We’ve acquired the beginnings of our beekeeping adventure, including the adoption of a small, yet ‘strong’ colony. Here’s the story & what we’ve got:
2 deeps, 2 supers, inner-cover, telescoping top, screened bottom, ‘waste-tray’, stand, strap, 20 medium frames, 20 deep frames, a queen excluder, full suit, zip-in veil, gloves, frame tool, brush, comb, smoker, & associated bees & honey. What’s this all mean? Well, nothing really… until you start keeping bees.. then it means EVERYTHING!
We got the bees from just across the way, near Berkeley Labs, so they’re quite adjusted to the area already and the drive wouldn’t be too horrendous. I picked up the hive on Thursday and began by strapping the hive bodies together and closing the hive entrance with a dowel and some tape so that I didn’t have bees flying about looking for honey or bears in the back of a volvo where, we all know, there are no flowers or bears to speak of. Then I put the whole shebang in the back of the car. Quite pleased, the boxes fit perfectly and painted bright green, seemed to complement the car so very well. I even considered painting some permanent fixtures of the car to keep the motif after I would remove the boxes. I have yet to match the color though. The bees were quite for the whole ride home, a very short yet terribly bumpy and windy jaunt. Then, with the help of Kira, we moved the hive down into the yard. The bees were still quiet as as we all know, “no noise, means no bees.” I admit I was fearful, for I expect to rile them up by all the jostling about. That night we went out for beers with David . Properly hydrated, we all went home to rest for the hive opening in the morning.
We were up early at 6:30 AM. Since we were messing them WAY out of season, it was important that we get a jump start on the day and not interfere with the bees too much. The whole process was was easy and straightforward. I pulled the tape of and pried the dowel out of the hive opening. Then we waited, almost too easy. Nothing. – so we went inside. About 20 minutes later we retured to find an accumulation of dead bees at the opening, about 5. This was good as the bees discard their dead out the front of the hive where they’re then carried away by other insects, like wasps. So the little changes proved there were at least some bees in there. The kind of bees that respected their home too. (that’s why they’re all named Kira) As the day warmed (several hours after we woke up) the bees became more active and showed their existence and I did a little dance by wagging my butt.
Now came the trick. I was warned by the previous owner that there were a couple of frames missing from the brood box (that’s the deep boxes where the bees and the queen live) and that the bees had build some ‘burr comb.’ This is comb that is build by the bees without the use of man-made frames. Burr comb is not bad in any way, it’s just really hard to do anything with it, so it was important that it be removed and this was a task I was suppose to do sooner than later. I was itching to open the hive and prove to myself that a) I had bees and b) I wasn’t such a scardy-cat.
Prepping myself, I pulled up YouTube and watched everyone else do it for an hour. I watched everyone else get excited, then frightened, then terrified, then acting calmly, then acting like there was nothing to it. The development was quite necessary and by the time I was done, I was ready to walk right out there like the other YouTube pros and just bust open the hive and get things done.. no suit necessary. Yet, I got up and put my suit on, because, “hey, I paid for it right?” .. yeah.. and I was terrified.
Suited up and ready I realized I still didn’t know what to do with the smoker, so veiled and coveralled I typed on the keyboard “YouTube – usinging a bee smoker.” This returned “YouTube – using a bee smoker.” I swallowed my pride and accepted the minor changes and spent another half hour learning, holding the smoker up to my face so I could familiarize as the TV told me what I was looking at, pumping the empty billow and smoking out the fictitious bees flying about the television, then opening it and filling it with all the imaginable combustibles lying about me. I got up again, this time ready to open the hive.
Standing outside, smoker in hand, camera in pocket, bee-suit on, I felt I was missing something. Then I found my confidence and proceeded forward. I stopped again at the hive half in fascination with the diligence of the insects flying about me and half in utter disbelief of my confidence to continue.
