Monday, November 23, 2015


I told you in my last post that I had combined two hives and in the process started a lot of robbing.  And these robbers were relentless. 

It's normal to see a lot of action in the front of the hives and around the entrances.  

It is NOT normal to see action all around a hive, under the hive, around the back, with bees trying to get in the seams, and bees fighting and dropping off the hive in clusters.   That's robbing behavior. 

The robbers will strip all the stores from a hive in no time flat and kill an entire hive as well.  I knew that the worst of the robbers were other honeybees, joined with a few yellow jackets and some giant bumblebees.  I just didn't know if the bees were from one of my other hives or from a feral hive or a neighbor's hive.

First rule of robbing:  Stop It Now!

What to do?   There are several options:
  • robber screens
  • wet blanket over entire hive
  • set out feeder 100-200 yds away from the hives to lure robbers away
  • close up hives completely
  • open up all hives so that robbers go back home to defend
  • something even more drastic if you can think of it.
I had already put robber screens on the hives as soon as we had our first hard frost and the winter dearth started. They didn't seem to be making much difference.

I put out a feeder but that had minimal effect.

I tried wet blankets and that didn't work.  The robbers went under.

I didn't want to open all the hives, because it looked like all the hives were getting robbed and that meant the robbers were mostly likely coming from another area and not my bees robbing each other.

The guys on Beemaster bee forums said to do something even more drastic, so I turned the hose on the bee yard and hosed all the hives down.

It worked.

Then I suited up completely including gloves and screened off all three hives. 

The next morning, the hives were covered with bees again and I knew for sure they were coming from outside my yard.   I left the hives completely closed with screens for a couple of days until the robbers didn't come back, and then I took the screens off late one evening so my bees could have a bathroom break and get back in without having to worry about robbing.   Robbers go home at dusk.  

Note:  Bees HATE flashlights, so if you go out and must use a flashlight around the hives, make sure you suit up completely.   I was paranoid and insisted we suit up, and boy, were we glad we did.

A couple weeks later, I put sugar and quilt boxes on all the hives.  I reduced the combined hive to a single box as fast as I could and using hive cloths to keep things covered as I worked.  By the time I was done another robbing frenzy had started and I got the hose out and took care of it.

This time the robbing was mostly centered on the combined hive, so I closed that hive up completely with screens and left the other two alone with their robber screens on. 

If there are robbers in a hive when you close it up, within three days, they either fight to the death or are forced to join the hive. If there are a lot of robbers and they join the hive, you've effectively increased the size of that hive, which would be a good thing in my case.    So I left it closed for three days.  

Things are calm now.   All hives have robber screens, extra sugar and quilt boxes on for the winter.

Let's hope they'll make it through til spring.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fall Bees

It was a busy fall around the bee yard the past couple of months.   Two of the hives decided to requeen in late August - one of the Russians and one of the nucs.   

The Russian hive produced 27 queen cells, which we tried to make nucs with and failed, but the cell we left in the hive produced a fabulous queen and that hive is doing very nicely now.   We're overwintering it in two boxes.  

The other Russian hive is doing fine and will winter in a single box.  

The nuc with the new queen never got very big and so I decided to combine it with what had been a much stronger hive.  Unfortunately, the combine was slow because you have to find one of the queens to take her out.   I had decided to keep the new queen and it took for freaking ever to find the other.   By the time I finished the combine, there was wholesale robbing.   By the time I got the robbing under control, there were not enough stores to warrant two boxes over the winter, so I reduced them down to a single box.   Which started more robbing, which I'll talk about in the next post. 

At any rate, I'm going into winter with 3 hives this year.   I am hopeful that the two Russian hives will do OK.   The other hive is very different in demeanor and I'd be thrilled if they made it through at all, but I confess I won't be surprised if they don't. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Classes for 2016

Thanks to everyone who came out to this year's Bloomington Spinners and Weavers Guild show in Bloomington.   We spent many happy hours talking to wonderful and creative people about all sorts of projects.   Thank you for coming and for sharing your creativity.

