Top Bar Hive Collapsed Comb Freak Out

Earlier in the week I opened up my top bar bee hive to see how things were going; I’d given the bees more space in June, and I guess I anticipated seeing my colony growing in size, making comb with brood and honey.

Instead, I was horrified to see half of the comb on the bottom of the hive!! Last time I’d checked my hive, a small bit of comb had fallen; but I thought then it was just a small problem. Apparently not.

Here you can see the sad sight, with fresh white comb being built where some of the honey-filled comb was once suspended:

I closed things up and emailed Jaime DeZubeldia, who taught the top bar beehive workshop I attended in April, before taking any action: I felt very depressed at the sight, and figured it was best not to do anything until I had some good information. Jaime was really nice and emailed me back right away with some tips helpful in regard to the unique beekeeping conditions in the sonoran desert.

The point of top bar beekeeping is not to spend lots of money on beekeeping stuff. So, today I scraped out the heap of fallen comb with a kitchen spatula, being very careful not to squash any bees. I then put the comb on some cake racks, so that I could easily tip the rack into the hive and brush the bees inside with a big soft paintbrush (never used for paint); you can see my bread knife in the lower left corner, which also was useful:

I have a small colony; and a docile genetic strain: so, there weren’t enough bees to give me a hard time.  I think this is why I feel a lot more comfortable working with my bees now: there aren’t many of them! I’ve also learned that you just have to go slow, occasionally step back, and it helps to avoid breathing on them. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want someone leering over me and breathing on me. It would make me irritated.

Still, I’d hate to try and pull this stunt will ill-tempered bees.

Above is the saddest sight of the day: earlier in the week, when I opened the hive, I checked the brood-comb area and when I lifted up one of the bars I dislodged this bit of brood comb. So, today, I had to pull it out. I examined it carefully because I was worried the queen might be on it laying eggs. All the flat capped cells were bees-to-be; and in the lower left you can see 6 cells with white blob in them, these are bees in the larval stage, cut short by my meddling.

This is the middle-part of the hive, where the follower board separates the active hive from the inactive part. I moved the follower board closer to the hive entrance, to give the bees less space so they could hopefully keep it cooler more effectively; so whereas I optimistically expanded my hive 6 weeks ago, today I consolidated it. I put paper towels up against the sides, per a suggestion from Jaime, to reduce any warm air cross currents between the hive entrance and gaps in the follower board.  I scrubbed out some of the nectar from the collapsed comb that spilled into this empty chamber to avoid attracting ants. I put some bricks between the top bars and the hive cover when I finally closed up the hive, to give the hive more ventilation.

Here’s the results of my careful comb removal; I was surprised how easy it was to get the bees off of it.

I hope when I come back from my Newfoundland trip I’ll see things in better shape.

I’ll also no doubt post about making beeswax candles, or something of the sort, with the heap of comb above.

Grasslands Bakery in Sonoita Open Again

Remember this place?

I posted a few times in January about my parents closing their bakery in Sonoita; well, they’ve re-opened as of mid-July. It’s an easy drive from Tucson, just an hour, so get your fresh pastry while you can. Next time they close, I doubt anyone will believe it’s true; they’ll think it’s just another case of the The Little Boy Who Cried….Carbohydrate.


Summer Cooking Frenzy

I had a shaman come to my house (a real shaman–as opposed to a faux shaman– and, a good one) last weekend for a ceremony. It was very positive. I know it probably sounds a bit woo woo for many of you readers; but I’m sure you’re none the worse for reading this.

For several days after the shaman came I didn’t feel like doing much, though I did some good cooking and for some odd reason had a craving for…..tzadziki sauce.

So, I was compelled to make it; and something to go with it, too. A pretty good recipe for tzadziki sauce is here; I followed it, mostly, though I added fresh mint to mine and substituted dried dill. The steps are pretty simple, you strain some regular yogurt (I prefer full-fat organic) overnight in the fridge; just put a few cups in a coffee filter and set it in a sieve over a cup:

The next morning I took the strained yogurt out of the fridge; it was crazy, there was 1 cup of liquid for 2 cups of yogurt!

Then I peeled and seeded cucumbers my mom gave me from her garden, yum, and pureed them w/garlic; the fresh mint is on the side:

This appears to be the consistency you want for your cucumbers once they’re chopped:

Then I added the yogurt, mint and dill: this is how it looked, in the end:

I have a book from the library which is very good, Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. I’m sure the author would prefer that I say I bought it; but, I’m saving for Newfoundland, so, the library is my new friend.

I made a recipe called Ground Turkey or Chicken with Peas; it’s very yummy in pita bread, with homemade tzadziki sauce and chopped fresh tomatoes. It’s a bit cross-cultural but I got 4 dinners out of this:

I then had some fresh apricots that were quickly taking a turn for the worse; I made an apricot upside-down gingerbread cake, the idea and the recipe are sort-of based on this recipe I found online, which I slightly modified (I used less sugar, for example).  Kind of an odd combination of flavors, you’d think; I made it for the nurses at work, and the reviews were good.

Fiddle Tune Up For Newfoundland Trip

I’m getting ready for the Port Kirwan Come Home Year in Newfoundland, which starts on August 5th; that means getting my fiddle in shape, as I hope to share some tunes at the reunion, as well as attend some Irish sessions in St. John’s: there seem to be quite a few each week, no surprise there!

I put new Prim strings on my fiddle, except for the E string, which is a Pirastro Gold E; these aren’t fancy strings, they’re just good value and durable. I finally replaced the worn rubber bits on my Wolf SuperFlexible shoulder rest–above, you can see the new rubber bits on the left and the cruddy ones on the right that are yellow and hard with age. I’ve had that shoulder rest for almost 15 years and LOVE it. No other shoulder rest works for me. And as for the strings…I like the Prims, they’re predictable, stay in tune and don’t give me any grief; and, they sound good and have good response.

