Archive | June, 2013

Herbal Nyquil – or – the effects of Catnip on Humans

27 Jun

Once upon a time, I was a poor college student.  When Christmas time came, I didn’t know what I would do.  So I decided to make herbal neck wraps for my family that they could put into the microwave, heat up, and wear while relaxing after a hard day of whatever they were doing.

I got little bits of fabric and then did research on herbs with relaxing qualities.  Then I went to the co-op and got lavender, chamomile, and catnip – which I’d read all had said relaxing qualities.

I mixed them up in a little bowl, added wheat berries (thermal mass), and stitched up little pouches.  I even made myself one.

A few weeks after Christmas, my dad called me to ask what I had put into the wraps because whenever he or his partner used them, they felt pleasantly woozy and then fell asleep.

I wasn’t sure what could have had that effect.

Then I tried my own out – pleasant wooziness, sleep.  I’d had one with just lavender in it previously and had NOT had that issue.  Chamomile is pretty mild too, so I figured it must be the catnip…further research seemed to indicate that catnip was in fact the culprit.

Now years later, I’m delving more into Things Herbal and remembered my adventures with catnip and decided to see what else it could do.

So one night, many days ago, when I was having trouble sleeping, I tossed some fresh catnip into hot (but not boiling) water:

20130619-201840.jpgLike so.

Steeped it for 20 minutes….mixed it into what I had left of a honey mint julep (effectively creating a catnip hot toddy)…and fell asleep before I had finished drinking it.

Herbal Nyquil.

***Your Mileage May Vary***

The end.

Honey Mint Julep – the tastiest honey cocktail!

24 Jun

So I’m on vacation right now in the South and I’m scheduling a few posts, so I’m writing to you FROM THE PAST right now.

Mint Juleps are my favorite summer cocktail – they’re a no brainer when you have a mint plant in the garden that just won’t quit.  I also, no surprise, have a little honey around (not mine yet, but local and raw and tasty).  So I decided to make my own version of the classic.

First of all – Minty Honey Simple Syrup:

Fill a mason jar (or equivalent) about a third full of mint leaves.  Then 1/2-2/3 full of tap water as hot as you can get it to come out.  The rest of the space in the jar should be filled with honey!  Leave a little “headspace” in there for future shaking.  I like to stir or swirl it a little at first as it’s cooling and then close it up and give it a good shake.  I’d steep that as is for at least 20-30 minutes…get it good and minty.  Shake it occasionally.  I like to make mine the night before and then leave it in the fridge to really get good and steeped.

Next, strain all the leaves out – and combine with a good bourbon (Four Roses is my current fave) at 1 part syrup to 2 parts bourbon.  I like mine sweet!  I’ve also seen a shot an a half of bourbon to 2.5 tablespoons of syrup…but that’s too precise for my taste.

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Serve over crushed ice in a julep cup if you’ve got the gear…or regular ice in something you like drinking out of…and obviously garnish with more fresh mint.  Delish!

20130619-201820.jpgCould also be consumed IN the actual garden….it’s worth considering.

Also, today is my mother’s birthday – so feel free to raise a glass to her.  I think she’d approve.

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Supply Chains

20 Jun

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More Bee Expansion….aka I am a Bee Hoarder. Big Update.

19 Jun

So, let’s see….

After the disaster of a crop & chop, which never really shaped up to be anything but a mess, I hived Betty up the hill into a foundationless Langrstroth next to Foster hive.  I had this whole plan about how I was going to put the styronuc into this rubbermaid container I keep all my bee junk in, but it didn’t fit.

So plan B…which I had to formulate on the fly…involved closing said rubbermaid container, rolling my window all the way down, and balancing the nuc on top of the container with the door out the window….and driving really really really slowly with a smoker lit and my veil on. Luckily, I was just driving it from one end of a farm to another, so really less than a quarter of a mile and no real roads.

20130619-190034.jpgOk, there’s sort of a picture….the corner of a white thing in the mirror is the nuc sticking out my window…and then you can obviously see the smoke.

