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Showing posts from April, 2011

How not to catch a swarm of feral honeybees

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... As the spring progresses, I'm continuing to get calls about swarms of feral honeybees. This morning, I turned down a request to remove a colony of bees from someone's walls. (I don't have the skills to open up walls, remove bees and honeycomb, and then restore everything once the bees are gone.) I did, however, drive up to the Berkeley hills, to see if I could help remove a swarm from a backyard apple tree. This swarm was huge, the largest I'd ever seen. Everything seemed pretty straightforward. I'd give the branch a sharp shake, and the bees would fall into the wooden hive-box that I'd set up on an upended garbage can. A shower-curtain-liner would catch all of the loose bees, and would serve as a wrapper for the hive-box, when I put it in my car. Sounded simple, right? Well, as you can see, the bees did not land neatly in the box, as suggested by the magenta arrow. Instead, they fell smack on the ground, in the middle of a blackberry thi

Cats, at Home

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... Smog is back home from his harrowing and expensive stay at the veterinary hospital. I got up stupidly early, because if I could pick him up before the office officially opened, I'd save a few bucks on the staggering cost of his hospitalization. I don't think with Smog or I slept particularly well, and we're both exhausted and antsy. If you think that a cat's shaved legs look scrawny and pathetic, you should be thankful that I chose not to share the photos of his hairless butt. Smog has been roaming the garden, looking for the best place to nap. Only a cat can look this demented and ferocious while yawning. And speaking of demented kitties, did anyone see these photos of Larry, the kitty who lives at 10 Downing Street? He's all dressed up in honor of the royal wedding. And we're shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you -- that the Prime Minister's cat is allowed to walk the newly laid table. When my sister and I were growing up, and we co

A Very Sick Kitty

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... Our sweet kitty Smog is getting to be quite a big boy. This photo is a bit misleading, due to foreshortening. He's still smaller than the rest of the cats who live in and around our house. Tonight, Smoggy is in the hospital, because his digestive system is failing him. When we found him, his pelvis was horribly distorted from some kind of trauma. He was probably hit by a car, and his bones healed all wrong. Because of this, and possibly because of some neurological damage, this little guy has chronic digestive issues. The poor little guy has not been able to pass solid waste for days, despite repeated medical intervention. He's a very sick kitty, and we're very worried. Smog is spending the night in the Kitty Emergency Room. Please think strong healing thoughts for our silly little friend.

Buzzing About

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... As I was drinking coffee on Sunday, I got a call from a woman who had a swarm of bees in her backyard. Since she lived quite nearby, Robb and I decided to run on over to see if we could catch the bees, and offer them a home. In some ways, this was an easy swarm to catch. The bees were reasonably docile, and only about a foot off of the ground. In other ways, this swarm was tricky. The bees were lodged behind some beautiful and thorny older rose bushes, so getting the hive box near the bees required determined contortions. We brushed the bees into a box that Robb had built, and about half of them stayed put. This was a good sign, indicating that we might have caught the queen. The other half of the bees flew up into the air, and then coalesced back onto the fencepost. Every time we brushed them into a box, they'd fly right back to the fence. It was very alarming to watch, and homeowner Leslie must have been less than thrilled by the display. Since the bees in

A Taste of Honey

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... Another glorious weekend. And I've provided a home for another swarm of feral honeybees. I'm doped up on Benadryl, because I managed to get stung. I'll write when I'm a bit more lucid.

What the Cluck????

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... photo by Josh Phillipson Who wants to join us on Sunday May 15th, from 1 until 4, for the third annual Alameda Backyard Chicken Coop Bicycle Tour? ( Click here for details.) It's loads of fun, and really easy cycling. Alameda has an island-wide speed limit of 25 miles per hour, so there's nothing scary about riding on the roads. You can pedal past the lovely Victorians and sweet bungalows, and gawk at folks' gardens and hens. Plus, the island is as flat as flat can be, so even if you haven't been on your bike in ages, you'll be able to keep up. If anyone actually says they're interested, Robb and I will end the tour with some little nibbles and drinks at our place. What do you think? Wanna join us?

Fit for a Queen

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... On Sunday, Robb and I opened up both of our hives, to see how things were going. We had split the Gloriana hive a few weeks back, and put a number of frames of brood and food in the spot where the old Elizabeth Taylor hive had been. Since then, both hives have been been foraging industriously, but Robb and I were curious to see how the bees' reproductive cycles were progressing. Overall, things seems bustling. The bees busily lapped up the spilled honey where we inadvertently tore their comb. I love the one bee who looks like she's hugging a pillow made of honey. Who can resist the charms of bee tongues? This frame went into the hive two days ago, and the bees have already built significant amounts of wax comb. They'll eventually knit all these paddles together into one seamless wall of honeycomb. There were a few oddities, like the scattered dead drones, who looked to have starved just as they were emerging from their birthing cells. These dead bees als

Just a Taste...

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... It takes a shockingly long time for me to edit and organize my photographs, so this is just a teaser of what I'll be sharing, soon. We did an inspection of both of our beehives, and harvested a little bit of the honey.

