February. Fun or Funk?

Hi Everyone!

How is your February going?  At the moment ours has been fairly mild weatherwise.  Usually February here is our coldest month and longest and dreariest. For a 28 day month it always seems to me it is at least 60 days long.  I’m writing this on February 2nd so we will see how I’m doing by the 28th.

I did work in a little fun this week when my BFFs invited me to join them on a ski trip.  Get this…yours truly went skiing in 10 degree temperatures (wind chills around -10)!  Yes indeedy.  Here we are.  Four layers on top, three layers on bottom, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, face mask, toboggan and goggles made this a fairly comfortable endeavor. Fresh snow, great friends and no lift lines made it awesome!

Do we look warm enough?
Do we look warm enough?

I have managed to cram a full schedule into the February.  I’m going to visit my daughter in Charleston, SC next week.  It would be lovely to have about 75 degrees while I’m there.  The next weekend I start Bee School and that will last five weekends.  Of course it is time to start on the dreaded taxes. Yuck.  I am working on the bathroom remodeling and need to get new bee hives to put together and paint before bees arrive in April.  I have a list of sewing I want to do and last, but not least, I am working, working, working on new artwork.  Hopefully all this will get me through winter without going into my usual funk.

Many of you who read this blog are creative people with blogs of your own, artwork, writing, etc.  I would love to have your help and advice as I throw myself into my artwork and try to get it out into the world.

I am in the process of writing an Artist Statement.  When I read these at show openings I often find them dry and academic.  In other words…boring.  I suspect that is because they are just darn hard to write.  How do you write about yourself without sounding either conceited or weird?  I would like mine to explain why I create stuff and what it’s about without being boring, conceited or weird.  The challenge at the moment is just to figure out why I create stuff and what it’s about!  I am open to suggestions and would love to read yours or someone’s you think did a good job with theirs.

Do you sell work online?  If so, pointers on Titles, Descriptions and Tags would also be appreciated.  Creating art is not nearly as hard as writing all these things.  I am currently on Etsy, Fine Art America and now Red Bubble and Art Pal (still working on this one in case you don’t find much).  If you want to take the time to check these out and send me a critique, I will be happy to listen.

I am not sure what to do with my Etsy shop.  In my attempts to minimalize my life and stuff I am finding that keeping inventory is a royal pain, not to mention shipping.  The print-on-demand stores are very convenient and after the time involved in shipping, probably gives about the same return on investment.  Oh well, it’s there with stuff in it for the moment and I will ponder the future of it as I go along.

Please join in the conversation.  I have been writing this blog for a few years now and it’s lonely out here.  It is time that I heard from more of you.

Stay warm and in case I don’t get a Valentine’s Day post on here, give someone special a hug and/or kiss.  You don’t have to wait until the 14th.  Go ahead. Do it now!

Unsocial Media

Hi Everyone!

If you read last week’s post you know I am now a week behind myself.  So let’s catch up on life.  How are you?  Hope all is well in your world and that you have things under control better than I do.

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I have been taking a Facebook sabbatical.  Has anyone else run screaming away from the social media mess?  I had hoped after the election that people would calm down and return to the lovely people I used to know BUT it hasn’t happened.  There is still all this ranting and raving and ugliness being thrown at people who don’t agree with them.  These are supposed to be FRIENDS! At least on Instagram most of the people I follow are not actually FRIENDS and I can let them rave on without it piercing my tender heart.  So far, the only thing I am missing about Facebook are the cute animal videos.

What have I been doing with my time now?  Let’s see… 1) reading REAL books from a REAL library  2) I have made myself two new tops for my wardrobe 3) I have been putting in some serious time on drawing and painting 4) starting to paint our guest bathroom and second guest bedroom 5) herbal medicine studies and 6) more cleaning out of stuff.  I have been accomplishing a lot more now that I’m not reading posts by out of control people and watching cute animal videos.

I plan to go back to Facebook in a week or two, but I really did need to take some time and get away from the crazy.  My plan is to go in and hide the posts from the worst offenders.  Most of these are people I have respected and liked over the years, though a few of them are very young people just getting involved in our politics.  If I were their parents I would be giving them some advice on how to express political opinions in a more civil way.  As for the older folks…they will be hidden until they can act their age.

