Saturday 26 April 2014

Some bees done, some go away

Following on from the previous post.....
It was late in the evening. Time to do.

With stealth did Lester carry the newly purchased beehive out to the old rabbit hutches, putting it down, quickly, silently, just in case the bees in the box woke up. They don't like him. He put them in the box in the first place. They would have preferred to stay glued to the underside of the rabbit cages.

Oh dear. A minor problem. Hive needed to be put on block bricks. Bees still oblivious.

Back indoors. Bee suit on. Tucked into several layers of trousering. Hopefully the bees will not find their way inside the suit like they did a few days ago. Not to worry. The stinging pain of the stings did not last very long.
Back outside. Pick up still asleep box of bees. Ah. A slight rustle. No probs. Box still closed.

......oh so carefully opening the lid of the box...

...bees now not so asleep....
With speed Lester upends the box.
Bees fall into their new home. Upside down. A bunch of very unhappy bees.

Best to get the lid on before all hell lets loose.
And well done to Lester.
And well done the long range lens of the Lumix camera.
And well done to the bees who are now all settled in.
However, it would appear that we have inadvertently got a swarm production line here,
because five days later, and the bees in the original hive were at it again,
and a few days later there was a humungous load of bees flying around,
eventually settling on a nearby branch.
And not so well done to me, because the battery of my camera had gone flat!
Not to worry,
I parked myself on a chair near to where they were swarming,
put an umbrella up to shield myself from the sun,
and watched.
It was absolutely fascinating.
And when they were settled down,
I said to them,
"If you would like to stay here you will be more than welcome,
but if you want to go somewhere else, then that is OK as well".
They went.
I didn't see them go because I was busy elsewhere,
but when I saw them gone, I looked up into the sky and wished them bon voyage.
It was like sending a grown up child out into the world.
And it came into my mind, that although we are not exactly the most efficient of bee keepers at the moment because we are not managing the hives well enough to get a honey harvest, (when bees swarm they take the stored honey with them), we are doing our bit towards helping the declining bee population by having a hive which is sufficiently healthy enough to act as a swarm production line.
The Bollards ( our little band) : we had our first little gig a week ago. There is room for improvement, but we are only a month old, and we did rise to the challenge.......
John (left) on homemade drum. Lester (centre). Kathy (right)
Boolie (centre) feeling the pain of listening to us rehearse.

We now have a rhythm guitarist (Mike), and Sarah from down the lane at La Maison des Chameaux has joined us a trainee whistle and banjo player.
I, meanwhile, am back on the keyboard, because a heavy jamming session whilst playing the piano accordion has sprained my hands and wrists. Not to worry. I can still make a noise.
That's all for now. Hope you make music. It is fun.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Clashes, and the bees make a plan

So it was the morning of the next day, which was the day of Sunday. Straight out to see if the bees were gone. No, they weren't. Those that we had not got into the box were clustered round the bottom of the rabbit cages, and those we had got into the box were still in the box because the morning dew had dampened the box lid so it was not now sealed, but had a gap through which we could see nothing but bees, possibly keeping a watchful eye in case we decided to try to organise them again.

So we regrouped over tea and toast, and decided that it was not fair to split the swarm as we had done last night, but to get the swarm members all back together again so that they could then decide what it was they wanted to do. In truth, we hoped that they would b*******r off. We were tired. We were not happy beekeepers. We just wanted Sunday to be a lazy, do nothing day, which was silly of us because after all we are smallholders, which means that we don't get days off unless we collapse on to the bed with exhaustion, which I have to admit sometimes happens.

So back outside we went, and Lester carried the box of bees, at arms length and with a very hurried stride, back to the others, who were by now starting to fly about. Some bees flew out of the box to mix and mingle with the others. And soon we could see that they were developing a plan.....

......which was to build a bridge of bees, this bridge being made by the ones who had not been got into the box the previous night and who had parked themselves on the inside roof of the rabbit hutch after having first made a pow wow cluster in the corner of the hutch.
And now, Tuesday, this is the box:

...everyone is nice and calm. All are tucked up in the box, with enough of a gap in the top of the box to get in and out. And tonight, in an hour or so, the bees are to be transferred into their new hive. It has been a hectic few days.

