Friday, June 10, 2016

Swarm!

Late this morning, I walked outside and heard what I thought was a large engine coming from the neighbors place.   I went back in and then right back out for something and realized the sound was an awful lot like bees, so I headed out to the hives.  

In time to see the biggest orientation flight I'd ever seen outside the Sweetie hive.   Awesome!   I love watching those.  

But it was noisier than usual and then....then...just up a little higher and over about 20 feet, just above a stand of sumac I saw a lot more bee action.

The bees are not supposed to be over there.   And they never are over there in those numbers.

Which meant, of course, something unusual was going on.   Like a swarm.   I looked for a swarm cluster and didn't see one.    Because they had just barely left the mother hive.   As I watched, they started to cluster on two branches of one of the sumacs, about 10 feet high.  

I happened to have walked out at exactly the right moment to catch what was going on.

So, I called Eric, who luckily was between jobs and headed home fast.   In the meantime, I suited up. I noticed that there were two clusters so I prepped boxes for two new hives. [It's common for multiple queens to be in a swarm - the old queen and any extra virgin queens.]  I got the dropcloths, and two buckets and the loppers, thanking heaven the whole time that the clusters were so low.

By the time Eric got home, I was ready.   He suited up and got the ladder and when we got to the clusters, we found that they had joined - and on the lower branch, so that was lucky.

Eric got the ladder ready but because the cluster was over a lot of brush and brambles, we couldn't use the dropcloth, so I put the bucket on my shoulder and stood underneath while Eric cut.   The cluster was so low in the first place that the bottom of it already hung in the bucket.   All he had to do was drop it.   The smell was very strong - a swarming hive smells like lemon grass oil in a big way.   LGO is often used as a swarm lure.   Now I know why.

[New readers may be wondering if I was freaked out having 30,000 stinging pets flying around and all over my head.  Swarms are notoriously noisy but not aggressive.  They're not defending, so they only sting if you grab one wrong.  Mostly they crash into you - and crashing is not the same as stinging or attacking.   Plus, I have a great suit.  It's not totally sting proof, but it helps keep me calm and if the beekeeper is calm, the bees will be calmer.   So, no, I wasn't bothered.  This was not my first bee rodeo. See this post for my first cut out.  After that, nothing fazes me.]

Anyway, Eric dropped the branch in the bucket on my shoulder and I walked it over to the hives, slowly so the flying bees would follow.



I decided to use two boxes because most of the frames already have some comb in them. They won't be slowed down by starting from scratch.   Plus, this queen builds up super fast and I knew they'd be bursting at the seams soon.  I took some frames out of the top box and we gently took the branch out.   This was a 2 person job, so no pics.  

After the branch was in, I shook it off and dropped the bees in the boxes.   They went straight in - a very good sign.  Then we turned the bucket upside down and knocked the rest of the bees out of it into the box.  

Then we put the bucket in front of the hive where the stragglers immediately found the bottom entrance of their new home and went in.   This is very good as it means the queen was in the box and the girls were communicating well.  I replaced the frames and closed it up.



The whole swarm catch took maybe 15 minutes once Eric got home.   Fastest catch in the history of swarms.


This brings us up to 4 hives this year.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Chrysalis ID

Looks like we have a good idea of what our butterfly will be.   Lily did some looking around and found this page of images.   It seems our chrysalis is a Viceroy.    Hopefully we see some actual proof in the next couple of days.  It's starting to change color a bit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

July Classes

Hand dyed nylon yarns
I'll be teaching two classes on Saturday, July 16 at White Violet Center at St. Mary of the Woods, Indiana.  [Just west of Terre Haute]
These are some of my favorite classes of the year.  Great place, great people, great fun.   I hope you can come!   Register at the link above. 
From their website:
9 a.m.- 12 p.m.: Color Basics and Harmonies.
1 p.m. – 5 p.m.: Dyeing Animal and Protein Fibers
Color Basics and Harmonies:
Take the mystery out of putting colors together. Learn how to combine colors in beautiful ways from a master colorist. Topics will include basic color theory, using color tools, wheels and books, classic color combinations, etc. Spend time making your own color notebooks. Expect to get a lot of practice putting colors together and using your new skills. This class is indispensable for anyone who works with color–artists, quilters, knitters/crocheters, sewers, interior designers, even gardeners!
Dyeing Animal and Protein Fibers:
Explore the use of acid dyes to turn your stash of ‘boring’ protein yarns and fibers into designer yarns and fibers that you will be excited to knit, weave or spin. Using safe and mild acid dyes, students will learn how to put several colors onto a skein to make variegated yarns. Students may bring their own wool, mohair, alpaca, soy silk, or silk fibers and yarns to work with. White or light colors work best
.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pink Pea Flowers

We tried a new type of heirloom pea this year.   These are the flowers of Gray Pod Snap Pea.

