Spring SnowBees

There are 58,000 bees in the basement.

58,000 bees

58,000 bees

Snowy Chives in March

Snowy Chives in March

It’s the end of March. We turned the clocks to “summer time” two weeks ago.  Last week the vernal equinox made it officially spring.  Today we took delivery of four new packages of bees.

And it’s snowing.

At 9 a.m.  we head to Snyder’s Apiary in Whitehall, windshield wipers brushing snow from the glass. The car thermometer reads the outside temperature as 28 degrees.  Out at the apiary, the countryside is dusted white and snow “flurries” blow sideways in the wind, whipping our faces.  Beekeepers in winter coats greet one another with snide remarks about the great weather.

Why, you ask, are we getting bees when it is so cold outside?  Because one orders bees weeks in advance and the Snyders drive down to Georgia on a scheduled day to pick up the orders in a truck.   The bees have arrived.  We have already paid for them.  We must take them home.

snowbees 2 w beeguys

BeeMan and Junior BeeMan carry 16 lbs of bees to the car.

Junior Beekeeper comes with us this morning.  He helps carry the bees to the car.  They take up the entire back seat.  A few Klingons (“cling-ons”) try to hitch a ride too, but without the advantage of the warm group hug in the bee boxes, they won’t last long.  Sure enough, back home, when the boxes are removed from the car, a few motionless bees remain on the back seat.

No, we don't buckle them in.

No, we don’t buckle them in.

Alas, it is too cold to put the new bees in their hives.  Tomorrow will be better and the rest of the week will be perfect, with temps in the 50’s and sunshine.  So for now, 58,000 girls (and a very few guys) will have a little sleepover in the mancave.

Today's conditions for the snowbees.

Today’s conditions for the snowbees.

Conditions downstairs are almost ideal.  The mancave is heated  only  by a woodstove.  With no fire going, the temp is 55.  And the only light is from the door.  With the overhead lights off, it is both cool and fairly dark.  A few bees buzz at the screens of the boxes but, for the most part, the bees quietly huddle around the caged queen and a can of sugar water.

They can’t get out.  Really.

4 pounds of bees

4 pounds of bees

The bees can stay in the package boxes for up to five days.  That includes the time they spent traveling from Georgia. Today is probably day three.  If this cold weather were to last all week, we would have a dilemma on our hands.  Fortunately, it won’t, so we don’t.  BeeMan has enough to do prepping the hives for the new residents. Cleaning out the Room of Outer Darkness to install a temporary apiary is not on the Honey Do List.

Tomorrow the bees will be installed in their new homes–outside in the bee yard where they belong.  Maybe then we can pronounce the beginning of spring.

The daffodils are trying to bring Spring.

The daffodils are trying to bring Spring.

 

 

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Spinning Wheels

Let’s start with a poll:

When I came home yesterday, I immediately noticed footprints leading to the front door.  We hardly use the front door, so we don’t shovel to it.  Maywood Man has enough to do with plowing and there’s no reason for me to shovel a walk that no one ever uses.  There has been snow upon snow all month, so we’re just waiting for spring to deal with it.  Hence, my surprise at the footprints.  UPS knows better.

It was my brother-in-law, come to check out locations for tree stands for next year’s hunting season.  Tromping through the snowy woods in March must mean he’s going a little squirrely indoors.  However, he didn’t count on our driveway being a sheet of ice.  That’s another thing about March this year.  If isn’t snowing, it’s coating us with freezing rain.  So Jim and his truck slid down the driveway to within inches of the Weber grill that waits forlornly for warmer weather.  And then he was stuck at the bottom of the driveway with nothing to do after his woodland walk but sit with Maywood Man sipping coffee until the driveway melted.

Where was I?  At work.  With some difficulty and great trepidation, my Camry and I made it up the slippery slope so that I could go to school and manage squirrely teenagers and their Ipads.

I had a parent conference at noon.  The mother shared that her daughter seems to get overwhelmed by too much stimulus.   It’s not that she can’t focus.  She just can’t figure out where to focus.  I totally get it.  I told her about my sister, the one with Attention Surplus Syndrome. (You gotta love the acronym!) She pays attention to everything. Try riding in the car with her while she drives, notices every realtor sign, and avoids every manhold cover and pothole in the road.  She needs blinders, like a horse.