Orpy Junior. October 20th 2012

And now here is a strapping young cockerel boy. How proud he stands, coming into his prime, full of energy to see to the hen girls.

But look at him now, because sometime during last night he must have had a tremendous battle with the white cockerel boy, because when they were let out, this is what we saw.

For all of the day Orpy junior has skulked away in corners, and here he is, at the bottom of the hole which is one day going to be a pond. And it brings a sadness upon us, because he has been a good cockerel but now he has the look of defeat upon him, and his spirit is broken. He will be dead soon. And here is an oddness, because yesterday we went to investigate a ram for our sheep girls. And there, over in the corner of the small chicken run, was the most glorious of cockerel boys which Lester said just had to be purchased. But I said that we would then have too many cockerels, which would be too much for our hennies. And Lester said that it was time for Orpy junior and the white cockerel to go because their genes were now in the flock, and for the health of the flock new blood should be introduced. It looks like nature has sorted this out for us.

And here is the white cockerel:

....he should be pure white.......and he does not want to come in to the courtyard but is remaining by himself out near the pig paddocks. It looks like those two cockerel boys have bashed the very life out of each other, and neither is the winner. As I say, nature is strange sometimes, and it looks like the new cockerel boy is to take the place of these two.
It with sadness that I see the state of these two boys. Orpy junior has been a good cockerel, looking after the hens like a real gentleman. And the white cockerel is the one who grew up big and strong by raiding the tomatoes in the veg plot last year. Ah well, life moves on........

Saturday 12 April 2014

A wee bit of bother

Yes, well, ********* ******** bees!!!!!! Our lot just swarmed and hung themselves on the bottom of the rabbit cages. On went our bee keeping suits. No spare hive, just a cardboard box. Tried to hook bees into box. Boy oh boy, but didn’t they get as mad as hell. It was dark, but we had a light to see by, which woke the bees up, which encouraged them to zoom in on us. Beekeeping suits found to be totally unsuitable for swarm collecting. Bees got inside Lester's suit. He had quite a few manic moments as he tried to swat them dead, but they died anyway.... after they had stung him. Six stings in total. I didn't get any, because I was not in the thick of it. But then a few of the bees, who had become really ticked off at our interference, did get inside my suit......
...and I walked away into the darkness, my self preservation overcoming my ability to stand by my man, and I walked out onto the lane where this no light, and I stayed calm so the bees inside my suit would not think Wahooooooo, sting time. And I quietly unzipped the suit, and then with a sudden surge of panic, whipped it over my head and flung it onto the ground, heading on down the lane in a sudden spurt of speed which was surprising even to me, as one lone bee continued to buzz me. I outran it.
By now Lester had got a portion of the bees into the box, and had taped the box shut. He yelled out for me, "I'll leave the box in the porch gateway for the night". B********y h**l no" I said. So the box was put out by the hay bales. Hopefully it won't rain tonight.
Lester then tried to get the rest of bees into another box. I stood and watched. Not going too close. I had abandoned the bee suit (it is still in the middle of the lane, possibly still having some bees cosied up in it) and had my rain mac on.
Now I am normally someone who is  'Lets go into battle together' when Lester hits a spot of trouble. But I have a sensitive head at the moment, my head having done a collision two days ago with the kitchen wall, and the rest of me hitting the floor with a smack. But I did not get into a fuss. I just laid very still, and did some deep breathing and invited calmness to come into me before any pain rushed in, which has helped my body to recover quite quickly from the fall. But not my head. Although not concussed my head feels like it does not want to be messed about with. It does not want any more bangs for the moment, and it did not want to be messed about with by very angry bees. That is why I had to abort Operation Retrieve Swarm. I also have a lovely large scrape across my forehead, and I really did not want anything putting their stinger into that particularly fragile patch of skin.
So you would by now be thinking that we shall give up on keeping bees. Not flippin likely! 
1) We need better bee keeping suits. An 'all in one' boiler suit , that is what we need.
2) We need spare hives so we can house any swarms which appear.
3) We need to take more notice of what the bees are doing, because a swarm doesn't happen suddenly. We had noticed the warming signs that a swarm was imminent, but had not internally digested this info because we were too busy doing other things.
4) We need to keep a regular check on the hive and hoick out any queen cells that appear.
5) We need to train the bees to accept us.
6) We need to read the books and watch YouTube vids telling us how to be beekeepers.
7) We need to get back in the saddle with the bees themselves, and not mind that they got into a fuss with us because we would have done exactly the same if we were them.
8) Not to mind that for the next few nights our dreams are likely  to include bees coming at us. It is quite something to have a bee flying right in front of your face inside the bee keeping suit. This image is likely to imprint onto our sub conscious. Not to worry, it will pass.
9) To remember that bees are only little creatures trying to do what comes naturally to them, and are not evil insects intent on doing us harm.
10) To repeat, endlessly repeat, that we do want to keep bees so that we do not boil up a hatred for them, which in the end would make us stop being beekeepers at all.
I did go down the lane to see if Sarah (at La maison des chameaux) knew anything about swarming bees. She didn't, but I did meet a man who is playing in a band at an open mike event at her place next Sunday. The Bollards (our band) are supposed to be playing a tune or two at this event. This man has done the rounds as a musician. The Bollards are only four weeks old. We are infants compared to his expertise. Yikes. Blimey.
And here endeth my 67th birthday. It started with the previous blog, and ends up with this one. I think I might go to bed now. I shall try not to think about bees. Or bangs on the head. Or The Bollards having their first outing at Sarah's place. Or my chaos of a kitchen. Or anything, except that my life is most certainly a very interesting place to be living in. Hope you feel the same about your life.
Blessings to you,