20130619-190051.jpgAnd here’s Foster hive on the left, I really need to combine that down into one box…although I’m tempted to let them sort themselves out.  Then there’s Betty all tucked into her single brood box, and the lavender styronuc waiting to be cleared out totally.  It’s empty now and stored away.

Cleo, at the other end of Scratch Yard is doing great – she’s on 13 or 14 bars and building like a little champ.  I couldn’t seem to get a good shot in the window last week, but I’m headed out tomorrow to check on them and do some other work….

I checked on Miss JuJuBee last week it seems like they’re starting to move down into the second box.  I have fingers crossed hard on that one.  Last year my girls in that hive swarmed rather than move down.  I have seed comb in the second box *and* I put a swarm trap out in the woods a bit just in case.  Here are two pictures of her girls:

20130619-191155.jpgPollen pants!  I love it when their pollen baskets are full and they have puffy pollen pants!

20130619-191204.jpgHere’s looking at you, kid.

Then!!! I got a community garden space (I alluded to that previously).  I’ve been doing a lot of work unearthing it from weed city.  It’s coming along.  They told me I could have a hive there, which I was really excited about and then the other community garden that I was on a waiting list for said I could keep a hive there too!  Two hives!  So I brought the long hive (Daphne) to the garden I am gardening in:

20130619-191441.jpgThis is Daphne in my little plot…in the distance….failing at blending in.

I think we’re up to last Wednesday now.  So I needed two nucs, found them!  Went and got them! Brought them back!  Got a hive for one of them, another foundationless Lang – I’m calling her Eleanor.  Hived her up right quickly on…I think it was Monday.

Today I went into the garden with the intention of doing an actually assisted Chop and Crop…better prepared and on a nuc that was all wood instead of all plastic…look, I’m learning.  Here’s my helpful friend in my spare bee suit:

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I pulled the nuc away from where it was, got the HTBnuc that I made (featured in my last post in all its adorableness), and went to work.  I figured, I’d chop and crop into the HTBnuc a few yards from the site of where the other hive is and nuc was so that there would be fewer bees around and that I could just drop the bars into the long hive when I was done with the traumatic operation.

I was wrong, as usual.

First, I’d accidentally switched nucs so there was a plastic frame in there, lame.  I figured I could just put that into Eleanor (the already hived Lang) no problem.

I was wrong about that too.

First things first, I shook the bees off of the first frame and into my nuc, helpful friend cut the bottom, the comb came loose, and then I noticed a little queen cell on it that was opened….so I put the brakes on.

I lay that frame out to be robbed as it was mostly nectar and set about shaking the loose bees off of every frame and into the nuc, figuring I’d shake a swarm into the nuc, check out the rest of the frames, and see what was going on.

When I really got in there and looked there were 6<<<<<<< SIX<<<<<<< queen cells in varying sizes on a variety of the frames.  Three of them were open.  Three of them were still sealed.

So I closed the nuc back up (after shaking almost all the loose bees out of it) and put it back where a mini swarm of returning field bees was congregating on the side of my raised bed.

And then I watched, thunk, and had a little snack.

A lot of the bees from the shaking process ended up outside of the new nuc.

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But within an hour they were all into the little nuc and fanning and foraging and quiet.  From that, I’d say there’s a queen in there.

I ran over to my new favorite spot, Cluck!, to get a new hive figuring that I’d just move all the frames with the other half of the bees into a new foundationless langstroth and call it good…but then as I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t want to waste all of the queen cells and sooooooo….

I hived up almost all of the frames into the new foundationless Lang…who needs a G name…Genevieve and faced it away from where the nuc was facing and I left a different frame with a queen cel in the nuc (alone) and faced it to the side of where the nuc had been facing and stacked it up on top of the two Lang hives that are there figuring that they’d split themselves all up amicably (I hope) and I can take that frame and the bees in it tomorrow morning and take them down to the farm where Alice is empty – chop and crop that one frame, add the bees that are in the box, go get a couple of bars from Cleo and bring them down and call THAT a split….which leaves:

Alice (HTBH at Zephyr, currently empty) with a queen cell, some bees, and a few borrowed bars from Cleo.  Work to do tomorrow.