So what am I supposed to tell this mother whose daughter sits in a class with audio files and video clips and online text and online workbook and online classwork submission all in different apps while doing partner work with classmates who can’t even figure out that I want them on page 152?  She doesn’t need more stimulating activities.  She needs blinders.  I explain that the technology of the paperless classroom is actually helpful for those students who lose all their work in a crumpled mess at the bottom of their bookbags or somewhere in the hallway or maybe under their bed at home, but even as I speak, I know that often I am completely overwhelmed by the “too much” of it all. The mom and I can’t even get our days straight as we talk…the umpteen snowdays have the two of us completely befuddled.

Today, while it pours snow, I ponder remedial work for some students.  There are so many resources available to the students online that they did not have last year.  I search for something that will be helpful.  One auto-correcting activity will not work with pop-ups on the Ipad.  Another has so many publisher errors in it, that I will not use it.  I discover video activities.  I regularly use these in class with paper handouts, but–voila!– all the resources are right there on the Ipad!

Or not.

I click on the video pages to discover that the video activity link does not contain video activities.  It contains all the teacher answers to the workbook.

I’ve spent the afternoon spinning my wheels online.  I’m thinking that I need less.  I need slow.

I like the idea of sitting by the fire with a spinning wheel, simple work.  A manual task that is repetitive and yields a tangible product.  If I’m lucky, I’ll prick my finger and a  magic spell will let me sleep for a hundred years.

Clouds

apple in hand

looking through windows

at the cloud

 

What do you picture?

A puffy white cloud seen through a window frame with a crisp Red Delicious waiting to be eaten?

Or do you notice the incongruity of trying to access the Cloud using Windows and an Ipad?

My day began with clouds.  Real clouds.  Beautiful golden puffs of strato-cumulous lit on the east by the rising sun.  They were so delightful my heart burst into a hymn.

When morning gilds the skies

my heart awaking cries

“May Jesus Christ be praised!”

Yeah, it was that kind of  O What a Beautiful Morning. I would have stopped to take pictures but the traffic report already had me dreading the deadlock near school. And it was predictably bad.  So bad that all late students to school had an automatic excused tardy.  So I ate my egg-bagel sandwich and enjoyed the view through the car window as I drove.  (The apple came later as part of the Wednesday morning teacher snack.)

Ensconced in my classroom I no longer notice clouds.  I am in the Cloud.  It feels more like a fog though.  I have trouble knowing where I am.  Most of my files are on the school server via my desktop.  They are Windows files.  But as a pilot teacher in the technology program (roll on the floor laughing, yes you may), I am using the Ipad for many new innovative things, like note-taking, accessing the online textbook program, and submitting paperless documents for grading.  All of these can be done with plain old textbook and pencil and paper, but that’s another story.

At any  given moment, I have no idea where I am.  Students give me letters they have written for their French penpals.  Some send me a Word document.  I can’t read that on my Ipad.  Others send me a Notability file.  I can’t read that on my desktop.  Still others give me a plain ol’ piece of paper that I have to scan into a PDF–at home, because I know how to do it with my printer at home.  All these get sent to a  teacher in France, but I send them piece meal because they are getting sent from different devices.  Ok, yes, I’m sure there is an easier way to do this.  But I haven’t figured it out yet.  (The simplest way, of course, is to put all the letters in an envelope and mail it to France, but the quick turn-around of replies from France wins over the technology curmudgeons.)

I have found an app (Showbie) that could very well be the answer to this dilemma.  I show it to my students.  It’s on the Ipad.  I switch the input on the Smartboard from my desktop to the Ipad.  My Ipad is now displaying on the board.  Cool, huh?  But the Ipad is not in my hand as I freely roam the classroom.  The Ipad is tethered to a cable and sitting by my desktop.  If I go to type on the Ipad, I use the computer keyboard by mistake.  I try to scroll the Smartboard screen with my finger but have to remember that I’m on the Ipad and must scroll via the Ipad screen.

The students find this rather amusing.  They love it when teachers pull their hair out in class.

Then there is the issue of browsers.  Once upon a time, like last year, I was blissfully using Internet Explorer for all my computing needs.  I knew there were other browsers out there, but, what the hey, my life was relatively simple.  Ah, but then issues arose and we were instructed to use Google Chrome to access our gradebooks.  Do I need to tell you how that messed up all my preset links?  The default browser on the Ipad is Safari.  I was fine with that until a student explained to me that the new online textbook will only open in Google Chrome.  So just getting onto the worldwide web is now a jumble of options.

