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.

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All that glitters

All that sparkles is not glitter

All that sparkles is not glitter

That extra sparkle about me this season? It ain’t Christmas cheer. It’s that daggone glitter on the wrapping paper.
Seriously, wrapping paper with glitter on it should come with a warning label. CAUTION: Contents of this shrink-wrapped tube of paper contain microscopic bits of green sparkles that will stick to every surface they contact, including your clothes, hair, and under your fingernails.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about twinkling and shining. My collection of silver bells gives me great joy. Twinkly lights adorn cabinets tops, mantles, and doorways throughout the house. Candles glow everywhere. I love light and sparkle and shine and all the brightness of Christmas.

I just think that there should be a special place in hell reserved for the inventor of glitter. I have wrapped one gift and already I’m blinking like a Christmas tree. The Scotch tape has so much glitter dust on it, I’m surprised it even sticks to anything. The countertop has a green hue to it. Every single gift I wrap, no matter how plain the paper, will now have glitter on it. My daughter, recipient of the afore-mentioned glitter gift, will take glitter home with her and it will stick to everything in her home. That’s after it sticks to everyone who comes to my home for Christmas.

Why isn’t there some environmental commission investigating this??? Surely glitter does not decompose. Apocalyptic films have completely ignored this environmental disaster. When the planet has been nuked and life as we know it has disappeared, there will be nothing left but cockroaches and…that’s right, glitter.

‘Nuff said.
Ho! Ho! Ho! May your Christmas be merry and bright.

Appropriate twinkles

Appropriate twinkles

Where’s Mom?

When we were little, my siblings and I used to do hide-and-seek with my mother. It wasn’t a game. She was really hiding. And we were seeking. It was a big house–three floors plus a basement–and as we climbed the stairs calling, “Mom! Mooooooooooooommmmmmm!” we were sure that she must have gone down to one floor while we were ascending to another. Years later, when we were in high school ( and a smaller house), we learned that Mom had been hiding in her walk-in closet. It was her only refuge. We always found her if she tried to sneak a minute of peace in the bathroom.

My cell phone rings. It’s my sister. The one who wasn’t born yet when Mom played hide-and-seek.

“Where’s Mom?”

First thought: How the heck should I know?
Second thought: It’s the day she volunteers at the soup kitchen, but she would have been home hours ago. Maybe she’s napping.

“I’ve been texting and calling her for days and she doesn’t respond.”

First thought: She’s lying on the floor of her condo unresponsive and/ or dead.
Second thought: My sister is calling me because she’s having the same first thought. She could just go over to Mom’s and let herself in, but she’s calling me because she doesn’t want to go over there by herself. She wants me to go with her and call 911 and read the advance directive that Mom has posted on the fridge.

“She was alive on Sunday, ” I say. “She rsvp’d for Thanksgiving.”

“I know,” my sister says, ” I saw that she signed up, but she hasn’t responded to me since.” (We use an online sign up program, so everyone coming to Thanksgiving knows that Mom is bringing shrimp and her famous Vienna Cake.)

Ok. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. I saw her sign up post but haven’t talked to her for a couple of weeks.. Days have passed with no word from her.
Oh wait…was this the week she was going on a bus trip to West Virginia with her church friends? Or did she already go on that trip? I talked to her about a trip…wait…that was the trip to Cape Cod. The trip where none of the other travelers drank and she felt awkward having her vodka at dinner.
More guilt. I should know if this is the week she is going to West Virginia. I should have it marked on all my calendars in bold letters: MOM IN WEST VIRGINIA.
I tell my sister, ” This might be the week she’s on a trip to West Virginia.”

“Why doesn’t she tell people these things?”

“She told me.”

“She should tell more people.”

“I think she doesn’t so that we will have to get worried and call each other.”

“Well, I am nearly hysterical with worry!” says the sister who decades ago called Mom in post-partum distress threatening to harm someone. Mom flew in her car to save the baby from a crazed mother. When she arrived, the baby was quietly settled down for a nap while my sister calmly prepared a cup of tea.

