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The First Death

Yesterday I experienced my first hive death as a beekeeper. I went out to remove the mouse guards from my hives and open up the entrance reducers (since it is still going to get cold out, I have decided to just use the medium opening). What I found in Hive A was that many bees were pushed up against the entrance. I expected some deaths, but I was concerned that the bees hadn’t been cleaning out the dead like the bees in Hive B had been doing, and I hadn’t witnessed them doing any/many cleansing flights. When I removed the entrance reducer and started to clean out the bottom, piles upon piles of dead bees came out. And I knew, before even opening the hive, that my poor, struggling hive was no more.

Upon opening the top, the feed patties were untouched. I could see down through the frames and there was not a little soul alive. There was still honey on the frames I had last seen them on. I could not see any brood. I anticipate that they had been so small going into the winter that they may not have had enough bees to keep themselves warm. Or perhaps I had no ventilated the hive well enough – I could see evidence of condensation and small amounts of mold on the frames. From my brief inspections and the lack of sunken in brood, I believe the bees may have died from the cold. Or perhaps lost the queen and then slowly died themselves. If you’re interested in how to discern why your bees died, I found this article to be very helpful: How to Autopsy a Honey Bee Colony.

I have some thoughts for next year. I’m going to endeavor to better insulate my hives and provide better ventilation (most likely by adding a notch in the inner cover to allow some of the moist air to escape). I’ve also started researching doing hive splits since Hive B is massive (already) and I’m sure will be bursting at the seams next month. It is a better alternative than letting the bees swarm. If you’re interested in hive splits, I’ve found this video to be very enlightening – Splitting Hives by UoG Honey Bee Research Centre.

I’ve also started looking at buying a queen. It’s still a bit too cold to do a split in Colorado just yet. Some nights are freezing, which would make it difficult to supply them with a sugar syrup feed. They also would not be able to keep enough of the brood warm. But at the end of March/beginning of April, I’ll see if I can get a Russian Queen (everything I’ve read has indicated they’re excellent at disease resistance, produce lots of honey, and are good at overwintering). If nothing else, my Italian queen seems to have done well in Hive B, and so I may get another one of those.

There is a lot to consider. I’m still a bit disappointed that the hive that I thought was making a solid comeback ultimately perished. If nothing else, I take comfort that Hive B has survived and is flourishing. I’m excited to see what kind of honey surplus they generate this year!

 

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Second Hive Check

Last week, I performed a second check on my beehives – primarily to see how they were doing and to take a closer look at Hive A (the hive that lost its queen and struggled to build honey reserves through the summer). I had concerns because, unlike Hive B, when I did my first check there wasn’t a single bee flying around the entrance. Usually in weather that is 65 degrees or warmer, bees will take cleansing flights and also take the opportunity to do a bit of house cleaning (removing dead bees, waste, etc). While Hive B had a small swarm flitting around its entrance, Hive A was quiet.

So I popped open the hive. To my dismay, the feed patties hadn’t been touched. The wax paper was still in tact and, from what I could see, the feed was still all there. Luckily it was a balmy 74 degrees, so I could risk opening the hive up a bit further to see if there was an actual cluster – or if my girls had perished.

After taking out 3 frames, all still stocked with pollen and honey, I found a small cluster of girls hanging onto one of the frames. After closer inspection, there were about 3 frames (at least) in the upper deep filled with girls. I quickly put the frames back, put the feed patties back on top, and tucked them back in. I believe it is safe to assume that they’ve “made it,” as they have both feed patties and sufficient honey stores. It would seem that, due to their smaller numbers throughout the summer and into the fall, they have a significantly smaller cluster compared to Hive B and so are not yet as active.

Hive B is… a different story. Bees are crowded around the entrance, passing in and out, going about their bee girl business. When I open up their hive, I can immediately tell that they’ve been snacking on the patties (which they probably didn’t need, but that I added as a precaution to help them along). The wax paper is already chewed up and some of the patties have been harvested. One poor bee got stuck in the patty and perished (much to my dismay – I know it’s going to happen, but it still makes me a little sad). I removed her dead body to avoid contamination. A brief glimpse into this hive shows a wealth of honey still left over and plenty bees bustling around.

