Archive for the ‘bees’ Category

Is it a battle?

Many thanks to all of you who have sent comments about yesterday’s post. We are still reeling from what happened to the poor birds. His bee hive also got kicked over – but the bees seem to have survived. I’ve just been up to the allotment to see for myself and walk around – I must say the soul has gone out of the place for me – no noisy greeting as I arrived, nobody to talk to, or squabbles to sort out, no-one to feed out of my hand – just feathers everywhere. Laurie and Charlie (our allotment neighbour) did their best to clear as much as possible but those birds lost a lot of feathers. The police seem to consider that this was carried out by youths on drugs – most of the crime in these parts at the moment is due to the effects of drug taking and the need to get money for the next hit. I suppose we should think ourselves lucky that the violence we have been affected by was suffered by our birds and not our family members – but Laurie and I sat there last night very tempted to pack our bags for some foreign place where we could escape this kind of occurrence – Daily Mail phrases flashing through our heads. I realise how much violence I have absorbed from TV and movies as I imagine what acts I would carry out, faced with those responsible – me the fair minded liberal.

The local news last night had an item about a young man who has been jailed for stabbing another man at a bus stop. He had been seen on CCTV cycling through the streets, on the pavement, through the shopping centre (covered pedestrian centre) and out the other side. Just as he approached a bus stop, a man stepped backwards to read the bus timetable more clearly and they collided – the bus stop man shouted at the young cyclist, who promptly pulled a knife (£2 from Tesco Metro) and stabbed him to death. When asked why he had been carrying a kitchen knife he said that he was afraid of being attacked and carried it for his protection. Each morning I drive Curly Boy to school, then park the car at the bottom of the hill where I meet Al and we walk into work – I take the same route as the cyclist, through the estate where he lives, across the road, through the same shopping centre – Al and I often have to pull up short for hooded lads on push bikes and neither she nor I are afraid if pointing out our displeasure at almost being knocked down – so the man at the bus stop could very well be me, or her, or any of the people I know who go about their business day to day. We’re not playing by the same rule book anymore, codes of conduct no longer apply. This morning’s news is of ‘internal trafficking’ of girls as young as ten (the trafficking of British girls within the UK for prostitution).  

Our allotment is a small space for us to escape all of the stuff that goes on outside, but now I wonder how we will feel if the buildings get trashed, or burned, or Curly Boy’s summer house damaged, or the trees we have planted uprooted. Laurie is determined that we will carry on regardless and replace the chickens – put a lock on the enclosure gate and a padlock on the hen-house door (he and Charlie have already put 6″ nails across the top of the entrance gates to prevent someone from climbing over that way) – but I am still not sure. How can we know they won’t come back again? Did they come to bother the chickens? Did they come to steal? Did they know the chickens were there or was it a spur of the moment thing? If I could fathom the ‘why’ I might be able to know how to carry on with it all, but I don’t think there is a why in this case.

The joy of an allotment is that it is a piece of land right in the heart of a city, but unlike privately owned land, the very nature of it draws attention of the worst kind. There will always be moochers and thieves and vandals where there are allotments, greenhouses will always be smashed and sheds broken into. So why bother? Laurie says we must bother so that ‘they’ don’t win. But I don’t think it’s a battle, they just do it because it’s there.

A cock that crows.

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Look how our boys have grown and this morning I heard them try to crow – at least the most dominant one was trying. Photographs don’t do justice to the colours of his feathers either – it’s no wonder women used to crave hats with feathers – his tail is the darkest greeny black you have ever seen with dappled grey at the base.

I dropped Curly Boy at school this morning and then nipped up to the allotment for a good forty minutes just gazing at my feathered boys as they strutted round. The lone hen is beautiful too, her chest has a rosy hue to it. The battery chickens are shabby as ever, but great company (nice but dim I suppose). Our original hens seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that they have to share their quarters with this new bunch. Each faction keeps to their own space – and have the odd peck at each other when I feed them. I would love to stay up there all day but it’s just too cold at the moment.

