Every once in a while I like to get out of here, enjoy time with friends sans family, and then head on back to whatever awaits me. I know, you're shocked. You don't understand. Why in the world would I ever want to leave this little slice of paradise just shy of heaven? Well, I see it as a period of rejuvenation. It's amazing what a few hours away will do to my psyche. It doesn't happen often. You may include knitting with friends once a week, maybe a trip to the grocery store or the farmers market as away time, but I don't. I'm talking about a roll the windows down because the air conditioning doesn't work right, turn up the pop-type country music, don't call me for stupid stuff like, "Can I eat a Hot Pocket," and get on down the road for an afternoon of friend visiting...or whatever is on my agenda. It really does me some good to get out of here so I can come back bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to face whatever havoc has happened while I was gone.
Yesterday I went to visit my friends George and Jerry, who live in the big city of Cincinnati. You see, George bought Jerry a picker for Christmas and offered to let me give it a workout with a still dirty after washing three times fleece I bought while I was in Maryland this past May. Oh yes, I went to a big fleece show in Maryland, and didn't even tell you about that one. Man oh man, was that a blast! Uber rejuvenation time since I hadn't been away in way too many years. Anyway, for those of you don't know what a picker is, it's this equipment that can cost, well, I'll just leave it at an arm and a leg to be polite, and does a fantastic job removing vegetation and other various splodgy matter from fleece. It's also a dangerous piece of equipment because it has these stainless steel nails that are on the top and bottom of it that the fleece moves through as the arm of it is swung back and forth. It's also a piece of equipment that kind of freaks George out because of the dangerocity of it...even though he bought the thing. The picker has warning stickers all over it, and George gave me the skinny on the do's and don'ts of it, but still, he's a little jumpy when it's in use. Even so, I was up for the challenge. Besides, it wasn't like trying to hang curtains using screws and a hammer. It was fun.
In the end, George told me that Hog Island fleece I bought from Mt. Vernon through the Maryland Sheep and Wool show was the dirtiest fleece he'd ever seen when it came to the junk left in it even after it had been cleaned. Oh, I knew it was dirty...real dirty...but I also felt good about buying that particular fleece because the money I spent on it would go back to the upkeep of a heritage sheep breed at Mt. Vernon. I also figure that, although the fleece had gone through the picker three times, it could have gone through another three or ten times and still have stuff falling out of it. Even so, an amazingly nice fleece.
Now you're probably thinking I spent my whole time while I was visiting working hard. Nope. George worked on the fleece, too. I just so happened to bring along a couple of Icelandic fleeces. I figured it was a good time to see how the picker worked on those, too, since we don't coat our sheep. Jerry worked on the Icelandic fleece, and did a mighty fine job of it, too. George said he (Jerry, that is) likes to use the picker and I can see why. It really does a fantastic job at getting unwanted stuff out of fleece. It also pulls the fibers apart and fluffs them up so the fleece is like a fluffy cloud. Ahhhhhhhh.
So, there you have it, folks. I drove, I worked, I gossiped, and had an overall fantastic time with great friends. I even made it home just fine...after going the wrong way on the interstate and finding myself in Kentucky before being able to turning around, barely escaping a taxi and car collision in front of me, driving through a torrential downpour that was determined to follow me, and finding pickles and mustard on my burger. Thanks for the lovely afternoon, George and Jerry. I truly appreciate the use of the picker and your friendship. Smiling & Waving, Sharon
I know what you've been doing...patiently sitting on the edge of your seat...waiting to find out if we brought home the queen in that swarm. Well, sadly, we didn't get the queen. Don't fret though, everything will be a-okay. Young'un's new hive is thriving and before you know it, a new queen will be ruling it.
You see, after we got home with the partial swarm and I voiced (okay, texted) my concern to Dan Williams about half of the swarm up and leaving in a cloud of, er, bees, I was afraid the queen was one of the bazillion that took off. I was also afraid the bees we did have would also take off not long after getting them situated in their new home, rendering our bee busting excursion a bust. He said what we needed to do is put a frame of brood from Young'un's established hive into the new hive because the bees wouldn't leave the babies whether there was a queen or not.
Truth be told, I was skeptical. I mean, why would a bunch of bees that were caught before they could head out with the rest of the swarm, stuck in a box that was duct taped and bungie corded together, drug across town in an un-airconditioned van, and then stuck in another box want to stick around and raise some other bees brood?
Anyway, I must admit, Dan was spot-on. The bees that were there stayed with the brood and took it upon themselves to raise them up. What good bees! Even though they stayed, we still didn't know yet if we had the queen. After a few days of letting the bees settle in we went to take a peek and see. Sadly, neither of us could find the queen. That wasn't unusual for us, though, because although we know the queen is in Young'un's established hive, we can't find her. She's a sneaky ruler.
We decided to wait a few days and then go back in the hive and see if we could find the queen. Again, we couldn't find her, but we did find something else. Queen cells. That's right, queen cells. We had heard about them when we took our beekeeping class, but now we were seeing them up close and personal. Come to find out, because the bees didn't have a queen, they decided to make their own. They also only did that because we took Dan's advice and stuck that frame of brood in there. What that means is the bees began making some queen cells, which are sort of weird longer cells that stick out further from the frame and remind me of a Morel mushroom. Then they selected some of the developing brood and placed them in those cells.
A few weeks from now we're expecting those potential queens to hatch out. I know, you're thinking lucky girls...being fed royal jelly...pampered...you know, a queen's life. Well, let me tell you, it's not going to be all you think once they hatch. That's because there are six queen cells...and only room for one queen. This is where the adage, "The strong will survive," comes into play. Only one queen will reign, while the others will have had a severely shortened lifespan. Sad, but that's the nature of the beast.
So, there you have it, folks. There's not a queen in the hive, but there will be. We're anxiously awaiting the day she hatches out and begins her reign...which I can only imagine is quite a job considering all those bees she has to keep in line. We're really enjoying our beekeeping experience and can't help but dream of the day when we get our first taste of sweet honey from Young'un's hives. Oh, and I've been stung once now. The perils of being the sidekick. Smiling & Waving, Sharon