This was also my first trip where I managed to keep my smoker going from start to finish – usually it peters out by the time I’m done with Hive A.

Overall, I’m looking forward to a very busy and productive season. I’m gearing up to do my varroa tests and start medicating if the counts are high. I’ll need to order a few frames, some extra supers, and look into adjusting the ventilation in my hive (I can see some mold growing on the bottom of the outer cover, indicating a moisture problem). But I’m excited and we’ll see what summer brings!

First Beehive Check

Last year I started raising bees. I received my packages at the end of April and hurried to install them into their respective hives in the middle of the cold. Unfortunately the weather was not good, and I had to hurry and dump them in before they froze.

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Everything went well into June until I noticed that the queen was not laying eggs in one of my hives. Soon after, I witnessed them starting to create queen cells – a clear indication that the queen had somehow died and now the bees were rushing to replace her. This put them behind in production quite a bit (in terms of drawing the hive frames into comb and filling it with eggs/pollen/nectar/honey.

I frequently fed my bees throughout the summer to help them build as much comb in the hive as possible (so they could in turn use that to store more eggs, pollen, honey, etc). We even planted trees next to the hive (A Kentucky coffee tree and a linden tree for both shade and flowers).

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As was to be expected, neither hive generated any extra honey in the first year; usually the bees do not have enough time to create comb for their entire hive, create honey, and then provide a harvest. Going into the winter, I noticed that the hive that originally lost its queen was light in honey, and I’ve been nervous ever since. If they don’t have enough honey stores (usually about 60lbs for Colorado weather), then they’ll starve before spring arrives. To prepare for this, I’ve ordered 15lbs of winter feed, which can be packed in between wax sheets and placed at the top of the hive for them to feed on. Hopefully if they do find themselves with bare cupboards, this will help get them through the cold weather.

I was delighted to find, during my first hive check of the year, that both hives were alive and well, and apppeared to still have honey stores. Nonetheless, I will be feeding Hive A (that lost its queen) to ensure that they are able to pull through.

Here’s to another successful year raising bees and, hopefully, a bountiful harvest in the fall!

Long Time No See

2015 was an incredible year for me. It was crazy, emotional, and revolutionary in ways that I couldn’t have begun to predict when I wrote my “Moment of Clarity” post almost a year ago. I feel badly for not updating my blog, but during a time of such grand upheaval, it felt almost impossible to sum everything up as it was happening. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

January 2015

I was still very wrapped up in breaking up with my ex-boyfriend and being kicked out of his house. I didn’t like the job that I was working; I was not well payed nor doing something at my skill level. My grandfather had recently passed away, and I had some lingering regrets about not returning home sooner to visit my grandparents (It had been three years since I returned home at this point). At the same time, I was becoming reacquainted with old friends from back home and was being strongly urged to move back.

March

At the beginning of March, I get a call from my former neighbor that there’s fire, police, and ambulances at my ex’s house. His mom (whom I’m very close to) is there, and there is a big scene. I’m sure some of you are thinking “No, don’t do it!” But I did do it. I went over there, spent a few days providing moral support for his mom and taking care of the dog. While things may have ended badly between us, his family had been very kind and helpful to me, and I wouldn’t turn my back on them. I even became somewhat friends with my ex, and we were more cordial to each other. In many ways, I received closure from this event that helped me get over him.

April

I was told in the beginning of April that my contract job would be ending, as the entire department was moving to Georgia. I was in a panic. We had about a month and a half to find other means of employment; while the Greater Denver Area is a great place for finding tech jobs, it can also be on the competitive side. I started hunting immediately. I was also making back-up plans. I reached out to a friend in Seattle who was willing to help me get a job there if I needed one, and I was talking to friends and family back in Indiana; the worse case scenario was that I did not find another job by the time my current one expired, and I would be forced to move back home. I really didn’t want to leave Colorado, but preparations had to be made.

At the end of the month, I was contacted by a company I had applied for months ago saying that the position was open again, and they were interested in interviewing me. I jumped on it and crossed my fingers.

