Monday, July 14, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Part One Hundred and Six

Today, I've decided to introduce you to an artist you've never met here before, but his work is just mind-blowing.  Meet L.G. Barns of LG Potter in Missouri.

Originally of Augusta, Georgia, he's been potting since 1994, when he got his start at Augusta State University, receiving an award for Excellence in Ceramics in 1996.  He's a natural who spent several years honing his skills and it more than shows.

He ranges from the miniature to the oversized in his pieces, and he loves doing one of a kind work.

I have purchased two of his large bowls as gifts personally, one as a birthday present for my sister, the other a wedding gift for friends.  I also own a small one of his bowls myself, and it's gorgeous.   His workmanship is impeccable and highly recommend his pieces for anyone with an affinity for pottery.

His pieces are really functional too.  How cool is this fit-to-your-hand serving bowl?

Be sure to check out all his other items, and for more, follow his Facebook page.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Part One Hundred and Five

You've met lapidary John Rasmussen here before, but there's always room to show you some of the new creations in Rasmussen Gems, the shop where he and his bead-maven of a wife sell their wares.

I've always had an affinity for blue topaz... my favorite color's blue, so that's easily explained.

It's probably why I'm drawn to this necklace & earrings set too.  Then again, I do love ruby, my birthstone, and I've never seen ruby with green in it before!

Ah, who'm I kidding.  I just like color.  Lots of color.

Or not much color, for that matter.  I've got a thing for plain ol' copper.  Though I'm not sure I'd call this copper pendant "plain."

Want more?  Check out the shop or blog.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Have This Bad Habit

Procrastination.  That's standard for me.  But that's compounded by my waxing and waning excitement about things too.

If you've been reading along, you know we have bees.  I may have mentioned sometime since last summer when we first decided to get bees that we really intended to get two colonies, in two hives.  In preparation, I finished painting and sealing the Winnie the Pooh hive and started the sea life (fish) hive.

And then I stalled.  We weren't getting bees last summer, as we'd hoped, since it was too late in the season and we couldn't risk them being unable to overwinter.  I was still excited at the prospect of bees, but it was happening somewhere in the distant future.

Then, spring started approaching... but we found out we were going to end up with one nuc, for one hive.  So I still didn't finish the fish hive.  Pooh was already done and we wouldn't need the fish hive this season.

[For those who may not know, a "nuc" is a nucleus hive; approximately 5 frames of drawn honeycomb filled with honey and various stages of brood (eggs, larvae, pupae), plus full of worker bees, a few drones, and one mated queen.  The benefit to having more than one hive is the ability to mix and match frames.  So for instance, recently when we found ourselves queenless, had we a second hive, we could have pulled frames of brood from the fish hive to install in the Pooh hive, and we wouldn't have the issue we're experiencing now, which is a decrease in population while the new queen's eggs become larvae and pupae before becoming worker bees.]

So the fish hive stagnated.

And stagnated.

And then at the May beekeepers' meeting, there was this guy.  He announced that he was splitting several of his hives into nucs.  I raced over to him after the meeting, found out the price, and gave him my card.

And then didn't hear from him.

So the fish hive continued to stagnate.

Until this past weekend, when he called and said the nucs would be ready at the end of this week!  Holy crow, I only had 5/8 of one deep painted and ready!  So last night, at my first opportunity, I had to finish the one hive box so we could seal it tonight and have it ready for the weekend.  With a nuc, we're only installing 5 frames in a 10-frame box, so we don't need a second box right away.  Of course, I'm going to get going on the second box now, because the breed we're getting are Buckfast bees and they're notorious for multiplying quickly.  That's a terrific thing for hive strength, especially this late in the season, but it also means they should need a second deep pretty soon.

Second deep later, though.  First, the first deep of the fish hive...

As you can see, I've been having fun.  We've got, so far, a cleaner shrimp and an oyster with a pearl, a hammerhead shark and some seahorses, a clownfish in an anemone and a hippo tang, and then a couple of jellyfish with a moorish idol.

Our girls will be living in style!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Wanna See What Royalty Looks Like?

