Monthly Archives: April 2013

All Quiet

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I am so impressed with our bees! They are Carniolan bees, good Russian stock. We selected this breed because it’s known to be gentle and non-aggressive: just what we want. And so far they have proven to be completely non-aggressive indeed. All day today they flew around, the thousands that didn’t make it into the hive last night trying to figure out how to get to their queen. I, magnetically drawn to be near them, kept going outside to stand near the hive. Maybe they flew a little faster, buzzed a little louder. But not a bee flew at me, tried to sting or even to land on me. Even when I came close, closer, peered to see how they were doing, reached in to remove this or that, there was no aggression. I planted some Bachelor Buttons fifteen feet away, some basil in between the tomatoes, and as far as I could tell, no one even flew by to see what I was up to. I watered the garden liberally, no doubt watering the hive in the process. No complaints from the new kids on the block. Nice! 
And beyond that, they are tidy, even clean. Naturally, some bees died during this whole process. This morning there were little fuzzy corpses on the top of the hive, on the doorstep to the hive, under the hive, on the ground. There were untidy bits of who knows what piled hither and yon. I put an almost-empty jar of honey on top of the hive for them to clean out, and there it sat with its lid.

Tonight when I went out to wish the bees goodnight, I couldn’t find a corpse anywhere. There was no bee-dust either; it was as though they had swept every surface. The jar was empty, the lid spotless. Just a few last bees made their way into the hive, taking their quiet, gentle buzzing in with them. 

Maybe they could give Beth and me some housekeeping tips.

Good night, my sweets, good night!

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Bee Morning

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I was exhausted last night: two nights earlier I’d had insomnia, and yesterday I was up before 5:30 for the Grand Bee Expedition, so I anticipated a nice sleep-in this morning. Yeah. Right. 
When I passed out last night, thousands of bees, who were supposed to have happily gone directly into the hive for the night (according to my magical thinking), were still clumped in loudly thrumming masses in their travel box and on top of the hive. We’d had a dickens of a time getting any of them to come out of the travel box in the first place, and getting the queen in her plastic palace out of the box had been an additional challenge because her little plastic palace was practically invisible due to the attentions of her subjects. 
However we were patient and slow moving, and eventually we got her out of the travel box and, with only one or two minor mishaps, safely hung on a frame in the super, more or less centrally located within the super, and with the plastic cap removed so the sugar plug could be eaten through. However, we still had all those massive quantities of un-supered bees writhing about. Most unsettling.

Our beekeeper, J, had told us that they should have sorted themselves out by morning, and all gone into the hive. I fell asleep content in that lovely illusion.

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Lovely illusion or no, I woke up this morning way too early and unable to wait ONE MORE MINUTE to see how my babies were doing. I figured that once I’d seen that they had done exACTly what they were supposed to and all gone into the hive and gone to sleep, I could go right back to bed and get some more sleep my own self. Yeah. Right.

Yes, a lot of them had gone into the hive, and that was a relief. But there had to still be a thousand or two hanging around in the box, under the box, and down the side of the super. I had to do something! Far be it from me to let nature take its course! I am a woman of action!

So I stood there staring at the quiet, gently undulating fuzzy brown masses for a few minutes. Then I went over, bravely picked up the box (oh my word they were clumped all under it too?! Yikes!) and, as I’d been instructed to do by the guy I bought the bees from, I gave the box a hard shake. Or two. Sure enough, the bees “rolled out like jelly beans,” just like he said they would. Sort of. Except jelly beans don’t tend to get up, shake themselves off, buzz loudly and start flying my direction to see what the HECK is going on! I (ever so gently) took my bravery in both hands, dropped the box (“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!”) and skee-the-heck-daddled back into the house as quickly as I could without making any sharp or sudden movements which might upset my jelly beans any further.

Hmmm.


Bee Diaries: The Beginning

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Yesterday my sister Beth and I became parents. Or landlords (wait, she’s already my landlord…). Or something. Actually, I’m not quite sure what we became… oh, wait, yeah, I do know: Apiarists!

I don’t know when the longing started to grow, but over the past several years as our garden didn’t (grow so well, that is), the desire for a hive of our own blossomed (a lot better than the garden did, actually). And yesterday,  we brought home our babies. All six thousand or so of them, in a little three pound box. And with the help of our friendly neighborhood honey-guy, we (sort of) settled them in their bright shiny new home. Okay, their rough, but clean, wooden box. Okay, their super. That’s what it’s called, yo, a super. Don’t ask me why.


