bees

Back from the time warp

HERE I AM! Rocking you like a hurricane. Or maybe more caressing your face like a gentle breeze. I don’t even know anymore. I have a lot happening right now all the time. It’s all good stuff, but it’s so much stuff that I don’t have time for other stuff. Like blogging stuff. I have missed you all though, I swear.

When I started work two months ago I was all manicured, pedicured, spa’ed out, well rested and excited.

The only record I have of myself where I don't look tired.

Proof! I felt awake once!

Now I have been through training and trial by fire. Adding to that is field season, in that being a biology type person who works on industrial type things, spring and summer are the time when all the critters have to stand up and be counted. I am terrible at that sort of thing, so my job is to do paper work while the more talented among us are out enjoying the sunshine. That suits me just fine; I get to go pick up my kids at 5:15 every day and they’re happy to see me. It makes my life.

May is also stupid with birthdays in my family, along with Mother’s Day, inlaws visiting for two weeks. And me insanely deciding that we have to put our house on the market RIGHT NOW the day our inlaws arrived, and despite no evidence that we are going to be able to get our house in show condition without an intervention from that hoarders show.

Did I mention I am in a beekeeping workshop? Yeah. So there’s that too. Although I hate the snow, I am glad at least that our late spring delayed the bees for a couple of weeks this year so I could catch my breath a bit. My hive from last year gave me a lot of grief and I am just going to do a separate post on that for the bee lovers among us.

I have a beekeeping helper this year

I have a beekeeping helper this year

Did I also mention that I am taking a running workshop? I AM GOING TO LOVE RUNNING, GODDAMMIT. Or I am at least going to do it. Because since kids, I can endure basically anything for any amount of time.

This may have been more than I was up for, but in typical rollergiraffe fashion, I careened right into it. As a result, all of that pampering and pedicuring wore off quickly. This is a recent photo:

Smoking relaxes me

Smoking relaxes me

My kids are totally validating my daycare provider’s assumption that I was really shitty at parenting. When they started daycare they were hot messes and we were limping in every day barely alive. In the last two months they have learned to dress themselves, mastered potty training, learned all the continents and many countries, learned to write their names, done art projects that I can’t even do, grown grass, and learned a whole second language. I worked for TWO YEARS on that potty training thing. So, basically feeling pretty amazing about my daycare picking skills, you guys.

But they’re FOUR! My babies are four, and of all the things I have been through this month, that is the most exciting and fun. They’re so cool right now. I love every day that they come home with something new.

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Fourth birthday at the amusement park

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I'll let you figure out which.

One of these kids is a bit dramatic. I’ll let you figure out which.

Anyway, I make no promises about blogging right now, but do know that I do my best to keep up with y’all’s prodigious blogging pace. So tell me, how are YOU?

It’s not you 2012, it’s me.

2012; you’re going away today and I have to be honest; I am not that sad to see you go. I don’t really blame you, 2012. Well, I kind of do, but I realize that you were just the wrong time in the wrong place in my life.

We had some good times, 2012. I had some great times this year with my friends, not nearly enough time with my family. You introduced me to a lot of good people, like Le Clown, Madame Weebles, The Ringmistress, on top of scores of other bloggers who feel like friends to me (like really, too numerous to mention.. I love you all!). I even got to meet some in real life, like Love and Lunchmeat and Lame Adventures. Both of those meetings were as great as I expected them to be and affirmed how much I love meeting new people. I went with you to New York for the first time, I got to hang out on the beach in PEI for a week. I watched my beautiful kids turn 3, surrounded by dinosaurs and bikers. I fulfilled my lifelong dream of keeping bees, which is something only you gave me, 2012. I will always be grateful for that.

Rockin' the freezies like a boss on my kids' birthday.

Rockin’ the freezies like a boss on my kids’ birthday.

But mostly 2012, you were a bit of a downer. Admittedly, 2011 being such an asshole didn’t help your cause. My expectations were too high for any year to come along, being as naive as I was about how house floods and insurance and all that kind of baggage that 2011 left behind. When I left 2011, I didn’t realize how much of a mess I was and that wasn’t the best way to start my relationship with you. You were a bit of a rebound, really. I was just so excited for 2011 to be over, I was ready to just jump into the next year without any forethought. That’s my fault 2012. I could have predicted you wouldn’t be the year for me, but I was blind.

