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Archive for June, 2010

The words rang out like a prospectors cheer at Sutter’s Mill.

Posted in the comment window of my Facebook page, in a non-distinct Tahoma Script it read;   “A.J, BEES… I just saw it on Craig’s List, some guy in Aurora has some bees he wants removed!!! I type ‘Craig’s List’ into my search bar window and write down the number.

I sat at the monitor for a moment before I dialed, not sure if I was ready to take the next step. “CRAP!… BEEs!… F***K! … Sh*t… I always curse when ever I’m nervous, or frustrated, or assembling something with my wife.  Am I really about to call this guy?  Tell him in my best Beekeeper’s voice, “No problem, I can come out and remove the hive.

I fiddled with the phone as if I was arranging my first date. I take a deep breath, filling my lungs with air as I take that leap into the deep end of the pool. I dial the number.

“Hello?” The unfamiliar voice on the other end sounded friendly at least.

“Hello? Yeah, My name is AJ?” I’ll never understand why I state my name in the form of a question when ever I’m nervous.

I regain my composure, clear my throat, and start over, this time in my confident beekeeper’s voice. “Yes, my name is AJ, I’m calling about the bees.” It worked, the low timbre in my voice even had me fooled.

“Oh yeah, great!” The young man sounded relieved, as if the calvary had just called and informed him; “We’re on the way.”

“So, are you sure these are honey bees, and not hornets, or yellow jackets?” He assures me they’re not hornets, or yellow jackets… the hesitation in his voice has me a bit uneasy.

“They look like bees, you know… yellow and blackish with a little orange stripe? I thought to my self “Orange stripe? Maybe these are Nike Bees”. I always make jokes when ever I’m nervous, or frustrated, but never when I’m assembling something with my wife. I should have paid more attention to his description, but the excitement of the moment had swept me away.

The young man tells me they’re in his dryer vent and they should be easy to get out. It sounded easy, just the perfect hive removal job for my first time. We exchange names, I get his address with directions to his house, and I tell him I’ll be there in about an hour.

N.A.S.A.s flight to the moon probably had a shorter check list than I did, as I ran through the house collecting everything I thought I would need. Bee veil, bee gloves, bee smoker, bee bucket, I wandered into the kitchen my pulse banging away. Plastic bags, Ziplock bags, duct tape, and rags, I had it covered. I jump into my service truck and I’m off. As I travel down the road I review the procedure for something I’ve never done before. No Guts, No Glory!

I pull up to the address I had scribbled down 45 minutes ago, the young man I spoke to on the phone greets me at the door. We exchange handshakes and the usual small talk and he leads me out side. The dryer vent is about ten inches off the ground, and three feet from the back door.

“Usually you can see them come out the vent.” We wait… nothing.

“Honey, turn on the dryer!” About fifteen seconds later I feel a warm breeze blowing from the vent, the leaves of a small plant near by quiver as the blast assaults them. We wait…nothing.

“Let me take you down stairs, you can hear them in the plastic tube.” I follow him downstairs to the laundry room, where the vent pipes from two dryers join together, he gives the plastic tube a good rap…. The tube buzzes back in response.  “Yup, they’re in there.” He says.

“Thanks, thanks a lot. Why don’t you go up stairs and I’ll see what I can do”. Sweat, damn I’m sweating. I put together a plan to isolate a section of the plastic tube so I can remove the hive in one piece. Carefully I cut the tube about two feet from the angry buzzing mass, and seal it up with duct tape not a single bee to be seen. Now for the final piece, I gently remove the hose clamp that is holding the hose to the exterior exhaust vent. Donned in my veil and gloves I pull the tube apart, and I get my first glimpse of my rewards, Bumble bees!

These aren't the Bees we're looking for.

Six of the fat little bastards get out before I have a chance to plug the end with one of my rags. With five of them buzzing about my head, I located the sixth as I felt a sharp pain radiating up from my left shin. Trying to keep the cursing to a minimum, I reached down and crush him between the fingers of my glove, it made the pain in my leg ease up a bit. Discourage but determined, I finish removing the nest of Bombus Huntii, informed the home owner; ‘These weren’t the Bee’s we were looking for.’