Did you know that’s how you buy bees – by the pound? I didn’t. And did you know that a pound of bees is roughly the same as 2 thousand bees? I didn’t! But I know it now, and I already know a lot more things, too, that I didn’t know at 5:24 yesterday morning when I rolled out of bed (on a Saturday, no less!). Expect to hear a lot more about bees as the days roll by, because I have a suspicion this is a topic that’s going to be exciting to me for quite a while.

But back to yesterday. We drove over an hour into beautiful country, rough and old-fashioned feeling, like something back home. The navigator for this trip had misunderstood the directions, and so we allowed a generous two hours for what turned out to be a just-over-an-hour drive, arriving at our destination 45 minutes early, long before anybody else. We had plenty of time to explore. (Too much coffee, a long drive, no bathroom … thank God I’m a country girl!)

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Okay, actually this part of the story is anticlimactic. A few people eventually showed up, a tall older gentleman gave a brief tutorial on how to get the bees out of the box and into the super once we got them home, we loaded our new little buddies into the car, and home we went. I was so excited about getting our own hive of bees that I expected bells and whistles, or at least fireworks, but nope. Just a big mostly empty warehouse and a long row of tables lined with three- and four-pound boxes of bees. The bees were fairly quiet, clumped tightly together in their boxes, humming softly. The people were low-key and also fairly quiet. The rusting trucks, the ramshackle buildings, the sun-drenched fields: quiet, quiet, quiet.

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Carrying the box around didn’t seem to bother them at all. They were quiet all the way home. They didn’t make any loud noises, they didn’t fuss at all. Deep in the middle of their warm, furry mass was the queen, who was introduced into this bunch of bees just the day before. She is set apart in a little cage that keeps her safe until they have all become used to one each other, a process that can take a few days. Her cage is stoppered with a sugar plug. She’ll eat away at her side of the plug, and the bees will eat away at their side, and by the time the stopper is gone and the queen can leave the cage, the bees will have become her bees, living only to serve and protect her, and all will be well in          the hive.

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They look so happy, so content, don’t they? Like when we open the box, they’ll just line up and walk out and into their new hive, no muss, no fuss, and then we can move the queen in her little plastic palace and everyone can go about their business, quiet and peaceful like it’s been all morning, right?

Oh, yeah, one other thing I learned yesterday. I mean, I knew it, of course, duh, but, well, maybe I got lulled into a false sense of security. ‘Cause the thing is, and don’t ever let anyone tell you different, bees are wild animals. Really: do not let anyone tell you different. 

But more on that later. Right now, I need another cup of coffee.

Buried under Books

SOMEBODY STOP ME!  What the heck is going on here? It’s true, I’m usually in the middle of a book – or two – at any given moment. But, really? Do I need to be juggling five? It would be bad enough if at least one of them was fiction, but nooo, I’m saving the fiction I’m piling up to take with me on vacation next week. After all, I can easily race through two novels just on the cross-county flight, and I’m going to be gone for two weeks, so I’ve got to be prepared. I actually placed a four-book order last week and am having it shipped to my vacation destination.

So what am I reading?

1) Love, Life and God by Jarrad Hewett: I’ve already blasted through this one once, and it was so interesting and uplifting that I only let it rest a few days before I picked it back up. I’m enjoying it just as much this time. The perspectives are so very different from what I grew up with, yet very refreshing to me. And for a book that was supposedly channeled, it does a great job of not feeling all new-agey and woo-woo, which I hate, even if I myself believe some of that stuff. There are plenty of typos, but I’m liking the guy so I’m willing to overlook them. 

2) Fascinate by Sally Hogshead. I saw Sally interviewed by Marie Forleo and she was, indeed, fascinating. I want to be, too. So I’m reading all about it. My mid-book comment: once upon a time, when you wanted to learn all about something, you bought the book, read it, and you were good to go. Now, apparently, you buy the book and you learn a little bit, and you also learn all the ways you can buy the the rest (and, of course, the best) of the information. I’ve encountered this before, and I am not a fan. It feels like cheating to me, like a bait and switch, but it is getting more and more common. Even so, the book is interesting , if not compelling.

3) The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. I love this author, possibly more for her story than for this book, but the book is great, too. While I was reading the info on this one (which is research for the book I’ll be starting to write as soon as I finish the two manuscripts I’m working on now), I learned that Amy’s first book was a memoir about her first garden, From the Ground Up. I’m a sucker for both gardens and memoirs, so of course I had to get the book. 