May

May was a very decisive month for me. At the start of the month, I was offered a job in Seattle. The very next day, the company I had interviewed with in Denver offered me a job. It was one of the harder decisions I’ve had to make; I’ve always wanted to live in Seattle – I love the rain and would enjoy the constant overcast. But the pay and the benefits were not as good as the job here, and then there were moving costs to consider. It simply was not a good opportunity. I transitioned smoothly from my previous job into my new job.

I was also out and about more, socializing with friends and meeting new people at bars and clubs. I went back to the gym and starting working out again. I got that library card that I promised I was going to get. I started writing again, little by little. I also had to break the news to hopeful friends and family that no, I would not be moving home.

June

June started it all. One innocuous event changed my life forever.

I was good friends with a wonderful lady named Heather, and it was standard by that time for her to host regular BBQs for everyone to get together, eat, listening to music, etc. I met a lot of interesting people there; I got to socialize with plenty of people I was already friends with. That’s where I met Brett. Sitting in between me and another girl who I was discussing the finer points of content editors and how messy some of them can be on the HTML side, he made an off hand remark about how great it was to be seated in the middle of our discussion. And that’s about all that it took for me to ask him to dance and for us to get each other’s numbers.

We wouldn’t get together for another two months due to scheduling conflicts.

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w/Stella and Marty

 

August

Brett and I finally meet up at The Modena Wine Cafe just down the street from where I lived for a few casual drinks. By the end of this four hour affair, it was a date. One date turned into three, and then three turned into a long-term relationship.

September

For the first time in almost a year, I went back home. I did a long trip that split my time between family in South Bend, Indiana, and then spent a few days in Toronto, ON with two friends I made playing CS:S several years ago. It was good to see my friends and family and get to spend plenty of time with them. I dyed my hair a glorious blue. I caught frogs in a pond I knew from my childhood, and I got to spend time with a friend who I’ve known since grade school, almost fifteen years! It was an incredible time.

 

 

 

And then there was Canada. Aside from missing my flight at O’Hare because the TSA took over 2 1/2 hours to get me through security, everything was great. I visited the Royal Ontario Museum and Ripley’s Aquarium, and even got to see a Rave-mobile make it’s way through downtown (seriously, people were just following a glorified car made to look like a parade float, bumping to some serious dance music). I got to see Niagra falls and spend some time with my besties!

 

October

Brett and I moved in together, and for the first time in probably my entire life, I felt like I was home. I’ve had my own apartment, I’ve lived with other boyfriends, had roomies, and none of them quite felt like home. Maybe the closest I had come to that feeling was when I was living on-campus at university. Here, there is a sense of belonging and a feeling of being “in this together” with the person I’m living with. I feel as if my spaces are, in part, my own, and I have some control over them as opposed to just temporarily inhabiting them.

December

Business as usual for Christmas. We put up Christmas lights on the house and decorated a tree! It was nice to have someone as enthusiastic about decorating as I am, even if it’s just a few decorations here and there. Every time I looked at our tree, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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January 2016

Now we’ve come full circle! I’ve started writing again, I’ve been coming up with ideas for editing my novel and for poetry. I’ve joined a Beekeepers Association and am preparing to raise honey bees next year in addition to starting long distance cycling. It’s going to be a busy busy year ^_^!

A Moment of Clarity

I’m going through a major transition right now. My previous post probably implied that, but there is definitely more to it than just books and libraries and all these thoughts banging inside my head. As many of you know, I’ve barely written since my arrival in Colorado almost 3 years ago (come March 5th);nothing seems odder to me than experiencing a foreign place and having absolutely no words come of it. Yet as I approach this major fork in my life, my perspective is narrowing–focusing down to a pinprick. Often throughout my life, my religion, my spirituality, has fine tuned my experience of each moment and offered clarity to what was and what will be. My faith has always been a torchlight with which I found my way. Now it is more of a telescope – a series of curved glasses and mirrors that brings focus to all these moments simultaneously. I’m approaching a moment similar to one in The Fountain where a single realization, admission, possibly surrender, collapses all time into a unified function where the past, present, and future coalesce into a multifaceted experience and understanding. It is almost as if I can focus the past to drive the present into the future of an almost perfect design.

