A swarm in May is worth a load of hay,
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon,
A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly.
Simply put, a swarm is a beehive’s way of reproducing. In the Spring, if the queen of a hive is strong and the population of bees plentiful, the queen will leave the hive with nearly two-thirds of the hive’s bees to find a new home, leaving the original hive to rear a new queen and continue on. The swarm is an amazing sight to witness. A strong hive may have 60,000 bees, so when the queen leaves with her followers, she’s in the air with nearly 45,000 bees. An awesome vision, the bees fill the air like snowflakes in a blizzard.
So it was this that Michael noticed through our solarium window. We have three beehives at our Vermont Bed and Breakfast and one of them is just outside our breakfast room. This is the hive that had released its bees into the yard, completely consuming the front lawn – bees in the grass, bees climbing the hive boxes, bees in the air. We watched for several minutes, waiting to see where the bees would land – because that’s what the poem up above is all about. Ideally, the bees will land in a place that we can catch them and relocate them to an empty hive box. If it’s early enough in the season, say May or June, the bees will have plenty of time to draw out their honeycomb and fill it with enough honey to survive the inevitable winter season. The earlier, the better, because a May swarm will not only make enough for its own stores, but honey for the beekeeper too! But if it’s late in the season, the bees prospects are just not as strong, so they’re not as valuable to a beekeeper.
Our swarm was in the first couple days of July so I was feeling pretty optimistic about the bees being able to pull it together and make a go of it. With this eagerness, we waited for the bees to settle. The swarm schedule is pretty predictable. The bees leave the hive in a flurry, then they settle on a nearby branch dispatching several bees to scout the area for a suitable new home. This can take a few hours or a few days. The swarm waits patiently in a cluster – well, a “cluster” is sort of an understatement. The mass of bees crawling over one another and hanging off of one another is the size of a basketball with thousands of bees sprawling along the branch for several inches in every direction. One of the coolest parts of seeing bees in this state is that the bees are super passive and very unlikely to notice a human’s presence, so we’re able to stand freely and watch the magic.
Unfortunately for us, these bees settled on a branch three stories high. There was no prudent way to catch them, so we were forced to accept this a donation to nature. The bees would find a new home, move into it and continue the tradition of bee-ness elsewhere. (In the photo — which was taken from 30 feet below –you can see the brown clump. That’s the mass of 40,000 bees or so. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a picture just doesn’t do justice.)
The bees remained on their branch for two overnights, through the torrential downpours that have so marked this Spring. And then on a sunny afternoon, after returning from errands, we found the branch bare. The queen and her acolytes found a new space while the hive they left behind awaited the birth of their new queen. Within days, their new queen would emerge and this ‘daughter hive’ would be complete once again.
Our Bed and Breakfast is located in the Okemo Valley of Vermont. We have two sheep, nearly two dozen chickens (fresh eggs!), and three beehives. Ask about getting a tour of a beehive. You can don a beekeepers suit and veil — or watch through the windows from the comfort of our solarium.
When it comes to woolly crafts, I’ve always been much more of a spectator than a participant – though I admit to harboring a steady curiosity (or maybe envy is a better word). At county fairs, I always seek out the craft barn and – okay, I’ll admit it – I get excited when I see that the spinners are doing their thing. It’s like watching a fairy tale come to life as fluffy piles of wool are changed into spools of rough-hewn yarn. Well, maybe it’s not quite as magical as spinning straw into gold, but it still impresses me every time!
So it was a real treat for me to attend last year’s Wild and Woolly Weekend, a fiber arts fair hosted by Six Loose Ladies and Fiber Arts in Vermont. Now, I’m looking forward to this year’s installment, on April 27 and 28 at the Pointe Hotel. This fiber arts weekend is 50% craft fair, 50% classes, and 50% social networking. No, that’s not careless math; it’s just that this weekend has so much packed into two days that it overflows! Veteran and virgin crafters alike really ought to swing by to check out the vendors and classes being offered by this energetic group of artists and crafters.
Those who are new to this sort of event may have the wrong impression. A weekend about yarn?! Probably a bunch of old ladies sitting around with knitting needles, balls of yarn, and maybe even a cat or two by their feet. You couldn’t be more wrong. When you look up the meaning of the phrase Wild and Woolly, you’ll find synonyms such as boisterous and unruly. And, based on the energy that is present from the moment you walk in the door, boisterous and unruly seem like achievable descriptors! (I mean, with a retail store name of Six Loose Ladies, you know that rowdy humor will be a part of the fun!)