Am I wrong for wanting us to just be mannerly and civil again?  I have no problem with opposing views.  Some of my dearest friends and I do not share political sides, but we have managed to love and care for each other through many, many administration changes over the years.  Are people not teaching kids basic manners anymore?  Would they really say some of the things to the face of a friend and expect to stay friends?  Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I’m thinking our social structure is beginning to crumble.  How can a society thrive when we can’t even get along online??

I do not want a political discussion on here and quite frankly, will not approve comments of a political nature, but I would like to hear your opinion of how things are on social media and how do you think we can improve this enormous way of communicating with each other if you would like to express them.

Have a socially safe week out there!

 

Photo credit

Stepping up

Hi Everyone,

Hope you had a lovely week.  Here in North Carolina we are alternating between Winter, Monsoon Season and Spring.  In other words, every day is a weather adventure. nc-weatherI just logged in to write a new post and realized that this one did not go out last week.  I am so sorry! Darn it, I was even ahead of myself for once.  So, here is what you were supposed to have last week and I will now go and write this week’s post for next week.  So much for the best laid plans.

This past week became a big decision week for me.  I have been sort of lost as to what direction I need to go in career wise for the past six months.  Usually I have my design business plus a side job for backup.  I lost my office manager job when I got married and moved to the hills and have been wandering around somewhat aimlessly since then during the hours I would normally be working there.

As D.s retirement is upon us the end of next month we have been going through the budget with a fine tooth comb and checking it twice. There are not many part time employment opportunities locally and we both still need to work (even if we didn’t financially then for our sanity).  So, I’m going to do what I have always wanted to do and that is to see if I can make a decent income from what I create.  I’m making this art/craft/maker/designer gig full time now.

I have started on a new work schedule.  Those of you who work from home probably know, it is easy to lose focus when the laundry/dishes/yard all need attention. I have to write it down and look at it several times a day until it becomes a routine.

There have been hours of research the past couple of days.  Thanks to a nasty head cold and guilt for being sick, research has been conducted from a prone position on the sofa, but surprisingly productive considering.  I have a long list of sites to sell my work, boat loads of info on SEO, hashtags and social media strategies.  You will probably see a new website and blog layout here soon.

I realized that I have stacks and stacks of work already that with a little more attention could be good work to put out there in the world.  As most artists/creators are, I’m very critical of my own work and often get frustrated and shove it in a drawer before it is either finished or given a fair evaluation. Here is an example of a piece I started last week and sort of like, but then again…

Along with the career decision, I have started, once again, to clean out and organize all our stuff.  I say ours, but most of it is mine.  There is a box of paper scraps getting donated to a friend who works with kids at her church and old magazines and reference photos going away, dried up paint and markers have been cleaned out.  Here are some of the harder things to let go of…   

And now that deer season is over it is time to get back to house remodeling, garden planning, barn, chicken coop and dog fence building.  Nope, BOREDOM is never mentioned here!

Join me and go do something this week you have always wanted to do, but scares the heck out of you!

 

Photo credits…I have no idea about the NC weather, but all others are from yours truly.

Disappointed

Hello Everyone! Hope life is good for you as we ramp up speed for 2017. Today I have something on my mind that we all have to deal with and it just isn’t fun.  Disappointment.  There is a good chance that if it hasn’t happened to you yet this early in 2017, then it is lurking just around the corner.

Today I am disappointed and, dang, it’s just a little thing, but it is really eating at me and I can’t figure out why.   Back in December I signed up for a “sew along” event online to a) add some new, much needed items to my pitiful wardrobe and b) to keep my mind and hands busy during the winter.  With the sew along event you get a discount on the patterns that are going to be featured.  Well, come to find out this morning, I did not receive the one main pattern discount code that I wanted.  Evidently, it went out the end of December and the deadline to order was January 1.  Somehow, even though I was registered, the email did not get sent to me.

When I emailed the coordinator of the event she apologized, but said there was nothing she could do until the next coupon codes go out in February or March. MARCH!!  This is for a sweater!  By the time I get it made I won’t be able to wear it because it will be SPRING here!!