So today we got to do our first inspection since releasing the queen into the hive.  I was so stressed out that I had a nightmare last night that all I saw flying in our yard were drones and the hive itself was being robbed.

[All drones is bad; you need the vast majority of a colony's population to be worker bees.  The drones are the males and only useful when a virgin queen needs to mate.  Robbing occurs when foreign bees or wasps smell the hive's honey and race in en force to steal it.  The hive's bees will fight the invaders to the death, leaving your colony very weak if you don't or can't move fast to help them.]

That didn't happen.  We did see a bunch of drone comb (capped cells that were shaped very bulbously, rather than flatish), which initially concerned us.  Until we got to frame 6.

On the 6th frame, we saw a lot of open cells filled with liquid, which Eric initially thought was honey.

And then he spotted her.

The queen!  She's honestly easy to spot right now, as most of our bees are still the original dark ones, and she's so light, we don't even need the green dot on her back yet.  But as her brood hatches, and their coloration will be more like hers, she'll be a little tougher, even though you can see the difference here.  She's much bigger than the workers, with no striping, and a very elongated abdomen.  That abdomen is like that because that's where she stores her eggs and the sperm from her bout of mating, whereas workers don't have the same needs.

What you're seeing happening here is that the workers surrounding her are attending to her and grooming her.  This is great behavior to see, especially since it's obvious they've taken to their new queen.  The biggest indicator of that is that she's alive.  But it's nice, for me, to see them caring for her as they should, since those are our original bees doing it, not her own brood.

So... what we initially thought was nothing more than honey, I'm now speculating is actually a frame full of royal jelly with eggs floating in it.  At least we hope so!  It seems reasonable, and eggs are really tiny and hard to see.  Next week will be the real telltale time, because by then we should see larvae and maybe even pupae.

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Nature is Resilient

The other day, our friends came over with their three-year old son.  He's a cutie, but he's really active.  And man, he loves his trains.

We have this big flowerpot that was here when we moved in.  I have no idea what was in it before, but last summer I planted some nasturtiums.  They're annuals, so I wasn't expecting to see them again, but the other day we were out working on the yard, and there they were!

See those heart-shaped leaves?  Nasturtiums!  Crazy, right?  They must have just re-seeded themselves.  Awesome.

But back to the friends' son and his trains.  All of a sudden, his parents noticed he was driving his trans around IN my flower pot, over and through the nasturtiums.  Guess what?  It's still kickin'!

Another example... last summer, Eric & I bought a second blackberry plant.  We planted it too late, and it seemed dead as a doornail.  This spring, I pulled it out of the ground like a plug, a solid, dead root ball.  But I left it in place, just because I was on my way into the house from work and didn't have time to trash it right then.

Boy, am I glad for my tendency toward procrastination!  This weekend I went to pull it out... and ended up putting it right back!  There were new, young roots and leaves growing from the base of the blackberry.  Talk about resilient!

Holy crow!  You have no idea how happy I am that I was a lazy slacker and hadn't yet thrown away the blackberry bush.  I love blackberries.  Love.  They're my favorite berry.  So losing it, especially unnecessarily, would just be sad.

So now I'm hoping that all of nature is just as resilient... like our bees.

When Eric and I did our weekly inspection of the hive on Memorial Day, we found this.

For those of you who  may not be well versed in the world of the honeybee, that frame of honeycomb is wrong.  We're still learning ourselves, for sure, but I had a feeling it just wasn't right... and I was correct.  The brood (those white-filled cells you see and the ones with little white dots in the bottom are larvae and pupae) are supposed to be clustered together, as are the capped cells and cells filled with pollen or honey.  Instead, this looks scattered, like a shotgun.

I mentioned this all last week.

I immediately posted the photo to our local beekeeping FB page, and was informed that we had a dead or failing queen.  Yikes!  So the very next evening, I was picking up a brand new queen and the beekeepers association president came on over to help us try and find the prior queen if she was still alive (we didn't, she's dead), and install the new one.