“You do have a history of overreacting.”

“Wait…she’s texting me. She’s in West Virginia. I have to go. I’m going to call her and yell at her for scaring me.”

Poor Mom. She has forgotten the most important part of hide-and-seek….stay hidden.

Embracing the lunatic fringe

I was called a lunatic this weekend and it made me really happy.

Why?  Because I was in an auditorium filled with other lunatics and it was so nice to have company.  We were all lunatics.  Language learning  loonies who sold out a conference to hear a linguist.

Stephen Krashen spoke at the MDTESOL conference.   For the 99% of you reading this who do not know who he is, Stephen Krashen is an eminent linguist whose theory of comprehensive input has had a major impact on the field of language learning.  One can agree or disagree with his theory, but he is the man you agree or disagree with.  How cool to get to actually see him and hear him speak!

And then he called us the Lunatic Fringe.

And I was delighted.  I am a certifiable member of the linguistic lunatic fringe.  I love language learning in a country of monolinguals where being bilingual is like being a freak.  I cut my linguistic teeth diagramming sentences with Catholic nuns. (To this day, diagramming sentences is a fun thing for me to do.)   Krashen cracked a grammar joke about French past participles that only a smattering of other lunatics picked up on.  It was great.

Then Krashen said that “nobody cares” about language learning, which we all know to be true, but he wasn’t calling us unimportant.  He affirmed my membership in the club of linguistic geeks while reminding all of us that having a compelling story is what draws people in.  Compelling stories are irresistible.

Compelling story is what led one student in my 7th period class Friday to say, “I only came to school today because I knew we were watching the movie!”  That made me smile, but the student who made my Friday was the kid on the lunatic fringe.  When asked to translate Les poissons imitent un dauphin (the fish imitate a dolphin), he gave the smarty-pants answer “The fish imitate the son of the king of France.”  And I shot back, “I guess that makes it a pretender to the throne.”  The two of us were laughing like lunatics while the rest of the class went “huh?”

I suppose everyone belongs to some sort of lunatic fringe group: actuaries, tuba players, liverwurst makers.  We all just want to belong.  And hang out together. Sometimes even at a conference.

How crazy is that?

 

September Bees–and Moths for the Freezer

Happy healthy Hive A

Happy healthy Hive A

The honey bees are busy with the last burst of blooming weeds that cause humans so much distress, so bee season has not quite ended here.  However, we have not inspected the bees in awhile.  A gorgeous summery weekend in early fall was a great opportunity.  (Especially since the next two weekends will find us on the road.)

 

Lots of brood in Hive A.

Lots of brood in Hive A.

The good news from the bee yard is that Hive A is strong and healthy.  No honey from them, but we did not really expect any this first year.  Hive D, the provider of our July harvest, has several frames of capped honey in the second honey  box.  Mr. Beekeeper decided to leave the honey box on a bit longer because the goldenrod is still blooming and (the real reason), because he did not bring the fume board with him to enable us to take the honey.  So there’s some fun to look forward to…a little fall harvest.  To those of you who are weeping desperate little tears hoping for honey, I’ll let you know what we have when we get it all into jars.

A peek at the fall harvest.

A peek at the fall harvest.

And now for the beekeeper worries…

Small hive beetles can ruin a hive and its harvest by breeding in the bee's brood cells.

Small hive beetles can ruin a hive and its harvest by breeding in the bee’s brood cells.

Small hive beetles were seen in Hive B.  This is not ok.  There are a variety of ways to eliminate them, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.  On the chemical side, Checkmite+ is  a varroa mite control that will also deal with beetles.  It is authorized for use in Maryland.  However, Mr. Beekeeper already bought Apistan for fall application against varroa this season, so we won’t be buying Checkmite+.  It also is a heavy duty chemical attack and the beetles do not seem to be that prolific.

