Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

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A Week in the Life of a Beekeeper

Tuesday, October 24th - In the morning I had a meeting with a nearby beekeeper, a pastor from Uganda, and a local pastor who is trying to work with the Ugandan. The meeting was about beekeeping, as you might guess. They had gotten in contact with this local beekeeper Stan (like most beekeepers, an older fellow), who had invited me to the meeting since he knew I'd been involved in beekeeping projects in Uganda. I enjoyed the meeting, during which Stan and I gave the other two a lot of advice about beekeeping and resolved to keep in touch. Afterwards Stan and I continued to talk for about another hour -- I had only first met him at the meeting the preceding Friday so it was nice getting to know him. I rather think we got along quite well.

   Immediately after arriving home on this nice warm sunny afternoon I decided to walk to the general store to get some fresh sausages for dinner (see also, fridge is broken due to the ongoing electronics curse upon me), but crossing the street I saw my across-the-street neighbor Trevor and decided to ask him if he'd assembled that beehive he had gotten, since I'm getting many swarm calls these days and will bring him one if his hive is ready. He said it wasn't but "hey let's assemble it right now!" and next thing I know we're in his garage trying to figure out how to assemble his "flow hive." This was the first time I've actually had one of the vaunted "flow hives" in front of me and you know what, it's a LOT more complicated to assemble than a normal hive!!
   I was feeling a bit like the LAST thing I want to do when I get home from work is assemble a beehive but we were having quality neighborly bonding time I suppose. Trevor is semi retired, he still commutes by the train into Melbourne [?] days a week to his business there. He's a jolly sort of shortish yet rotund man who always seems to have a glowing smile. At some point when he was out of earshot his kindly wife confided in me that "I'm glad you're here he's not actually very good with tools" and I had to laugh and note that I 'm not either!!
   But I really can't complain because I did enjoy spending time with them and then they invited me to partake in their delicious dinner, which was surely better than anything I was about to make.

My front walk these days

Wednesday, October 25th - See last entry (fire brigade meeting in the evening).

Thursday, October 26th - As I'm leaving the house to head to work there's a guy standing next to a ride on lawnmower in front of my next door neighbor's house. The neighbor has had people in and out doing various things at every day for awhile, apparently in a hurry to get it all in prime condition to sell in two weeks or something, so I asked the guy if he was a lawnmower man because my lawnmower man stopped calling me after I was gone for so many weeks this winter. Well it turns out it WAS my neighbor ("Stretch") whom I've only met once before and didn't recognize. Awkward. On the plus side he readily agreed to mow my lawn, for free even! Probably because my lawn had become an eyesore ::shameful look::

   Thursday at work I was busy placing empty beehives where I wanted them in preparation for the fifty "packages" of bees I'd be getting Sunday! But since I'd be working Sunday I'd be taking Friday off which meant that this, Thursday evening, was actually my "Friday!"

Friday, October 27th - As I was enjoying a nice slow "saturday morning" this Frday, Joe, who runs my favorite cafe in the nearby town of Winchelsea, called me to ask my advise on removing a beehive that was in the old vicar's house by the Anglican church here in Birregurra. The Anglican church looks like a medieval castle tower, and is probably about 200 meters from my house, so I volunteered to come over there and advise him in person. It was a beautiful sunny Spring day and I hadn't much left the house all day (though I'd had the front and back door open and spent some time on the old couch on my pack porch, lest you think I'd completely neglected to partake of fresh air.
   It was early evening when Joe came by to begin the bee removal operation. He said "oh, I'm just doing it for fun, you can do it and have the bees if you want," and I had to laugh because I do NOT remove bees from walls for fun on my day off!!
   The bees were in the eaves above the second floor, fairly high up. He had a ladder that wasn't tall enough, and a pretty sturdy scaffold thing, so he set up the ladder on the scaffold, which I had to remark I'm pretty sure Workplace Health and Safety would not approve of!! It was fairly sturdy but being up there kind of reminded me of being in the rigging of a tallship. He only had the one beesuit, all my stuff was at work, so I kept my distance and let him do all the hands on stuff, though the bees really never got angry. His wife came by with their young kids in the car, to bring us something or other we needed. We were at it until it was thoroughly dark, around 9pm. Brood comb had been transferred to frames in an empty beehive, which we placed on top of the scaffold (I'd have liked to have it closer to the former location of the colony but this was the best we could do), with the idea that the bees would hopefully come to regard that as their home and regroup there overnight.

