Monday, December 8, 2014

The Tradition of the Jesse Tree

An apple for Adam & Eve
One of my favorite Advent traditions is the Jesse Tree. We generally set up our tree the first week of Advent and add the lights, but leave them unlit (except when I feel like I need to remind myself that the people in darkness have seen a great light). Then we add symbols of Old Testament and New Testament characters. Sometimes I also put on symbols for the special saints that grace the December calendar like St. Nicholas.

Baby "Noses"
We've already put on a "disco ball" to represent creation, apples for Adam and Eve, sheep and a little sheaf of "wheat" for Cain and Abel, a picture of Noah's ark and a white bird for the dove, a stack of wood and a (butter) knife for Abraham and Isaac, a ladder (from the doll house) for Jacob, a colorful folk doll for Joseph and his many colored coat, a baby doll in a basket for Moses (or "Noses" as my three-year-old granddaughter insists), and today a lily for Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

My oldest child's favorite Jesse tree "ornament" (It tickles her funny bone). is the grey dolphin puppet who masquerades as the whale in the Jonah story. By the time we are ready to "decorate" the tree a few days before Christmas, it will already be filled with wonderful symbols of our faith journey gathered from around the house. I love using everyday objects that we see all year in this special way during Advent.

When grandchildren are here for our Advent wreath lighting (all too infrequently I'm sorry to say) we let them add the figures to the tree and we tell the stories of the characters. My Jesse tree box still has a crown for David, a lion for Daniel, a necklace for Esther, a gleaner's basket for Ruth, and a golden rose for Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th. John the Baptist will get a bee representing his wild honey and Joseph will be represented by a plastic hammer from a child's workbench. And we'll top the tree with the star of Bethlehem.

The Jesse tree makes Advent waiting a wonderful journey through salvation history. How I love it! What a Church we have that offers us so many traditions that help us grow in our faith.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bad Bee Season!

Who'd have thought it. With plenty of rain this spring we thought this would be a great honey-producing season. But something went wrong and many local beekeepers got little or no honey at all. That's us. Every time we checked to see if we had frames of 90% capped honey -- no dice! We blamed the poor bees, but since many beekeepers are in the same boat, it had to be something else.

We should have guessed that bees coming to the hummingbird feeder was a sign there wasn't enough nectar out there for gathering. Why would a sensible bee choose weak sugar water over the sweetness from clover or other wildflowers?

At any rate, our three hives thrived in terms of producing bees, but were non-starters in the honey production department. We had NO frames for the honey harvest and now are feeding the bees to make sure they have enough to eat in the coming fall and winter. That's important since they don't have the stores necessary to get them through.

Oh well, maybe next season will be better.

In the meantime, here's the Beekeepers' Lament. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Our Latest Adventure....

was hosting ten and eleven-year-old girls from New York City through the Fresh Air Fund. What an adventure! Here are some photos from our week and for more of our fun adventures see here and here and here. The girls made friends with two of our little granddaughters and two of my grand-nieces who are their age. Everyone agreed we should do it again next year!

A visit to the Rte 11 potato chip factory -- They weren't cooking, but nobody complained -- too busy munching!

Wading in the Shenandoah and skipping & throwing rocks - big splashes!

Not as many restaurants as the big city, but country pizza got good ratings!

Bet you didn't know there are dinosaurs in Shenandoah County!

Making some new friends. (Actually, these geese were less than friendly!)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cousins' Camp Part II

The girls slept late this morning so we must have worn them out yesterday. We started the morning with a good breakfast and then off to Mass. Larry had to count poor box and thrift store money for our parish Outreach group so the girls and I went out to the playground. After Larry finished we were off to one of our favorite places -- the Shenandoah River and the "scary bridge." Our grandkids love to skip (or throw) rocks in the river and then walk across the suspension bridge. So that's what we did.

getting ready for wading in the river

If you can't skip a rock, the next best thing is...

...a big splash!

Now that rock ought to really make a geyser!

Next destination is around the corner: The Scary Bridge!

