Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another Swarm

My friend Jamaica has been wanting to keep bees for ages.  She and I work together, and she recently moved into an adorable house just around the corner from me.  

I loaned her a beehive, and we both put out the word that we were looking for swarms. 

Jamaica came over this afternoon to help me with the bees I'd picked up a few weeks back. Shortly after she left, the always-awesome Yolanda from Pollinate Farm and Garden gave me a call, alerting me to a swarm just a few miles away. 

An observant neighbor has seen a swarm of bees settle on a fallen tree limb. Unfortunately, the tree limb was too large to move or cut, and was laying on the ground inside of a massive rose bush. 

With the homeowners' permission, I cut a tunnel into the rose bush, and climbed inside. 

There wasn't enough room to fit my swarm collecting box under the tree limb, so the neighbor and I brushed and scooped the bees into the box. I carry an extra bee suit when I collect swarms. It's always great to have help, and people around here tend to be pretty adventurous. 

Once the bulk of the bees were in the box, I got everyone's phone numbers, and left the bees alone. 

If all goes well, the bees will go to bed in the box, and Jamaica and I can pick them up once it gets dark. 

Wish us luck!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bees, Once Again!

It has been over a year since Robb and I kept bees. Our colonies had dwindled, and my work schedule was simply too hectic to allow me to chase after swarms. 

This spring, I asked my friends to keep an eye out for swarms. As it turned out, friends-of-friends (who also happened to live quite nearby) had a colony of bees that was throwing off swarms. On Sunday, I picked up a massive swarm of bees with almost no effort. (This never happens.)

Beekeeper Laurie had already coaxed the bees into a "nuc" box (basically, a mini beehive), and all I had to do was wait until sundown, when bees go to bed. Once they'd settled, I would close the entrance to the box, wrap the whole thing in bedsheets, and drive them to my house. A few thousand bees in my car: what could possibly go wrong?

Few things are more enjoyable than sitting in a beautifully maintained garden, watching the sun set over the waters of the San Francisco Bay. The bees took a while to retire. And my wait was very pleasant. 

The next morning, I carefully transferred Laurie's bees into my hive. There was some inevitable chaos, but overall things went smoothly. The bees weren't aggressive at all. 

And again we wait. 

Hopefully, the bees will accept this hive as a new home, but that's a decision that the bees have to make. 

Fingers crossed. 

Friday, March 18, 2016


 The soil in our East Oakland garden can be charitably described as "challenging."  In the interest of improving things, I'm constantly dragging home soil amendments. Horse manure, wood chips, you name it. 

And as a result of all of the things I dig into our soil, we grow a wide variety of mushrooms. Every few years, the garden sprouts a single -- and usually bug-infested -- morel. 

This year, we hit the jackpot. Robb found a cache of morels in a particularly weedy part of the garden. 

He read our mushroom books. And he read our other mushroom books, and then he made a beautiful pizza with a home-made crust. 

It was delicious. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Doggy Bags, The Cats' Version

Robb and I are career vegetarians. We do not buy our cats large hunks of meat or bones. 

And yet. 

This is what I found on the kitchen rug this morning. 

Oh kitties....

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The EggStravaganza (and You're Invited!)

It's time once again for the somewhat-annual EggStravaganza, where I'll teach you to make somewhat traditional Eastern European Easter eggs, and we'll have some laughs, and hopefully won't set too many things on fire. 

Saturday, March 26th 1-5pm
1111 8th Street, Berkeley 

Dress to work with dye. Bring your own blown eggs. 

And please, please, please let me know if you're coming. It really helps me plan the set-up. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Cloudy, With A Chance Of Meatballs

I've been enjoying some much needed time off from work. I've been working in the garden, sewing a project with Emma (more on that, anon), and doing a bit of urban kayaking with Lassen and Robb. 

Robb and I wrote up a huge list of tasks I wanted to get done, and we've accomplished most of them. Today's big job was hauling bulk trash to the curb. It's remarkable how much trash is produced while restoring an older home. 

We're finally getting some rain, which will hopefully diminish the multi-year drought we've been experiencing. Kayaking was scheduled on a non-rainy day (although I still got drenched).  And bulk trash was hauled with one eye on the rain clouds. 

As for the meatballs?  

Well, Sleeves dragged a huge one in through the cat door, caterwauling a mournful hunting song. Cats who live in groups will often vocalize when they've brought home prey. 

We're not thrilled that he's dragging home meatballs, but it's a lot better than the week he and his brother brought home a family of half dead rats. 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What the Flock, People?

I'm enjoying a bit of well-earned vacation.  Here, because it amused me, are the signs on the bathroom doors at the legendary nursery Annie's Annuals. 

But wait. It gets better. 


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