Friday, March 24, 2017

Losing It All: How I Dealt with My Worst Computer Mishap Ever

Wednesday was a day of sick panic and tears. In trying to find the book I started on One Drive a few years ago,I downloaded Microsoft Office which apparently updated my computer with the latest version of Windows. When my computer restarted everything was gone. Documents, files, bookmarks, helpful apps, photos. Gone. I tried looking around. Nothing.  I mean, I know technically it's all still in there somewhere.

It's at such times you can comfort yourself with all the times you've seen the FBI wheeling some guy's computer out along with boxes of files. 

Did I mention there were tears? Last week at the beach with my daughter and son in law they asked me to take some photos of them on the beach. Pictures that were beautiful. With perfect lighting. Pictures that were the one thing they asked me to do for them.

You know how this goes, right? The longer I couldn't find them and the more hopeless it seemed, the more beautiful and perfect the photos were. I was distraught. I Googled. I called a tech savvy friend.He asked if they could still be on the memory card of my camera but I told him I have a habit of erasing photos when I upload them so I don't have to buy more memory cards.

"Oh." he said.

I Googled more. I cursed and imagined smashing my computer with a hammer. Why are some of our initial reactions in so many situations to make things worse? I changed way more stuff in my computer than makes me comfortable. I broke out in a cold sweat. I cried some more. I went to see The Shack. Which of course made me cry, but in a good way. Came home got back at it. Finally about 6:00 in the evening I did what I should have done first.

I looked for a video on You Tube.

In the very first one I watched, the guy mentioned a free program called Recuva. My friend had mentioned that on the phone, but my brain had shut down at "download." A download was how I got here in the first place. But here was another person saying it was the thing to do. Just for confirmation I checked a few more videos. Yep. There was consensus.


I downloaded the program and within 5 minutes had found every photo I had ever taken. Thousands. Many I had deleted years ago and forgotten about. All there, hidden deep in the bowels of my hard drive. Everything.

Except the most recent ones I had uploaded. The treasures I was looking for.

Still apparently gone.

But now I had hope. More importantly, I knew there was a way and that I could figure it out. I felt empowered.

I gave up for the night and went to bed. I do my best thinking in the morning and often figure problems out over night.

First thing the next morning, I went back to Recuva again. I looked over my options. The first time I had chosen to recover photos. As I looked again I saw an option for a memory card. I ticked the circle.

I grabbed the memory card and inserted it. I clicked recover. I held my breath.

Blue sky. Ocean. Dark curly hair and smiles appeared on my screen.

I yelled out to let my husband know I had found them and he could talk to me again. Let's just say I'm surly under stress. I exhaled. I said a prayer of thankfulness.

I really didn't want to call a woman whose nickname is Bossy and tell her I lost the photos she planned to use for an upcoming event. Surly under stress runs in the family. 

You might want to bookmark the Recuva app for future reference! In case you missed the link in the story here it is again:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Beekeeping Problems: Tempermental Bees and Testy Weather

 I'm the kind of person who wants predictable weather. Okay, maybe that's just everyone, but as a beekeeper having the weather work with me instead of against me would be a wonderful thing. I don't want to do hive inspections in February because the temperatures are in the 70s on a routine basis. But that's exactly what happened this year.

I did inspections, moved a hive, even added honey supers to a couple of hives. Now it's the middle of March and this week we are having nights below freezing and the possibility of snow tonight.

So this will be a quiet week in the bee yard.  

I'm somewhat amused at my early beekeeping adventures. There was so much I didn't know when I started. One amusing thing is that I thought my first swarm was a bunch of Mean Girls and their queen was Regina George, just because I had to catch them 3 times.

Now I know better.

This year I have a super defensive colony. These bees aren't just uncooperative, they are testy. They are looking to sting you long before you get close to their hive. If they'd been sitting in a field somewhere it wouldn't have mattered, but they are in my garden near a gate. We walk by it all the time and so do any workmen who have to come into the yard.

I had the extension agent come out to take a look at our apple tree and a bee chased us all the way out to the front yard. As a master gardener, you'd kind of like the county extension agent to think well of you.

 You don't necessarily want to be cursing like a sailor and jumping around the front yard trying to get a bee out of your hair.

Basically, I want beekeeping to look like this:

But sometimes the reality looks more like this.

I decided to move this hive to a new location in my neighbor's yard that is far away from where people would be walking or working. At dusk on a cool night when most of the bees were inside, I went out and taped the hive closed. Around 10:00 my husband and I took flashlights and walked through our plan trying to detect any obstacles or things we hadn't thought of. Then we went home and carefully loaded the hive onto a dolly and rolled it over to its new location, gingerly placing it on the cinder blocks. 

I left them taped closed the next day. On the following morning, I untaped the entrance and placed branches in front of the hive.

