Thursday, 31 May 2007


Midwife's appointment tomorrow morning and then going to stay with friends for the weekend.

Also, my nappies have started arriving. I have suddenly realised that we are having a baby in a couple of months and have become unreasonably excited.


Oh, and another thing - I baited the mouse-trap with the chocolate; and this morning the chocolate was GONE but the mouse-trap hadn't gone off. Scary.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

chicks for Sam

I think there is still a mouse in the corner cupboard in the kitchen, or possibly in the walls. Or it might be a rat. Or a squirrel. Or The Hounds Of Tinderlos.

Do The Hounds of Tinderlos eat chocolate? Because Kate is coming for lunch and she's going to bring some to bait the mouse-trap.

chicks1Anyway, baby chicks.

These photos are really for our friend Sam (Hi, Sam!), who came to visit last year and gave Black Beak her name. I am very keen on descriptive names for animals, and he therefore hit the nail on the head. Black Beak has hatched six chicks. The eggs were (mostly) laid by Mable and the daddy is Dennis, who are both Speckled Sussex and a few of them were laid by Mary and Sandra, the Barnvelders; but Black Beak sat on them for three weeks, hatched them out, and is a very good mother.

They are now in the little ark that we bought - it has a house and a pen, so we can move them on to fresh grass every day. The chicks really like eating the grass seeds and Black Beak gets very excited when she finds a beetle or a worm, and calls all the babies over to share it. Then one of them will pick it up and run away with it and all the others will chase them. Black Beak then follows on behind them all, running to catch up, clucking at them, a bit like a small ship with a HUGE amount of sails on it.

chicks2When they get a bit bigger (four or five weeks old, probably) and can look after themselves, they will go in to a house by themselves and Black Beak will go back to live with the other chickens and will hopefully start laying eggs for us again.

This week I am going to set another few eggs under Sandra, who is really, really broody; and also some under one of Black Beak's sisters, Left Behind Chicken, who is so broody she growls at you when you open the door to her house.

In case B is reading, I hasten to add that these chicks will NOT be for us. They are for Ma. For Mother's Day I bought her some Dutch Bantam eggs from eBay, to put under her single Dutch Bantam hen. Only one hatched (it isn't great to send eggs through the post, so fertility is always a bit lower than one would normally expect); it was three weeks old, perfectly healthy, a very happy little chick.

And then when I spoke to Ma in the week she was almost in tears, because she had gone out to check on it and it's mum and it was dead.

So it is her birthday on Sunday and I am getting her some more eggs. She doesn't have a broody at the moment and she has lent her incubator to someone, so I will put them under Left Behind Chicken and Ma can have them when they are old enough to leave their mum. Sandra is getting some Vorwerk eggs, also for Ma. She lost her two best Vorwerk hens to the fox a couple of weeks ago - who knew that the fox would climb up six feet of chicken-fence and over the top, through a small hole in the netting?

B is home in a couple of hours. Yay!

Tuesday, 29 May 2007


Sorry, more pregnancy stuff - but, presumably spurred on by the government's announcement this week about not drinking at all during pregnancy, there's a brilliant article by Zoe Williams in The Guardian this morning about the rubbish people (including alleged professionals) tell you about your diet whilst you are pregnant.

This is a bug-bear of mine and I pretty much agree with it word for word. I've been resolutely eating soft cheese, drinking tea and partaking of the occasional glass of wine; and I certainly don't intend to stop because the Nanny State thinks that I've suddenly lost my cognitive facilities and my ability to make decisions based on accurate evidence just because I've got knocked up.

Thank you everyone for the nappy input - I am watching some eBay auctions, but I'm also going to have a look on the Powys County Council website and see if there are any grants towards re-usuables (thank you Z!).

I'm going to have my breakfast now. Nothing like a good rant to get you going in the morning.

Monday, 28 May 2007

don't be too rash

Could we briefly talk about nappies?

Not dramatic, humorous or intellectual, but in another sixteen weeks, essential.

We want to use re-usables. So I have visited The Nappy Lady, I have chatted with various friends (including Lisa, who I have decided is going to be my Nappy Guru *waves*) and we feel that we have gathered all the relevant information*.

We then moved on to researching purchasing outlets.

Did you know that a new set of birth-to-potty-training nappies can cost between £250 and £350?


But if you contrast that with £5 to £10 a week until age three, then that's actually fine - it's just that it's an upfront cost rather than spread out.

However, we are looking at second hand ones, from eBay (there are still some listed for sale despite the fuss a few months back about them actually being 'used underwear' and therefore a 'fetish' product - what?!) and from various other second-hand outlets. So much choice - and only sixteen weeks to choose.

They come in white, 'natural' or coloured; with pictures; without pictures; with velcro; with even-better-than-velcro 'aplix'; with poppers; or with 'nappy nippers'. You can have all-in-ones; pocket-padded; fleecy liners; terry liners; muslin nappies; over-wraps with poppers, velcro or aplix; fleecy, fluffy or waterproof; small, medium or large.

My head is spinning.

I think I am going to take Lisa's advice, which was basically; make a decision, buy some, put them in the cupboard and feel smug at how organised we are. I think we will take this - it's very rare for anyone to advise one to be smug, so it seems a shame to waste the opportunity.

In other news, the house we like IS now going to sealed bids, on the 6th of June. I am less stressed about it than I thought I would be. B went to Vienna this morning and is back on Wednesday. To celebrate, I am washing the sheets in anticipation of his return.

And that, for today, is all. Tomorrow, baby-chick pictures.

