Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This Is My Peace Symbol

I am a liberal, progressive, humanist, Democratic Socialist. These are not monikers that I use every day. Why? Well, I live in one of the wealthiest, most conservative counties in Colorado. It's difficult to make friends if you start a conversation with "Hi, Jesus isn't real and I'd like to talk to you about raising taxes." Don't get me wrong, I don't hide my views. My friends, my family, and my governor all know how I feel about the issues. Representative Mike Coffman, if he reads his own email, certainly gets an earful. I vote with my ballot and, more often, with my dollar.

I'm no fool. I know that my point of view isn't popular where I live, and the words
Democratic Socialist
outside the context of a living person, and a family, are considered poison by many in my community. So in everyday life I try to be a moral human being, do my own thing, indulge in an occasional rant, and get by without rocking the boat unnecessarily.

I do however have a sticker on my car. My oh-so-Colorado, kid-friendly, dog-friendly Subaru Outback sports one small, adorable, piece of insight into my personality.

I bought it because I love our president and what he stands for. I believe in cool heads, compromise, and taking care of the common man. I believe in intelligence and social progress. I believe in strong women, organic gardens, and getting kids up off the couch and moving. I believe in powerful couples and rock solid families who face daily adversity with honor, humor and love. For all of these reasons, I shelled out $4.99, plus shipping, to voice my support of these ideals. Truth be told, I also bought it because I thought would look cute on my car. My neighbors do not find it so cute.

There is a large dent, the size of a rock or a can of soup or the side of a baseball bat, near the roof on the back. I found this one day leaving the grocery store. Maybe I backed into a low hanging branch without noticing. Maybe someone accidentally bumped into me with a 50-ft Hummer. Or, more likely, someone took offense at my right to express my own views, benignly on my own car, and decided to send a message of their own.

Since moving into Douglas County (yes, I've now named you), I have been cut off and flipped off by other cars more often than I care to count. Just a few weeks ago a giant truck, driven by a small man, cut me off and watched me in his rearview mirror until he was certain I had seen his "Does your Obama sticker make you feel stupid yet?" bumper sticker. Taking a cue from my husband, I laughed and waved and drove on.

I'm usually pretty good at keeping my outward cool, reveling in my own enlightened superiority (it's my own mind in my own car - I'm allowed) and doing my best to ignore the fact that I don't fit in to the social fabric of my surroundings. On my less than stellar days, I'll smile and give them a single finger salute. Nothing too crazy on either side. But things escalated last Friday.

While driving home with my mom and two young sons in the car, yet another small man in a giant truck - this one complete with trailer - roared past us on the road in an effort to get in front of us and flaunt his wares. Trouble was, he crossed into our lane without clearing our car. Woopsie-doodle. Two short blasts of the uber-friendly Subaru horn should have been enough to alert him of this error.

Did we get the "Whoa, my bad" wave we expected, and have him return to his lane like a normal human being? Nope. This b-hole was itching for a fight. We got the middle finger out the window, a string of "Fuck you!"s, and a truck with trailer that proceeded to run us off the side of the road (thankfully into an opportune turn lane) in order to prove his point.

And what was his point?

They're hard to read, so let me spell out a few of the better ones:
Shoot more bitch less.
Embrace the recoil.
You can't beat a woman who shoots.
I love guns and Starbucks. (WTF?)
Extremely rightwing.
This is my peace symbol.

I can only assume that my happy orange sticker and a bad day somehow justified him putting my family's life in danger in order to further his asshole agenda. In order to show me what a man he was, and how much he hated Obama, and me, and loved the Second Amendment (which I doubt he can recite or correctly interpret) and his guns (of which I am sure at least one was in his truck), he felt he was within his rights to intimidate, bully, and put our lives at risk. If this altercation had happened 15 feet earlier or later, he would have successfully driven us over the median and into oncoming traffic.

Well done, sir. Successfully played. Your thought-provoking actions and eloquent articulations have completely changed my point of view. I am thrilled to have a mind such as yours, with what I can only assume to be a matching temper and level of education, to be in constant possession of a firearm. My family and I will sleep better with visions of your peace symbol in our minds. God bless you, patriot, and God bless the United States of America.

Maybe I should move.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Spring Beekeeping...or, Crazy Little Bug(ger)s!

Bees. I'm finding them to be like children - just when you think you know something they pull the rug out and you're back at square one, doing your best and putting money into the therapy jar for their future.

Remember when I wrote the Cherokee Girls off as dead? Well, somehow they survived the bulk of the winter. Two weeks ago, there were signs of life in the hive, and their fuzzy brown bodies were all over the place. I think that by giving them only one full deep to heat throughout the winter, I inadvertently helped prolong the life of this tiny colony.

So it was with great sadness and dismay that I opened the hive this past weekend only to find the colony clustered in a small, fresh-dead bundle. The most recent freeze did them in.

And I couldn't even steal the remaining honey because the EXPLODING population in the neighboring hive was already busy with the same idea. (Note to self, figure out how to harvest the vast amounts of leftover wax.) We cleaned the hive, and moved on. And by "we," I mean my little brother and beekeeping buddy, Kris.

Next, Kris and I popped the top on the Great Grand hive, and the bees who weren't out foraging for the day filled 3 deeps. It's always been easy to tell the two colonies apart, as the Cherokee Girls were light brown, and the Great Grand Girls have a brighter orange body. And those orange bees were everywhere!

The top deep was 90% full of capped honey. And bees. The second deep had capped honey, larva, and capped drones. And bees. The bottom deep was so packed with bees that we didn't pull any frames. The ladies were calm (initially), but the volume was high with that many residents packed into such a small space.

Next came the tricky, hope I don't regret it, hastily made decision. There were a lot of bees, loads of capped honey, and the nectar flow is officially on. Conditions were ripe for a spring swarm. Why wait and recapture half the colony when I had a perfectly good hive that was now clean and empty? So we did a split. A winging-it, didn't plan it, Googling-as-we-go split. I'd done one before, but that was with Bee Mentor Don and over a year ago.

First, Kris moved the Grand hive over a few inches to confuse the returning bees. Then we set up the vacant hive right next door.

We left the bottom deep on the Grand hive alone, and took most of the second deep - keeping the brood frames in order - and gave them to the split. Honey from the top deep was divided, and a 5 new frames with no honey or drawn comb were divided between them. Why did we not just put the second deep, as is, onto the bottom board of the empty hive and call it good? Well, that's a really good question in hindsight, but the bees were crazy mad, the frames were already out, and shut up. Live and learn.

Finally, since we were still really close to the 7/10 threshold of full frames in both hives' upper deeps, and since there was plenty of honey in both hives, I added excluders and a super to each hive. Maybe a misstep, but one that we risked. This is the year for honey, dammit!

So now we wait. I'll check the ladies in a week or so, weather allowing, to look for signs of queen cells and determine where the resident queen ended up. All things considered, it was a good day. No stings. Potential for a new colony. And the imperfect forgiveness that is nature. Even with all of our blunders, both hives have food, brood and bees. Come on girls, do your thing!


Six days later, and things are looking okay from the outside. I am seeing activity in both hives, but the original is definitely busier. I am doing my best to chill out and follow the advice on Honey Bee Suite:
  • You can put splits side-by-side, no problem. Just remember that for a long time, the part without a queen will look like no one is home. Gradually, as nurses become foragers, the discrepancy will decrease. Don’t let the number of foragers in the one part freak you out. If the split is raising a queen, everything is working according to plan.