Brazee Bees and Blue Hell Studios

I discovered Brazee Street Studios and its owner Sandy Gross through my friend and teacher Christopher Daniel, owner of Blue Hell Studios and a wonderful metal artist…he’s teaching me to blacksmith and weld and how to fix beehives…I’d say Christopher teaches me how to think of possibilities. And how to simply try my hand at something and see what happens. And then he always finds something positive to notice in my efforts. In my book, this makes for a terrific teacher.

Christopher sees a problem and his brain goes about solving it. My brain sees a problem and it calls Christopher.

Christopher Daniels of Blue Hell Studios

Fortunately, Christopher found me sitting out in the prairie strapping the beehives with those bungee cords, and he very sweetly began problem solving. And then he guided me in fabricating a fancy-dancy, metal-artsy contraption that has now replaced the bungee cords. This sweet solution solves all the problems: It simultaneously holds the lid on and the hive down; it allows the beekeeper to easily remove the lid and inspect the bees; it’s low profile and yet it shows an artist’s hand at work.

And all we had to do was:

  1. cut a lot of metal into exact little pieces
  2. grind out all the burrs and rough spots
  3. measure and mark and punch
  4. drill and drill and drill and drill
  5. smooth all the rough spots
  6. (I kept saying, “Christopher, these are for BEEHIVES. It doesn’t have to be perfect!” He looked at me over his goggles in silence, so I continued on with the angle grinder and the sparks.)
  7. Weld and weld and weld and weld
  8. (I love those awesome green welding jackets. They feel great, and I want one.)
  9. Sand smooth all the rough weld spots…of which there were many because I am not yet a good welder.
  10. Apparently welding involves more than permanently joining two pieces of metal together. It also involves looking as if there has never been a welder on the scene…as if these piece had been born joined together like this. Which involves smooth.
  11. I’m like, “Seriously? You want me to sand all of that smooth?” Again with the silent look over the goggles. Apparently so.

And that’s where I left it because it was getting late. Christopher offered to finish the as-yet-to-be-named brilliant solution and install it himself, which I think is a wonderfully sweet gesture. Artists are very particular about how things are installed, you know. :)  I’m eager to see how it turns out when I go visit Blue Hell Studio’s open house tonight.

Oh, and then there’s the matter of rust prevention. We decided to leave the rust-prevention decision up to Sandy. See? Artists think of every detail, don’t they? And, let me tell you, Reader, Christopher and Sandy have a vision of how to either let something rust or how to prevent its rusting, and there’s really no way you nor I can predict what they see in their imaginations. And when we see the final result, we’ll say, “Oh my gosh…of course. That’s it! Why didn’t I think of that?”

So, keep visiting the bees at Brazee Street Studios…because it seems as if things out there evolve every single day. (There’s an open house there tonight, April 13th from 6-9PM.)

Oh. Someone at Brazee Street is hand-painting a sign that says “Bee Hives.” And there’s talk of a collaborative bee sculpture.

Brazee Bees…and All the Wonderful Artists

The beehives at Brazee Street Studios

Did you know, Reader, that we’ve placed a couple of top-bar hives at Brazee Street Studios? Yes. We placed them in a nice spot, took this picture, and then when our backs were turned, the wind toppled them. Thank goodness there were no bees in them yet (the bees arrive in a couple of days).

So, I went out there yesterday and strapped the hives to the ground using stakes and a network of bright red bungee cords. It’s a temporary solution that works just fine, though the sight of bungee cords is never a sight I’m crazy about…and, let me tell you, artists are way pickier about aesthetics than I. I mean, I like a thing to look good, but I think my idea of looking good may not be up to snuff for some.

For instance, as we contemplated hive location, Sandy Gross, the wonderful owner and energy of Brazee Street Studios, had an idea of how the hives would sit. She simply began moving the hives to fit her mind’s eye. I didn’t see it, but she sees it, you know. When you see that someone sees it, you go with it. And there you go.

As a final touch, Sandy placed a heavy white stone on a hive to keep the lid from blowing off. But when she headed off to find even more heavy stones, I called out that I thought one stone would do the trick. To which she matter-of-factly replied that she prefers things in threes. :)

So, you see, Reader, it’s not only a matter of what will do the trick…it’s also a matter of how a thing feels to the eye. If it’s not right to the eye, it’s simply not right. So now there are three large white rocks atop each hive.

I totally get all of that, and I’m happy that these hives are assuming the character of Brazee Street Studios. And, let me tell you, it doesn’t take a Vincent Van Gogh to know that red bungee cords are not a good fit out there.

(I’ll have an update on the Brazee beehive solution in tomorrow’s post.)



We’re Gonna Need a Ladder!

I took a few pictures as I built three top-bar hives this week, but I think the pictures are boring, so I’m not posting them. Perhaps I’ll document the progress later this week when my friends Heidi and Anne spend the afternoon building their hive.

As the construction days wear on, and as I wrestle to install a new blade on the table saw, and as all of my crevices fill with sawdust, I become less interested in taking pictures and more interested in finishing the work. So, I sort of stopped taking pictures about half way through.

But, much to my delight, my car is now packed with a couple of top-bar hives for placement in the “prairie” section at Brazee Street Studios, and there are a couple of additional, uncommitted hives waiting for action in my garage. I’m finally ahead of the game.

More about the Brazee Street Studio project in another post. For now, please enjoy with me the monster hive that’s growing over at Simon and Patti Foster’s apiary. Holy cow. It’s only early April and this hive is already seven boxes tall.

