February 2012

I lost interest in the bees.  In the spring and summer of last year it felt like an obsession, even my dreams were filled with bees.  Coming home from work and looking at the activity around the hive/hives became a reflex.  Then the winter came and they hid themselves away, and I hid myself away from them.   I stopped looking at them to the point where they were pushed out onto the edge of my world.  My bee fever broke, and the bee books got shelved.  I worried that it was a fad, an expensive failure of a hobby.

Three days ago I noticed a thin crescent moon in the south west.  I noticed the moon, the  full Growing Moon, on its steady fattening.  I noticed the first hints of green on the hawthorn, and I noticed the bees.  The last two days have been warm enough for them to begin to housekeep and drag out the dead bodies of the winter casualties that, until now, have littered the floors of the hives.  I have noticed all this and I have begun to feel the pull of the spring, the moon and the bees.  Today the reflex of looking at the hives returned and I am beginning to itch.  I want to open up their homes and peer in.  I want to see how they are fairing and help them along, but it feels a little too soon.  Maybe in another week or two I will satisfy my curiosity, and also feed them a little fondant.  I can feel the bee fever coming back.

I don’t know why, but there is a wonderful feeling when we are near water.  Even the approach to a river is somehow relaxing, as if stepping into another world.  I am glad to say that we spent the last few days beside a river, relaxing and letting the feeling of it soak into our bones.  Even at night the roaring sound of the weir filled our ears and dreams.

It was a beautiful view from the window.  The only small problem was that the water also kept falling from the sky and therefore the view was usually through a rainy window pane.

We were not the only ones thinking of water.  It was only a few days ago that the bees had their winter coat of snow on their homes.  Today there was no snow, in fact their was a few brief moments of sunshine and warmer air.  It was warm enough for the bees to venture out and find water to quench their thirst.  They weren’t just thinking of water though, they were thinking of poo.  After months of being stuck inside with the outside too cold to go to the toilet they simply saved it up.  There were lots of bees not venturing very far, instead they simply did a few loops and relieved themselves mid-flight.

As I removed the mouse guards I got a chance to do a few more observations.  One of the hives seems more tolerant of the cold.  They were the ones I spotted doing cleansing flights (the technical term for it) earlier in the winter.  The cold tolerant hive seemed calmer and with less bees about the entrance.  The other hive were taking advantage of the warm day and there were a lot of bees about the front.  This hive is the one that I felt were a bit aggressive at the end of the autumn.  As I removed the mouse guard I got my suspicions confirmed with a bit of aggressive face dive bombing from one individual bee.  I think I will have to make preparations to re-queen this hive if they turn out to be as aggressive as I suspect.

Canalways has a post that does not deserve a link; it deserves a re-post word for word.  I love it.

25 ways to subvert the system by canalways

Sometimes I get so worked up about things I don’t like about the world that I neglect the things I do like about the world or the things I should do about the world. Here is a list of things I’m working on.

1 Get off Facebook

You don’t like corporate control in any other area of your life except Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Twitter. You won’t shop at Tesco on principle yet you’re always stuffing your face on Facebook. Don’t let yourself become a marketers dream.

2 Walk More

Get the blood pumping and take the time to learn your place.

3 Grow Herbs

Read the Wendell Berry essay ‘The Reactor and the Garden’ then go out and plant some coriander. You will save money next time you make a curry.

4 Buy from small,local retailers

If possible to keep diversity in your community.
The empires and systems want to homogenize us.
Which is why you should also get off Facebook. We’ve been homogenized and it’s not healthy

5 Bake Bread

Gain an understanding that it’s not Tesco or Hovis who provide our daily bread, it’s God. Touching the raw ingredients of bread makes you realise how we dependent on grace and farming and ultimately God

6 Name the Beasts

Or name the systems that oppress us. If we name them they have less power over us. The unknown has more power as we can’t define it.

7  Look for where power is Centred

Where are the HQ’s of the IMF, the WTO, the World Bank, Tesco, Google, Apple, corporate power? Don’t fail to see the actual people behind the shiny logo.  Look for where the lords hang out.

8 ‘All Roads lead to Rome’

Work out where the roads of empire lead to these days. Not to Rome but to Arkansas with WalMart or the HQ of BP or Royal Dutch Shell.

9 Read your Bible

If you’re Christian learn the Big Picture. Learn the real story of what is going on not just for the sake of reading it.

10 Jesus

As above. Follow the master

11 Say Grace

Relearn that it isn’t our technology and super markets that supply our daily bread, it’s something far more precious and fragile. Pray to God ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and mean it

12 Write about Food

Again, learn that there are few things more important and vital to us than food and be grateful for it. It’s there to be enjoyed.

13 Make a Lunch Box System

When you’re out and about make it easier to grab something better for you than a Mars Bar to Tayto.

14 Draw and Dream Alternative Images

Try to imagine different possibilities

15 Write, Perform,Educative and Subversive Poetry

Undermine the tag lines and mission statements, take the piss out of them

16 Seek First the Kingdom

Ignore the claims of other kingdoms

17 Read some Irish Poetry/Legends

Learn about the culture of your homeland

18 Write Songs

It’s easier to slip truth through with a subtle lyric and tune

19 Read about Permaculture

So that you can place less demands on your home patch and be more like Adam was called to be in Eden

20 Ethical Clothing

Cloth yourself when possible with clothes that have been made by people who where not exploited for economic gain.  Choose fabrics that place less demands on economic systems.

21 Urban Farming

Try to encourage urban farming if possible. New Jerusalem sounds like a city garden with an orchard, bring heaven to earth.

