Archive | July 2012

Monday, Stung

Checking the comb this morning I became alarmed at how fast they’ve reached the back, and decided to just do it, right now, harvest that one comb.

Despite how busy they were, and that it was already quite warm, I did not wear the bee hat because the jacket it zips to is in storage. I figured the bees know me by now…

Last night I played with some of the flash options on Hipstamatic.

I am not Corwin Bell. I knew that, of course, but I thought maybe I’d be calm and collected enough with the bees that I could get away with rubber bands around my pants ankles, and glasses so I could see what I was doing. Removal of the roof went well. Removal of the spacer between top bars went well, using the hive tool to pry the ends and scrape the propolis between the spacer and the back bar. I pulled up the back bar first, knowing there was only a partial comb on it, so I could see what the next to last bar looked like. Then things fell apart. Literally. As I endeavored to set the bar down upside down, the comb, warm, pliable, flopped to one side, alarming the bees. One, Bitey Bee, got caught under my glasses rim, so I set everything down and pulled my glasses off, but too late. One sting. I calmly hurried inside, scraping the site with my fingernail to remove the stinger, and applied Prid drawing salve. I came back with tongs to pick up the dropped comb, covered with bees, and set it in the bowl I’d brought for my harvest. I’d also pulled my hat off as I went inside, and forgot to put it back on, so my hair was falling in a mess; as I tried to put the bar back another bee tangled in the back of my hair, so again I calmly hurried away. Stingbee’s buzzing got more and more frantic as she burrowed deeper into my hair, as I tried to shake and sweep her out. Sting two. More Prid, in my hair. After being chased away two more times (calmly) without getting stung, I finally got the bar back in place and the flat roof on without further incident.

I left the glistening piece of comb in the bowl so the bees could take their time leaving it. I wasn’t a complete idiot about it. I did call three friends to try to get backup before I started this escapade. Luckily for my pride none were available. But after all was said and done, Cynthia called back to see if I still needed help, so she got to share in the tiny, sweet, taste of honey.

First, and accidental, harvest of honeycomb.

Not quite honey but almost, the nectar is thickened but not yet capped. We snipped off the tip and shared it, yum yum yum, chewing the wax like gum, like when we were kids.

A drop of perfection.

I immediately went online to to order a full suit and some fine mesh for straining. Chalk this one up to a lesson learned, and try again in a few days with proper protection. What was I thinking? At least I bought some time; I may have a week before they start to glue their comb to the back wall.

Other harvests have been more successful. Green and pink cherry tomatoes from my vines, and a chocolate pepper; yellow peppers and red cherry tomatoes from Ruth’s fabulous garden, and a Palisade peach from the market. All in the wooden bowl the Colonel carved by hand forty years ago.

The fava beans are growing thick and tall, and full of blooms!

Mirabilis multiflora at the end of the turtle pen has expanded to cover the path. When they die back in autumn they form a brittle, featherweight skeleton; I’ve been scattering these skeletons around under junipers in the yard, and three or four have grown from seed under several trees.

So a few small successes to counter my humbling bee fiasco, and now for a lunch of fresh ripe tomatoes.







Tuesday, July 24


All the recent rains have rearranged the forest floor, adding sediment and support to grass clumps, cactus, flowers, forbs.

The fernbush is in full bloom, but the flock of shiny little black bees has yet to appear. They always come for about a week and cover the candelabra flower plumes.

Meanwhile the honeybees continue their mysterious sweeping behavior, either, I think, harvesting pitch from the pine hive box, or applying a thin layer of propolis to protect the front from monsoonal moisture. Who knows?

And their comb-building frenzy brings them perilously close to the back wall of the hive. Very soon I’ll have to harvest a comb, to ensure that they have room to continue building; otherwise, if they get honey locked, they could leave altogether.



Sunday, July 22, morning

Flight lessons. Earlier this morning, as I fed the temporary turtle some worms, I heard the screes of the three young redtails that were raised along the river at the mouth of Buck Canyon. Cameraless, I simply watched with delight as all three circled low over me and Mirador, shrieking, soaring, flapping.

About an hour later I heard the birds again. Again three circled and soared, farther up, but this time it was one adult and two juveniles, clearly enjoying their lives. At the same time, Geoff was at Dr. Vincent’s picking up a young hawk that hadn’t quite learned how to make it on her own. Picked up from the roadside, emaciated and unable to move, she found her way to our raptor rehabber down the road.