Anya was afraid going across and was happy to get to the stairs on the other side.

A quick walk up and down and then back across the bridge.

Not so scary now. Every few steps she stopped to jump up and down and give a little body shake.
We met some critters on our outing.

A butterfly adopted Larry.

Is this fuzzy fella predicting a cold winter?

Our next outing was the Route 11 potato chip factory. They were doing a massive order for Costco -- sixty pallets of boxes. Wow!

Who wouldn't love a potato that makes such a yummy chip!

The second floor is where they add the flavors. They were making lightly salted today.

Talk about "loving" your potato chips -- barbecued for Lauren!

Marianna preferred sour cream and chives. "They're Mommy's favorite."

Home to swim before heading in to meet Lauren's mom in Centreville.

Finally mastering the doggie paddle and swimming in the deep end!

Two little mermaids cooling off.

And Lauren's working on her back dive.

Last stop: dinner at Glory Days Grill with Lauren's family. Anya kept begging for "just one more night" of cousins' camp, but Lauren has to get ready for swim team divisionals where she's hoping to break the team record in freestyle (two win an Ipod). Good luck, Lauren! Now we need a boys cousins' camp. How about it Brendan, Ryan, and Sean?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mini Cousins' Camp

The past few days have been lots of fun! I'm never happier than when I'm with my grandkids, I look for opportunities for "cousins' camp" to get the young ones together. I've been trying to arrange them this summer without much luck. I tried to arrange for a boys camp with three brothers each from two families, but between soccer and swim team, vacations, etc. it hasn't worked out. But over fourth of July one little granddaughter begged to come out for "cousins camp" so I decided if I couldn't arrange a larger group, a "mini camp" was a great alternative. So Lauren and Anya are having a two-night sleepover with the daytime addition of Anya's little sister, Bianca, who's too young for over-nighting (except when a new baby arrives).

Actually, camp started on Saturday when Anya's mom met her sister to pick up Lauren. (Larry and I had a dinner for the 25th anniversary of AAA Women for Choice, a crisis pregnancy center where I used to volunteer.) We needed to get her Saturday because we had tickets to see The Little Mermaid at Winchester's Little Theater. So Sunday we went to the play and then came home to dinner, games, and a movie.

Today we had a great adventure that started with Mass. (Thanksgiving is always a good way to begin anything!) Then we went to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, came home and packed a lunch, and headed out to Marker-Miller Orchards to enjoy their super playground and pick blackberries.

Here's the adventure so far! And we have more fun planned for tomorrow. Check in to see the scary bridge and the potato chip factory.

Getting Ariel's autograph and a hug after The Little Mermaid

Cracker Barrel for artwork and breakfast -- Yum!

And a trip to Marker-Miller Farm. What a playground!
A good little climber !

And another!
The sandbox is fun!

Piloting the pirate ship is fun too!

Lauren is the sweetest apple in the basket!
After lunch we're off to the blackberry patch.

It was a hard search. Most berries weren't quite ripe, but we finally got a basket full.
Paka makes a good engine.

Three hot little berry pickers choose cold drinks to cool off.

A pretty princess posing with the posies.

Bianca wanted her picture taken there too.

Lauren just wants to go home and go swimming!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Missed St. Benedict's Feast Day and the Blessing of the Bees...

...since I was on retreat and we were using the calendar of the pre-Vatican II Roman Missal which offers a different saint on July 11th. But I'm praying the prayer for bees today. As a matter of fact, when I was out walking the grounds of the San Damiano Retreat Center in Winchester I saw honeybees working the white clover. It was a nostalgia moment because I remember when I was a child how dangerous it was to walk barefoot in the grass. The bees were all over the clover. Now, sadly, they are few and far between. But I snapped some shots of a few busy bees. (Hat tip to Darden for sending this!)
Catholic Prayer: Blessing of Bees on the Feast of St. Benedict 
The original Benedictine monasteries were usually self-sufficient, which means the monks had to provide for all needs. One thing that would be included in every monastery was beekeeping, to make beeswax for candles and honey for food and mead.

