Journal archives for May 2012

May 10, 2012

Bees I

On April 21 I picked up a 'package' of honeybees from Beekind; a popular local merchant of supplies and hive products. My new son -in-law had extra 'hive furniture', so my up-front costs were minimized. I've always wanted to do this...

What really made it possible was taking my daughter and my partner to "Queen of the Sun" last year. Most folks are a bit worried about harboring such dangerous reptiles, but that charming film put the responsibility of saving the bees--and, by extention, our entire freedom-loving way of life--squarely on the shoulders of right-thinking citizens like us. And apart from that alarming message, it's visits to an array of dear eccentric beekeepers did a lot to soften the fear that only the strictest measures allowed us honey without mortal risks. Everyone was thus tolerant of my plan.

I've no background to even think about the problems bees are having. Certainly it seemed that we had a nearly beeless spring two years ago. Our old Redbud is a huge nectar source early in the season; and it usually hums like a dynamo in late March. That year it was nearly silent. Things are better now. In fact the Carpenter Bees we have locally have seemed unusually abundant.

But as to the honeybees, its clear to me that there are a lot of urbanites with hives the last few years. When we first lived here('80s), we had swarms from time to time; but if anyone downtown kept
bees I failed to notice. Hence, there may be a somewhat contrived and artificial quality to the recent abundance of bees.

Certainly the beestore folks were selling product: hundreds of boxed bees were going out; usually just one or two to a customer. I've read that you best take three to be sure of having one good hive: pretty depressing. But I'd hope this all works out. The scariest fact declared in QOTS was that a large majority of US commercial colonies are shipped each year for the flowering of our state's huge almond plantation. Such an amazing concentration of these social insects from an entire continent must be a great amplifier of any bee epidemic that comes along.

So far, the girls are doing well as far as I can see. They consume a quart of sugar solution each 36 hours and have filled 1/2 of the first 8 medium frames with comb, brood and some nectar. A steady stream of foragers goes out despite the artificial feeding; and every few seconds one bombs through the entrance with pollen-laden legs. With the blessing, they'll be on their own next month and self sustaining.

Posted on May 10, 2012 21:49 by icosahedron icosahedron | 1 observation | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 23, 2012

Pt. Lobos State Park

Pt. Lobos has always had fond associations in my family because of our repeated vacations in 1950's and 1960's Carmel. Before these idyls, we'd lived there. My father ended his service at Fort Ord(now 'military community' after decommissioning), and for a year was allowed to live off-base in that lovely spot. While no longer Tortilla Flat, !940's-1960 Carmel was a noted artist town, and not at all fancy. Today, despite decades of tarting-up by the richards and there remorseless armies of specialty contractors, it's still rather nice. Of course, the lonely Tor House overlooking the point is surrounded by 10M jewelbox 7th. homes; but so few of these investments are ever actually occupied, so the place is still quiet. In the misty morning--and the misty forenoon, etc.--it still feels like 1950, especially if you are facing west.

My mother loved China Cove, and took us there for picnics. a resonant memory for me is the first glimpse of its crystalline blue green water from the top. Graceful kelp fronds would be distinctly visible, not so much waving as undulating with the surge... A long walk down the thousand bleached wooden stairs led to a an unmarked whitest sand beach. At low tide, we did our best to terrify her by wading into the caves on the south side.

Alas, my visit last week with my daughter missed China Cove: "closed for renovations"--or perhaps they said "restoration"; I may have been spooked a bit after visiting Carmel-by-the-Sea. Happily, the rest of the park is astonishingly dense with wonders of all sorts. In fact, if you stay nearby, the best way to visit is to ride a bike. Around from Whaler's Cove to China Cove at the south end is just 2 flat mies or so; the whole things just 20 minutes from C-town. Most of this tiny peninsula is Pine forest, But the deeply indented shore--with overhanging 100' sandstone bluffs and liberally strewn with basaltic boulders and a myriad of small islands--takes a long time to negotiate if your looking at things. In our short visit I photographed about 50 species: only by an exercise of massive restraint. Not photographed, but heard continuously were the sea-lions' haunting calls mixing into the blowing mists. Most of these were asleep on the rocks: if they were all awake and shouting, it would be a bit much.

Posted on May 23, 2012 14:59 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 25, 2012

grooming pepperwood

I've spent another fine day weeding at Pepperwood. On these outings you assist regular staff members in their sysphean mission to rid the preserve of various unwanted species. On other days, they labor to replace or increase the natives. Yesterday we went after Bull Thistle and Teasel.

As an old gardener, such projects fill me with admiration. I've had zero luck in thirty years eliminating any of a long list of unwanted plants from a city lot. In fact, some of our own plantings that proved poor choices continue to florish despite determined efforts. So I've more weeds than when I started... In these campaigns, I've become familiar with a vast armamentarium of control methods. And why so many? it's because none work all that well.

So setting out to remove floral pests from a four or five acre segment of the preserve seems madness. Happily, I love this kind of exercise; and bear no responsibility for actual results. The staff members are well-briefed and cheerful. And on this fair day in may with mild warmth tempered by nice breezes, it was wonderful.

And, mirable dictu, they seem to have made progress. My daughter was along, and noted that the patch we covered--south-facing hillsides with the intersection of two moist drainages--was formidably choked with Bullthistle last year. Not so obviously now. We were able to dig/chop quite a bit of what was left; and a very large proportion of the flowering teasel. Naturally, a great many rosettes of each plant remain; but they keep a staff member on the job to police these residuals.

Another idea they have is using Chyrsolina beetles to abate their St. John's Wort. We didn't get to this; and I'm sorry for that as we'd cans to pick up some of those fellows to distribute to fresh pastures. I understand some Chyrsolina have a lovely iridescence, and that would be nice to see. A most charming idea, to use insects to do your extirpitory
work; I've no idea how it actually works in actual cases. I've been told this method worked very well in Canada: but it's got to be easier to kill plants that much closer to the north pole. It's also not just munching bugs, but a leveraged effect involving their vectoring a microbial disease of SJ'sW. Thus, it may be more interesting than particularly effective to unleash the Chyrsolinae. Since they are a fact-based outfit, we shall see.

Posted on May 25, 2012 14:09 by icosahedron icosahedron | 0 comments | Leave a comment