There are non-chemical options for physically trapping the beetles.   Traps vary in design and placement in the hive.  What they have in common is a physical trap for the beetles to fall into and something for them to drown in, like mineral oil, vegetable oil, or vinegar.  One calls for a mixture of water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and ripe banana peel.   That sounds like too much work.   I’m looking at getting a type that hangs between the frames, with a simple oil bath to drown them.  I am fully aware that the bees may seal the thing with propolis, because they like to seal things with propolis.  But these traps are cheap and disposable.

Propolis is the sticky stuff bees make to seal the hive.  It's a real pain to get off countertops.

Propolis is the sticky stuff bees make to seal the hive. It’s a real pain to get off countertops.

The hive is dead and full of wax moths.  They can do serious damage to the hive structure.

The hive is dead and full of wax moths. They can do serious damage to the hive structure.

Hive C is, alas and indeed, dead.  And completely ruined by wax  moths.  Mr. Beekeeper stopped up the entrance to prevent stray bees from going in and, more importantly, moths from coming out.  There were many cocoons in the hive. He will be removing the hive and putting the frames (wrapped in plastic bags) in the freezer to kill off the moths before cleaning the frames and storing them in plastic for the winter.

What killed off Hive C?  Was it the wax moths? Or was it a weak queen?  This is a hive that survived last winter but has been (along with Hive B which has the beetles) slow to build all season.  Did the queen die and the hive fail to produce its own queen?  Did the moths get established in a weak hive or did they seize the opportunity to take over a dead one?

A puddle in the hive, most likely from condensation.

A puddle in the hive, most likely from condensation.

Hive D continues to thrive but opening the lid revealed a puddle of water, presumably from condensation from inside the hive.  Some online  searching offered many solutions for winterizing the hives to avoid condensation, but it is not winter yet.  I do not have any ideas at the moment, but do know that condensation in the winter freezes, and cold, wet bees die. (Beekeepers, your suggestions are most welcome!)  Aside from water on the lid, the bees were busy in the honey box and several frames have capped honey for us!

So many questions.  Here’s one I know some of you are thinking: What else does she have in her freezer?  And oh, the tales we could tell.  But that’s another post!

Group work.  What are they doing?  Probably guessing what I've got in my freezer.

Group work. What are they doing? Probably guessing what I’ve got in my freezer.

Not to the Store Blackberry Sauce

Not a picture of blackberry sauce

Not a picture of blackberry sauce

I almost went to the store yesterday.
There is nothing unusual in almost going to the store. Many days I almost go to the store. Many more days I refuse to go to the store. I hate going to the store.
Yesterday, however, I had an urge to go to the grocery store. But I fought it.

It’s like that old adage about what to do when you feel like exercising? Lie down until the feeling passes.
So I did.

What’s my big deal about going to the store?
I’ve been trying to see what I can make with what I have on hand. But I got into recipe hunting and then enthused by recipes for cucumbers and for blackberries and thought, “Oh, I must go get these ingredients.”

Or not.

So, lying on my porch glider with Ipad perched on my belly, I continued to wander around cyberspace.

One of the wonders of the internet is the ability to plug in search terms for anything you could possibly want to find.
One of the skills of researching is to narrow the search to what you actually need to find.

Googling blackberry recipes yielded plenty of wonderful stuff. But I had two salmon steaks in the freezer. Does blackberry work with salmon? And this is where everyone in Washington State salmon country with overloaded blackberry bushes screamed, “Yes!”

I found a blackberry sauce to go on grilled salmon…and I had all the ingredients in the house!  I reworked the dinner menu: grilled salmon with wild Maywood blackberry sauce; Greek salad starring Maywood cucumber, tomato, and oregano; sliced polenta. The farm-to-table queen rules!

