Justin Dunham in the Meadow at California Woods Nature Preserve

You Gotta Love a Future Eagle Scout

Justin Dunham in the Meadow at California Woods Nature Preserve

Reader, it’s time for you to meet Justin Dunham. Justin is a young man determined to reintroduce honeybees to California Woods Nature Preserve. But to get started, he’s had to sort of corral me…in a season that’s made me almost uncorralable (yes, I may be inventing words here, but it works). And Justin has very politely and diplomatically and doggedly pursued me, pinned me down, won me over.

Justin is a boy scout who is plotting to reintroduce honeybees to the nature preserve as a part of his Eagle-Scout project. I mean seriously, I love Eagle Scouts. I know a few, and I like each of them a whole lot.

Apparently, California Woods Nature Preserve once had a small beeyard, but because of budget cuts, the staff could no longer afford to manage the bees there, and the beeyard fell away with the money. When Justin visited with the nature-preserve staff and explained his idea to them, they explained back that although he was welcome to put bees in the old beeyard, there would be no one available to manage them…the staff probably thought this would be a real obstacle for Justin, but, as I told you earlier, he’s a determined young man. I think Justin spells “obstacle” C-H-A-L-L-E-N-G-E.

Justin discovered this TwoHoneys website, where he learned that I manage honeybees placed in various properties around Cincinnati and Kentucky. A little light bulb lit in him. Justin figured this was part of his solution…he would orchestrate the various players—the bees, the staff at the nature preserve, and me. So he contacted me. I hate to say that I didn’t respond to his first email. I wanted to, but things were flying apart around me at the time, and I put it off. Justin was not deterred. He contacted me again. He got my phone number and he called me. He called me again. Justin has a steady and even voice. He knows what he wants to say when he says it. You can hear him thinking before he speaks. And I like that a lot in a young man. He very respectfully and yet persistently contacted me until I responded to him. Then, he then kept me on track with our conversations and with setting dates for our meeting at the nature preserve.

We met for the first time amid a fury of mosquitos yesterday. Justin wore one of his scout uniforms, and I like that. A lot. Justin’s dad, Jeff, drove him to the nature preserve and walked the trail to the beeyard with us, where we all discussed the promises and the challenges of Justin’s project. Justin carried a notebook with him. He took notes.

Reader, this is your introduction-to-Justin post. I have a feeling you’ll be getting to know Justin pretty well over the next years. He has four years to complete this project…which, I’ll have you know, involves more than simply putting a few beehives in an open field and turning them over to my care. But I’ll let you wonder more about it…I’m not gonna spill all the beans right here.

 

Back to the Table Saw

The replacement part for my table saw arrived from Sears (the part cost $3, but the postage to get it here was $8). I know I need to get out there and replace the darned “collar” because, although my friend Bob cobbled together a workable solution, the saw cuts just a little tiny bit off. After a few cuts, though, that little bit of “off” translates into some weird looking pieces of wood.

A number of people still want to start top-bar hives this spring, and I’m plumb out of the hive bodies…I’ve got to keep building. I kept the last hive body on hand for less than 48 hours. So, today I’ll try to fix my damned saw. But it’s hot as hell, and I don’t want to do it.

 

 

Poetry Sunday: This Error is the Sign of Love (excerpt)

This Error is the Sign of Love

BY LEWIS HYDE

Man has to seek God in error and
forgetfulness and foolishness. —Meister Eckhart

This error is the sign of love,
the crack in the ice where the otters breathe,
the tear that saves a man from power,
the puff of smoke blown down the chimney one morning, and the
widower sighs and gives up his loneliness,
the lines transposed in the will so the widow must scatter
coins from the cliff instead of ashes and she marries
again, for love,
the speechlessness of lovers that forces them to leave it alone
while it sends up its first pale shoot like an onion
sprouting in the pantry,
this error is the sign of love.

The leak in the nest, the hole in the coffin,
the crack in the picture plate a young girl fills with her
secret life to survive the grade school,
the retarded twins who wander house to house, eating,
’til the neighbors have become neighbors.
The teacher’s failings in which the students ripen,
Luther’s fit in the choir, Darwin’s dyspepsia, boy children
stuttering in the gunshop,
boredom, shyness, bodily discomforts like long rows of white
stones at the edge of the highway,
blown head gaskets, darkened choir lofts, stolen kisses,
this error is the sign of love.

