Friday, May 28, 2010

Better than TV

Jackson watches a pair of kittens romping in the adoption cage at the vet. Such a sweet pair, a torty and a tabby, very bold and playful.
"Can we keep them? Can we? Pleeeeeeeeease?"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Doggone it

This photo is from March. I took it before I realized the full import of what I was looking at. To put it simply: That chewed-up bottle cost me $3,000.

In a joint effort, Jackson and Lucy had emptied it of doggy anti-inflammatories, which I discovered when I got home from work. Enough pills to cause serious kidney and liver damage. So the dogs spent three days at the emergency vet getting fluids flushed through them.

Fun! Expensive! I keep the bottle taped to the back door now, so I remember to do a sweep of the counters before I leave.
Here's a picture from today. At the emergency vet again. Jackson is watching "The Princess Bride" while Lucy gets her foot looked at. I was next door talking to the neighbor and came home to find puddles of blood on the patio and the kitchen floor. Not drops. Puddles.

Poor Miss Lucy had completely sliced open the webbing between two toes while running around the yard and roughhousing with Jackson.
I had to leave her at the vet while I went to work (Jackson stayed to keep her company), because the clinic was backed up with more dire emergencies.

She has a splint to keep the pressure off the foot. I am not allowed to walk her for three weeks. She is also supposed to wear a cone 24/7 and be confined when I'm not in the house.

Well, the cone isn't going to be on while I'm around; it's simply not necessary. But I had to get out the big cage for when I'm gone. She's not going to be a happy camper.

Me neither.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Garnish at the ready

I went to a lovely little Mediterranean-themed potluck yesterday. Delicious food, great company. I took a bowl of olives and some French feta with a spur-of-the-moment garnish: a bundle of blooming chives with self-tied stems.

Chives are so easy to grow, whether in a pot or in the ground. I have one shallow pot of chives that has been coming back for 10 years now. It sits out all winter and gets snowed on, and enjoys the occasional hose-splash in the summer. The ones in my garden keep spreading and spreading.

Having chives and mint growing outside my back door makes me feel all competent in the garden and the kitchen without trying hard at all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Got weeds?

I thought I had a dandelion problem. But this yard a few blocks away proves I do not.

Last night was the first night of the year that I left the windows open all night. My sleep might've been more restful without the tornado that we appear to have gotten trapped in the middle of. It is super crazy windy!

I'm sure the neighbors of the dandelion palace are blessing the wind for carrying all those seeds to Kansas.

Friday, May 21, 2010

On the need for more compelling content

I can't seem to bring myself to post without a photo. It's a crutch, I guess. I'm afraid what I write will be boring, so I distract you with a nice image.

Which means I need to take more photos of things besides bees. I'm starting to bore myself with all this swarm talk.

(There's a swarm I could get in the morning, but I don't want to get up early and I'm too busy later, so I'm passing it on to Hogan's Hives.

Then there's the swarm that was picked up on the 16th Street Mall today. I haven't seen one on the ground like that before.)

See? I could go on and on. Blah blah blah swarm blah blah blah.

The photo above is from summer camp a very long time ago. Camp Manito-Wish YMCA in northern Wisconsin. My mom went there, too. It's a pretty awesome camp (still). Emphasis on long canoe trips and backpacking trips. I'm a little jealous of young me, and I want to go back and do it again, only this time I won't eat the poison ivy that's lurking in the wintergreen patch.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why do bees swarm?

As I understand it, bees swarm for a couple of reasons. First, it's a means of expanding their population. Second, they may swarm because their living quarters are too cramped. A third phenomenon, which looks like a swarm, is really an absconsion, in which the whole colony leaves a hive it deems unsuitable.

The way it works is like this: Somehow the determination to swarm is reached about three weeks before the fact, usually in early to mid-spring. The workers start preparing several babies to be potential queens. Right before those queens hatch out, the old queen flies out of the hive, taking half the workers with her. They all gorge themselves with honey before they go, as fuel for the journey. (Click on the photo above to see close up how plump those bees are!)

The queen settles on a branch or other surface somewhere not far from the hive. The workers land all around her, forming a cluster in which they're all hanging on each other. They seem angry as they're circling and buzzing, but in fact they're super-mellow because of all the honey and the lack of anything to defend. It is possible to stick your hand into the middle a cluster very slowly and not be stung. (Or, like Ingo, above, you can put the queen in a little cage under your chin and create an awesome beard.)

From the cluster, scouts go out looking for a place to live, then come back and tell the others what they found. When a consensus is reached, they all fly off to their new home. The honey-laden bees start building comb, and the queen immediately begins laying eggs in it. They need to create enough babies ASAP to create enough workers to collect enough nectar and pollen to survive the next winter.