I have no idea when I go to a website if I am on Internet Explorer, Safari, or Google Chrome.  Yes, yes, it looks plain as day that I should just use Google Chrome, but I have all these icons preset to send me to sites.  Do I have to reset them all?  Really? I don’t even know how I did it the first time.

I  can’t remember when I look at a document whether I am in Word or PDF.

A colleague suggests putting all my documents on DropBox.  She loves DropBox.  I have at least a bazillion files on the school server, and more at home.  I know where they are.  I’m not moving them.

“It’s easy,” she says.

“I’m not moving them,” I reply.

She’s lucky I do not launch her to a Cloud through a Window.

I drive home watching golden puffy clouds through the car window, lit now by the sunset in the west.  I forgot the crunchy teacher apple that I saved for my ride home.  My other Apple, the Iphone, dings text alerts.  I ignore the distraction.

I’m happily distracted by golden puffs of clouds lit by the sunset in the west.

Bees alive as glaciers recede at Maywood

Let It Bee Spring--Beekeeper starts the season

Let It Bee Spring–Beekeeper starts the season

It’s sunny and positively balmy with temps in the 50’s as we trudge through the snow to get to the bees.  Some parts of the yard still measure six inches of snow.  This snow is not uniformly melting so much as it is receding, like a slow moving glacier.  Or, to think more positively towards warm beach days, like the tide going out.  Winter tide.

Down in the  bee yard, we are delighted to see three hives busy, with bees coming and going and buzzing and sunning and enjoying the day.  We have exited winter with more  bees than ever before. Red maples are budding and these bees are ready to charge into spring.

Hive D is thriving

Hive D is thriving

Tar paper comes off.  After all, tonight begins daylight savings!

Tar paper comes off. After all, tonight begins daylight savings!

Sugar water feeders go on each hive.

Sugar water feeders go on each hive.

Today’s task is to unwrap the hives from their winter protection of roofer’s tar paper.  Mr. Beekeeper also wants to set up the hive feeders.  The bees are ready to go, but there is not much for them to get to yet.  Red maples are the first flowering tree for the bees.  Fortunately, in spite of the semi-glacial look around here, the maples are waking up right on schedule. Why are humans so desperate for spring to arrive and then so surprised that it actually does?

Red maples are budding right on schedule.

Red maples are budding right on schedule.

Lids come off the hives to remove the tar paper.  We get to peek in at the bees.  They look so happy.  They buzz around us, landing on our jackets and hanging out on my camera.  Are they as happy to see us as we are to see them?

The bees don't know that they can't take selfies through the viewfinder.

The bees don’t know that they can’t take selfies through the viewfinder.

They are happy to bee with me.

They are happy to bee with me.

Little bee, don't freeze on the snow!

Little bee, don’t freeze on the snow!

The golden burr comb is a delightful contrast to the snowy ground and the emerging mucky mud of March.  Yet, here and there, single bees lie frozen on the snow.  I wonder, do they die because they landed on the snow?  Or did they land on the snow to die?  I watch one crawling slowly across its frozen landscape, slower and slower, and finally not advancing.  I lift her off the snow.  She warms up and takes flight.

Switching the top box to bottom.

Switching the top box to bottom.

Hive D, which went through winter with two boxes, is going gangbusters.  Mr. Beekeeper decides to go ahead and switch the boxes.  The top box–where the bees have been clustered all winter–gets moved to the bottom.  The bottom box gets put on top.  This will encourage the bees to build up.  Literally.  Soon, Hive D will get a honey box.  Maybe next week.

Back in the house, Beekeeper Man orders another package of bees to replace the hive we lost over the winter.

And another season of beekeeping begins.

Yay!

Golden honeycomb...a beautiful contrast to still barren looking March.

Golden honeycomb…a beautiful contrast to still barren looking March.

The hot, dry air of winter

This is the winter that will not die.

Some people are tired of the cold.  It’s March–when the bees are supposed to emerge to pollinate budding  red maples– and the weather forecast is still calling for a temperature of ZERO.