Current view out my kitchen window, featuring my pet basil plant Theodora

Saturday, October 28th - Spent the earlier part of the day once again luxuriating in the wonderful weather. Checked on the bees and they appeared to have not moved into the hive. I called Joe and advised him to come back with a box and some wasp spray, brush the bees into a box and thence into the beehive, wasp spray their former location so they can't return to it (bees won't fly into a space that's been poisoned). Was secretly glad it wasn't my responsibilty in this case to keep coming back to sort out these bees.
   My friends were having a halloween party in the evening and I had no costume so I made the drive into town (Geelong) to look for costumes. It's usually a forty minute drive but my car was so low on gas I first went the wrong direction about ten minutes to the nearest gas station in the small town of Colac. I absolutely loathe, abhor and hate shopping and after about ten minutes at the first costume place I went I had utterly had my fill and resolved just to be Alex, the protagonist from Clockwork Orange, yet again, since I have all the stuff, save a costume cane which I did purchase.

   Returned home and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. Well tried to work on the onerous reports I now need to write for the projects abroad I did this year. Then half an hour before I needed to depart for the halloween party I went to get dressed and couldn't find the white collared shirt I needed for the costume ANYWHERE. I know I definitely have a white collared shirt but I frantically looekd everywhere and made a thorough mess of my room as I turned everything topsy turvy looking in even the most unlikely places. Quick googling revealed I could still get to the K-Mart in Geelong ten minutes before it closed, with a battle cry of "AUGH I HATE HALLOWEEN!!" I jumped in the car and I was off!

   Now, I don't really hate halloween. I do hate shopping though and when I don't have a costume idea I'm really excited about and prepared for I find it quite a chore to come up with something. Halloween seems to be just beginning to become pervasive in Australia, with many Australians grumbling about "this American holiday that's taking over," and I think people expect me to be wildly excited about it just because I'm American. Yeah nah mate. It's alright I guess, and you can bet I loved it when I was a kid and had heaps of candy to look forward to, but these days putting on a costume doesn't really overly excite me.
   Halloween party was kind of smallish but all my core group of friends were there which was fun since we haven't all been in one place in a long time. Trent, our awkward friend who as far as any of us knew was still in the UK where he's been since February or so, made a surprise appearance! In a scream mask so we didn't even know who it was at first. He fractured his ankle playing some mysterious game called "Netball" which apparently is neither volleyball nor basketball, so was sent back to recover.
   I observed that even me halloween-enthusiastic friends who had put on this party had no idea what candy corn was. I was like "wait where's the candy corn??" and they were like "the what??"
   And then they brought out "jelly shots," which sounded to me like a rather unappetizing cousin to jello shots that involved like strawberry jam or something, but it turns out Australians call jello jelly ::shakes head::, and all candy is "lollies," apparently, even if it in no way resembles a lollypop!
   Also despite the reputation of Australians, at this party, like nearly every single other Australian party I've been to, nearly everyone had just a drink or two and was sober enough to drive home in the end. I found found there is _significantly_ less drinking at parties here. From my experience in the States people aren't drinking and driving either but between uber and talking a friend into being a DD usually MOST people contrive a way to drink a fair bit at parties.

Sunday, October 29th - Had to drive 200 kilometers to a town called Pakenham on the far side of Melbourne. In the past I've taken the very across the bottom of the bay even though that costs $65 each way (!!) because I find the part of the drive through the middle of Melbourne really miserable. That's on city streets with traffic and signals and cars parked along the side of the road and pulling out in front of you and bizarre street signs and trams in the middle of the road. Anyway I survived Melbourne alright. As you can kinda see from the grid of roads the urban environment extends really far on the east side of Melbourne but eventually one gets back into countryside and then you're at the town of Pakenham!
   I stopped for lunch at a cafe in town, sitting outside because it was another nice day. At the table next to me sat an older couple and their 20s-ish daughter and her boyfriend and the family was talking about halloween, and what it was all about, and I couldn't hear everything but I heard the word "american" numerous times in exasperated tones, and gathered that the parental units had resignedly decided to buy "lollies" just in case kids came by trick or treating.