The experience was good, the guy felt bad about calling me out on a false alarm, he slipped me a twenty. I packaged up my mis-identified cargo and let them go at an open space area near the house.

So the hunt continues, Beeless in Aurora.

Talk to you later.

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I’ve seen you cry before, when you lost in a chair competition at Band Camp, or when your pet died. Tears of disappointment and loss are all part of growing up, and I know you understand that.

The tears I saw the other morning, those running down that perfect little face, taste different; not like those of sorrow or disappointment, when the tears are tainted with the bitterness of betrayal, it’s important that you recognize the difference. Losing your trust in a person can be more painful than any you will ever know. Promises made and broken, with a second chance, followed by a third; his tears of regret, the assurance that it was only flirting and never amounted to anything, followed by words about invasion of privacy. What kind of intimate relationship has privacy rules? What kind of man needs to flirt with others, when he has you? Why would he continue with this secretive behavior after you’ve asked him to stop? This is not the type of man my daughter deserves. A lie doesn’t necessarily come in the form of  deception, it can also be the act of concealing, or cloaking things from our view.

I feel that this young man has not proven himself to be ready, or willing, to honor and respect you. Don’t settle for a relationship of convenience, a partner for Scrabble, or something to do on a Saturday if he gets up in time, or feels like it. You have friends who can do that.

Love

You deserve someone who will put your needs, your wishes, and all your dreams, above everything else. Someone who will stand up to anyone or anything that would dare to come in the way of your happiness, and to accept that as an honor, and his duty to you, for the rest of your life. That’s what it means to be a lover to either of my daughters.

I love you, Dad.

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Firework displays viewed from a blanket spread out on a freshly mowed lawn, visiting with cousins as they passed through town to distant locations, National Forests with undeveloped campsites, no entrance fees, no toilets, and nobody around. When cousins weren’t visiting, and we couldn’t go camping, I was usually looking for adventure in the most unlikely of places, that was summertime for me when I was a kid.

When I was nine we moved from a farm in Wisconsin, to the city in Colorado. Our favorite tree house, the forts in the hay loft, an old buck board that was parked in an adjacent field, with its wooden spoked wheels covered in green moss; frantically slapping the reins against the back of an  imaginary team of horses, our gallant effort to escape the ‘Indians’,  memories that have faded into that place called, ‘When I was young.’

Simpler times.

Living in the city was very different, with it’s concrete side walks, and sterile landscapes of tract homes with a complimentary pre-pubescent silver maple planted in every lawn, from a small town of 1,923 to a city of 150,000 it was a major change. Boredom, the  catalyst for mischief plagued me most of all. From seven in the morning to ten at night, it was there, nothing to do. To fill our time, we would ride our bikes to the store for Mom, or go to the fields to catch lizards and hunt for snakes. Eventually even those things would become infected by boredom. Stupidity manifests itself at these moments, to a 13 year old, an abandoned house on the corner becomes an overwhelming temptation for exploration, looking for cool ‘stuff’ but never finding any.

We lived on  Capulin Drive about a mile or so from the local super market, King Soopers; from the top of Capulin Drive to the bottom of the hill, all the storm water drains emptied into an open concrete drainage way at the base of the hill, right at the entrance to the King Soopers Parking lot. To most people it would have appeared quite unassuming, but to two brothers and a couple of friends they were ‘The Tunnels’. They called out in audible tones that only those fourteen and under could hear. Unexplored territory, it was a passage way from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ under cover of  asphalt. Loaded up with candles and one good flash light, we would lock our bikes to a near by tree and make our way ‘underground’. Slopping through the collected runoff from miles of curb and gutter, it was a mixture of antifreeze, motor oil, and lawn sprinklers, our tennis shoes wheezed and bubbled as we crawled through the maze of underground culverts. We spent hours navigating through them, mapping each out in our memory, certain that someday these might come in handy, they never did.

