Monthly Archives: April 2014

It Was Meant to Bee After All

I didn’t talk about it on here, but last fall, I lost both my hives. I was pretty upset about it because they had been looking so good. But just one day I noticed that there was less and less activity at the entrances and then slowly, one day there was none. For a long while I didn’t even walk over to that side of the yard or deal with the empty boxes because every time I saw them I just thought, ‘Failure’. Unfortunately I found council with many other local beekeepers. It seems many people lost many hives this fall and winter. I was able to harvest a wee bit of honey, but the rest of the frames I left as a big mess for me to clean up ‘someday’.
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Well ‘someday’ turned out to be Sunday. I had debated all winter whether or not I was going to jump into this endeavour again or not this spring. I didn’t want the possibility of dealing with another failed hive at the end of the season and frankly, I was open to having a break from hot summer hive inspections. But I had already invested so much in all the equipment and I didn’t want to lose what little knowledge I had gained in the last two years. Last Friday, right before we left for a week’s vacation, I laid in bed early in the morning and told Scott, ‘If I want to do bees this spring today is my last day to clean everything up and get ready. Should I really do this?’ Then I checked my email and a local beekeeper emailed that if I wanted bees, I better let her know. I took that as a sign, as I’ve never received one of her emails before. Still, the day got too crazy prepping for Easter and vacation and I let it go. We left for the coast and I tried to make peace with my decision.
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Then yesterday, fresh back from vacation, Scott and the boys were out gardening when they came running in telling me to get my bee gear on, there was a swarm in one of our walnut trees. ‘I guess this is really meant to be this year!’ I thought and quickly made some simple syrup (to entice them) and got geared up and a swarm box ready. We got it all set up under the bees and realized I would need Scott’s help. He’s always taken a step back from my beekeeping shenanegans and let it be ‘my thing’. But as always, when things get sticky, he’s always ready to step in and help me. So we went in to get him changed and get a veil on. When I went back out there they were gone! And I heard a holler from my beekeeping neighbor, Michelle, over the fence saying, ‘They’re over here Kendra!’ We put the kids in front of a movie and ran next door.
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The swarm had collected along the side of her wine barrel and started to go underneath into a mouse hole (a few mice ran out, they wanted nothing to do with that action!). The decided action between the three of us was that I would just go over and scoop up the buzzing bees with my gloved hands and put them in the box. Easier said than done! Approaching the swarm, it felt like I was running into a brick wall of fear. Ever since my experience getting swarmed on the side of the highway last year, my bee fear has increased quite a bit. Before I would calmly do my hive inspections glove-less, now I wear them with a racing heart. I pushed through and using Michelle’s bee brush I did my best to get some in. Scott did his best too despite being stung many times in his hands. (gardening gloves do not pass as bee gloves!) We could do nothing more at that point but let bees to sort things out, would they go into the swarm box on their own or choose the mouse hole? We hopped back over the fence and started scraping and torching frames and boxes. Michelle later saved the bee day, but going out that evening when they were calmer and and scooped the rest into the box.

Monday morning I went and picked them up in my wheelbarrow and moved them into their new home. And just like that, the apiary is back in business. Hours later I went to go check on them and they were happily buzzing around. It makes me feel good to know we have them back with a blooming apple tree right in front of them and many Cotoneaster just about to burst open. It feels like the ol’ homestead is complete again.

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Easter Roses

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Most of the year when I go outside and see the assortment of 50+ rose bushes on our property, I think to myself, you know, I’m really not much of a rose person. I’m not sure what qualities make someone a ‘rose person’, but whatever they may be, I’ve always thought I lacked them. I’m too much of a lackadaisical gardener. I like things to grow independently and free. Roses, they have a fussy attitude. There’s a lot of persnickity pruning. And they drink a lot of water. So most of the year I wonder about the idea of taking many of them out.
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But then spring rolls around and magically I have no other option but to fall madly in love with them.
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We celebrated our Easter a day early this year. I indulged and bought a full flat of strawberries at the strawberry stand. I made strawberry shortcake and sent guest home with extra baskets. Scott made a delicious herb inspired dinner. There were games of horseshoes, cousins catching tadpoles, bubbles to blow and candy filled Easter eggs to find. And of course, there were roses. Lots and lots of roses.
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Happy Easter!

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Filed under Life in Sonoma, Sunday Flowers

Trading & Bartering

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We have a community within Sonoma, called Sonoma Hitch & Barter. It’s organized through Facebook and the premise behind it is that you post a picture of something you own, but don’t want anymore. You ask for some things you’d like to trade it for and people chime in with offers. It’s a pretty excellent little community. For instance a few weeks ago, we had to empty out our garage and we took a picture of a window air conditioner unit that we don’t need anymore. It was 10 years old and though it worked fine, it seemed like something that would never sell on craigslist. So we offered it up. I said we’d trade it for wine or beer. A couple chimed up, who had a very hot apartment in summer. They had a small wine collection, but really weren’t wine drinkers when it came down to it. So they brought us their wine and we gave them our air conditioner. We both parted ways very happy.

In the past I’ve traded various house decorating knick knacks for homemade muffins and cookies, a box of baby toys for 4 bottles of Pliny the Elder, and an old dresser for more wine.

The other weekend this arbor came up on the Facebook site and I jumped on it immediately. He wanted succulent clippings. Oh, I’ve got those in spades! So I gathered a big box full, plus a little mint and lemon balm and headed over to his house. He loaded this into my van and I gave him the plants and we both agreed it was an excellent trade. No money was exchanged. I had what he wanted, he had what I wanted.

For this trade, I had to bring all my kids along with me and there were lots of questions. Do you know this guy? Is he your friend? Why is he giving this to you? Why does he want those plants? It was a learning opportunity for sure about how money isn’t always the way you can obtain something. Later that night, my oldest commented on how he really liked the whole trading scheme. It’s a good system when everything works smoothly. And now I have this beautiful arbor that needs a few more plants around it, doesn’t it?
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In other news, do you see that barn in the bottom corner with the heart shaped group of trees? Isn’t it pretty? We’re having a french door added to our house so we can look out on that view. Construction starts this week. I can’t wait!!!
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After posting about the weedy asparagus patch, I went out just days later and weeded it. Nothing holds you more accountable than publicly posting about your downfalls! I also just planted our onions at the end of March. It seems late for this area, but we found a few years ago, as a fluke, that when we plant our onions late, they don’t bolt before they’re ready to harvest…a problem we’ve always had in years past. They were our most successful onion crop. With fingers crossed, we’ll have the same results this year.

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When Life Gives You Dead Trees….

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We’ve had a lot of trees die on us this winter. A lot. We’ve had to hire tree guys to take down three trees and we’ll have to take down a number of dead fruit trees ourselves. We were starting to take it personally, but the tree guys said they’ve been very busy this spring. This winter was just too hard on the trees. Too cold and too dry.
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One tree that we had to have take down was a redwood. Most of the other trees we had cut into firewood length pieces because we installed a wood burning fireplace insert this winter. Redwoods don’t make for good firewood, so Scott had them take it down in four, ten foot sections. He had some sort of plan up his sleeve, but I didn’t know what.
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One day he headed outside with his chainsaw and started cutting. Then he got the boys involved and they started ripping off bark. And then the sanding commenced. And he sanded and he sanded and he sanded.
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And now we have this beautiful new bench. He did good, didn’t he?

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