The recipe is from tasteofhome.com. It was for a cedar plank salmon with blackberry sauce. I don’t care for cedar plank grilling, so we skipped that part. I only had one cup of berries and it was just for the two of us, so I halved the sauce. We had plenty of sauce to pour lavishly over two pieces of fish, so I’m guessing we could have drizzled it over four pieces.

It was seriously delicious. I would show you a picture but we were too busy eating it.

Wild Blackberry Sauce
(Yields about one cup)

Mix the following in a food processor:

1 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon white wine (I donated some from my glass)
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon honey (Maywood honey, of course)
3/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Tabasco because it’s what was in the house)
pinch of salt and pepper

Strain the mixture through a sieve to get the blackberry seeds out. To the strained mixture add:

2 tablespoons chopped onion or shallot (I used red onion because I was out of shallot and the sauce is red anyway)
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic

That’s it. Just pour over hot grilled salmon.

And just so you know, I did go to the store today. I had to stock up at Wegman’s for an upcoming grandkid weekend and nearby Coldwater Creek, my favorite clothing store, was having a 90% off going out of business sale and it was my last chance to shop there ever.
Sigh. Now I really won’t want to go shopping because I have to find a new favorite store with clothes that fit. But I found some nice things real cheap, so I’ll have a few new things to pull out from now until long after the blackberries are gone.

I’m Gonna Get Squashed

On a fishing pier Saturday with my mom, watching the waves roll to shore beneath us, I said, “Pretend it’s a tsunami and you have to outrun it.”  Right. The great-grandmother to my grandkids had already walked close to twenty miles with me during our week at the beach. Running was not going to happen.

The garden tsunami beginsReturning home I encountered the first wave of our garden tsunami. Cucumbers. And yellow squash. And zucchini. With blossoms on the patty pans, acorn squash, butternut, watermelon and pumpkins.  My farmboy (oh, fahmboy!) husband loves to say, “As you wish” to his Princess Bride, but the profusion of squash plants in our garden is most definitely his wish.  His 100 x 100 foot fenced garden is about half filled with squash plants, including seeds from a ginormous pumpkin that promised to produce more ginormous pumpkins.

In addition to blueberries, the wild blackberries,  brambles, and raspberries are ripening.

In addition to blueberries, the wild blackberries, brambles, and raspberries are ripening.

When the blueberries ripened, I was pleased with the pacing of the harvest…just enough every day for us to eat. As the blueberries waned, the wild raspberries ripened. What a God treat to have the berries coming in delicate succession like that, like little waves lapping at our ankles.

Ah, but the squash. How to keep ahead of the tsunami of squash.  To be precise, what we have is a tsunami of cucurbits, or gourds.  Cucumbers and melons and summer squash and winter squash and pumpkins belong to the family of  cucurbits.  And here’s a little etymological tidbit to ponder while scooping the innards and adding fillings, dips, and soups: the word came into Middle English by way (of course!) of the Old French cucurbite which came from the Latin cucurbita, meaning gourd or cup.

So cucumbers are not squash.  They are cucurbits.

We picked four pickle cukes the day before vacation and immediately made two jars of pickles. One jar was gobbled on vacation and the other when we got home. But we came home to eight cukes plus about four that my in-laws saved for us with our mail. (That does not include the ones they ate while we were gone.)

Monday I began running to beat the tsunami.

The paletas are cucumber lime ginger popsicles.  They are amazingly good and just as amazingly simple to make. Daughter, grandboy and grandgirl joined me in sampling them.  There is enough ginger to provide grown-ups with a pleasant gustatory zip, but not so much to turn away a three year old and his one year old teething sister.  Follow the link above to the easy recipe at Bon Appetit.

The pickle recipe began with a refrigerator pickle recipe from Allrecipes.com, but after comparing a few recipes with ingredients I had on hand, I ended up with this. I share it here so that I will not lose it!

Refrigerator Pickles

The measurements for the brine make enough to cover 4 cups of pickles.  Adjust quantities according to the amount of cucumber you have.