But man, you made 2011 look like a goddamn saint. I mean, within the first two months of you I had been sued, accused of insurance fraud, and had to pay for a second round of renovations for my house because 2011 delivered me the worst, most malicious contractor in the world. You brought along illness and disease. You claimed our dog. Then you claimed Mr. Giraffe’s aunt. We tried to fix things by going on holidays with you, but you were just an emotional vortex, 2012. Seriously. Everyone I know who was involved with you says the same thing. Even when I tried to relax you threatened me with Superstorm Sandy, and you seriously affected some of my friends with it. I take that kind of thing personally, 2012. No holiday went unpunished this year, no weekend unsullied by your constant pressure. You even delivered the worst kind of experimental jazz at every opportunity you could, ruining a whole music genre for me, and waited until I was on my own traveling with twins to give us all a stomach virus. Way to go, 2012. I feel like you could at least clean the puke out of my van, but I just want you to go.

Anyway 2012, I know you’re moving on, and I am glad because I think we aren’t good for each other. If indeed time travel ever does become possible, please don’t call. Don’t write. Just pretend that you never happened. Don’t try to undo all the shitty things that happened this year, 2012, because we both know that would be a lie. Even if you could change how things went, you can’t change who you are, 2012. You were just full of negative energy. If things were different, I might be tempted to go back to you and I think that we both agree that our relationship is pretty toxic.

Instead, just gently let me go to 2013. I am moving forward with lowered expectations, a bit more calm. I am just going to embrace whatever 2013 brings and not try to change 2013′s ways, like I did to you. And with that I say adieu, 2012. Go fuck yourself.

I want this exact statue on my grave when I die

This will be my permanent attitude in 2013 and beyond.

And to all my readers, I hope 2013 is brilliant and kind to everyone. Happy New Year!

Bees! Part 2: Winter is Coming

One of my favourite things about keeping bees is that they demand community. You could probably do the majority of beekeeping alone, but it is so much more fun fretting over the bees with a dedicated bee co-parent as I had in Sarah. I also credit her husband Dave who was game enough to put up the Lucy and Ethel of beekeeping. You two are the bees knees. There, I said it!

Winter

Sarah and Dave purchased a new house and rented out their old place. The bees were a bit of a hard sell with the new tenants, given that the house was rented out in the “aggressive period” in September where bees are capping off their honey and guarding their resources from wasps. (It’s pretty impressive to watch a gang of tiny honeybees take down a wasp, by the by. The OCD among us will be happy to note that organization trumps all physical threats.) But the tenants agreed to allow the bees until they were done collecting pollen, as the bees would have swarmed back to their old location. Then we would have had Swarm: The Second Coming, claimed ignorance, and just moved on to a new hobby.

As pollen season wrapped up, we had to support the bees in their winter preparations. The bees were busy killing off all the useless male drones and shoving them out the door so they didn’t steal resources all winter (good system, am I right, ladies?). Our job was to make sure the colony was healthy and insulate it up for winter. This also meant that we’d get HONEY! LIQUID GOLD FOR REALZ HONEY!

We later smashed this beautiful capped off honey apart and ate the fruits of their labour. Gotta pay the rent, bees.

Frankly, we were not really excited to steal honey from pissy bees after the Swarm: Everyone Gets Stung incident. But steal we did, and no one was injured. Sarah’s kitchen was very, very sticky though. We should have done it at my house where another layer of sticky would just be background noise against the layer of peanut butter finely smeared over everything. (Note, do not bring your kid with peanut allergies over here).

Straining out all the wax and bee parts. No one likes it when I say that.

As I found out, beekeeping involves an inexplicable amount of duct tape (we might be doing it wrong). This is when you should employ the bees’ community spirit and have someone help you so you don’t have wads of duct tape stuck to your clothing when you go to your fancy hair dresser, which is what happened when I slaved over custom insulation panels for the bee hive one day. I will never operate duct tape alone again.

So much duct tape. But even more was stuck to my jacket at the hair dresser, causing my hair dresser to make A Face.

We were blessed with an early winter, and now the bees are only coming out to take a little tiny bee dump and then going back inside for another week. I AM SO JEALOUS.

That is only half the fucking snow we have right now.

Moving Day

With the hunkered down for winter, we decided to move them to Sarah’s new house. Moving a hive that weighs something comparable to a small adult a block and a half was not going to be accomplished by us two broads, so we started cashing in on people’s general interest in beekeeping. It did not escape my notice that more people volunteered to move bees on a cold Monday night for no reward than attend my birthday party. I think that really speaks to how deeply unpopular I am the charismatic nature of bees.

