Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Bees in Winter

     Lately, I have been worrying  about my bees.  This is still my first year as a bee keeper, and the summer was rainy and awful - hard for the bees who won't forage in the rain.  All the journals and books say that Feb. and March are the danger months when hives will starve.  But, we do not want to check the hives in the winter and risk freezing the girls out...what is a new beekeeper to do??  Well, it was 43 degrees and sunny today, so I grabbed my nerve and opened the hive - just a quick peek.  I saw a living cluster of bees at the top - as well as some flying.  I hope there is enough honey.  One blog I referenced (written by a Minnesota bee keeper) said I could tell just by lifting the upper hive body and feeling the weight of the honey inside.  Unfortunately, I took the advise of a different bee keeper this past Fall and wrapped the hive in tar paper - essentially making the top and bottom hive bodies one until Spring.  Hmm. I popped the top, and there were the girls.  I shall still be ready to feed them - ordered some pollen substitute yesterday and will be making some bee candy tonight, but so far, so good.

     Here is a shot of what the cluster looked like today.  If this looks abnormal or there is something you see that I do not, please comment and let me know! Thanks!


     Is is weird to be in love with a bunch of little insects who, from month to month, may not be the same group of bees?

The next yearly project is to tap the maples and make some syrup.  We are a bit late, but for the three years we have previously done this I have also missed the first sap rising, and it has never bothered us.  I did have a person try to feel superior by telling us we were not tapping sugar maples, but Norway maples - but you know - it doesn't matter.  Our Norway maples still produce a lovely sweet syrup, as would our red maple if we chose to tap it.  So disparaging lady - I hope you feel bigger - but we don't care!
           We have such a high tech set up that the syrup tastes fabulous not matter what!  We set up a cinder block fire pit in the back yard shielded by a corner of the house and an old holly bush.  Next we grab all the dead fall around the yard (and some years there is more than others) and we steal the grill from our gas barbecue and set it over the cinder blocks.  We boil the sap in a large wide pan, (the picture shows us using the pickling pot, which we rapidly learned had sides that were too high) and warm more of it in small pot on the same grill - we sit outdoors in the smoke and the weather (hoping it won't snow on our "boil day") and we drink hot cocoa, we feed the fire - I even have a shawl I knit during boils - just something to keep me from thinking about how chilly it is.  Then by about 8 pm we move inside and finish the rest of the syrup off on the stove.  We do not ever use up all the syrup from the previous year before we start boiling the next batch, but it is becoming a family rite of late winter.  It helps the children see that we are blessed with resources from nature which are right at our fingertips.  It lets them know that they are capable of producing food for themselves with a bit of hard work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Try not to whine

Okay - let's be honest here.  Autism is tiring - for everyone.  I cannot imagine how exhausted my son must feel at the end of the day after having to filter everything he is hearing, try to conform to the norms of society when he has no idea WHY we do some of them, and then having a meltdown at home.  I know some of the rumbling is just being a 13 year old, but the self injurious behavior and the yelling and bile which comes from him most evenings is wearying.
    A typical evening:  He comes home from school and disappears in to his room or the tub, or dashes outside.  Okay - nothing too bad here.  Call him for homework.  The deal is he starts at 5 pm.  The reality is he usually manages to get started by closer to 6 or 6:30 pm - meaning he will have to stop to eat - if we can convince him to eat what we are serving.  Without applesauce, ketchup and chicken nuggets, there would be many a hungry night for the boy.
   His little brother walks in to ask for something to eat, or for attention, and he will scream at him to "Get out" - it can be like living with someone from the Exorcist!  Often this degrades into punching his own face, or kidneys, or stomach and yelling all sorts of rude things.  Eventually his sister might be called on to keep her little brother occupied, and we might manage to get the homework focus going again.  However, for every problem, every assignment, he needs re-direction as his attention wanders, reminders of rules and axioms,  and a constant adult presence.   As I said, wearying.
    And people wonder why the little one is getting spoiled?  A pretty good kid, he has learned that especially when his elder brother is around, he just has to cry and his brother yells and flees to his bedroom (usually hitting himself as he goes) and suddenly the focus is all on him.   Who do I throw to the wolves?  The elder boy, who has a true disability and needs a great deal more extra time and attention?  The younger one,  who is essentially having the fun and attention of childhood taken from him by the needs of the elder?  The daughter who has to take on so many responsibilities for helping her elder brother to cope and her younger brother to stay safe and happy?  If only it were black and white.

Search for autism awareness products

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let it Snow

    We left my mother-in-law's house so I could get the children back to school and back on schedule.  Ironically, their first day back the schools had a 2 hour delay due to the previous evening's snowfall.  Then, they had snow days for the rest of the week as our area got about 2 - 2 1/2 feet of snow. 
    It was really nice to just be home - no appointments or racing off to rehearsals.  There is something very cozy about a heavy snowfall, the family at home and homemade bread baking.
I do occasionally wish I had a MUCH stronger lens for my camera so I could get shots of the snowflakes - however, I can make due by looking at the photographs of others.
     Still knitting - working on a baby blanket for a friend.  The Sweethearts blanket from  KNIT Baby Blankets edited by Gwen Steege.  I love this little book - I have made blankets from it before and I love that you can find something to make whether you are a beginner or very experienced as a knitter.  I will share a picture when I finish it.