I hope to have some good tunes up in Newfoundland; Arizona is a real desert when it comes to Irish music, the one huge drawback of living here.

One day I’ll live somewhere with a fantastic local Irish music community!!

Paper and Cloth Lamination Project

Last Christmas (!) I got myself a copy of the very aesthetically pleasing book  Paper & Metal Leaf Lamination: A Mixed Media Approach With Cloth, a joint venture by well-known fiber artists Jane Dunnewold and Claire Benn and Leslie Morgan.

I’ve been meaning to give some of the techniques a try; I finally got around to it the past few days after work. Above you can see the basic ingredients: book with instructions, bottle of acrylic gel medium (not inexpensive, it’s from France), silk screen and squeegee, and sheer piece of fabric–in this case, silk organza.

My goal: use gel medium to transfer photocopied images onto fabric, creating a sheer, durable, laminated piece of fabric with (ideally) cool, ghostly images. The first time around is always a sample; but I still give a sample my 100%!

With my supplies above, I cut up photocopies I made of photos I took during last months’ trip to Washington D.C.; the photocopies are over a week old, and supposedly they make a better transferred image when the ink on the copies has had a week to “cure”.

I arranged the photocopies on a piece plywood that had several layers of polyester batting and cotton flannel stapled on top; then, I placed the organza on top, and per the instructions in the book, diligently pinned the silk down, stretching it tight over the collage.

Then, I took the board outside in the blistering heat of the day; I worked under my patio umbrella. Here you see the collage under the fabric, the silkscreen, squeegee and acrylic gel medium. Also, a plastic tub of water to immediately wash the tools–that gel medium dries fast, and permanently. I silkscreened about half the bottle of gel medium onto the silk, making sure that the fabric was thoroughly saturated.

It took just 20 minutes for the piece to dry; here it is on my ironing table, paper stuck to fabric:

I pressed the silk/paper sandwich on the highest setting, using baking parchment so nothing got scorched:

Once heat set, the piece was stuck in a bucket of cool water for 20 minutes to soften the paper for easy removal:

Here’s the wet fabric-paper sandwich, and a green brillo-type scrub pad. Most of the paper just peels right off, in messy papier-mache blobs; the gummy residue of the paper needs to be scrubbed off, firmly but gently so as not to scrub a hole right through the silk (I did make one small hole due to over-zealous scrubbing). You can see some of the small wet-paper blobs below:

Once all the paper is removed, and the gummy stuff scrubbed off, I tossed the fabric into the washer with cold water for a quick rinse; when I took it out, I lightly pressed it. Both sides of the silk are free of paper, just the image from the ink is left behind.  Here is the finished sheer piece,  the “wrong” side showing (i.e. not the side that had the paper directly touching it) hanging on my white design wall:

And here it is over some blue fabric, just for a different perspective:

I don’t know how I feel about this technique at this time. I think I’ll try it again. I’m not really fond of altering the “hand” of the fabric– maybe I’m a purist, or, just not adventurous!–and the gel medium significantly alters the hand of the silk, to the point where it now feels like a restaurant menu. I noticed in a few places there were bubbles on the transferred images, so I think I may have used too much gel medium in certain places.

The reason I’m hanging up this piece with the wrong-side showing is because I want to read the text from my images. The ink from the photocopies is lifted onto the fabric where the fabric touches the ink; so, on the “right” side the ink will be stronger, and the text (and all images) will be backwards.

If you use this technique to transfer photocopied text, just remember that the paper side of the fabric will have backwards text once you’ve scrubbed off the paper, and you will only be able to read the text from the “wrong” side of the fabric, and the wrong side is perfectly fine, it’s a bit more “ghostly”; if you want to read the text, you will need to consider this and consider the “front” of the piece to be the fabric-side. I think this isn’t a big issue if you’re using sheer fabric; but, if you transfer images onto a more solid piece of fabric, you will most likely have no choice but to use the paper-side, and your text will be backwards. Which is not bad or anything. It’s just something to consider.

Making My Own Belly Dance Pants

Lately, I’ve been getting more out of my belly dance classes; something finally clicked and I’m getting the hang of some of the basic moves, and in class–instead of twitching and looking like I’m having a seizure–I actually look pretty good, for a beginner.

So, my after-work-week-night project this past week was to decorate some old pants to make a low-cost belly dance outfit.

I wanted the pants to coordinate with a red and gold scarf with a flower motif I’ve had for many years; I drew the flower-shape from the scarf onto some paper, and traced the outline onto old rayon pants I got from Dharma Trading several years ago. Then, the pants were white; I dyed them light purple and wore them to work.  When they got too shabby, I dyed them a darker purple to try and give them more life.

So here’s the starting point:

I  traced the outline using a white pen with ink that easily washes off fabric; these are available at any fabric store:

Then, I gently squeezed Jones Foil Glue over the traced design:

The glue is sticky and takes 1–8 hours to dry. I glued the front of the pants one night, and the back the next:

Then, once dry, I took a sheet of Jones Tones Gold Foil and rubbed the foil–using the back of a spoon–over the glue. Presto, the glue is no longer sticky and tacky; it’s covered with gold foil. It looks cool!

I pinned my new pants up on my wall, with the scarf; this, plus a black sports-bra, is my new outfit. There’s no belly dance class for a few weeks, but when there is, I’ll get a photo of me in this outfit to prove I’m actually going to wear it!