We chose our bee moving crew well, and that sucker was safely packed up into the back of Dave’s Subaru without dumping thousands of bees to their frozen death as we had feared. The bees safely made the 1.5 block journey to their new home where they should be content for the rest of winter.

One of the standard features of an Impreza is that it perfectly fits a 2-level Langstroth bee hive in the hatch.

Then we raised a glass of mead to our efforts, reflected on the community nature of bees, contemplated next season, watched the swarm video about a dozen times and then decided on our next project: A reality show where we all wear GoPros all the time because they make everything look so goddamned awesome.

SEE:

Future-me

Chris Biscuits was ruminating on his blog whether his future-me would be a prat and it reminded me that future-me is my favourite Friday Night thought experiment. We ask: what are we going to be up to in 2040? And then we keep drinking beer until we get a satisfactory answer.

One of my friends periodically sends this around to remind us where we’ll be in a couple of decades.

That’s me, rockin’ the peach jumpsuit. I hope. I don’t want to be the other lady in the tights. And I definitely don’t want to be that dude.

Strangely, we are in America. Which either means that you have universal health care by then (because I don’t plan on being in good shape at all) or you’ve taken us over. Or we take you over and keep your flag because it’s jazzier than ours. Or we’re on an inspiring holiday. Whatever it is, I look forward to meeting that gentleman in the snazzy top.

I even made a pinterest page to illustrate future-me, but as with most pinterest projects it is only half done and does not accurately reflect what I wanted it to. So I am going to hash it out here for you all.

Introducing Future-Rollergiraffe

Exhausted from my years of tireless land conservation activism, single-handedly reversing anthropogenic climate change, and selling jam at farmer’s markets, future me is retired and living the good life.

Look at all that frigging canning. My family never ate any of it; I should have started on the market thing already.

I wear a lot of hats in by then. If history is any lesson, it’s because I steal them from the mother of the groom at weddings, but hopefully in the future I am sensible enough to purchase them for myself.

This is nearly an exact replica of a hat I stole at a wedding. Don’t worry, I gave it back. (KCS Hats)

I am quite fond of hammocks, but I currently live in a climate where it would be suicide to use one for about 8 months of the year. The other four months it is just extremely uncomfortable. So I want to purchase this hammock, but more importantly I want to purchase the front porch it hangs on. With cabana boys.

Glorious tropical loveliness. I am ignoring the fact that there would be giant spiders everywhere. (from hammocks.com)

In the future, this cake will be presented to me on my birthday every year. By the cabana boys.

Look, it even has my name on it! (from cakewrecks.com)

Current me co-owns bees, but future me owns a whole menagerie on a biodynamic farm. No, scratch that, my biodynamic winery. On my private island. Future me really knows how to live.

This is more or less how I roll (from marineecotours.com)

And I will still get around everywhere on my Pashley, because it is the bestest bike that ever was made in the history of bikes and I will be buried with it.

I expect both me and the pashley to be a lot more banged up by then.

Future me is also pretty unapologetic about dancing in the front row at jazz festivals, has a morning writing ritual, and does yoga every day. I am pretty goddamn awesome in the future.

I should add that current me is an unemployed house wife with a basement full of expired canning. But I feel hopeful. What does your future-me look like?

Bees!

(Madame Weebles, stop your reading right here because this post is all about bees, honey, and disgusting holes.)

I am going through a phase. I think it might be a lifelong one, but it’s one where I am very interested in urban agriculture and slow food. I would love to garden but we have very little space in our yard and I am very lazy. I would love to have chickens but they’re illegal here and I can’t even handle our silly dog most of the time much less frequent visits from the bylaw officer. Anyway, at some point I envision myself selling little jars of delicious things to people at a market.

So when I was meandering around the community organization booths at our local folk festival a couple of years ago and was reassured by a cute young man with dreadlocks that beekeeping was “very easy” because “bees have been doing this for millions of years”, I became enamored of the idea very quickly. Then I became obsessed. My husband did not approve of me bringing tens of thousands of deadly killers into our yard under the premise that they might sting our young sons and dogs, but I think it’s really because he is afraid. Anyway, somewhere along the way my friend Sarah mentioned that she was also interested in beekeeping I jumped on it and we decided to set up ten thousand deadly killers in her yard instead.