Some would call this destiny or fate, but I’m not sure which of those apply, being that there is, to some, a pivotal difference. All I can reconcile it with is that all that has been, the perfect moments, the horrible moments, moments of great despair and joy, finally meet together at the nexus of purpose.

Anyways, just some thoughts pouring out here. Whatever is coming next is going to be big, and I think my huge writer’s block has almost passed. Here’s to the next few months!

Breaking in 2015

2014 was probably one of the least productive years I’ve ever had as a writer. While I started a few poems, I never finished them. I haven’t worked on editing (and trying to publish) my novel. I haven’t even written much as far as my new novel. I haven’t even read a book in the past year. It actually sounds pretty disappointing once I look at all of it in retrospect. But I think that 2015 is going to be different. There are a couple of reasons.

I moved and am in an environment where I can actually spend more than 5 minutes at my computer without being interrupted. I’ve met a lot of new people and have been in a lot of interesting places. As any writer knows, fresh exposure to people and places always tickles the creative buds. And if that wasn’t enough, I recently went to my roommate’s holiday part at a sip and paint type place, which led to my first acrylic painting on canvas. It was pretty neat. Plus good time and good laughs.

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I’m on the left.

And of course, me with my painting:

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Furthermore, I’ve really been getting into the TV series, Grimm, as it is spooky and grisly in a way that inspires me. It certainly lends a different perspective to the entire fairy tale thing in a way that is neither too campy or too literal. Grimm has actually found a very delightful balance between revamping classic fairy tales and making them its own and staying true to certain characteristics. Also, who wouldn’t like a series with the handsome Sasha Roiz in it? Quite honestly, I can’t imagine anyone else playing the mysterious and charismatic Captain Renard. It makes me rethink some of my leading male characters, and some of my villains, and ways that I can make them last black and white and a little bit more ambiguous. One thing I find fascinating about some of their characters is that you don’t really know where they always stand, and yet they always stay true to their character.

Which is why I am so excited about this book my Dad and his wife bought me for Christmas:

Brothers Grimm

Not only that, but I live just a block away from the library now. Really, there wasn’t an excuse for me to not go to the library before, I only lived 5 minutes away. But I have a couple of goals for 2015. Some of them include:

  1. Start sending submissions to journals again. There is no excuse not to, even if I am not writing a bunch of new content.
  2. Start editing my damn book and prep it to either be submitted to a publisher or self publishing (if any of you have suggestions for a great self publisher, I’d welcome them!)
  3. Read more books. Even if it’s to read ones that I have already read 5,000 times!
  4. Walk myself to the library and get a library card. NO EXCUSES!
  5. Write more. Maybe >> <<

So there you have it. That’s what’s been going on and that’s what I’m going to do to fix it. I’ve been a horrible slacker (and I’ve been justifying letting my writer’s block dominate my brain by making excuses. The most popular one? That I deserve a break after writing every single day for like 12 years straight…). What I should be doing is scheduling a little block of time to write anyways, no matter how hard it is or how uninspired I’m feeling. I do feel, however, that the change in my living situation will make all the difference in the world, but time will tell!

And just because, I’ll leave you with a little bit of fortune cookie wisdom: “Appearance can be deceiving. Remember endurance makes gold.”

The Mountain People and Their Dogs.

I grew up in the midwest, in a town that was exactly two hours away from a big city in every direction, but where I lived was half in the wild lands of the country and half in a bumbling suburbia. The country is what I remember the most. As a kid, I spent a considerable amount of time riding my bike past corn field after corn field, sometimes with a little soy bean thrown in between. When I think of dogs, and when I think of people and their dogs, I remember the big ole softies that would run up to the side of the street, barking and baying and making a terrible ruckus. I learned to not fear these dogs, because although they weren’t held back by a chain or a fence, they never left their yards. These were farm dogs, the dogs that protected farmers from hooligans and predators that might try and hurt their way of life. Dogs were man’s best friend, yes, but usually man’s best friend with a purpose. Although I loved my own dogs, a quiet, but loyal little chow/shepard mix and a bull-headed, but exceedingly clever German Shepard, I did not consider them my children or my family. They were my friends and my companions.

