Reading Weeds, Part I: I’ll See Your Beauty And Raise You One Misery, or Vice-Versa

You may have heard of the millennial-era game, “Kill, F**k or Marry?” That (to me) distasteful phrase popped into my head the other day as I was riding by fields of green…or partial green, rather, sprinkled sometimes more than liberally with other colors. The colors of “weeds.”

Technically, I suppose, weeds are any plant growing where they aren’t wanted. The question that raises is, “Wanted for what?”

Who could object to moi???

If you’re growing hay, you abhor daisies. Kill. If you want a nice photo or a pretty bouquet, daisies are cool. F**k. And if, like me, you enjoy pondering the difference between weeds and crops, or sending love to all your friends with horrible allergies, daisies are an invitation to philosophy and empathy. Marry.

Late dustings of snow? Nope—early onslaught of daisies.

Daisies, of course, are only a convenient example; they have lots of pretty, invasive friends. Like the red-tinged sorrel in the photos above. Or buttercups.

I call this one, “Black Steed With Buttercups.”

And around here at least, even lupines want a piece of the action—you know, those tall, lovely blue numbers.

See ’em out there being tall, lovely and blue?

At the end of the day, the hay is cut, the daisies and their pretty friends die, and the allergy-sufferers close their windows and wait for September.

Well, hay there…

…leaving me to ponder the significance of something that provides more lasting nourishment in its dried-out state than alive. Damn. Farms are the philosophical gift that keeps on giving. THEM, I want to marry.

Seeing is Bee-lieving: Guest Blog by Wing Son Two

 

The Things We Do for Honey

This spring our beehive arrived, the much anticipated Kickstarted “Flow” hive that allows for low-disturbance (and low-risk) beekeeping and the ability to harvest honey from a tap. It is a beautiful wood design that was easy to set up, but one crucial piece was missing: bees.

Getting a new colony of bees is no simple process. Every colony needs one queen, and only one–a single queen can control a colony of up to 50,000 workers. What’s more, she produces a pheromone that both compels workers to care for her and stymies the development of other queen bees (they are born as female workers, the bees you see pollinating flowers). In nature, when colonies grow too large, the queen pheromone is not strong enough to effect all the drones and they will raise a new queen, and thus creating a new colony.

The queen lays upwards of 1,000 eggs a day!

When you are purchasing bees, what you generally want to get is a nucleus, or “nuc”. This is essentially a small colony: usually five frames (instead of eight or ten) filled with workers, drones, a queen, and brood. This was created by splitting an existing hive–separating a population of the hive from the queen so they allow a new one to grow.

Story time.

We bought a nuc. When I was told that I had to go pick it up, I figured I would be handed a plane ticket to North Korea, but instead was given an address in eastern Mass. It was a three hour drive, and I was told to arrive at 8am, when the bees are not yet active for the day. Okay, sure, no problem. I woke up at 5, jumped in my car and got there exactly at 8. They had a nuc waiting–a simple wooden box containing the five frames, covered with a layer of plastic mesh and a wooden lid. I was told to keep the wooden lid off so the bees would not overheat, but given no other directions. When I asked if I should put it in the trunk or backseat, the lady just shrugged. When I said that I was driving 3 hours she gave a start and frowned but still offered no guidance. There was one lone bee on the outside of the mesh–we both saw it–but since she said nothing I wasn’t going to be the pansy who asked if it was fine to have a bee loose in my car. Besides, it was just one bee.

After about ten minutes in the car, the bee left the mesh and started buzzing around the window. I figured the guy was the adventurous misfit of the hive and granted him his wish of outdoor exploration. Whoosh, out he flew. A few minutes later I glanced in the rearview and saw a bee buzzing at the back window. Hmmm…that first bee definitely was ejected, so this must be a new one. Oh well, he can just hang out back there. I took another look a couple minutes after and saw he had been joined by two other bees.

Three bees are pretty much the same as one bee in my book, nothing to be bothered about. Still, as I raced over the hills of southern New Hampshire, I could not help but keep stealing glances back. Not wanting to tear my eyes off the road for more than a second–getting in a crash with a backseat full of bees definitely would ruin a good day–I am having trouble discerning if there are now four or five bees back there. They keep buzzing around the corners of the window. After another half hour, though, it is undeniable: there are at least a dozen bees loose.

Hmmmmm…….

Well there was not a whole lot I could do about it, so I just drove a bit faster, flinching every time I hit the rumble strip because I was too distracted counting bees in my mirror. Worse yet, my fuel gauge was dangerously low and I could not shake the feeling that the obnoxiously loud low-fuel beep would be at the exact frequency that makes bees go swarming mad. By the time I was forced to pull over to get gas there were at least 40 bees buzzing at an increasingly loud and angry volume. I filled up as quick as I could, brushed off the stray explorers that had ventured up to my seat and got up to speed as quickly as I could, leaving the front windows rolled down to keep a steady blast of air holding them back.

I have no idea how many bees were loose by the time I rolled into the farm (and jumped out of my car). Maybe 60? 70? Too many. Luckily there were still hundreds more in the nuc that my cousin (wearing full bee gear) picked out of my car and deposited in our hive. Even more luckily, I did not get stung…until I was standing by watching the installation process. Then I took one on the ear and the whole side of my face swelled up like a Trump balloon-doll. But that is a small price to pay for increased farm fertility, the promise of future honey, and another chapter in my memoirs.

what do you mean we can’t harvest until next year?

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