This hive in front of me didn’t contain a puppy or a rabbit or a cat or any one little life, but THOUSANDS! I was about to firmly disrupt thousands of little organisms, knowing full well I’d crush, decapitate, impale, and stress-to-death a great number. I hadn’t yet figured out how I was going to cope with that fact and now it all struck me like cement about my legs. Immobilized.
After a bit of observation, however, this feeling melted away and my psyche returned to normal and I prepared myself again for the job. I lit the smoker, puffed it a bit and set it down never to use it again. Then I approached the hive and went to town.
First, I pulled off the telescoping top and saw the mass of bees sitting atop the inner cover, and spilling out of the top hole. Seeming like a good sign of population I smiled. With the frame tool I popped the inner cover off and found the first of a frustrating problem. The burr comb was good and strong and had built it’s self to the inner cover, making it quite unruly. Covered in comb and consequently honey too after I inadvertently smashed much of the comb, it was a mess. I attempted to brush the bees into the box, but then gave up and set the inner cover aside and began my work on the burr comb.
Removing the surrounding frames, I ‘looked’ for the queen but soon found my eyes were not as trained as they’d convinced me they were. So I set the frames aside and considered my options with the burr comb. I had been expecting small sections of burr comb, like pockets. Instead I found two frame-like structures, within millimeters of each other, and covered in bees. “Hmmmmmm…” I said to myself as I stood in awe of these incredible beings, still mostly un-effected by my presence and disruption. Remarkable.
Then, without thought, I reached into the hive, gripped this comb, and tore it from them. Placing it gently in a tray in front of the hive. The bees were still quite indifferent to my action. I then pulled the other burr comb out and went to work cleaning the space to make room for some man-made frames. I replaced them and then, after inspecting the burr comb brushed the bees into the hive vigorously. Then fell in with respect and went to work in on their new comb. Remarkable.
I then cleaned and replaced the inner cover, then the lid and sat in amazement. I puffed the smoker a couple of times, but it had gone out long ago. I set it back down and took some photos with my honey-covered camera. Good thing we went for the water proof version.
Settled up, I made a list of mental notes that were important. Purging all the unexciting or unimportant facts as I mindlessly cleaned my gloves and camera. Standing now inside and two stories above the hive, I looked at the fliers, still working, seemingly too good to be even interested with the drama surrounding the rape of the hive’s comb. They were apolitical. I can respect that.
My next duty was to do something with the burr comb I’d pulled out. Most of which was full of honey. I licked my fingers and enjoyed the flavor they had. I dropped a hunk of comb into my mouth and quickly associated the two flavors. After a little more internet research I learned of all the not-so-effective ways to extract honey and went to work on one of the methods using the oven on low and a baking pan. Hours later I had a soup of blackened wax and hot honey. Through the course of the day and evening I eventually got this honey separated and into a jar and settled up. Our first honey. Delicious. Though, those interneters were right, don’t think I’ll use that method ever again.
After a phone call that evening I was informed of all the things I should have done differently and I prepared for the next dry day. Fortunately, this morning warmed up a bit and the rain hasn’t yet come, so I informed Kira of her new duties. Graciously, she dawned the suit and began the process to familiarize herself with the bees, in the process accomplishing some tasks I had for her. The primary objective I had was to put the secondary deep box back on the hive. She accomplished this with great precision, skill and success. A real ‘keeper’ that one.
As of this morning, there are about three frames of bees collecting pollen and honey and seemingly quite happy.
Several months ago Kira had arranged for her dad to come out and visit us in the Bay Area. After we’d figured out when he’d be coming out, we decided to put him to the test. Could he handle the Mizell Clan? This past weekend he took the test and passed with flying colors. Through, what I imagine to be some sort of meditative process, he was able to deal with living in the same space as the four brothers, one wife, and mother for an entire weekend of spontaneous plans, prolific consumption, scooter rides, random house guests, and non-stop activity. Well done.
