Close the door

One of my Covid projects is almost complete. My she shed, bee shed, which I could have purchased for way less than I spent to build, is almost complete. I am $1600 in the hole but have learned so much if I want to build another or perhaps a tiny house.

It has a window but still needs a door.

It keeps the rain out so I have already started storing things in it.

Hive equipment fits nicely and my tools and work gloves spent a few nights nice and dry in the shed. But some critter decided to hang out there as well and thought my work glove was a good dinner.

So I guess I have to get around to closing things up. Trim is now up, waiting to be stained and then the door. Woohoo.

Most importantly it has kept me out of trouble and made the days go by quickly.

Fall is just around the corner. I hope to get at least one frame of honey from my bees this year before I tuck them in for the winter.

While we camped…

Covid hit our small rural community’s nursing home. I checked my messages before climbing into my sleeping bag and my son told me there were 24 new cases. My town has about 1000 people so that is significant. Today the number is in the 40’s and three people have died. We personally are back to shutdown.

This cloud descended this morning at home.

While we were still oblivious we enjoyed a kayak camping trip. We found a great island site, swam, parked, sat by the fire, and dined on freeze dried delights.

In preparation for camping this summer, I bought a new Coleman fold n go camp stove but I cannot recommend it. One of the ignitors failed (don’t tell them but I finally fixed it myself) and I am not getting anywhere with their warranty department. A month goes by before I get an email response. I received this today.

Joelyn at Coleman? Come on, this has to be made up. Who else works there? Roman? Herman? Roland? We’ll see next month.

Get out of town

After five months at home, I finally took two trips to see my kids. Luckily they are both sort of drivable. I tried to remain dehydrated for the long drives to reduce pit stops. I brought all my food from home so I would not need to shop. Both are located in low infection rate regions. When I returned from my visit with the grandkids I holed up (down) in the basement for two weeks to social distance from Tim.

For some reason, it was still acceptable for me to cook for us on the grill or my outdoor Coleman stove. I couldn’t have done this in winter.

I still had plenty to keep me busy at home. My sheshed is coming along. The trim tidied it up and the roof is shingled – on the hottest day of the year.

My bees weren’t happy with the heat. They are doing well, best I can tell, and defending the hive. Look at this invader they killed. I still don’t know what it is. Maybe a carpenter bee? Definitely not a murder hornet.

I’ve had two stings, both times because a bee got caught in my clothing. Made me wonder if naked beekeeping is a thing.

Chipmunks seem to be all over the place and I’m usually greeted by a few critters on my drive to work.

It looks to me like a seahorse made its way up to cabin and left its mark in the dew.

These seagulls were keeping their distance at the beach. So nice to be near the ocean with the sea breeze and waves. Kids are playing in the sand as if all is well with the world. Let’s hope so.

My garden grows

I haven’t had this much time at home to focus on my garden in a long time. And it has paid off. I’m sure the bees helped too.

Our apple tree is even producing misshapen apples.

I have two more days left of basement living to complete 14 days of social distancing. Quite a few grasshoppers were trying to join me there.

I sent them packing.

Here we are

And so lucky to be where we are.

Pause continues and now I am living in the basement for a couple of weeks. It is well worth it though. I snuck out to see two of my grand darlings who live a long drive away. Now I keep Tim safe by keeping my distance. I don’t know when I will see the little ones again because after my visit they resumed day care for everyone’s mental health.

Thank goodness the weather is nice. It’s like camping. I have a cooler in the basement and a Coleman stove set up in the porch.

And there is plenty to do. My wildflower field has finally taken and the pollinators visit often.

My veggie garden never looked so good and there is always the shed to work on. Tim helped me with the roofing panels. Next step is to shingle it. I have to learn how to “snap” a straight line. I hope trim covers all my measuring and cutting errors. As my daughter the engineer told me, “Little bit a caulk, little bit of paint, make a painter what he is and carpenter what he ain’t”. Love it.

The little boat brings much joy. We have explored several lakes with it. An island camping trip was jinxed and cancelled, but we took a day trip yesterday to Upper Saranac Lake instead. We found a great bay to swim in and the weather was perfect.

We’ve been swimming about a mile every other day. Great tension reliever. I have an mp3 player that works in water that I love to listen to.

This island had one building, a chapel. Boat access only.

Our outing was followed by a sandwich from our favorite deli, curbside pickup only, and a soft serve ice cream enjoyed at this park.

The drive home was regaled with a full moon rising over the mountains. I am enjoying all the outdoors because I don’t intend to gather indoors until vaccines become available. In the meantime, as my new hero Dr. Fauci says clearly and often, avoid crowds, wear a mask and wash your hands.