Some people are sick of the snow.  My husband, for example, is outside right now chopping more firewood in anticipation of the next sleet/ice/snow/bring-down-the-power lines weather event.  The tractor is constantly hooked to a charger to ensure its ability to start when plowing is next needed.  (That would be in the next couple of days.)

Me?  I’m sick of the hot, dry indoor air.  It is so dry around here that salt is actually pouring out of the salt shakers.  When does that ever happen?  We usually have the salt shaker half filled with rice to soak up the moisture in the air.  This morning I came close to ruining my egg; the salt came out so fast.

It is so dry around here that my hair wants to look like this:

She wasn't swishing her hair.  It was sticking straight out after an encounter with the sofa.

She wasn’t swishing her hair. It was sticking straight out after an encounter with the sofa.

Fortunately I have a bathroom full of products to help me look a little more like a grown-up: volumizing shampoo, moisturizing conditioners,  ultra poufy mousse, anchor-it in-place sprays, and shiny stuff to give the illusion of sunlight reflecting off it.  It all sort of works.  My hair isn’t quite as bad as sweet little Emily’s, but it is craving humidity.

And so is my skin.  Ack!  Every night I go to bed with my feet slathered in moisturizer and tucked into socks.  My hands, too, are lotioned and gloved.  I look like Minnie Mouse without the ears.  And still my skin is like sandpaper.  My lip balm recipe (in larger containers!) works great on my hands and feet, but is not too practical for full-body application.  My whole body really needs a milk bath.  Lactic acid, ladies.  It sloughs off that dry skin and leaves the rest nice and soft.

This the winter where the least little thing will set off an episode of eczema.  I touched chalk the other day.  I was reckless, I know.  I did not use my special chalk holder.  It was in my desk because I hardly use chalk anymore.  I just wanted to tally points for a competitive activity in class.  A few measly little slash marks on the board.  Ka-bam.  Circle of eczema on my hand.

I was moaning about this with my hairdresser who moaned back that she has gotten eczema on her neck this winter.  She’s dumbfounded.  Her neck?  A friend of mine gets it on her eyelids.  Yes, ouch.

My eyelid suffering friend has found the bees to be part of her skin care routine.  She uses honey to help soothe and heal her eczema flare-ups.

Here’s her concoction:

Lisa’s Honey Mask

  • 1 tablespoon of honey (Maywood honey, of course!)
  • “some” freshly  grated nutmeg
  • 3-4 capsules of Vitamin E.

Grate “some” nutmeg into the honey.  Cut open the Vitamin E and mix it in with the honey/nutmeg.  Apply to face and leave on for 30-60 minutes.  Rinse it off.   (I suppose you could leave it on, but your pillowcase will probably attract ants.)

A bad case of eczema will still require medicine from the dermatologist, but Lisa finds she gets the best results when she uses both the medicine and the honey mask together.  After a few days, the eczema improves rapidly.  Then she just uses the honey when she has a flare-up.

Sweet!

Plowing through snow days

So it’s Valentine’s Day, but it feels like the movie Ground Hog Day.  We keep repeating the same scenario over and over.  Another six inches of snow fell on top of yesterday’s 18 inches.

The forecast for tonight is for another few inches–and I’m not just talkin’ snow.  We’re plowing through more than snow around here.  Yesterday’s pumpkin bread with honey butter was wayyyyyyy too delicious.  And hubby dear certainly deserved the stuffed shells I made last night.  Today I’m making him his favorite peach-cranberry pie for Valentine’s Day.

Daughter #1 made cornstarch pudding yesterday.  (You can search the blog for Dooda’s Cornstarch Pudding recipe!) I’ll bet that’s all gone.  Daughter #2 made brownies….and proceeded to plow through them herself.  Once John finishes plowing the snow (again), I expect a visit from grandkids.  That will be a good incentive for making Valentine sugar cookies.  I guess we’ll plow through them, too.

We’re gonna look like ground hogs by the time this winter is through.   Fat, round, waddling ground hogs, like you see at the end of summer.

I am making an effort to plow through some other things around here:  cluttered closets, dusty curtains, random filth that the blazing snowlight zaps with laser-like precision.  There is some dirt that can only be seen by the light of snow.  The absolute pure whiteness of it is unforgiving in revealing my housekeeping lapses.

There’s household bills and paperwork to plow through.  And, oh yeah, that pile of papers I brought home from school to grade.  Ugh.

