Monday, October 30, 2017

Do Honeybees Hibernate?

Beekeepers often get asked if honeybees hibernate when the weather turns cold. And if not, you might wonder what do they do this time of year? 

And yes, this is me shamelessly sneaking in a darling picture of my grandson. 

We'll talk about winter in a minute, but first, we need to back up to fall. In the late days of summer, when the days start to shorten the bees do a rather harsh thing. The worker bees, which are all female, throw out the drones, which are all males. A drone's one purpose in life is to mate with a virgin queen should the need arise (an act which will end in his immediate death). As the bees begin to sense autumn coming on they will turn out the drones. Since honeybees are only able to survive as part of a colony the homeless bees soon die.

Going into fall and winter there are only workers and the queen left inside the hive. The goal at this point is to survive until spring. To do this the bees bunch together in a tight ball called the winter cluster. At the center of this cluster is the queen, the mother of every bee in the hive, kept warm and safe amid her own offspring.  The bees rotate from the inside cluster to the outside so that no bees ever get too cold. The colder the weather is the tighter the bees cluster. The bees shiver to generate heat. 

The cluster moves around the hive a bit to be next to honey they'll consume for survival. Beekeepers never take honey from this part of the hive called the hive body, brood boxes, or nesting boxes. If the beekeeper feels that the bees have not stored up a sufficient amount of honey for a long winter they feed the bees to help them remain strong until spring.

Occasionally bees do leave the hive in winter. On days where the temperatures are high enough (about 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit) the bees will fly out of the hive for cleansing flights to eliminate waste. Bees are meticulous about the inside of the hive and never eliminate waste there. When it does happen it is the sign of a serious problem. Even during January there are still places to gather pollen if the weather is warm enough for the girls to go out. If you have camellias then you may have seen bees very busy on sunny winter days.  

While honeybees do not hibernate other types of bees such as carpenter bees and bumblebees who are solitary do hibernate. For those species, it is only the mated queen who survives until spring.

You can help many kinds of bees survive winter by leaving things in your garden like plants that have hollow stems. Tiny species of bees overwinter there. 

Now you can stop lying awake at night wondering about this. I mean, you were doing that, right?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The 10 Minute Fresh Boxwood Wreath

Okay, y'all. Now that the honey has been harvested and jarred and the bees are doing their off season thing this beekeeper has time to get to some of those projects inside that I've been noticing need to be done. So look for some upcoming posts about furniture projects! But today I'm using an old lampshade part to make a simple little boxwood wreath. 

I love square wreaths!

I had two square pieces of wire leftover from a lampshade deconstruction I did a couple of years back. 

I can't remember why I took this lampshade apart because how awesome would the whole thing have looked covered in boxwood! Looking around right now for unused lampshades to make that happen. 

Look for a boxwood preservation post coming up soon. 

For this little project I used fresh boxwood cuttings, bottom of lampshade frame, and wire. There's not step by step because I literally just wired the boxwood to the frame. I really like the square look as a change from round. I'll beef it up for the holidays with lots more greenery and maybe a bow, but I really love it just like this! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

How we Stumbled Upon an Attic Time Capsule This Week

If you are a long time reader you'll remember last year when I gave my house a birthday party. You can read about it here. While lots of houses are way older than ours it isn't all that common these days for a single family to occupy a house that long, especially in the suburbs. My husband moved in to our home with his parents when he was eleven. Our kids were raised here.

Literally the entire 26 years we've lived here I have complained about how much stuff was/is here. I've sorted, donated, yard saled (is that a word?) until I'm on the verge of Minimalism.

Also if you have been reading a while you know I keep saying that (lying about it) while showing you some great vintage thing I just found. 

You can read about my struggle here. 

Let's just say the Minimalist spirit is willing but the vintage appreciator flesh is weak. 

Y'all, I am not even kidding. Read more about it. I know. Like you don't have fascinating problems of your own.

Monday I had planned a whole day of gardening and house cleaning when my husband said "Hey let's get in the attic over the tool shed today and see if we can use any of those screens." Words cannot express how much I didn't want to do this. It's like being asked if you want to clean that gross spot behind the toilet with your last clean dish towel. Over the years I had checked a couple of times to see if any of those screens fit our windows and knew they didn't. But the main reason I didn't want to participate was that I knew that space is a favorite haunt of the occasional rat. It's why I never removed the screens in all the previous shed clean outs and organizations.

Even the Great Tool Shed Clean Out of 2017!

We waited until the end of the day when all our other chores were done and we could take showers immediately after. We wore masks and gloves. Frankly I felt that hazmat suits were in order. He handed me one nasty screen after another. Finally they were all laying in the grass and none of them fit any windows in our entire house. But at least they were finally going to the trash can.

Next, he pulled down about 50 paperbacks from the late seventies that were so mildewy they went straight to the trash, but not before we had a good laugh at some of the titles and blurbs. 

Then he said "Hey, there's a box up here."

"What is it?"

"I don't know but it's really heavy."