  • 4 cups pickles, sliced in rounds or in spears, whatever you like
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

Bring water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil.  Let cool completely. (Pouring hot brine on the cucumbers will soften them a  bit.  We want crisp cucumbers!)

Fill quart size mason jars with cucumbers.  To each jar add:

  • 1 tablespoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • sprinkle of dried dill weed or sprigs of fresh dill (for effect!)

Pour cooled brine into each jar to cover cucumbers.  Put lids on.  Store in fridge 3 days  before eating.  Pickles keep 6 weeks in the fridge…if you don’t eat them first.20140723-143512.jpg

So, I have used up all the cucumbers… for the moment. Now to outrun the zucchini…

 

 

 

Berries and Bugs

In addition to blueberries, the wild blackberries,  brambles, and raspberries are ripening.  The bugs on those berries eat ME.  My competition for that fruit is the deer.

In addition to blueberries, the wild blackberries, brambles, and raspberries are ripening. The bugs on those berries eat ME. My competition for that fruit is the deer.

It took a couple of weeks for the Japanese beetles to discover the blueberries. For those couple of weeks I blissfully picked a daily supply of berries, rejoicing in the amazing abundance of them. After three years of waiting, the bushes were loaded with fruit and every day or so just enough of them ripened just for me.

And then one day I spied a shimmering iridescent bug chomping on one of my berries. How dare he! He has all of Maywood to eat! Stay off my berries! And then I noticed them everywhere. On the wild grapes. On the coneflowers. On random weeds. Ok, they can have the weeds. And maybe even the wild grapes, which do not usually amount to much.

But the berry battle had begun.

What to do about the beetles? I know NOT to buy a Japanese beetle trap. Those bags on stakes just announce to the beetles where the party is. Sadly, the garden wisdom I encountered indicated the futility of trying to eradicate the pests. Effective beetle “management” involves disrupting their life cycle. Using milky spore to attack the larva can take three to five years. Oh my. And there is the dilemma of where to apply it. It is unrealistic to apply milky spore to all of Maywood.

Step one in disrupting the beetle life cycle is to prevent adult beetles from reproducing.  This requires menial labor.  This involves chemistry. This requires battle equipment. And a little bit of bug psychology.

The age old tried-and-true method for battling Japanese beetles is to individually plop them into a container of soapy water. It is so age old that half a century ago my husband’s grandparents (who bought Maywood in the first place ) used to send him outside to pick off the beetles. Yeah, the beetles have been here that long.

The chemistry involves the soap which breaks the surface tension of the water so that the beetles can not float on top of it. They sink and drown. Rather rapidly. The process is long enough to watch but not so long that it sucks the life out of your day.

That said, Mom and I wasted a few minutes of our lives staring into a plastic bowl of drowning beetles one evening. We would wish those moments back but it was such a special bonding moment.
Mom (staring at drowning beetles): I can’t believe we’re standing here doing this.
Me (head to head with Mom staring at drowning beetles): Yeah.

Right. So, I now carry two containers with me on my daily walk to the blueberries:

  • 1. My berry box–a lovely ceramic replica of a cardboard berry box, the kind that has been replaced by lidded plastic boxes that rip the skin off your fingers when you open them. I bought it at Anthropologie for $14 and it makes me happy.
  • A plastic tub from Wegman’s olive bar, empty now of olives but filled with water and a squirt of dish soap.

The best time to pick beetles is in the morning because they are slower then. (Kind of like me.). I don’t actually pick them. I sort of push them, holding the water under so they fall into it. However, if one is actively chomping a berry, flicking is a bit more effective. At each bush, I look for beetles first, because picking a berry will shake the beetle into flying away. I don’t want it to go away; I want it to die.