So many choices.  I might need a cookie to help me think.

What are you plowing through at your house?

Snow Bees and Honey Butter

He deserves some pumpkin bread and honey butter.  And maybe even a backrub.

He deserves some pumpkin bread and honey butter. And maybe even a backrub.

There’s a break in the weather.  After a foot and a half of snow, Mr. Beekeeper trudges out to the tractor to plow  before the next batch of snow comes in this evening.  The “break” means that it is merely raining.  “Merely raining” means that the foot and a half of snow is  getting packed down.  He will be out on the tractor for hours.  And then it will snow some more.  It might be nice to do some cooking for him.  I’m thinking pumpkin bread with his homegrown pumpkin and some honey butter using our Maywood honey.

But first, a trip to the bee yard.

One of the advantages of cleaning out a closet is finding things.  Often it is useless stuff the girls left behind when they moved out, but today I have found snow pants.  And they fit! So, even though it is lightly raining, I don snowpants and boots for a trek through the snow.  I can’t access the yard from the driveway because John has plowed a wall of snow there (which I will back into with the car until it melts), so I exit the house from the screen porch and wade through knee deep snow to get to the bees.

The bee yard during the Winter Storm Pax.  Who names a winter storm "Peace?"

The bee yard during the Winter Storm Pax. Who names a winter storm “Peace?”

I’m feeling bad for all the hard work John is doing plowing, but it is no easy hike to the bees today.  I have marked my walking stick in six inch increments.  Even packed down with rain, the snow still measures 18 inches with every step I take.

Hive B

Hive B

Down at the bees, the hives are putting off enough heat to keep a slim gap between the snow and the hive.  I only look at Hives B, C, and D.  Beekeeper Man determined recently that Hive A is kaput.  Probable diagnosis: dysentery.  (My last bee post commented on signs of dysentery on the hive.  With all the cold weather preventing more frequent cleansing flights, they succumbed.)  However, three hives are still hanging in  there.

Trudging back up to the house, I am tempted to swoosh snow from the garden bench and take a breather.  In the drizzling rain.  Visiting the bees seemed like a good idea when I was heading down to the bees.  Well, I’ve gotten my heart rate up and had a little workout, so even if I haven’t worked as hard as John, I won’t feel guilty having some pumpkin bread with honey butter.

It was easier walking down to the bees, than coming back up!

It was easier walking down to the bees, than coming back up!

***********************************************************************************

Here’s my ratio for honey butter:

  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup Maywood honey

I blended the two with my immersion blender.  This is because I couldn’t find 2 matching beaters for the hand mixer, but the immersion blender worked better anyway.  So creamy!  The honey we have on hand right now (from the hives we lost last year) is really dark and loaded with pollen.  John spun it from the brood frames after losing the bees.

************************************************************************************

And here’s the recipe for the pumpkin bread:

  • 3  1/4 cups flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1  1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 cups fresh, not canned pumpkin (mine was frozen, then thawed in microwave)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs (I used jumbo sized)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Put all dry ingredients into large bowl and mix together with spoon.  Add all wet ingredients and the nuts.  Mix until combined.

Pour into 3 greased bread pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for an hour.  Test with toothpick for doneness.  My loaves took an extra 10 minutes or so.

(I found this on Allrecipes.com.  The recipe originated from the mother of V. Monte, who used canned pumpkin and added 2/3 cup water.  Reviewers suggested eliminating the water, especially if using fresh pumpkin.  Even without the water, this is a yummy moist pumpkin bread!)

Pumpkin bread with Maywood honey butter

Pumpkin bread with Maywood honey butter

Pioneer Chronicles or More Reasons Why I Don’t Do Camping

Never underestimate a snow storm.

It sure isn't summer time.

It sure isn’t summer time.

I should know this by now.  Twenty years at Maywood.  We survived the Winter of 1994 when the stream froze and the ground was white with snow and/or ice from Christmas until the first day of spring.  We sledded groceries down to the house…when we could get out to get groceries.  We wheelbarrowed wood to the wood furnace to try to stay warm in the uninsulated Maywood House.

In ’96 we made the evening news when we were the last family in Baltimore County to get plowed out.  They needed front-end loaders to deal with all the snow.  That was the year we drank raw milk from Vernon Foster’s cows.  His grandkids didn’t want to drink it, but we were plenty glad to have it.  One mile of road and we couldn’t drive it.  The only way out was to drive over the corn fields where Robert Warns had plowed a path with some farm machinery.

