Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Replacing Ativan with Eckhart Tolle?

I've had the worst, most heinous insomnia since about November. It became totally impossible to sleep through the night. I'd wake up repeatedly from just horrible anxiety dreams then lay awake, tossing and turning over whatever list of worry was running incessantly through my mind. It was crazy. I actually dreaded going to bed at night, since it was just such utter torture.

I can break down the reasons for all this anxiety, but won't bore you with the litany here.

A couple of months ago I finally saw my doctor, just feeling at wit's end from not sleeping, and she prescribed Ativan for what she clearly saw as anxiety. I am delighted that that shit really works for me. A tab at bedtime and it's like I'm awake, then I'm dead, then I'm awake again. It might sound bad, but it is nothing but good, believe me. Deep, deathlike sleep kicks the ass of insomnia any day of the week.

But of course, I don't like the idea of swallowing pills and do admit that there's a nasty voice in my head constantly accusing me of weakness for needing to resort to prescription drugs to get through this rough patch (f*k that voice, seriously...). So I went without the Ativan last Saturday night, just to see what would happen.

And guess what: the anxiety is still there. Hasn't gone anywhere or resolved itself magically. So it was a rough night. I am fully cognizant that the pills are not a solution.

Then listening to Eckhart Tolle in the car on the way home tonight ("Practicing the Power of Now," and boy, do I really need reinforcement in that area), it struck me how freaking upside down my life has gotten lately: when I am conscious/awake, basically I'm moving through the day unconscious -- fast, on task, plowing through an endless To Do list, zigging from one thing to another without pause. When I am trying to be unconscious/asleep, I am actually conscious, replaying an endless awful tape of mental misery. How screwed up is that?

According to Tolle, becoming aware that you're not present in the present moment is the beginning of presence. I'm hoping that staying conscious in my waking hours will allow me to let go of the crap that keeps me awake at night, so that I can slowly wean myself off the meds and get a decent, normal night's sleep. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The joy of reconnection

2009 is, for me, the year of connection, and specifically where my parents are concerned, the year of reconnection. Such a sweet reunion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New Hive: Demo and Reconstruction

Inner cover of new hive, loaded with bees and unruly comb!

Joe realized last night that the swarm we caught and hived on Sunday was building some pretty unruly comb in their new hive box. He discovered this by peeking in the entrance with a flash light. Instead of building in the frames that we’d placed in the hive, they built comb from the inner cover and the follower board almost all the way to the bottom of the hive box.

After consulting with our teacher, Alan, Joe got to work. We couldn’t wait; this had to be done today, much to my sorrow. So I stayed at work and missed the show. Joe suited up completely: veil, gloves, long sleeves and pants. These bees have been wild for two years that we know of, so working with them is different from working with the Italians we bought in a package 5 weeks ago. And there are simply way more of them.

To get started, Joe assembled all of the tools he would need – bee brush, hive tool, frames, rubber bands, and the smoker, stuffed with burning strips of burlap. When Joe smoked the bees, the volume of the hive instantly rose, and it was clear that they were agitated by the smoke.

First Joe had to lift the cover off. The bees had built comb not only in the empty part of the hive box but also between the tops of the frames and the inner cover, making the cover hard to remove, basically waxed shut by comb. Joe tipped the cover up to a 45 degree angle, and one of the big pieces of comb fell to the bottom of the hive box. The comb wasn’t just one sheet. They didn’t build it in parallel lines. They built a few rows one way and then the next 90 degrees to the first, sort of a Tetris construct. Joe was amazed at how many bees were there, and it was just like a swarm again hanging from the inside of the cover. The bees had actually begun to build comb in just one of the frames, but only about a three inch disk. There were thousands of bees on every frame, some of them hanging in chains, so it’s possible that some were beginning to build in the frames.

