Monday, February 15, 2010


Last June, while Jeff was visiting friends in Melbourne, his beautiful black cat disappeared following the worst stormy night of winter. He often went awol for a few days, so we didn't really worry for the first week, but as the weeks went by, we gradually came to the realisation that he wasn't coming back. I stopped going down into our bush for fear of finding his bones. When I woke in the middle of the night I would lie awake pondering his fate. The not-knowing was so hard, and eventually, when I had finally accepted that he was dead, I came to wanting to find his remains, just so that I knew.

Eventually, seeing that not only did I miss Shadow, but so did his sister Ng Tong,

I started thinking about a new kitten. I procrastinated for a few months, but then a friend said they had kittens needing homes: her daughter works at the local vet clinic, and she had adopted a pregnant, unwanted (but very beautiful and sweet-nature d) pregnant cat that had been brought into the clinic.

After much umming and ahhing, I eventually decided to adopt a sweet little boy who we named Spike. He is bold and brave and beautiful. He is fearless and has the poor dog in a state of confusion as he marches up and chews poor Bob's tail!

Ng Tong is gradually getting used to him, though she spends most of her days outside or in the garage - so much for Spike being a solace for her loneliness!

Spike has a mate however. It seems the bush telegraph is real and working well, in our bush anyway:

Yes, we got Spike on Friday 15 January, and on the morning of Monday 17th January, as Mac was sitting eating his breakfast, in walked Shadow - seven months after his disappearance!

P.S. A day later and I feel like there's hope that the cats will eventually all get along okay together:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Learning Curve

This learning about bees is a real adventure: every book and every person seems to tell you a different story, so it seems to be a matter of listening and making random guesses as to what to do! I guess as time goes by and I learn more about bees and beekeeping in general, but more importantly, about my own particular situation, I will make better choices.

My bees have verroa mites. Bummer. When I got my bees, a swarm in Hamilton city, some people said 'treat them for verroa now', others said 'leave it til autumn.' I took the latter advice - greedily hoping for some honey. Now I won't have any, because the honey becomes contaminated for human use when the control strip are placed in the hive for 6 - 8 weeks. (There's another quandry: some say they must ony be put in for 6 weeks, one professional beekeeper told me to leave them in until spring, another said 8 weeks - what to do?)

Because I was starting with a brand new hive and frames, it took more than six weeks for my bees to get established before I even put on the honey box, so the verroa treatment could have been done and removed, and I could have had a whole box of honey in my first year. Still, I'm learning - and hopefully my beautiful bees will survive the infestation, survive winter and go on to provide me with lots of yummy honey next year.

Despite the verroa, my hive seems pretty strong and there is heaps of food available for them - since Mac got rid of the cow, there are heaps of meadow flowers for them.

This bee keeping is so much fun though. Heidi (my daughter-in-law) and I helped my bee-buddy, B, extract some of her honey, and that was very rewarding. The most yummy learning experience I've ever had!

J, another helper, Heidi, and B.

B uncapping the comb with a heated 'capping knife.

The extractor - a manual one, which takes some energetic arm work, but also blows a fanning of the sweetest air in your face as you do it.

Bee and Heidi draining some of the honey from the extractor.

Strained and bottled :)

Variation in colour, depending on what was flowering at the time.

Afterward we had lunch looking out over the bush at our beautiful west coast. It was hard to get up and go home.