Winners and losers

I have fished off and on my whole life and, except for a few baitfish, have never caught anything. That record holds. I’ve been going to a local spot a couple of times a week and have decided fishing is a lot like gambling: if I use this lucky bait; one more cast before I leave; that spot looks better. Still a loser or viewed another way, the fish are winners. But it is a beautiful spot and this week I appreciated its reflections.

I know there are fish in the pond because a few weeks ago, a man gave me five trout he caught there.

At least I made a new friend.

My new lucky lures arrive this week. How can I miss with “Trout Magnets”?

Put a lid on it

My shed has the outline of a roof! I couldn’t have done it without Tim’s help and even then it was a little dicey. The shed was very “fluid”, meaning it shifted 3 inches when I leaned my ladder on it, and he came up with the idea of bracing it. Now it’s solid.

I used crummy brackets for the peak but ended up using the miter saw anyway for “ birds mouth” cuts, which let the angled rafter sit flat on the top board of the wall. In fact I was over zealous and cut a few too many.

I also think I angled the rafter ends the wrong way but I like the look. Next up, frame a window and put up wall siding. Little by little.

Bee update: The new queen is installed and making more bees! Yay!

Busy bee

We are getting used to the new reality, sort of. Zoom meetings and gatherings are torture because our internet is so slow. There have been various initiatives to bring good internet to rural communities but they keep missing us. We continue to write to those in charge.

With everything else – pandemic, racial inequality, poverty to remain active and vigilant about – it is a minor problem. Like so many others, I am reading, introspecting, and supporting what I believe in. And trying to have discussions.

I returned to Facebook after a long hiatus. I especially enjoy it for weaving and knitting groups. I dropped groups where discussions were not respectful. Then a former colleague reposted a pic of the confederate flag with a statement that she was proud of her heritage and this symbol. I was flabbergasted. I composed a well thought out response as to why this symbol is so offensive and posted it. The next day she responded, “I’ve been hacked. How could you think I support this?” Just why I left Facebook before: propaganda. I’m gone again. I will have to work harder to keep up with the groups I enjoy but it’s worth it.

And I have been busy. I cope by being busy. I am working but when home, I flit from project to project. The latest is a shed for my bee and boat stuff. The process is not unlike quilting, just with heavier material.

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My bees are another story. They were doing well, then they swarmed, and as a newbee I may have responded too slowly to the signs.0BDF2460-98CD-4331-806B-33798ED95D6C One day, while I was working on the shed, I heard a noise like an approaching train. There was a cloud of bees the size of a small car that hovered, as if to say goodbye, then lifted as one and headed up over the hills.

 

And their new queen was a failure – either she did not develop or got taken out in her maiden flight – so I had to buy a new queen or all would be lost. I brought her home in a little cage in my pocket (to keep her at 90 degrees). All that buzzing so close to me was unsettling but she is now safely installed in the hive. She gets gradually introduced and I needed to buy mini marshmallows – a whole bag, although I only needed one (s’mores!) – to accomplish this. There was a cork n the cage’s entrance.  I replaced it with a marshmallow and the bees will eat it to allow her to get out and do her thing.  I’ll check tomorrow to make sure she is free.

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I will need to leave all the honey for them for the winter but managed to harvest extra wax. So far I’ve made beeswax wraps. E9174A8B-638C-43A0-B556-53858E723684

Textile work continues. I have made 3 quilts: 2 baby and 1 king; wove 3 baby blankets; knit a baby sweater, crocheted a baby blanket and who knows what else.

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Our bridge is nearly finished and I baked a cake for the workers who worked through rain, snow, subzero and blazing hot temps. It depicts the bridge and the omnipresent crane.

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Just doing what I need to do to get through each day.

I’m a poster child for self isolation

First of all, self isolation is something we often do by choice. It’s not quite the same when it is necessary and lives are in danger. But … I am already well versed in bread and yogurt making. My victory garden plans are coming together and now I have bees and can call myself a beekeeper.

Since my initial setup, I generally let them bee (hehe) but had to make a grocery run for them! to make more sugar syrup while we waited for pollen to appear. I hope they appreciate it. Here’s what they have been bringing back to the hive.

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Look at those pollen packs. Yesterday, I finally did my first hive inspection, it’s been cold here and I didn’t want to chill them, and I have been a tad nervous. So I started my smoker, suited up and took the hive apart to inspect. First minor disaster was that the nuc package I bought (5 frames of bees already started) had been cemented to the bottom of the sugar water feeder so when I took that off, 4 frames came with it. Not ideal but I made do. I scraped away extra wax and inspected. And it paid off. First I could identify drone vs worker bees. I saw pollen and maybe honey in the cells. And when I got to the original nuc frames, I saw eggs!, larvae! and THE QUEEN!! Ok she was marked with a big blue dot that made it easier to find her but I was stoked nonetheless. Besides that meant I hadn’t accidentally killed her yet. So I put everything back together and will decide if I have to make another sugar run.