Joe didn’t really know how to remove the comb from the cover, so he just grabbed the comb up toward the top (i.e., at the cover) and it pretty much broke free from the wood. Once he got all of the comb off, he just laid it on top of the hive and on the cement and set the lid aside. The lid was covered with bees by the way. Joe then proceeded to rubber band the big pieces of comb into the frames as instructed by Alan.

It was pretty much like catching the swarm all over again, lots of bees in the air, bees crawling all over him. Anything that got honey on it, the bees would stay there.

Good thing for gloves. At least 5 bees stung Joe’s gloves, then took a couple steps away from their stinger and venom sack, and started fanning. This is in contrast to other bee stings we’ve observed, where the bee just falls over and slowly dies, its insides essentially pulled out when the stinger leaves its body.

Joe left in the five frames that we originally put in the hive box – never took them out since bees appeared to be busy in them. He checkerboarded in the 4 frames with the rubber-banded comb, and added the tenth empty frame.

Joe smoked the bees twice, once at the beginning and once in the middle. And by the way, one of the burlap sacks that we picked up from the coffee roastery is actually made of hemp and definitely smelled like weed.

We had put in a quart jar of sugar-water when we hived the bees on Sunday. They had drunk ¾ of it by this afternoon, fueling their tremendous comb output.

Joe did not see the queen, but did see eggs. Not many. Most of the comb is either not fully developed, shallow, or was full of honey and pollen.

Joe brought in a plate covered with broken pieces of comb, which has made for some great observation and tasting. The variety of colors of pollen is amazing: purple, orange, gold, greenish gold, blue like eye shadow, and yellow. Very interesting taste. I can’t say that either of us has ever eaten pollen like this. The honey is very thin and fruity, probably because it is really more nectar still than it is honey.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mother's Day Swarm

The swarm, resting in the apple tree.
That's 15,000 bees approximately!

This Mother's Day was pretty amazing. I was already happy with the day: breakfast with Laurent, then yoga, then riding the tandem with Joe to the Farmer's Market and meeting friends, then lunch on the patio. And then the best present of all appeared: a swarm of bees over the garage, which then proceeded to land in our apple tree from which we later captured them. Amazing!

Besides the super fun and excitement of hiving these wild bees and doubling our potential for pollination and honey now that we have two hives, some other great things came out of this:

- We learned more about our new bees' background from our neighbor Dave, who had observed them living on the neighbor-on-the-other-side's house for two years:
They used my pond as a water source and seemed to have a highway of sorts out over your roof... it looked like they were heading out towards the big berry patch farther out... but there were always bees in the garden.
So even though they're not exotic, in the sense of having travelled, it's still super-cool that we know exactly where they were before and that we also know that they weren't from a beekeeper's hive that split, but are truly wild bees. And actually, it's great news that they hadn't been swarming long since it means they're going to use all of those stores of honey that they gorged on before swarming to build comb inside their new home.

- We discovered that we're part of a cool community of bee-people now. I posted something to my Facebook about the swarm just after it appeared and we were getting ready to go get them, and my new beekeeping friend Rebecca and her adorable daughter Ruby responded instantly, and rushed over to help. After I posted an email message to the Marin beekeepers listserve, I got some amazing, helpful and charming responses by phone and email from fellow beekeepers, all of them strangers to us, and even found a long-lost acquaintance in the mix. One email in particular, which arrived after I shared with the list that we'd caught and hived the bees, read:

Congratulations, Ariane! What auspicious blessings for you! You must have had many lifetimes as a loving mother for this gift to appear now! Have fun giving them a new home!

I was already completely high on the experience of the swarm and its capture, and then had extended buzz from all the beekeeper love and support that poured in. Now that's sweet as honey!

So now we'll be settling in to managing two hives and are just thrilled with this gift that just fell out of the sky into our laps. It's probable that we'll see and catch another swarm. But a swarm just coming to us in this way? That's a once-in-a-lifetime blessing that we're savoring, every moment of that experience just vibrant like the bees.