Bee strong

Last weekend we had some last minute action in our backyard.  We had noticed that the bees were hanging out in the entrance holes just outside of the hive for few days prior to that.  They were out there over night, when our days were getting a little warmer, but not hot enough for trying to cool the hive inside.  In the morning they were still there, and there were a lot of them looking like a beard, when they do that in the summer to get air circulating.  Something was up.

We were thinking they were going to swarm, but Mark had given them more space about a week earlier.

We were just watching them and trying to understand as we get started on our backyard beekeeping days, and complete our first year with our first hive.

Friday night Siena and Lucas noticed there was a swarm in our backyard, in our neighbor’s tree, and our bees in the entrance holes, were gone.  They had swarmed.

We didn’t know what was going on.  Mark had surgery earlier that morning, so it was me and the kids and the bees to be dealt with.

I couldn’t do anything that evening, so we just waited and hoped they wouldn’t go anywhere.  They don’t move at night, and early on Saturday it was too cold for them too.  It was looking good for us.  We wanted to keep this swarm so we can start a second hive.

I didn’t think I could do it by myself, so once again, Matt from our local bee store, Bee Thinking, came to the rescue. Remember last year? We did all we could to help, but he did the hard job.  I know Mark was dying to help, I know he wanted to do it himself.

But I’m glad Mark kind of listened to the doctor’s instructions.  I know he didn’t say ‘don’t get swarms off the trees this weekend’ so I was glad to see he didn’t climb on the tree.

It was our first real spring days so I know Mark wanted to be outside helping and gardening.  And Matt said swarming is a sign of a strong hive.  I hope it’s true.

Here is Matt getting the bees in a short video:

It all worked out. Matt, gave us his time to get these bees off our neighbor’s tree, and put them safely in a new hive.  This time we got a Warre Hive, because we didn’t have a big enough space for a top bar, and Mark wants to learn more about the bees and work more with them.

I want to learn more about how to work with these bees. I’m excited to learn, now that we have two hives. Oh man. I hope we are not over our heads since we haven’t even harvested honey from our first box!

It was so much fun to see how Matt got the swarm.  We had friends over to see the moving of the swarm. The bees are so busy, such incredible creatures.  I never tire of seeing them and learn about them and all that they are capable of doing.

This is the hive, after Matt put the bees in the bottom boxes, he then put the bars about half an inch apart.

Then puts this burlap cover on top of the box.  Here we are waiting for all the bees to go in there.  In the bottom of the box is the entrance to the hive.  And we are still missing the top two boxes and the roof.

Here, we are just waiting.  There were quite a few bees still left on the tree, and we left the hive close by to make sure they have a chance to get in here.  It wasn’t more than 15 minutes after Matt was done shaking the tree and setting the hive with the bars, when all the bees came in from the tree.

Photo by Mark.

We had these bees in a new hive with sunshine through most of the day, our best spot, we thought.  But not even after 24 hours, Lucas saw them getting out of our hive and leave.  I guess they left us for a better place.  We had an empty hive after all our efforts that weekend.

But that’s nature. There was nothing else we could have done.

Next day, Monday, another swarm from our hive, that we didn’t see left.  And then two days later, another.

This third swarm I saw.  I have never seen it before.  It was loud, crazy, bees flying everywhere in a dense cloud for about 20 minutes flying in circles, all of them, they knew what they were doing, until they settled in a spot to stay for a while.

This swarm was huge!  It seems it was at least double the size from our first swarm.  From far away and the shape they made in the tree you could tell it was huge!

You can see few seconds of this amazing trip to this treehere.

When Mark got home that day, I showed him the new (third) swarm, and he thought he could get them. We went to our neighbor’s to find a (very) tall ladder.  Then to our other neighbors (with our bees) to ask if we can get in her backyard.  She asked “did something come over the fence?”  Well? As a matter of fact “yes, about ten thousand bees!”

Mark still with his work clothes, a (warm) raincoat, beekeeper’s vail, and  gloves, he climbed up the very tall ladder.  Over 20 feet high, I’d say.  Still with instructions from the doctor not to lift much wait or do exercise, he thought beekeeping at high altitude wasn’t prohibited.

This husband of mine is amazing. First time getting a swarm, at about 20 feet up high in a not too big of a tree to be holding the ladder from, with wind moving the tall branches, over a fence and surrounded by about ten thousand bees?  And he’s up there.