She went into the hive with her attendants, still in their cage.  And then this past Saturday, we went back into the hive.  Although they were definitely investigating, it didn't look like they had been biting the cage, which would be a sure sign that the old queen still lived or that they generally weren't accepting the newbies (haha, newbees!) so we released them.

You can totally tell the difference between the old crew and the new, as our original bees were really dark.  The new ones are very blond Cordovans.


Again, it looked a lot more like investigation than attack.  The queen went immediately into the comb, hopefully to start laying.  But at least she didn't seem to want to stick with her girls for protection.  And the next morning, I saw one of the blonds returning to the hive with pollen-packed legs.

I take this as a good sign that "business as usual" has resumed in the colony.

The toughest part now is waiting for this weekend to check in on them!  But we must.  So... until then, fingers crossed for the resilience of nature and its extension to our girls.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Artist Spotlight: Part One Hundred and Four

We're back to the spotlights!  To start this round, I'm bringing back a few oldies, but definitely goodies.  First, I should mention, a selling venue that's 100% handmade and always will be.  I love that.  I also love that it'll always be smaller than some of the other selling venues, and pickier.

A stellar example of one of the shops on HandmadeArtists is Chainmaille by MBOI, the shop of Andrew, one of HandmadeArtists' administrators.  I'm completely obsessed with his chainmaille.

Another is the shop of Andrew's wife and the other administrator, Kimberly.  That one is Makin' the Best of It.  Among other talents, like book art and hand painting glass, Kimberly is a beautiful jewelry artist, primarily using sea glass.  I'm kind of obsessed with her work too.

Who wouldn't be?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Abdication or Assassination?

When last we checked in with the Pooh hive, almost exactly a month ago, things were looking good.  Last weekend when we did our inspection, we thought things looked good then too.  In fact, more experienced beekeepers told us so.

We primarily checked the "new" frames - the ones that were ours, clean, and didn't come with the nuc - during that inspection, and we saw them building out a bunch of comb and filling it with pollen.  As one beekeeper pointed out, pollen is bee baby food, so things were looking pretty good.

And then we looked again this past Monday, Memorial Day.  First, a note that makes me proud of myself.  My brother-in-law was over, so I lent him my gear to wear for the inspection, while I stood just a foot or two away in jeans and a t-shirt, taking photos of the open hive.  Bees buzzing all around me, and I barely noticed.  I'm a beekeeper!

But back to the hive.  We checked the nuc frames for the first time in about two weeks, which is normal, but we didn't like what we saw.

Lots of larvae of varying stages and some capped brood too, but see  how spotty it is?  Kind of like a shotgun effect?  Yeah, that's not right.  It's supposed to be more clustered.  And we didn't see eggs, which isn't good.

Here's a couple of closeups for the curious.

Of course, the first move was to post these photos to our beekeeping group's Facebook forum and get some feedback.  As new beeks, we're not relying solely on our own shaky knowledge.  And the best thing about being a beek is the font of knowledge others are willing to share.

We got some varying opinions - some said we were queenless, some said we had a weak queen.  One said it looked like chalkbrood (it's not) and another that it looked like 100% drone comb and that we'd been sans queen for a long time and things were dire (it's not drone comb and things aren't so dire).  The key is to weed through the varying opinions and information and figure out who to trust.

We did that, and realized we've got a weak or defunct queen.  Not sure which.  I picked up a new queen after work today, and an experienced beekeeper came over to try & find our queen.  When re-queening a hive, the best thing to do is to kill the old queen.  Oddly, though with any other insect I wouldn't think twice about stomping it, the idea of killing our own queen, one of OUR girls, bothered me.  I didn't need to worry.  Yet.  Our experienced beek examined the hive three times and couldn't find her.

So the new queen went in still in her cage, and we're hoping that there's no old queen.  If that's the case, the workers will have time to acclimate to the new girl while she hangs out in her cage.  Tomorrow we need to check again for the old queen.  If we still can't find her, we have to hope she's simply not there anymore.  If we can, an assassination is in order to make room for the new.  Either way, in a few days we have to hope that the girls have worked the new queen out of her cage and accepted her.  If they don't, they'll simply kill her and we'll have to try again.

Wish us luck!
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