The call to adventure.

Under the King Soopers parking lot, the drainage system divided in two, going right took us under Fountain Blvd, where it dumped into a ‘Lake’, actually it was a storm retention pond, but it looked like a lake to us. Going left the water passed under Circle Drive to spill over the ‘Falls’, not really a water fall, it was about a fifteen foot drop into a drainage ditch that eventually made its way to Fountain Creek, just down stream of the city water treatment plan. From the division point going left we didn’t need our flash lights or candles, the gutter system along Fountain Blvd. dumped directly into the culvert, bringing with it brake dust, carbon monoxide, and light from above, into the ‘tunnel’ down below. We thought it was a hilarious to shout out to the drivers stopped at the light, as they tried to figure out who was yelling at them from the covered grate at the corner.

Hey lady down here!

As the full schedule of planned summertime events approach, with it’s family vacations, camping trips, and upcoming firework displays, I recall reciting our ill prepared alibis to my Mother. With the foul smell of motor oil, antifreeze, and our once white T-shirts now gray with the run off from the street, contradicting an implausible story. It had been much easier telling her that we were being chased by Indians, than trying to explain to her that we were crawling through underground tunnels looking for something to do.

Talk to you later.

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Father’s Day has arrived, with it’s obligatory phone calls and Hollywood scripted tasteless necktie cliches. I remember The Old Spice  T.V. commercials that usually ran during the week of Fathers Day; with men in fishermen knit sweaters, the sea bag thrown over their shoulder as they walked down the pier returning home from the sea. She was always dressed in a cotton frock with a low cut bodice, peering through the lace curtains she awaits his arrival, the kids must have been at the neighbors because they were never in the picture. My father received his share of after shave bottles, it was always English Leather with it’s wooden screw cap, and English riding saddle printed on the bottle. He would graciously accept it, remove last years supply from the medicine cabinet replace it with this years stock and be good to go for another year.  For Fathers Day it’s after shave, or soap on a rope, for Mother’s Day there’s diamonds, the inequities are hard to miss.

What every Father wants.

In our house we were governed by three sets of laws, Moms laws, Dads laws, and the law of unavoidable consequences. The governing body was determined by whether or not Dad was in town, kind of like the fisherman knit fella with the sea bag, except Dad was a Bricklayer with a pick-up truck full of trowels, brick hammers, and four foot levels. Economic times in the  seventies  were rough for a tradesman, and Dad was on the road chasing work from Gary Indiana to Pocatello Idaho, with a little bit of Enid Oklahoma thrown in, just to make you glad you didn’t live there.

When Dad was on the road, Mom ruled the house, not iron fisted by any means, but with six kids, a dog forever giving birth to puppies, and two guinea pigs she did a good job of maintaining order, well most of the time ( that’s where law number three comes into play). Things went pretty smooth when Dad was away, boundaries were set and everyone knew the lay of the land so to speak. Cross a boundary and be prepared to have your space invaded.

Oh Crap! There's a new sheriff in town.

Things always got rocky when Dad returned from a long stretch on the road. A new sheriff was in town, and the old sheriff still had her guns hanging from the, well… the gun hanging thingy. Simply put the house went into turmoil, the rules would get changed, what was against the law before was now okay. Dad was a bit of a push over, with a knack for saying, “If it’s okay with your Mother, it’s fine by me”, he was the chink in their armor. You knew you were half way home when you got past Dads firewall, and if you posed the request to Mom properly; “I’m going to the Mall, Dad said it was okay” and then run out, it was a done deal. Kids are the masters at divide and conquer.

