Wednesday, April 28, 2010


My very own swarm of honey bees!

So I am sitting inside at the computer desk on Friday, paying bills and minding my own business, when Jasper comes tearing in the house. 
"Mom! Mom! There's a million bees flying around!"
Me: "Oh? Uh huh, well, I'll come out and see in a minute.  I'm kinda busy here."
Him: "NO!  MOM!  You gotta see this!  Its like a black cloud over the roof!"
Me: "Huh? What the F#@$!? (as I am running out the house, through the garage, into the yard) OHMYGAWD!  They are swarming!  Hurry, get in the house!  Where is the video camera!  Get my phone!  Holy Sh%#!  What the hell is happening?!"
And then ever so slight panic ensues as I try to do a million things at once.  Calling Rachel at Beez Neez, Calling Chad, taking video, taking pictures, uncontrollable shaking and giddiness, nausea, sweat, trying not to freak out Jasper, handling Dish Network guys showing up exactly then to put up new dish, frantic reading of the swarming chapter in Beekeeping for Idiots, or is it Dummies?, its Dummies!  And I am marveling all the while....

Full of shock and awe!
(pictures ended up a little outta order)

What happened you might wonder?  My bees decided to swarm and it was amazing to see.  Its hard to describe but I will try.  I am so thankful we didn't miss the drama of it and were here to see it so we knew where they went and that they were in fact our bees!  Jasper knew right away that something wasn't right because there were tens of thousands of bees in the air, all at once, and they were moving somewhat together in a large mass.  Kinda like a black cloud!  They were landing everywhere and trying to figure out where to go.  They were trying to follow their queen and find a temporary home while scout bees went out to look for a permanent home.  They flew over my roof and into the back yard and toward the other end of the house.  They were covering everything: the car, the dish network van, the house, Chad's drift boat, the windows, the trees and bushes, the BBQ, etc.  I thought the dish guys looked pretty freaked out so I told them that obviously they would not want to be trying to get up on my roof right then and that we needed to reschedule.  They didn't want to be out of their van so I explained to them that a swarm of bees are the gentlest bees you ever will meet.  I informed them that when bees get ready to swarm, they gorge themselves on their honey because they do not know how long they will have to be without a home so they fill up.  When they are full like that, they are docile and sweet, and will only sting if they are forced to.  Granted, I myself would not be comfortable up on a roof, with thousands of bees flying around, hoping not to do something to make them sting.  You  see, I was also trying to convince myself that they were OK, that I was OK, that they weren't trying to attack us even though they were "invading" every nook, cranny, and crevice they could find. 

en mass

The bees seemed confused and their uncertainty made me nervous.  Were they going to congregate on the neighbors house or were they going to fly away and be gone for good?  They were clustering up in several spots as they tried to figure out where their queen had landed.  It took close to an hour for them to start really huddling together in the shape you see above.  They cluster for protection and warmth.
Bees swarm for a few reasons.  I am lucky that even though they did swarm, they did it early.  The later bees swarm, the less time there is for the colony to recover and they likely won't produce or winter over well.  Lots of beekeepers have had swarms already this year and its not even May yet.  Tad bit unusual and may be due to our milder winter and robust colonies.  Swarming is a natural and normal instinct for bees, especially older or crowed colonies.  Congestion and poor ventilation are the two main reasons bees swarm.  If I had more experience I may have noticed earlier on that there may have been queen swarm cells, which look like a peanut shell shape, hanging near the bottom of the frames.  Swarm cells are the earliest evidence that bees are thinking of swarming.  When I had last checked my bees I was following the 7/10 rule which dictates that when 7 of 10 frames are covered in bees, its time to add another deep hive body or honey supper, depending on your circumstances.  At the time, I wasn't looking for swarm cells and the bees were not on more than 7 frames.  Bees work from the middle out to the sides so each outside frame will be the last to get drawn out into comb.
Assessing the situation.  Notice the full bee suit even though I am telling you they are the most gentle during a swarm.  Even an experienced beekeeper should wear the veil but I use the whole shbang, including gloves!

When I texted the photos to some friends, several commented that it looked like a giant pine cone.  It did!  A massive wiggling, writhing pine cone!  As they climbed over each other and tried to get closer to the queen they were surrounding, some would fall off and hit the ground.  They would fly right back up and cling on somewhere else.  Several scout bees were still coming and going but they too had filled up on honey and were little slow on the up take.  I wonder where they would have ended up had I not been able to capture them?  Yes, I was able to capture my first swarm!

Several thousand bees weighs more than you would think!

