Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 3: Winter is Coming, but Today -- Pollen Coming In!

Since we got back from our Canada trip in early October we've fed our three hives three times with three quarts each. So far we've used about 50 pounds of sugar to make syrup and the girls eat it up lickity split. Today I fed another three quarts each and broke down Bianca's hive to three boxes for the winter. All three hives have lots of bees and were all bringing in pollen -- orange and yellow. The weather the past few days has been warm and mostly sunny so they are active and still out working.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Frustration of the Backyard Beekeeper

We got back from our trip a week ago and on Sunday I fed two of the hives 1/2 gallon of sugar syrup each: Queens Madeleine and Bianca. I went out today to feed the other two and Anya's hive is pretty much finished. It had a small clump of bees but certainly not enough to get through the winter and the boxes were so light I suspect the other hives have been robbing. So I didn't feed those bees. I gave Rachel a bag and a second bag to Bianca. The top box in Rachel's hive is very heavy and I went down to the bottom in Bianca's hive -- lots of bees, lots of weight, so they appear to have plenty of stores. The feeding bags in both Madeleine and Bianca's hives were drained dry and I'm happy to say no dead bees. So status on feeding is:

Madeleine -- one bag
Bianca -- two bags
Anya -- nothing and we will take that hive down
Rachel -- one bag

I'll feed again at the end of the week.

We don't seem able to get beyond three hives. It will be interesting to see how things go over the winter and what our status is next Spring. Well, one good thing -- we don't need to buy any more equipment at present.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Surprise! And Count Your Blessings!

Hopewell Rocks at low tide
Do you like surprises? If you do we can cure you of that. We've been travelling for a week with our camper on what is supposed to be an extended trip to Canada and back. And it has been a series of unpleasant surprises. The first was opening the camper and finding the refrigerator door open and a bottle of beer that popped open when it feel out onto the floor. I suppose we can consider our camper baptized in beer. And it didn't make the surprise more agreeable that it was my fault since I didn't check the latch on the door.

Our second surprise at our next stop was a tipped over quart jar of honey that dripped down into the cupboard and onto the floor. I was as agitated by the loss of our precious honey as I was by the mess. We will be cleaning up honey forever I think. I keep finding more places covered with the sticky stuff. So far no ants thank God, but I expect to find that surprise sooner or later.

Prospect Harbor and a Lobster Boat

We took a drive down to check out Prospect Harbor. What fun! Lots of Lobster boats anchored there and one unloading and sorting the lobsters. A fun peak at Maine's lobster trade. While we road the tourist bus around we talked to one local gentleman who rides the bus almost every day to talk to the driver and the tourists. He was a wealth of information about the lobstermen. The trade is much more controlled now because of over trapping. Each lobsterman is limited to 800 traps max and they can't trap for two months when the lobsters are shedding. I think the months were July and August. Every trap has to be registered and have a tag showing its registration number. Folks with vacation homes can get a license for five traps, but the lobstermen don't like it and the man said often the buoys that mark the traps will be cut loose. I hope he was exaggerating and that's a rare occurrence.

lobster boats in the harbor

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Biking the Schoodic Peninsula

 Acadia really is glorious. Yesterday we biked the Schoodic Peninsula and then drove to Schoodic Point after dinner to watch the sun set. The weather here has been beautiful -- sunny but cool with a pleasant ocean breeze that is sometimes pretty blustery.

Our collapsible bikes are easy to take in the back of the car and even with the smaller wheel base, work very
 well for us.

We met some tourists from Virginia at one of the auto pull offs. I love to chat with people when we are out and about and always pray for them and everyone else whose lives we touch. Sometimes people share their challenges and what a gift to be able to pray for them when we stop to say our rosary.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Winter Harbor Maine and Acadia National Park

