Man in Charge,
You truly are the best.
My life would not be what it is without you.
I appreciate everything you do for me.
It has recently dawned on me that most of my hobbies aren't very relaxing. They are quite the opposite. Gardening in black soil, well, do I need to say more? Hauling hay, mucking stalls, and grabbing 50lb bags of feed for the horses...so soothing. Killing snakes, trapping skunks and possums, plus all their other shenanigans make chicken wrangling feel like a day at the spa. The bees, well the bees are taking over and wearing me out.
The pressure is on!
It is okay.
I like a challenge.
I can do amazing things when under great amounts of pressure.
It makes me feel alive.
Know what I mean?
Let me tell you how alive we were feeling last night...
The bees have been going gang-busters. I am doing the best I can to keep up with box building and managing them. I am fighting two hives from swarming, as we speak. I have done splits. I have added brood from strong hives to smaller hives. I have been working. Not to exclude anyone, I have had my Full-Timer back on duty. She left for a bit, but has returned, and has given herself over to be used-and-abused exclusively for about three weeks.
I only have one week left...ugh!
My Full-Timer has been with me every step of the way. She has two hives of her own to manage this year, and she is doing well. She has even been stung and has managed to survive, so far. Most of the time, she doesn't ask a lot of questions, she is just on-the-ready to do what I need. Last night was one of those occasions.
We headed out to work the hives down the road. These are the newest hives, and they are located on some property with a small herd of cows. We had been out there earlier in the day to add a little room to our apiary. We also needed to do some weed-eating. Driving a t-post in the ground and running a weed-eater around three bustling hives are two chores that will get your adrenaline going. I have never weed-eated so fast in my life, but this was only round one of feeling alive.
Again I ask, "Is it weed-eated or weed-ate?"
Sorry, but this is an ongoing discussion in our home.
We managed to get everything taken care of, but while we were out there we noticed that one of the lids on a hive had blown off in the storm. I say that, but I am still not convinced that a cow has not been messing with it. I believe it is what cows do...
Mess with things.
So, noticing that we may have had a hive get wet, we made a plan to go back out there yesterday evening and work those hives. We finished all our other chores, got a hall-pass from the Man in Charge for cooking dinner, and headed out. We had our gear, plus extra items for this trip. We managed to grab a couple of extra supers and some queen excluders. Upon arriving, we always park a distance away from the hives. I do this because I don't like driving home with bees in my truck.
Yes, that has happened on more than one occasion.
We jump out and start to gear up. We had a few things on the tail-gate of the truck, and we had other items in the back seat. We lit the smoker, and proceeded to go to work. We worked the hive with the missing lid first to make sure they were okay. Good news! They seemed great. We even managed to get a queen excluder on that hive and we have one super of honey. We moved on to the next big hive. This hive is trying to swarm on me. It was crazy. The amount of bees...staggering. We had this whole hive pulled apart and we were trying to remove some of the frames to add to a smaller hive when two things happened:
1. My Full-Timer grabbed a handful of bees somehow and smashed them. They all sunk their stingers into her glove. She knew she had been stung, and was trying to deal with that and keep working.
2. The bull decided to come check us out.
Can I just preface this with the fact that I have a thing for bulls. I love them. I love seeing them. I love watching them. I want one of them.
I have a secret ambition to raise bucking bulls.
Shh...don't tell anyone.
I even have a t-shirt and a sweatshirt that reference bulls.
Love 'em...Just not while I have a huge hive of bees open.
About the time we realize the bull is checking us out, we also realize that we need a super from the truck. The super is in the truck, in the back seat. As we are discussing this, the bull decides that the truck is way more interesting than we are. He then proceeds to start giving it the once over. He started at the tail-gate, which was open. He was most interested in the scraps of hay still in the bed from hauling hay for the horses earlier in the day. He then proceeded to nose around my bee tool bag. As if that weren't entertaining enough, he started putting his head under the tail-gate and raising it up and then letting it drop back down. Each time it dropped, it scared him and he jumped away. Not to be intimidated for long, and do it all over again.
Now, as I mentioned, I had a hive of bees open, and I was actively looking for a queen. I say looking, and I use the term loosely because I have spent the last three weeks not being able to see. I am in the process of trying some multi-focal contact lenses so that I can work my bees without having to use my reading glasses. It stinks getting older. My eyes have to learn to see with these contacts, and apparently, they don't want to. We have tried three different prescriptions and no luck. So, most of the time, I can't see. Due to this side affect, I have been counting heavily on my Full-timer to see for me. Well, let's just say that she had her own issues at this very moment. For one, her hand was stinging and she couldn't do anything about it. The other, there was a bull on the other side of some fencing panels, giving our ride home the once over.