Sarah took the introductory beekeeping course and we sent nervous e-mails off to buy bees. Apparently beekeeping had become quite a craze here and our fearless cooperative had a hard time keeping up. We found ourselves picking up random materials at weird times, assembling things that didn’t really make sense, and hoping against all odds that the bees would like their new home.

These are the frames that the bees make honeycomb. The most important thing about this photo is that I got to use a nail gun.

And so on Mother’s Day I found myself standing in a field with about fifty more trepidatious souls watching a lady confidently shaking bees off of frames and gently flicking them off her arm, and thinking “what the fuck am I doing here? This is the stupidest thing I have ever done.” I was handed a box full of bees for the back of my van (extra duct tape please!), and sent on my merry way over to Sarah’s house to put the bees in their new home.

The lady pointed out that the box was “well sealed by friction” and asked if I would like some extra duct tape. Yes, I would like some duct tape please before I lock myself in a van with those fuckers.

I’ll admit, I was expecting to be stung a thousand times over that day and to hate bees forever, but it turned out that there was nothing to be afraid of at all. We put the bees in their new box, shut the lid and watched them for a few hours without incident.

Beekeeper gothic

Look at all those mofos!

Happy bees exploring their new digs

The first two months were a roaring success. The bees stayed in their home and built up comb and we occasionally took the lid off, took some pictures, patted ourselves on the back at our incredible beekeeping skills and toasted the hive. We were clearly naturals at this. It was shaping up to be a glorious summer.

What goes better together than kids and bees?

Ominously, days before I left on vacation a beekeeper was on CBC radio talking about how novice beekeepers often make mistakes and only find out after there is a swarm. What? Mistakes? No way. I left on vacation during a heatwave; it was 35 celcius or so (95 F = em-effing hot when you don’t have air conditioning). Sarah updated me that the bees had started bearding, as in, they were climbing all over the opening of the hive, not that she had taken to wearing a beard of bees (I had to clarify). Sarah assured me she was freaking out enough for the both of us, but concluded that it was just because they were hot and needed to air their little bee selves out. I resumed drinking beer in relief and promptly forgot about it.

The next update was not quite as calm. When I arrived in PEI, I had texts, Facebook messages, phone messages that the bees had fled! They were swarming! It’s the motherfucking beepocalypse in the yard!

Indeed, the bees had fled

Predictably, the bee cooperative was busy dealing with dozens of other swarming incidents, so Sarah and her husband bravely set out to earn their beekeeping badges. They essentially needed to get the queen back in the box and the rest of the bees would follow. So they put a tarp down, shook the branch and hoped like hell the queen fell into the tarp and dumped the box back on top of the writhing mass of bees. Amazingly, it worked and no one really got hurt.

Then they got ambitious. They had to kill some of the queen eggs off so that there would be no new queen = bee war = factions = second swarm. Or something. I didn’t actually take the course. This was at about 11 pm, and the internet warned that bees are not real fussy about nighttime visitors. Let’s just say that this was confirmed. About three times over. In the face.

But Sarah was not deterred. She knew the bees needed more ventilation in the box if they were going to survive the heat wave. So she bravely dove in to MacGyver a new entrance for them. It…. didn’t end well. A bee got in her hat and she understandably panicked after witnessing her husband get stung IN THE FACE Y’ALL. The bees, already pretty pissed at being hot, shaken out of a tree, and thrown in a box multiple times, at night, chased Sarah down and tried to murder her. She got stung TEN TIMES. And half an hour later, SHE WENT OUT AND REASSEMBLED THE HIVE. She is my goddamn hero, people, because I would have burned that thing to the ground with an improvised hairspray torch while laughing maniacally and drinking mead made from their honey.

You are very lucky I was on vacation, my little friend

So thanks to the quick thinking and extraordinary measures of Sarah and her husband Dave, we’re still beekeepers but perhaps a bit more cautious now. And this has a lovely ending, because Sarah pointed out that it was a marriage building exercise. In her words:

“(A)s Dave and I were cooperating to funnel a pile of bees into the middle of a tarp, I thought “this is probably the only guy in the world for me.” Who can you handle thousands of angry bees with and still like in the morning? Very few people I reckon.”

Next up: winterizing the bees. I’ll keep you posted on whether there’s any survivors.