Peek-a-Bee on St. John’s Wort.

After a beautiful sunny morning, the skies opened this afternoon, flooding the patio again, cooling the air, watering all with a full inch of rain.



Under the Apricot Tree

Joe finished the raised bed just in time for the apricots to ripen. Stellar lies in new shade. I resolve to join him.

I frame the shot. The bird lands. I shoot. The bird flies. This moment, pure joy.

When I saw all the birds this morning, and chipmunks, too! feasting on the apricots, I knew I’d better get in there with them and harvest whatever they had left untouched. 

Many, like this one, look perfect from one side only. The other side is chewed. A few perfect fruits aren’t ripe yet, and maybe I won’t get them before the birds. Grateful for the abundance this year I’m happy to share.

The fruits of my pleasure in the garden this morning, easily three times the number of apricots that even ripened last year. Easily five times more have gone to the birds. And chipmunks.

The promise of potatoes.

The next to last poppy.

Friday the 13th

At first I thought this formation solved the mystery of the bees’ new fortification.

Though I’ve sat with bees all week it’s been fleeting each time. I’ve watched mystified as they’ve busily closed up their doorway. Just over a week ago they had added three new mounds evenly spaced along the threshold, though they were bright orange and red rather than bland yellow like the first one. Propolis, I think, and maybe pollen, rather than wax. The original mound remains and still seems to fulfill a communication function. For a moment I thought I had the answer as the mounds morphed into a wider wall and bees lined up as guards. But that lasted less than a day before their controlled chaos resumed.

Midway through their entrance blockade, they are busy constructing.

They have almost completely closed the right two-thirds of the hive, leaving just a few openings through which they come and go. I knew they would do this for winter, but am surprised they’ve done it so soon. And accomplished it so fast! There have been a couple of quite cool nights, and plenty of wind, and maybe they know the monsoons are coming. These are, after all, local bees, with all the seasonal local knowledge in their super-organism consciousness. Both recent rains have wet the entrance, but Joseph’s roof with the extensive overhang has proven beneficial. Also, I have seen them fend off wasps, flies, and ants, and I know this makes it easier to prevent unwanted visitors.

As they began this endeavor, I filmed many bees sweeping, maybe scraping, the face of the hive and the threshold, moving up and back a quarter inch, over and over, sweeping their front legs. Were they gathering pitch from the pine box itself for their wall? That activity has pretty much ceased now that it looks nearly complete. There are still a couple of bees at this work, but mostly they are back to coming and going.

They continue to amaze me. They have filled the hive more than halfway with their comb and construction continues unabated, of course. It becomes difficult to photograph. I just might manage to make off with a little honey before winter if they keep up this pace. I have not seen any drones for at least a week. And the delicious smell that emanates from the grove when I pass by! Honey and warm wax.

[Internet was down at Mirador since last weekend, so a full week of morning rounds precedes today’s post.]

Thursday, July 12, 7:12 p.m.

A beautiful snake skin! A perfect shed, in the bottom of the dogpen fence.

A little wild bee on the Scabiosa.

Zauschneria arizonica, purple echinacea, yellow potentilla, purple scabiosa, all bloom in the butterfly bed, along with last year’s seeming weed, now a charming ground cover, from the drought, or from having simply established its place in the system. Milkweed going to pod after a short, early bloom. Having had good help in the yard this summer, and last, walking through it now is pure pleasure. I can see the beauty, not merely the undone.

The third ripe Violet Jasper falls into my left hand as I reach inside the vine. Deer have eaten most greenery and fruit outside the tomato cage, but inside they’re mine. Its hue is scarlet to burgundy, streaked with green; I read a bad review of this tomato after it was growing. The first one I tried wasn’t ripe, and wasn’t good. The first ripe one I gave to Suzi and she said it was oh so sweet. The second I ate hastily. This small tomato I savor.

It’s birds eating the apricots, and the peaches too. Birds, of all things, eating my fruits. I should not have thinned them, then there would be enough for all of us. A little bird smashed into the window this afternoon. Before I could get out there to check it, Raven snatched it and ran away. Whether the dog or the window killed it, I don’t know. On the upside, the temporary turtle ate a mealworm, and a good-sized nightcrawler today. She spent much of the day burrowed in several different places, and wandered around comfortably later after cloud cover cooled the day.

I harvested the peppermint the ranger gave me, spread it on racks in the pantry to dry for tea.