I heard several requests for classes for next year and since I hadn't made any decisions, I thought I'd open the topic up for discussion on the blog for a few weeks and find out what you were most especially interested in.

Please take a moment and tell us what you're thinking.

The classes I want to offer are full-service type classes.   Everything is provided, all you have to do is get yourself here.  We live in Greene County Indiana -  25 minutes southwest of Bloomington, Indiana.   20 minutes northeast of Bloomfield, Indiana.   1 1/2 hours southeast of Terre Haute, Indiana.   1 1/2 hours south of Indianapolis.  2 hours north of Louisville, Kentucky.

Each class would be limited in size to 4 or 5 people max, so you'd be getting a lot of individualized attention.   Each class would include hands on experience and a goody bag to take home.  Everything is provided - all you have to bring is yourself.   Full day classes would include home made lunch and a walk along the paths through our woods and fields, if you like.

Thanks for taking the time to help us focus our classes for 2016. Please click on as many things as you are interested in.

What kinds of classes would you be willing to come here to take?  
Half or Full day?  
Day of week?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Artisan Guilds of Bloomington Show


It's almost time!   We're so excited for this year's Artisan Guilds of Bloomington holiday sale.   Three of the best guilds in the midwest gathered in one location for all of your holiday shopping needs.   Come see our astounding collection of fiber art, pottery and glass art.   Meet the artists, listen to local musicians and taste some great treats.  

2015 Bloomington Spinners and Weavers Guild Show
Friday, November 6,    4pm - 9pm
Saturday, November 7,  9am - 5pm 
Downtown Bloomington, Indiana - Corner of College Ave. and 3rd St.
Free Parking!

Fiber:  Downstairs to the left
Glass: Downstairs to the right
Pottery: Upstairs

Look for my booth in the left hand room of the fiber guild area.   I have some new designs in scarves this year - look for the packed-warp bamboo scarves.  So beautiful!    

We look forward to seeing you!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Another Rural Sonnet

It's been a while since I've posted rural poetry. Lately we've been cleaning a lot.

A lot.

And let me tell you this place is dirty.

Really dirty.

But I'm sure that has nothing to do with why we don't get much company.   Nothing at all. 

Or why, perhaps, we don't invite people over very often.    Nothing at all. 


Rural sonnet number whatever....

Ode to a Dirty House

Accumulated dirt from twenty years
And more, of living on a gravel road—
[A rolling cloud of dust likely appears
When every auto, bike, dog, cat or toad
Goes by when things dry out]—At any rate,
That dirt fills every pore of this old house.
It covers everything. Our real estate
Will soon be mostly in than out. I grouse
Each time I clean the tops of shelves unseen
For years. Each surface traps and glues right down
Vast swaths of gritty, grimy, anti-sheen.
The cobwebs make it worse because they’re brown
With gunk. I’d keep ahead of all that grime
But I’d be doing housework ALL the time.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Claire's Door

This is Claire's door.   It used to be the original front door of the house.    That is the original rim lock and door handle and the original half mortise hinges.   They were in pretty rough shape so we cleaned them up and spray painted them plain black.

Look carefully.  This door is crooked on every side.

Every.  Single.  One.

Were they drunk??

It's got such a great story that we decided to just run with it.   When the final trim goes up some of the uneven-ness won't show so much.

The bigger issue is that this is a bedroom door with a big glass panel.   Claire is still deciding whether to go for a heavy curtain, paint, wood/metal insert, contact paper, or something else to cover it up.

I voted for a heavy curtain on the inside with the old fashioned gold and black lettering on the outside glass, like this:

Claire's not so big on the idea, but I love it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Door Trim

This is the door trim we are putting around the doors in the bedrooms upstairs.  Lily's door.  I love the craftsman styling.  

