Monday, May 31, 2010

The Beneficial Bee Sanctuary?

I was doing dishes and thinking the other day about bees. Word has gotten out around town that Glenn is a beekeeper and we have received several calls over the past two years from people needing help with bee swarm and hive removals. The calls are generally from people who love bees and wouldn’t consider exterminating them, but who cannot afford to spend two hundred dollars for live removal. Unfortunately, bee boxes are expensive and Glenn has been unable to help remove bees in many cases because he has nowhere to put them.

For Christmas, Glenn’s parents bought him two new bee boxes. Glenn used one box to capture a swarm from one of our hives and the other was sitting empty waiting for a bee call. Our neighbors up the street are renovating an old school house for a wedding venue and needed to find a new home for the bees that have made their home in the school house for the past six years. Glenn was intrigued by the challenge and agreed to help move the bees out of the school house.

Later that same week, we got a call from the county. Bees had made their home in a gas well head on a county work site and had to be removed. I initially said we would be unable to help, as we were out of bee homes. When the county found out it would be cheaper to purchase a bee box for us than paying an exterminator, they called back with an offer.

The county transaction led to my deep bee thinking. What about starting a bee sanctuary? We could offer to remove bees and move them onto our property if we could get a donation for a bee box ($60). Bee lovers could “sponsor” a hive that would have otherwise been exterminated. They would receive a picture of their hive with an annual update or something. Glenn and I would donate our time doing something we love: helping honey bees. Hmmm, now how can I set up a nonprofit in my spare time?

The calls made for a stimulating and sticky week of bee removals. Glenn and Oliver removed the bees from the county site first. As soon as I could leave work, I met them at the site to take my honey covered three-year-old home. Oliver had a great time helping his dad. When he wasn’t being chased by angry bees, he was watching hawks and finding snakes.

We scheduled the school house removal on a weekend so I could be "the assistant to the beekeeper." Grammy and Pop came along to help keep Oliver busy and take photographs. My mom gets the photo credits for (most of) these pictures.

The Assistants

Hive Removal

Smoking the Hive

Removing Comb

Brushing Bees

The Final Touches

Oliver's Favorite Part: The Honey!

Oliver is our preschool bee ambassador. On his share day he brought in a section of comb collected from the county site. The children were fascinated, but mostly wanted to smell the honey. Oliver did a good job trying to describe the process to his classmates.

After the hive removals, several bees were left stuck to honey covered hives in buckets on the porch. Oliver and I set up a M*A*S*H unit to revive the survivors. Grammy came to help with the bee saving efforts and we were able to get around 100 bees total back in the air next to their new hive. Each bee was carefully lifted out of the honey, dunked in water and dried. The bees seemed angry, but I'm sure they were thankful inside.

Can you guess how many stings we endured over the week of removals and revivals? ZERO!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Good News (Another Annoyingly Optimistic Post)

1. Thank You Pacific Wildlife Care!

A few weeks ago Glenn found an abandoned baby bird near the milking parlor at Rinconada Dairy. He brought the little bird home to me to mother. Usually I jump at the chance to help a little animal, but domesticated animals are more my bag. I like to leave wild animals in the hands of professionals to ensure correct diet and care (plus, it is illegal to keep wildlife). Luckily we have a great local organization called Pacific Wildlife Care. I called PWC and was met by a local volunteer named Debbie. Debbie, a fellow nurse, took our baby sparrow home to help her feed and grow.

Oliver was not too happy about having someone else raise his baby. He named her Celestial and the two had a lovely breakfast together before we made Oliver say goodbye to his new friend.

Last week Debbie called us and let us know Celestial was doing great and was ready to be released. She was being raised with two other sparrows. Debbie wanted to know if we would like to be present for the release. We decided to release all three sparrows at Rinconada Dairy because it is a great place for a sparrow to live.

It was wonderful watching all three birds fly up to the nearest oak. They are already surrounded by a family of sparrows. In the picture below I have circled all three birds at the time of release. They moved so fast, it was hard to get a clear picture.

2. Business is Booming (or Beeping Just a Little)

I don't write about our small business too much, mainly because it has taken a back seat to everything else in our lives. We finally got it together enough the past few months to create a display for our balms. We are selling at two cool shops: one in California and one in Rhode Island. The lip balm seems to be doing quite well as we have gotten orders from both shops to refill the displays. Perhaps next year on our taxes we will be able to show that we broke even rather than claiming -77 dollars!

3. Jessica B-B, Author?

Some of you (the three of you who read my blog) might remember that I was attempting to write a children's book. I wrote a book based loosely on this blog post:

Another Weird Bee Post

Then one night back in December I was feeling adventurous, so I sent an email query to an independent publishing house. I was surprised to hear back from the editor the next day requesting the full manuscript. Then five long months later, after I had finally given up all hope, I received an email from the editor. She said my manuscript was a "strong contender" and wanted to send it to a focus group. She asked if the publishing house could have exclusive review of it during the focus group process. I'm so satisfied to have made it this far in the children's book writing experience, I don't really even need my MS to be published (although that would be unbelievable). An editor read my MS and actually liked it-I'm THRILLED!

4. More Chicks

(Photo credit: Glenn)
Our friends have decided to start keeping chickens. Instead of ordering chicks, we picked out several pretty eggs and put them under our broody hen (she really wanted some babies). On day twenty, I checked under our hen Etta and found one chick. Over the next two days, four more arrived. One disappeared the first day. We think she may have fallen into a ground squirrel hole we didn't notice under the brooding box. Glenn cemented the floor of the coop and we haven't lost anymore. Poor little chick (I just had to bring things down a little). So now we have four chicks, two from brown eggs and two from blue eggs. I hope at least a couple will be egg layers!

4. One More Goat!

The sister of my coworker lives on the most beautiful property between Morro Bay and Atascadero. She raises goats and knew we were looking for a male (with different genetics) to eventually breed with our females. She called us because a shiny, black male was born a few weeks ago and wanted to know if we would like him. Here are pictures of our fourth (and final) goat. He will be staying with his mother to nurse for a good long time, which we are very happy about. Now we just need yet another name!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Shorn 'Nuff

My dad gets the credit (or blame?) for this week's blog title. This Cinco de Mayo we celebrated by going to an alpaca shearing party. Art picked up our boys and drove them to the farm of their youth (Alpacas of Cripple Creek) for the shearing day extravaganza. Mic, Remmy, Pablo and 43 other beautiful alpacas lost their fiber to help commemorate the Mexican victory over the French in 1862.

Out of our gang, Remmy was chosen to go first. He was walked out to the shearing mat, flipped on his side and tied down. Glenn tried to comfort him during the process. As you can see, the whole thing was mesmerizing for Oliver.

Remmy's thick blanket was shaved off and collected in a bag. His leg and neck fiber were collected in a different bag. The bags were then weighed. Remmy only lost 4.4 pound of fiber, but it looks as though he has lost 50.

Pablo and Mic were not quite as easy. I don't think Mic was too happy about having his head shaved. Here is the last picture of Mic in all of his furry glory. He is getting his legs sheared.

Pablo's teeth were getting too long and need to be filed. If you love the smell of burning hair, you would have been excited to witness Pablo's teeth cutting. I sort of wish I had stepped outside (at least it was over very quickly).

My job was to run around and collect fiber and put it in the proper bags, then sweep quickly, while staying out of the way of the shearer. What I learned from my experience is that you never, ever lift up and tug the shearer's electrical cord in order to sweep better. As Glenn and my dad later reminded me, "Never get in the way of a man and his electrical cord."

Here are the "after" head shots:




Poor Remmy is looking at the still furry alpacas wistfully.