He went up there, 20 feet high, to the tip of the ladder, five times.  I think at first he didn’t get the queen when he shook the tree, because the bees left the box pretty quickly.  We think, it took few times to get the queen in our box.

After all his efforts, we came back home with a heavy box full of few thousands of bees, and hopefully, with a queen.  Mark sets the box with the bars.  Half inch apart.

And the cloth.  Phew!  And now wait.  I can say, that five days into having our second colony on this Warre hive, we still have them.  Hopefully these little, busy bees, like their new house this time.

Our old hive, looks much emptier but they are looking strong.  No more swarms.  They seem to be enjoying the sunshine and the blooming flowers of the last few days.  And we are enjoying them all, and learning each day more, as we have them and share our backyard.

:: this moment ::

A beautiful and fun Friday ritual. Inspired by SouleMama.

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. – Amanda Soule

If you’d like to leave a comment and a link to your moment, we would love to see it. Have a beautiful day.


After spending our morning at the CASEE Center seeing frogs, tadpoles, salamanders and other creatures for Critter Count, we went back to the Water Resources Education Center   to see the reptile show, Creature Feature.  It was fun.

Steve, from Creature Feature, shared how these creatures he brought, knowing that even they know him well (he cares for them as pets), he can do things that will bring them back to their wild nature, and attack when they feel threaten.  As pet owners he said, we need to know that.

But then he knows what makes them calm down, and come back to their normal pet, docile creatures, when threats have passed.

We saw a cobra that had her venom receptacle removed, so he felt he could share her in the show he has.

You can see a short video about her:

And other snakes he brought.

He kept saying that these creatures are from the wild, and though they are his pets, he’s always paying attention and keeps an eye on them during the show, or when he handles them.  He was very interesting to listen to.  I had fun.

This one I thought was the prettiest snake he brought and that I have ever seen.

He also brought a rattle snake that he handled with a snake hook.

You can hear the rattle from a safe place, in this video:

And then we got to touch a (non venomous, of course) snake.

I was taking pictures with a zoom.  Lucas was with Mark a little behind.

Siena was ready.

I love that she’s so calm with it.

Siena was ready for the alligator too. (Sorry it’s a little blurry.)

It was a fun weekend.

Stinging Nettle Pesto

After going on our outing to pick nettle, we had a couple of bags to cook and prepare with. We’ve never picked it before, so we learned how to do that, and we had a fun time with the folks from Cascadia Wild.  They are great!  Open to share what they know, fun to be with.

We picked enough to make and keep few foods I wanted to try.  The first one, was Stinging Nettle Pesto.  I found the recipe at the Fat of the Land blog.

So I washed the nettle.

I blanched the nettle for a couple of minutes.  Then chopped it.

I roasted the pine nuts (I know…. a little too much! but they tasted OK.)

And added all the ingredients (parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic, salt, lemon juice) to the blender.  Langdon says the food processor works better, but we only have a blender, and though it took longer to get it all mixed and chopped, we ended up with a smooth pesto, and very tasty!

Put some in the fridge, some in the freezer, and had some for dinner.

We stopped to get fresh pasta, and had it for dinner.  It was delicious!

Versatile Blogger Award

Exciting! I was nominated to the Versatile Blogger Award.  I’ve only been sharing our days and adventures here in this blog for a year and I am so honored I’ve been nominated.  This is a great way to celebrate my First Blog Anniversary.  So much fun. Really! Thank you Heather so much for nominating me.  It is a real honor.

The rules to accept this award:

  • Thank the award giver(s) and link back to them in your post.
  • Share 7 things about yourself
  • Pass this award along to 15 or 20 bloggers you read and admire
  • Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award

Seven things  about myself

  1. I am from Chile and have been living in the Pacific Northwest since we moved here, 18 years ago.
  2. I love Portland, Oregon with all its rain and cloudy days, making it all so clean and green.  Because when the sun shines, it is even more amazing and beautiful.
  3. I love seeing my kids and my husband and I work and learn together.  It’s not always easy, but we are always learning and figuring things out together.
  4. I love color.  In fabric, in paper, in photography, in nature, in art. Everywhere.
  5. I love taking photos and sharing them in the blog has been so much fun.
  6. I don’t have the sense of smell, since I was born I think it was.  We’ve never learned why though we have some ideas.
  7. I love that we took the adventure to live in India for a term, and extend ourselves to the unknown.  We learned so much.  I learned so much about India, about my family, and about myself.