The nickel in the butter churn, the farthing in the cake,
the first reggae rhythms like seasonal cracks in a government
building,
the rain-damaged instrument that taught us the melodies of black
emotion and red and yellow emotion,
the bubble of erotic energy escaped from a marriage and a week
later the wife dreams of a tiger,
the bee that flies into the guitar and hangs transfixed in the
sound of sound ’til all his wetness leaves him
and he rides that high wind to the Galapagos,
this error is the sign of love.

The fault in the sea floor where the fish linger and mate,
the birthmark that sets the girl apart and years later she alone
of the sisters finds her calling,
Whitman’s idiot brother whom he fed like the rest of us,
those few seconds Bréton fell asleep and dreamed of a pit of sand
with the water starting to flow,
the earth’s wobbling axis uncoiling seasons—seeds that need
six months of drought, flowers shaped for the tongues
of moths, summertime
and death’s polarized light caught beneath the surface
of Florentine oils,
this error is the sign of love.

The beggar buried in the cathedral,
the wisdom-hole in the façade of the library,
the corners of the garden that are not harvested,
the hail storm in a South Dakota town that started the
Farmers’ Cooperative in 1933,
the Sargasso Sea that gives false hope to sailors and they sail
on and find a new world,
the picnic basket that slips overboard and leads to the invention
of the lobster trap,
the one slack line in a poem where the listener relaxes
and suddenly the poem is in your heart like a fruit
wasp in an apple,
this error is the sign of love!

 

 


 

Simon and the Monster Hive (before we added box #10)

The Monster Hive is Now Ten-Boxes Tall

I was fully prepared to find the bottom boxes in the Monster Hive emptyish. The Monster Hive is queened by a Zia Queen Bee that I purchased last season, and let me tell you, Reader, it is a phenomenon. I’m buying more of those queens this year.

To my surprise, the hive—which was 9 medium-depth boxes tall when Simon and I dug into it yesterday—was booming. From top to bottom, each and every hive body was brimming with bees and brood and honey.

So, instead of reducing the overall number of stacked boxes in the hive (as I had planned), we added to it! Which now makes the hive 10-boxes tall. Aghhhh.

Ten-boxes tall is probably too tall, Reader, but it’s hard to change something that seems to be working so well. So, we left it alone other than to stake it down against the wind with a good rope.

The next time we dig into the hive…probably in a couple of weeks to harvest the honey in it…we should split the Monster into two hives. Which I hate to do. However, I hate for them to swarm, too, and that’s probably on the horizon in a hive of this size.

Simon and I both got decked out in our full bee suits for our hive visit yesterday…and let me tell you, there were some rambunctious bees to deal with.

 

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Simon and the Monster Hive (before we added box #10)

There was also some yummy yummy honey to deal with! Simon took 2.5 frames, and I ended up with 3.5 frames. Simon weighed his…just over 4 lbs per frame of glorious honey.

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Honey!
Debbie

Build One, Sell One, Build One, Sell One

Dang! I had hoped to get a picture so you could see the newer, heavier, all-cedar, top-bar hive, but I sold it yesterday. I can’t keep these things on hand.

Now I’m off to build another one (though I think I need to order a gizmo part from Sears for my table saw…it’s not cutting perfectly).

In the meantime, Deb made a visit to her top-bar hive yesterday. Those bees are doing great…they’re quickly filling their hive with comb and brood, and a lovely cloud of bees rises from the hive in the sunlight every afternoon. It feels good to have bees flying through the air and through the yard.

Debbie's Bees
First bite of honey from Debbie's Bees

Poetry Sunday: How to Foretell a Change in the Weather

How to Foretell a Change in the Weather

BY TED KOOSER

Rain always follows the cattle
sniffing the air and huddling
in fields with their heads to the lee.
You will know that the weather is changing
when your sheep leave the pasture
too slowly, and your dogs lie about
and look tired; when the cat
turns her back to the fire,
washing her face, and the pigs
wallow in litter; cocks will be crowing
at unusual hours, flapping their wings;
hens will chant; when your ducks
and your geese are too noisy,
and the pigeons are washing themselves;
when the peacocks squall loudly
from the tops of the trees,
when the guinea fowl grates;
when sparrows chip loudly
and fuss in the roadway, and when swallows
fly low, skimming the earth;
when the carrion crow
croaks to himself, and wild fowl
dip and wash, and when moles
throw up hills with great fervor;
when toads creep out in numbers;
when frogs croak; when bats
enter the houses; when birds
begin to seek shelter,
and the robin approaches your house;
when the swan flies at the wind,
and your bees leave the hive;
when ants carry their eggs to and fro,
and flies bite, and the earthworm
is seen on the surface of things.

