The last few days have included experiment in camping, the loss of some bees and a few books.

We headed off on a mini holiday towing a trailer tent that had been kindly lent to us.  The point of a two day trip was to see how the little man would cope with camping, or this is what we told everybody.  The truth is that we wanted to see if we would cope taking the little man camping.  It turns out that we must have chosen the best possible two days that the misty isle of Northern Ireland had to offer.  The sky was pure blue and we felt like we were camping in the south of France.  The little man coped perfectly, as expected when you consider that he had his mum and dad’s full and undivided attention without the distractions of home.  After his bed time we would sit outside in the long evening light and sip wine and nibble cheese while we read our books and talked nonsense.

The actual location of the holiday was a strange one.  We rang round most of the camp sites in Northern Ireland to find them nearly all unsurprisingly booked up.  The one place that had a cancellation for only a couple of nights turned out to be a fantastic site in Cushendun.  It is an extremely small little village that is both beautiful and full of character.  On the first evening we sat outside the tearoom and watched a man pass by with his lawnmower running, appearing to mow the tarmac footpath.  This was the moment when I knew that I would like Cushendun.

On returning to home after feeling a little relaxed and sun-kissed we unpacked and put our feet up.  After a much needed coffee I took a walk around the cottage and decided to check out the bees.  On the day before we left I caught a cast swarm from one of the hives (my own fault for leaving two queen cells).  I had hived them in a small nucleus hive and hoped for the best.  After leaving them for a couple of days there was no activity at the entrance to the nuc.  It was raining so it might not be a bad sign.  I was itching to know if they had stayed but could not open them up and disturb them unnecessarily.  So, the logical conclusion was to grab the stethoscope from our hypochondria kit and try and hear some activity.  All was silent.  I cheekily gave the hive a little knock which would normally (I have done it accidentally) give a menacing snake like hiss.  Nothing.  The hive was empty and removing the lid confirmed that it was bare and Tooter and her tiny entourage were gone. Maybe she returned to the hive or took up residence in the other hive that might be queenless.  These are extremely slim possibilities but not beyond the realms of possibility.  In a week I will get a chance to open up the hives and find out what is going on in what is left of them.  Some good news reached me today though.  I am told that there is plenty of activity at Grelder’s hive at the out apiary.  In theory, she should have a fresh batch of newly hatched bees freeing up even more to be out foraging. Her bees are making honey and they might not eat it themselves if the fine weather returns.

the last known location of Tooter

When we got back from Cushendun I decided to look at the bookshelf and find anything interesting that I had filed as ‘to be read sometime way off in the future’.  I picked up ‘The Worm Forgives the Plough’ by John Stewart Collis.  What a find.  I am only a quarter of the way into this book now and I love it.  Collis is an academic who chooses to throw himself into agriculture as a labourer during the Second World War.  He knows very little about the jobs and describes what he sees and does exactly as he sees them.  It is a beautifully written book about the methods that were on their way out as mechanisation began to take over and industrialise farming.  Here is a random passage to give a hint at his style:

Before we knocked off, the remainder of the rick had to be covered with an old tarpaulin which we dragged out of the stable close by We unfolded it gradually, and as we did so more than one nest of mice came to light, mice large and small and tiny. They began to try and-scuttle away, the baby ones running round helplessly. Arthur grabbed at them with his enormous hands, catching two or three at a time. He squeezed them to death and stuck them in his waistcoat pocket. He disposed of a large number of them in this manner. He took a mouse, squeezed it between his forefinger and mighty thumb, stuck it in his pocket, then grabbed another, squeezed it and likewise tuck it into his coat or waistcoat until he was bulging with mice. At first I couldn’t imagine the object of this collection. It turned out that they were for the cat at home. On returning he would call the cat to him and steadily produce mice from his person. Not so much for love of the cat, I gathered, as in order to encourage further research in this direction.

Although there is this book and others in the same ‘too read’ category, I could not resist picking up a few more today.  There is a second hand book shop in Belfast that is an Aladdin’s cave of treasures that are waiting to be discovered.  The shelves seem dangerously stacked and claustrophobically narrow.  They seem to contain material on any and every subject apart from beekeeping.  I could not find and section on beekeeping.  I enquired at the desk expecting the gentleman to scratch his head and point me towards the natural history section which I had already went over exhaustively, several times.  Instead, and to my surprise, he turned around and put hand to a modest pile of books beside the till.  He said that a lot of people ask about beekeeping books and he hardly ever gets any in.  So when he does have some he keeps them beside him so he can easily get at them.  The books were from a very old collection and one classic stood out so much that once I saw the author’s name and the bargain price. I snapped it up without even looking inside the cover.  I walked away with four books for not much more that ten pounds, books that will be added to ‘that’ pile.

a beekeeping classic

an old one but the rles don’t seem to have changed that much

it seems that meadowsweet was the original aspirin

not astronomy, it’s about living in a lighthouse