It was a great read, but the really compelling thing is that this woman who knows absolutely nothing about gardening decides to grow a garden, and the next thing you know she’s on her fifth – or maybe sixth – book, all of them resulting from the passion that grew from that first gardening experience. Now I don’t know that’s what happened, I only think that’s what happened. But I love this little story I’ve told myself so much that, even if it isn’t true, I don’t want to know.

In any case, The Drunken Botanist is so interesting that I’m giving it to my dear friend who is getting married next week (thus my vacation), imagining that it will spur many years of investigative imbibing for her and her new husband. If I had a new husband, believe me, we’d be doing some investigative imbibing as a result of reading this book. However, for me at least, this is not a quick read. It is a savor-spaced-out-over-time read.

4) and 5) are marketing books, and I’m not yet far enough into either of them to know how compelling/useful they are. These are the kinds of books that generally take me months to get stuck in the middle of. 

So that’s it, that’s what I’m in the middle of. Just don’t get me started telling you what’s tabbed on my computer right now!


This is the link to the first Amy Stewart book I read, From the Ground Up. One of the many things I loved about it was that the action happens in Santa Cruz, California, just across the street from the boardwalk, and I’ve actually been there.  

Slam Writing

The biggest problem I have with writing is my editor. This is the guy who sits up in my head and criticizes every word I write, every punctuation mark, every spelling. He, male that he is, makes me question everything, every little thing, every damn thing. Once, one lovely time, I had a month of almost editor free writing. It was the first National Novel Writers’ Month – NaNoWriMo – when I scripted the rough draft to How to be a Redhead: July of 2011. November of that year I did the actual NanoWriMo, as opposed to the I-just-read-about-this-awesome-thing-and-I’m-too-dang-impatient-to-wait version that I’d done just four months earlier. And already, though the glory of that earlier experience was still resting like sunlight on my shoulders, I was letting the editor boss me around again. And though that second manuscript, nine months later, saw the light of publication as Left Turn at Cloud 9, the editor had already gotten a foothold once again. 
The editor can shut me down; it’s that simple. In fact, the editor successfully shut me down – stopped me from writing – for years. I couldn’t even journal without sounding false and stilted, so I quit. That’s why NaNoWriMo was so exciting. One of the first things you have to do is lock your editor into a dungeon, and not let him out until the month is over. Unfortunately, once my editor got out, he has absolutely refused to go back down into that dark, dank dungeon. And who can blame him? I don’t like it down there either. But you know what? Even if I’m standing out in the most brilliant sunshine, on a great hair day, with a little breeze ruffling my spirit and a little bit of freckling splashing across my sun-loved shoulders, if my damn editor is loose, I am the one in the dungeon. Because if I can’t write free, I really can’t live free.

Which is where slam writing comes in.

The editor hates slam writing, because he can’t keep up. He tries like the dickens to take over, but if I’m faithful to the whole slam writing thing that I’ve committed to, he simply can’t win.

Slam writing is when I set the timer, and then I just have to write as fast as I can. I’m not supposed to correct typos even. I just keep barreling ahead. I’m allowed to write complete and total jibberish, as long as I just keep writing. The editor can’t take that. Oh, yeah, he screams bloody murder, and my shoulders ride up with stress and I get almost sweaty with the effort. But every glorious now and then, I can actually break completely loose from the editor and when the timer goes off I barely even notice. The wind has caught me under the wings, and I’ve got lift-off, and I just soar. It is so beautiful. And the words that ripple off the wake of my gliding fingers are more fantastic, more powerful, more glorious and beautiful than anything I’m ever able to write from under the thumb of the editor.

But I must admit, I think I must be a little bit afraid of that glorious flying/writing. Because most of the time when I sit down to write, I make room for the editor. I listen to all he has to say, and after a few minutes I notice that I am sitting staring at the screen, and my hands are motionless, poised about two-and-a-half inches above the keyboard. I’m paralyzed. That damn editor won again.

This time. 

But sooner or later, I will pull out the timer, kick the editor down the dungeon steps, and let my fingers fly.


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This is the book that got me going on NaNoWriMo. It is hilarious, and motivated me like nobody’s business. Since I read it I’ve successfully done the 50,000 words in 30 days NaNoWriMo Challenge 3 times.