Back at the old hive, the first new queen to hatch out goes around to all the other queen cells and kills them, then flies out of the hive to mate. When she comes back, she starts laying eggs and spends the rest of her life (3-5 years) doing so.

Thanks to Beth for asking the question!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Not so foodie

I haven't blogged about food for a while, either recipes or restaurant visits. I've been so busy that I am not being very creative with my meals, and restaurant reviews require a lot of energy and commitment to be fair.

I'd like to get back into food blogging but it may be a while yet. I made chivda a few weeks ago, and when I was at the Indian grocery I saw ivy gourds. Manisha makes this awesome ivy gourd dish, so I got some and asked her for the recipe.

But that's as far as I got. Isn't that pathetic? I finally threw the gourds out after they turned to mush in my fridge.

I managed to assemble the meal above on Saturday because it wasn't complicated. Roasted asparagus and fingerling potatoes, New York strip steaks with the Gucci treatment, and bagged salad with the addition of some arugula from my neglected garden. To drink: Colorado Native Lager. For dessert: Safeway oatmeal cookies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Once more, with feelers

On Saturday, Tom the sprinkler guy arrived to get things running for the summer and said, "Oh, bees! I have a customer who's looking for some. And I might want to get some myself." I gave him my card and Jim called me later in the morning to say, yes, he was looking for a swarm.

A few hours later I got a call from a gal who had already had two swarms in her yard the day before (I sent someone else to get them) – a third swarm had shown up next door! I called Jim back and said, "You want bees? You got bees."
After a quick stop to get some supplies (Jim wasn't quite ready to get back in business), we found this very easy swarm in a lilac bush, only 6 feet off the ground. It was a simple matter for me to hold the the two main branches the bees were clustered on and for Jim to cut those branches. I just lowered the clump into the box, shook the bees off and put the lid on.
With the queen inside, the fanners came out on the front porch and let everyone know. After 20 minutes or so, nearly all the bees had gone into the box.

I'm bummed that I forgot to hit Record on the video camera I'd set up, so I've only got a little footage of the aftermath:

A bunch of neighbors were watching from way, way down the block. We persuaded them to come closer and everyone ooh'd and ah'd. I handed out more swarm cards. With lots of big, old hollow trees in that area, I suspect I'll be back there again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Brrrrr, bzzzzz, brrrrrrr

Word has gotten around that I'm a bee-friendly gal, so I now am getting several swarm calls a week. Most of them I pass along to others who need bees, but if I have time I go take a look.

These girls swarmed this morning just a block away from me but their timing was bad. The clouds came over and dropped hail and then a steady rain. I could see some dead bees on the outside of the cluster already; they'd never survive the cold night.

Luckily, there was someone at the bee supply store who wanted them. Two guys came over and we just cut the branch, put it in a box and off they went.
This is a drone on my hand. I picked him up from the grass. Notice how large his eyes are! The better to see flying, virgin queens with. Drones' only purpose in life is to mate. Which might sound enviable, except they get kicked out of the hive in the fall and freeze to death. The girls just make new ones in the spring.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


You would think the dogs might be more perturbed about seeing feet right outside the window – especially on the second floor! But on day four of workmen crawling all over the house and hammering away, they are pretty blasé.

Me? I was about to go nuts:
Bang! Bang! Bang!

Yes, the old house finally got a new roof. They had to take off three layers of asphalt shingles and the original(?) wood-shake roof – all the way back down to the joists. It was looking pretty ratty, and last summer's hail finally did it in. That's actually a good thing, since insurance then covers most of the cost.

It's also a good thing that it was finished yesterday, since this is what I woke up today:
Ah yes, springtime in the Rockies!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Just as I suspected

The saga of the "mansion home" continues. The foreclosure sign just went up, and I checked the price online: $703K. Quite a come-down from the $1.15 million they were asking three years ago, when it was built. It's been empty all this time. (You can click the "mansion" tag below to see previous posts about this house.) I'll bet the neighbors will be happy to see someone living there.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Direct marketing

Out walking yesterday, I spotted this classic gem, a first-generation Capri. I'm going to guess 1974-ish, because of the bumper covers.
I'm always on the lookout for interesting cars (along with bee trees) when I'm walking the dogs. It keeps me entertained.

But what really caught my interest here was the notice on the windshield:
Talk about enterprising! I'm not sure how I'd feel about someone taping their offer to my windshield, though, even if it's obvious that I'm not driving the car, and especially not if I consider it a "classic car." I might call my car junk, but that doesn't mean you can.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Looking North

North Korea fascinates me, so I'm looking forward to reading these two books I just got: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick, and The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers.