We arrived at Schoodic Woods Campground in Winter Harbor on Saturday and set up camp. This morning had us setting off for the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph's in Ellsworth about 40 minutes away. It wasn't the gong show but it was depressing: almost all elderly with a handful of children, a wandering priest walking up and down the aisle during the homily who wore no chasuble and changed words in both the proper and common of the Mass. The church has an organ but mostly the "organist" played the piano and a keyboard and, oh the insipid music. Why, O Lord?  The Mass wasn't exactly irreverent -- just -- what can I say -- as dismal as the rainy day. Ah well, I prayed for the priest throughout the service. A parish with few children is a dying parish. I always pray we will find wonderful vibrant churches when we travel, and I can't say this is isn't one from a single visit, but it was a depressing start to our day. Jesus deserves better.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Our Latest Travel Adventure: O Canada, Here We Come

Last year we had plans to take a camping vacation to Nova Scotia, but it was a bad years for our bees and we ended up staying home to feed them so they would have a chance of getting through the winter. Both our hives made it and we were blessed with a great season this year that let us expand to four hives. And so...our delayed trip was back on the calendar and we left yesterday on the first leg driving from Woodstock to Stafford Springs, CT which is close to...get ready...Woodstock. Today we spent the late morning and afternoon exploring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

8-23: Grand Check of all the Hives

Update: 8/29 -- I added a third box to Madeleine's hive with the frames we just harvested. The bees were all over it within minutes enjoying the leftover honey in the cells. Hopefully the fall nectar flow will be good and they'll fill that box up in no time. Lots of bees there.

Whew...marathon this afternoon going through all the hives from top to bottom. Everybody has both capped and uncapped brood -- good sign. And nectar is still coming in because there was plenty of shiny nectar being stored. Plenty of stores.

Individual check:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

July 30: Removed the Queen Excluders and Took Out Four Honey Frames

We inspected all four hives and replaced the queen excluders and the undrawn frames we put in last week when we took out frames for the honey harvest. Today, we replaced most of them with the empty frames from the harvest -- less work for the bees when they have already drawn frames. They can just start filling them with nectar and pollen.

We saw plenty of capped and uncapped brood in all the hives. When the weather gets cooler we'll do a full inspection. We just examined the top box on Madeleine and the top two boxes on Bianca, Anya, and Rachel. All's looking well!

Today's status:

Thursday, July 21, 2016

July 21, 2016: Adding Queen Excluders in Hope of a Second Honey Harvest in August!

Queen excluder keeps her from laying brood in honey box.
Lots going on in the bee yard and we're in hopes that we'll get more honey frames to harvest in a few weeks. There are lots of full frames in several of the hives, but not 90% capped yet. I think we'll still be able to get more than the current thirteen and still leave plenty for the bees. They have certainly been busy this season! And the honey is delicious with a slightly fruity taste. Today we put queen excluders under the top boxes of both Anya and Bianca's hive. That allows the workers in to do their thing but keeps the queen from laying brood up there. The brood already in the frames will hatch and then they should fill any space with nectar.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pulling Frames of Capped Honey from the Hives

Checked all four hives this afternoon. The new hive (Madeleine) has a laying queen and we'll need to add a new box since most of the nine frames are filled with brood and honey. We'll add some empty frames with new foundation to all of the hives and fill the new box with frames from the other hives exchanging some frames of brood and honey with undrawn foundation.

We took four frames of capped honey from Bianca's hive and nine frames from Anya's hive. We checked Rachel's but no honey frames were 90% capped and a number of frames with capped honey had brood as well. All four hives look great. Lots of bees and lots of nectar collecting going on.

We took an entire box off of Anya's hive. Eventually we will have all the hives with three boxes as we move into the fall. The bees need about sixty pounds of honey for the winter. We'll start feeding in another month to make sure they have plenty of food. But things are looking very good right now.

I harvested one frame a few days ago so all together so far we have fourteen frames, but we may pull a few more later since there are still lots of nearly full frames in the three large hives.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Our Fresh Air Girls Have Come and Gone...

...and we survived another year and had a lot of fun. A few highlights from the week:

After picking up the girls at the bus in Harrisonburg, we head to Brewster's for ice cream. -- It's become a tradition. We opted for cups instead of cones because it was so hot -- less messy, especially for the little ones. Don't worry about the little guy. I'm holding his ice cream cup.

