Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bees and Anxiety

Friday, August 23, 2013
By Michael
            Yulia and I finally did some beekeeping work in our apiary on Wednesday. We fed our bees and took a frame full of honey for ourselves. We fed the bees with a sugar syrup in special “top loading” feeders. Here is a picture. It should explain it better:

All one has to do is open up the top of the beehive, take off the glass lid to the feeder box and pour in the syrup. There is a little raft in there so the bees can drink the syrup without drowning. There is a slit in the plastic cover that allows the bees entry into the feeder. This is what it looks like without the glass cover:

            The feeding went smoothly. We fed all eight beehives. Taking the frame of honey was also OK. I got stung on my fingers once or twice, but no big deal. I told Yulia that I thought I could take care of the last couple hives myself, and I ran into trouble with the very last one. After feeding them, I decided to take a peek in that hive to see if there were any frames full of honey. We weren’t in any terrible need for honey, since we got 3 liters of it from one of the other hives. But I found a few new frames that fit the last hive. I figured I could take a frame full of honey and give them a new one so that they could continue to store honey somewhere. I guess I’ve just been feeling self conscious that I have been neglecting the bees. I really haven’t done anything with the hives for about a month now. I didn’t want the little guys to run out of room on account of laziness on my part.
Anyway, I pulled out a frame on the end. They were a little pissed, but no stinging. I then went for another frame and pulled it out to examine it. At that point I forget how it happened. Maybe a bee stung me or maybe the frame just slipped, but I dropped it onto the ground. It was covered with bees, and they were not happy that I just dropped a part of their hive. They exploded in anger and bit up my ankles, my fingers, and my wrists. I was just wearing long pants and a jacket so my ankles and wrists are pretty vulnerable. I don’t have good gloves either. They’re basically just gardening gloves, and they are short, so they leave my wrists exposed. They can sting right through the material too, though the stingers don’t seem to get as deep because of them. I’m lucky to have a proper beekeeping face mask though. No stings there. I had to make a quick escape, but I could not hide for long. I had to go back to put the frames back into the hive and close it up. I felt so bad for the little ladies. I had messed up their beautiful home! I felt like such a fool. I went back and braved the angry cloud of bees that formed as the entire colony was now on alert. Literally apologizing as I went about my business, I put the new frame into the hive along with the one I dropped. I think I got stung a few more times doing so, but I figured, I created this mess, I should clean it up and deal with the consequences (a whole bunch of stings).
I took the frame with honey in it and put it aside. I did that with the first frame of honey we removed earlier that morning, and the remaining bees on the frame eventually dispersed making it possible for us to take the honey inside. In this instance, the bees never dispersed. Actually, more flew over and they eventually made a cloud around the purloined frame of honey. Whatever, I figured. I’ll just get it when it gets dark out and they all go home for the night. But when I checked back on the frame a couple of hours later, I found that they had removed all the honey from the frame! Like I said, we weren’t really harvesting the honey because we were in need of it. Rather, I had convinced myself that I was doing it for their benefit. In the end, it seems that they got their honey back and got a free meal of sugar syrup. Good for them. I just hope no other colonies took part in stealing that honey away from them. Bees are impressive little creatures. I didn’t think they would even be able to take all that honey and transport it—bee by bee—back to the hive. One can only respect such hard work and efficiency.
However, my sense of wonder didn’t last for long. Though the stings didn’t bother me right away, some of them really swelled up today. The stings on my wrists and fingers are the worst. They’re all puffed up. It makes it hard to lift anything heavy, which stinks because I’m working on making and installing a door for our kitchen right now. I’m counting my blessings that I’m not really allergic though. I’m hoping that with time and a few more stings, I’ll slowly become immune to the bee venom. Last year I met an 86 year old beekeeper who would only wear a mask in his apiary. He handled the frames with his bare hands. He claimed that the stings didn’t affect him (He wore the mask to protect his eyes.). Maybe I’ll get to that point someday.
            I don’t know if it’s from the beestings or what, but I’m having a hard time sleeping tonight. If you’ve noticed, I’m writing this post in the wee hours of the morning. And this isn’t the first time I’m writing a blog entry very early in the morning. Over the past few weeks I’ve been waking up very early—like 3 in the morning—and can’t fall back asleep. A lot of times it is accompanied by bad dreams. Not really regular narrative dreams, but more images. One night I was fixated on a couple of windows in our house that have old, rotten frames in them. I guess they bother me more than I think. We are planning on replacing all our windows, but we need the internet to order them. We don’t have a car right now, so there’s no point in buying them at the store. We need them to be delivered. Whenever we go to the city to take care of business, we have so much to do that we haven’t been able to get to the ordering of windows in the few days that we spend there. It’s summer right now anyway, so windows aren’t a burning priority amidst all the other work we have to do. Right now there is no floor in the veranda, just a bunch of boards loosely laid down. One of the door frames is completely missing, also. There is not even a threshold there, just a piece of plywood spanning the gap. In what will be the bedroom, there is space in the corner without proper floorboards where we need to put a pichka. I think these gaping holes in the floor are bothering me the most. Many nights I think about all the dust being kicked up from the subfloor. It disgusts me. They’re also a perfect entrance for mice and bugs, but luckily we have cats who patrol our house and property very thoroughly. So far we have not seen any mice in our house (save for the ones our cats drag in).
            OK. Enough of that negativity. We will take care of these renovations soon enough. Yulia and I work our butts off every single day, so we know that we are doing everything we can to fix this place up as soon as we can. If anything, we are working too hard. I need to teach this anxiety of mine who’s boss.

On an unrelated note, I was thinking about my previous post about what we want our village to be. What I described us as doing follows the first couple of steps of gentrification. We found inexpensive real estate, and we plan to beautify this space with all sorts of art and get like minded people to join us. I wonder what would happen if our village became gentrified like a trendy neighborhood in the city. In an urban area, these steps are usually followed by coffee shops, feminist bookstores, and art galleries. Then come the yuppies and new apartment buildings accompanied by skyrocketing real estate values. Could that happen here? Well, there is an old school. That could be artists’ studios and an art gallery. There’s an abandoned store too. That could be the coffee shop—organic, fair trade coffee, of course. Unfortunately, there is no room for a feminist bookstore just yet. …Unless we convert an old house into the bookstore. The bedroom would be for manifestos. The root cellar would host a record collection and small café (a trendy neighborhood can never have enough fair trade coffee). The kitchen would be the zine and graphic novel section. This could be the store’s motto: Liberate women from the kitchen, and liberate the kitchen from being a kitchen! OK. Now I’m just being silly! We don’t really want to gentrify this village. I just wonder what it would be like if that inevitably happened…I think I’ve been watching too much Portlandia.

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