Tennis Anyone?

Okay, all right, fine. You win. I take it back. I take back all those secret, nasty thoughts I’ve had about those perky women who wear tennis skirts.

See, I didn’t understand. But now. . . .

This is how it happened. For a long time I’ve had an idea in my head of the perfect dress. This style is so incredible; it could be shortish, mid-length or long. It is the same front and back, scoop-necked and sleeveless: very easy to make. It’s made of a slightly stretchy fabric, so no buttons, zippers, ties, grippers or toggles are necessary. It’s simple, without unnecessary frills, yet has just a flip at the skirt, for spunky funkiness. Which, by the way, would also be flattering to almost any figure, especially mine.

So one day a couple of weeks ago I’m at a department store (very rare, I assure you, as I hate shopping), just to return a little something. And as I’m on my way out the door, whoa! There’s my dress! And in black, which is my absolute favorite clothing color.

I try, I really try, to just keep on walking, because a) I hate shopping and so I’m trying to get out of there as quickly as possible, b) I don’t need a dress; if I buy clothes it would have to be something more practical than a dress and c) I am not in the position to afford a dress right now, or, in fact, anytime soon.

But I fail. I simply can’t walk by that dress.

I try on a medium, and it’s just a tad too short, but I could live with that, except, well, the rest of it is just too big.  I breathe a sigh of relief, because they don’t have any small, only extra-small, which is a no-brainer-no-way, so I’m off the hook, home safe, goodnight Irene.

Except I just can’t get out of the damn store without trying on the extra-small, just in case.

And it fits. Perfectly. And I look soooooo great!

Except it’s about a mile too short.

BUT. . . .

This amazing style would be so easy to add a second underneath flippy skirt to; that’s all it would take to lengthen it enough, and that second underneath flippy skirt would just make the whole thing that much better.

And it’s on sale.

So now the thing is at home, lying ignored over the back of my bedroom chair. Weeks go by. And then I have an event to go to. And I’m feeling a little silly. So I put on the dress – still so wonderful and fun and amazing and wa-a-ay too short – and a pair of black leggings. And my little flat black boots. I twist a black-purple-pink-blue-green-gold crepe scarf around my neck, grab a lean black sweater, and I’m good to go. I look at myself in the mirror, and I laugh.

There I am, a fifty one-year old, dressed like a teeny-bopper and feeling like a goth princess. That is, if you make the rash assumption that a goth princess feels really, really happy and fun and funky.

That flippy little skirt just does it for me. I feel great all evening, and can just switch out that little dress for pajamas at bedtime.

And you know, I felt just as great today when I dressed all up in the exact same outfit and rode my bike to the grocery store. I still felt great when I lost the sweater and scarf, traded out the boots for athletic shoes (black, of course!), and went running.

And then it hit me.

I was wearing a tennis skirt.

And I was loving it.

I hate to admit it, but I might could learn a thing or two from those sleek blonde tennis babes. Oh, well, better smart late than never.

The thing is, I’m funny.

I mean, when I meet people, one of the first things they say after just a few minutes of conversation is usually, “You’re funny!” I get it from my friends’ little kids. I get it from middle-aged women in coffee shops. I get it from men I’m dancing with. 

I even get it from myself, when I’m looking at myself in the mirror and chattin’ me up. ‘Cause it’s true, I really am funny.

But I’m also too serious. Sometimes someone says something that is so ridiculous it simply has to be a joke. And even though I know it know it know it, still I respond oh-so-seriously, dissecting the comment, analyzing it, refuting it on logic and common sense. 

What is up with that?

It happens in my writing, too. I want my stories to be really, really funny. I want my readers to throw back their heads and laugh till they hiccup. Sometime when I read what I wrote, I throw my head back and laugh. And then I laugh at myself for laughing at what I my own self wrote. It’s awesome. It feels like a holiday.

But then, two pages on, it’s all serious again.

That bugs me! I want to be funny all the time! But the fact is, no matter how funny I am, I’m just not funny all the time.

Sometimes I make myself think. Sometimes I make myself reconsider. Sometimes I even make myself cry. And you know, that can be just as good, in its own way.

Because that’s what life is like, too. Sometimes it is so funny it makes you grab yourself. Sometimes it makes you go “hmmm.” And sometimes it makes you cry until you hiccup.

So I guess it’s okay that my writing changes all the time like that.

‘Cause that’s life.