I have proven that it only takes six weeks to establish a habit. My daily walks are of utmost importance and now I always make time for them. I realize how lucky I am to be able to go outdoors during this time. Our son in NYC has not left his apartment since March 9!!! Our daughter in DC is an essential worker in construction and only goes to and from work in her car. So hard for them. I am able to walk for hours without seeing another person. The other day, this was one of three horses that came running up to me as if they were greeting an old friend.

We’re also lucky to be able to walk to view points like these.

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I have tried to take control of my life by organizing the house, tidying up and getting rid of things. I just learned that since I started selling items on eBay in 1999, I have sold $9,000 worth of goods, including one old car. So I sold some more. And I cleaned grout, definitely over the top, but who puts white grout in the kitchen. I bought a brush to use with the drill and it made easy work of it. Some parts came out better and now…

Adventures in cooking continue: Latvian piragis, gnocchi, doughnuts, pumpkin pie…and the waistline shows it despite those walks.

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I have sewn masks for family and friends and have tried many different types. I like the fitted with ties, elastic bothers my ears but I also made some button bands for the back of the head.

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And I knit, weave, sew and quilt. I made this darling baby quilt yesterday.

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And finished my tee shirt quilt a few weeks ago. We used it for quite a while before I tucked in all the ends.

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And then I went over the top. I made a video for the grandkids, which may have only confused them as to my sanity but I was trying to recreate a Charlie Chaplin magic trick. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Staying alive.

 

Bzzzzzzz … our population exploded

And now I am a beekeeper. I began learning casually about beekeeping, BC. My third Cornell Cooperative class was canceled due to isolation policies. So I took to the internet and books. Initially my thought was this might be nice to do sometime in the future. And then I found myself with time on my hands. We all know I don’t have enough hobbies.

So I ordered the hive parts and kept reading. I placed my order on the first day the supplier, Betterbee, began working exclusively from home so it was a memorable experience. The hive and accessories arrived and I gradually prepared them. I stained all the exterior parts. And kept reading. I ordered my supply of bees. And kept reading. There is an amazing amount to learn about the bees themselves and the beekeeping. I installed the foundation, a honeycomb like surface, in 40 frames. And kept reading.

I tried to figure out how to put on the helmet and veil. No easy task. I lit my smoker to make sure I could use it when needed, The smoke interferes with the bees’ communication and makes it “easier” to work with them.

I received notice that my bees had arrived and I could drive an hour and a half south to pick them up. Temperatures were predicted to be cold here, below freezing some nights, but I was assured the bees would do fine. They clump together to keep the queen and young brood warm. So there was no putting it off.

I made the journey south yesterday. The nuc (nucleus colony of bees including a queen and a few frames of honey and about 10,000 worker and drone bees) was packed in a bag, I put in my trunk and began the ride home. My beekeeping gear was in the car in case some disaster befell us on the way home. But none did.

Tim readied himself with the camera while I geared up. First step, get the box out of the trunk – all that buzzing – and get the bag off the box. Made me glad that a) the box was in a bag, since many had escaped out of the box; and b) the box was in the trunk!! First step not too bad. Hundreds of bees made their way out of the box while I finished getting things ready.

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I brought sugar syrup, to feed them until nectar starts flowing, out to the hive and made room in the lower box for the new frames with bees.

Then came the scary part. Once my smoker was smokin’ I lifted the lid off the nuc and gave it a puff to clear the bees off the top of the frames. Then, with buzzing around my veil, I pulled the first frame out and transferred it to the hive.

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I tried to keep my movements smooth and calm, but there was a lot of noise around me. At some point, I realized my smoker had tipped over and little flames were trying to lick the grass; I will have to improve my smoker stand for next time. Things went quickly and it was too cold to spend much time looking at each frame.

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I had to “shake” the rest of the bees that weren’t on frames into the hive and some on the grass. I put the last frame in, added the sugar feeder and tucked things in for the night.

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When I went back an hour or so later, all the bees had made it into the hive, through a tiny opening in the front. The entrance is “reduced” as you get things started to try to prevent them all from getting up and leaving (I think).

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I went to check on them first thing this am. It was 37 degrees f but the sun was already on the hive. Not a sound. One dead bee in front. I hope they haven’t flown the coop. Or perhaps that can be my next hobby.