In 2010 we survived Snow-pocalyse, two back to back monster storms and a snowed in family party that I thought would never end.

We got this much snow.  YOU go out and measure it.

We got this much snow. YOU go out and measure it.

So what’s a little prediction of 3-6 inches.  That changes to 6-12 inches.  Accompanied by single digit temperatures and high winds. Right?

First, my in-laws lost land-line phone service.  My father-in-law called on his cell phone to let me know.  Our land-line is with the cable service so it didn’t affect us.

Then the cable went out.  No phone, no internet, no TV.  No Pandora on my new wireless Bose speaker.  It was looking like hubby and I would have to spend the evening in scintillating conversation.  Fortunately, the smart phones still worked.  I could text and post to Facebook.   Cable service was restored amazingly quickly.  No small feat for Comcast.  Music was playing again within two hours.

No sooner had I finished cleaning up the kitchen and taken a potty break, when the power went out. No lights.  No water.  No heat.

At least the dishes were done and my bladder was empty.  Pottery Barn wickless candles all over the house provided soft illumination. The flashlight app on our smartphones guided us around the house.  We read by the glow of the Nook.

Now, we were relaxing by the wood stove without a fire because hubby said we were out of wood.  With no heat (although the house was still warm), it was time to get picky about what “out of wood” meant.  It did not mean “no wood.”  So the few pieces down in mancave were put to use in the fireplace insert.  Which, by the way, does not have a blower fan when the power is out.  Radiant heat is all you get.

When BGE updated the return of service from 11:15 pm to 6:45 am, it was time to call it a day.  Up to bed fully clothed in fuzzy sweater, fleece pants and socks.  The bed was piled high with blankets.  And hubby puts off a lot of heat.  I was rather comfortable.  Hubby was so comfortable that he slept right through the return of power at 1:55 am, at which time the bedroom was a toasty 56 degrees.

With morning we have lights, water, internet, phone, heat.  There is even a fire going in the fireplace. (“Out of wood” today means that there is wood but it needs to be split.)  It is time for Pioneer Man to get out there on Betsy the Tractor and plow us out.  Yeah, so it’s like 5 degrees out there with a wind chill.  Betsy is not cooperative.  She refuses to start.  Oh, she was quite willing to start two nights ago when it was 40 degrees out.  But now her hydraulic fluid is like sludge.  I don’t blame her, really.  I feel that way too on cold mornings.

Don't you just hate it when your hydraulic fluid feels like sludge?

Don’t you just hate it when your hydraulic fluid feels like sludge?

But how will we get out?  This snow is not going to be melting anytime soon.

Pioneer Man calls our neighbor who also has a vintage tractor like Betsy.  Neighbor and family are sick with the flu.  They hired someone to plow them out.

“How much?” asks Pioneer Man.

“Don’t know.  He’s going to bill me,” replies flu-stricken neighbor.

Whoa.  He’s really going to feel ill when that bill comes.

We ponder ways to warm up Betsy.  There is a torpedo-like heater in the  Room of Outer Darkness.  (“Which room of outer darkness?”the daughters may ask.  We have so many. The Room of Outer Darkness is the room off the shop underneath the side porch.  It would make an excellent wine cellar for someone organized and with an ability to not drink every bottle as soon as it enters the house.)  Anyway, this torpedo heater is like the ones you see on the sidelines of football games to warm up the players.  It was left here by a contractor once upon a time.  It runs on kerosene.

We don’t have any kerosene.

We have wine and whiskey, though.  I stocked up on important things before the storm.

Bee-ing hopeful in the dead of winter

The bees are still alive!  I saw them yesterday.

Today a boatload of snow is falling… to be followed by frigid temperatures and a sub-zero wind chill.  Already, with hours of snow yet to fall, gusts of wind whip clouds of snow off the roof and swirl it around the yard.  The bees and sensible humans are tucked inside where it is warm. Yesterday, however, when the temperature soared into the low 50’s, we were all out and about.

Look closely--bees coming and going at the entrance and at the lid.  Hive A.

Click to look closely–bees coming and going at the entrance and at the lid of Hive A.  There’s a lot of bee poop in this picture too.