Honestly, this is just a minor disappointment…supposedly. Or it should be.  But it has pissed me off all morning, like eating at me.  Why?  Maybe because I have made a commitment this year to look after myself better.  Part of that commitment includes getting rid of the ratty clothes in my closet and adding some nice, very specific pieces back in.  I was looking so forward to making this sweater this month to have to wear for the rest of the winter.  I actually planned for two in two different colors.

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I think the other reason is that I gave myself a specific budget on the clothes and now this throws off my budget if I buy the pattern at full price or pick another pattern to make as a substitute while I wait for the new code.  Maybe I’m just disappointed that I’m not going to have that new sweater to wear when I want it.

Yuck, that is probably the root of disappointment. Not getting something you want WHEN you want it and EXPECTING a certain outcome that doesn’t happen.   This past weekend I had a conversation that I EXPECTED to be a fun conversation.  Somewhere along the line it took a turn and I was disappointed in how it all ended.  After half a century of walking and living on this earth, I would think by now I would know how to avoid setting myself up for disappointment.

Should we have EXPECTATIONS? It seems like we should. But why?  Looking back over the past few years there was a time when I let go of expectations and was rarely disappointed.  The downside of that time is it was a very dark chapter in my life and I had experienced one life blow after another to the point that I was frankly afraid to expect anything positive.  Now, life is good and I have let myself fall into looking for certain outcomes evidently.  How do you keep a positive attitude, but without expectations???  Someone more enlightened than me needs to jump into this conversation.  I have had several disappointments recently.  None of them huge or life changing disappointments, but they have caused reactions in me that I did not like so it seems to be a ME problem or one of those times when the universe thinks I need to learn a lesson.  Don’t you just hate those?!

Feel free to add your insights. I’m pretty sure this is a universal problem not just mine, even though it is feeling like it right now.

Have a fabulous week…but don’t EXPECT a fabulous week. 😉

 

Photo credit Théotime Guéneau

Hello 2017!

Hello Everyone,

Welcome to 2017. Did you send 2016 out with a bang, or like me, with a whimper?  Sorry for the delay getting this posted on time.  I wrote it way back on Tuesday, but things came up…like a big snow storm…that required attention to little details like getting deliveries to customers before the roads were slick, fighting the crowds in the grocery store before we ran out of food at our house. img_3800

I did, however, start out my 2017 pretty darn well. Historically, I spend my New Year’s Day in my pj’s, curled up on my sofa, under a blanket with a good book.  Admittedly, this is not a bad way to start a new year, but this year it is not in line with my pursuit of Hygge. I am trying my darnedest to foster a better relationship with Old Man Winter.  You will find throughout this blog, my whining and complaining about winter, the cold, the grayness of it all.

In the U.S., our state parks have First Day Hikes lead by Forest Service rangers. I now live very near Hanging Rock State Park that includes a couple of nice mountains and good hiking.   Yes indeedy, yours truly, managed to drag herself out of her nice, warm, cozy house and out into the chilly morning air of January 1, 2017 to go hiking 4.7 miles with approximately 20 people she did not know.   Uphill, no less!

It honestly took extreme will power to overcome my aversion to cold AND my introvert personality. Guess what! It was awesome!!   Perfect not-too-cold weather, considering the number of layers of clothes I was wearing.  The views were magnificent even with some cloud cover.  The company was friendly and the rangers had lots of information and a good sense of humor.

Any Andy Griffith Show fans out there?  Notice the mountain in the distance with the big rock formation on the top?  That, my friends, is Pilot Mountain.  Below it is the town of the same name except in the show it is Mt. Pilot.  Yep, there really is a Mt. Pilot and I have known a few folks, who move to North Carolina from other parts of the country/world, call the town by its fictional name.  There is also a thriving little tourist business there thanks to the show.

So, yes, I felt like I rocked January 1st this year and gave myself a big ‘ole pat on the back.  The hike was over by noon and I quickly got home, changed back into my pj’s, settled in on the sofa with the dogs and a good book and all was well with the world.  For the record, D. had to work and probably was not convinced that his winter hating wife would actually go hiking until he saw photographic evidence.  