They're pink!   So pretty.   I hope they taste as good as they look.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mystery Chrysalis

I spied this chrysalis in a willow sprout at the edge of the road, right in the path of the mowers.   I snagged it and brought it to the house so we can watch it.   I have no idea what kind of butterfly will emerge.


Great camo, isn't it?   Looks just like bird poop from more than a yard away.




I'm excited to see what will come out.

Monday, May 16, 2016

2015 Canning and Freezing Report

Here's the summary of what we canned in 2015.   I've probably left a couple of things out but you get the general idea.   Also, I've put in quantities of fruit plus the canned yield so you can get an idea of how far a bushel will go, etc.  I've updated the Canning page [tab above so I can keep a record of the 2016 season.   I'm excited to get this season going.

February:
  • Carrots:  7 quarts. [pressure canned].  Great for carrot cake!
March:
  • Maple Syrup:   8 pts
June:
  • Strawberries - 1 flat [2 gallons] Reeves in Worthingon/Freedom: frozen
July:
  • Peaches [Freedom Country Store]:  2 bushels
    • Plain peach jam for cookie/pie fillings:  2 batches
    • Spiced peach jam with brown sugar
    • Peach Chutney: 2 batches
    • Peach pie filling:  38 quarts total [Spiced 7, Peach Raspberry Vanilla 20, Peach Plum Vanilla  11]
    • Froze several bags full - store flat to freeze.
  • Blueberries [Freedom Country Store]:  1 box, 10 lbs - frozen
  • Sour Cherries [Freedom Country Store]:  1 box, 10 lbs:  11 quarts pie filling
    • NOTE:  Make this after the mixed berry pie filling in the same pot for better color.
  • Sweet Cherries [Freedom Country Store]: 3 boxes, 20 lbs each:  
    • Sweet Cherry Vanilla jam:  7 batches
    • Sweet Cherry Chutney: 3 batches
  • Mixed Berries for Amy [Freedom Country Store]:  1 flat  red raspberries, 1 flat black raspberries
    • pie filling 11 quarts
    • mixed berry freezer jam with instant clear jel:  6.5 pints
August: 
  • Tomatoes:  2 boxes [from Reeves in Worthington.  $10 / 25 lb box]: 28 quarts
  • Tomasqua from garden produce:  7 quarts 
  • Green beans:  from the garden.   I swear we froze a million bags of them.  OK, probably closer to 8-10 gallons.   Way a lot. 
September:
  • Apples: 1 bushel Gala = 22 quarts pie filling
  • Apples:  1/2 bushel Gala, 1/2 bushel Honeycrisp = 24 quarts apple slices in light syrup. 
  • Red Raspberries:  1 1/2 flats [1 1/2 gallons] from Freedom Country Store, discounted for age 
    • 3 quarts pie filling
    • 3 large batches jam: 12 pints
October:
  • Beans, dry off the vine:  Almost 3 quarts total, mixed.   
    • The Kentucky wonder beans were FABULOUS to hull and came right out of the shells easily.   I shelled those, plus some Freshette hybrids [a pain to hull], plus a few dragon tongues, plus a few long beans.  And they're pretty!  Great reason not to feel pressure to harvest them all green for the freezer or canner.

I'm so looking forward to this year!

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Green

It's green again in Indiana.   Really, really green.  

I read once that you shouldn't paint scenes with too much green.  People don't like it or something.   I think that's code for 'It doesn't go with the living room decor.'   I also read once that you should paint what you love.   I love green Indiana.  So I'll keep painting green Indiana.  

I mix all my greens myself.   I like the ranges I can get with just a few favorite primaries.  This piece of Virginia creeper climbing a pole was a good practice.   [Prussian blue, aureolin, mission burnt sienna, alizarin crimson].   This was the last piece I did for the watercolor class I took last month.   I had a wonderful time in the class, learned a lot and met some really great people.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Busy Bees

The bees are busy bringing in loads of pollen.   They started this season as a tiny fist-sized cluster and have built up enough to mostly fill a 10 frame medium.   I added a super last week and they're very happy.  

This hive is part Russian.   I bought a package with a Russian queen last year, but they didn't like her, and within a couple of months had requeened on their own.  This new queen does not like any loitering around the hive.   I got pinged on my cheekbone just for standing and watching near the front of the hive.   Rude.   Since then I've heard that Russians can be defensive.   So we keep an eye on things from a little further back.  

If all the pollen coming in is an indicator, then this hive is building up really fast.   I'm hoping to add another super in a week or so.   The wild brambles are just getting ready to bloom.   Assuming it ever stops raining.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Bittern

This is an American Bittern.   We saw her at the edge of one of the back roads on Goose Pond SWR this week.  She posed quite nicely for me to snap a couple of pics.  

