Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Sweeter Moment~

(Pawpaw is in a rehab place near his home and seems to be on the mend ♥.   This blog post has been in the works since late June, but obviously I had other pressing things to attend to.   I hope you enjoy the following...I know I did!)

In late June it was time to begin the honey harvest.  My Bee Man, now 82, called me on a Sunday afternoon to say he would be taking hives apart on Wednesday or Thursday and inquired as to what day worked best for me.   Thursday suited me best and when the said day rolled around I packed my things, drove to his house in Oxford, and prepared to make over a half million bees very unhappy.   We had over 26 hives to take apart and no idea how many gallons of honey to process.

As with most summer days in the south, it was hot.   However, heat is an important element in harvesting honey, and while I wore light cotton clothing there was no getting around the fact that we would be hot and sweaty and tired by days end.   Bee keeping is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who need to be constantly comfortable.

We started off at a farm down the road from my Bee Man's home.   I was happy to see the complete process again for the 3rd year in a row.  This year, however, I saw for the first time what a "failed" hive looks like.   Mostly barren, with cobwebs and webworms in the frames, as well as indications that a mouse had moved in.   There were no bees in this hive.   It was like a haunted house- spooky, dirty, cobwebby, and deserted.   Creatures that aren't meant to exist in a bee hive had moved in and taken up residence, only to destroy a once beautiful and functioning home of a queen.

It's not unusual for a hive to perish, just as death is a normal end in all life cycles, yet I felt a profound moment of sadness.    My Uncle assured me he would clean up the hive and destroy the webworms (2 days in a deep freezer kills all pests in a hive)- and he'd have the hive ready for another colony.    The hive ghosts would be vanquished and that made me feel better.   The point of bee keeping is not entirely about the honey, although it's wonderful and worth every penny, the real purpose is managing a natural resource which is vital to our crops and has been failing for the last several years.   It's a hobby which benefits everyone in the community.  I can't say the same about my knitting projects!

The sweetest moment of the day soon followed.   After smoking each hive and using a product called "bee go" to clear out the bees, we took the hives apart and separated the supers from each other  (the bees return in less than 30 minutes so we have to work quickly).  We carefully looked at each frame inside to see if the honey was capped.  Sometimes the bees build up honey comb in between the top and bottom of the super, so when you pry one away from the other some of the comb breaks in half and a beautiful little puddle of honey will appear.   It is simply not possible to refrain from taking your hive tool (looks a lot like a paint scraper) and scrape up the honey puddle and freshly broken honey comb and pop it into your mouth.   It is heavenly.   Words can't describe how sweet and precious that first taste of the season is.   As I stood there, sticky, covered in sweat, hot beyond words, and with hours to go before we would be finished- all I could think was every single second I invest in this hobby- every sting- every dollar I spent, was absolutely worth the first taste of the honey of the season.   I can only imagine what manna tasted like, but I would be willing to bet it was sweetened with honey :)

Finally, at the end of the day, we had at least 20 supers full of honey.  Each frame in a super (there are 9) has to be uncapped with a hot blade and then placed in a centrifuge, but we saved that for another day.   Every super has to be bagged tightly and stored in a cool dark building until we can process it out.   We processed it out later the next week and within 2 weeks my Bee Man had sold all 40 gallons of honey his bees had produced!

The photos below are all images taken of my hive, the one in my back yard, while I was taking it apart and harvesting my own honey.   My hive alone had a gallon and a half!

About 35, 000 bees unhappy with the "Bee go"

     One frame of capped honey.  Properly capped honey NEVER spoils.

    At this point I've removed the super and closed the hive back up-  many bees had already found their way home, or just hung around on the side and front of the hive.

                           Uncapping the honey from my hive-
                                Spinning the honey out and watching it flow ♥

              My Pixie and I at Owens Family Restaurant in the Outer Banks ♥

For more info about the bee deaths and what they think is causing it~

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath." 

 -- Michael Caine

It's been 11 days since the fall.   
I feel raw.  As if I've been stretched one to many times like pulled taffy.   There isn't a single thing I do, or a quiet place to go where I don't think of, or worse- feel, an important life is being drained away from us.   There have been several terrible days and only a few which have glimmered with hope.  We presently float in the murky place of wait-and-see...

The difficult process of watching an injured, or sick, loved one who neither leans towards recovery or towards death is simply awful.  There is no resolution.  Ahh, well, yes, there is resolution at some point- History always proves this to be true, but when painful moments stretch in to hours, and those hours stretch into days, and then into certainly feels as if there is no end in sight.

