Dead dogs and Englishmen

I know that’s not the quote, but I also know I’m not a man!   And after 30+ years in the United States (which followed 8 years in Germany),  little remains of my Englishness other than my accent and my sometimes-reservedness.  My cousin even says I now think like an American, but he can’t define the difference.  I think of myself as American and Southern.  Southern — it’s been dawning on me more and more over the past few years that I would miss so much about the South were I to move to another region, much as I like to visit new cities.  It’s the same as the way I feel about England now — it’s a great place to visit, but it’s like wearing high heels instead of hiking boots.  Something just doesn’t quite fit comfortably.

So what led up to thinking about dead dogs…..

This week the education services I subscribe to inundated me with articles about teacher burnout and teaching conditions by state.  Yes, unhealthy food seems to be what my body craves right now.  Yes, I take an additional 10 minutes for breakfast and coffee in the morning before getting ready.  Yes, to quite a few other things in the teacher burnout articles.  But I’ve attended conferences and taken graduate classes every summer for the past 6 years, so I think a summer off will cure that.   The articles about teaching conditions rank Georgia higher than South Carolina across all categories, but would teaching be better if we were living in an RV in Georgia and sharing a closet the size of a filing cabinet?   I sincerely doubt it.   But I want chickens, and I just can’t have them here in the neighborhood.  And I’m not good at being patient!

All of this led up to the thought, “I want a beagle” while I was driving to work Friday morning.  Beagle rescue groups currently have some of the prettiest mixes and with such beautiful brown eyes!   It’s been two years now since our dog died, and even longer since we lost the cats, and taking care of BIL’s dog while he was on a business trip over spring break has just made us miss them all a lot.

Now, we have pets.   While the bees aren’t technically pets, they are generally amusing to watch and we do get to nurture them.   The aquarium is relaxing to watch and I do feel sad when one of the fish ends up floating upside down. We even have a wild bunny that I kept inadvertently hitting with the garden hose yesterday as it searched for a spot that I wasn’t trying to hit with Miracle Grow.  But we don’t have any pets that will curl up in our laps and look at us with loving eyes.

Then sanity kicked in.  We also don’t have any pets that poop on the carpet, unless I am really klutzy disconnecting the canister filter on the aquarium, and I can hardly blame the fish for that!   We’re going into a month of late nights at work that tend to leave a dog with little choice but to poop or pee in the house.  We simply are not ready to move.  We don’t have electricity on the farm yet and our house needs some work done before we put it on the market.  So I put all my longing for the outdoors and for the ability to see instant results after a hard day’s work into re-pottting seedlings and dumping out failed cuttings.  We now have 21 magnolia seedlings, two of which are the same height as the one we bought from Arbor Day for $6.98.  (And that one is still settling in so looks less promising than my free seedlings.)   The aluminum baking pan into which I dumped the magnolia seeds that I forgot about in the garage fridge contains a swampy mess that somehow still keeps popping up a new seedling about once a week, so I left the soil in there for now after pillaging what was growing.  I’ve stopped counting Goldenraintree seedlings.   I have some very well rooted lavender and rosemary.  Most of the trees from Arbor Day and doing well and will certainly be ready to plant at the farm in fall.

As the sun set last night, we sat on our swing and looked out at the yard that was nothing but a sandpit when we bought the house and which has become our haven over the years.  We watched our bees drink out of the bird baths, and we watched the birds visit the feeders.  For the second year in a row, we have bluebirds nesting.  It took us years of us to find the right place for a bird house for them.  While sitting there, we planned where to put benches to take advantage of the sun, the shade, sun rises, and sun sets on the farm and we decided that every bench needs to have a hive nearby because the critters can be so much fun to watch.  And, yes, we will have a dog.  It may not be a beagle, and it won’t be this year, but we can’t picture retirement without a dog to take on walks around our future pond and own to our creek.  After a day outdoors, I can once again say that life is good.


Bees · Hive equipment

Bees in slow motion

A friend who is hosting some of our bees in an out-yard sent us a recording of some bee-acrobatics this afternoon.   He slowed the video down — it’s so interesting to see them, but even more so to hear them, in slow motion.   (The audio is so much better on my phone than on my laptop speakers.)  As much time as we’ve spent watching the critters land, take off, and collide, we are still fascinated with this clip.   In fact, it’s taken me far too long to type this small paragraph because I keep going back to watch the video again.

Other updates from today: 
We are pretty sure we have a new queen.  We saw her, and then lost her.  She was on a packed frame and the bees were animated, so we moved that frame to a Nuc along with some brood, nectar, and honey, and we will check on them again mid-week.  We didn’t see any eggs yet, so maybe we imagined a queen or maybe she hasn’t started laying yet.

The queen in our second strongest hive is laying at an incredible rate, so we filled the newly vacated slots in the queen castle with some frames from that hive — partly to try to grow another queen, but partly to discourage the lady from swarming.  

