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Archive for the ‘Beekeeping’ Category

When we last spoke (regrettably, almost a year ago), my studio needed a new roof and our bee hive had died.

So let’s catch up. The roof was replaced, but not without further adventures in dry rot, wet rot, basically all sorts of rot. The Theory and I had to lie down with warm compresses on our foreheads and whiskey in our coffee cups after writing that check. The good news is that the roof doesn’t leak anymore.

On a beautiful day in early May, we welcomed a new box of bees to the hive. We learned so much after last year, such as don’t let paper wasps set up shop anywhere near your girls. Don’t let your hive get wet and moldy (see paragraph above for rot). And keep feeding those girls into the fall months. We had favorable weather through November, and even when winter set in, it hasn’t been cold or rainy for long. We have our fingers and toes crossed.

The summer months were taken up with a new project. My father built an archive building to house and preserve his and my stepmother’s artwork. When I say build, let’s keep in mind that professionals (Meng-Hannan Ltd) were involved. Check this: the archive building is the first new structure on the property since 1923 and the only one that is up to code. I just get shivers.

And no year of ups and downs would be complete without someone losing their job. And that would be me. After 19 years and 11 months, my stint as a kept woman came to an end. I know about doors closing and windows opening (people say the darnedest things…over and over again). But what I came away with, along with my wheelie chair and a box of binder clips, was admiration for the people I worked with for all those years.

What will I do next? I believe a nap is in order. But I have one interesting factoid from the land of the unemployed: there is just as little time in the day when you don’t have a job as when you do. And here I thought I would get so much done!

The Theory has some encaustic research goodies to pass on, which I will do in a couple of days. In the meantime, happy new creativity, everyone!

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You may think that a broken-down studio roof in a rainy Pacific Northwest spring is about as a bad as it could get. But no! It gets worse.

Our beehive died.

Yup, that picture taken on Snow Day back in February is actually a photo of a silent tomb. Silent except for a family of well-fed mice which freaked me the heck out when I lifted the lid to look inside. I’m not mouse-phobic, but on that first sunny day when we opened the hive to find dead bees and live mice, I nearly threw up.

The Theory did the hive postmortem while I was at work and he said that when he tipped the hive over, most of the mice got away, except for those taken out by our cat Spot. I felt bad when he told me that the mom mice carried away the hairless baby mice in their mouths. Until The Theory reminded me the adults would probably eat their young, now that they’ve been evicted from the honey pot.

We think the bees have been dead since late November when we had a week or two of arctic weather. We haven’t had cold like that for years, this being the Willamette Valley and heaven on earth, except for the mud (and leaky roofs, but don’t get me started). The bees just couldn’t stay warm enough.

The inside of the hive was carpeted with dead, desiccated bees. We didn’t take any photographs of the devastation, so here is an image from someone else’s deadout. Ours looked exactly like this except for the mice.

The inside of a top bar hive. You can see a full bar of comb on the left.  Photo courtesy of Kittalog.

The inside of a top bar hive. You can see a full bar of comb on the left. Photo courtesy of Kittalog.

I borrowed this image from the April 3, 2011 blog entry from Kittalog (http://kittbo.blogspot.com/2011/04/beehive-postmortem.html) which is a beautiful site with many great photos. None of which I will ever use again.

UPDATE: Undaunted, we installed another package of bees last week!

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I’m watching the snow fall, the very snow I’ve been waiting for all year. I understand, people in other parts of the U.S. scoff at Oregonians’ inability to drive in the snow, dress for snow or, let’s be honest, think in the snow. Snow starts coming down and we flee the workplace by the thousands convinced it’s the end of the world and we’re all going to freeze to death. On the other hand, what group of people knows more about seasonal affective disorder than Oregonians?

Although we’re only getting our snow now, we had a savage cold snap in early December. The lows were in the single digits. And again, I understand, this is nothing for you folks in Montana (Stacey Jean Barron of Missoula, Montana, I’m talking to you) but for us it was unexpected, especially for beekeepers. A friend lost two hives, and we have no idea whether our bees are still alive. Anyway, it’s still pretty out there:

Sculptures in the snow.

Lee Kelly sculptures in the snow. The one in the foreground is from the 1960’s. The lonely table in the background is where The Theory and I had lunch during the reno. It was sunny and warm then. Seems so long ago now.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead.

Lavender from the garden, probably dead. I don’t want to talk about it.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales.

Our beehive huddled under straw bales. That’s Akbar’s Elephant in the background, a stainless steel sculpture by my father. Sculptures always look great in the snow.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

A close-up of the hive. Snow is insulating, right? I can still hope.

Well, I need to get the hurricane lamps set up in case we lose power. A happy snow day to all… and to my bees, good luck.

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As of yesterday afternoon, I am an official beek… a bee keeper. By “I” I of course mean “we” because The Theory did all of the actual work from building the hive to bonking the bee package and dumping the little guys into the hive. No one got stung, which is probably a comment on our weather more than our awesome beek skills since it was raining all day and about 49 degrees. These guys traveled up from Chico, California just a day ago. Right now, they are probably sitting in their hive asking themselves how the heck they got to this rainy planet and when is the space ship going to come and beam them back to sunny California.

A question I have often asked myself. Here’s a photo I took this morning of our occupied bee hut:

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can't you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, "Does it rain here ALL the time?"

A rainy Sunday morning on Planet Oregon. Can’t you just imagine the ladies inside this beehive asking the eternal question, “Does it rain here ALL the time?”

Making your own conte crayons and pastels

I’ve been trying to reblog a great post about making your own conte crayons from Pistrucci Art Works.  I can’t get the reblogging thingy to work on WordPress, so I’m hard-wiring it here. Conte crayons are a great example of an art supply that seems to have been born in a factory somewhere without human intervention. And yet, this product had humble DIY origins. Pistrucci Art Works often posts recipes like this, recipes the author developed herself. So click on over and enjoy!

Exploring Conte Crayons – Experimental Recipe for Fine artists and Clay artists

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