Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Update: fixed link to PDF

You can find instructions for making this snowflake at:

Here's some Christmas-time silliness for you (though I wouldn't blame you if you skipped straight to the end.)

To the tune of Ding, Dong Merrily on High

Ding, dong happy in the hive
The winter bees are clustering
Ding, dong they are still alive
And new-laid brood are mustering
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen

E'en so their beekeeper
lets fondant be a hungen'
and prays "oh, please, heaven, please"
may spring soon be a sprungen
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen

Pray guard your remaining honey stores, 
you frugal winter workers
and warm your brood until the spring
you Carniolan nurses
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen
Bu-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-uzz, Long live her majesty, the queen

Friday, December 19, 2014

Mead Categories

I've been curious about the various types of mead, but nobody has answered my questions well enough until now. (I suppose I could've done a Google or Wikipedia search, but it wouldn't have been have as much fun as walking around with a mystery. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

Anyhoo, my DH gave me a copy of Ken Schramm's book The Compleat Meadmaker awhile ago, and I just started reading it. [Note: beekeeping is the gateway hobby. You start by keeping bees (and if you're a TBH person, this probably involves taking up some basic woodworking, too), but then you begin gardening (or expanding if you already have a garden). Next, you start researching wild flowers and trees. Then it's finding recipes for honey, candlemaking, cooking up beauty potions and whatever else you can do with wax. Eventually, one comes around to mead, too.)

I'm still only up to page 20, so I won't discuss the book, but I do like how he defines all the various types of mead. I won't list all the types, but here is a basic description of the kinds that I normally see.
  • Traditional mead: Generally describes mead made only with honey, yeast, and water. However, some people contend that Anglo-Saxon post-Renaissance meads contains small amounts of additional flavorings
  • Show mead: A distinction made in some competitions. Mead made with only honey, yeast, and water -- no additional flavorings
  • Sack mead, or sack: A strong, sweet mead
  • Melomel: A mead made with fruit
    • Cyser: A melomel made with apples, apple juice, or cider
    • Pyment: A melomel made with grapes or grape juice. Can also refer to a wine that has been fermented with or sweetened with honey
      • Hippocras: A pyment that has spices added to it
  • Metheglin: Mead fermented or flavored with herbs or spices
  • Braggot, bragot, or bracket: Mead made with malted grain, usually malted barley
He also defines some terms for mead used in ancient/foreign cultures, but these terms are the ones I encounter most frequently. It's nice to know what I've been drinking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

“In the depth of winter... within me there lay an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus

Sorry for the long silence. I've been distracted by a lot of things -- making Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving stuff, Christmas events and parties, gift shopping, company, etc. With back-to-back holidays from October through December, it's always a hectic time for me. However, things are well in hand now, so I can actually enjoy the last week before Christmas.

Ok, not exactly a bee photo, but it's proof that I
haven't been sitting idly by. ;-)
Here is the little one in her nearly finished costume.
(Elsa has to have sparkles, right?)
This one always picks out something fun. He has
to make up for his pragmatic older brother who
can't see the point of trick-or-treating when he can enjoy an
enormous bowl of candy in the comfort of his own home.
Before that, though, comes my favoritest day of the year -- the Winter Solstice! It's probably some vestigial streak of barbarian/pagan left in me that loves this day so much. Not because it's the darkest day of the year but because I know that from here on out the days are going to get longer and longer. Hooray! My annual plague of melancholy that lasts between Thanksgiving and Christmas is over. I can shake off the blahs and start looking forward to spring! Glorious spring!

Now that I have bees, the winter solstice is doubly special. The colony won't really explode in size until mid to late February, but that growth begins now. Shortly after the winter solstice (it could be the day after or within a couple of weeks after), the queen begins to lay eggs in preparation for spring. 

Of course, the next 6-8 weeks (until the maple and willows start blooming) will be kind of a tricky time for the bees in this northern climate. Up until now, the adults have been getting by keeping the hive temperature about 70 degrees F. With brood in the nest, though, they'll have to raise temps to 95 degrees F. This means an accelerated consumption of resources during the coldest part of the year when there is nothing coming into the hive.

Enjoying some sunshine

So far, my hives are all alive and, I hope, well. The electric fence has done its job keeping out all unwanted Pooh bears. However, I've been concerned over our unusually warm weather because the bees have been pretty active. I worry about them eating more honey than they would if they were huddled up in a mass. I dare not open the the hives, but this past week, we had weather in the mid 40's and all of the colonies were making cleansing flights. Persephone and Peach had the most activity. Not sure if that means they're the strongest or simply the most foolhardy. ;-) I also took a very quick peek through Austeja's observation window. The girls were clustered on the first couple of bars, and seemed to have ample honey. We'll see what they look like in a couple of months.

In any case, we're entering the homestretch. Fingers crossed. Spring is just ahead.