Monthly Archives: April 2013

saving the bees : an adrenaline filled tale

Luckily, since I last wrote, I realized that not all is lost with the bees. After a frantic email out to our group of Sonoma Valley beekeepers, a phone call, a visit and some very wise emails we concluded that my bees got too cold over winter. That what I was looking at was not chalk brood but chilled pupae. The one hive with the queen should be good to go with a little care. The queenless one…well that was a conundrum. My bees were now too old to properly rear a queen (newborn bees are the ones who become nurse bees and take care of the brood). Even if I gave them a queen, there still wouldn’t be any nurse bees to take care of the future eggs. The situation seemed dire.
Not two days after my queenless discovery I received an email from our group facilitator that she and two other women were going to meet to split a hive. If I came, I could take some frames of brood and nurse bees to combine with my older queenless foragers so that they could raise their own queen. Once a hive detects that a hive is queenless (that only takes an hour) they will take a good looking egg and develop it into a queen. Now this process takes some time, 16 days until she hatches, plus another week or more until she is mated and ready to lay eggs. Since I had to go to the bee store for supplies yesterday I asked if they happened to have any extra queens. They did! This would save the hive about three weeks worth of time. So with my queen in a little cage and a small box of nurse bees to keep her happy we headed home.
Today I headed up to Glen Ellen to this amazing property (where all of these pictures were taken) to meet these ladies to do a hive split. Bee people, I have found, are really great, interesting people. The kind of people that you enjoy being with. And today was no exception. After a solid two hours of hive work we split the two tall hives to prevent them from swarming. One split went to me, one to the owner, Lisa. Afterwards we were all beat, it was hot today. Working in a hive is intense. You’re usually hot, you lose a ton of water wearing long sleeved shirts and pants, your adrenaline is rushing a bit, and you are completely ‘in the moment’. I tend to loose all sense of time. We regrouped around this magnificent hand built table with snacks and cucumber water and retold what we had learned.
I left feeling worn out but exuberant. I put the bee box in my van and headed back home. Right away I noticed a few stray bees flying around so I stopped to let them out. Then a few more miles down the road I found a LOT more bees flying around and realized I was going to have a problem on my hands. I stopped at the nearest turn out and brainstormed…the box lid wasn’t fitting on tightly enough. I pulled the box out and put it in the shade of a tree. If I could take off the lid, put my shirt over the top of the box and then put the lid back on, I would be in business. Which is right about when I realized that I had left all my bee gear back at Lisa’s house. I stupidly tried my trick anyway. The moment I took that lid off, I had a box full of angry bees on my hands. I threw my shirt over the box to contain most of them and was immediately swarmed and stung. I walked far away, took a deep breath, got in my car and with one bar left on my cell phone, made an SOS call to Lisa. She not only drove to meet me and brought my veil and gloves, but put the lid on the box for me and wrapped it up tight in a blanket.
Once I got home I was able to combine the new bees with the old (using the newspaper sprayed with mint simple syrup trick) and placed the queen in with the new bees. I put the lid on tight, walked away and fell into a useless heap on the couch. Oy! I’m not used to all this drama. There are a lot of routine-filled and ordinary days in my life as a mother of 3 little ones. Beekeeping takes me out of my comfort zone down an avenue completely unrelated to mothering and I do so enjoy it!


Filed under beekeeping

bees & flowers :: successes & failures


It’s that time of year where the flowers are coming inside. Our beautiful new windows (such a treat to have new windows!) are getting opened everyday to enjoy spring breezes. Slowly the line between indoors and outdoors is getting blurred.

It was a welcome side indeed to walk into a house filled with flowers on a day like today, when upon complete inspection of my two hives, I realized both are in a sad state of decline. One is queenless, has wax moths and appears to have sent out a well populated swarm. The other, also in low population, has a queen but appears to have a fair amount of dead, almost mature larvae still in their cell (chalkbrood possibly?). Neither hive looked good. It was supposed to be a good day with only my oldest son at home. We went out to brunch and then were to have a happy, learning filled hive inspection together. We learned, for sure, but having mama walk back into the house with a heavy heart and tears in her eyes was not part of the plan.

I’ve been told that this happens. Colonies die. To not give up. But it is hard not to feel incredibly guilty. What was I thinking in believing I could keep tens of thousands of bees happy when I have such little time to give them? And now I have to find time despite foreseeing a busy weekend. Do I combine them? Do I get a new queen? Do I call it all a loss? Oy!

The good news is that the garden is booming along and I’ve learned a few new tricks that I’m looking forward to sharing with you. In a rare instance, plants that I thought I had killed over the winter are making a strong comeback and the new plants I got this year are growing just great. (Usually I always kill a few new plants.) Maybe I should keep my focus on growing plants and not an apiary.

…at least there are flowers…



Filed under beekeeping, Flowers



Today we moved the car off the side of the road to let the biggest tractors we’ve ever seen drive past us to harvest this field.

I half wished that I kept the kids home from school so we could watch those big machines move and work.

Later walked down to visit a neighbors new lambs and arrived just in time to watch triplet lambs being born. Amazing. Didn’t regret missing baseball practice in order to watch.

Laughed hard when the seven kids watching shouted, ‘here comes the polenta!’ as the placenta emerged.

Will likely never eat polenta again without a chuckle.

Realized today marks two years that we decided we wanted to live here, in this house, on this street. No regrets yet!



Filed under Life in Sonoma

a simple decluttered life


When we go to Sea Ranch, I often come home refreshed not only from the sea, but by how simple we can live.

The houses in this community are simply built. Not that a great amount of care isn’t put into the architecture or building, in fact the opposite is more likely true. But each house seems to be spared of such frivolities as ornate trim work, fussy paint colors, or landscape. The care seems to go into making the most of the view, the light and covering both the inside and outside of the houses in wood.

We try and take only what we really need. For me that was two pairs of pants, two tops, two pairs of shoes, pjs, cozy slippers, socks, a book and a knitting project. Well, and the camera of course. I limited the kids to one backpack full of clothes each. No computers, no internet, no toys besides two lego trucks, no excess amount of stuff. For the better part of the week we live sparingly.

It’s so refreshing to not have all the clutter around. I purge our house on a regular basis. Purging is what I do when I feel stressed out. Some people clean, some people eat, I throw things out. Yet still in a house of five people, each with their own set of interests, clutter can’t be avoided and sometimes it makes me go a little bananas. This last week though, with little to clean up and a spare amount of laundry and dishes, I could sit and read and knit and take walks with out any guilt at all. Heaven! Scott collected mussels and caught a crab for dinner and treated us to a nice bottle of local gin and fancy tonic.

The constant pain of stress knots between my shoulder blades actually faded away on day three. I had gone for a walk, sat down on the bluffs and realized that tension, by now a constant companion, was gone.

I brought my handmade beauty goodies for little spa like indulgences while the kids watched deer tv every morning.

We’re back now and in the in-between days of vacationing and getting back to the schedule of life. We came back to the treat of newly refinished wood floors but with baseboard to be put in and two rooms of furniture strewed about the house. Scott powered out the baseboard in two days and the furniture is slowly getting placed in it’s spot. Then it will be a matter of my regular post-Sea-Ranch household purge and a simplifying of our crazy schedule. And then we can get back to the business of gardening.



Filed under Uncategorized

the secret of life


After a busy, hectic, too much on my tiny plate sort of week, we are headed to this place for a while.

I saw this quote the other day and I plan on making it ‘my theme’ for our time away:

“if you learn to use a perfect afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned the secret of life. -lin yutang”

Sending you peace and relaxation! -xoxo-


Filed under Our Weekends