 How to move a hive a short distance:

Conventional beekeeping wisdom says you can move bees 3 feet or 3 miles. If you want to move them across the bee yard, old timers would say that you had to move them 2 feet a day, or move them 5 miles away, wait a few weeks, then move them to where you actually want them.

I began to hear people at the bee meetings talk about using branches, though, so after some online confirmation, this is the method I applied. In the evening when most of the bees have returned to the hive you seal it up. I used duct tape because I have screened bottom and top boards, so I knew they'd get plenty of ventilation. You are going to leave the bees in the hive anywhere from 24 to 72 hours depending on which beekeeper you talk to. I'd had 2 days of rain before I moved them so I counted those 2 days since most of the bees hadn't been out. It would also be appropriate to move them ahead of a rainy spell, for the same reason. Bees have about a 3 day memory so after being inside so long they'll need to reorient.

When you are moving bees at night, make sure you are fully covered and that openings in clothing or around boots and gloves are taped shut. Bees crawl and night and are very angry about being disturbed. I thought out my plan carefully but took every precaution in case something went wrong, like the boxes shifting and coming apart or us dropping them. Everything went according to plan and the whole move took about 15 minutes. But be prepared for the worst case scenario!

After the sequestration period unseal the hive and place branches in front of the entrance. When the bees come out the ancient part of their bee brains that lived in trees for thousands of years reasons that their tree has fallen. They climb out through the branches and reorient in front of their new location.

Bees navigate by landmarks so the branches are a big help to them.

That's it! I did this earlier this week and the bees have adjusted very well. They won't be any less angry but they are less likely to bother anyone in their new home until I can requeen.

Just so anyone who saw this hive was clear on the situation, I slapped a sticker on it.

Please note that these are my personal experiences with beekeeping and for expert information please consult your local extension office or state apiary website.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Spring Wins and a Loss in the Bee Yard

 Beekeepers await spring with a fair amount of angst. In the south, we have an advantage since we usually have lots of sunny fine days even in January when we can see bees coming and going. Many times they can even be observed bringing pollen. Compared to our beekeeping friends up north, whose hives are often wintering under a layer of deep snow we get to ease our minds from time to time. 

That doesn't mean that we don't worry, though. It's easy to be caught off guard sometimes. This year, because of the unusual weather we had, abnormally warm all fall, then two early arctic blasts, I had my first over winter loss in 5 years of beekeeping.  Here's what I saw when I opened the first hive at my second bee yard. For a reference point, the picture at the top of this post is what I found in a healthy hive on the same day.

Beekeeping involves a bit of detective work to figure out what is going on in the hive and stay ahead of it when things are good, or analyze where things went wrong when they go bad.

This hive had plenty of honey going into fall. I fed another that looked weak but this one looked like the strongest one all winter. On any warm day since the first of the year this hive had quite a lot of traffic at the entrance. So what happened?

Let's look at the clues: I didn't find bees with their heads down in the cells in a cluster, which is a sign of starvation. The bees I did find were clustered together in small groups on the surface of the comb.

I also did not find one drop of honey anywhere.

There had been tons of bees coming and going on fine days.

Their demise is most likely due to a combination of things. Like having too few bees to generate enough heat and being caught unprepared for the sudden arctic blasts we had. The clusters I did find were separated. We had one day when the temperature dropped from 70 to below freezing in one day. It could be that the sudden drop that day got them. All of this could probably have been prevented if I'd realized this colony was as weak as it was and combined it with a stonger one going into winter.

But then, where did all the honey go?

After the bees froze the bees from the strong colonies robbed them out, which is why there was so much traffic at the front of the hive. If I had been looking more carefully I probably would have seen that they weren't bringing pollen. 

Beekeeping means paying attention to detail. Something I'm working on. Now that we've seen an example of what can go wrong, let's look at what the other hives looked like.

On this frame, you can see capped honey.

Look at all these healthy bees and that patch of capped brood. This is good stuff!

Here's a frame with lots of bees, capped brood, capped honey, and pollen. 

This makes my heart happy.

Here are all the things a beekeeper is looking for on one frame in the brood chamber.

The weather isn't cooperating at all with me. I spent two gorgeous days for working bees in a classroom at the master beekeeping course and now we have several days of rain forecast. I have hives that need honey supers, a hive that needs moving, and one that needs to be split to prevent swarming. Lots to do, but I can't do any of it in the rain.

Beekeeping also means paying close attention to the weather and being frustrated by it.

These are my personal experiences in beekeeping. For expert advice and information please refer to your local extension service or any of the land grant university websites.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

What Happened Between Assisi and Rome

Originally published in 2009. Hence the Katie Holmes and blog references.

You never know what will happen when you are traveling, who you'll meet, what you'll see, what you'll learn.