This year my goal is to add meat to the pitiful bones of have existed on this blog for a while now as I got through some big life changes. More creating, more thinking, more exploring.  MORE than what I have been giving you.  Thank you for hanging in here with me if you have been here a while.  Welcome if you are just landing here and wondering what goes on.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about a book I found and promised to write about it. I’m going to try and not make this too long or you will never come back.  So here is my book story…

From the time I read my first Dick and Jane book (for younger readers, these were our first grade reading books) I have been a voracious reader.   For years and years I normally had three to five books going at once and would panic if I started getting low.   Up until my mid-twenties I generally read novels and then somewhere after that started reading primarily non-fiction.  I noticed a phenomenon happening.  It seemed like I often had just the book I needed to work through a work or life problem virtually fall into my hands.  It could be fiction or non-fiction.

Now I know that I am not the only one to have this experience. Yours may be a podcast, radio show or a person who shows up. God, the universe, spirit, whatever your word for the mysteries of life, shows up just when you need it.  If this has not happened to you, then you need to slow down a little and pay attention.  You are not being ignored.  You are doing the ignoring of what is around you.

This happened so often to me that I got in the habit of wandering around the library saying a little prayer of “God, which one do I need to read today.” Not every trip to the library was life changing, but it made the search much more interesting.

I had strangely gotten away from reading books all the time for some reason (uh, ipad maybe), but I stopped into the local library to find reading material while I am stuck at our shop without wifi. Now, I’m not going to tell you the name of the book that I picked up.  In all likelihood it wouldn’t do a thing for you because you aren’t dealing with the same stuff I am.  But, I picked up a book by an author I had read before.  I thought it was about organizing and downsizing into a smaller home.  Yeah, we still have lots to minimize yet at our house.

What I discovered it was about was clearing out your mental and emotional stuff! Nah, I wouldn’t need that.  Cue the belly laughs from off stage here.

For a couple of months I had been getting crankier and shorter tempered by the day and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why.   Life is good!  What the heck?  As I started reading the book it started talking about how to change old patterns.  Old emotional patterns set up when life held different circumstances and people.  Old coping skills that are no longer working.  Well smack me in the head!  It began to dawn on me that I was trying to use old coping skills for entirely new situations.  I no longer needed the defenses and walls that served me well a decade ago.  I no longer had to pretend to be tough and completely in control like I did when I was a single parent with teenagers.  Thank you Lord!

We get so stuck in our thinking and reactions. The brain gray matter makes these patterned grooves that seem permanent, but they aren’t.  We just have to pay attention to what we are thinking and doing and dissect it down to the roots.  It’s not necessarily easy, but it makes all the difference.  I’m pretty sure D. would tell you that I have been much easier to live with the past couple of weeks.  I haven’t completely broken old habits and patterns, but when I feel a strong reaction coming on I take the time to figure out why instead of just blowing a gasket.  Breathe, breathe, breathe.

So now you have my book story. I would love to hear yours.  Seriously, I think they are some of the coolest human stories when solutions present themselves in mysterious ways.

Have an awesome week!!

Photo credits…all taken by yours truly.

Happy New Year!

I am writing this in the wee hours of December 30 and hope to finish it before the end of the day.  My whole week has been this way. Yesterday almost the entire day was spent on the road making deliveries to clients and running errands though I did get lunch in with my son before he left town to finish his Senior year and some visiting with long time friends who are going through a rough patch.

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and holiday season. Ours was good. Lots of cooking, visiting and dogs. Lots of dogs.

This is the week I usually do my new year planning. Luckily, I started early this year because there has not been much time this week for reflection and planning. Here is the list I’m starting out with as 2017 rolls in.

1) Review business expenses. The past two years my business expenses have increased rather drastically and I now need to see where changes need to be made. There is going to have to be a price increase for my clients unfortunately, but to limit that, I think some expenses can be cut or reduced. Not a fun project but necessary if I am going to stay in business.

2) Regular exercise. Ha, this one is on my list every year. I stop and start all year long.

3) Way(s) to improve income. Somewhat related to #1. As D. is about to retire we are looking at EVERYTHING and know that 2017 is going to be an adjustment, but until the the first retirement check comes in we won’t know exactly how much of one. We need flexibility at this point in life. I’m working on some ideas that I will share as they take shape.

