Monthly Archives: April 2008

New beekeeper, Day 10…

To refresh your (and my) memory, my last bee-bit was about Day 4 and having confirmed the Queen was freed from her transport container (beem – intentional misspelling, thank you very much – me up, Scotty 🙂 and had The Team doing their bee-thing.

Day 10 is all about health and progress: is Freddie healthy and is she productive, laying eggs and making sure the colony is being built. To get ready, I break out the Michelin Man / Stay Puft Marshmallow suit (including handy-dandy, zipped-in netted hood so a wayward bee doesn’t find her way into my nose), smoker unit, bits of burlap to put in the smoker and light, creating just the right amount of smoke to put them all in the mood – “pardon me, mind if I check your eggs?” – kinda like the ’70’s, isn’t it?

It’s Spring and the babes are out on the parcourse…

If you live anywhere in Campbell and are still in (at least) limited possession of either your hearing, smell or sight, it’s pretty clear that Spring has arrived:

  • Hearing: the male birds are all doing their hey baby mating calls. Our favorite is the red-headed housefinch – they have a great song and they’re literally all around town wooing their would-be nest mates. Some of them have already paired up and as a result, you may have you noticed lots of bird-screeching sounds around wherever you happen to be, yes? If so, you’re probably hearing them on an erratic basis during daylight hours… usually fairly urgent in nature. Those sounds are quite likely from the young birds either in their nest or those who have already fledged and are trying out their territory. The easiest way I know to spot them is to listen for their high-pitched, attention-getting screetch, then head over to see which of them is flapping their wanna-be wings at the nearest adult bird – that’d be either mom or dad with a meal of local goodies for the baby.
  • Smell: We’ve lived in Campbell since late ’84 and I’ve gotta say that I don’t recall a more vivid blossoming season, ever. Regardless of where you happen to be, fruit trees have been in full blossom the past 6 weeks or so and there seem to be a million jasmine, rose and other very kind of fragrant blooming flower you can imagine. (Hello to Hector(!), with whom I had a chance to catch up with for a few minutes on while he was out grooming his roses (I happened to bicycle past his house on my Saturday morning lap.) Roses are looking great, Hector, and your pomegranates are shaping up nicely, too 🙂
  • Sight: As if we needed additional confirmation of Spring’s arrival, if you’ve got water anywhere near you and that water’s usually got ducks or geese on it, next time you drive / bike / walk by, slow down a bit and see if the adult birds have any little one’s near them. We spotted our first gosling’s about 3 weeks ago on our ride past Vasona Lake. Just last week we spotted another couple of family gaggles and just yesterday we came across a gaggle of 11 little ones with two adult Canada Geese at Vasona. We watched them from about 30 feet away and by the sizes of them, there appeared to be two different age groups with these adults. Based on what we know, it’s pretty likely one group belongs to this set of parents and the other sized group are adoptees and now part of this family.

    Out on my bike ride along the parcourse (LG Creek Trail) this morning, I counted somewhere 30 – 40 little down-tufted goslings, each and every one of them being shepherded by their parents to today’s fresh discovery @ the school of life.

Funny how the definition of “babes” can change for a guy over the years, eh? 😉

As always, thanks for visiting and write when you get work.

We remember Sissy…

A note to acknowledge the one year anniversary of the passing of our sister, Cris. Technically speaking, it was this past Saturday, but according to the calendar (factoring in the leap year), it is today.

Just last week I was asked by the editor of the Masonic Home for Children (sis and I lived in the Home for several years when we were kids) Alumni Association Newsletter if I wanted to include a photo of sis with the announcement of her passing that I submitted. I said, “yes”, but after reflecting on the matter for a few days, this morning I wrote and admitted that it was still far too painful to look through the many (hundreds?) and choose one. Perhaps at a later date we’ll feel up to the task. In the meantime, we’ll do our best to focus more on the fun times we had with sis over the years, rather than the fact that she’s no longer here with us; hopefully, we’ll get there by her birthday this year on November 3

And to you, whomever you are and wherever you are – especially if you or a loved one is of a certain age – I encourage to pick up the phone / pen / keyboard and spend a few minutes reconnecting with those you care for.

We now return you to your regular programming….

Picking up where I left off…

Over the next couple of days, most mornings about 9 I’d head out to the hive to make sure bears hadn’t gotten in the back yard and taken out the colony. (Just kidding, it’s Campbell 🙂 Just as Mr. Carrier said in his book, darned if they weren’t hovering around the hive, cruising up to 10 or 15 feet to take in the sights, er, orient themselves to their home location. By mid-day, it looked a lot like O’Hare out there… an awful lot of coming and going. (side note: they’re efficient little buggers – any time one of them croaks near the hive, they’re hauled away in a NY Minute. You DO know what a NY Minute is, don’t you? It’s the amount of time after the light turns red that the car behind you begins honking when you’re in NYC.) By about 3-4pm, everybody’s starting to head back to the bunkhouse for the night, so it gets pretty crowded overhead and on the entryway… come to think of it, there’s always a crowd around the water / sugar solution bottle, too. Apparently collecting pollen and making wax is thirsty work.