And then there was the hike on the Skyline Drive and wading in Land's Run.
We started with a picnic at the Visitor's Center at Dickey Ridge near Front Royal.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Wow! The Bees are Going Gangbusters!

frame of capped and uncapped honey
We did a three-hive inspection today and were thrilled by the results. All the queens are laying and the workers are bringing in nectar and capping honey big time. This looks to be a great harvest season.

Queen Anya's hive was especially busy and there were both swarm cells and at least one supercedure cell in the hive. So we decided to experiment and make a new split. We moved all the queen cells into an empty box. It's late, maybe too late, for that;

Friday, June 24, 2016

June 22nd: Bee Inspection and a Happy Discovery

I decided to make a quick bee check before we took new baby Jude's siblings for a visit. Good news -- Queen Rachel is finally mated and laying. As soon as I saw a frame with brood (capped and uncapped) I closed up the hive. Better to let her just do her thing. There is lots of activity in both Bianca and Anya's hives with lots of capped honey, so hopefully we will have a real honey boom for the harvest. It will be interesting to see how it differs from last years honey. I still have two jars so a taste comparison will be fun. Every season is different and all the rain in May affected the locust -- there wasn't much so that will not be in the honey. But I've seen the bees on the lavendar and the white clover so they'll be adding to the wildflower mix. Can't wait to taste! I added an additional box to Bianca's kingdom so both she and Anya are now five stories high. Rachel's is only three, but having no laying queen in there for weeks slowed everything down so we aren't likely to get much honey from that hive.

Stay tuned for news about the honey harvest.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Grandbaby 24 Makes His Appearance on June 21st

His fan club is thrilled! Baby Jude is the tie-maker giving us 12 grandsons and 12 granddaughters. He adds another flower to Grandma's garden. We are thrilled!

Lots of hair and alert as can be at only hours old.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Poem for All My Little Bird Watchers

Cardinals and sparrows don't share well. 
I was cleaning off my desk today and came across a poem I obviously started when I was recovering from my rotator cuff surgery. How could I tell? Easy. I obviously wrote it with my left hand when I wasn't allowed to move my right arm -- at least the beginning of the poem. I apparently added some stanzas later after I could lift my arm and use my right hand again because those were in cursive.

I truly enjoy writing little poems for my grandkids. This one is about the birds that come to my feeder. How I love them. We took the feeders down for the summer. We start to attract bears in the late spring and that means they have to go. We don't want any bears near our bee hives!

So here it is:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

June 7: Bee Check

Update: June 9th -- I added another box to Q. Anya's hive so it's no 5 supers high. The bees were bringing in only a little pollen at all three hives which made me wonder if they can carry pollen and nectar at the same time. Will have to do some research on that. Maybe if their nectar stomachs are full they can't carry the extra pollen weight.

Beautiful sunny day, light breeze and the bees were as calm as could "bee". All three hives:

  • bringing in nectar and pollen -- some pumpkin colored pollen
  • no ants in any hive
  • did not see the queens but Q. Bianca and Q. Anya are both laying well
Bianca is making brood like crazy. In fact, so much brood that we took two frames and moved them to Rachel's hive because there is still no laying queen there. The bees there aren't doing as well bringing in nectar. It will be interesting to see if this is a low/no honey season like two years ago because of the bad Spring weather. The bottom box is pretty empty so we aren't adding anything there. There were a lot of drones in both Bianca and Anya's hive. So we need to keep a close watch on them to see signs of swarming, although there were no queen cells in Q. Bianca's hive.

Both the queen cells we saw in Rachel's hive hatched so we probably have a queen there who hasn't mated and started laying. But that hive is going gangbusters collecting nectar and capping it. So with the extra frames of brood, that hive should do well as long as its soon queen right. We found an uncapped queen cell in Anya's hive with a good sized larva so we moved that frame to Rachel's cell. If there's a queen in the hive they may not cap it.

We decided to put a new box on Anya's hive since we saw a queen cell there and not many empty frames. We didn't look in the very bottom box though so that may have been empty. Didn't see any signs of backfilling so, even with the queen cell, the hive doesn't look like it's getting to swarm imminently. We'll keep a close watch.