Mostly I was there to take pics of the marsh, but the place never disappoints.  It's a feast of sound and light and even on overcast days like this one, it's beautiful.    We're still trying to identify some distinctive bird songs we heard. [Edited:  Turns out it was a bunch of common snipe.  Spooky.] Spring is a great time to visit.





Here's another view of the bittern.

The marshes are beautiful this year.   Lots of water and lots of birds.  Everything is greening up fast.

We saw a lot of Canada geese and coots, a couple of northern shovelers [so pretty!], an otter, some blue winged teals and assorted lots of other birds we didn't take time to identify.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

So Much Fun

Thanks to everyone who came to The Fiber Event at Greencastle this weekend.  We saw many good friends and enjoyed seeing the projects everyone has made since last year.  We met many new people and really enjoyed getting to know them and talking about yarn.   The new layout of the show was wonderful and both customers and vendors were pleased with how easy it was to see everything and move around.

There was only a little drama this year when 20 minutes from home on the way to the show, our truck died.   As in - quit right there in the middle of a very rural road in Owen County at 6:30 in the morning.   An hour away from the show.

Thank heaven we had taken both cars and I was right behind in the jeep.   Lily and I took the jeep, already stuffed with the yarn, on to the show while Eric and Claire tried to figure out what was going on with the truck and find a way to get the booth structures, tables and trees to the show as fast as possible.    It was a very long 3 hours for me, waiting at the show, wondering what to do with 30 bags of yarn and no trees.  [Other vendors and I had a plan!   We'd pull 6 -8 or so of the fairground's tables out and use those.  Our booth was right next to the place where the tables were stored and other vendors offered their extra table covers.   I love these women!!]

Long story short, after Lily dropped me and the yarn at the show and drove back to Eric, and our wonderful neighbor brought her truck out to help, we were able to get the rest of the booth to the fairgrounds 10 minutes before the show started.   Yes, there was a lot of crazy rushing around, but many other vendors lent a hand setting up while Claire and Mary put the the trees and racks together out at the truck.   We were up and selling in record time.   And it was crazy busy for the first couple of hours.   Once things calmed down, I was able to pretty things up.  By late that afternoon, you'd never have known anything goofy had happened.

By noon, Eric was able to get the truck towed back to our favorite mechanic in Bloomington without selling our firstborn [Lily was happy about that] or his right arm [Eric was happy about that].  We just heard a little while ago that the truck's fuel pump had died.   It's a pricey fix, but not hard.  That truck was going to die this week anyway.   It's good that we were all together when it happened and that nothing really bad happened.  We were able to rent a little UHaul trailer to get things home in from the show.   All is put away now and we're good to go.

Many, many thanks to all of our friends at the show who stepped up to keep me calm [I was definitely not calm!] and help us get things ready at the very last second.    The Fiber Event has wonderful organizers and vendors.  This is one of the reasons we have been doing it for almost 20 years.   We love this show!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fiber Event at Greencastle, Indiana

I've been scrambling the past few weeks to get ready for one of our favorite shows of the year, April 15-16, 2016.  - The Fiber Event at Greencastle, Indiana.

It's a great show.  Beautiful area, super friendly vendors and customers.   We always meet the most interesting people there and we learn something new every year.



I've got a lot of yarn in a couple of new colors this year.  Here's one of them - Blue Peacock.  I hope you can stop by the booth and see it yourself.   We'll be in the Community Building.

The Fiber Event 2016
Greencastle, Indiana,  Putnam County Fairgrounds
Friday April 15,   10:30am - 5pm
Saturday April 16,   9am - 4pm

Free parking.  No admission fee.





Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Beck Chapel


This is a little practice piece [4.25 x 5.5 inches] I did for a cityscape painting class.   Beck Chapel is at Indiana University, deep in campus next to the Union Bldg.   It's one of the loveliest and most peaceful places on campus.    I gave this piece to a friend who just celebrated her 41st anniversary - they were married in this chapel in 1975.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Stalwart Red Barn

I am taking a for-real-live-and-in-person art class for the next few weeks.  It's my first ever.  It's a great class with great people and no pressure.   We started this composition exercise in class with a tonal painting of a scene and did not have to do a finished painting for homework, so I thought that was a good reason to buck up and do a finished painting.   It was a challenge on several levels.  I won't go into details, but I did want to post the painting I came up with.   Still some problems, but getting better. I keep reminding myself that it's OK to be a learner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Garden Surprise


Last week we were surprised and happy to find a row of kale that has popped up.  I planted it last fall and am pleased to have it show up for a spring finish.   In my experience, kale does much better outside of a cold frame or hoop house.   At the end of the season last year, I dumped a whole lot of leaves on this garden.  The kale sheltered very well there during this mild winter. 
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