Showing posts from April, 2012

Hive Minder

...  A week ago, Robb and I put a beehive in the yard of the neighbor who first taught me to spin.  She and her partner have a charming garden, and I was delighted to provide them with some bees. The bees we gave them were the swarm that had landed in our Santa Rosa plum .  Prior to moving the bees out of our yard, we did a quick inspection to be certain that the bees looked healthy and spry. The only problem that we observed was of our own making.  We had not filled the entire hive box with frames, and since the bees had open space, they had attached a paddle of comb in the roof of their hive. We carefully freed this structure, and then rubber-banded it into an empty frame.  (I wrote about this technique, just yesterday .)  Today, a week later, the bees had already connected the comb to the frame.  The girls were hard at work. They were building lovely fresh comb, and were very relaxed during my inspection.  These are wonderfully calm creatures. Noti


...  Since our back yard is so very tiny, and since our bees are so vigorous, I've been looking for people who will let me keep bees on their property.  I would do all the work, and we'd split the honey. I wanted to harvest some honey from our own hives, to give to our bee "landlords."  But of course, nothing is simple. When I opened up the Magnolia hive, I saw lots of honeycomb.  But every comb of honey also have developing bees as well.  I didn't want to damage the young brood, so I wasn't able to harvest any of this honey. Seeing brood squished in with honey, lead me to believe that this particular hive was a bit over-crowded.  I added another box on top of this hive, and did a bit of house-keeping. We let our bees build their own comb.  However, doing so means that we risk allowing the bees to build crazy cross-frame comb.  When the honeycomb is attached to two different frames, it means that there will be significant destruction when

Occupy The Farm -- An Update

... (Click here for the first part of the story.) After I read Wendy's blog comment, about how the protesters were trying to save a parcel of land that was, in fact, not slated for development, I did some research.  It wasn't difficult to lay my hands on the plans for the development of this land.  A co-worker (who lives near all of this activity) shared the planning document with me.  I also found the plans online.  Heck, I had already learned most of the details from the owner of the local paint store, who knew the details well, because there has been ample community involvement in the planning of this project.  If you look at the above image, you'll see two yellow rectangles, which indicate where a grocery store and housing for the elderly will be built.  These two projects are being built on a site that previously housed pre-WWII barrack-style tract housing.   To get a sense of scale, look to the left of the lower yellow rectangle, and you'll see two

Destroying What You Love, In Order to Save It.

There's a large field, a few blocks from where I work.  This piece of property belongs to the University of California at Berkeley, which uses it for agricultural research.  Some years, it is planted with (what my spies tells me is bio-engineered) corn, many years the field is left fallow. I drive past this plot of land when I go to the paint store.  I regularly see large flocks of turkeys, foraging in the middle of town.  I've seen deer and hawks, and the guys at the paint store tell me that they've watched bald eagles.  Along the edge of the field there's an undeveloped hedgerow, what might be called a prettyish kind of a little wilderness .  The wild bushes are always bursting with songbirds.  I'm a huge fan of hedgerows, which provide habitat for all sorts of plants and animals.  Given how little wild ground exists in the urban environment, it is always nice to see a hedgerow thriving along a busy city street.  A few days back, I learned that the field was t

Locally Foraged Dyes

... Today I spent the day learning about locally-available plant-based textile dyes.The second part of the workshop is tomorrow. I'll share the highlights of what we did, soon.

Our Chickens are Growing Up

.... Our chickens just keep getting bigger. They've been spending their afternoons outside, in a portable pen. Robb was feeling well enough to go to the hardware store to buy some more supplies. He was sorting through the lumber when I called him. While he was talking to me, some opportunistic fellow swooped in and took all the wood that Robb had set aside for himself.  I'm hosting (but not teaching) a workshop on natural dyeing this weekend.  Rebecca Burgess , the author of Harvesting Color will be showing fifteen local fiber artists how to work with locally-foraged dyes.  I'm very excited about this, but it does mean that I won't be working on the chickens' coop.  Again.

Backyard Swarm

... Due to a combination of lingering headcolds and crappy weather, our backyard apiary has been somewhat neglected this spring. We had managed to split one of our hives this past weekend, and another colony had already produced a swarm. Despite having done some much-needed work, we still haveto get into the rest of our other hives, to do some reconnoitering. So, I wasn't entirely surprised when Robb called me this afternoon to tell me that he had noticed a swarm of bees in our plum tree. The bees were spread along a branch, about twelve feet off the ground. They probably emanated from our Magnolia hive , which Robb had noticed buzzing furiously earlier in the day. When I got home from work, Robb and I rigged up some fancy contraptions, made up of bamboo poles, a five gallon bucket mounted on the end of a roller pole, and an oversized paint brush. Bravely armed, and clad in our bee suits, we set to work. When catching swarms of bees, the objective is to capture the queen. On

Chickens Meet Kitten

... Robb and I finished the small portable chicken-pen, and the girls had their first experiences outside of our garage. I think I laughed for two solid minutes, when this photo loaded on my computer screen. Also, I got stung in the crotch. Again. I'll bet you wish you had my life.

That Gawky Teenaged Phase, The Chicken Version.

... The Penguin -- 5 Days Remember how adorable our chicks were, when we first got them? Little egg-sized balls of fluff, they were. The Penguin -- 3 Weeks Well, right now, they're in an exceptionally awkward phase. I keep thinking about teenaged boys, just starting to sprout mustaches. They may be beautiful some day, but right now, they're particularly scruffy-looking. The Bantam Menace -- 5 Days This little one was the first to get any adult feathers. She's the tiniest of our flock, but in some ways the most grown-up. She is, sadly, a real chicken. She's always cowering in the corner when we open the brooder. If she covers up her own eyes, she seems to comfort herself. I know from previous bird handling that covering a bird's eyes minimizes stress, but I'd never seen a bird do this for itself. That whole cliche about ostriches burying their heads in the sand to hide from scary predators must actually have some basis in avian reality. But since so

An Easter Egg Rainbow

... This year's Egg-Stravaganza was a huge success, in spite of the fact that Robb was too sick to attend, and I was only just holding it together through sheer force of will. I coughed my hacking cough throughout the entire event, which certainly wasn't very attractive. As usual, we had a wonderful mix of participants. Artists and those who (wrongly) insist that they aren't creative. Old pros, and total beginners. I think folks had a lot of fun. Jen made this beautiful violet-red design, on a miniature bantam eggshell. Allie drew on her knowledge of batik (and her truly mad gardening skills) to create this beauty. Susan and Margot made awesome flaming eggshells. I love how these turned out. I think this one was Taylor's. (I stand corrected: this one is Barbara's. Blame the head-cold.) One of the things I really like about the Egg-Stravaganza event is that people don't feel obliged to follow traditional designs. I encourage experimentation (and embrace