We only spent about 45 minutes checking and all looks good.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Have you ever tried Kimchi?

Kimchi is a Korean dish reputed to be excellent for detoxing your body and improving your gut flora.
I read years ago that all disease starts in the gut, so what we eat makes a tremendous difference to our overall health. I haven't tried this yet, but next time I go to the market, I'm getting everything I need to prepare it. Here's the recipe which sounds pretty easy.

4 cups of water
4 tablespoons sea salt
1 head cabbage, shredded
1 cup daikon radish grated or 1 cup asparagus cut into one-inch pieces

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 24: Still No Laying Queen Rachel

Gorgeous day today, nice and warm with slight breeze -- perfect weather for a bee inspection. We only examined Queen Bianca's hive and what will be Queen Rachel's. Still no laying queen in Rachel's hive but two queen cells -- one in the middle of a frame (a supercedure cell) and one at the bottom (usually swarm cells, although this hive can't possibly be getting ready to swarm). All the brood we put in ten days ago has either hatched or is now capped.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Rainbow Kind of Day...

...dark clouds and rain one minute, brilliant sun the next. And what does that mean?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Well, What Do You Know! Black Pollen!

I was out putting another box on our small hive this afternoon and spent about ten minutes watching the girls going in and out. I noticed a number of bees with BLACK pollen. I've never seen that before so I came in and did a search. I found a blog that described black and white pollen from poppies. I noticed the wild orange poppies blooming a few days ago so I'm guessing that's where it'c coming from. It'a a little hard to see against a black and yellow bee, but notice the seed-shaped black pollen on the bee below right under the line of the wing. I've seen yellow, orange, red, greyish-green, but this is the first time I've EVER seen black. Go, girls, go! See more photos at the TrogTrogBlog.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

May 12 Bee Inspection: Illegal Immigrant Ants in Anya's Kingdom!

Well we checked out all three hives and, despite all the rain, they are busy collecting nectar and capping honey. Starting with the new hive, we looked for a queen, but didn't see one. The queen cell was open and the hive was calm so it's likely they have a queen who may not be mated yet or is mated but hasn't started to lay. All the brood in the hive has hatched so, in case they don't have a queen at all, we took two frames of brood including eggs from Bianca' hive and put them in. If there's no queen, they'll raise one. We'll add a third box on that hive because most of the frames are full of bee bread and nectar.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Adding boxes to the Hives

The weather has been very uncooperative from a beekeeping point of view. We have wanted to examine the hives for the past week, but between rain, wind, and commitments, sunshine and opportunity have not met.

Today, despite the rain we had a window of dry, so we added boxes to Queen Bianca and Queen Anya's kingdoms. That only takes about a minute: take off the top, take off the inner cover, add the new box and replace the inner and outer covers.

I spent about an hour cleaning up boxes and frames for the addition and we now have three hives with four boxes on Bianca's hive (which was not split), four on Queen Anya's and two on the new hive.  We still need to get in there to look for evidence of a laying queen. No need to add another box there until we have new brood hatching which takes about .With all the rain we fear the queen, even if present, may not have been able to get our for a mating flight. It will be a month since we made the split on May 14th and hopefully we'll have good weather by then to check things out.

We also need to see if Queen Bianca is thinking of swarming. She wasn't two weeks ago, but things can change rapidly in the Spring. So that's our status as of today. Now we just need better weather so the girls can go to work collecting nectar to make honey.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 24 -- Examining Queen Bianca's Hive and watching entrances

The day was great for examination: warm, sunny, slight breeze -- perfect! The bees were calm and placid. We didn't need a smoker. Nobody got stirred up even as we moved from one box to another.

Queen Bianca is doing great! She's a 2015 girl, but today when we checked there was plenty of capped and uncapped brood in all three boxes. She's definitely still young and vibrant. No sign of swarming: no backfilling, not too many drone brood, and no queen cells. But they are doing a bang up job bringing in nectar so in the next few days we'll add a honey super so they can get to work making lots of good stuff for the honey harvest.