Our weekend in North East Yosemite was clear and warm – and up hill. We did a quick in and out from the Soda Springs trail head on the East side of Toulome Meadows, pushed ourselves 6.89 miles to the Young Lakes some 2000 feet above The Meadow and tucked beneath the prominent Ragged Peak. There we rested, read, fished (with the wrong fly?), and enjoyed the beautifully crystal clear water and quiet peace of the high Sierra lake. The following day we woke to the brisk morning air and spectacular sunrise over the mirrored lake, packed our bags and traversed back down the hill another 7.02 miles, by way of Dog Lake, back to the car.
It was a whirlwind trip, but well worth the 9 hour travel time.
Departing Berkeley at about 9 PM we drove up highway 4, past the Big Trees, to Ebbitts Pass where we found the trailhead about a half a mile East by 2 AM Saturday morning. We parked, picked up our packs and hit the trail. By 4 AM we had made three miles and I was plumb tuckered. We pulled off the trail by a number of yards and hit the sack.
Up and fed by late morning, we got back on the trail by noon and were at Nobel Lake in no time. From Nobel we pushed up hill and then departed the PCT to the East toward Bull Lake. Up over a pass, we then enjoyed a vigorous downgrade which dropped us into a nice valley filled with meadow. However, as we approached this green filling we found the saturation significant. The moss and grass squished beneath our feet and the trail was overgrown and un-obvious. Following our map and GPS we took a stab at direction and pushed through the moist flora. However, soon our path became obviously poor and I made another attempt to reconcile our location and direction. To my dismay, I had not, and still have not, yet perfected the objective evaluation of paper maps, GPS coordinates and elevation, and hazards beneath my feet. After a quick evaluation of the two sources and as I stepped across patches of green and yellow textured under footings, I lifted my head to consult my findings with Kira, exclaiming, “Kira – I think I’ve figured this ou–!” As my eyes pitched from the map to my feet and around to Kira, my words were cut short by my sudden surprise to find myself up to my waist in a thick bog.
Now for those of you who have never sliped yourself, fully clothed, into a thick soup of soil, water, alge, bacterium, and robust olfactory devices, don’t let my experience deter you from giving it a shot. The shear joy of being surprised. The wondrous sensation of mud filling your boots as your sink. The splashing and sucking. The silence of renewed topside surface tension. The sensational shutter of fear that strikes through your soul as as time slows down and your feet don’t touch and your friends are frozen stiff watching you wriggle as your pack pulls you deeper. Then finally you’re toes touch and your anxiety softens. You dunk your hands in the muck and strike for the solid rim of the bog, rolling your pack to the side and crawling back out in complete and in utter shock at your mismanaged step. Vain attempts to try and hide the embarrassment and then once standing again, covered now, toe to the hip in muck, with no one but your friends around, all you can do is laugh and continue along.
After the bog event, which only lasted about 90 seconds, we continued along our unmarked path, seeking higher ground as Neal drenched his feet in a second looming pit. Now with cautious step we crossed the marsh and found ourselves in thicker brush and further from the path. The meadow gave way to willows densely packed together and taller than our packs, small drainages that continually surprised our footings, sometimes emerging from deep holes beneath us. A range of undergrowth that grabbed and nipped at your ankles and of course the ever persistant mosquitos sneaking their sips at our necks, wrists and hair lines. With great fortitude and patines we finally emerged at a clearing of dry rocky soil. A quick visual nod from each other, we dropped our packs and took respite, evaluated ourselves, climbed a tree, scouted a path, conferenced, confirmed, and quickly struck back toward the creek and toward the unseen trail. Without event or delay we were back on track and walking comfortably along a well traveled path within five minutes and then paused for lunch.
Which reminds me – is it safe to eat a clove a garlic?
“Digestive Irritation – Because allicin is so strong, there is some suggestion that too much raw garlic could irritate or even damage the digestive tract. As always, use common sense, don’t overdo it and if in doubt consult your doctor.”
Well, we ate our cloves and irritated our digestive systems, but cleared our heads.. or something.. and then got back on the trail. We still had another four miles to go and it was getting late, but the bulk of the remainder was to be down hill, we weren’t too daunted.