Although not the patron of bees or beekeepers, there is a Benedictine connection. Here is a blessing over the bees. This blessing is from the older form of the Roman Ritual.

St. Benedict's feast was formerly March 21, but it is now celebrated on July 11.


St. Benedict is the patron of bee-keepers, and those who themselves have bees could not do better than mark his day by praying for their hives. Farmers can pray for their cattle and their barns; fishermen for their fishing boats and the fish in the sea, why should bee-keepers do less? In some parts of France it was, and may still be, customary for bee-keepers to have a medal of St. Benedict affixed to their hives:

O Lord, God almighty, who hast created heaven and earth and every animal existing over them and in them for the use of men, and who hast commanded through the ministers of holy Church that candles made from the products of bees be lit in church during the carrying out of the sacred office in which the most holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ thy Son is made present and is received; may thy holy blessing descend upon these bees and these hives, so that they may multiply, be fruitful and be preserved from all ills and that the fruits coming forth from them may be distributed for thy praise and that of thy Son and the holy Spirit and of the most blessed Virgin Mary.

Prayer Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Looking Back at Spring on the First Day of Summer

And what a fun and busy Spring it was: two First Communions, a Confirmation, an 8th Grade play where our granddaughter did a masterful job as the Queen of Hearts, another granddaughter as Auntie Em in the Wizard of Oz, a wonderful choral performance and piano recital, and two high school graduations (Sorry we couldn't get to the one in Austin -- love you, Ashley!). 

Whew! Does it sound like a family marathon?

Lauren liked the cake I baked to order - chocolate/vanilla i
Matthew with a flower for Mary's May altar.
"Off with her head!"

Lots of bee adventures filled our spring as well. We divided our hives and made two nukes, but ended up with serious queen challenges and had to recombine the nukes to make one new hive. That one is now the strongest of our three. The hive that swarmed is the weakest. What an adventure! But after adding queen cells to the two queenless hives (Thanks, Frank!) we finally have all three "queen right" hives with the workers busily bringing in nectar. Good thing we have great mentors giving us advice and practical help. We hope to get at least 100 pounds of honey this year. We'll be checking during the coming week and will see how many frames of capped honey we have to harvest.

Now I'm looking forward to fun summer adventures!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Splitting the Bee Hives

We examined our hives last week on a nice warm day and, oh my, the queens are doing an incredible job of providing workers for the nectar season. Such a good job that we need to split the hives and hopefully prevent swarming. We sure wouldn't want to lose these two ladies with another good year of laying ahead. So the past few days,

1) Larry went to the bee store to buy new equipment while I played with two little girls whose mommy just had a new baby.

2) Larry and Bianca put the boxes together.

3) Marianna and I filled the frames with wax foundation (sort of like a blueprint for the bees to draw honeycomb).

4)The girls helped us prime the boxes before they went home to love up their new baby brother.

5) Larry and I finished the painting the next day. (I love the green and yellow!)

6) Then we went out to play with the bees and introduce them to their new homes. Lots of fuzzy, healthy looking Spring newbees! We couldn't find the queen and ended up making a nuke with four frames of bees including queen cells with larvae and a frame of capped honey. We left active queen cells in the old hive as well.

7) Next to the last step, take the nuke to a temporary location so the foragers don't return to the original hives and leave the queen and nurse bees without outside workers. My brother's house several miles away makes a perfect temporary home away from home for the new nuke hive.

Bianca keeps an eye on the hive that will house "Queen Bianca" and her court.
(From a safe distance. She knows that, "Bees sting me.")

8) Last step will be to bring them back to our bee yard after a week or two when we see that a new queen is established and laying.

NB. We didn't get into our other hive until the next day when we realized Queen Elizabeth must have swarmed because there were at least twice as many bees in Queen Ann's hive and it was always the weaker colony. We put an extra super on to give them more room, but expect Queen Ann will swarm and hope we will be able to catch her and her court before they disappear. It will be an interesting new experience for us if we do. Meanwhile, the bees are busy as can bee and the early nectar flow is in progress.