Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bee Fun in Oregon

   I drove down to Forest Grove, Oregon this past weekend to attend a bee conference with my daughter, Rachel.  It was a "No Treatment Conference" meaning the focus of the conference was how to raise bees naturally, without miticides and other medications. I have to confess to a bit of pre-conference skepticism as to the practicality of that goal. I was expecting to rub shoulders with the "lunatic fringe" of beekeeping. As it turned out, the conference attendees did display a certain amount of loopiness, but no more than is normal for most beekeeper meetings.  After the conference, I left with a feeling that the goal of "No Treatment Beekeeping" may be more practical than I had thought. I also left the conference with a lot more hope for the future of beekeeping.

    There were a number of reasons I had wanted to attend this particular conference. The proximity to grand children living in Forest Grove and nearby Hillsboro was of course a very big draw.  The opportunity to attend the conference with Rachel was also a strong incentive.  To top it off, my favorite bee author, Dr. Thomas Seeley, was one of the featured speakers.  He is the author of "Honeybee Democracy", my all time favorite bee read.  He has devoted his entire adult life to the study of swarming behavior of honey bees. I was able to listen to him give two separate lectures and he actually sat next to me during a third lecture. Rachel also took a picture of me standing next to him. I told Rachel that I felt like a serious bee groupie. Her response was to point out that I just needed to accept the fact that I was a serious bee groupie.

Dr. Seeley's swarm board facilitates observation of the scout bees dancing on the surface.

Dr Seeley explaining how the scout bees have reached consensus on a new homesite

A conference  attendee demonstrating the use of a picturesque German bee smoker  

    I got to babysit Rachel's children, Lance and Luna, on Saturday evening.  I always enjoy hanging out with grandchildren.  After a dinner of KFC takeout we watched "Night at the Museum," then spent some time in their wonderful backyard garden. I gave Rachel two little fig trees several years ago. Both of the trees are now bearing fruit. One tree has a few fruits developing while the other has about fifty. I'm always amazed at the wonderful things Rachel does in her back yard.  It is practically wall to wall vegetables and fruit. I took some photos of her artichokes in flower and her amazing fig trees.
A honey bee fights its way down to reach the nectaries of an artichoke flower

Two of  about 50 figs forming on one of Rachel's fig tree

     After the conference I was able to attend church with the Kangs in Forest Grove. Apparently, no one had told my grand daughter, Rachel, that I was coming. She was playing the organ and actually missed a note when she noticed my presence. On Monday morning I went out with grand daughters, Autumn and Chloe to visit their beehives. I'm quite impressed with their comfort level with the bees. Autumn was wearing her usual capris. I had brought down a bee suit for Chloe, but she still had exposed skin as she wasn't wearing any socks. I warned them about the tendency of the bees to get crabbier in the late summer and early fall. I worry about them getting "stung up" unnecessarily. Their hives seem to be doing okay in that they are developing normally. However, neither hive has stored a significant amount of honey.  I suspect their hives are going to require some serious feeding to get them through the winter. I feel a little inadequate to advise them as I have no knowledge of the timing of their local nectar flows.

    Another purpose of my visit to Oregon was the delivery of 9 pullets to my daughters, Rachel and Sarah. I had hatched out 29 chicks about 8 weeks ago. I kept about 5 pullets for myself to replace our current group of laying hens and I kept all of the cockerels. I put cardboard down in the back of the car and put the nine little pullets into an old rabbit cage.  The chickens responded to being put into a cage and placed in a confined space (i.e. the back of the car) by pooping in unison. I was glad Linda was unable to come with me as it would have been a pretty miserable smelly trip for her.  On Saturday morning, before we left for the bee conference, we transferred the pullets to a chicken tractor in Rachel's backyard for temporary storage.  The chickens stayed in the chicken tractor all day Saturday and Saturday night. That turned out to be a mistake as on Sunday morning we only had 8 little pullets. It appears some clever raccoon found a place where he could reach under the cage and pull himself out a chicken. A little trail of feathers was the only evidence left behind.

    The last significant event the occurred on my trip to Oregon was an unfortunate outbreak of headlice.   This is possibly the only negative consequence of our recent cousin camp.  I offered Sarah some moral support and encouragement. I also picked up a watermelon at a local farm stand (a real watermelon with both seeds and good flavor). I fed the kids watermelon as they watched a movie and Sarah went through yet another kids hair with the infamous lice comb.


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