You can tell in the pictures that they are somewhat low to the ground and hanging on a branch.  It is super duper amazing that they stayed in my yard AND that they converged in a spot that was SO EASY to get to.  I did not have to perform acrobatic swarm collection!   I simply had to step up on a ladder and snip the branch they were on so I could lower the whole mass into a box.  Yes, a box folks.  A cardboard moving box.  Crazy, huh?  Once they were in the box I just closed it up and waited to call Rachel back.  Oh yeah, the plan was to go get one of Rachel's old hives and buy ten new frames with wax foundation to stick in there so the bees could have a new home and start to draw out comb in their new hive.  In the course of that Friday afternoon I think I called Rachel at least three times.  And the bee store, it just so happened, had just that day received a shipment of 200 boxes of bees so they were staying open late but were the busiest they ever are. 

Some of the two hundred boxes of bees!  They sell bees in 3 or 4 pound packages with a queen!

Poor sweet Rachel!  She kept getting these frantic, panicked, stunted, random calls from me and she just kept saying don't worry, it will all be OK.  She was so patient with me and even offered for me to get her old hive since she just got out the hospital again from her allergic reactions to another bee sting.  She is giving up her hives now, and also she is moving to Portland, but her boyfriend is a new beekeeper so she will help him but try not to get stung!  So she had a hive for me to take and the timing of all this, as weird as it was, was perfect since the apiary(bee) store was open unusually late, I had time to get out there Friday night, get the supplies I needed, go to Rachel's before dark,  and get home with everything so I could hive the bees the next day. 

Closing them in the box for the night!

Ta Da!

A few left over stragglers.  I put them near the box and they found their way in.

Jasper had a soccer game Saturday morning so I just left the bees in there box home for the night and pulled the box right up next to the house so they would be under the eave.  It was raining so I didn't want them to get too wet.  The next morning they were still in the box!  Rachel had told me they will stay in a swarm for 2 minutes or two weeks, you just never know.  So I was worried that they would take off again before I could give them a proper home to call their own.  When bees swarm, about 50 percent of the colony packs up with the queen and takes flight.  They leave half their family behind.  So in my original hive I still had many thousands of bees but no queen and that is no good.  We talked about me getting a new queen for that hive but you have to have several days of nice weather to bring a new queen home so that she can take here nuptial flight, mate with drones, and return to the hive to begin laying eggs, unhindered by rain, wind, and bad weather.  She is expensive and important and you don't want to chance her not having a good start with bad weather. 

Close up of bees in a package, awaiting pick up to go the their new hive.

Also, there are many reasons for buying a queen from a reputable supplier vs. letting nature take its course.  To let the colony create a new queen, it must have occupied queen cells or cells with eggs.  If eggs are available, the worker bees will take some of them and start the incredible process of raising a new queen.  This can take a month and that is precious time during honey season.  Buying a vigorous mated queen is a fast solution, she is certain to be fertile, and queens left to mate in the wild can produce bees with undesirable characteristics, such as bad temper.  So for now I have their original hive with many bees but no queen and I have some options about what to do with it. 
Now that I have this new hive started (more on this next), I can either still re-queen the original hive and have two fully running hives or I can combine them in a couple weeks and have one mega hive.  Its a tough call for me!  There are pros and cons to each choice.  If I keep the two hives separate then each one of them is starting from scratch and will most likely not have the time to produce any surplus of honey for me to take at the end of summer.  Remember, bees need about 90 pounds of their own honey to get through the coming winter so I can only take what is above and beyond that.  That's a lot of honey! 
Also, I had originally planned to start a second hive this spring but time got away from me and I didn't order my supplies in time.  So here I am with two hives anyhow but the original one is not a second year hive, technically, now that it swarmed.  It has no queen to keep making baby bees, to collect nectar, and make more honey.  But, two hives is twice the work.  The bees do need to be feed in the early spring and late fall here.  Its a lot of sugar syrup and suiting up and filling sticky jars and not letting them run out, etc.  I enjoy the chores of beekeeping but it does take time and commitment and remembering to do it!  It would be easier and cheaper and less time to service one hive, but if I am already doing it for one, I might as well do it for two, right? 