Betty, last seen about 10 days ago tucked into her foundationless Lang up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Cleo, last seen about 10 days ago being blue ribbon and wonderful in her HTBH up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Daphne empty in Sycamore Yard…but once I get back in two weeks I’ll move her to the other community garden (Brattle), bring the baby nuc over and transfer the bars into it….so next update in two weeks.

Eleanor – foundationless Lang full of happy bees being normal in Sycamore Yard.  Next check in two weeks.

Foster hive – status unknown…but couldn’t be worse than when I found her…next check tomorrow…up on Scratch.

Genevieve – newly hived foundationless Lang in Sycamore Yard, next check in two weeks, although she’s short a frame and I should probably put that in tomorrow…although they were QUITE irritable when I left today.

JuJuBee – Being a darling in Lincoln Yard, I think…next check tomorrow.

Jean Grey – Awaiting a swarm in Lincoln Yard.

And that’s that….sort of a fail…and I got chased from the yard…ha…but also sort of exciting!

How I spent my Friday night.

7 Jun

Well first, I got a pedicure with one of my besties, and then I thought….well….I drive right past my studio on the way home….I’ll just spend a quiet little hour in the wood shop….which dissolved into two…and a half….

But! I built stuff!

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Exhibit A) a new nuc out of repurposed floor board scraps I trash-picked! It can fit bars from Cleo’s hive (unlike Jean Grey, which can’t). So I can use it as a transport box when I split Cleo, which I plan to do in the next week or so. This baby still needs a proper roof.

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Exhibit B) milled all the top bars for what’s likely to become my community garden hive…aka the residence of Queen Daphne. I also started gluing comb guides, but I got tired of it….more to do later, and of course, legs and a roof.

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Exhibit C) assembled the boxes for Betty’s foundationless Lang. The finish came out darker than I anticipated, but I think it will be ok.

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Exhibit D) not tonight’s work…putting the frames together and adding starter strips of foundation. Frame assembly: easy. Adding starter strips: stupid hard.

As soon as this rain clears…Thursday? I’m going to go check Cleo and see if she’s ready to be split, she was on 13 bars after just a month. There are 15 in the hive right now and I’d intended to give her a few more today, but it’s raining cats and dogs…I haven’t checked since Wednesday and it’s supposed to rain until Thursday, could get a little crowded in there. Maybe they’ll get bored in all this rain and cook me up a baby queen!

Once I’ve split Cleo into Alice hive, which is in Zephyr yard….I’ll move Betty’s nuc up from Zephyr to Scratch and hive her up…that way returning foragers who can’t find the new spot (it’s about 1/4 mile away) can go into Alice hive and be just fine!

Last thing on the to do list for “when the rain clears” is check in on JuJu Bee. Her ladies were festooning down into box 2 last Saturday when I checked, so hopefully they’re building it up down there and about ready to be nadired!

Mess-up Updates + Expansion News

5 Jun

So, I had this super strong urge to stop out and see how zephyr bee yard was doing. I’ve been calling the three hives there “Betty” (the styrofoam nuc), “Alice” (the top bar), and”Jean Grey” (the top bar nuc).

So when I got there, the roof had blown off of Betty….who knows when.  Some time between Saturday at 6 and this morning at 10.  Possibility of 4 days roofless. Ugh.  The girls were PISSED. And I’m frankly a little annoyed that the farmer who is out there every day and drives right by the bee area didn’t mention it.

So I put the roof back on Betty and weighted it down with a bigger rock.  I also pulled out the top bars I’d wedged in there for lack of a better solution (that they’d been ignoring anyway) and put in two foundationless Lang frames (with starter strips). I’m hereby resolving not to touch them for at least a week….although I’ll be out there on Friday and an at least observe the entrance.

I figured Jean Grey would be all robbed out by now, it was just a few random chunks of comb….but there were bees coming and going, so I decided to leave it be.