Killing the adult beetle hopefully prevents it from laying eggs at the base of the plant so that larva won’t emerge next spring. And it keeps the invaders from chomping on more berries. Beetles (like college students) tend to go where the popular party is, so diminishing the size of the blueberry party discourages other beetles from showing up. Tossing away the beetle-chomped berries minimizes the smell of party food which is so attractive to us all. Leaving dead beetle carcasses at the base of the plant may also be effective (dead bodies deter most party-goers), but I’d rather not risk a potential bug resuscitation.  Most importantly, one must show up regularly to pick off the trouble-makers.  Going away for the weekend is an open invitation to trouble.

In the battle for the berries, the one with the most berries wins. And for the moment that happens to be me.

 

The Newbees Have Arrived

20140425-150027.jpg

 

It’s a brisk morning, but delightful on the porch, where I am swaddled in a blanket, sipping hot coffee. From the comfort of my porch swing and the warmth of a sunbeam, I watch as BeeMan comes and goes from the bee yard. He is getting the hive ready for the new bees.

 

More bees than you want to count!

More bees than you want to count!

Yesterday we drove out to Whitehall to pick them up. Out the lane past the horse farm, along the road past the freshly manured field–so odoriferous the farmer had to post a “sorry for the stink” sign. (He should also have offered free car de-odorizers!) North we go, past the winery, the alpaca farm, a dairy farm, a sheep farm, a cattle farm. Finally, we come to a barn by a non-descript little rancher. Beyond the barn are dozens of beehives. In the barn are hundreds of boxes of bees.

Mr. Beekeeper ordered four pounds of Russians bees. He is given four pounds of Italian bees. It was too cold down in Georgia. No Russians are ready. Are you kidding me? They’re Russian. Do they need little balaclavas to keep them warm? The BeeMan thinks the Italian bees are more aggressive and prone to robbing other hives. Still, we accept the bees and bring them home to join all the Russian bees in the yard.  Let’s hope they can peacefully co-exist.

How does one bring home four pounds of bees? In the back seat of the car. We probably should have buckled them in. The box fell over on sharp turns, so I had to hold it straight for most of the ride home.

Shoulda buckled them in!

Shoulda buckled them in!

Back home, the bees were placed in the mud room. Mr. Beekeeper was feeling under the weather, so the bees would spend the night inside rather than going straight into their hive. We checked on them before going to bed ourselves. They huddled all together, quiet in one big four pound clump. Awwww. How often do you get to see a hive of bees sleeping?

(This is sign of experienced bee keepers. The first time we had a package of bees in the house I was freaked out. Those bees had arrived via U.S. Postal Service. The post office had called at 6 a.m. to tell us to come get the bees. I spent the day at work thinking, “There are thousands of bees in my basement!” Now I watch them and say, “Awwww! Aren’t they cute?”

As the sun rides high in the sky, we don our bee gear and take the Newbees to their new home, Hive A. It doesn’t take long to dump them in and set up the sugar water feeder to get them started.

First, BeeMan sprays them with sugar water to keep them too busy snacking to bother with him.

First, BeeMan sprays them with sugar water to keep them too busy snacking to bother with him.

Next, remove the queen and put her in the hive.

Next, remove the queen and put her in the hive.

The queen and her attendants arrive in their own little box.  The other bees will eat through a sugar plug to release her into the hive.

The queen and her attendants arrive in their own little box. The other bees will eat through a sugar plug to release her into the hive.

The queen box is installed in the hive.  This will be removed once the queen is no longer in it.

The queen box is installed in the hive. This will be removed once the queen is no longer in it.

The rest of the bees are unceremoniously dumped in.

The rest of the bees are unceremoniously dumped in.

The sugar water feeder is set up to help the hive get started.  Straggler bees still in the shipping box will join the rest soon.

The sugar water feeder is set up to help the hive get started. Straggler bees still in the shipping box will join the rest soon.

A peek in the other hives...

A peek in the other hives…

We peek in the other hives. Hive D already has a honey box on and is filling the comb with nectar. Nothing capped yet. Hive C is busy building up into the second brood box. Hive B has a second brood box but is not making much progress. BeeMan has doubts about the queen. The joy of beekeeping…there is always something for him to worry about.