I stepped into the shed and he carefully slid it off the ledge onto his ladder, then handed it down to me. I gingerly rested it on the workbench. It was enormously heavy and a little surge of excitement went through me as I got a look at it. It was from a cousin-in-law and it was shipped from San Francisco to an address my husband's family hadn't lived in for 51 years.

It had never been opened. 

My mind exploded with the possibilities. Gold bricks? Priceless artifacts? A collection of art? I felt giddy. This could be it. The mother lode.

Together we carried it out and placed it on the grass. I grabbed a crowbar. Anything packed in a wooden crate is mysterious. Nailed together. Definitely gold bricks. Was our long lost cousin a rare coin dealer? A cat burgler? Smuggler?

What? These are all plausible scenarios!

My husband pried open the lid. Excelsior! I took this to be a good sign. No one would pack junk in excelsior. My heart raced.

He bent in front of me blocking my view to push back the packing material.


I imagined beautiful china since I had previously discovered complete 12 piece settings in two different patterns.

He held up a cup.

"Milk glass." I said.

I'll admit to being a little disappointed. It's not my favorite. Why is there never a collection of Blue Willow? Yes, I know --gift horse --blah, blah, blah...

As I unwrapped and counted the plates, compotes, cups, and goblets, he said, "I'm going to get that other box."

Much smaller. Empty.

"Oh I just found something you are going to LOVE."

He handed this to me.

A legit hand made vintage sign! I squealed. Again my imagination ran away and conjured up Spencer Tracy in a hat with a cigar nailing this up at a construction site or gas station.

There was a dilapidated phonograph beyond repair, a string of vintage Christmas lights, and a box of mid-century C9 bulbs. The ones in colors they don't make now. Probably because they have some deadly toxin in the color.

"Hey I remember this..." I heard him say and his voice trailed off down a nostalgic side street. "You are going to be so happy."

He handed me a very large...

Candle! A Christmas Candle for a front porch! Oh my gosh I hope the neighbors didn't hear me screaming with delight.

With the attic empty my husband got off the ladder and grabbed an extension cord to plug in the ginormous candle.

 It worked. Things used to do that. Work for a long time. Like 50 years. We both stared in wonder and said "They don't make 'em like that anymore."

Because that's what you do.

Because they don't.

I headed indoors to Google milk glass.

Because that's what you do.

Because you can.

All of which has me wondering...

 Why was this in the attic over a tool shed? Why did these dishes get shipped and never opened? Why are 3 cups and one goblet missing? Are those pieces what were in the smaller empty box? If not then what was in there? Who made the sign? What was it for?And finally...

What's in the attic of our actual house?  

 Having your own struggle with STUFF?  Then you might want to read about more treasures I discovered earlier this year and how happy empty drawers can make me here: Finding Home Under All This Stuff

Monday, October 16, 2017

Having a Little Fun With Entrance Reducers for the Bee Hives

Alright. Grandbaby euphoria can now be tamped down enough to get back to projects, gardening, and beekeeping. But adorable photos may pop up any time so beware! weather has arrived and I got out my entrance reducers to place in the hives.


I have never painted them and so over the winters they have started to look a little rough on the side that faces out toward the elements. The other three sides aren't exposed.

If you aren't a beekeeper then you might wonder what these things are for.

In fall mice can sometimes look for warm places to hunker down for the winter. A warm hive full of honey can seem like just the place. Ah! You say, But won't the bees sting them to death? Maybe. But not if the weather is cold enough for the bees to cluster together to stay warm. At that point the mice can move in and set up a nest while the bees cluster overhead to keep the colony warm. Those mice will also make a meal out of bees and the honey the colony has stored up for itself. So an entrance reducer, also called a rat stick (not by me because...ew...) allows bees to come and go on warmer days but keeps mice and other undesirables out.

I thought this year I might have a little fun with them.

I recently purchased some Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint. Her color, Apron Strings is being discontinued (WHY?) so I snagged it and thought it would be perfect for the hives in winter when all the drones have been kicked out and it's one big sorority. Read about What Bees do in Winter

After painting them I couldn't resist adding messages for drones and mice, who can read, of course. 

I wanted them to look like signs that little girls (and their queen) would put up outside a treehouse or clubhouse.

Do kids still do that? 

I love projects that are nostalgic, childlike, and fun. This silly little idea made me smile.

I like to imagine the girls flying back in saying "Hey, who put up that hilarious sign out front?"

"Why didn't we think of that?"

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's a Baby Grand Bee!

Unless you follow me on Facebook and Instagram you might have missed a really exciting development...

I have a grandson! And just like that a whole week (or more) of blogging was lost while I am getting to know him...

Cue song:

Getting to know you. Getting to know all about you...

I've been humming it all week!

Remember my announcement last spring? 

I have the cutest little photo shoot planned for later this week but until then...

 He and his mother are doing great and Dad is beside himself with joy. He weighed 8.3 lbs. and is named Cash Reaves. He's also the most beautiful baby ever born and obviously a genius. I mean you can tell that just by looking. 

I think I have this annoying grandmother thing down.