Monday, May 23, 2016

A good visit

My parents were here last week.

and it was a lovely visit. All too short.  Swee'Pea was thrilled there were people to pet him while I was busy cooking and such. 

Ann and I played with paper. 

Lots of Danish woven hearts to be made and figured out.

We also decided to make Yotam Ottolenghi's Clementine and Almond Cake.
If you are an orange and chocolate fan - this is the cake for you! Wow. There was lots of good food to be had. It is really fun to cook for people who enjoy the finer fuel of life.    

And while there were so many wonderful moments the highlight of the visit had to be our trip to Chanticleer. I had heard about these gardens from a friend for many years and then a co-worker said she had gone and I thought it would be the perfect place to visit. We were not disappointed. 
Words simply cannot explain this "pleasure garden."

 An an entire hillside of allium with yellow Adirondack chairs in the distance.

 Daddy and Ann by a fountain.

 Foxglove and Alium in a planter.

 Ann in green chair.

 Lilac blooming.

Planters overflowing.

Planter with baby Robins. 
As I inspected the second gorgeous planter full of sweet pea, mustard greens, rosemary, johnny-jump-ups, succulents, dill, and other flowers I did not know, a noisy birdy darted out from the top of the planter. I had a hunch there was more to it and sure enough there was a nest. Little baby robins. 

Unknown flowers.

Snowball trees.

 White wisteria patio.

Orange color planter.

   Lilly of the Valley.

Pink leaf trees.

After dropping the Parents off at the airport on Saturday I got a whim to go to the Home Depot and work some more on my little garden. What I found so beautiful about the gardens at Chanticleer was that the gardeners used all sorts of plants to create their compositions. Mustard, mustard weeds, lettuce and herbs all figured into compositions to create texture as well as beautiful design. 

I needed a new large planter for tomatoes and while I was at it, I thought a second one couldn't hurt.

 Foxglove, bleeding hearts, petunias and various herbs were also on sale.


The rain which had threatened all week finally came drizzling down. And while Jacques was thrilled that I was outside he kept an eye on things from beneath the garden table where it was safe and dry.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Checking the Bees

Last summer Ann loaned me a book to read while I was in Tahoe. Telling the Bees, by Peggy Hesketh is an absolutely beautiful novel. It must have made an impression on my parents as well because every time I talk about the bees one of them brings it up. :) When I think of that book, I can still see my surroundings in Tahoe, that beautiful lake, the warmth of the Sierra sun, and the vivid images of a beekeeper in dusty Southern California. It probably was a big influence on why I was so eager to have bees again and why I felt I should be able to do this myself. After checking the bees last Friday I spent the rest of the weekend cleaning cleaning cleaning to make the place half way presentable for my parents who arrived this past Monday for the week. Thus the late update. (We are having a blast by the way - but more on that in another post). 

Miss Mary, my wonderful neighbor and friend, braved the bees to come over and watch while I checked on them. She took some fantastic photos as well! 
My bee guide, Matt was still feeling under the weather. But since I had not looked in on them for a week I was concerned that they did not have enough food and I decided to look in on them myself.
I had a full pot of sugar water prepared just in case I had to fill the pickle jar full.
As it turned out they had only eaten a quarter more of the sugar water. They must be finding plenty of food on their own. 
 I finally managed to get the smoker working - perhaps a little too well.  It is very smokey - I think too much. I must not quite have the hang of getting something to smolder. It still runs out of smoke too soon.  
In addition to the food concern, I needed to check to be sure that 1. the Queen was still there and 2. that there was a brood of workers and not drones. 
 I found Miss Queenie on the first frame I pulled out. She's doin' dandy. 

In fact, by the second frame I pulled I knew she was doing better than dandy - she's been extremely busy. 
The area in the middle is a capped section of worker bee larvae. That will be the second generation for this hive. 
There were two frames with nice capped broods. 

In several other frames there are exposed larvae in their little puddles of nectar being very carefully attended to. Once the water in the nectar gets down to a certain percentage the bees will cap the cell for the last stage of development.