4) Focus. This year has been all about adjusting to my new life. Included in that adjustment has been lots of artistic experimenting. Things are finally beginning to gel (I hope) and a path is appearing.  Keep checking in this coming year to see if I’m making progress.

I left you hanging on my last post about a book I was reading. Sorry, but I am going to leave you hanging for one or possibly two more weeks. It is going to take more time and thought than I have right now and I am considering an out of the box New Year’s day event for me and will want to let you know about it if I pull it off.

We are winding down at D.’s shop as deer season comes to an end. We are both very tired from all the extra hours of work and the brain just isn’t firing as well as I would like. A few much needed naps are required I think to get more quality thoughts out of my head.

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I wish you a wonderful New Year. Thank you for visiting and reading the wanderings in my head. This year has been a bad case of “winging it” and now I hope to improve what I put here for you in 2017.  I would love to hear your plans and goals for this new year.  Let’s see how we do and what fun we have for the next 365 days!

Photo credit

Shifting

Hi Everyone,

I hope all is well in your world. We are only 8 days from Christmas and my week is centered on wrapping, cleaning, cooking, etc. while juggling the normal chores.

D. and I celebrated six months of married life this week. Six months ago I made huge life changes when I married him. The married part is great. Adjusting to the changes in everything else is beginning to be a struggle I think. Maybe it’s just winter. If you have read any of my previous posts you know I suffer through winter. I’m beginning to suspect there is more to it than just winter aversion though.

I have moved many times now and generally look at a move as a new adventure. I did the same this time. I jumped into country living with both feet. What I am discovering now is a need to adjust to a completely different stage of life not just a change in location. Quite frankly, I’m finding it difficult.

“What the heck is she talking about?” you ask. Well, first, my entire career and most of my life has been time oriented. Deadlines are the second most important part of my work, creativity being first.  Then I spent years and years hauling kids to sports practice, youth church meetings, chorus and choir practice, tournaments near and far. In between all that I squeezed in the practical chores of laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, ect. always with a eye on the clock to get everything done on time. In the middle of all this I was usually also working a second job.  Downtime was a rare, rare thing and when I got it, sleep was involved.

Suddenly I find myself living in an area where I’m not sure they use clocks! There are no deadlines. Estimated time at best. A fifteen to thirty minute visit seems to be the norm before getting down to business.  I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it has caused me some very frustrating moments in my time oriented brain. Time is so ingrained in my system that I physically cannot sit still when my internal alarm starts blaring.

Have you ever thought about your conditioned responses? Time is just one of my issues. Having been on my own as a single parent for thirteen years, I evidently developed some coping mechanisms that are no longer serving me very well. I’m used to making decisions without having to consult anyone else. I’m used to doing things my way and my way only. I’m used to things getting done on my schedule. All these I’m having to change if I want to stay married!  Massive, sudden changes are tough!

If all this wouldn’t push a girl over the edge, we have a LONG list of remodeling and farm projects in various stages going on at once.  My strong preference is to take on one project and complete it then start the next one.  D. is more flexible than I am in that regard, and due to time and/or money constraints and season/weather our projects switch back and forth. So virtually nothing has been finished in the six months I have been here except the floors getting tiled. If I can hold it together until mid-February we will have a dishwasher again! I AM finishing the baseboards in the guest room and the painting of the bathroom in January!

Internal, long held habits and responses are extremely difficult to work through and change. I happened upon a book (will discuss next week) that actually made me realize what was going on.  I was clueless about why I suddenly turned very cranky and I’m sure, difficult to live with. Now I am trying my best to be aware of what is going on, my response to it and why. Hopefully I can start chipping away at these habits and replace them with more appropriate ones for my new life.  I could hardly stand myself so I’m sure D. will be happy for me to have an attitude adjustment.

I am planning on getting in a post next week, but kids start coming home this weekend, deer season is still going strong around here and there is still a list of things to do before Christmas.

Just in case a post doesn’t happen.  Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it and Happy Holidays to all.