We decided to do transoms above the doors because:
a.  The doors don't match.
b.  The doors are all different heights.
c.  The doors all have stories [code for: some of them are looking pretty rough in places] and the transoms will tie them together nicely.
d.  It was all a good excuse to do it.

I'll do a post as we get closer to doing the transoms.   I got the hardware [not on there yet] from House of Antique Hardware during a 25% off sale this summer.   It's the only way I could rationalize it.   Eric will be building the transoms from scratch.

The trim is poplar.   We did 2 coats of Red Chestnut stain and 6-8 coats of amber shellac after that with a couple sandings with 220 grit after every 2-3 coats of shellac. I stopped when the look and feel was right. 

The trim goes fabulously with the doors.

Here's Claire's door trim.

Please notice that my kids are not afraid of color.  At.  All.   They chose their own colors and when they get tired of it, paint is cheap and painting is easy.   We'll change it if we ever have to.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Thai Basil

I planted some Thai basil this year because I had gotten some seed I-don't-know-why and I generally plant whatever I have seed for. 

It's a small and very sweet smelling basil.   And it blooms like crazy.   All. Summer. Long.   

We think it's OK, but prefer the Genovese style basil.

The bees, on the other hand,  love it.   Love. It.

I'll be planting rows and rows of it again just for them.  

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Weatherproofing the New Construction

We've been weatherproofing the new construction.   

It's been interesting.

Last winter, we kept the cold out because the basic integrity of the old structure had been maintained and the new construction was over and around it.  

This year, however, we cut a giant hole in the ceiling so we could have inside stairs.   Those stairs had to go from the existing [and very short, 7' tall] 1st story ceiling, up through the space where old roof used to be, past where the new 2nd story floor is and up into the new 2nd story.  

See that pic at the top?   All that plywood on the sides of the stairwell is new wall where open air used to be between the old construction and new.   That air is still open in places to the great outdoors.   Also, there is about 12 inches between the new walls and the old walls.   You can see how thick that section is at the top of the pic next to the wall.  

Eric closed it all in and stuffed it full of batt insulation for now.    He sealed every seam with spray foam. 

Spray foam drips are oh, so elegant.  [Maybe I ought to spray them with glitter and call it holiday decorations?]

Another issue was that two rooms upstairs still have no drywall and are open into the roof.

These pieces of plastic are folded around each other in the middle so you can still get in and out, but air transfer is limited.   That will keep us fine until we have a chance to drywall those rooms or close off the ceilings and then install the roofing insulation.

The last big issue is two large window openings waiting for the last of the big windows to go into.   For now, those are closed up with insulation board.  

In addition, we need to install the duct-work from the furnace to the 2nd floor.  

We had our first real cold snap last week.   With some judiciously placed space heaters and fans to move the warm around, things stayed very comfortable.   With every new task done, things will get better.  

Our fall weather is reasonably mild but cooling through November.   By Thanksgiving we should have the duct-work in,  windows in, last two ceilings closed up, roofing insulation in and some of the other exterior openings-to-old-roof buttoned up as well.    I'm praying for a very mild fall and a lot of dry weekend weather.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Stropharia Experiment

Earlier this year I saw a video of Paul Stamet talking about mushrooms and bees.   Apparently there is evidence that bees use certain mushrooms such as Stropharia as a tonic against viruses, etc and bees fed a solution from those mushrooms were healthier than those not.  

It's easy to find Stropharia [AKA Wine Cap or King Stropharia] spawn on the net from places like Magnificent Mushrooms in Paoli, Indiana so I availed myself of the opportunity and got a bunch.
It's not cheap.  I got 4 bags and spent around $100 including shipping but bees are even more expensive than that, so I figured that if this stuff helped save just one hive, then it was worth it.

Plus, these are edible.

Plus, it's fun to try out new stuff.

Plus, it was a great use of the mountain of wood chips we had from taking down some trees in January.  