Alice the top bar hive had lots of bees going in and out, but when I crawled under to look, there was no new comb being built…not sure what that means for the half transfer I’d made. It’s possible that the bees were just robbing out both and they’ll eventually stop and settle back to Betty exclusively.

Meanwhile out at Scratch, I checked on the farmer’s messed up hive…

i don’t really smoke my bees, so I don’t always even think of it.  I went in, sprayed the bees with sugar syrup, took off the roof and the inner cover, removed the queenless top box, found the paper bag pretty thoroughly eaten….and was just about to start consolidating the very few occupied frames into the brood box when I got stung and chased out by some angry guard bees! Even though I sprayed the sting spot with honeybhealthy spray, they still followed me out.

I took a second to regroup and then decided to just restack the boxes without the unnecessary inner cover and leave them be for at least a week as well.

Since I was at Scratch anyway, I peeked in on Cleo- looking amazing! She’s got comb on 12-13 of the. 15 bars provided and it’s all nice and straight. She’s my blue ribbon queen. When I’m out at the farm again on Friday, I’ll have to run up and give her a few more to work with.  I’m thinking of doing a walk away split on that hive either to Alice if the terrible nuc transfer didn’t work *or* to the hive I just got asked to put in the community garden down the street from my house!  Sooooooo excited about that!  So that will put me at:

Juju Bee – the teaching warre in Lincoln

Cleopatra –  the top bar hive at Scratch

Betty – the Lang nuc that I’ll move into a foundationless Lang up on Scratch

Alice – the top bar at zephyr that I either accidentally split Betty’s hive to or will purposefully split Cleo’s hive to

Daphne – the community garden hive that I will either split Cleopatra to or have to source other bees for… Hive style tbd.

-and-

Scratcth Hive – the hot mess foster child

Also, I’m just about finished a second TBH that will probably go to the community garden for daphne. Once Jean Grey is cleared out, I want to move that to the woods near JuJu as I know warres cast swarms on the reg and I also wouldn’t mind grabbing a feral swarm….and I want to build another HTBnuc that fits Cleo’s bars (Jean Grey doesn’t) so I can eventually split Cleo for either Alice or Daphne.

I’m a little spread out right now, but if (once Alice and Daphne are set) more bees come to me (or I need to make splits) I know I can add more hives to Scratch, Zephyr, and new hives to Zephyr 2 (newly acquired) which is hive less currently.

June Garden Tour!

3 Jun

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Heirloom Helios Radishes – First Harvest!

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Not my usual garden helper – Connie the Basset Hound!  She belongs to my neighbor.

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Baby Raspberry.

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Black Currants waiting for their garden space in black, Minnesota Midget Melon in the white bucket, grill, Mexican Gherkin cuke, loooooooofffffaaaaassss!!!! and carrots in the long boxes.

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Baby watermelons that needed more space, carrots, loofas with a few early beets because I needed a spot for them.

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My prettiest part.  Top Row: Basil, Rosemary, Mint, Passiflora Incarnata Middle: Chamomile, Poppy, Calendula, Tarragon, more Chamomile, more Tarragon.  Bottom: Strawberry, Dill, Tomato Seedlings (up for grabs), Bee Balm, More Seedlings, Stevia (I think), more Bee Balm

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Lavender ,Cabbages Onions, Salad, Beans/Peas

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Proper Beet fields, Sprouts, Onions, Cabbages, Salad is hiding but it’s there, beans and peas….another cuke by the fence…and the corner of my asparagus bag.

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Baby Tomato Forest…and Marigolds…and a gnome…and some chard.

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Close up on the passiflora and my newest adorable pot.

June 1st, 2013 – Part Three – Finally, the good stuff.

1 Jun

Ok, so the rest of it.  I stopped by to check on Juju Bee and her gallies are going like gangbusters.

