There are some memories which are triggered by various senses, and some senses are triggered by memories. Being on the farm is a stark example of that statement. I still smell milk when I move my belongings into the milkhouse where I stay when here at the farm. There has been no milk in this room for years and years. Even the equipment has been gone since before our generation took over the farm. The barn still smells like cows which is welcome to me. I miss the animals being in their stantions and the sounds of cows munching on hey and feed, swishing tails, and the occasional call of a heifer to her distant calf. Odd how memory works… .

Once those memories are triggered by the senses, then the senses are triggered by memories, and those senses become more acute. One can almost feel the senses sharpening. Sounds and smells suddenly fill one up and even vision is sharper. One sees movement in peripheral vision which dulls when living in the suburbs. City and suburb living tends to build ‘sense filters’. One blocks out so much, at least I do when not in the country.

But here on the farm those filters get scraped away. And the sensation is intense, but calming. Time both speeds up and slows down here. I can’t explain that, but it is what I feel when here. All that aside…

It has been relatively cool and rainy here. Over 3.5 inches in one 24 hour period according to my weather station on the roof of the milk house. Several showers since then too. This limits what I can do here as I do not wish to get stuck in a field or tear up buffer strips and grass waterways either. However, there have been some sunny, breezy periods too. During one such interval, I took a trip out to see how the bees are doing… the trip turned out to be about more than bees.

I checked the oil and coolant levels in the 585, got on and started it and took off. I noticed the battery seemed a bit weak so I probably will have to fork over the money for a new one soon. There are a lot of little things like that which are on the list, waiting for funds or time or energy to take them on. Such is farming… . I noticed the garden looks pretty good so far. The renters and I planted a fairly good sized one. I still have to get some potatoes mounded in…yet another thing to do. The blooms are off the apple tree which was totally white with them the last time I was here. Tiny apples are beginning to grow. The fields look good except for the Canadian Thistle, looks like I will be getting the shit beat out of me again this year as I mow those patches down. It is a rough ride and hard on my collapsed spine and ribs. But it needs to get done.

As I arrive at the East fence line I notice that the wild plumbs which did nothing last year have lots of fruit! I expected this as they were in full bloom a couple of weeks ago, but seeing the fruit is the proof in the pudding so to speak. And mullberries are ripening too! The wild grape along the fence line are looking pretty good as well.

Wild plums along the East fence line on the North East side of the Farm.

When I arrive at the hives, way back almost to the end of our land, I notice there is activity around the hives. I also notice that the weeds have encroached the front area. I stop the tractor and shut down. Skipping the protective gear for now, I take the phone and put it in camera mode and move slowly toward the hives. It is warm, humid and breezy and the girls should be fairly mellow, but it is wise not to assume.

The East hive has good activity at the entrance I note as I pull weeds and toss them away. A few of the ladies come over to check out this disruptive entity in their space, landing on my hand, on my pants leg, my sleeve. They check me out for a few moments while I stand still watching them, then they lose interest and fly back down to the front of the hive. I continue to pull weeds. I do the same at the West hive which has lots of activity at the entrance, more than the East hive.

Once the weeds are pulled, I go back and don the half suit. I will be pulling and inspecting each frame in each hive and that can in some cases upset them. The last few years I have not been wearing the suit, but I am less stable now, stumbling or dropping things more often, and dropping a frame would definitly get me stung… a lot. The breeze out of the East makes wearing the suit less stuffy.

Starting with the East hive, I take off the telescoping cover and note that there is most of a pollen patty still sitting on the inner cover. There are a few bees in this upper region, but not many. Taking of the inner cover I immediatly notice that the population has increased greatly since last time. There are seven of the ten frames with bees on them. Good! Now to dig in and see the internal workings….

A beautiful example of capped brood from the center of the colony.