So I got the spawn and planted/spread it exactly like they recommended under an apple tree and behind the chicken coop and then watered it for a few weeks, then neglected it.

And lo and behold a forest of mushrooms was discovered under the apple tree
last week!

We have been so busy that we missed the first flush, but we were able to pick a couple gallons of them even so.   They are delicious!

We have not seen any bees on them yet this year, but I plan on spreading them around and eventually the bees will find them.   In the meantime, we love them.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


This is Eric in his natural habitat.    And he smiled for the camera, so woo-hoo!

Please note that he is in Claire's closet in front of the wall that used to be the door that we got in and out of the upstairs through.

Note that it is a wall now.     That is signficant.

But first a little back story.

This is the back of the house.   That short addition used to be a porch, later enclosed, but not actually put on a foundation. It is slated for demolition, which will be a very happy day. [We'll put on a similar addition, only a bit bigger and it will actually have a foundation under it.   The new kitchen and pantry and mudroom will be in there eventually.]

At the peak of the roof you can see the Typar 'door' where we've been getting in and out of the upstairs addition for the last year.

We've been climbing up this ladder to the roof over the back room and then up to the peak, then in and out of the wall inside Claire's closet.

I know, right?     So.     Elegant.

Seriously.    Call the Country Living people because they'll surely want to know all about us.   [Is it possible to get one's eyes stuck in the back of one's head by rolling them too hard?]

Mostly I just pretended that it was perfectly normal and that everyone goes upstairs via the great outdoors, a ladder, and a closet wall.

You know.   For a year.

But all good things must come to an end and our ladder climbing days are over for now.


We Have an INSIDE Stairway.

This is a temporary arrangement for now that will allow us to finish the upstairs and live up there as needed until we can finish the re-do of the downstairs, which will be a total remodel down to the last nail.    The final stairs will be in this general area but that's it.  The final design is very different.


As you can see, it is very steep [I come down backward like a ladder] but it is plenty wide enough to get furniture up and down on.

Which is important because the girls rooms are just about done and there is mega furniture moving in the near future!  Yay!

Also, it's just about winter.  Which brings up the question of how to winterize a partially finished upstairs with some interesting structural irregularities between floors.    I'll get to that in a post next week.   Stay tuned. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Weaving, Weaving, Weaving...

The Bloomington Artisan Guilds show is coming up quickly.   Mark your calendars for Friday, Nov 6, 2015 from 4pm - 9pm  and Saturday, Nov 7 from 9am - 5pm at the Bloomington Convention Center on College Ave in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.   The weaving, glass and pottery guilds have joined together to create one fabulous show of the area's best fine craft.  

In preparation, I have been weaving, weaving, weaving to get ready.  

New this year:   Handwoven white alpaca shawls and fine black mohair shawls, both with glittery trim.   Also a new line of luscious bamboo and silk scarves in beautiful hand dyed colors. 

You'll find my hand-dyed yarns in silk, rayon, superwash/tencel, bamboo and a new line of organically grown cotton.   I'll have some rovings and ribbons as well.   Look for my two new colorways - Blue Peacock and Red Oak.

In addition, I'll have my regular lines of hand painted silk scarves, handwoven washcloth/soap sets and a glorious array of other weavings.

Please stop by and see us!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Busy Bees

A quick look at our very busy beehives.    Blow the pic up for a better look at how many bees there were.   It's goldenrod flow time and the bee yard smells very strongly of goldenrod honey. 

Not much honey overall this year, but lots of bees.   Each colony needs lots of bees in the fall cluster to keep things warm until spring.  Every time I open a box and see it full of bees instead of just a few frames of bees, I am very, very happy. 

The hive with the yellow super seems to have quite a bit of honey in it.   Maybe the long hive with the orange super, too.  They get to keep their honey this year.    I'll take the empty supers off the hives next month and put candy on the hives..   That way everyone has plenty of feed for the winter.   Just in case.

Friday, September 25, 2015

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