"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, June 4, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Whaddaya want first?

Whenever I am asked that question, I always ask for the bad news first. But I can't make that option make narrative sense, so here comes the good news first:

Yesterday was an absolutely glorious day. The sun finally decided to shine, and it shone brightly and warmly. I think the mercury hit 67 or 68. I could not spend a single minute indoors, my skin was so hungry for sunlight. I stripped to a T-shirt and worked just about all day long in the garden. There was a brisk wind, and large, threatening clouds marched across the bright blue sky. When they occasionally blocked out the sun, the temperature would drop immediately, but as long as I kept working I felt warm enough.

The first thing I did was clear out the greens from several planters. The lettuce was beginning to get bitter and the spinach was starting to go to seed. I picked a giant colander full of salad greens to eat, and gained fresh space to plant. In the sun room, I had a few tomato plants and a few winter squash starts (a variety called "sweet buttercup" that I am not familiar with but am hoping is something like hubbard. These were transplanted into the recently vacated tires.

A couple of weeks ago, on the last sunny day we enjoyed, I dragged one of the garden boxes out beyond the fence that protects the orchard from goats and used my fancy mother's day wheelbarrow to fill it with used straw from the barn. The idea was to let it compost a little and then cover it with topsoil and viola! A new garden bed. I simply laid the square down on the lawn and covered the inside space with empty feed-sacks (they ARE good for something!) before carting several loads of crappy wet straw over. Ooh, my back hurt that night!

When my husband cleaned out the parthenon (Nasty Weather and Unfinished Business), he found a jar of scarlet runner bean seeds. A big jar. I have no idea where it came from. Instead of bringing it into the house, as a normal person might do, he decided to simply empty the jar onto my new garden bed, right on top of the straw. Then, it rained for two weeks.

Well, you can guess, right? Now we have a veritable carpet of bean sprouts all over my garden bed. I'm going to make him build a trellis. I had been going to plant corn in that bed - now I don't know where I might plant corn. It's getting late - if I am going to plant any corn, it should be done this week.

Let's see - more good news.... We got a lot of grass cut. But that leads me into the bad news because I ran over one of the new apple trees. Earlier this spring I planted six trees from Trees of Antiquity, four apples, a greengage plum, and a cherry. All six were doing just fine. Until yesterday, when I misjudged the distance between my blades and the Ashmead's Kernel and severed it completely from its stem. I felt like a murderer. It was perhaps the healthiest and most vigorous of all six trees, and I simply ran right over it like a full-blown idiot. Ah well, what are you gonna do? I never claimed to be a good driver.

The other bad news is about the bees. Two weeks ago or so, I opened the hives and discovered that one of them had apparently lost its queen. They were making queen cells. Consultation with my beekeeping mentor (The Bee-Man Speaks) yielded the plan to check the hives again in two weeks to make sure that one of the new queens had survived her maiden flight and begun laying eggs.

Well, I opened the hives yesterday. I am still a fairly hesitant beekeeper and I am not confident in my ability to correctly observe what is happening inside a hive, but I can be fairly sure that there is still no queen in that hive. I did not see any brood at all. There is plenty of nectar, and some capped cells, but no eggs or larvae.

That's not even the worst. The SECOND hive, the one that looked perfectly healthy last time, also appears to have lost it's queen. I did see some capped brood and some well-developed larvae, but no eggs or tiny larvae. I couldn't find the queen nor could I find any sign that she had recently been active. Nor did I see any queen cells.

This SUCKS! My plan had been, if there were no queen in hive one, to combine the hives by laying a a few layers of wet newspaper on top of hive two and then putting hive one on top. By the time the bees chew through the newspaper, they will have chemically melded and won't try to kill each other. But that plan only works if one of the hives still has a viable queen. With two hives but no queen, I haven't a clue what to do.

Well, I do have one idea. Call my bee-mentor and beg and plead for him to help me. I am not even sure of what I saw - I don't want to make things worse by buying and installing a new queen if there is in fact still a queen there. But on the other hand, I don't know how long a hive can survive without a queen. Maybe they will all die or fly away unless I get on the ball. In short, I need a second opinion, and I need one quick. Maybe I can bribe the man with goat cheese.

God knows, I have plenty of that.


Gail V said...

You are funny. Great tales, great sense of humor. I wanted to keep bees but Dear Daughter'd been stung at age 5 and wasn't havin' any of that on our place!

Jerry said...

I know this doesn't help your current Queen dilemma but when you do know you have them have you considered marking them with a drop of nail polish or something? I've read that this helps with identifying the Queen, especially for newer Keepers.

Good luck and congrats on the bean surprise.

Garden Lily said...

I look forward to hearing the next installment in the bee-hive story. This is fascinating to me.

Wow, if Homero dumped the bean seeds in what was to be your corn patch, I think he owes it to you to install a trellis. I wonder if you could move some over, and still plant the corn too? If they are newly sprouted, I'd bet they could be moved, if you dug up the chunk of soil around them, and then watered them like crazy in the new location.