The above photo is a bit blurry, but in this case detail is not important. It is the pattern of capped brood that looks good and is located exactly as it should be. From the bottom up, surrounded by a few empty cells which will probably be filled with honey as the season progresses. Of the ten frames in this hive, six were full or nearly full of pollen, honey, or brood, and it is mostly brood. This is good. Two of the other frames are having comb drawn on them on both sides. In another two to three weeks I will have to add another deep hive body for them to move into. Once that is full, then the small supers can go on. The supers are for honey only, whereas the deeps are for the colony to live in. Hopefully, the bees will fill the second deep with both brood and honey for the winter. If they get to that point, then the super can go on and they can start making ‘extra’ honey which we can harvest. Being they are starting from scratch, I am not expecting to harvest any honey this year, but it could happen. My original bees did well the first year and we did harvest some honey. But that is not the point or purpose of the first year. The first year is population building and readying for the coming winter. If they do those two things well, I will me very satisfied.

The West hive is even stronger than the East. Population has more than doubled since I last looked. This hive is a bit more aggressive today and I manage to get myself stung on the hand. I slow my movements and they settle down so I continue to work. I don’t much like wearing gloves. Makes me even more clumsy than I already am, so a sting now and again is expected. They don’t hurt that much anyway.

Gosh! These bees look good! I watch and record a bee hatching out of a cell for a while. I had to get moving after a few minutes and stop recording before she makes emergence, but it is really cool to see. The frames in this hive are full except for three, all of which are having comb drawn. This is a strong hive. There is some odd comb draw, but that happens now and again. There is no bridge comb that needs removal, so I leave the frames alone. It is their house after all, if they want to vary the standard design a bit, that is up to them.

A closeup showing odd comb and healthy bees….
Drone comb and some busy bees… One can see larva in some of the cells in the center-top of the photo.

I put the hive back together and sit down on it, making a recording of what I have seen on the phone. I do that every time I go out, so I have video of the hives with me making a voice reminder of what I have seen. Those videos all get stored on my server at home. If I want to know what happened when, I can simply open a web browse and watch and listen to myself describing what was going on. Pretty handy. I can come here too, but blogging is something one does later, and I might forget something that is important. So this is more just so I can ramble on and recall the highlights. And to share with anyone that might be interested of course.

Getting on the tractor, I decide to check out the raspberry patch and head that direction. A Redwing Blackbird follows along, scolding me for bringing all that noise to the neighborhood and drawing me away from its nest. There is a Flicker supporting the Redwing in this case, both staying just ahead of the tractor and yelling at me. Silly birds!

It looks like the raspberries will be fruitful this year too, and I continue on. There is a small mullberry tree on the fence line and I pull the trailer under its branches and stop. There is a plastic quart size bucket that is used to feed bees when they need it. I line it with a plastic bag, and crawl up on the trailer and start picking.


An Aside On the Trip Back: Thoughts on Harvesting…

Picking wild fruit is an exercise in mental gymnastics of sorts. One need to shut down parts of the brain and leave others to function almost in auto mode. This reminds me a lot of working in Mom and Dads strawberry fields back in the day. One needs to make oneself as comfortable as possible, whether picking from ground plants or picking from trees. Stay balanced. Get in the groove… harvesting almost always follows the same pattern. Start in close to the center of the plant and work your way out. It is easy to get distracted by obvious fruit. Don’t. It will be there when you get to it. Work along each branch/vine gently and methodically. There is no hurry. Look under each leaf and at both sides of the branch/vine. When you get to the tip of the branch/vine, look back down toward the center again to ensure you did not miss any fruit. Generally you have. Subsequently, move on to the next branch/vine.

Once one has this pattern down, one can sort of shut down, or drift off. The slowness of harvesting will diminish, and so will your impatience to get the job done. It is sort of a Zen like state which is healthy I think. Ones mind is free, body busy with redundant work, and the senses sort of take over. One start to notice interesting things in the tiny tunnel that has become the world. An insect, a four leaf clover, a bird that lands in the tree close to you. The breeze or lack thereof, the smells and sounds close by. It becomes this little world of amazing things, slow and ponderous, but interesting and calm.

One will suddenly realize that they have harvested a lot of fruit and never noticed the boredom that can come with it. One just has to ‘sync’ with the nature of the job at hand and go with it. There is no hurry, there is no time. Just this tiny little world with all sorts of interesting things in it. That is how one harvests wild (or even domestic) fruit while actually enjoying the process. Try it, it does work, and one is a lot less tired after finishing up too.

Anyway. I have things that have to get done and I have spent more time on this than I should have. I do lose track these days… Now, off to other things…