There was a rather lengthy bus ride between Assisi and Rome made even longer by a massive traffic jam as they neared The Eternal City. Assisi had been lovely and My Owner and her friends had done some shopping. Unwrapping purchases and looking at them and discussing them filled some of the time during the bus trip. MO and her friend are notorious for hunting down the gift shop wherever they are (I'll tell you a funny story about that when I recount their trip to New York, Philadelphia & D.C.).

Chatting with other travelers was another way to pass the time and MO happened to strike up a conversation with the man seated behind her, based on whether or not Katy Holmes needed several magazine covers in the same magazine. After that, I don't know what happened except that the discussion moved on to stimulus packages, worldwide economic collapse, religion, and a host of other subjects that they found endlessly interesting and put everyone within the sound of their voices to sleep.

I can assure you I was NOT in the cargo hold of the bus discussing these issues with Professor J's bag. I was busy catching up with my friend, Mr. Polka Dots (he is very fashion forward) who I had not seen since we left home as he had been lost in Paris and was telling of his harrowing adventure!

But THOSE two...Mr. Smarty Pants and My Snarky Owner, they didn't run out of anything to say. As a matter of fact, they are still at it! They have a blog together and have been having an ongoing discussion for over a year and a half.

I just wish they would get around to tackling something relevant like the dreadful conditions under airplane seats and the rough treatment of checked luggage by those hateful baggage handlers.

UPDATE: So what happened to that blog?

They kept it up for 5 years but it died an untimely death due to My Owner's carelessness. You can read about it here: Blog Obituary: RIP Professor and Housewife

It all just goes to show you never know what travel will bring your way.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Surprise Stop at Pisa

Are you lost? This Italian adventure might be confusing you, but it is somewhat disorienting to travel at times upside down or at the bottom of a stack of other baggage, in the dark. I'm doing the best I can.  To make up for my directional challenges here's a map. I've marked our travels in pink, My Owner likes pink.

Pisa wasn't even on the itinerary!

Did you know this thing is famous for leaning?
Pisa was a surprise that the tour guide and bus driver threw in between Venice and Florence because we had made such good time due to an unusual lack of traffic. Just time for a quick lunch some photos and then back to the bus for the trip to Florence.

The thing bad thing about this lunch was that they were on a very tight schedule and the leader of their group never did get her food.


The weather was absolutely perfect this day. What a lovely little surprise...and here my owner is always going on and on about how she hates surprises. She can be so ridiculous.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fix-It February: What Got Done

Remember the show, Everybody Loves Raymond? If you were a fan then you'll remember that broken piece of tile on the kitchen counter. I always liked that a set designer did that. Television represented this reality more recently with Modern Family's broken step. That's real life for most families. Yes, you see it everyday. Yes, you know it needs fixing. But so does dinner, and someone's hair, or broken arm.

Most of us have those projects that nag at us every day. At the beginning of the year I came up with a plan to deal with that stuff around our house. First, January was the great clean-out of 2017. Read about it here. Every drawer, closet, and shelf was emptied. Most of the drawers just stayed empty. Car loads of things went to thrift store drop offs. Bags of things went in the trash. Piles of things got sorted and reorganized.

After all that I was ready for February, the month of repairing and fixing things that were broken. I looked around the house and made a list.
  • Water spots on the bedroom ceiling needed to be primed and painted.
  • The broken soap dish in the tub/shower needed to be replaced.
  • The front of a kitchen drawer needed to be reattached. 
  • A lamp needed to be rewired.
  • My wedding rings needed to be repaired and resized.
  • A damaged family quilt needed to be remade into Euro pillow shams for the guest cottage.
  • A repaired stair step needed staining and the riser painted.
  • I needed to touch up the chipped finish on end table.
  • I wanted to finish an unfinished wall in the honey shed.  
  • I needed a couple of fillings replaced. (nobody said they have to be home repairs)
  • On top of all this I really wanted to clean out and organize our tool shed which was a mess.

How do you go about accomplishing an intimidating list like this? 

First, make a list of what you want to get done.

If it looks like mine you might want to sit down and cry before proceding.

Second, make a list of the things you'll need to get each job done. Do you need primer or a lamp repair kit? Keep the list in your vehicle so you don't have to look for it the day you have time to go to the hardware store.

Third, designate a time to get your projects done. I wanted to do these things before spring when I am busy in the garden and beeyard. I decided February would be the perfect month to knock this stuff out. I did not know that spring would arrive a month early and I'd end up dealing with bees on top of all this!

Fourth, set a deadline. I'm a dreadful procrastinator and a deadline helps me stay on track.  My goal was to have all these things done by the end of the month.