Dad wasn’t a complete push over, he was forceful when he need to be, and beyond cunning to a seventeen year old, who thought he knew everything. During the summers I would work side jobs with him, putting in custom built stone or brick fireplaces, they were truly works of art. With a Saturday morning roll call at 6:00 a.m.  seemingly unaware of the hangover I was nursing, he would roust me from bed. “Son just grab a shower and we’ll see how you feel”. As soon as the water was shut off he would call down from the kitchen. “Why don’t you try some breakfast have a little coffee, and you’ll feel a lot better.” Not a word about my under age drinking , or how I stayed out too late. In the truck we drove down the road, my stomach doing somersaults, head pounding from too much Peppermint  Schnapps; he would apologize as he found every pothole in the road, and I tried to keep my morning bowl of Raisin Bran down.  “Just give it until 10:00 o-clock, if you still feel bad, I’ll take you home.” Trying to contain a telling grin; he knew, and I knew, it was lie. The third law of  unavoidable consequences had taken over and there was nothing either of us could do about it. It was a long, long day, dehydrated and dragging my tail most of the day, I managed to survive my stupidity and his life lesson.

There would be other mornings, blurry eyed and hungover,  many more before I figured out I had a problem. He could have told me, but I wouldn’t have listened, maybe he wasn’t a push over; to stand back and let me figure it out was probably much harder. Dad’s Law, was The Third Law of Unavoidable Consequences, it took me a long time to find that out. Thanks Dad. Happy Fathers Day.

Talk to you later.

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Somethings are just meant to go together, natural pairings like; Steak and Eggs, Peanut-butter and Jelly, or A Hammer and Nail. They roll of the tongue effortlessly, the number one choice in The Family Feud lightning round, or from a psychiatrists couch. Maybe it’s that assumption that certain things are destined to be, that has me struggling this past week. Let me try some more word associations to illustrated my point, pen and pencil, socks and shoes, beehive and…. And there in lies the problem, it doesn’t snap, you’re not shooting your arm high in the air going; OOh! OOh! I know… bees!

Instead there’s a synaptic hesitation as the brain tries to conjure up the answer, the perfect pairing. How about these for answers. It’s an empty wooden box, what were you thinking? Build it and they will come.. that would have been too easy. Timing is everything, and I missed it by that {insert a gap between your thumb and index finger here} much.  That’s what’s rolling off my tongue right now. With my bee veil on my head looking like some cast aside bride, I’ve concluded that the opportunity to catch a wild swarm has past. It makes a lovely yard decoration, sort of a combination bird house, mail box looking thing. I’m not giving up, I’m sure an opportunity will come tapping at the door, I just need to be ready to answer. This morning I’m attending a beekeeping class provided by a local apiarist. Maybe that’s where that knock gets answered.

Happy Fathers Day

Fathers Day is tomorrow, backyard get together’s, and long distance phone calls with six minute conversations about the weather. One generation looking at another, and on to another, each asking themselves, when did I get to be so old. Four dollar Hallmark Cards lined up on the piano, inside each is a tender musing, or sarcastic idiom, who writes those things any way? Hope every one out there has a good Fathers Day, with plenty of phone calls, and Hallmark Cards to remind you that; That hot sweaty night was worth all this.

Talk to you later.

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Graduation parties in the park, camping trips to Leadville, and the neighbor’s wedding in the backyard, have all bowed to the whims of mother nature.  My hive sets empty, waiting to be filled with Apis Mellifera, as the rain continues to fall. I did get some pictures, not National Geographic quality but I think I managed to capture the general idea of things.

The front of the hive

The three half moon openings just below the blue flower are the entrances to the hive. I have read that the bees will use propolis; a kind of glue that they make from tree saps and resins that they collect from different sources, to adjust these openings and seal cracks up in the hive, a bee caulk if you will. This hive stands just over three feet tall, and is thirty six inches long. The roof can be removed so I can get access to the hive for inspections, harvesting honey and honeycomb, provided there is ample supply to get them through the winter. With bees coming and going, crossing directly in front of the hive is probably not the best way to approach the colony.

The observation window.

On the right side of the hive there is an observation window. Look carefully and you can see the hinges to the door, this allows me to look into the hive without disturbing them, it lets me see how things are doing in the hive. It’s a lot less invasive than pulling the roof and removing the honeycomb, although there are occasions when this needs to be done, when inspecting for mites and disease, and of course harvesting honey. Most of the time this observation window will be covered, and will only be opened for spot inspections.