As I realized that I needed the super that was in my truck, on the other side of the bull, the bull decided to play a new game. He started putting his head under the side of my truck and scratching and rubbing on it. Then he nosed all over my side mirrors. He finally made it to the passenger side, where he pushed the side mirror all the way in. Then he ended up back at the tail-gate, playing that game again. I started moving frames to a super that would end up on the top of this hive. Then I finished working the hive through to the bottom. I found no queen. My Full-timer was not even trying to look for her. She was busy giving me a play-by-play on the bull. I managed to put the hive back together, but knew I had to get to the truck. I had to get these frames out of this hive.
I need that super, dammit!
Right, wrong, or indifferent, I started looking for something to throw at the big lug. I found a few sticks and hurled one at him. He jumped back a little, and then squared off with me tossing his head around.
I just stared at him for a moment.
He decided to move to the other side of the bed of my truck.
I looked at my Full-timer and asked, "Think I can make it?"
I don't recall her answering as I made a run for it. I am not sure what I would have done if he had decided to make a run for me. Possibly I would have hurdled the side of the truck and jumped in the bed? Possibly we would have made a few laps around it until I could jump in? Possibly I would have tried out a few of my bull-fighting moves? All I know, he didn't make a move for me, and once I hit the door and jumped in, I laid on the horn.
It did not phase him at all.
That horn is probably code for, "Come and get it!"
So, I started the truck and turned a circle around him.
He still did not budge.
So, finally acknowledging where I rank in the pasture, I just parked my truck right up next to my little fenced in area. I was able to hop out with what I needed and I felt confident that we could get back in if he didn't leave. The bull just stood there for a while. He considered playing his tail-gate game again, but finally bored with it and moved on up the hill.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
At some point my Full-timer had removed her glove and was doing her best to remove her stingers. The lucky thing about the glove was that it took the brunt of the stingers and she was only left with the tips. We still had one hive to work. It was the smaller of the three, and we were going to transfer the frames we had pulled from the larger one over. It took longer than we had hoped and we were running out of daylight. Not to mention it was very still and very muggy out. We were both suffering in all of our gear.
The small herd of cows had to come by on their way up the hill. I guess since the big guy had checked us out, they felt safe doing the same thing. Before I knew it, I had about five small cows around my truck. I felt lucky that it had survived the bull without getting dented or damaged, so we ran those cows off pretty quick. They did not have the fortitude of the bull, and went away easily. My Full-timer confessed that she would have happily camped out there all night with the bees instead of going rounds with the bull. I was not so willing. I looked forward to counting my blessings and a long hot bath.
I think I have a new theme song...
P.S. - This is the full-timer speaking and I just wanted to tell you my side of the story so that you get the full scoop. Yes, I saw the bull coming, and yes, I was giving a play-by-play of all his actions. He kept nosing around the bumper, he started to bump the side boards with his head, and I could tell he was scratching on the mirrors.
Now, how many of you have ever been up close and personal with a bull (aka 2,000 pounds of I ain't kidding.)? That is not a spot that I ever want to be in again. What the woman isn't telling you, is that I was freaking out once that bull came around, and I wasn't paying even a little bit of attention to bees - that's how I got stung 8 times on the same finger. And when she squared off with him I was really thinking, "Oh. My. Goodness. We are gonna die. If that bull even starts coming this way - I'm bailing into the next pasture, and I'll catch somebody at the road to call for help. See ya!" She was all off in LaLaLa Bee Land, and I was trying to calculate how fast and how long I could run before I got to something that would protect me or I got launched into the air.
And the whole time, she was still working bees - like nothing was going on and it was a bright and sun-shiny day. So of course, I was on bull-watch, she was on the Queen lookout (unsuccessfully. because she can't see shit) and we were getting in each other's way because neither one of us was paying attention to the other. What does that lead to? A mother-daughter standoff over 3,000 angry bees and one territorial hunk of beef. Lovely. She was yelling about bee stuff, I don't even know what - I was a little preoccupied trying to get some of the stingers out of my hand. Somehow, the cows did finally get bored and move on, and we managed to put all the hives back together. I took a deep sigh of relief, because my fight-or-flight (mostly flight) instincts had been in overdrive. Then my mother looked at me and said, "Well that wasn't so bad, at least we got the one hive supered. Don't you think?" I just stared at her. Bees weren't even on the radar. Are you kidding me?