One of the Sarahs came to stay for a few days last week ( I have many Sarahs: Sarah B (aslo known as Bakes), Sexy Sarah, Sarah from Crete and Sarah O (from Oz), then there’s Westy – there have been others too – must have been the most popular girl’s name for the early 60s although O is older). This was a visit from Bakes – her favourite part of the visit was our allotment. She lives in an old town house in Kensington  and they have a home in Devon too, a cottage with a view of the sea from the garden and a well in the sitting room – and yet she envies our poor old allotment. Funny how we are all striving for a litle piece of countryside – each accrding to our pocket.

She and her husband and their neighbours have just bought two cows in calf (one of the cows is named Sarah peculiarly!)  and intend to supply themselves with beef from now on courtesy of the calves. The neighbours have a large field to house them in. We are trying to persuade her to keep bees too – which she could do in London or Devon really. We have managed to harvest some of our honey but still have a load to do (slow going without the proper equipment) and it tastes wonderful. It’s such a full time occupation keeping on top of it all, work and bees and chickens and house and sanity. I might give in on the sanity for a while, then none of it will matter so much!

Bees make honey

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Well look what we brought home yesterday!

I can’t explain how excited we were. The bees are beavering away (or should that be bee-ing away?) at filling all the frames. Once the honey is at the right consistency for their taste, the bees cap off the frames (they seal them up with a wax covering). If nature took its course this would be the bees’ food for the winter – however – we want that honey so once they are capped we take them home, slice away the wax and drain the honey off for our own consumption and replace it with a sugar solution for them to eat.

Curly Boy is absolutely fearless around the hive and stands next to his father whilst they check each frame to see whether it is ready for us. Just one so far – but more to come. I think Christmas presents will include honey this year.

I have threatened to make presents this year in an effort to keep the costs of the festive season to an affordable level. Not sure how we’d make a Wii – but I know that honey will be gratefully received by many of our friends and family. I recall our poor old relatives were given dish cloths knitted from string when I was a child. I wonder how that would go down these days?

bees by special request

In March the kids gave Laurie a birthday present of bee-keeping lessons with a local group.He spent his Tuesday evenings out near Leicester with his new bee-keeping friends – all part anorak – nothing wrong with being part anorak – my friends have to have a streak of it to qualify. Laurie has a huge anorak inside (I don’t always listen, but I love it) – any new topic is consumed voraciously – books, web sites, magazines, endless conversations with fellow devotees. Bee-keeping has been no different – and the most surprising people know about bee-keeping.

On July 19th Middle Sis’s neighbour called to tell her she had a ‘problem’ – a swarm of bees had settled in her garden and hung themselves under a tree. No problem at all! Laurie had just completed his course and headed up there with his fetching beige bee-keeper’s suit in hand. He already had an old hive and some frames (which hang inside for bees to fill with honey) which he had been getting ready for a nucleus of bees (you can buy 150 bees to start off a colony). Middle Sis whizzed up to the allotments to pick up the hive for him whilst he readied himself.

He walked up to the tree with an Ikea storage box in hand and banged the branch where the bees were hanging. The queen settles on a branch and the bees cluster round her to protect her (bit like Chinese acrobats upside down). The swarm just dropped off into the box – which he then carried over to where he had set up the hive. He put the Ikea crate close to the hive and the bees simply crawled inside.

A day later – he sealed the hive, put it into the back of my car and drove – very carefully – to the allotment where they now have a new home.

Later that evening Laurie was sitting at the computer mumbling – ‘yes, yes. Did that, that’s ok’. When I asked him what he was doing he said he was ‘just checking’. I suppose it’s one thing to be shown what to do and quite another to actually do it.

I think we’ll have to wait a while until we get honey – but as he reckons we have about 40,000 bees in the hive it shouldn’t be too long.

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