theferrett: (Meazel)

Shaving News
Today, I passed a major milestone: the shave I gave myself with my straight razor was far better than I could have achieved with a disposable razor.

Floyd he straight razor’s performance has been, if you’ll pardon the phrase, neck-and-neck with my old Gillette.  Trusty Floyd was closer on the flat areas like my cheeks, but turned a little treacherous when it came to the curves of my jaw, leaving me a little patchy.  The Gillette was more constant, giving me a mediocre shave all around.

But I learned how to do the triple-pass – I have to shave three times to get the perfect shave – and how to angle Floyd to maneuver around the hollows of my throat.  Today’s shave is cut-free and baby-smooth.

Therefore, I’ll say that it takes about two months of straight razor shaving before you get – pardon me again – the edge on the competition.

*takes off sunglasses*

YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH

Updates On Our Bees
The bees are a major draw to this blog, but we haven’t updated in a while because of this bitterly cold winter.  Every day we’ve been tempted to get all up in our bees, it’s been forty degrees.

What we do know are two things:

1)  The mean bees, the ones that stung us, are dead.  We haven’t seen a single bee poke its head out.  And we’re a little grateful for that, as we’d have had to requeen.

2)  Our good bees are struggling.  There’s only a handful of them flying out, and we suspect most of them died.  We have been feeding them, and it’s been a slow process as they rebuild; I hope the queen is alive in there. We’re hoping to check next week, but it’s not like there’s really anything extra we can do for them at this stage, so there’s no sense opening up their insulated hive to freezing winds.  (There’s predictions of snow tomorrow.  SNOW.)

Current plan is to get into the dead beehive, empty out the bees, and introduce a fresh box of bees to the old home of the dead ones.  A little morbid, but it means those bees will have a jump-start; they won’t need to waste their initial efforts (and food supplies!) on building comb.  Which means we can hope these new bees will thrive.  The old bees, well, when we get in there, I have a sneaking suspicion they may be trying to birth a new queen.  We’ll see when we get in there.

The biggest hope is that after three seasons of beekeeping, we will actually get honey from a hive.  No, we have yet to do this.  The first year, our bees had produced enough we probably could have taken some, but we were worried that if we skimmed too much honey they might not survive the winter.  Last year was a scarcer season, and the queen separator we purchased kept the bees out of the honey super entirely.  So not a single drop.

This year.  This year will be sweet.  I can feel it in my bees.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Here, I show you my bald spot and my comfort with bees. I’m not sure which is more terrifying.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So I have a horrible confession, but I’m going to do it on film: here, listen to this.

That’s right; we hadn’t been in the big hive in nearly seven months.  So it was time to get in, but I’ll be honest and say we were a little scared.  Bees aren’t aggressive when they have nothing to protect, but once they have seventy pounds of honey and brood, they get a little defensive when people rip open the tops of their houses with crowbars and start rooting around.

…comparatively, this is.  I mean, our bees are very nice bees.  But a bee buzzing around your head, bumping you, hits some primal terrors. And there are a lot of bees:

I should add that for the seventeenth time, I misidentified a clump of ladder wax – which the bees use to climb between boxes – as a queen cell. I don’t think I’ll ever know what a queen cell is. But we’re paranoid about queen cells, because it’s the spring season and we’re told our bees are getting ready to swarm, and when that is imminent the #1 sign is queen cells, as the bees produce a new queen to tend to the old hive, just before the old queen flies off with about 20,000 bees to resettle.

There’s technically nothing wrong with swarming except a) it leaves your hive weaker, and b) we don’t look forward to explaining to the neighbors why there are 20,000 bees clustered under their eaves.

Here, you can see a bunch of now-dead pupae – which was the word I could not remember to save my life – that have been pulled free of their comb here, which makes me feel bad. And here, you can see me actively irritating Gini with every pronoun as I mourn at a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time bee who we’ve inadvertently yanked out:

And here, you can see the bees scattering as we use the smoker, which is oddly hypnotic, as well as seeing all the boxes spread open and laid apart.

(No, we did not see the queen. We never see the queen.  I can’t wait to see the queen in the other hive, because she’s marked, but even after a year we still go, “Wow, that’s a bunch of bees!”  Amateurs.)

Unfortunately, soon after this video was taken, this happened:

I GOT BLISTAS ON MAH FINGERS!

Basically, if you have a smoker – which is a metal canister filled with slow-burning wood – do not pick it up by the bottom. Which Gini did last year, and I did this year, rendering me with blisters across two of my fingers. Which was incredibly painful, requiring three hours’ of icing. It seems like a rookie move, and it is, so don’t do that.

In any case, by that point I was mostly out of commission, meaning that Gini would have to examine the bottom box of the bees alone. And at that point they were actively angry, with about three bees trying to go at us each, buzzing angrily, and Gini didn’t want things to get worse. So she slowly panicked and decided to put the hive back together.

We need a plan at this point. The bees are clearly healthy, but the top box of the honey super? It should only be for honey, guys, and already it’s filled with brood. This is a thriving hive, and if we take the honey super off, there’s a good chance the bees will feel crowded and swarm. If we don’t take it off, then we’ll have to get a new honey super come the end of the summer… and not only does that seem a little clunky, but we really want honey this year.