On Day 3 I stopped by Mr. Carrier’s to cough up more $’s to try on, then buy, my Michelin Man Bee Suit, a truly humbling experience. At this point in my life, I’m a little more “larger than life” than I’d like to be, so I had to say the words, “why, yes, I’d like a XXL suit, ‘just in case'”.

Shoot, “Just In Case”, who am I fooling.

And if having an ass roughly the size of Cleveland isn’t enough of a problem, my right shoulder has lost some of its youthful flexibility, so bending around like a pretzel to stuff my arm into the sleeve takes a whole lot more effort than I’d like – not to mention the discomfort that goes along with trying to emulate Gumby. Anyway, I try the thing on, then take it off and head home… readying for the big day – my first intrusion into the hive to see if Queen Freddie has been freed and is doing her thing.

Next Day, Day 4 (in beekeeping, apparently everything is measured in Days, Seasons or Quarts – don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules, I’m just tellin’ ya what’s what!) I re-read the relevant sections of the book, put my suit on, fired up the smoker (using my trusty heat gun / paint stripper / bbq starter) and headed out to the hive.

Cover me, boys, I’m goin’ in.

Coupla puffs of smoke (on them, not me… ok, I put a little in the air around me, “just in case” ) and I pulled the top off the super and pulled out Freddie’s Travel Coach (ok, it’s not really a coach, it’s just a little plastic thingie, looks kinda like a fuse coupler / holder) and darned if she hadn’t been freed and The Team had already begun building comb on it.

Dang, this just might work out!

Lid back on and darned if I didn’t hot-foot it outta there, “just in case”. And I kept on going, too, until I hit the back porch and realized I’d forgotten to fill their sugar solution back up. Ohhhhh man, I’ve gotta do “the dance” again? Back out I went, sans smoker (note to self: using the smoker is a good practice) and when I pulled the feeder, guess what I found? A boatload of slightly-annoyed-because-their-dinner-was-interrupted Russian honeybees. (note to self: remember to use the smoker when interrupting them 2x in 5 minutes) Anyway, I filled the Quart of sugar solution, re-positioned it and headed back to the porch, secure in the knowledge I’d defied death yet again.

And that’s how it’s been for the past (nearly) week. Check on the bees mid-day, make sure they’re busy (pardon me for saying this, but: busy as bees 🙂 and have sugar solution and leave them the heck alone.

Until today, which was Day 10, the 2nd biggest day in the new-package beekeeper’s cycle: checking on the Queen and making sure the colony is healthy and working.

They are, and I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Thanks for visiting and, as always, until next time, be well.

Things are buzzing around here…

Greetings and apologies for the extended delay in posting. Here’s a summary of all that’s going on:

The quince, citrus, pomegranate, blackberries, jasmine and French lavender are all in bloom – woo hoo(!) – which is good since we installed our first bee hive 10 days ago. I got thinking about the disappearing bee issue (formally called Colony Collapse Disorder) and began to fret about the impact on our neighborhood’s fruit / flower population and darned if I didn’t end up buying Mr. Carrier’s books on bee keeping. (You can surmise where this tale is going, right?)

About a month ago I picked up the starter hive kit and ordered my first “Package” of bees from a fellow over in Dixon / Vacaville. Nice fella, very laid back… heck, he’s so laid back he could easily work in any of the bicycle, guitar or boat shops I’ve frequented over the past 20+ years. Anyway, nice fella named Tom gave me the walk-through on what needed to be done (and in what order) to “install” the bees so everyone’s a winner. I drove them home (in the Prius, naturally 😉 listening to Queen and when we got home, I put them in the garage to settle down, cool off and wait until it got close to dusk (they’re a little quieter and a bit more friendly then, I hear).

When dusk arrived, I gave them – did I mention there were probably 20,000 or so of the little buggers in a box about the size of a shoe box? Man, it gave me the willies! – a little spritz of sugar water solution (to give them something to eat besides me when I opened their transport package to transfer them to their new home. The transfer went fine – I only got 1 sting – and they settled down for the night. (i’ll close for now, back in the morning)

Let’s get ready to rum-ble…

In a world where things get a bit more strange each and every day, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you, Kittenwars!

I’m betting on the Maines I see pictured there.

Lots going on, everybody’s tired around here – write when you get work 🙂


Oh Oh Oh – In the “who really cares about this stuff, anyway?” department: Four years ago I increased the Finch thistle feeder units and since then, the Goldfinches (nice looking birds, but not much in the song department) had taken over the feeders / backyard. Coincidentally – or not the Red Housefinches who built nests under our back eaves stopped building nests and raising families each Spring. Working on a hunch, three weeks ago I quit filling the finch bird feeders and the Goldfinches eventually quit coming around. Coincidentally – or not just this weekend Red Housefinches have reappeared in the nesting area and the males are in the birch tree singing their “hey baby” songs… may be a hot time in the old town yet 🙂