It's too early to check Queen Rachel's hive and see if she's laying. Another week or too before we disturb her kingdom. The bees were coming and going from Queen Anya's hive bringing in pollen so things there seem to be okay. Hopefully within the next week or two all three colonies will be queen right and busy-busy. 

Just to remind myself. From left to right facing the hives we have Bianca (2015) on the left, Anya (2014 babe) in the middle and soon to be Rachel on the right. That should be easy to remember. We're raising the B-A-R and hopeful that all goes well this season.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 19: Lots of Drones at the Queenless Hive

I went out and watched the bees on Tuesday. The walkaway split with the old queen is finally showing signs of forager bees going in and out. The most active hive is the mother hive that is currently queenless. There were drones going in and out, which I suppose is a good sign since a hive that needs to produce a new queen also needs drones who fly out to the mating area. Hopefully the queen will be fertilized by others than her own children to keep the genetics strong and diversified. I'll ask at our bee meeting tonight and see what the experts have to say. Meanwhile, we're praying for a little rain because it's been really dry the past few weeks and that can't be good for the nectar flow. A little rain please Lord.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Dandelion Wine and the Virtue of Patience

 Every year I look at our bumper crop of dandelions and think, "I should make dandelion wine." Well, this year I finally did it, or, more accurately, I am doing it.

The other day, Larry and I picked two quarts of flowers, I trimmed them of stems and as much of the green as a scissors could remove, and began the process. After pouring boiling water over the flowers and several sliced lemons, I let them sit three days. Today I made the "infusion," adding 4 cups of sugar sugar, a cup of orange juice, a 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and a cup of cut up dried apricots to give it a little more body. (I sound like I know what I'm doing, right?)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Finally! The Weather Cooperated and We Split the Hive.

Two 3-box hives with a hive base ready for the split.
What weather. For the past few weeks we've had freeze warnings several days and it's been pretty windy -- not ideal conditions for opening the hives. Today finally, we got an afternoon in the mid 60s with slight wind so we took advantage to make a split of our big hive. We only dealt with that one and will check out the weaker hive, Queen Bianca, later.

We could have made a couple of nukes from Queen Anya's hive, but decided to just split it in half to discourage swarming. We saw the queen, a big beauty. She's in her third year and may swarm anyway, but hopefully by splitting we've created an artificial swarm and she'll think they did it already.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Checkup: How Are the Girls Doing?

Fine actually. We checked on Monday April 4th to see if there were any signs of swarming. Bianca's realm was quiet. The queen is laying brood. We saw both capped and uncapped, but no drones to speak of and no queen cells. Not much chance this weaker hive will swarm.

Anya's kingdom was much busier with lots of workers, drones and drone brood. We decided we would split as soon as possible and put a queen excluder between the two lower boxes to make it easier to find the queen. But the weather has gotten colder and we decided today to take the excluder out so the bees can make the decision about the best place for the queen to protect her from the cold. It got down to 24 last night and later this week it's supposed to get back down in the 20s. So we'll wait to do a split when we get a warm day next week. Hopefully, all will be well until then.

We did a very quick in and out today to take out the excluder but it wasn't fast enough to prevent me getting stung on the ankle. When will I learn? I changed my black pants for light blue jeans but left on my black socks. The girls REALLY REALLY hate black.

So I'm taking benadryl because my entire body was itching. That quieted things down and now only my ankle is itching and swelling. I keep hoping to get to the point where stings give me no significant reaction, but it hasn't happened yet.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away! Fighting Arthritis Naturally.

Pain is a great motivator! For months I have been dealing with pretty significant hip pain. Physical therapy hardly touches it. I was presuming my hip problem was related to other problems I'm having connected to my Myasthenia Gravis, but the neurologist recommended an x-ray and I have arthritis in that hip. Hmm...I recall a fall off a horse and a fall off a skate board that both involved my right side. Guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Pain is a great motivator! For months I have been dealing with pretty significant hip pain. Physical therapy hardly touches it. I was presuming my hip problem was related to other problems I'm having connected to my Myasthenia Gravis, but the neurologist recommended an x-ray and I have arthritis in that hip. Hmm...I recall a fall off a horse and a fall off a skate board that both involved my right side. Guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Being a Good Steward: A Lesson from Beekeeping.