   William the "Bunyip Beekeper" had a facility just on the edge of town. While he was bringing bee packages over to my pickup truck ("ute") I asked him if flow hives (the big thing last year) were maintaining their momentum and he said nah everyone is buying normal hives this year.

   Drove the 200km back to the home farm uneventfully. Was able to unload and install about half the packages before storm clouds swept in, with it beginning to rain just as I finished the last hives I was putting in this location. Since the other location is an hour from there I decided to call it a night. Usually the work truck stays on the farm but I didn't want to leave these bees out in the cold overnight. Had a quick dinner at the very good nearby Moriac Pub, which sits alone in the countryside, in a manner that would be picturesque except the freeway runs right in front of it. The freeway here is only four lanes and only at most two or three cars are even in sight on it at any given time, if any at all, but the giant band of asphalt is inevitably a bit of an eyesore for a picturesque location in the middle of the countryside.
   I have a garage it turns out the work truck fits in, though I had never bothered to put a vehicle within it before, but it turned out to be a stormy night with heavy rain so I'm very glad I w as able to stow the bees in there.

Monday, October 30th - The day before I had asked Joe, when talking to him about the bees in the vicarage again, if he'd like to come with me as I installed package bees and he said he'd love to! So this morning he came to my place (he also lives in Birregurra), and off we went! "Shaking" package bees can be kind of fun, since you literally shake the bees out of the cage into the beehives. These beehives were on some properties in the thick stringybark forests west of Birregurra so we had a pleasant morning of it. [a set of them pictured here with a scare crow in the background because everything here is storybook quaint ;) ] We talked of many things, including comparing and contrasting the sausages from the butcher's shop beside his cafe to those a local guy sells in the Birregurra general store, which I remark upon because it just felt so quaint and country -- in suburban California you would never know who was making your sausages personally and what they were doing differently.
   Returning to Birregurra around lunch tim we swung by the vicarage and upon inspection I discovered the gosh darn bees hadn't moved into the provided hive box because they had more comb under the roof! Since we didn't have the tools and equipment to cut into her tin sheeted roof we resolved to declare that we'd given it our best but could not finish the job. The resident will be having more extensive work done on the house in a few months with professionally assembled scaffolds all around it so we might have at what remains of the bee colony at that time (though, I'll do a lot of things for free for my neighbors, including assist Joe at a bee removal if he takes the lead, but I won't do a major bee removal project from under a roof for free myself!)
   Had lunch at home and then returned to the main farm to do other stuff. The weather had been alright in the morning, not really warm and sunny but just a bit cool. Moments after a bid Joe adieu in front of my house though it began hailing and it's been cold and wet every since Meant to knock off early since I worked late Sunday but it wasn't until today (Wesdnesday) that I finally found the time to do so.

Tuesay, October 31st - Did stuff at work. After work I swung by the house of an old woman who lives near the farm because she had called me describing what sounded like bees living in her wall, though she thought it was just a swarm ("but the bees only appear when it's sunny"). Ii was pretty sure it wasn't a swarm and I'm not keen on removals but it wasn't far out of my way so I thought I'd see what was going on over there. It turns out she had had a colony there last year that was exterminated, so this looked more likely to be just bees that wanted to get to the honey that was sealed inside. I was bit annoyed at her insistence that the bees couldn't have had time to make honey inside because, she insisted, she had definitely caught them immediately. Despite this being on the back side of the house and small amounts of bee activity usually go unnoticed for months she was quite adamant ::rolls eyes:: Also despite that I was voluntarily taking time out of my life to tell her what in my professional experience her bee problem was she didn't seem terribly grateful.

   From there I proceeded to trivia in Geelong town, mainly because I thought with Trent's return all my friends would be there again -- I had stopped going partly because while many people I know go none of my closest friends have been going regularly ... and the other reason being that all their god damn questions are pop culture questions. Well it turns out Trent didn't go, his mom had forbade him... he's like 26! ::sigh:: And everyone was in costume because it was Halloween ::grumbles, grinch like::

Tags: beekeeping, birregurra

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