The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bee Tea, Bee Stings & Hilda Wants to be a Mom

Checking our bee hive after one week...right before I got stung four time!
Things are getting just a tad bit kooky around here--while other folks may have a predictable, mellow and static urban yard with tidy lawn patches and well-pruned shrubs, we've got some dynamic chaos and forces far beyond our attempted molding.  While we don't feel like we are in over our heads...yet...we have definitely found ourselves commenting on the amazing learning curve.  Even Teri has found her level-headed self caught up in the ride!

Our bees seem happy. They are buzzing in and out of the hive entrance, building combs, and we are starting to see them foraging all over

Our beautiful, plump Buff Orpington, Hilda Doolittle.
the garden. After two very mellow visits before they really had anything to protect, I was inaugurated into the realities of our tenuous relationship last weekend, when I got stung on the hands four times.  Damn, those stings are still itchy red patches on the backs of my hands! Teri thinks my smoking technique could use a little practice, whereas I kindly invited her to take the lead on our next visit to the bees and show me how she thinks it should be done!  The stings were secondary, however, to our discovery that there was brood in dem der comb cells!  Brood being young bee larvae.  We are going to go back in this weekend--after I get my thicker beekeeper gloves on--and check for capped brood, which will be our solid indication that we will have new bees and a growing hive in another week or two!

Just to be on the safe side, or maybe because it seemed like a terribly earthy and progressive thing to do (or as my son would say, a hippy thing to do), we have made the bees some tea. Gunther Hauk, of the Spikenard Farm Bee Sanctuary in Virginia offers up this tea recipe for providing a little extra healthy goodness for bees in transition. Okay, so I can sort of see where my son is coming from. Anyway, we had all the ingredients, except the Rue, so I decided to brew some up and put it out in the yard in a baby chicken water feeder filled with rocks so the bees could drink without drowning.  Truth be told, I'm probably trying to bribe them a bit so they will be less inclined to sting me!

Meanwhile, in the Lord of the Flies re-enactment that is our evolving chicken flock, Hilda Doolittle (yup, named after the poet & writer H.D. in an homage to my English major roots--we named all three of our inaugural chickens after modernist lesbian authors) has gone broody. She has taken to one of the nests with a Zen-like determination and is refusing to budge.  We're patting ourselves on the back a bit, because, beginners as we are, we saw it coming.  Starting with finding some of her chest feathers scattered about the nest a little over a week ago.  Then she just started acting particularly cranky--squawking and snapping at the young pullets, puffing herself out in stoic fluff for no apparent reason, AND, I actually caught her moving eggs around in the nest the other day.  Usually the hens just climb up, lay their eggs, make a noisy fuss, and clamber back down for a hearty drink and a return to foraging about the yard.  As of yesterday, Hilda has taken to the nest and seems determined to stay there until something maternal happens.

Teri and I knew this was probably coming~we knew when we chose to give the Buff Orpington breed a try that there was a very good chance she could go broody as they are one of the most motherly-inclined of the heritage breeds.  We'd had some preliminary chats but found ourselves in an emergency confab over a glass of post-work wine: Do we force her out of it? Do we let it run its course with some fake eggs? Do we move her?  After a bit more research and reminding ourselves of our mission, so to speak, on this urban farming adventure (to allow and support these animals to live as true to their nature as possible), we decided that if Hilda stays broody, we'll let her set on some fertilized eggs. 
Some of our recently-gathered NOT fertilized eggs
Now, we don't have a rooster (at least we don't think any of our new trio of pullets are male...yet) and it is, in fact, against the rules to have one within the city limits.  We are so within the city limits as to be within a mile of city center! So, we have to scramble and search for some fertilized eggs in breeds that we are potentially interested in--just in case we end up keeping a chick or two.  Big hatcheries sell hatching eggs, but a person has to order a minimum of usually 10 or 15 and the order time is at least a couple weeks out.  We do NOT need that many and the wait is too long. 

Lo and Behold...Ebay.  Don't ask me why or how I thought of it, but the light bulb went on and I thought, crap, this is an Internet World and surely...maybe? Sure enough, there are all sorts of small-time folks selling fertilized hatching eggs on Ebay and a person can order as few or as many as one likes.  I realize it's a gamble, who knows what we'll get, but four fertilized eggs sent priority mail from a Northern California back yard for $15 is better than 15 eggs mailed  in three weeks for $50.  First choice, of course, would have been someone local, but we realized we don't really know the sort of folks who would run over here with 5 or 6 fertilized heritage breed chicken eggs...yet.  In the end, we're only out $15 and, as Teri pointed out, if Hilda loses interest in setting before the eggs arrive early this next week, the eggs will still be edible and we'd pay $15 for a 4-egg omelet breakfast at a restaurant, wouldn't we?  Ah...perspective!

Honestly, despite all the books, movies, and articles we read, we are still making this up as we go along.  The kooky thing is that I sort-of feel like the animals are too so, in a way, we're all on this wild ride together!

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