A Little Something, To Haunt Your Dreams

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... I took this video through the screen on top of the box of bees that we caught on Friday. It's a good thing that I'm not freaked out by insects. A Year Ago An entirely delightful, and non-freaky bee video Two Years Ago Urban Turkeys Three Years Ago So Demented ... So-o-o-o-o-o-o Cute! Four Years Ago We go rowing in a historic whaleboat Five Years Ago What It's Like to be Robb

Bees for the Newbies

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... This has been a weekend abuzz with bees. However, I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to only write about the second bee event of the day. Stay tuned for the photos from the Spring Workshop of the Mount Diablo Beekeepers' Association. Yesterday Robb and I caught a swarm of bees near Jack London Square in Oakland. And today we gave those bees to some folks we met through the Alameda County Beekeepers' Association. Because Robb and I had gotten our bees through other people's generosity, we wanted to return the favor. A few months ago, I announced that I wanted to give bees to some beginners, preferably someone who lived nearby. Laurel and Gerry (pictured above) "parked" a hive box on our hive, and the bees (eventually) built honeycombs, laid in stores of nectar, and started raising young bees in their box. Last night, Robb and I shook our bees off of the frames in Laurel and Gerry's hive box, and populated this box with the swarm bees. Th

Bees and Beer -- only one letter apart. Coincidence? I think not!

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... I got a call at work today from a woman who had noticed a swarm of honeybees near her office, and had found our local bee club on the internet. The club has a very clever phone system that connects bee-finders with bee-keepers. Robb and I met up after work, with a car-load of bee gear, to capture this swarm. In this case, the bees were congregating on the bottom of a wall, behind a rosemary bush. A rosemary sprig makes a delicious-smelling bee-brush. Robb scooted the bees into a cardboard file box, which I then I dumped into our larger wooden box. We would have brushed the bees directly into the wooden hive box, but could not cram it between the wall and the bush. Robb and I were the evening entertainment for the bar next door. Before we were finished, most of the dudes sitting on the patio, all of the bouncers, and one passing scientist had moseyed over to take a look at what we were doing. (The latter had worked at the Berkeley Bee Garden -- which I've writte

Autobiographical Marmalade -- Sweet, Strong, and Shocklingly Bitter

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... Last Thursday evening, I went over to a semi-neighbor's house to pick some of her surplus lemons. (She's a semi-neighbor, because while we're both participants in the same neighborhood gardening forum, I live on a decidedly less posh street than she does.) Her tree was bursting with fruit. I gathered up a basket-full and went into work dreaming of marmalade. I'm pretty sure that these are Ponderosa lemons, which are known for their huge size and thick skins. Some of these lemons were gigantic. I'd never seen anything like them. A few were downright freaky-looking. For those curious, here's how I made the marmalade. (I've written about this elsewhere on the blog. ) I removed the outer layer of peel, cutting away as little of the bitter pith as possible. One of the reasons I believe that these are Ponderosa lemons, is because of the very thick white pithy layer, which I've learned (thanks to the fascinating blog, Saving Th

This and That

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... The blog has been languishing because Robb has been sick with a miserable, lingering cold and because I've been so busy at work. Also, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck, PETTING THE CAT, and I've been really uncomfortable. I really should tell people that I hurt my neck saving a child from a burning building, because the truth is so pathetic. Robb's physiatrist (the doctor that oversees his rehabilitation) moved out of state, and Robb finally got an appointment with a new doctor. We like this one, just as we liked the one Robb started with. I drove Robb to the appointment, because he was still feeling so unwell from the cold. It's probably good that I did, because Robb is too demure and polite, and doesn't always accurately describe his condition. I think he doesn't want to be seen as a "complainer" which is admirable in some situations, but maybe not so much when starting with a new physician. I found myself having to step in a fe

The Strawberry Headed Cat Strikes Again!

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... Since we've been writing so much about Smog, it is only fair that we give some attention to our kitty Linguine. For the story of this photo, click here. . A sharp-eyed letterboxing friend noticed that this very silly photo of Linguine had been featured on one of the "I can Has Cheez Burger" sites . Crazy. This photo seems to have a life of its own .

A Part of the Community

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... A week ago, our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Bohanan died of cancer. She had become very frail, and after she had a bad fall in her home , she went to stay with her family in Atlanta. Craig, the undisputed mayor of our block was in close contact with her family, and after her funeral in Georgia, he coordinated the transfer of her remains back to California, where she and her late husband had a burial plot. Robb has been very sick with a miserable cold, and I cannot bring myself to attend open-casket viewings, but I took some time off of work to attend Mrs. Bohanan's funeral. It seemed proper that I, as the newest resident of our block, should pay my respects to the oldest member of our little community. The funeral was tiny. I imagine that Mrs. Bohanan had outlived many of the people she knew in Oakland, and that people may have attended the the viewing instead of the funeral. Nevertheless, there was a real sense of kindness and neighborliness on the sunny morning of her