The Wild and Woolly Weekend has classes available for the very beginner, like me, but they also have classes appropriate for those who are already pretty established in the crafting tradition. In some classes, you’ll go home with a finished product; in others you’ll go home with enough knowledge and enthusiasm that you can tackle a new project on your own. You can choose between three-hour classes or 50-minute ‘mini-classes.’ The topics range from spinning on a wheel or on a drop spindle; choosing and working with colors; making mug rugs (coasters), chair pads, animal pins, and mittens with needle felting; designing decorative boxes from paper collage; and creating sparkly bracelets using beaded knitting.
Whether you’re still a latent crafter or an admitted junkie of all things wool, this event is well worth checking out. Entrance is not only free, but there are door prizes galore. The costs of classes are $5 or $10 for the mini-classes and between $30 and $45 for the 3-hour classes. Class listings are available at the Six Loose Ladies website.
Did you know that if new chickens are to be added to a flock it should be done overnight? If introduced during the day, they may fight ‘til their death. But if merged while sleeping, the chickens will wake together peacefully, and accept one another as part of their group – as if they were together already. (Such birdbrains!)
This is how we increased our flock recently at our Southern Vermont Bed and Breakfast. After a summer of a declining chicken population (but an increasingly satisfied raccoon and fox population), we were down to four hens for our source of farm fresh eggs. This is nothing short of a crisis for a country inn that is so committed to serving wholesome local foods at breakfast each morning! And, as maybe you don’t know, it’s not real easy to find hens for sale in the fall. If you don’t buy them as chicks in the spring, the options disappear quickly. So when were alerted in October that a Massachusetts farm was selling pullets (that’s the hip word for ‘teenage hens’), our interest was piqued. But it only got better from there. My Mom and Dad (who still chuckle at my interest in backyard farm animals) went to the farm, bought us six pullets and delivered them to us at the bed and breakfast as birthday presents for me and Michael. Thanks Mom and Dad! We kept the six new pullets separate from the four mature hens for several weeks, until they were all similar in size. Then late one night, we stealthily executed “Operation New Chickens” and placed the six young birds on the roosting bar next to the four hens. Although some feathers were indeed ruffled, all ten birds shifted and wiggled just momentarily, and then drifted back to slumber. The following days were relatively peaceful …though it was interesting to watch the young hens earn their status as equals. Expressions like ‘ruffling feathers’ and ‘hen pecking’ are fully explained in our backyard! We now gather about eight eggs per day and we’re inviting you to Okemo Valley for a truly local breakfast.
(This blog entry was submitted by Samantha.) – Recently, my dad and I went to the Weston Playhouse to see Mary’s Wedding. Mary’s Wedding was set in post World War I England. The whole drama was a dream that Mary had the night before her wedding. With a cast that consisted of only two actors, and with a total running time of 90 minutes, I thought that the play was going to feel extremely long, but every time I got that feeling, the actors did one more thing that amazed the audience, keeping me enthralled until the last line.
Mary’s Wedding was very enjoyable and I recommend the Weston Playhouse to anyone that enjoys the theater, whether you are a theater fanatic or just someone looking for something fun to plan while on their vacation!
(This blog entry was written by Sadie.) Last week, we went blueberry picking at Goulden Ridge Farm in Weathersfield, VT, just 30 minutes away from the inn. I went with Mom and some friends. The six of us arrived around 5pm and were greeted by a welcoming board with prices and bags and gallon jugs to hold the berries. The grounds were beautiful, signature Vermont hills in the background and a pond and a little brook marking the private property. There were so many berries on the bushes; you could see the clumps of bright blue from where we were standing, at the welcoming board. The sign asked anyone able-bodied enough to pick from any section but the closest section of berries, because those were marked off for seniors or handicapped people. We went to the section with what looked like the biggest and most abundant bushes to start. All of the bushes were enclosed in netting suspended to make a tent around sections of bushes. There were signs showing areas where the “Best Picking” was. The six of us had a berry eating contest on how many berries we could fit in our mouth. There was a tie at 60! We picked for almost two hours in that section until moving on to the slightly smaller bushes in the other. There we picked for about another half an hour until counting up the price of the berries and paying where we came in. When we got home, Mom and I weighed the berries we had picked and got 17 pounds! It was a great experience and we had so much fun. I would definitely recommend this place for a fun time and delicious berries!
Editor’s (mother’s) comments: I’ve done a lot of berry picking in my day, and I’ve never seen such bountiful bushes, nor such a scenic berry spot. This is well-worth putting on the annual traditions calendar! …and for what it’s worth, I came in second place with almost 50 berries!