20130601-225608.jpgLike so!  I was thinking of opening her up and checking for brood, but I could actually see some through the window, and I feel fine about not poking around in the warre too much.  The bars are fixed (not my choice, and I think I’m going to pry them out of other boxes and make guides…but this box is from last year) – so opening it up is sort of just tipping up the box and looking inside it.  But I decided to channel Emile and leave it….BUT ALSO, IT’S FILLING UP WITH HONEY!  GO JUJU GO!

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This is what I could see into the second box…it looks like they’re making chains…hopefully they’re soon to be making comb!   I’m really cheering them on to moving down.  There’s a chunk of seed comb in there, so hopefully they’ll take the hint!

Then I went to check on Cleopatra – I haven’t opened that hive up yet, just looked through the window…but the comb is much newer and there hasn’t been as much to see, so today I opened her up and looked around.  I really enjoy the process of inspecting a KTBH – it’s sort of like looking through a filing cabinet…and the ladies don’t seem to mind it at all.

Oh, also, they’re still on as many combs as they were last week…which made me worry that they might be honey bound…they were brood, brood, mixed brood and stuff, mixed brood and stuff, honey, honey, little comb with honey.

So I slid the whole operation back two bars and inserted two bars into the brood nest between some of the mixed bars.

20130601-225816.jpgThat’s one of the mixed bars.  Cleo was walking around and I was trying to get a picture of her, but I am not sure she’s visible in there.  I also reached down and pulled the queen cage out.  Easy peasy.

20130601-225824.jpgThis is through the observation window right now…some bars, a blank, a bar, a blank, some bars.  They look happy and healthy though!

So after all the bad stuff…that’s the good stuff.   I like to end on a good note…even if my day didn’t.

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part Two – OMG, someone else messed up. Or, the Red Queen is Dead.

1 Jun

Ok, moving along from the utter embarrassment and shame of ME messing up….

I keep bees at two farms, and on one the farmer decided (prior to the arrangement with me) to get a pair of packages and try keeping bees on her own.  She ignored them and they died out…that was last year.  This year, I’m keeping bees (Queen Cleo’s hive) up on her farm and she decided again that she wanted to get a pair of packages and she’s ignoring them…again.  In conversation she mentioned that she thought the queen had maybe died in one, it wasn’t doing well…could I look in.  I don’t keep a langstroth hive, but I know well enough what goes on, that I felt ok doing it.

I observed the entrances for a bit and determined that indeed, one hive was looking a lot sluggish.  They’ve been there for about 2 months and the empty package boxes were still at the entrance….which should have prepared me for what I found inside.

In the sluggish hive, I found a dead queen in a cage, spotty brood on one frame (laying worker) and bees starving to death head first in honeycomb.  Terrible.  Also the empty feed can in a deep super….still.

20130601-223328.jpgThe red queen is dead.

I closed them back up and then opened the second hive.

Same empty feed can in a deep super…an aluminum mixing bowl of dead bees…???!!??

20130601-223341.jpgWhat the what?

And then this:

20130601-223359.jpgShe’d clearly left too much room between a pair of frames and they went au natural…attached to nothing.  And they’re on three frames.  After two months…which makes me think that they’re probably honey bound.  Oy gevalt.

So I did the only thing I could think to do, which was stack the boxes with paper between them (a dsw bag, actually…because I’d been shoe shopping this morning…).  Slide the complete hive into the middle of where the two had been and hope for the best…?  Also, all of her inner covers have entrances in them….so there’s now a lower entrance (fully open), a middle entrance that will only go into the bottom box, and an upper entrance that will only go into the top box.

What a freaking nightmare.  I wonder if I should move the front frame to somewhere else in the hive?  Or if this is going to fix the problem…I can’t have made it worse.  I really, really, really want her to stop trying to keep bees, though…I’m hoping I can convince her of this.

I know she doesn’t want to actually “keep” bees, she just wants them on her property.  Anything I can do for this hive better or differently to hopefully get them to survive?  Other than steal them away in the night?

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part One – OMG, I messed up.

1 Jun

I messed up.  Badly.  I am still reeling at how badly I messed up.