Trying to be "Sunny"- trying to look at each step in this process as a gift of sorts is a great challenge, but not without reward.   Every minute "Pawpaw" lives and is awake is another moment to cherish him in his presence.   Yet our hope for recovery is tainted by our fear of losing him.  We will lose him at some point.  The time we have now as we wait to see how he responds to the treatment sort of gives us space to "get prepared"- but anyone who has ever lost a loved one will tell you this isn't really true.   Death still takes one's breath away no matter how far ahead you see him coming. 

Everyday I do find something to be thankful for.  I continually see my mother in law gaining confidence in her role as a hands-on caregiver.   Her resolve to ask questions and expect answers from Dr's shows a new form of courage I have never seen in her.   She is well known for quickly surrendering any and all authority when a bigger (or more vibrant) person walks in the room- which has always bothered me.  She is learning how to be a protector.  

I'm learning how to take a step back and let other people in her network provide her with the extra support she needs.   A friend of mine was pointing out my "Savior" complex (he and I both suffer with this) and how important it was for me not to jump in take over simply because I was more capable.  It would be wrong of me to carry every baby bird around as it was learning to fly!   Simply because I CAN do a thing doesn't mean I SHOULD.    

It's always about finding balance with me, isn't it?  

A friend of the family has invited my daughter and I to go to the Outer Banks with them.  The condo is paid for and the occupants who were supposed to go had to back out.  At this moment I am leaning towards taking the generous offer and leaving on Monday for the unspoiled island coastline near Virginia.   I feel a little guilty for leaving (mom in law is staying with us, but is at the hospital every day)- but everyone says I should go.   In the event Pawpaw takes a turn for 
the worse I can drive home immediately.  

I can be a little duck on the water- and paddle back if the need arises.  



Monday, July 11, 2011

Another One O'Clock in the morning post...

But all I have is good news!  We rode through the terrible storm, had been warned to expect the worst, and Pawpaw came through the surgery with no problems at all.  Yes, his liver is still on the decline, and tomorrow he takes his first step with the new hip- but over all I am encouraged and blessed.   We are all ready for life to go back to normal :)    Love and hugs to all of you ♥

Thursday, July 07, 2011

It's One O'clock in the morning...Damn-it- listen to me good~ (Elton John)

I can't sleep.
I wander around in my old blog (and others) looking, reading, remembering- and mostly I am trying to be (mentally) somewhere other than where I am physically.   Except I'm in one of my favorite places in the world, but under extreme duress.   Life is hard at the moment.

My father in law, at the coast, fell on July 4th and broke his hip.   He's in liver failure, has A-fib, and a large pleural effusion- along with pneumonia.   The hip replacement is a walk in the park on it's own...but nothing short of a nightmare with all the other ailments.   We were here with him when he fell.  T had gotten the boat in the water and Mom in law had the steaks in the fridge for dinner that night.   My father in law was excited to get on the pontoon boat and was on his way to the dock in the marina when he lost his balance and just wrong move and everything has come to a grinding halt.

The local hospital was not equipped to do surgery.  It took us 24 hours to get him stabilized.   Another hospital was alerted, and they accepted him, but they had no open beds.   After another 24 hour wait and still no beds- I started getting fussy.   In 11 hours his hip will have been broken for 3 DAYS.    3 DAYS of waiting, watching blood tests, listening to him rattle with pneumonia and fluid on his lungs.   3 DAYS of morphine and adult diapers...and beep, beep, beep- blood draws, vitals being recorded, PAIN, no sleep, worry, agony, nausea (mine), phone calls, aughhhhhhhh :(

And yet I have found things to be grateful for in almost every set back.   His nurses were amazing and wonderful.  The ER is a dreadful place to be anytime of year, but especially on July 4th weekend.    He was treated with such good care and respect.    I have friends at Duke in key places, as well as a sister who works at UNC- and "Pawpaw" is being transported there NOW- even as I write this.   In 2 hours he will be in place and hopefully being seen by the Ortho team and being prepped for surgery within the NEXT 24 hours.

I will drive home in a few hours and wait with the kids who are dealing with all the feelings that come with a Grandparent whose life is in danger.   We all love him.  He served in the Korean war.  He was a fire fighter at Pope Air-force base for 25 years.  He was the deputy fire Marshall with the town of Cary for almost 20 years.
He's a good man, a hero, a father of 2, a step father of 1, and a Grandfather to 5, with one on the way.   We have a long road ahead of us, but my hope is that in a few weeks we'll all be back here again...with the boat in the water, and Pawpaw on board, and steaks in the fridge for dinner- and we will celebrate the 4th of August- and our independence- and I won't have to look hard to find something to be grateful for.

I guess I should go to bed now?