22 Theology of Housework

See how you might be glorifying God when cleaning the toilet or washing grease pans to keep yourself sane.

23 Wormery

Turn vegetable waste into compost and use the worm casts to grow herbs and salad leaves. Be proud to have worms

24 Listen to good Music

Listen to all that good music you couldn’t afford to in the past with Spotify. Note the songs you like and why they are quality. Have a special place in your heart for protest songs.

25 Read some affirming Books

Read something you wouldn’t normally bother with, don’t neglect the novel and short story either in favour of non-fiction. Read some classics, read something different

The little man can tell when his song is about to come on.  He can read the subtle cues that are the prelude to the time, the time for “the time has come to say goodnight”.  When this song plays his face lights up and his eyes search for ours so that he can share his joy.  He dances and recently he has taken to a sort of a running-on-the-spot kind of dance.  Of course this is the cutest thing in the entire world but I must confess that cbeebies has a song that I enjoy.  I am not as good at knowing when it is on, and when I hear it I feel compeled to not get excited, instead I just close my eyes and listen.  I listen to the beautiful voice of Fredrika Stahl.

oh dear, science fiction has turned into science…

On the way home I slowed the car down to a crawl on a road very near to the cottage.  I spotted a bird of prey drift in to a tree branch and rest.  The branch noticeably sagged under the weight; more than a rook would cause, this was the heavy presence of a buzzard.  A few seconds later it lifted itself higher to another tree, to another straining branch.  Yesterday we found a lot of feathers scattered around the chicken coop and we wondered.  We don’t think a fox could get in, and if it could, we are convinced it could not get out again.  There was no fox and the chickens all seemed fine. We were confused. Until today; until I spotted the buzzard.  So far their luck is holding, but the dice keep rolling.

rising moon of ice

Before dinner I caught the full moon rising, the celtic moon of ice.  The moon of winds is a spin around the earth away, then the growing moon is not far behind.  There are still a few evenings of darkness left,  of warm fires in the evening and no thoughts of work in the garden.  That said, the moon is telling us all that the world keeps turning and the soil will begin to warm soon, plans need to be made for the growing.

moon rise by the beech tree

It is said, and based on scientific evidence, that there are things that dictate and mould your personality. In order of influence (from most influential to least):

  1. the genes in your DNA
  2. the culture of your peers
  3. the culture of the world around you
  4. the influence of your parents

To be honest, I don’t really understand the culture of my peers….

Tonight I stood in the long wet grass and noticed the marks of my path.  The flattening of the overgrown lawn was obvious in the super saturated dampness. Mine were not the only marks.  The cats also left marks in the grass, their paths were hard to spot until their usual holes in the hedges gave them away. They are creatures of habit.  Another set of marks stood apart from the cats, and mine.  These marks skirted around the edge of the cottage boundary.  The path marked entering; following around the edge of the hedge, around the edge of the apiary, then back out through the hedge.  The sly fox.

The air was full of the smell of wood smoke and moisture.  I peeled off my head torch and shone it under one hive, then the other.  To my eye there were no piles of dead bees, just a few bodies; summer bees destined to sacrifice themselves for their sisters.  I hefted the two hives which still felt heavy enough to me.  In theory, and in faith, they should still be a living ball of life, slowly burning there way through the winter supplies. They say that winter losses are to be expected.  As I am just an amateur I am trying to prime myself for the worst.  I would like to be the pessimist who takes delight in the world when it is turning out as everybody else expects it.

As I lingered beside the silent hives I looked at the gibbous moon trying to peak through the clouds and the thick wood smoke began to beckon me in when I spotted another line in the grass. It took me a few minutes to look around and confirm, and eliminate, my own wanderings.  I could not ignore it, there it was as plain as day; a track of the same nature to that that hugged the edge of the hedge.  Only this one peeled away from the boundary at the apiary and headed in a perfect straight line to the hen house.  That sly fox; that bold fox.

Things can go bump in the night. Just after three am this morning the lovely sleepy Sharon and I were ripped from our sleep by strange noises. The noises were such that we both sat up very quickly, and we both knew it was an intruder.  The noise was that of a door being pulled from its hinges by a mysterious monster.  A tearing, then a snap of wood back into position. Then, tear, snap, tear, snap, tear, snap.  Some of the tears were punctuated by a muted yelp, a kind of bark. The sound that finished it was a whine that crossed the barrier of communication between species; an obvious frustrated whine.

Very quietly, I put on my dressing gown, buffalo, woolly hat, head torch and wellies.  Dressed in this strange fashion I ventured out of the cottage and into the freezing night.  The cats were not running about.  My head torch beam caught their glowing eyes with their faces pressed against the window of the garage, like spectators in the executive box.  There was no damage at the door of the chicken’s shed and no signs of the mysterious intruder.  I opened the door and made a quick head count.  They were not their normal lively selves when the torch lit up the coop. Instead, they sat silent and subdued; terrified.

I must admit that it is a little undignified for me to pee into a bottle, undignified for the lovely Sharon to pour it at night, and undignified for the hens to have it poured over their home.  It’s not a nice habit to aspire too, but it is a habit we have slipped out of twice.  The first time we failed to mark our territory the fox tried to dig under the old coop, and now we have this nocturnal visitation.  It’s time to slip back into that bad habit.

I tried to use the computer to write my reports…

…but I was put in my place; and my place was the little man’s seat.  It turns out that computers are for watching In the Night Garden.  God bless CBeeBies.