A honey bee with full pollen pockets and pollen on
the landing board.
I love beekeeping. We were out inspecting our hives from top to bottom today, our first major exam for the spring. Both hives have laying queens and as soon as the nectar flow begins are likely to take off. Neither is showing any signs of swarming. (No queen cells, no drones being raised, etc.) We rearranged the boxes to put the brood on the bottom and in the two boxes above we checker-boarded which means we alternated frames of honey/pollen with empty frames so the hive knows they have plenty of room to grow. We took off the mouse guard and changed the entrance reducer from the smallest opening to the middle one. We put syrup in yesterday so the girls are all set for now and we will leave them alone (except to see if they need more syrup) for a week or two before we visit again. Colonies need a little time to recover after an inspection. Later in the spring we will be checking for pests.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Spring is Here and we still have two active hives!

Last Fall we were a little skeptical that we would still be beekeeping come spring. While things had looked good in late summer, the Fall saw one hive abscond just two weeks after we saw the queen and were confident it would be a really strong colony going into the winter. The queens in our other two hives stopped laying brood early and one hive just didn't seem to have enough bees to give us any hope it could survive the cold.

But here we are with temps in the 60s and 70s and both our hives are bringing in pollen, a good sign that brood is present. We pulled the remaining sugar patties out today and put two quarts of 1:1 syrup in each hive. I also noticed that they still have honey stores in the upper box so they seem to be in good shape food wise. In a day or two, weather permitting, we'll go down into the brood chamber and see what's up and shift the brood box to the bottom of the hive and checkerboard above which means alternating frames of honey/pollen with empty frames of drawn comb which discourages swarming and increases brood laying and hive buildup. I hope to do it tomorrow since everything I'm reading says do it as early as possible in the season several weeks before the red buds bloom.

So tomorrow we will be doing a serious exam and also be looking for signs of early swarming.

Let the fun begin.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Doing Lent with Grandkids: The Pretzel Prayer Position

Sunset over Apalachicola Bay
We just got back from a trip to St. George Island, FL and Charleston, SC. It was a great break from the cold. When we left February 18th it was snowing in Woodstock. We returned to temps in the upper 60s and the very beginning of buds swelling with the promise of an early spring.

While I enjoyed every minute of our trip, I missed our grandchildren. The ones we see most frequently live only twenty minutes away and visit every week. We didn't see them for about two weeks before we left because they were passing around a bug and we certainly didn't want to pick it up and take it on our trip. So we hadn't seen them for over a month and were happy at the thought of their visit.

The youngest, Max, who is going on two wanted to call us often while we were away and say his newest word "tractor" to Paka. (We knew he meant, "Please take me for a ride on the tractor.") He calls me "Mom" and likes me to sing his special Max song which lately he has chimed in on when I reach "baby Max." At that age every day brings more words and phrases.

Whenever Max called, I said he and his sisters would have to come over and make pretzels after we got home. The girls eagerly agreed that was a good idea.

Well, we arrived home Monday night and Tuesday afternoon became pretzel day with the grandkids, an activity their mom remembers well from Lent growing up. Why pretzels in Lent? Because they look like little praying arms. In fact, the word pretzel comes from high German and means "little arms." The small breads are believed to have developed in the monastery.

So I pulled out my pretzel handout (I used to use it with my religion classes) and we made pretzels together. They did a great job rolling, shaping, and "painting" the pretzels with egg to get a nice brown color during baking. And here is what I read to them:
We said grace with our arms in pretzel prayer position
The Pretzel Story: Many years ago people, especially monks, prayed with their arms folded across their chests. During Lent they kept a very strict fast with only one meal a day and a few snacks to keep up strength -- usually bread. One day, a monk working in the kitchen took the bread dough and made it in pretzel shapes like little praying arms to remind his brother monks to devote themselves to prayer. When you eat a pretzel, let it remind you to pray like the early Christians.
Pretzel prayer: Dear Jesus, bless this little bread. Help it remind me to pray and do penance during this holy season of Lent. 
Pretzel Recipe: Dissolve one Tablespoon of dry yeast in 1 1/2 cups of very warm water. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 Tablespoon of sugar. Mix well until yeast and sugar are dissolved. Add about 4 cups of flour (you can use a combination of white and whole wheat flour if you like). Knead dough until smooth. Roll in ropes and twist into pretzel shapes. Bake at 425 degrees about 15 minutes. For a browner shiny pretzel brush pretzels with beaten egg before baking. 
Enjoy making pretzels. Coming soon: Hot Cross Buns.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sr. Mariana of Quito, Ecuador and the Bees