MacDonalds? And so that's why......

We went to MacDonalds today. Oh no! Have we fallen out of saddle in regards to eating processed food?  Has all my previous blather about not being able to eat other people's food, including meat from unknown sources, has this all been nonsense? Have we given up? Have we succumbed to fast food again?

Noooooo!!!! We were forced into MacDonalds by a 'needs must' urgency. To pee is what had come over us. To pee desperately in fact. Even to the point of sacrificing our dislike for all that MacDonalds represents. If we had to eat a burger to pee then that is what we had to do.

Message to self: If going out shopping do not drink a cup of tea before you do so as this will inevitably create a problem through the ensuing hours.
Message to Lester: ditto the above.

But oh what good news! The loo was handily placed just inside the door. We went in. We peed. Crikey! What a blessing. And even more of a blessing was the fact that we managed to creep back out of MacDonalds without having to buy any food. We felt like naughty children. It was fun. 

We are covered in dust:

I made a comment about the amount of dust in the house to a friend
who had stopped by for a chat.
"That's Sahara sand", she said, "It's not dust".
Apparently sand from the Sahara is being delivered to France, and the UK, via the wind,
and we had fetched up with a goodly quantity in our house,
that is what my friend said, bless her.
When we came here we had a fireplace wall left standing in the kitchen:
(This photo was taken before we started renovating)
It is the half high wall, with the orange beam sitting on it,
the one which is over to the left of the photo.
For all of the time of the renovation,
I have protected that little wall,
even though everyone who has worked on the house
said it should go,
even Lester.
But it was one of the few remaining features left in the house,
and so I fought to keep it.
The little wall is made of limestone blocks.
It was to stay.
After discussion after discussion after argument discussion,
I bowed to the inevitable.
The little wall of limestone blocks was to go.
Manfully Lester set to work...
..and the job became done..

A nice clear kitchen.
But can you see the open door.....
so hold this thought for a moment while I take you for a quick tour of...
the dining room:

the hallway:
the lounge:

the temporary kitchen and future larder room:

...but the bathroom is quite pristine at the moment,
...but the half barn is reasonably tidy:

...and now I do not feel worried about getting the dust cleaned up,
the dust which I thought blew in from the work Lester was doing
while he tumbled the little wall down,
in the kitchen,
because this is Sahara Sand!
Am I kidding myself?
..and thanks to Denise for my birthday card,
and thanks to Lester for taking me out to a garden centre
and lunch afterwards at a local bar type eatery.
And thank you all for reading my blather about what is happening on our little smallholding down here at the bottom end of France.