Honey Bee by August Williams

Well, I do have the option of combining these two hives in a couple weeks or so.  It would practically ensure a MOTHERLOAD of honey for me.  But then I would only have one hive and not two like I had hoped I would of.  But one hive is less time, attention, and stickiness!  How bad do I want honey?  I don't feel too greedy about it.  I want to do right by the sweet honey bees.  But I do also want to make my mead this year, with my own bees honey surplus.  And I use all honey to make my preserves each summer so it sure would be nice to have honey for that.  Regardless, I think combining the hives might be the right thing to do this time. 
I still have a week or so to figure this out.  I need to go back to Beez Neez and ask more questions.  Jim and Rachel are so helpful there.  I take lots of notes so I can try to keep all the info sorted out.  Its a lot to take in and file away and get right when the time comes to implement what you think you know!  Thankfully Jim and Rachel are only a phone call away and they hear from me often and are always gracious, kind and encouraging!
Well, I want to get this posted now even though I feel like I am leaving some things out. I didn't get pictures of hiving them on Saturday because it was a crazy day with the Dish guy coming back and the bees still flying all over since it was nice out and they could smell where their queen had been near the back door.  Many of them stayed in the tree and on the backdoor near where the box had been overnight, until they figured out that their queen was in a new hive down in the yard.  I will take pictures of the new hive next time I feed them and do a follow up post in the next few weeks.  Ask away if you have any questions.  Or comment too if you want!  I hope I have some honey to share with y'all in the future.  Here's to the wonder of bees!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ocho! Plaka Estiatorio!

Ok, so here is a food post for ya.  Ocho in Ballard is an absolute must!  Especially if you are with some real good friends or your boyfriend.  I got to go twice so far, once with each.  If you love Spanish tapas and small plates to share, this is your place.

Above you will see the famous $10 Maragrita.  I kid you not, it is THE BEST margarita I have ever tasted! And I probably don't have to tell you that I have tied many a margarita on! I can only describe it like Sarah did, piney and not at all too sweet.  My reaction after gulping one down was like, oh my lordy, can you mainline those?!

A few weeks back Maurisa and Sarah and I got to have a night out in Ballard with our intention being to eat our way around Ballard until it was time to go.  We started at Ocho and ended up at a fantastic little Greek place called Plaka Estiatorio

Here you can see the chalkboard menu and a slice of the tiny kitchen at Ocho.

First though, let me tell ya a little more about Ocho's menu.  Like many of my lovely friends, I like to consider myself, at the very least, an amateur foodie.  I like things fresh, in season, local, organic, and beautiful.  I like the flavors to make sexy with my mouth and I enjoy it when my taste buds have little orgasms.  Yes, I pretty much equate good food with good sex.  Both can get me hot and bothered, in a really good way! 

So at Ocho they have things like Huevo del Diablo which is deviled eggs, salmon roe, pickled onion, tomato dust, fried capers and dill.
Um, hello, can you say yum!
And they have Jamon Serrano: cured spanish ham.  We ate some of that.  Well, more like some of that melted in our mouths.
And Croquetas Borrachas: fried goat cheese with roasted red pepper almond sauce.  Crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and oh, so delicious.
Setas de Jerez: sherried mushrooms on olive oil toast with arugula.  Earthy yet sweet.  Wish this grew on a tree in my garden.
Albondigas: lamb meatballs with brandy carrot sauce and golden raisins.  Amazing.
Gambas al Ajillo: spicy garlic prawns.  Perfect.
And the evening Chad and I were there I had an asparagus gazpacho that was cooling and refreshing.

But I gotta say.  The one thing I had both times that I could eat all day, every day, day in, day out, over and over is the La Carolina: pancetta wrapped blue cheese stuffed dates in a balsamic reduction.  People!  Is this a dessert?  It was better than dessert.  I wish it were a food group you were required to have 5 servings of per day.  I dream about these little beauties.  And in my dreams they just magically appear in my fridge every time I open it!  Oh, to have it be so.  I didn't even get a picture of them.  I got greedy and ate them fast.  I think Chad got one.  I hope.
Several of the items on the menu have a little star by them and when you look at the key at the bottom of the menu it says: contains raw food, which could kill you.  Blunt.  To the point. And makes me grin.  Love it.
And I haven't even mentioned any of the other fancy cocktails they mix up in this little pixie size space.  You just gotta go see for yourself.  You wont be disappointed.

Plaka is the other place Sarah and Maurisa and I ate at in Ballard.  I thought it was great and again we shared small plates, or Mezedes, as it's called here.  We had our hunk of a waiter pick a wine for us and it was just right.  We shared Patzaria: beets with garlic, fennel, vinegar and olive oil.  Loukaniko: grilled pork sausage.  Octopodi: octopus braised in herbs with lemon and olive oil.  Roasted red pepper and feta dip.  And I think we had some roasted seasonal veggies and potatoes.  It was all delicious.  Although I am pretty much a sucker for anything that has lemon and olive oil.  And the owner of Plaka was so kind and attentive.  He gave me a gorgeous calendar when we left so I can hang it on my wall and daydream about when I get to go to Greece.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, actually, I was in such wonderful company and having such a lovely evening immersed in girl talk, I did not take any pictures here. 