Why am so interested? It's hard to articulate, but the place is just so bizarre. Here's this whole country full of people living according to the lies their leaders tell them, with no access to news of the outside world. It's a bit like China during the Cultural Revolution, but it's happening now.
(One of my Chinese students told me something that perfectly illustrates a paranoid regime: Remember how American parents used to say, "Eat all your dinner; there are children starving in China"? What they meant was "Be grateful for what you have," right? In China, the government interpreted that for the people as "Eat all your dinner so the Chinese children don't get any.")

In North Korea, children are starving today, but we don't hear about it. The government recently cracked down on independent food vendors and farmers' markets operating outside of official channels. But these vendors were a vital source of income and/or food for many North Koreans. The government outlawed them and it devalued the national currency, wiping out people's savings overnight. Reportedly panic buying and near riots ensued. That led to unprecedented government backpedaling and at least one execution of a state official.

And the family of that state official is likely now in the North Korean gulag. If you sin in North Korea, your family will pay.

But we only get this information in dribs and drabs and hints and innuendos. There are people who build their whole careers around trying to suss out what the North Koreans are up to.

It matters what they're up to because they've got nukes. And they're working on building rockets that can carry those nukes a long, long way – across the Pacific, if possible. And they're sharing what they know with Iran and who knows whom else.

There are many more crazy things about North Korea that interest me. Kim Jong-Il is a piece of work, let me tell you. And his kids! (One of them got nixed as a successor because he got caught trying to sneak into Japan with a fake passport. Why? He wanted to go to Disneyland!) It's ludicrous and really, really scary at the same time.

A couple of books I've already enjoyed are The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag by Chol-hwan Kang and Pierre Rigoulot, and The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea by Charles Robert Jenkins. Two fascinating memoirs that sparked my interest to learn more. You might try them, too. And do pay attention when North Korea is in the news; it may be more important than you think.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

México es muy bonito

Mexican beachCevicheI went to Mexico last month for a wedding and it was awesome. Great food! Great tequila! I loved the ceviche. I could live on the stuff.

The weather was hot and muggy and the ocean was warm. I got a really bad sunburn thanks to Burt's Bees Sunscreen. Don't use that stuff. (I don't blame the bees, though.)

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Swarm-catching supplies

Having a list of stuff to take on a swarm call can save you a lot of hassles. I wrote this list on top of my swarm-catching box. (The bees pictured here are the ones I caught yesterday.)
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Ladder or stepstool
  • Clippers/loppers
  • Headlamp (if the call comes late in the day)
  • Straps (for securing the box to a ladder or stool, for example)
  • Masking tape
  • Headnet or bee suit (even if you don't need them, you may have an observer or helper who would appreciate a little extra protection)
  • Gloves
  • Bee pick and/or small plastic dustpan (for scooping bees)
  • Bee brush
  • Bedsheets (spread one under where you are working; many bees will fall to the ground, and the sheet will help you avoid stepping on them. When you leave, you can gently and loosely fold the sheet up over the box and put another on top to contain any bees on the outside of the box.)
  • Camera and tripod
  • Business cards
And this important reminder: Remove your rings!

Even if you are not particularly reactive to bee stings, a well-placed zap to the finger can cause enough swelling to be uncomfortable. And should you react badly, you don't want to have your rings cut off your fingers.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Where's Kitt?

poodlesWell, life happens and you get all distracted and, next thing you know, a lot of time has gone by.

I think about blogging, but then I feel like I need to do something substantive to make up for all the not-blogging, and so I just post something fast on Facebook instead. But I limit my Facebook friends to people I know in person, which means everyone else loses out.

I am going to try to do more here. I do enjoy blogging; I just need to get back in shape, and maybe not be so ambitious with every post.

Lucy and Jackson are doing fine, as you can see in the photo above. They're sitting in front of a bee tree I found at the dog park.

Speaking of: My hive survived the winter and I plan to do a harvest soon. Swarm season also has begun. I missed a call yesterday, but today I just ran across this swarm while walking the dogs. Funny how that keeps happening to me.
swarmI went home and got my gear and put those girls in the box. I knew someone would want them. Sure enough, there was a guy at To Bee Or Not To Bee buying his first hive, so Vicki sent him over and the bees went home with him.
Bees fanningHere they are on the doorstep of the box after I put the lid on. They've got their little butts in the air, fanning out the scent that says, "Hey, everyone! The queen's in here!" (Click to the photo to see it larger.)

I'm here, too!