A little peek inside.

This a picture from inside the hive. To the left is the observation window, directly to the front you can see the three entrances to the hive, just above them is a ventilation opening which is presently closed, the little blue flower you saw from the front of the hive is covering that right now. The top of the hive has about twenty bars that make up the interior roof of the hive, formed to a point they allow a solid foundation for the bees to build their brood combs and eventually honey comb. I have a better picture of those that shows what they look like. The base of the hive has a wire mesh floor with a hinged door here also. During the heat of summer this can be opened to help cool down the interior of the hive. The bees like to keep the hive any where between 93 and 95 degrees, they do this by bring water into the hive and fanning it to produce an evaporative cooling affect, or they can close things down to raise the temperature. I can help in this effort by opening the ventilation hole or the bottom door when things get a bit too warm outside, or visa versa. The wire mesh you see, allows bits of wax, debris and any mites that are  dislodged from the bees to fall out of harms way. Bees actually don’t poop in the hive, during their flights to and from the hive they vent it off. If you look carefully during the summer on your car or on any  laundry you have hanging out on a line you might spot it; it looks like a small drop of dark or golden brown mustard, just a small speck slightly larger than the head of a pin.

These are the Top Bars.

The name of this type of hive is called a TBH or Top Bar Hive, named after the design style for this type of hive. These are the top bars, I’ve pulled a couple so you can get a better look at what they look like. These bars are laid across the top of the hive to form the roof. This is where the bees will attach their brood comb and eventually honeycomb. The lay out of the hive can vary, but most apiarists or beekeepers, that use the Top Bar Hive usually like to keep the brood comb to the front of the hive, and reserve the rear of the hive for the production of honey. I figure I will try to get them to do that but, in the long run the bees are going to do want ever the heck they want to do.

So with Lemon Grass Oil in the air, I patiently await sunnier days and the much anticipated  arrival  of a wild swarm. I don’t know what my odds are, who knows by this time next week I may be knee deep in Apis Mellifera, trying to avoid the attention of some Kamikaze Bee.

Talk to you later.

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I’ve come to the conclusion that my wife and I just don’t work well together, I can’t explain it it’s just one of those things. Oh we make wonderful lovers, and enjoy walks outdoors, and spending time together, but to build a steel shed, or assemble a bed; it just pushes each of us beyond our limits of spousal understanding, it’s always been that way. Rearranging the furniture in a room, is more than the repositioning of a couch or chair to the opposite wall; it involves vacuum cleaners and feather dusters, with bottles of Windex on hand for polishing mirrors, or cleaning the windows, rugs need to be taken outdoors and given a thorough beating. Todays bee hive project was not going to be any different.

With a mist coming down that was more akin to weather in Seattle, I was determined to get the hive in place, so that it was ready to accommodate the next wandering swarm. Thus began the project. “Can you move it a little further back, and maybe a little to the left? Are you sure that’s facing east? I sort of wanted the cinder blocks set below grade. I thought the observation window was going to look the other way. Why are you getting so mad? You know, you’re not being very nice!” With much digging and leveling and some more digging, intermingled with some discussion, we were able to get the hive set to every ones satisfaction, without the need for an attorney. I think the thing that gets me the most is that she was right, it was too close to the walking path, and it did need to shift to the left, and yes… it does look a lot better with the cinder blocks below grade. Like Ralph Kramden and his wife Alice, we managed to get through another episode.

Stationed in the back yard, with shrubs and perennials carefully relocated, positioned under a Chinese Elm tree, a safe distance from the walking path, is my new bee hive. Scented with Lemon Grass oil it sits, hoping to lure some wayfaring little bee scout to it’s location.

It’s dark out side, the smell of warm Rhubarb Crisp fills our home. The afternoons affairs have been put aside, along with shovels and the two foot level. It’s now time for my wife and I to do what we do best after any construction project; time to mend some fences.

Talk to you later.

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