So I will leave you with a few photos from Old Town Ale House,  Chad and I stopped in here the other night to grab a drink and snack before seeing Breathe Owl Breathe at The Tractor.  I will post more about seeing them later but for now I will show you the super cute artwork on the Belgium Trappist Ale I drank.  It made the beer taste extra good!  And those of you who know me, know I have a thing for snails.  Here ya go:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Down where the Sasquatch hide....

Beauty of a day!  A seven year old birthday party.  Rain.  Sun.  Ahhhh, the Northwest.  Just missing a Sasquatch sighting..... Ha! 

I have been wanting to show y'all these lovely badges I made for my Juji (Julie for her 40th!) and for Jasper (for his 7th!).  So so easy yet quite a statement!  Here are some photos below.  I wish I knew how to do a little tutorial for you in case you want to make yourself a badge.  I will try to explain below.  It is really, soooo easy!
Julie's Birthday Badge!

Jasper's 7th Birthday badge!

The back of Julie's badge.

Front and back of Jasper's.

I was able to purchase several of these green rimmed milk bottle caps from the Queen of Tarte last time she was in town.  She was doing a show in Bothell and there was not a lot to drool over from other vendors but Q.O.T. had these and Kathy and I were drawn to them.  Numbers were already printed on them, just like Jasper's 7, and I instantly had the idea for his birthday badge.  The one I made for Julie has a number under it too but I had to cover it since none of the numbers were 40! 

The first thing I did was take some of my many rolls of crepe paper and started pinching and gathering them and just hand forming them into a circle shape until it looked ruffley.  Then I started on the next color or row, and so on.  Once I had what I wanted, I just used white glue to begin adhering the crimped, ruffled, pinched, circular shaped crepe "wreaths" to the back of the bottle cap.  I just overlapped the crepe where it met in a circle shape.  The caps are a kind of waxy, papery like thing but the white glue seemed to work to adhere it all together. 

Then I had to decide what kind of ribbons I wanted hanging down from the badge.  I have a massive collection of ribbon, vintage and new.  I also have a ton of seam binding, edging, ric rac, etc.  The green "ribbons" I used here are actually like hem tape that you might use to cover a hem on the inside of a garment.  Its cotton and very stretchy and I have several rolls of it so this was a good way to use some up.  I just decided on how I wanted to layer them and then trimmed the ends to make points.  You make the points by folding the ribbon in half length wise and then cut a 'V' shape from the fold to the outer edge.  You can make the points as long or as blunt as you like, depending on how long your 'V' is.  Once I have my layers of dangling ribbon situated, I glue them all at the same time and together, to the back of the ruffley crepe lined bottle cap, on the back.  You can make them hang straight down or flare them at a slight angle.  You could also just do one strand of ribbons or several strands! 

To cover up all the glue, ribbon ends and crepe circles on the back of the badge, I cut out a nice little circle of wool felt, with my pinking shears so it has a 'ruffley' edge too, and glue it on the back.  BEFORE I glue it on though, I hand sew a pin to the felt so I have a way to attach it to my clothes or wherever once its all dry and ready to wear.  I have several leftover early entry badges from The Sandpoint Design and Antique Market so I just detached the safety pin part from the plastic and used the pin to sew to the felt.  There are several types of pin backs at the craft store so you just have to choose what works best for you.  Once the pin is attached to the felt, THEN I glue it to the badge back.  Voila!  You are pretty much done!  You just have to wait for the glue to dry and then wear your badge or give it away!

Here is my sweet Julie with her Birthday badge:

Here is tired Jasper, on his birthday, after horseback riding in the desert, but still wearing his Birthday badge:

Oh!  I almost forgot to mention!  Look at this close up of Julie's badge.  You will notice the background behind the 40.  I used the inside of a Yogi tea box!
I did this specifically for Julie because it reminded me of the amazing henna work she does.  I am tellin' ya, this woman is a master!  Getting a henna blessing from Julie is one of my most favorite things to do when we are together.  It is amazing art that stays with me for days and slowly fades as the time since our last meeting grows.  I need to scan the photos I have of Julie's henna work and do another whole post just on that!  The 40 is just stick on numbers that I glued down and sprayed matte varnish over to help hold them on.

