not hear anything inside the hives - didn't want to expose my ears to the cold, didn't want to knock them up (rapping on the hives to stimulate activity) didn't want to spend any more time than needed in the deep chill. Clearly, this would not be the day to feed the bees granulated sugar, as a hedge against starvation. That is left to another day, one when I wouldn't have to choose between feeding them and freezing them. Nor could I shuffle the covers and feeding apparatus off, and place the moisture board in a better location. The incessant wind on this property is the only bad thing about the site of my bee yard - that and the distance from home.
The drive back home was much, much less than dour than the drive down. The winter wind is almost always requires vigilant control of the wheel on Hwy 52, but the brightness of the day, and Science Friday on the radio were a great diversion.
Later in the evening I sat down to write. When it came time to upload photos, I could not find my camera. Realizing I had left it in the car, on the passenger seat, tucked inside my hat to keep it warm on the drive home, I had visions of an exploded battery, and a ruined camera, out in the now icy cold car. I got dressed, which was a hardship because I had already slipped into my comfy clothes. My "in for the evening " clothes. Padded down to the parking lot, and found that the clearing skies of the afternoon had continued into the night.
Fortunately, the battery chamber hadn't even got cold, and I managed to make the frigid soul-snatcher work on the half-moon. I may try again next week, depending on the weather.