As this week progresses I am once again anxious to check on them. While I'm not eager to disturb them, I want to assuage my fear that Queenie has absconded or died, I want to be sure there is plenty of food in the hive, and I want to be sure everybody is happy! Hopefully we can do that tomorrow. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Last weekend I was invited to join the ladies from my Stitch & Bitch for their annual road trip to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival in Howard County in Maryland, a bit west of Baltimore. I am so honored to have been asked as there are only four seats in the car and three are permanently occupied by the founding members of the S&B. I feel like I have landed! 
The Festival is amazing. The fairgrounds are enormous. The permanent buildings hold vendors selling everything you can imagine including:  wool, yarn, yarn dyed with sea water, yarn dyed with bugs, yarn died with plants, raw fleece, spinning wheels, sheep supplies, buttons, knitting needles made from glass- wood- metal- bone, and I cannot remember what all else. They also hold the sheep pens, auctioneers, the 4H-ers showing their little lambs. The angora rabbits have their own roofed patio - not exactly small and then there is an enormous corral for the sheep dog demonstrations. It was wonderful! 

Highlights for me included:
Bare Naked Wools which featured "natural, dye-free, chemical-free, American made wools that make everyone from the farmer to the knitter swell with pride." This stuff was gorgeous! All natural colors. I knew there were a lot of natural colors - but I didn't know there were this many. The owner designs her own patterns. They fit well on many body types, look tailored, and are just - well - wow. Above is the tank top knitted in the hempshaugh lace which was so soft I can still feel it in my fingers. If money had been no object I would have bought some yarn here. But alas, it was also American-made prices (for which I do not fault them) $48/skein. Whew! What she also did though, for which I do fault her, is make the skeins an amount just shy of what is needed to make the tops. The top above, for example, needs 800yards but the skein is only 700 yards. In order to finish it properly one must purchase 2. I'd rather she just sold the wool and pattern as a kit with the correct amount of yardage. I'd happily pay the $60. But to force people to  purchase two skeins? Then have that enormous amount left over - have to purchase three? Hmmm that doesn't sit so well with me. Turns out - she didn't sell us any yarn. Some patterns - but no yarn. Too bad - but I'm not sure for whom.

One pattern I was coveting was this gorgeous Aran sweater:  
 I'm having trouble finding them on the web but I'm thinking of writing to them to find out if they sell the written pattern. It is such a lovely design.

I also found something I've been looking for for some time:
offset scissors! These are perfect for those hard-to-reach places. I couldn't decide which size and since they were rather reasonable I bought both. I have not yet found an occasion to use them but I'm sure I will soon enough.  
What I really wanted though was some roving. Roving is the carded, unspun wool, often died. Spinners purchase this in order to spin their own yarn in the thickness of their choice. As I am not a spinner - what will I do with it? I had a dream a while back about a sweater knit out of roving. It was gorgeous. I'm not planning on recreating the same sweater as my dream, but I so want to experiment with it. 
I shopped around all day, it was more expensive than I had hoped. But my stalling paid off. I spotted the color I wanted in the morning. When I showed it to a fellow S&Ber, it had gone on sale! I ended up with three balls for the price of two!
 Yes, there are four in the above photo - but that is because I split one. It is too thick to knit straight off the ball. With the split - I'm still getting one stitch per inch! I cannot spend time on this project at the moment though since it was finals week this week, and my parents are coming on Monday. That's okay - this project isn't going anywhere. The roving has also been inspected and approved by the Supervisor. 

While the wool was all amazing and the experience was fantastic (I'd love to go again) one of the unexpected highlights for me was the sheep dog demonstration. 
It was like being in a Babe movie - except with an actual sheep dog. These dogs are so well trained and their focus on the sheep is amazing. They respond to both verbal cues as well as whistles. The whistles are a wide variety of sounds and of course would carry better if the sheep are oh, say, a mile away and the shepard needs to send the dog to round them up. The three yearling sheep were a comedy act in themselves. Two of them were having a power struggle, leaning against each other each wanting to go in a different direction at a full trot. The third straggled behind until she just had enough. Instead of trotting dutifully along behind the other two, she stopped and watched the show until the sheep dog realized he was missing one. She got with the program pretty quickly after that.
Sigh - conclusion? so much yarn so little time. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Birthday Liam!

My adorable little nephew turned one year old today. For breakfast? Pancakes.


 They look like they were a hit!