Since I moved to Colorado, just over two years ago now, I have met a myriad of different people and their different dogs. I also own a different dog myself, a sweet and skittish malamute mix. She is a different type of dog altogether, and her behaviors and mannerisms make a high pitched cry back to the wolves her ancestors were bred from. Although she can come off as independent of “her people” when you see her wander off during a hike in the mountains, if you watch close enough, you will see her ears swivel if you stop walking and her head rise up above the foliage. I’ve calculated that she won’t go further than 50 ft. away from me off the leash, and if I call her name, she will zip by me with only a brush of her nose against my leg indicating that she came by. When she is at home, she follows Karl from room to room and will plop down wherever he does; if it’s on the couch, she will usually wedge herself in a spot between him and myself. Koda is very much a people dog, and very much a pack dog; nothing upsets her more than if she is shunned from the house after misbehaving, even if it is only for a few hours. I’ve found that many of the people in Colorado, mainly the ones residing in the little foothills of the great mountains, own these types of dogs. I’ve seen wolf hybrids, malamutes, and huskies, and the more I’ve spoken with these people and interacted with their dogs, the more I’ve recognized a ringing disparity in how the people of the mountains interact with their dogs and how people of other regions interact with their dogs. It is almost as if the pack mentality has permeated the barrier between man and dog, and we have taken in that mannerism the way we take in these dogs: with little, if any, formidable resistance.

It hit me yesterday as I was standing in the dog park, watching Koda play with two, massive malamutes that had paws as big as my hands. It hit me when I saw this skittish little puppy, which looked more like wolf than dog, try and come up to “the pack.” I’d seen this behavior in some of the huskies and malamutes, but more predominately in wolf documentaries. She dragged her butt against the ground with her tail curled between her legs, and when “the pack” ran up to sniff and greet her, she hunkered close to the ground. After a few seconds, she scurried away, frightened that she may have been rejected. Each time she started to approach “the pack,” she would skitter away if any of our dogs made too sudden a move.

All the while, a grizzled man and his wife talked to me about their dogs, about the intelligence, the stubbornness, and about the desire to be with “their people.” His wife talked about growing up in Alaska, where everyone had huskies and malamutes, and where wolf and wolf dogs were often kept as companions; never as just pets. They would never dream of owning a different breed than malamutes, which I think is true of many people in Colorado who fall in love with the wild breeds, because they neither want to relearn the temperament or behavior of another breed, and also because you can’t find the same type of love in another dog that these pack animals have to offer. As their people, as their owners, we have to establish ourselves in their pack and rise to the top. We become their leaders, their friends, but mainly, their family.

That is not to say that other dogs are inferior or incapable of loving their people; that’s absurd. I know the dogs from my childhood loved me and looked upon me as family; the mannerisms that they use to express their loyalty and their love feel somehow different than what I’ve experienced with my malamute. The way that I interpreted my relationship with the dogs of my childhood has undoubtedly impacted my understanding of their expressions.

Colorado has changed my perception of the world in many ways, sometimes as subtle as the way water evaporates into the air, and sometimes as quick and profound as water’s effect on powdered magnesium (it explodes violently). I feel most impacted by my fellow dog owners, whether they keep huskies and malamutes, or whether they keep other breeds or mutts. The interaction between owners, the way they look out for each other and each others’ dogs, strikes me very powerfully. The sign that hung outside of the dog park on Sunday read “We know you love your two black dogs, but they have repeatedly and viciously attacked our dogs. Please do not bring them here or we will have to report you to animal control.”

We know you love your dogs. It was a very strong admission that we, the community, recognized that these owners care about their dogs and want to try to socialize them. However, the need for the greater good, the need to preserve the well being of all the other dogs in the park, would force the community to have to do something it obviously didn’t want to do. What a strange sign. I don’t think anywhere else I’d see such a sign; you would see, perhaps, someone just decide that the owners of these two black dogs were bad people and wouldn’t even bother to give them a warning that, while expressing familiarity and understanding, also demands compliance. There would be no warning, no understanding or familiarity, no compassion.

We love our community the same way we love our dogs. Where else, but in the wild mountains of the not so wild west, would you see such a thing?