The 2012 Monster Hive
The Monster Hive: side view, staked down


Poetry Sunday: Vegetable Love

Vegetable Love


Feel a tomato, heft its weight in your palm,
think of buttocks, breasts, this plump pulp.
And carrots, mud clinging to the root,
gold mined from the earth’s tight purse.
And asparagus, that push their heads up,
rise to meet the returning sun,
and zucchini, green torpedoes
lurking in the Sargasso depths
of their raspy stalks and scratchy leaves.
And peppers, thick walls of cool jade, a green hush.
Secret caves. Sanctuary.
And beets, the dark blood of the earth.
And all the lettuces: bibb, flame, oak leaf, butter-
crunch, black-seeded Simpson, chicory, cos.
Elizabethan ruffs, crisp verbiage.
And spinach, the dark green
of northern forests, savoyed, ruffled,
hidden folds and clefts.
And basil, sweet basil, nuzzled
by fumbling bees drunk on the sun.
And cucumbers, crisp, cool white ice
in the heart of August, month of fire.
And peas in their delicate slippers,
little green boats, a string of beads,
repeating, repeating.
And sunflowers, nodding at night,
then rising to shout hallelujah! at noon.

All over the garden, the whisper of leaves
passing secrets and gossip, making assignations.
All of the vegetables bask in the sun,
languorous as lizards.
Quick, before the frost puts out
its green light, praise these vegetables,
earth’s voluptuaries,
praise what comes from the dirt.


How to Install a Top-Bar Hive

On April 14, 2012, I’m expecting a large shipment of 3 lb. packages of bees and their queens. I’ll then distribute these packages to a number of new beekeepers.

The good news: Lots of people want to start keeping bees in top-bar hives!

The bad news: I don’t have time to be onsite at each location to do the installation myself. (I will be installing my own bees in various locations, but those folks who wish to own and manage their own hives will simply have to jump in and do it.)

My solution: I’ll be installing two packages of bees in two top-bar hives at the Veteran’s Memorial Community Garden on Saturday morning, April 14, 2012. I don’t yet know the exact time…it all depends on when the bees arrive by truck from Georgia.

I invite anyone who wants to see how it’s done to come to the community garden (those who want to get close need to bring a veil). After the demonstration, I’ll distribute the bees and queens to their new keepers and I’ll send everyone off with good wishes. Then I’ll head to various far-away places to install larger numbers of bees…which I’ll do for the remainder of Saturday and for much of Sunday.

Thanks to a new beekeeper’s suggestion, I’ll also write a How to Install Bees in a Top Bar Hive post for reference. Great idea.

In a nutshell: I simply dump the bees in the hive. After that, I remove the candy plug from the queen cage and let the queen enter the hive. I give them a big jar of sugar water. I close the hive and leave it alone.

Until I go into more detail, here’s one resource about how to do it. There are many many YouTube videos to choose from…and although this guy goes to elaborate means to install his bees, I’m linking to his video because a couple of years ago, he very sweetly made and gave me one of these wonderful hive tools. I think his complicated approach is unnecessary, but you should see all the ways…BTW, this video is not in English! I like it because it makes me concentrate on my own observations. My motto is to keep it simple.

Watch many YouTube videos just to get an idea of how many bees will fill the air.

Remember…bees have been installing themselves without our help for a long time. They can figure this out better than we can.



We Collect Honeybee Swarms in (and near) Cincinnati, Ohio

Reader, this is a reminder that we LOVE to collect swarms of honeybees.

If you’re lucky enough to find a swarm of bees hanging in a beautiful (some say “terrifying”), morphing, humming weight—from a tree branch or from some other structure—please contact us at 513.675.9897 or

We’ll collect the swarm, introduce it to a wonderful new home, and place it where it will pollinate your local gardens and forests.

Swarm of honeybees. We love swarms!


Poetry Sunday: On the Eve of My Mother’s Surgery

On the Eve of My Mother’s Surgery


She takes Dad, for a treat,
to the upstairs dining room,
where there are tablecloths
instead of bibs, waitresses
instead of nurses, where
all their joshing and arm-patting
make him grin like a seven
year old. But he knows where
he is, sleeping alone
for the first time in five
decades, and so he tells
Cindy in his halting
whisper all about Mom’s
operation, confessing
“And I’m no help at all!”
This to a seventeen year old
with pretty face, carving
his meat into helpful cubes.

Out of the heart of dementia
he speaks unanswerable
truths, often as not confiding
in some minimum-wage
Cindy or Dawn, whose parents
weren’t born when he sailed
the South Pacific in a troop ship
or cruised timber deep within
the Allagash. They will not
connect this man in diapers
with the one on horseback
in the snapshot marking his door.
At shift change they’ll gun their cars
up the hill, radios screeching
and thumping, all the day’s
bottled velocity released
like bees from the hive.

And it’s true he’s no help
anymore, stripped of his
pocketful of keys, man
without wallet or car,
who knows just enough
for honest misery
as he studies the menu’s
bewilderments, trying
to find the words that may
release. “I’m walking much
better now, don’t you think?”
he asks Mom, and that’s true, too.
which helps neither of them
at all in their frozen love.
Sudden as a cloud across
the sun, he’s overcast
again: “Keep your voice down!”
he warns her. He knows all about
the secret tunnel system
under the town, where Jews
and Mohammedans skirmish …

And how do I know all this?
Out of some bent need for shape
and color, blues and riffs,
I build it from echoes
on the phone line, fragments
crumbling from envelopes,
fever dream pond ripples
reaching me a thousand miles
away. Then let my daily tears
wash into shower spray
once again, tears which
are of no help at all.