Wednesday 9 April 2014

A wander in the sunshine


Can you see the vague white splodges behind the tree which is still not in leaf yet (in the middle of the photo). Those are the Pyrenees mountains. And this is our Home Field. It is flooded again, so no animals are grazing on it............but the geese are because they can swim and paddle through the water to get on to the field.
There is one goose missing. She is sitting on a nest round the back of the house. We take the eggs away though, so it is mostly an empty nest she sits in, but she doesn't mind, she still sits and lays an egg for us. The Muscovy boy ducks know that she is sitting on the nest. Laying eggs takes ages and ages and ages. Ah ha, the Muscov boy thinks, 'time for a quick one'. Not when I'm around. I boot him away from her, and chase him off. The two rottweiller girls help me. I don't call them back until the Muscov boy has had a good fright which might make him think again before trying to climb on board a goose girl who is laying an egg.

You can just see the goose girl beneath the Muscovy rascal.
And here are another two rascals 
Noooooo! Not these two. Max and Mum Pig are waiting patiently for their breakfast. Soon we hope to get them out of this mud patch of a paddock. But at least the sun is shining and the ground is drying. All they need to make a perfect day is a trough full of milk from our cow.
Come on Lissie, turn round and say hi....
...and here she is grazing on the eventual veg plot paddocks. The theory is that she can graze the grass down to its roots, then the pigs can be put on the grass so that they can get it all churned up, then Lester hops on his tractor and does a couple of turns over the ground, and then hey presto! Bung in some seeds and veggies here we come!
Sound a bit too hopeful? You are probably right!
But I digress. The other rascals....
It's Lissie and her daughter Bonny. Now the two of them were put out onto the new paddocks. On the same day. In separate paddocks. They are not allowed to stay together because Bons will drink her mum dry, plus she chews the nipples on her mum's udders to pieces, which could damage Lissie in the future, and makes milking difficult for Lester.
But Bons had a thirst. And Lissie's maternal instinct rose to the surface. Through the temporary gate separating the paddocks she barged. Bons on udder. Udder completely emptied. No milking for Lester to do tonight.
And our cherry trees in blossom. I had a go at preserving them in the canner last year. Wow, what a success that was. Will defo do that again this year.

Our nearest neighbour out back, to remind me how precious a thing it is to be able to yell one's head off and for there not to be anyone close enough to hear.
After years of living with neighbours who shared the same wall as us
(one side of the wall ours, the other side of the wall theirs)
it is bliss.
Off to do things,
or perhaps not.
Might just pop off into bed,
so good night to you,
or good morning,
or good afternoon,
depending on your time of day at this precise time!

Saturday 5 April 2014

My puff is gone

 I seem to have run out of puff this week. I should have been getting the kitchen emptied out so that work can start on getting the electrics sorted out prior to the cookers being installed next week, because when the kitchen was wired in the first place the kitchen plan was entirely different to what it has turned out to be.

For a start, I never thought I would have a Rayburn wood burning stove, but we have. Delivered from the UK, it has stood in the middle of the hall for the last five months.

It's position has been endlessly talked about. How to put the chimney and water pipes in has been endlessly talked about. But the wood has been delivered.

So it is all systems go. Or not, when it comes to the question as to where is my puff. Because I seem to have had a lethargy come upon me, which is not exactly convenient at this time. The electrician comes in on Monday and I still have 30% of the kitchen still to clear. And I seem to have come to a halt. But Lester is trundling on, and has got the potatoes planted, and some seeds done. He has also been hard at work filling in some of the holes in walls of the kitchen.

....and the chickens and Muscovy boys (who have taken to trying to mate with the cockerels) hiding out in the wilderness of the small veg plot, which has been left to go wild because it is to be the eventual chicken run.

....and the rotti girls having a romp in the hay....

....and Lester having problems with Lissie, who was intent on having a munch on the bay hedge but Lester said she wasn't allowed because she was giving him hassle and was not being a good girl. (Please note the rounded tummy of Lissie. Calf arrives hopefully in about three months time)

.... and sharing with you a sunny moment from down here in SW France. Hope you have a good weekend, and hope your mojo is functioning better than mine.