Our Lady of Good Success
Since becoming a beekeeper, I take special note of bees mentioned in my spiritual reading. This morning, Ash Wednesday, I was reading a biography of Sr. Mariana of Jesus, the mystic who experienced the apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The author, Msgr. Luis E. Cadena y Almeida, wrote this:
From early childhood, Mother Mariana of Jesus had exercised the secrets of prayer. She was an industrious little bee who daily built her honeycomb with the pollen of her virtues. She loved her relationship with God and found in Him strength for suffering, stimulation for perfection, skill and valor for confronting the forces of evil  and, finally, repose and sweetness in the toils of her exile.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Winter Feeding: Bees Looking Strong!

It's nearly 60 degrees this afternoon so we took advantage of the beautiful weather to open the hives and put in sugar pies and pollen patties. This is the time of year the queen begins laying Spring bees so the hive needs enough food to make it through until the early nectar flow.

Lots of bees were flying and one aggressive little gal stung me through my pants. Hopefully, I didn't get enough venom to get much reaction. We'll see. My fault for wearing black. She probably thought I was a bear.

We went in just long enugh to feed, but a cursory look showed both hives looking very strong -- lots of bees and very active. There were also many dead bees in the snow in front of the hives, but that's not unusual this time of year. The winter bees will begin dying off and be replaced by the Spring bees. Sometimes they will even be bringing in pollen this time of year, but we didn't see any today. A few weeks ago there were several bees bringing in bright orange pollen on a warm day.

Now if they just continue doing well we will have two surviving colonies come Spring which we can hopefully divide. St. Rita, St. Valentine, St. Francis de Sales, St. Ambrose, and Sr. Lucia of Fatima please pray for our little apiary. Keep our bees strong and healthy!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Surviving without Treatments: Lessons from Wild Bees

First thing to do. Put same colors together.
And we'll separate the hives more.
I'm reading an article in the February American Bee Journal about raising bees without chemical treatment. It's interesting and I want to try some of the suggestions in the article, although I doubt our bee yard qualifies as being in a "remote" location even though we're only a mile from the George Washington National Forest. We're also a mile from Woodstock where several beekeepers have their hives. Nevertheless, some of the suggestions seem like they would apply across the board. The article by bee researcher, Dr. Tom Seeley from Cornell, gave this advice:
If you are in a remote place, the following suggestions could work for you -- that's what I'm trying with my bees now.  
First, disperse your hives or diversify them: paint the hives differennt colors, put them aiming at different directions. This way you minimize the number of bees drifting between the hives and lessen the spread of disease, especially mites and viruses.

The Big Snow and the Bees

It's too cold for the bees to be out and about, but the weather is above freezing and surprisingly some of them will check out the weather on the front porch when temps are in the upper 40s. They were actually flying a few weeks ago when the temperature got above 50 degrees and a few were even bringing in bright orange pollen.

After our big snowstorm I decided yesterday to treck out to the hives and clear the entrances. The snow was up to nearly the top of the bottom box covering the entrance which is at the base. They will be glad not to be trapped when the temperatures go up a little. Meanwhile, the rest of the snow is offering some insulation so we don't mind and I didn't clear it away.
Our two feet of snow pretty much covered the bottom box. That will
give the bees a little insulation from the cold.

Hmm...bees are trapped by the snow.
I cleared off the landing board and the sun will soon
melt the snow blocking the opening. 

All the girls are inside staying warm and keeping the Queen happy
(at least we hope that's the case). 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

What's for Dinner? Turkey Alfredo -- Sort of....

