Friday, June 12, 2009

Baby bees

It takes so much planning to feed baby bees; one has to first boil water and then add the appropriate amount of sugar. The syrup is then set aside for several hours, depending on the amount made, and then carefully poured into quart jars and fitted with feeder lids. These lids have pin size holes that allow the syrup to fill the hive feeder very slowly as the bees 'drink' the mixture. Then, after the quart jars are filled, they are inverted into the hive feeder and set very carefully on the front of the hive. If you hold your mouth just right, the wind isn't blowing, and the front of the hive is sticky enough from previous feedings, the feeder will stay put the first try. If not, you have to jump very quickly beneath the bees' flight path, scoop up the feeder and try again. Of course, in the process of doing this, there is always some syrup that gets on your hand, making it very interesting when you go near the hive with the feeder the next time. Bees are indiscriminate about the source of their syrup. Hands. Feeders. Arms. It is all the same to them!

So, why feed bees? Feeding the bees makes it easier for them to pull comb and then jump right into making honey. They are spared the labor of seeking pollen and nectar (these are very different to the bees -- one is for later and the other for honey now) and can get right to the business of making enough comb in which to store their honey. Having food right at hand keeps them from spending needless hours and days searching and working. Thus, the comb is pulled quicker, their food is made sooner and then our honey is made. It takes about 90 pounds of honey for a hive to survive the winter. And, believe me, we make sure they have their food first and then we take what is left. So, feeding the bees is just a selfish way of making sure we have honey come September.

Sounds easy, doesn't it?

This week it has been a challenge because of two things: rain and my bee allergy.

The rain has poured until I have caught the cats and dogs on the porch, two-by-two, waiting for a lift. And when it hasn't been raining, it has been blistering hot and sunny. The girls love sunshine and any temperature above 50-degrees. They flit in and out of the hive at nearly super-sonic speed in order to make the best possible use of their time in the sun. To get near the hive during this time is to have a death wish. Therefore, it is nearly impossible to find a time, other than right at dusk, to feed the girls because of this. And this is the time we usually have rain.

And, did I mention that I am very allergic to bees? Isn't that ironic? Yet, nine out of ten times, I feed them. Just walk right up to the hive and put the feeders on. No bee suit. No smoker. Nothing. I am reminded of the scene in "Fried Green Tomatoes" about the bee charmer. I'd like to think I am one, but I realize that is unlikely! More like than not, I am just very lucky. So far.
Trust me, I am not anxious to push that luck by trying to feed during the sunny part of the day!

So, here I am. There are eight quarts of feed to go on the hives. There are two gallons of syrup cooling in Don's grandmother's Revere ware pot (it is heavy and so lovely!). And the sun is shining.

Anyone feel lucky?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cleaning, organizing and getting space

Nothing will inspire one to clean more than having an adult child return home after living away for nearly eight years.

My son will leave for the Air Force this fall and has come home to visit for a while until then. Thus, we have moved all his things back here for storage until he is properly settled elsewhere. In getting him space, I have learned to get rid of things and free space.

Have you ever thought about how much we have that we don't use or won't use? Yeppers; I know, we all think that, don't we? However, this morning while cleaning out a storage building, I discovered that I have really hit the all time high of too much stuff.

So, here is my challenge.

How much of this stuff can I clear out or use in the next year? Let's face it. The building is only the beginning of what all I have stashed around, including the, gulp, 150 skeins of yarn and the 75 wafers of weaving cotton. So, my goal is to use all I have stashed up before starting again. I will post weekly how I have done and use this as a measure of my successes.

Here's to less stuff in one year.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Life is a jar of cherry jam

There is nothing in the world as wonderful as the smell of cherries as they become jam. Mother called last night to tell me she had a gallon of sour cherries from her tree. I was in a foul mood and really didn't want to deal with them, but after all, she had picked them so I felt I should use them.

So off I went this morning very early to get them and get back home before midmorning. The cherries sat on the kitchen counter all morning and afternoon as it was so hot I couldn't think of standing at the stove and working on them. However, after a sharp storm, complete with power failure, I decided to make my jam.

I set up the pitter and got to work. There is no finer kitchen tool than a cherry pitter. I swear, if I knew who invented it, I would get in my car, drive to their house, and kiss them full on the mouth. In no time, I had the four cups of chopped cherries and four and a half cups of sugar ready.

As the cherries began to boil, I dumped the sugar in. Heaven. Pure heaven. Within ten minutes, three and one-half pints of cherry jam was cooling; sourdough bread was in the toaster; and my mouth was watering. In 20 minutes, it was all over but the dishes.