 

Photo credit

Holiday Haze

Hi Everyone,

There are no deep and thoughtful thoughts today.  I am surrounded by Christmas chaos and a to do list depressingly long.   Winter has set in and my normally cheerful disposition sinks along with the temperatures.

Cold and gloomy, but trying to put on a festive face.

D. and I have been working long hours at his business.  I will have to admit to looking forward to the end of deer season in another month.  Next year he will be retired and hopefully the late night hours will not be so often.

I am pretty sure Amazon loves me this year and the UPS guy hates me.  There have been deliveries every day this week because I have neither the time or inclination to fight my way through stores for Christmas presents.  So far I have not had to step foot inside a single store and only plan for one quick stop to get gift cards this weekend.  That should be the end of the shopping!

I did get this guy finished this week. He doesn’t look terribly festive either.

Decorations have been pretty minimal too.  I got greenery up outside Thanksgiving weekend as well as the Christmas tree.  We have an artificial tree and over the years my son, along with my daughter, were chief tree builders.  I had to do it this year and realized just what a frustrating job it is.

Biggest accomplishment so far has been getting the Christmas tree up and sort of decorated.

Cooking is not happening at the moment either.  No time with all the hours at the shop.  Meals are generally soup and crackers.  Christmas goodies probably are not going to happen at all.  I hope to get our weekly pizza made tonight.  That may be this week’s highlight for food.

Next year I think I will put a note in my calendar to get the Christmas shopping done in July and cook plenty of meals to freeze well before the beginning of deer season.  Right now I feel like a squirrel who can’t find her nuts the day before a blizzard!

I have included a few of this week’s photos to break up this downer of a post.  Hopefully by next week’s post I will have wrangled in the chaos and will be in more cheerful spirits.

We are very thankful for finally get rain after two long months of drought. This was the sky after the rain left. Beautiful rain and beautiful sky.

We did wake up this morning, look out the kitchen window and find Bob the Houdini Horse staring in at us, wanting his breakfast.  Wish I had managed a photo of that!  Leave it to the crazy horse to give us a much needed laugh for the day.

Wishing you a calm, peaceful, organized week!

Hygge

I hope all of you had a wonderful week!  We had a lovely Thanksgiving weekend with most of our families. A few missing kids & grandkids that had other obligations that we should be seeing for Christmas though. I got some quality time with my son while he was home. There are plans in the works for after his graduation that could take him far, far away for a couple of years so I am trying to squeeze in as much time as possible with him.

The impending graduation and possible time abroad for my son set off a new wave of empty nest issues for me last week. Coupled with the onset of winter, the past week or so has been an emotional roller coaster.  I suffer each winter from a medium to serious degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.  In other words, I endure winter and not happily. Those who live with me, endure me and probably not happily.

During my recent wanderings on Pinterest I ran across this… hygge

It seems that this is how the Danish people get through their long winters without succumbing to cabin fever. You can do your own research on the subject (and there are a few naysayers online), but I like the idea of sanctuary, community, coziness, WARMTH, celebrating and well-being (without resorting to pills).

Since I very recently had a weeping spell over my lost honeybees, I also need to work on letting go of the whole mothering thing now.  Not that I will stop being Mom to my kids, but let go of the need to mother everybody and everything that breathes.  The bees are capable of working out their survival with minimal help from me the same way my kids are now too.  It’s time I look after myself for a change and of course my husband (who does a good job of looking after me when I don’t look after myself very well).

So, I am lighting candles, putting warm, fluffy blankets everywhere, trying to get back to a regular yoga practice, dragging out the long thermal underwear to use for walks in the woods and stocking up on good novels for the winter.  About February, when the worst of the SAD sets in, I will try to remember to give you an update.

**As I am writing this, I just had a text conversation with my son, who suffers from insomnia like I have all my life.  Of course I am giving him suggestions and trying to fix it for him.  Twenty-two years of mothering is a hard habit to break.  Are there 12 step programs for empty nesters???

 

Photo credits:  Hygge photo credit unknown.  Pug photo by Matthew Henry.

 

 

Backyard mayhem 

I have had three very stressful days. When you hear why, you may think “she’s been out in the sticks too long already.”