He is also walking. Apparently he doesn't hold still for very long.  I'm looking forward to seeing him in action.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Release of the Queen

 Well - there I am in all of my fancy regalia. I had a full tyvek suit from somewhere complete with booties (thank goodness) and I had rigged a bee hat with mesh and binders clips. That is the only thing that didn't go so well. Just because you have mesh in front of your face, does not mean it's bee proof. Especially when they tend to fly UP. If there is a gap between the mesh and the tyvek suit the bee flies right up in there.

I also am the proud owner of this fancy thing:
That is a smoker. Did not know that the fuel is sold separately. I improvised with egg crates - which worked, but I didn't have enough in there so it went out before I was finished. 

All in all it was quite a nerve wracking experience and I am actually really concerned that I let her out too soon. Here's what her little box looks like.
 I tried to get a better picture, but this is the best I managed. She is the one on the left with the white dot on her back.
 You really have to have a calm nerve to open up a box of 10,000 bees. And at one point you could tell they were getting upset with me because the tone of their humming went up a few notes.  I just walked away and talked to them in what I hoped was a soothing tone of voice. For now they have plenty of sugar water. But I now need to go search the interwebs for a proper bee helmet and information about looking for the queen and making sure she is okay.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

B is for Buzzzzzy Bees

They have arrived!!! 

The bee hive of 2016 has arrived in my little secret garden in West Philly.  Yesterday I picked up one package of bees (3-4lbs of worker bees (approx. 10,000) and one queen with attendants) out in beautiful Blue Bell, PA. I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought at most there would be 20 - 25 people picking up a few packages. Ha! Try at least 100 people, some picking up 3 or 4 packages! I had no idea.

That is just one of the rows and rows of bee packages that filled a two car garage. I have to say, it was a tidy operation. A wonderful email came warning us to beware of the "Guard Goose" and advised to just hiss back if she 'comes after you'. There was a demonstration of how to install the package. I heard  three different recipes for the correct proportions of water and sugar to make the right syrup to feed the bees. Very quickly and efficiently I accepted my package of humming ladies, put them in my car, and serenaded them with Peter Gabriel on the 45 minute drive back to West Philadelphia. (And because Philadelphia is a tiny tiny world, of course I ran into someone I know.)

I purchased the new hive about a month ago and have anxiously been prepping and studying in hopes of doing this bee-keeping thing myself.  There is a lot more I need to learn.  I have 26lbs of sugar in the pantry, a new pair of bee gloves, and hive tool. I still need to make my bee hat. As crafty as I am, I should be able to whip something up and save the $25.  That way I can purchase my own frames and supers. Ha - check out the beekeeper lingo! Supers are the boxes, the frames fit inside, and the bees "draw out" the combs and put honey and stuff (larva) in there. 

To keep the bees from starving when they first arrive and are cleaning out the the old frames and learning the lay of the land, the bee keeper has to give them food. In this case the easiest is straight sugar water.  

That is a 128oz jar of sugar water next to a pint mason jar. That's a lot of sugar water. It's a good thing there is a way to keep the bees from starving though. While yesterday was a beautiful day, gorgeous sun, not too hot, today was awful and rainy all day. I did not see a one of my ladies today. This makes me anxious that they all flew away in the night or worse, drowned.  I can only wait until tomorrow to see what happens when I get home.  


There was one member of the family who was not so thrilled about the return of the bees. Jacques kept his distance from the hive and anxiously watched it for the rest of the afternoon from the safety of half a box. 

  I also watched from the deck. 

Last weekend I started replanting the more than 100 sunflower seeds I sowed. 

I planted a lot of other things as well, zinnias, marigolds, kale cosmos, basil, and nasturtiums. 
The nasturtiums were ready to go right into the ground.

  Everybody else needs a little bit more time. 
  At first Jacques kept me company.

Then Miss Mary came over and helped me and we made better progress before it got too cold to sit outside. 

While Jacques and I watched the bees yesterday we finished all of the sunflowers. I also transplanted some of the basil. But there are still a lot to move. Maybe the weather will be better tomorrow. 

Update on May 2nd: I had a bit of internet trouble yesterday so the post is finally finished today. This evening we had some sun and the bees were out flying around and it looked as though they were cleaning their new home. What a relief!
It is supposed to be rainy the next few days, but if all goes well, I should be able to let the queen out of her little box on Wednesday. Fingers crossed.