Fifth, write on your calendar the days you have time to get one or two simple things done. For the tool shed reorganiztion I allotted 3 days. Kilzing the water stains on the kitchen ceiling I did in five minutes after painting the riser to the repaired step. I mean, I already had the paintbrush in my hand. 
Some things take much longer than you anticipate, but many things only take a few minutes once we get around to them. 

Sixth, do the things!

Here's a tip: Take a before picture. Especially of a big intimidating project. If you get halfway through and feel overwhelmed you can grab your phone and see where you started. When you are finished and your project is awesome you can give yourself a little credit on social media. It's an extra incentive to keep going when you are tired and wondering why you started this in the first place.

If you do this for all your projects you eventually end up with a little portfolio of the stuff you've done. It's nice to be able to look back at it on days when you don't feel so good about yourself. So often we don't five ourselves credit for all the little things we do. Keep track of them, you are accomplishing more than you think.

If you don't know where to start pick the one small thing that bothers you the most. Something annoying but doable in an afternoon. Something that is inexpensive or even free to fix if you just took the time.

There is momentum in action. Accomplishing one small thing leads to the next and the next.

What's your favorite way to tackle annoying little household chores?

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reclaiming Our Neglected Tool Shed

February's plan was to fix things around the house that were broken, replace things that needed it, and clean out the tool shed. Picking the shortest month in the year shows poor planning on my part. You know how I love before and after pictures, so here you go. It was pretty bad. This was the worst corner, but of course, I'm using it for the most dramatic effect.

It's not that there wasn't any organization, it's just that it had been about 40 years since anyone took everything out and started over. Taking everything out. That's important. Here are some other views:

Clearly, we had organized bits and pieces from time to time but this time I was on a mission for a complete overhaul and I was ruthless. Okay, and a little scared.

Here's the view that I saw anytime I opened the door to grab a can of paint or a hammer. I rarely actually went inside. I'd managed to keep most of the things I used a lot in the house or just inside this door.

I know some of you have areas of your house or outbuildings that make you feel this way. The morning I began this project I had the overwhelming urge to cry. But over the years I've learned that no matter how bad it looks you just have to start. I slowly began removing things from the shelves. I gained momentum as I went, which is why it's important just to begin.

Someone gave my husband that sign years ago with his name on it.  It's been there since my last attempt at organizing this space well over a decade ago. This was originally my father-in-law's tool shed and he spent a lot of time here. He also spent a lot of time at the hardware store and never came home empty handed, which is why you see so many things in the packages they came in. Over twenty years ago.

I'm not showing you the picture of the dead rat I found. You're welcome.  I was seriously determined to get this done once and for all. The fact that I continued after the dead rat trauma should be plenty of proof.

In addition to the dead rat, I found 10 vintage toolboxes we've inherited from several male relatives.

 Luckily, I had the back porch to use as a staging area, especially since it rained the night I took everything out. See that Phillips box? It's an unopened MP3 player. I literally have no idea.

There were piles of things everywhere. I hate piles of things.

I had a couple of pieces of unused shelving stored in the honey shed that I used to extend the workbench all the way to the wall.

Hung up the shop vac and added a shelving unit from the sporting good side of this building. My husband and I cleaned it out a couple of years ago and these shelves were empty.

I started hanging things up on the pegboard and working out a system for the things we use the most.

Summer is coming. Gonna need these extension cords to be handy.

Not too bad. Something is bugging me though...

This was a vast improvement. Look how happy all the screwdrivers look lined up!

These hammers and mallets are definitely much happier all sorted out.

In the emptying out process, I had discovered a dolly that was still in the box and I took a break to put it together when I got close to the end. My father-in-law had bought this and never put it together. The box was hidden behind other stuff.

 Do you know how many times I could have used this in the past twenty years?

But I got super excited when I saw that I could change the position of the handle and use it for a cart. It is the perfect size for moving bee hives!

Doesn't the tool shed look great? But still, for 4 days I kept thinking it wasn't quite right. It was just too dark. I decided to take everything down and paint. It was a lot of trouble, but as you can see from the photos it was totally worth it.

The paint brightened up the space which only has one window.

Still so many things purchased by my father in law, still in the packages.

For something like a tool shed, I love vintage pieces like these old gas cans.

This project that I had scheduled 3 days to complete ended up taking more like 6. But think of the time I'll save when I need something and the money not purchasing something we already have on hand.

For every item that made it back into the tool shed (we had to know what it was and how to use it) there was at least one that is headed to the recycling center, trash pile, or thrift store donation. I'd say it's a safe bet to say I reduced the contents by half.

Don't be afraid to tackle your big, dark, scary attic, basement, or shed. Schedule some uninterrupted time, wear a mask, and get started. This was completely overwhelming at the beginning, but just keep pushing forward.

Don't be deterred by dead rodents or spiders.

Who knows what treasure you'll find?