Sunday, February 20, 2011

Facets of Beekeeping

Chuck Lorence has been promoting, educating, encouraging and protecting bees and their keepers for many years. He is creative, experimental and entrepreneurial. He has a long history of serving on boards, presiding over beekeeping clubs, and advancing the causes of beekeepers by his involvement in organizations, the state fair and politics. He is, in my opinion and I am pretty sure that I am in good company, The Master Beekeeper of Cook DuPage Counties in Illinois. In addition, he is frugal, approachable, entertaining and wise.

Chuck says that he and his wife were hippies in the 1970’s. Not the pot smoking kind of hippies but the natural food, gardener, live-off-the-land kind of hippies. He says, “You know, hippies brought us organic farming. They were the pioneers in that field.”

In 1971, Chuck read an article about beekeeping in a copy of Mother Earth News while waiting for a dentist appointment. It reminded him that his father used to keep bees when he was around the age of eight in Racine, WI.

He told a humorous story of how his father used to pull honey. With the bees swarming his father like a cloud, Chuck and his siblings and his mom watched from the safety of the screen door. He recalls his mother saying, “Do not laugh at your father.”

After reading the article on beekeeping, and seeing what it could do for the environment and our food supply, he went to the Wisconsin farm where he was raised and got his father’s old beekeeping equipment. He burned all that was beyond repair, and scraped, sanded and painted the rest and got his beekeeping start with two hives. He has been keeping bees ever since. He continued to teach graphic arts at Glenbrook South High School. However, unlike most hobbyist beekeepers, he figured out a way to make it a lucrative hobby. At his prime, he kept 150 colonies but recently downsized to 25-30 colonies.

When I heard that Chuck was going to semi retire, I jumped at the opportunity to sit under his teaching. I am so glad for this experience. Chuck is good. He is passionate. I leave class each Wednesday really wanting to become a beekeeper and believing that I can do it.

However, to be quite honest, I think that I like the idea of beekeeping better than actually doing the beekeeping. Much in the same way, I like the idea of dogs—especially Lassie-like stories. I like the idea of horses and horse stories and yes, I went through a phase of drawing horses. However, I can’t say that I really want a dog or a horse. In fact I am quite sure that if someone offered to give me a dog or a horse and pay for the expenses for one year, I would decline. I am not too optimistic that beekeeping is ever going to be much of a passionate hobby for me either.

Yet I was excited and eager to accompany my beekeeping hubby on Saturday to see if his girls had survived the winter.

He was overjoyed, ecstatic, to discover four surviving hives at this beeyard. We did not get to the other beeyards because we needed to do some other chores before attending our local beekeeper’s club meeting.

At this particular meeting, a CSI panel shared what they knew and did not know about dead-outs. (In beekeeping terms, a dead colony especially one that did not survive the winter is referred to as a “dead-out.”) One gracious beekeeper, brought an unopened winter colony—a dead-out and it was opened and dismantled and scrutinized—an autopsy of sorts. The panel and other knowledgeable beekeepers explained the forensic science of beekeeping. Several theories for this dead-out emerged. Perhaps there was too much moisture in the hive—but that theory did not make sense to me as it was wintered just like other colonies in the beeyard that survived and the dead bees were not wet. There was plenty of honey in the hive and no evidence of disease. The theory that made the most sense to me was that the queen died and the cluster became confused with no queen to protect. Thus small clusters were found in four or five areas of the hive. When they did not huddle and work together, they got cold and could not survive. Several beekeepers made suggestions as to why the queen might have died. It is important to know why colonies do not survive the winter so changes can be made for a better outcome the next year.

At first glance, you might think that beekeepers are an unusual group of people.

But here is what I discovered after attending several of these meetings each year.

Beekeepers are:
  • unpretentious
  • generous
  • vulnerable
  • sharing
  • kind
  • learned
  • hopeful
  • motivating
  • fascinating
  • hardworking

  • and appreciative of good desserts.

I am so glad that my hubby is a beekeeper!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sweeter than honey

After being with the grandkids for ten days, I have lots of material for blog posts but instead just did a little movie of pictures. I think this song is so sweet and of course the kids are sweeter.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Slowing down? Eat something red!

Andy checked out a book from the library on Eat This Not That! for Kids!. The boys have especially latched on to the designations on pages 12-16 about what kind of Superpowers vegetables and fruits give you—depending on which color they are. Jacob uses the phrases like code words for whatever he would like on his plate at mealtimes.

  • Red food makes you dash like the Flash!
  • Orange foods give you night vision!
  • Yellow foods make you jump higher and play harder!
  • Green foods give you sharp vision and superhuman healing abilities!
  • Blue foods make you the smartest kid in the class!
Jacob loves his Red Fireball shirt and being on a team. In the video, he is the smallest Red Fireball. His number is three. Jakie is particularly into “dash like a flash” foods.

Apparently it works?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Y Fan

I like the Durham Downtown Y

I like the zero depth pool.

I like free play in the gym and the walking path above it.

I like the staff.

I like the programs . . .

for all ages . . .

I like the families.

I like the spectators.

I like the participants.

And guess who scored in his Blue Lasers game on Saturday!

I am a fan.

Friday, February 11, 2011

This just won’t work . . .

The concept of Valentine’s Day was new, a couple of days ago, to five year old Ryan. I explained that we needed to go and buy some valentines so that he could give one to each person in his class.

Ryan knows that we do not like to spend money unnecessarily and so he suggested that he could make a valentine for everyone.

I explained that would mean a lot of writing to make one for all of his classmates.

Ryan’s response made us smile. He is definitely his daddy’s son.

He said, “Well, I could just write what I want to say and then we could make a chart and everyone could make a mark on the chart by their name after they read it.”

After Ryan went to bed, we chuckled again as Amy and I related the story to his daddy, Andy.

The next morning at breakfast, Andy anxiously asked, “Oh no! Did I miss Valentine’s Day?” Amy and I laughed and assured him that he still had time to observe the day.

It seemed that he was sincere when he said, “Whew! Good! Because I really love all of my family.”

Then he paused, “Please put a check mark after your name when you have read this.”