Well, I am dealing with lots of holiday leftovers. and yesterday I decided to work on the turkey. It was leftover from Thanksgiving but was in the freezer and I took it out to make turkey soup. But I still had a lot of the white and dark meat separate from the carcass that I didn't want to put in the soup. What to do?

Hmm...why not a sort of Alfredo. So here it is.

Alfredo noodles if you have them or spaghetti or just about any noodle even Ramen would do, enough to serve 2-4. I used regular thin spaghetti because that's what I had on hand.

Three cups of cut up turkey meat
1/2 onion chopped
3 large mushrooms chopped
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup light cream
2 eggs
1 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

(Set water on to boil and add spaghetti while you are making the Alfredo Sauce.)

 Cook onion and mushrooms in butter. Add turkey meat and heat through. Remove from heat while you mix up Alfredo Sauce.

Alfredo Sauce: In a microwavable bowl heat cream until warm but not hot enough to cook the eggs. Beat the eggs and add to the warm cream with the parmesan cheese (I used the Kraft powdered because it's what I had on hand. Fresh would be better.) Mix well. Return turkey mixture to heat and add Alfredo mixture. Cook about five or six minutes until sauce thickens. Serve over spaghetti. Serves 2-4.

Ordinary Duties as We Return to Ordinary Time

The past few days I've found myself immersed in the ordinary duties of family life. After a week of a dozen house guests coming and going, I've been changing beds, doing laundry, putting away the punch bowl and party plates, cleaning out the refrigerator and making soup and freezer dishes from leftovers, picking up stray toys (I keep a stash for the grandchildren), and generally "redding up" as my West Virginia husband always says.

I actually like to fold laundry. Since my children were young I've made it practice to pray for those who will wear the clothes, sleep in the beds, use the towels, etc. Today I've also been praying to St. Anthony that all the items in the Camp Kreitzer lost and found will return to their rightful owners.

I find ordinary tasks soothing and a comfort. They remind me that amidst a world gone mad, a blessed family life can continue. As I straightened the family room I thought of all the evenings we gathered for night prayers and had an expanded "decade" of the rosary as everyone offered Mary a bouquet of flowers and a Hail Mary. To hear sweet little voices saying, "I give Mary a bouquet of blue bonnets" or violets, daffodils, tulips, roses, etc. reminded me of the little children of Fatima gathering wildflowers in the Cova. When we were finished Mary had quite a profusion of flowers around her virtual Camp Kreitzer shrine.

As I clear
off the dining room table (except for the puzzle still in process) I think of the birthday tea for two granddaughters using their great great grandmother's (my dad's mom's) hand-painted luncheon dishes. I'm sure she used them when she had her bridge club over although there are only seven sets left. Perhaps one got broken or lost or strayed. I also think of all the games played around that table -- and I don't mean video games. We learned a new word game (I can't recall the name) that involved giving clues but it was much less chaotic than Outburst or Password and even the middle school kids could play. It was lots of fun and lent itself well to large teams. The children's wilder games were relegated to the sunporch to separate their raucous laughter from the old ears of grandparents used to a quiet life.

What a lovely holiday! I'm never sorry to return to the more ordered and less chaotic routine of our "ordinary time," but there's always a twinge when everybody is gone. How blessed we are that our "empty nest" didn't last long. Our first grandchild arrived when our youngest hit double digits. I was missing babies when that little one filled my arms and they've never been empty for long since then. I don't really understand the grandparents who say, "Better you than me," when I tell them I'm expecting our 24th grandchild. I generally respond, "How can there be too many flowers in Grandma's garden?"

Every one of our precious grandchildren is unique and special: the "wild things," the calm, the dancing princesses, the musicians, the writers, the gamesters, the runners, the soccer and basketball players. Each one brings joy to our hearts and every night when Larry and I pray our rosary each of our five children and their families gets a special decade with offerings for their individual needs.

Ordinary time here is generally a peaceful time (although we are fortunate to have a family nearby who visits often) but I confess that I'm happy that Easter comes early this year because I always look forward to the return of my favorite people in the world.