Wild Asters for Bees

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I have a confession. Up until quite recently if a bee got too close I’d often run and scream. My best friend still has the scars on her arm from when I in panic grabbed her arm so she wouldn’t run from the bee crawling up my arm.

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Now I think they’re so damned cute. Pollinators are cute even if they don’t produce honey. This year we lost two hives and my husband with a busy schedule has avoided the ones we have left because being responsible for thousands of tiny lives and seeing so much death is so depressing. At least when you kill a cow it’s only one life, he says (we haven’t killed any cows, btw).

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I’m thinking maybe I should step up to the plate, suit up and help these little guys and gals since I’ve learned to enjoy their company. There’s something so comforting in the days of the final fall flowers, the asters and the goldenrod, to hear the busy buzzing of bumbles and honeys.

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Never Wear Rubber Clogs Near The Hen House

Dead rooster weapon.
Dead rooster weapon.

I raised Tommy from a mere chick! I wiped his vent! We were friends until he stabbed me–REALLY stabbed me in the Achilles tendon and got stuck. The moment he broke free the blood started gurgling out through my sock and I suddenly felt faint for the first time in my life. Both of my legs were badly bruised as well.

I usually have slender legs, btw.
I usually have slender legs, btw.

The shot above is about a week into the injury–when I could walk but still not wear proper boots. We don’t have a great backup plan for milking the goats since I’ve trained them to depend on me to do everything just so. This meant that I had to be carried in my rubber clogs down to the barn the first day. Yes, carried. I initially fought against it, but I REALLY couldn’t walk. So first it was piggy back and then fireman style. Pretty embarrassing, indeed. Daphne the goat has been very upset since we took her babies and thinks now that I’m her baby so whenever I leave she worries–loudly.

The babies we stole (and brought back) to the herd. They have no idea who their mother is.
The babies we stole (and brought back) to the herd. They have no idea who their mother is.

The rooster Tommy had to go. My husband had to kill him. And just as he was doing the butchering in the yard he noted a ruckus in the house–dogs flying into window screens, books and plants being toppled and a chipmunk running scared for its life in the living room. He was halfway through the dirty deed and could only yell at the dogs to STOP. They didn’t listen of course.

Brief interlude: pretty little flower.
Brief interlude: pretty little flower.

Then we heard a buzzing noise. A very LOUD buzzing. Yes, the last of our bee hives decided to swarm, which meant a new queen was born and the hive was splitting and one half was going to search for a better home. We have two empty hives–bees, where are you going? Well, they went to a tall tree at the edge of our field. The last swarm we had went to the neighbor’s hives and our neighbor says they’re giving him excellent honey.

What you’re not supposed to do is chainsaw a tree down to recover the swarm, but  hey, we wear clogs around roosters. My husband cut the tree down and here is the swarm:

What not to wear.
What not to wear.

And here again:

Docile bunch of rascals.
Docile bunch of rascals.

Bees aren’t stupid. They don’t just randomly leave home and then wonder where to live next. Some scouts go out, record the best real estate in their little brains (or whatever they have) and come back to the swarm doing a cute little dance that actually tells the rest of the bees about their find. The bees then decide based on the wiggly dancers which place they’d prefer.

My husband was really pleased to have a new second bee colony–for about  an hour. As he stood in the garden taking an important work-related call he witnessed to his horror the bees escaping and swarming again and this time they went to a far away place–no idea where.

On the positive side, my husband discovered the BEST cheese we’ve made yet and it can be made in the CROCK POT!

Deliciousness.
Deliciousness.

All you do is bring the milk to 185 degrees, keep it at that temp for 10 minutes which is really easy to do in the crock pot. Then for every quart of milk you add 1/4 cup of lemon juice and then just wait till the curds form.

Then you drain the curds in cheesecloth and put it under your home-made cheese press and wait about 2 hours.

Note the LOWES patio bricks.
Note the LOWES patio bricks.

The cheese is pretty good the first day but by day three in the fridge it takes on a muenster/mozzarella taste (great dipped in garlic infused olive oil). Most goat cheeses we’ve made in the past have a tang–but we’ve realized that many recipes called for vinegar and really the lemon juice is SOOO much nicer. You should try it.

Pretty cheese discovery.
Pretty cheese discovery.

Death in Bee Land

Silent homes.

Silent homes.

Two of our hives died this winter. It’s so sad to see the tiny bodies. People complain about invasive species. Some of these people have hives. Yet honeybees are transplants from Europe. In fact, the Indians hated when they saw honeybees  because they knew the white settlers weren’t far behind. I guess sweet invaders are acceptable . . .