If any beekeepers have advice, I’m listening. In the meantime, I’m going to put more ice on my poor fingers. Ow.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Last year, Gini and I had a very odd argument about which one of us was going to open up a box of 10,000 bees and dump them into a hive. This argument was made odder by the fact that both of us were arguing that we should be the one to do it.

I won the right to install the hive, and the rather quickly taken video can be found here.  But this year, I got to be cameraman as Gini handled the bees, and so we have much more extensive videos.  For example, if you want to see what a box of 10,000 bees looks like, here is Gini holding three pounds of live and flying bees in a wooden box, with my explanations about how the bees survive the trip and the mechanisms of what one has to do to open it.

Now.  What was not captured on video was THE MOST TERRIFYING SOUND OF MY LIFE.

See, when you get a wooden box full of bees, you have to put it in your car to bring back with you.  In our case, we wisely stored it very far away in the trunk.  And I was getting some honey-bee-healthy out of the front seat when Gini opened the trunk and I heard “Oh shit!” followed by the sound of clattering wood.

When you know you have 10,000 bees contained in a small wooden box, this is a sound that encourages pants-filling.

Fortunately, it was just the new hive top falling out of the back, but for a moment all and sundry imagined how we would deal with an angry swarm of emerging from a broken bee-box. (Even if it probably wouldn’t have been overly bad – I mean, if you watch the third video you’ll see what happens when they’re dumped out, and it’s actually rather lackadaisical. Still, the business of scooping up a bunch of bees from our driveway using magazines would have been a hoot.)

Having survived that, I now explain how you prep the bees before opening them so they’re nice and mellow:

This next video is the money shot, as it’s a close-up look as Gini, yes, dumps a bunch of startled bees out of their box and into the hive.  Unfortunately, this video’s about two minutes longer than I wanted, with lots of dead space, as Gini and I debated techniques for a bit (i.e., we bickered) about how to put the queen in and when to remove the can of syrup.  Still, if you want to see a close-up of how you actually transfer bees into a new hive, this is your best bet from La Casa McJuddMetz.

For the record: Gini’s bee-tamping technique is inferior, but her bee-dumping style trumps mine.  So in an ideal world, I’d thump the bees to the bottom of the box and then hand it to Gini for an efficient transfer.

Finally, the hive installed, I took a video of what it looks like when it’s done, explaining the various parts and functions of the hive.  Gini got stung once when a bee crawled up her sleeve and got scared, but there’s also a rather vivid discussion of the dangers (or not) of being stung in beekeeping and bee docility.

Now we have to leave the bees to themselves for a week, and check in. We have not yet opened up the other hive yet because it’s been a series of crappy weather days, but we hope to do that soon – and yes, I’ll document.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

So!  Tomorrow, I’m doing something I’ll wager most of you won’t be: I’m picking up a box of bees.  That’s right, we’re so bee-crazy here, we’re getting a second hive at La Casa McJuddMetz.

Which brings up a question: up until now, it’s only been one hive.  Now we’ll have two.  I’m notably awful at pet names, having not named a car or a laptop or my iPhone anything in the past decade…. But people seem to like them, and now it’s not just “the hive” but “the old hive and the new hive,” we need to have a differentiation for properly clever blogging.

So.  What names should we give to each of our hives?  Points given for extra cleverness.  Open to all entries.  As always, if Gini is sufficiently clever, she may trump you all.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

This is what our bees look like in the spring. There sure are a lot of them.

I took this footage wearing a tie-dye T-shirt and slacks and was not stung.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

theferrett: (Meazel)

Yesterday, I asked “What do you want me to blog about?” The #1 answer by a landslide: bees. “How are your bees, Ferrett?”

The problem with bees is that they’re just not that exciting during the winter. They go dormant for months at a time; you crack the top very quickly, so as not to let out all the heat and kill them, and then nothing happens. Fortunately, I do have an official announcement:

Our bees survived!

Witness:

This was quite gratifying, seeing them all flying about, because when we went to a beekeeping conference last fall, a legendary Detroit beekeeper told us: “You’re a first-year beekeeper? Oh, yeah. They’re gonna die.” But our bees have survived, mainly by dint of us not getting in their way. We didn’t really make any special preparations, didn’t medicate the hive, just let nature take its course. And they live!

(The mild winter probably helped, admittedly. As well as us deciding not to harvest any honey so our bees would have the best chance of making it.)

Now that the weather is warming up, it’s time to start feeding our bees – and the number out there was a little terrifying. Last year, we started with a box of 10,000 bees – which seems like a lot, but isn’t. Now that hive probably has about 60,000 bees, and you can see them swarming enthusiastically. They’re starved, as witness the fact that they went through two full containers of sugar water yesterday.

They also went for my bright green Yoshi pajama pants, which apparently looked like green fields with flowers. They were quite fascinated. This was distressing, especially given that I unwisely ventured outside sans protective underwear.

In any case, this is all the bee news I have to give. There won’t be much for another month or two, but at the end of April we’ll be getting our second hive. That’s right; two boxes of bees in the back yard.

We are crazy, crazy people.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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