The one worrisome hive in one of the out-yards had even fewer bees yesterday, so hubby evicted them and then gave them a twig to climb up to reach their new home in an established hive.  As temperatures hovered around freezing last night with a wind chill that only made things worse, those guys probably would not have survived the night in their old hive.  We still have no idea what happened to the queen.   If we see evidence of a queen in the new Nuc, we’ll move that Nuc to the out-yard and shake some additional bees into it to get them off to a good start.

Our foster-parents are wonderful.   One offered to build fires close to the hives to keep them warm last night, but hubby assured them that the bees would be able to stay warm enough on their own.   We are so enjoying the interest that others are showing.  I know we’re new at this ourselves, but we sometimes feel like old hands.  We see both ourselves in these initiates and see how much we’ve learned in the past year.  I’m still a little jumpy when bees are determinedly bumping into my veil, but I also think some of that is due to my going cross-eyed as my bi-focals try to focus concurrently on the bee, the veil, and the frames that are all at different distances! 


Strong Hives and Wax Moths

On the day hubby returned to the city to check on our new hives, I walked down to BIL’s hives between rain storms and saw something that looked like a cross between sawdust and the orange peel that comes in spice jars piled up around the front of one Nuc and even seeping out around the rest of the entrance reducer.  We had looked at all the hives together the prior evening, refilled the top feeders, and even looked in a few hives at BIL’s request as he was out of town on business and concerned about a couple of them.  So I knew that this was something new, but there was good traffic in and out of the hive, loads of pollen was coming in, and the bees didn’t seem in the slightest upset.

After checking the other hives, I went back to this one and looked a little closer.  In the “sawdust,” I saw little white “commas.”   One of the other Nucs had not survived the cold as it had too few bees to keep the brood warm on the only cold night, so we surmised that maybe some brood had died in this hive and the bees had cleaned up.  That didn’t quite make sense, because there were clearly plenty of bees to keep each other toasty on a night that was cold but still above freezing.

BIL checked the hives after we’d left, so we didn’t get to see the inside ourselves.  However, what I thought was a pending disaster was actually a good thing of sorts.  There was clear evidence of wax moth intrusion into the hive, but the hive was strong enough to destroy all the larvae and clean up the mess.   We and BIL have seen how a wax moth can decimate a hive, but this is the first time we have seen what happens when a hive is strong enough to fight back.

All that made me feel better about killing a wax moth with my shoe one day (understand, I don’t even kill spiders or cockroaches — that’s hubby’s job) and I stopped accusing myself of being a butterfly murderer.  I will squish any future wax moth that is moving slowly enough for me to not look like a fool hopping around around on one foot waving my clog in the air without good reason!

Back in the city, all but one of our new hives are doing very well.  Hubby couldn’t find a queen or any brood in that one hive and there were also considerably fewer bees in there.     Of course, this hive has to be in the out-yard that is furthest from our house, but anything that gets us out of the house and away from grading on a Sunday afternoon is a good thing!   We appeared to be close to having a queen in the castle last time we looked — it should be warm enough to check this afternoon or tomorrow.  If we have one, she may just go for a ride in the country with us. 


Daylillies galore!

We were so excited to fill the bed of the truck with daylillies that I split last fall, a couple of magnolia seedlings, and six golden raintrees that were all jammed into one pot.   However, after  digging the fifth hole in the packed Georgia clay, “How exciting” turned to “What were you thinking?”   I dug a couple more holes by hand while waiting for hubby to return from Tractor Supply and then had him use the auger to turn the soil for the remaining plants.   I guess I could have used the tractor myself, but I haven’t been on it since November and I’ve never used the auger, so I wasn’t comfortable experimenting without supervision and the encouragement that hubby and BIL always provide.
I ended up planting over 40 plants, some of which you can see here, and all were doing well on Wednesday when I last saw them.  I’m sitting here typing at 2:00 a.m. hoping that the storm that woke me up hasn’t washed them all down to the creek!
Hubby installed fence pickets and H-braces on Wednesday while I shopped and then wandered around the woods looking for cedar and dogwood trees to save.  Some had been knocked over during the tree thinning while others were covered in vines.  Now, I love Carolina Jessamine, but I love dogwoods more.  Then there are the spiny vines that not even their own mother could love — they just have to go regardless of what they are!   They’ve been tangling themselves around my feet, snagging my boot laces, and scratching me for long enough and I’ve declared all-out war on them.
So here we are, almost at the end of the week with few things from our list completed, but still so much accomplished.  We now have kitchen cabinets where the table in the RV used to be with a newly-polyurethaned counter-top/shelf on top of them.  (Finally we have somewhere to store food and miscellaneous kitchen stuff.)
Yesterday was hubby’s bee-check day, and I stuck around BIL’s farm, hung out with the dog and graded essays.  Back in South Carolina, our new bees and our old hives are thriving, and our trees from Arbor Day are sprouting leaves.    Of course, with the memory of the 40+ plants planted this week, I don’t even want to think about the 43 trees from Arbor Day, the 25+ golden raintree seedlings, or the 15 magnolia seedlings that will all have to be dug in this fall — at least not until the memory of just how hard the soil is here fades a little!