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13 Jul 2011
Ancestral Post Offices

I haven't done much non-bee blogging here yet, but my roadtrip this summer seems like a great place to start. I'm driving around out west with my friend Mike this month, visiting people and national parks and exploring a good double-handful of states I've never visited before.

Before road-tripping officially began, though, Dave and I flew into Kansas City on July 5th to visit his great-godmother Marge Webb and my cousin Jen and her family.

Marge took us on a tour of her family's part of Missouri. We saw my favorite kind of hay - marshmallow-shaped bales of it, all in a row!

We saw Marge's ancestral barn.

It actually gave me flashbacks to our trip to Thailand a few years ago!

Can't you imagine Dave as a farm boy?

He headed back to Portland for work a few days ago, and I miss him terribly already.

Marge was a delightful host and a pleasure to visit. She's truly one of the most charming, interesting, and kind people I've ever known.

Here she is, with her ancestral barn.

She showed us her family cemetery, in Miller community, Missouri, in the midst of her acres and acres of farmland. She's picked out her plot already.

"If you decide on the Midwest as your burying place," she told us, "there's space here for you, too!"

We learned that all our families have ancestral post offices. Marge has a building that's still being rented out by a post office now. My grandmother's old house in Hungary was turned into a post office after she was forced to flee the country.

And apparently Dave's family has some historical connection to Turner Station, with its mercantile shop and its post office.

Dave went into the store at Turner Station to inquire about his family history. I was skeptical, but of course it turned out that they had a big book of Turner genealogy lying around to show him. He couldn't find his great-grandparents' names in it, but he saw some name he recognized.

So, it's still a bit hazy on whether there's a real connection there or not. But still.

Does everyone have an ancestral post office? Is this a thing? Before there were taxes and death and stew, there were post offices in the muck.

On July 8th, we flew off to Portland, Oregon. More photos to follow next time I get some decent internet along the road!

26 Jun 2011
Bottling the first honey harvest of 2011

I bottled the first honey crop of 2011 into charming glass half-pound jars. If you've contacted me about buying honey, you can expect an email from me with prices and logistics in the next few days.

Liquid sunlight, liquid gold - my father requested a jar to serve to his congregation on Shabbas, and it was a pleasure to give them the freshest, most locavore honey they're ever likely to taste, harvested from the hive on the roof above their heads just a few days earlier.

This is what springtime Brooklyn tastes like.

What an absolute wonderment!

(I keep my bees at my parents' shul, so of course my father stopped by to have me pose for a few photos. Photo credit to him.)

22 Jun 2011
Our first harvest of 2011

The bees have had a busy spring! Despite all my checkerboarding and trying my best to confuse the ladies and give them plenty of space, they seem to have swarmed about a month ago. I ordered a new, theoretically mite-resistant marked queen, and installed her into the hive on the same day my father was re-installed as President of EMJC, the shul atop which the bees live. He was honored to share his installation date with Her Majesty, who was of course promptly named Queen Esther.

Queen Esther seems to be doing just fine, and I saw capped brood and larva and eggs when I looked into the hive a few days ago. Not only that - we found a full medium super of honey ready to harvest, and a second super that I expect will be ready in the next few weeks!

As you can see above, we carefully sliced the caps off the honey before spinning it in our new, two-frame little honey extractor.

A bit of straining later, and we were left with more honey than we got all of last year - and it's still only June! What a wonderful start to a beautiful, sweet summer.

13 Apr 2011
Snow Bees

My bees have varroa mites, so we showered them in powdered sugar on Monday.

Varroa mites are parasitical bugs that prey upon my beloved fuzzy, honey-producing bugs. They can absolutely destroy colonies if not treated, so as soon as I saw evidence of infestation, it was time to act. I don't have any of the pesticides or medications for treatment on hand, and you can't order MiteAway in New York yet, so I followed the advice of one of my mentors and started organic varroa management for now.

My hive has a screened bottom board, and I check for mites by putting a piece of cardboard covered in spray oil under the screen. Supposedly the powdered sugar makes it harder for the mites to hold onto the bees, and inspires the bees to go wild grooming themselves, which helps shake off the mites. Having a screen instead of a bottom board lets the mites fall through instead of landing on a board from whence they could just climb back up.

Also, it was really just fun! We showered every super in powdered sugar, turning it into a winter wonderland of a beehive. What a beautiful fairy tale!

The ladies all burst up out of the hive covered in sugar, like snow bees!

For maximum effectiveness we really ought to sugar the bees weekly for the next few weeks (and set up a frame with drone brood to pull out and freeze, among other varroa management techniques). Anyone calm around stinging insects and good with a camera feel like coming with? I'd love to get better, clearer photos of this process.

19 Oct 2010
Octopus Bead (August 2010)

<img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4094/4867205016_266a4446c0.jpg".

This was for a commission to create a bead with three octopi holding tentacles.

They're so tentacularly cute, I just can't stand it!