To catch my new readers up to speed, this Spring I became a newbie beekeeper.  I grew up with my Dad and Grandpa beekeeping as long as I could remember and often helped my Dad when he harvested honey. Beekeeping today is nothing like back then. I never remember Dad stressing out over his bees (for the record, he doesn’t stress about much anyway). You put a swarm of bees in a hive, then a few months later had honey. The bees did their thing and you stayed out of the way. It may not have been completely that simple but close.

Now, everything is out to get the bees. I have one hive that I have watched over this year like a newborn baby. Dad brought the new hive to me and said he thought they had been robbed (bees from another hive will take honey and food from a new or weak hive) early on. So I fed them sugar water every day until they were gathering enough nectar on their own. 

In July I saw small hive beetles and put in a trap. By September they were strong with good honey and brood (future bees). My queen seemed to be doing a great job. I started feeding them sugar water and essential oils to prevent mites (one of the major bee killers here in the U.S.).  I decided to leave them all the honey for their winter food. I was feeling good about their chances of getting through the winter.

Then came October. No more blooms. A few wet days from the hurricane. Then yellow jackets (for those of you who don’t have them, they are an evil wasp species). They started to try and sneak in the hive. Not a lot, but an ever present evil pest. I had already covered the front entrance of the hive with a wire mesh to keep out mice as the temperature fell (mice want to live in the warm hive but make their usual nasty mess). Now I stuffed the mesh with grass and leaves to reduce the space for the yellow jackets to sneak through until I could get an official entrance reducer that closes the entrance to about a one inch opening. 

Last week I left for a couple of days to visit my college girlfriends and came home to find the yellow jackets broke through the grass/leaves and were coming and going freely into the hive. NOT GOOD!

I quickly duct taped (yet another use for it) most of the entrance closed and Tuesday night got the entrance reducer at our local beekeeping meeting. I live almost an hour away from the nearest supplier and shipping on a $1 ER is about $12. Finally Wednesday morning I installed the ER, took off some unused honey racks, installed an enclosed top of the hive feeder to reduce the chance of the yellow jackets smelling the sugar water, then let out a sigh of relief to have gotten my bees safely tuck in for the winter. 

Thursday morning- 9:30 am. I take a casual stroll out to the bee yard. There I see my hive surrounded in a cloud of bees. Not yellow jackets, not my bees. From parts unknown, either a distant neighbor’s hives or feral bees, my hive has been invaded.  My little guard bees are fighting valiantly to prevent the robbers from pillaging their honey and killing the queen.  I can’t stop hundreds of bees. I run into the house and grab a sheet and a jar of sugar water.  I drape and tie and pin the sheet over the hive, trapping some robbers and my bees together, but stopping the onslaught from the cloud of bees swarming around me and the hive. I dump the sugar water in a pan away from the hive to entice the robbers away. I have done all I can do and can only stand, watch and listen to the battle go on. It is heartbreaking.

At dusk, when all good and bad bees go home, I untied the sheet, dreading what I will find. A pile of dead bees are on top of the hive. I suspect a battle to the death between good and evil. A couple of bee bodies on the ledge and a couple of guard bees dragging a dead body out of the hive.  

Some frantic research on my part revealed I should close down the entrance to one bee size hole and rub Vicks Vapor Rub around the entrance. As I am doing this, one brave, but I’m sure, exhausted guard bee thought I was another invader and stung me. She survived all that then died trying to keep me away. It’s the only sting I have gotten from my bees and yes, I cried over her death. 

I was miserable all evening. I could not open up the hive to see how bad the damage was or see if the queen was dead or alive. I knew the robbers would be back today and yes they were. I got a jump on them, had the hive covered with the sheet before they arrived. There were not as many today. I called my Dad for advice. He told me to keep them closed up, but give them more food at night. They should be ok for a few days like that and hopefully will make a new queen if the existing one was killed. All may not be lost, but I am bracing myself for the worst. 

We have not had rain here for almost two months. Wildfires are burning in our mountains. I would ask again, like last week, pray for rain and while you are at it, plant some flowers for the bees. They need all the help they can get. 

My son will be home next week for Thanksgiving so a post here may not happen so I will have more time with him.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. readers. Have a wonderful week everyone else.