Separate lives, but just for a few days

I went down to Southern California on personal business this week, while Tom manned the fort here at home. He has lots to tell you about his bee adventures:

On Tuesday I opened the hive, mostly to check on the status of the queen. When we put the bees in the hive on Saturday, the queen was in a cage, separated from the rest of the bees by a candy plug. This gives everyone a chance to meet & mingle before they can really get together. The bees had been going through a fair amount of sugar water, and I was anxious to see how things were progressing inside.

When I opened up the hive on Tuesday, I noticed with some dismay that the bees were building some comb aligned with the top bars, but then other comb was at an angle offset from the bars of the hive. This isn't good for our beekeeping needs, since we need to be able to lift up individual bars and inspect the comb.

It's a little hard to see, but this comb is aligned with
the length of the bar, which is tilted up from the hive.

After a quick consult with Elizabeth on Tuesday afternoon, we decided that the offset comb needed to go. Armed with our new smoker, a hood, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt, I set to work on Wednesday afternoon. First things first – an inspection of the queen cage showed that she had been released -- yay! Then I had quite an adventure – I had to lift out bars, set them aside, scrape off the bad bee-covered comb into a bowl, and rearrange bars.

You can see two separate lobes of comb,
offset from the axis of the bar.
There was some comb that had fallen to the bottom of the hive, so I needed to temporarily remove a lot of bars so that I could get my hand in there and remove it.

Sometimes, you've just gotta stick your hand in a big patch of bees.
Each of the bars that had offset comb were bars that we had reused from last year. I replaced them with some unused bars from last year, where we had attached a starter strip of wax. The starter strip goes along the length of the bar, and we had good luck last year with the bees developing comb in the appropriate direction.

This is actually a picture of the queen cage from last year's batch of bees,
but you can see the strip of starter comb.
After about 30 minutes of work, I sealed up the hive again, and left the bowl with cut-off, still bee-covered comb to rest on the ground near the entrance of the hive. I had to hope that the now-released queen somehow remained un-squished by me, and inside the hive. The bees buzzed around quite a bit, much like the first day when we installed them, but by evening they'd settled down again, and today they looked like they were resuming work. It's unfortunate that we had to cut away so much comb that they'd built in the last few days. We'll be back in to inspect on Saturday to make sure that all of the new comb is growing in the right direction.

In other animal husbandry news, the chickens are really looking more like chickens now.

Okay, back to Elizabeth:

While Tom was dealing with sideways comb and two kids, a dog, a cat, and six chickens (plus work and cooking and making lunches!), my week was easier, logistically. I spent some time with good friends and family in both Huntington Beach and North Hollywood, and enjoyed the drive down on I-5, as much as possible. It's awfully dry.

That ribbon of blue in the middle is the canal, which carries water
from our neck of the woods down through the agricultural valley of CA,
all the way to LA. Looking at this landscape, do YOU think it should be farmed?
Do you know how much of your food comes from central CA?
Once in SoCal, the scenery looked more like this:

And then my head popped off.
But in spite of traffic, I had some time to do this:

Tour the Queen Mary

And this:

Touring the Russian Submarine with my pal O.

And this:

Sit on this cool bench, handmade by my friends, and
enjoy the hummingbirds as they visited the succulents

And this:

Watch my friends record a track in their studio

And this:

Plant a container garden for each of my 'god' children
(they aren't really my godchildren, but that's how I think of them)

By the way, in Southern California, it's like the drought is nonexistent. No one is talking about it (at least not casually), there are no huge billboards like there are at home warning us to use less water, and I saw sprinklers going everywhere. When I asked my friends if they were concerned, they actually said "we don't know much about it." In Northern California, it's the main topic. EVERYONE is talking and worrying about it. Considering how much of our water moves down south, shouldn't the people living there be even MORE worried about it than we are? And even more careful than we are? Sheesh.

On to happier subjects, ones that don't raise my blood pressure! As soon as I came home today, Adam and I had to work on the visual component of his extracurricular project about changing the school lunch program. He decided he wanted to cook a lunch that he would like to eat at school, and that would be do-able for school. He made a very delicious whole wheat pasta primavera with vegetables from the garden and grilled chicken, a spinach salad from the garden with a yogurt Caesar dressing, and a rhubarb and strawberry crumble.

Isn't the boxed milk a nice touch?

He presented his findings and ideas to a member of the school board and the head of the education association, who enjoyed eating all the delicious food he made. In fact, the school board member said to him that she thought they might be able to pilot a program based on Adam's research! This was very exciting, and I'm very proud of him.

Now, I'm looking forward to the weekend, where I can look inside the hive myself, and hang out with the chickens, and get the rest of the summer veg planted. Sounds like heaven!