I have to tell today in three parts – part one is utter failure, mine.  Part two is utter failure, someone else’s.  Part three is, good stuff and possibly a tasty cocktail recipe….I’ve been holding onto the tasty cocktail recipe, I think I may need it today.

I’m also telling today all out of order.  This is the most recent part of the story.

I am headstrong and impatient.  I know these things about myself.  But today, I attempted to do something that is DEFINITELY a two person job…on my own…and I messed it up…and I got stung…for the first time since I was about 6.  I’m not allergic to bees, thank Jiminey Cricket….having not been stung in 26 years, I wasn’t completely sure.  She got me good, right in the middle finger knuckle of my left hand through my glove and I completely deserved it.  Completely, completely deserved it.

So I built a new hive…which if you’ve been following along, you have seen.  It’s a KTBH  and it’s reasonable considering that it’s my first attempt at carpentry.  Today I finished it and I built a little baby nuc for fun and just in case I needed it.  Betty and her girls have been crammed into their nuc for a while and I wanted to have an HTBnuc on hand in case I spotted a swarm cell and wanted to split them up.

So loaded the car, did a bunch of other bee things that I will detail in other posts, and then went to chop and crop my langstroth nuc into my KTBH hive.  By myself.  I really, really, really shouldn’t have done this….but I don’t know any other beeks in the area and think I can do things by myself and I just can’t.

So first, I watched a video of Phil Chandler doing it about 8 times…of course he makes it look as easy as pie.

Then I laid out all of my stuff:

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(New bars, hive tool, loppers, small cutters, bread knife, spray bottle, brush, gloves)

Then I set to work…I moved the nuc away from where it was, put my HTBnuc into its place, just in case, and then took out the first frame.  Checked both sides for Betty, didn’t see her.  Shook the bees into the new hive and began chopping and cropping.  The frame was their most recently built out and mostly was uncapped honey/nectar.  It went ok – it was not as easy as Phil makes it look, mais oui, but reasonable.  The comb ended up coming loose from the bar, I got stung in the hand (had a momentary freak out and then just started an “It’s ok, I’m ok, you’re ok” mantra) but I got through it.  I chucked the extra corner pieces into the HTBnuc as a sort of expedient storage place for them, and then figured I’d leave it in there so they can rob it out but have it not be just laying on the ground.

Then I went on to the next frame…and it was plastic…through and through…I was unprepared for that.  No Betty, shake shake, and then commence cutting….and the cutting was really hard…  And it was mixed brood, so I was making a total mess of brood soup, ugh….I just couldn’t cut it in a way that made sense…it wouldn’t fit…the bees were all freaking out…I think I got stung again, although I barely (and still don’t) feel it.  The sun was setting, it was getting cooler…I just couldn’t handle it anymore and was worried about the giant disaster I was making…and so I just stopped.  Which I’m not sure was the right decision either.

It was too late in the day for me to be starting that, I shouldn’t have done it on my own, and I’ve made a total disaster of one of my bee yards.  So right now out there it looks like this:

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My baby HTBnuc where the styro one was with a bunch of weird corners of comb in both nectar and brood varieties.  The big KTBH with a frame of nectar and a frame of mixed brood awkwardly chopped and cropped into there…  And finally Betty in her original styro nuc, facing the opposite way it had been facing…with three proper frames, and two of my top bars propped in there awkwardly.

Worst case scenario, the styro nuc and Betty are fine and the rest of what I did is a disaster….but I still have to get the rest of the damn thing taken apart.

Middle Scenario, the big hive raises a queen.

Pie in the sky, somehow the the HTBnuc raises a queen out of the wreckage…and I will name her Jean Grey.

I started working on a new KTBH in my workshop the other day, but I think I need to take it apart and make a conversion one so that I can just move the stupid lang frames into it and not do anymore of the cutting.  I hate the cutting.  I think conversion hives are ugly things…but I’d rather an ugly thing to what just happened.

So, learned some lessons…feel like shit…think I shouldn’t touch them for two weeks and see what happens.  I’d love some constructive feedback…if possible light on the negativity, I know I messed up.

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