Thursday, May 23, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Eighteen years ago, Wendy and I made the conscious decision to share our lives together.  We were both in our late 20's and had a whole lot of life experience under our belts.  We were both enlisted in the US Army. We had both had previous relationships.  We both had graduated from college, each working our way through.

When we made the decision, we knew that it would require an ongoing commitment to work together.  Love is not a state into which, or out of which, you fall.  It is a state of commitment to working with the other person, and having them equally committed to working with you.  There is a lot of give and take.

We have had our ups and downs.  We fight from time to time.  Early on, we each considered giving up ... I was even told several times that Wendy wanted a divorce.  We agreed to a few rules of engagement ... for instance, no walking out on each other during a fight.  I have learned to try and watch what I say during a fight ... it has a way of coming back up even years later ... and try to keep in mind the commitment we have each made to the other.  And, we remain committed.

Being married, in our culture, seems as disposable as paper towels.  When the towel is used up, we throw it in the trash.  When the car breaks down, we buy a new one.  What we fail to realize is that any car (relationship) will need a tune up now and then, regardless of how new and shiny it is.  Giving up and moving on to another relationship may feel really good in the beginning, but eventually you will need to make the decision to work through the hard stuff, or move on.  Wendy and I have chosen to work together.

We have grown into the family that we are.  We started out like the average american couple ... we watched television, we ate fast food, we wanted all of the new toys and gadgets.  Over time we have grown, together,  to where we are now ... homesteading, working toward self sufficiency, foraging, watching our incredible children grow into wonderful people.  We won't be the same people in a few short years, because we are continuing to evolve.  More and more, we find that we relish the simple things in life, the simple gifts of a touch, the sharing of a story or song, the thrill of meeting a new plant or learning a new skill, or the tears of joy from witnessing something beautiful.

We have worked together from the beginning ... planning our visits with our older kids, detailing timelines for having another child before leaving the military, laying out garden bed plans, raising livestock, delivering our own baby together at home, learning survival skills, and writing a book together.  We have woven a beautiful life together.

Wendy, thank you for the past 18 years.  I am eager to see what the future holds.  I love you ... yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bees Installed In The Hive ... And The Queen Released

Last weekend, upon my arrival home from the last weekend of my shaman training, I found that the bees we ordered had not yet arrived, but a quick check of the tracking showed that they would be delivered on Monday.  So, we patiently waited for them to arrive.

At this point, this is the fourth package we have installed in the hive.  We have gotten progressively calmer and more adept at getting the bees from the package and into the hive.  In the beginning, we were nervous and excited.  Each year, installing the bees went smoother and smoother.  This year was no exception.  I am not sure if it is because I have started talking to the bees before doing anything, letting them know what I am doing and why before I even start, but the bees this year were completely docile.

That is not to say, however, that there was no hitch.  Every year, we seem to have a little bit of a new twist.  This year, it was the queen cage.  Each of the previous years, the queen was delivered in a cage with a couple of attendants and the box had a candy plug.  This plug allows the other bees to eat through and release the queen after a few days ... they get used to her scent and accept her as queen and, by then, the plug is gone and she can get to work laying new eggs.  This one had neither attendants nor a candy plug ... there was a cork  in the bottom and nothing else.

So, when we installed the bees, we left the cork in place for a few days to ensure that the bees accepted the queen instead of killing her immediately.  On Thursday, we had to release her.  The trick with this is that we needed to be able to get the cork out, and keep her in, until we closed the hive.  Armed with a spray bottle full of sugar water, we opened the hive, removed the cage, cleared the bees that were hanging out on the cage, doused the queen with sugary water, dropped the bar back in place making sure the queen stayed in until we close everything up, and closed the hive.

I peered through the window today to check the cage.  The queen was indeed out.  In fact, the bees were clustered together on the opposite end of the hive, unlike the random clumps that I had seen only a day or two before.  I quickly opened the hive and removed the cage.

Over the next few weeks, the bees will build all of the comb necessary to store honey and pollen, and lay more eggs.  The colony will build until some time in September.  Last year, the bees built 17 bars of comb.  I will be watching to see that they are healthy and well.  On a good note, I observed bees flying back into the hive with their pollen sacks completely full.

The timing could not be better.  Currently, the apple trees are in full bloom, the dandelions and common blue violets are flowering, and Spring is getting warmer as it moves toward Summer.  Life is springing up all around as the natural world races forward to propagate each respective species ahead of the return of the colder weather that signals the retreat back into Fall and Winter.

I feel very blessed to be allowed to watch, in wonder, this incredible continuous cycle of life.  I live and I learn ... and there is so much more to learn.  After all, that is what this MooseBoots journey is all about.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bees Spring 2013

Once again was saddened to note that the hive had not survived the winter, when I cleaned out the hive a few weeks ago.  I popped open the cover and peeked inside.  Unlike the least two years, my bees had thrived all summer and fall.  They had put up a lot of honey and I was sure they would make it.  Of course, later in the fall, I stopped watching what was happening in the hive.  Actually, I did note a sudden reduction in the number of bees in the window when I peeked, but I didn't really think much of it.  In hind sight, I should have known.

When I cracked the top and looked in, there were very few dead bees.  This was a little surprising, but given that I had already seen it through the window in the fall, not terribly.  I had noticed, and even recognized, the supersedure cell, but failed to act on the observation. 

Supersedure cells are queen cells.  Bees will form these cells, and raise new queens, in advance of swarming.  I had seen them in the hive and did nothing.  Some beekeepers, I have read, will destroy these in an effort to keep a new queen from spawning, which in turn keeps the hive from swarming.  I did not.  I also did not observe them leaving the hive in a swarm, and so could not catch the swarm and put it into the new hive that I built.

When I noticed the population drop, I figured they had swarmed and I had missed the event.  I still held out hope that the hive would survive, which it did until January or February.  Then, the weather took a nasty turn and we received a lot of snow in the last remaining months of winter.  There was little honey left for the bees ... I assume swarms take honey, too.

So, when I opened the hive to clean it out in preparation for the package that was due to arrive this weekend, I expected to see one or two queen cells.  What I found floored me!  The bees had been very successful over the summer and early fall.  I counted at least 13 supersedure cells in the hive.  And, each of them had hatched, as evidenced by the opening in the bottom of each.

I hope that this year is the year that my bees can survive into next spring.  At this point, I believe I have seen the bulk of the major issues that hives can have ... queenless, poor wind barrier, and now swarming.  The new bees are a week later than expected, but should be in the hive by this time next week.  And, if they swarm this year, I hope to catch the new swarm and hive them in the new hive. 

This MooseBoots journey continues to show me how much I have to learn.  Gratefully and with and open heart, I am willing to do so.