Here's to art, craft, milk caps and crepe paper!
Go make art!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ships Ahoy!

Ann Wood Pattern Ships in Progress!

Here is our first fleet of Ann Wood boats in progress.  (Dont forget to drool over Ann's stuffed owls while you are visiting her blog!)  I will post some more process photos so you can see our version of it.  These have been painted but are awaiting mast and yard construction.  This was a great family project and it can be done in a weekend or you can stretch it out for a couple months like we did.  Since we made so many to start, we did one step at a time with the entire fleet, so it took a little longer.  Most of the ships you can see here are the original pattern blown up 100% or so.  I do like the bigger size for the amount of time these take to make.  You might as well make big ones because I think they will be easier to see hanging from the ceiling too! 

Above you can see some of our small and large patterns cut out of cereal boxes and a few actually taped together and ready to be paper mached.  I don't think we have any photos of the paper mache day since we all did it and had really sticky fingers!  I just use a mix of flour and water and few drops of white glue for paper mache.  We tore up small pieces of newspaper and just basically followed Ann's directions and did two layers on each.  Let me see if I can find a photo of them all mached.....nope....

Painted inside and out.

I started the draft of this post way back when but was waiting to finish it since I was giving a few ships to friends as gifts and wanted it to be a big surprise for them.  They most likely would not have seen this blog post anyhow but wanted to be on the safe side!  These ships were so fun to construct and Ann Woods work is so inspiring.  I can't wait to try making my own ship design and creating an even bigger, more beefy one, to hang with these.  Check hers out and you will see what I mean.  Ann also does amazing things with cardboard and fabric and her work has been featured in severl magazines worldwide. 
I will post some more process photos and tell ya about what we did:
One side of Jasper's ship with mast inserted.

The other side of Jasper's Ship.

The inside of Jasper's ship.  I love his style!

In all, we made 4 small ships and 5 large ones.  We will keep and hang the 4 we made for ourselves and gift the others.  We have given three small ones away so far and they have been well received!  I will show you here:
Here is the one we made for our friend Steffen for his birthday.  You can kinda see the fabric here.  It has octopus, ship wrecks, seals, fish, seaweed and coral.  This is the other side of the sail:
I used cheese cloth to line the back!  The sail pattern does not call for it to be lined but I got this wild hair and wanted to see if I could make it work.  It looked great and it didn't add a lot of heft, bulk, or stiffness to the sail so that was good.  You can see the detail here of how we painted most of them with thin paint so the newsprint would show thru like Ann's.  Also you can see a little detail of how the sail is hand sewn to the yard.  Sewing the sail to the yard really makes you feel like your ship is coming together!
Here are two sails in progress for two ships.  These each went to Maurisa for her birthday and Julie for her 40th birthday!  I used an old indian paisley spread that had lots of various stains and holes.  I really like the reds, greens, and yellows in the fabric.  I did not line these sails because I liked the gauzey feel of the fabric just the way it was.  Here is Julie's finished ship below:

These ships have string attached so you can hang them from the ceiling.  Also, you might notice the buttons attached to the ends and sides.  I used shell buttons on these and they are meant to be decorative and to use for attaching your sails strings to.  I followed Ann's lead and left all my strings long and dangley.  Love it!

And on this sail I used some contrasting but complimentary fabric to make patches on the sail.  As if the sail had gotten holes while sailing the high seas and needed to be repaired!

We have not finished out own four ships!  I wanted to get the gifts done first so we will be working on ours soon.  I will post more as they get finished.  Please check out Ann's blog and website to get inspired to create these!  And let me know if you, a. come across any more ship patterns, and b. make any of your own!  I will leave you with a group picture of all our ships, with their masts attached, awaiting sails.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hello from Tucson!

85 degrees and dry, every day.

Standing on water?!
Having a blast at the Vaudeville Variety Circus Sideshow!

Having a lot of fun in Tucson!  Have shopped to the point of needing to buy more luggage, ate fabulous food at Club Congress and Sauce, and went to a Circus Side Show that was the most fun so far! Swimming, soaking up the 81 degree sun, and taking naps. Gotta love a vacation! Jasper turns 7 tomorrow! Going horseback riding, eating Sonoran Dogs, and seeing Goonies at the Loft Theatre. Hiking Bear Canyon to Seven Falls on Friday and maybe go to Bisbee on Saturday. Phew! I will post more pictures when we get home and the videos of the boys taking part in the circus side show! Gotta love Tucson!