Within a couple of hours and after a number of spectacular river crossings, we moseyed into a small wooded area about a mile away from Asa lake and called it quits, each of us disrobing our soggy shoes and socks. Neal lit a fire and we gathered ourselves about it drying our toes, bathing in the warmth, and battling the mosquitos. We ate dinner, drank some wine, ate some cheese, nipped at some scotch and promptly fell asleep. Content.
The next morning we were up at seven and on the trail by eight thirty, ready for the day’s ten mile return to the car. By far our longest day and mostly uphill, we attacked it with proper rest and a decent starting time to made it our most productive and consistant day of hiking. Perhaps it was because our packs were lighter with the food stuffs all consumed and excreted, or perhaps we could see the barn, who knows.
Round about two in the afternoon we reached our 20.5 mile mark and the car, satisfied ourselves with a full featured lunch, enjoyed some small deer bounding through the meadows, and then drove back down the hill to the bay. As we descended we smiled. Good weather, great people, and a solid hike through the forests of the California Sierras hardly lends it’s self to anything but a big fat grin.
If you ascend from the Berkeley Main Campus/Football Stadium, expect a fun climb up a set of 300+ stairs that take you to the top of Berkeley & Oakland. If approaching from the South – Clark Kerr Campus, here’s to your glorious ascent up the grassy and poorly footed trail. (there’s also a very nice tail that starts on Centennial Drive just past the Hass Club House.
It’s rigorous, but well worth the work out.
Good luck and be safe. 15 mph, one lane roads, unfriendly drivers, and difficult parking.
No matter what, this is one great spot for photographs and sunsets, and of course, geocaching.
I was directed to read about the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day on Wikipedia, and thusly, Kira and I got in the car on the 2nd in order to properly celebrate our Nation’s independence day in full. July two, three, and four.
Leaving at 1 PM on Friday, our plan was fool-proof enough and I walked with arrogance all morning. However, when 1 PM came and I was leaving Kira’s office, with the car packed, and she with sack lunches in hand, we drove a quarter mile to find the highway stopped at Gilman. Three hours later we had moved less than 30 miles and our lunches were gone and so was our pride.
With about 40 minutes of 60 mph+ driving under our belts by Sacramento it was no surprise that our car would not put up with the abuse of a hot day and heavy traffic. By the time we climbed Donner Summit, AC blindly on, and driving smoothly and out of traffic, the radiator flared up and we were again in a limited mode of transport. A rest stop, some cans of water, and a shotty job of repair later, we limped into Truckee and briefly looked for a hardware store. Seeing nothing we decided to move along, make camp, and try to forget all about the seven and a half our drive we’d just completed.
Pulling off the 80 E, we headed North on the 89 for about five minutes before we pulled off and dropped in onto Prosser Creek Reservoir where we were greeted by friends. Kira’s folks had driven all the way out from Colorado to visit, and they were excited to see us and pleased to not have to drive the extra three and a half hours to the Bay Area. This set of circumstances helped us to forget about our wasted afternoon, we too were soon cheerful.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon trying to get my fly on the water while Kira spent time catching up with her mom and Christopher manned the camping equipment. After dinner and some star gazing we hit the sac.
For Kira’s Birthday this past weekend we set off on a hike that would, we hoped, begin to off set our highly skewed wilderness record. (see Mongollon). Our hike this time around was just about six months the opposite the timing of our last adventure, so we felt odds were in our favor. However, we still set our minds to a week full of planning making phone calls, looking at maps, reading weather reports, trail reviews, and packing both our car and our bags for anything.
I can tell you now, we made it home safe. Phew.
It was a short 2 mile hike that ended at the junction of Grindstone Creek and the Eel River. Both of which surprised us with the volume of water flowing through them. I kicked myself for not acquiring a fishing license and bringing my goods. Bloody rock was a beautiful view, and framed the wilderness we were hiking through quite well. Remarkably, the only deer we saw was along the road. However, through out the hike Kira almost stepped on three different kinds of snake – so that was an added bonus of sleeping on the ground.