My Newer, Heavier Top-Bar Hives

I like to construct my top-bar hives from rough-cut cedar fencing. The bees like the smell of the cedar—even as I construct, the bees investigate—and they like to hang out on the rough-cut grain. And, unlike pine, the cedar ages so gracefully. Pine gets sort of dull as it ages whereas cedar patinas.

However, this year, a number of my top-bar hives constructed with cedar fencing toppled over in high winds. That is definitely not good. In a few cases, I’ve gone to some elaborate means to keep the hives upright. But I still worry about them when the winds pick up…so, I’ve got to figure out a way to reduce the likelihood that the hives will tip over.

I’ve tried anchoring some of the hives with bungee cords and stakes. Others I’ve weighed down with a million pounds of rocks. But I’ve got to find a better, more aesthetically appealing way (you know, Reader, although my hives are simple, they’re also beautiful to my eye…and that’s very important to me. I need things to look good).

The hives I built years ago of pine don’t topple…probably because those hives are heavier. I think the lightness of the cedar fencing is at the root of the toppling problem…so, when I had some free time yesterday afternoon,  I headed to Home Depot where I found heavier cedar. The new cedar lumber is gorgeous…it’s rough cut on one side and smooth on the other. It smells awesome. It’s thicker and heavier than the fencing, which will provide the bees with more insulation. Yes, it’s twice as expensive (still not enough to freak out over), but I think it’s worth it for the aesthetics, for the security it gives the bees, and for my own peace of mind.

 

 

Bob's top-bar hive

My Team of Bee Experts

Sorry I’ve been so quiet here lately, Reader…it’s been anything but quiet off the blog.

I’ve been practicing my bee-removal skills all over Cincinnati…but these past few days, Nicola—my right-hand bee girl—has been sick as a dog. And the contractors with whom I work are busy with other jobs. Which means I’ve been forced to take a week off from bee removals…which is good for me. It gives me time to clean my car. And to update my books. And to clean my house and cook my dinners. And to visit my own bees.

When the people I work with are unavailable for jobs, it makes me think that I may need to expand my bee-removal team of experts…so if anyone knows a good Cincinnati contractor who’s willing to work among the bees, please let me know. And, though Nicola is my ace, she may not always be available. I mean, she’s got an actual big-time job over at the Cincinnati Review. And she’s a mom. We can’t overuse her for these removals. So, I’m looking for an alternative assistant bee remover. Someone who delights in the unknown (this will balance me…I’m petrified of the unknown, and I resist it. The surprises we find in the removals energize Nicola…and that energy carries us a long long way).

Perhaps I should use the down time this week to build more top-bar hives. Yes! That’s a great idea!

And speaking of top-bar hives…my friend Bob-the-architect has constructed the top-bar hives pictured below. Yesterday, he redesigned the roof on his hive, and I think it’s gorgeous in its elegance. There’s something in its quiet curviness that appeals to me. Bob is brilliant.

And, Reader, these hive boxes are available for purchase. Bob will build it for you…just give us about 3-weeks’ notice because Bob is also a big wig in his real life. Very big. But he’s agreed to build these top-bar hives for you. My top-bar hives are entry level. Bob’s are special…Bob’s have windows and curved roofs…he’ll paint yours for you. Whatever color you want. Or you can paint it.

Want a nice and sturdy and gorgeous and personalized top-bar hive with a window? A top-bar hive built by a very big-time architect with good karma? We’ve got it!

Bob's top-bar hive
Bob's top-bar hive (rear view)

 

Poetry Sunday: A Prayer in Spring

A Prayer in Spring

BY ROBERT FROST

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.

Porter Cable air compressor, nail gun, and staple guns

Fire Up the Air Compressor

Friends, what is the one tool that makes building a million hive boxes and 8 million frames so much easier? This puppy. Which I bought on sale at Home Depot (once again, my good friend Patty Grady pulled through with good pricing and priceless customer service) and with which I am spending endless hours building and building and building in my basement.

Porter Cable air compressor, nail gun, and staple guns