Blogs I read and admire

Thank you so much, Heather.

This weekend : Earth Day

Oh this weekend, what a beautiful couple of days we had. Full.  Full of excitement, friends, busyness, sun, dirt, work.  Full of everything.

It all got started thanks to our friends who helped us with a load of compost-dirt for our new potato (field) bed.

So we planted the rest of our potatoes, knowing we are a little late for them.  But we are giving them a go anyways.

This from our first planting day.

And we had some space left, so we planted Siena’s peas she’s been growing in her greenhouse.

We also got two loads of bark chips to cover the muddy spots and freshen up our paths and garden.

And why not make a new garden bed, right?

Played with friends (not sure what game this was, but it went something like ‘I’ll tie you and then you tie me.’)

And planted.

And planted.

And planted some more.

Siena and Lucas are remodeling their play house, now being turned into a club house, getting a complete wash, cleaning, paint, and new furniture.


And then we noticed something else. Friday evening, we realized our bees had swarmed. They were in our neighbor’s camelia tree.

Critter Count 2012

It’s spring here in the northern hemisphere.  Or the calendar says so.

And every spring, for the past 6-7 years, we’ve gone to the Critter Count organized by the Water Resources Education Center, in Vancouver, Washington.  It’s lots of fun, and we look forward to going each year.

We especially enjoy going with Char Corkran, who leads and takes a group to one of the four sites they are studying.  Siena especially loves listening to what she has to say about the critters we find, and follows her as we search under rocks, logs, water, and everything around that can be of shelter for the amphibians and reptiles we are looking for.

We meet everyone at the Center for a lecture and training on how to do the research and the count.

We pick the site we want to go to, and this year we went to CASEE Center.  It has two ponds where we did the counts with the help from the students who go to the school.

We first found some tadpoles.

And then…. Oh my! Look at this!

No matter where you look at it, I think this Northwestern Salamander is my favorite.

Look at the gills. Beautiful!

And Char, is just amazing.  Siena and Lucas always enjoy their time with her on this outing.

We had to measure the salamanders we found.  Complete measurement from head to tail, and then from head to behind the the legs (because sometimes they loose their tail, so this is a more accurate measurement.)

And another salamander.

I know, I had to put it in my header of the blog. Who can resist!

There are lots of families who come to this event. And at this site, there are students who go to this center from different schools to take their electives, so they know this place.  We get help from them and we help them count and see what they have in their traps.

We found lots of Bullfrogs, but a whole lot less than last time we were there…. 3 or 4 years ago.  Look at this tadpole. HUGE!

They can be tadpoles and stay in this stage for two years, while the other frogs, native from our area, remain tadpoles for just one spring.

We kept looking and found some egg masses.  One that you can’t really pick up because it falls off your hands.

And this other kind, that keeps its shape.

The green algae inside you can see, it’s part of a symbiosis, helping the eggs because it produces the oxygen the eggs need to survive.

I don’t get tired of these eyes.

Or seeing the gills.

This is a Rough-skinned newt.

Cute, but make sure you don’t touch them or put your fingers in your mouth after you touch it.  Wash your hands very well.

After spending a while by the ponds, we headed to the forest area.

Someone lifts up the log while the others look and see if something moves.  Be prepared to catch!

We found a Common garter snake.

As opposed to the snakes we saw in India, this is not poisonous.

Even though the weather was telling us otherwise, we saw signs of spring.



Red-winged blackbird.

And at the end they gave us a special treat while we gathered all the supplies and colected the data.

As we are getting ready to leave, this huge group of Canadian geese flew from the fields next door.

I don’t know how many hundreds.

But they didn’t take long to form the “V” and fly over us.  What a beautiful day out of doors!  These geese though… I surely miss them and their sounds when we were gone last fall.  Welcome back!

Physics that looks like playing

Our days are mixed and some of the playing we’ve done makes me laugh.

Siena and Lucas got their finger knit chains and wrapped them all over the house, like a spider web.

They had a plan.

Lucas and Siena were hiding when Papá got home.  He’d open the door and a string would pull something that would move a pulley, that would make something move, Siena would pull something, and then Lucas, and something would fall, making Mark think that he had done it all.

It worked, and we had such a laugh.  A really funny welcome home for Papá that afternoon.