Hive A settles in. Mr. Beekeeper will pop down often to keep an eye on them. They arrived at a good time. The red maples have finished flowering, but today honey bees were all over the black cherry blossoms. That bodes well for a cherry harvest as well as for yummy honey!

Honey frame or brood frame?

Honey frame being filled

Happy to have 4 hives full!

Happy to have 4 hives full!

In search of green

St.  Paddy’s Day is upon us along with another Winter Weather Advisory for 2-5 inches of snow. Since it’s likely the only green I’ll be seeing tomorrow will be on my shamrock scarf, I go outside this dismal afternoon to look for green.

A dreary place to look for green

A dreary place to look for green

It’s not that I expect to find the riotous bloom of tulips and daffodils.  I just want signs of life. The predominant color outside appears to be dead leaf/mud brown.  Show me the  green. Pleeeese.

I look in the usual places.

The periwinkle hides under a brown blanket of leaves until I rake it away for instant spring.

I know I can always rake the periwinkle for a green pick-me-up.

I know I can always rake the periwinkle for a green pick-me-up.

Tentative daffodils ask, "Is Winter gone yet?"

Tentative daffodils ask, “Is Winter gone yet?”

Daffodils hide with the periwinkle. They peek up tentatively. Daylilies along the windblown and heavily plowed driveway look vulnerable to the elements as they emerge.  Teeny tiny promises of the lush green to come.  But so tiny and cheerless. I need more green than that.

Daylilies look vulnerable to the forecasted snow.

Daylilies look vulnerable to the forecasted snow.

Arborvitae is green.  And holly.  I decorate with them for Christmas.  I don’t want to count them. That  green isn’t “good enough.”  I want the promise of spring.

Because I’m zooming in on one color, I spy hints of greenage in the underbrush.  Oh, a vine.  With thorns. I don’t like thorns.

Vine...with thorns

Vine…with thorns

Moss...and a chipmunk hole.  Alvin!!!!!!

Moss…and a chipmunk hole. Alvin!!!!!!

Moss is green.  We have a fair amount of moss because our yard is highly acidic and moss seems to like it better than grass does.  The thing is, moss is kind of nice.  It’s soft.  And when the sun warms it up, it’s a lovely green. The only problem with moss is that it is not  grass.  But it isn’t trying to be.

Rhododendron braved the winter and came out ready to bloom.

Rhododendron braved the winter and came out ready to bloom.

Rhododendron leaves are green.  They are always green.  Here they sit with buds waiting for spring.  Good ol’ rhododendron.  Always there.  Oh, now I wish I had taken their picture in the bitter cold of an ice storm when their leaves were curled in on themselves. They looked miserable then.  And now I take for granted the buds that will offer glorious red blooms in May.

I’ve been reading Ann Voscamp’s One Thousand Gifts in which she takes up a friend’s dare to chronicle one thousand things she can be thankful for. My search for green parallels her search for graces.  The grace that is too small.  Or too hard to find.  Or too ordinary.  Or too thorny.  But there all the same.  Like the rhododendron.  If one cares to look at it.

So where is the green, the sign of life?  It’s all around me.  It’s in the promise of spring popping up timidly from winter.  It’s in the vines coursing like arteries with warming earth.  It’s in the evergreens that stand faithfully through winter.  It’s in the moss, covering the nakedness of the impoverished soil.

And I’m reminded of the prayer of St. Patrick, “The Breastplate of St. Patrick,” the grand prayer for God’s protection (and worth a read in its entirety, so click on the link):

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity
Through belief in the threeness
Through confession of the Oneness
Towards the creator…

Christ to protect me today…
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Green.  It’s not just for Christmas.  It’s not just for coloring beer.  St. Paddy’s Day is a reminder to be wearin’ it…even if it snows.

There is green in there.

There is green in there.