In Maryland, humans spent the warm day before a snowstorm stocking up on bread, milk, and toilet paper.  Quite a few also took advantage of the warmth for some exercise along the NCR bike trail.  It was a good day to be outside.  The bees also found it agreeable.  Bees don’t emerge from their hives unless the temperature is about 50.  When I stopped by for a look, the reading here was 45.  They are on a protected hill and wrapped in tarpaper, so they clearly felt safe to emerge.

Boy, did they need it!  Recent weather has been so bizarre that one day my French III class reviewed most of their weather vocabulary just by discussing local conditions in the preceding 48 hours.  We’ve had sub-zero temperatures with howling winds followed by snow and ice, sleet, and freezing rain.  We’ve had temperatures pushing 50 degrees with rain and flood warnings.  Throw in some fog and a chance of thunder.  We’ve had pretty much anything winter can throw at us. These are challenging conditions for the honeybees at Maywood.

Sunday a week ago was our first chance to venture to the bee yard since Christmas.  It’s not just the extreme cold that is worrisome, but the drastic changes in temperatures.  How well do bees handle a plunge to  minus 2 and then up to 50?  We slogged through the muddy yard to see.  The temperature was still in the 40’s so we were not expecting too much.  To our delight, Hive D was showing activity!  There were a few bees on the entrance porch of their hive and another cluster of bees up near the top of the hive, entering by the lid entrance.  We were very encouraged to see them moving about.  Hives A and B each had one bee on them.  Hive C showed no signs of activity.

Hive B.

Hive B.  Click to see the bee flying back to the hive.

Yesterday, there were bees at each hive.  Coming and going. Doing a little basking on the hive lids.  I was so encouraged by the activity at the hives that I sent Mr. Beekeeper photos at work to warm his little heart.

So what do bees do to recover from one extended stay indoors before the next one hits?  They take cleansing flights.  In other words, they go outside for a good poop.  Bees, being a clean society, do not pee or poop inside their hives.  An extended cold spell means they just have to hold it.  (Some of my students could learn a lesson from them.) Needless to say, bees like a warm winter day as much or more than we do!

Hive C.  Bees coming in for a landing after their cleansing flights.

Hive C. Bees coming in for a landing after their cleansing flights.

Today is a different story.  The recently relieved bees are huddled together to maintain a 92 degree warmth.  Mr. Beekeeper and I, wrapped in new chenille sofa throws, will snuggle by a toasty fire, secure in the knowledge that the bees are still ok and we are well-stocked with toilet paper.

(Correction:  forget the toasty fire.  We seem to be out of cut wood.  I guess we’ll snuggle to the glow of our Ipads.)

At least we have bread, milk and toilet paper.

At least we have bread, milk and toilet paper.

Frozen Fog

Frozen fog?

I’ve listened to a lot of weather reports over the years, but this morning’s was a first.  Frozen fog was causing accidents all over Carroll County.  The pre-caffeinated brain has trouble conceptualizing this.  How can fog freeze?  Isn’t that oxymoronic?  Isn’t fog water suspended in the air?  If it freezes, wouldn’t that make it sleet or snow?  If fog freezes, can you walk through it?  Or it is like crunchy air?  Could you get stuck in it?  These are difficult questions to ponder in the early morning darkness.

Is  it any wonder I hate waking up?  Too much information bombards me too  early in the day.  Snow and sub-zero temperatures are bad enough…but at least they are predicted.  But freezing fog?  What am I supposed to do with this information?

Ah, but a cup of coffee lifts my mental fog.  The air is foggy but the temperature has dropped to below freezing, so all that oogy dampness on the sidewalks and roads has frozen.  And that makes for very treacherous driving.

Ok.  Now the caffeine needs to kick in so I can plan my alternate route to work.  The traffic  report lists many roads that I traverse on my avoid-the-highway route. Alas, the back roads are not an option today.  I will be forced to take the Beltway.  Oh, let’s hope that drivers can avoid crunching into each other or it will take me twice as long to get to school.

While I ponder this, Carroll County decides on a two-hour delay.  It’s a rather late call and I know at least one of my colleagues is already on her way to school.  Now the question is whether we will shift our half-day exam schedule or cancel school.  I wait for the call.  Caffeine and anxiety course through my system.

School is cancelled.  And I’m wide awake. Frozen at the window.  Peering into the fog.

Woo hoo!