* Including the fact that everyone involved with re-usable nappies seems to use the word 'containment' a lot, something I previously thought was only appropriate to nuclear reactors and chemical spillages. Please, do NOT tell me why this is appropriate language. Let me keep my innocence for another few weeks.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

cyberstalking - can you help?

Rachel North of 'Rachel From North London' has been the victim of cyberstalking by Felicity J Lowde for the past twelve months. Lowde has been convicted and is now 'on the run'. She is wanted by the police and still continues to send Rachel abusive messages. If you are located in London or Oxford, you may be able to help police find her.

Update on 09 June 07 - Lowde is now in prison.

Saturday, 26 May 2007


Last night we went to Warwick Arts Centre to see the new Stan's Cafe piece, The Cleansing of Constance Brown, that B is involved with. It is absolutely brilliant; unfortunately I can't say 'go and see it', because tonight is it's last night there and I believe the tickets are sold out. On Monday they are packing it up and taking it to the Vienna Arts Festival for a couple of weeks and after that it goes to Cork and on to Edinburgh - so if you do get a chance at any of those, go along, it's definitely worth it.

I won't say very much about the actual show as I think the Stan website and the Vienna website say it all better than I could. But - it's for only twenty five people at a time and the set is a corridor with half a dozen doors each side, running away from the audience. And it's brilliant, did I say?

And that's my lot.

It was very nice to catch up with all the people I hadn't seen for quite a while too, and the only downside to the entire evening was the APPALLING coffee served by the Warwick Arts Centre bar. I'm not a coffee fan at the best of times - and the best of times is definitely not 10.30PM when I am knackered and fancying a cup of tea.

They didn't do tea.

I was distraught.

And the poor-substitute coffee was actually a cup of luke-warm water plonked in front of me in a pool of warm beer on the bar, with one of those little tubes of coffee grounds beside it for me to tip in to it. And I had to ask for milk and sugar, which seemed to take them by surprise and cause very slight resentment.

Next time, I will be taking a thermos.

For now that is all - we have two sets of people coming to view the house this morning and I need to remove the pile of cat sick from the sitting room and the deceased dunnock from under the bed.

Also, I found mouse-poo in the bed last night but was too tired at 1.30AM to do anything but brush it out and collapse. Vile I know.

Wish us luck with the viewings.

Friday, 25 May 2007

tarot course and a thank you to Annie

tarot imageThis time last year I did a write up for Annie's Tarot Course at Worldwide Mediums and Psychics, after I'd done some some proof-reading for the site.

Earlier this week, Annie did a card reading for me on MSN and because she is so fab, I am mentioning her again as a 'thank you'.

Over the last twelve months she says that the Tarot Course has really taken off and has had loads of good feedback and reviews, some of which you can see on the site.

The course has changed slightly and split from one course in to three different levels - for Beginners, Advanced Students and Professionals - so you can tackle it in chunks. Each course has in-depth information on each of the cards and their meanings and you are also encouraged to develop your own intuition whilst doing readings. There are assignments that you complete and get marked, and a chat room where you can go to ask for support and advice.

The course has a very measured approach to teaching online and if you follow it properly you will come out with a very good grounding in the subject.

Annie has been reading and teaching tarot for years, both in person and online. I can't speak highly enough of her, so if you're interested, go visit!

Thursday, 24 May 2007

avoiding flatpack fear

I still appear to be married. Which is nice. Particularly since today is my birthday.

I don't, as a rule, subscribe much to the Birthday Madness school of celebration - as a kid it was just nice if someone remembered at all. And as I have scored various cards of both the paper and digital variety and also a passata maker, I am pretty happy about the whole thing.

The lovely, lovely people from Ascott arrived yesterday afternoon with my broody pen already made up (Ha! Steg! See! Unnecessary Flatpack Fear!) and helped me get it up the steps so that I can pop the hen and chicks in it. Admittedly they are only about eight miles away from us here; but that's fantastic service and I recommend them.

I'm feeling a bit sluggish today so I'm taking it easy - but do have to galvanise myself in to action a bit later, or tomorrow, as we've got people coming for a viewing on Saturday morning.

In other news, I have cracked and ordered a Tesco's shopping delivery. It's stocking up. Honestly. I didn't do it for the ice-cream. No. Really.

For today, that is all.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

the quality of mercy

Dear B

You know that I love you very much, and one of the things I like most about our relationship is that we talk about things before we make important decisions. Like spending money, starting projects, that kind of thing.

Sometimes, I know I do rush ahead with excitement and do things that perhaps we haven't discussed as fully as we might have done. The rayburn, for example. And the conservatory. I completely accept that those were things that I leapt at without discussing them properly with you and that I was in the wrong about buying them. Despite them being fantastic eBay bargains and all the other things I said to justify my poor decision making.

This time, however, I hope that I have made a sensible decision rather than an over-eager one.

I really think that we NEED a proper broody coop. And we definitely don't have time to make one ourselves at the moment.

Poor Black Beak is finding it really hot in the greenhouse with her eight chicks. And the babies keep getting lodged behind the planks of the raised beds, which is very distressing for everyone involved; particularly me, as I am finding burrowing through two verdant rows of three feet high tomato plants to retrieve them from ground-level a bit hard on the bump.

Although I have made a very nice lean-to pen against the greenhouse for them to take the air in, I have to collect all the chicks and Black Beak up and herd them in and out; and as the chicks are getting bigger and running about as if they are on little clockwork wheels this is becoming more and more difficult (see earlier 'hard on bump' statement).

In retrospect, I realise that it was possibly foolish to set a broody on eggs at this time - but it is so nice to have our own meat in the freezer, and I have timed it so that they won't be ready for despatching until well after the baby is born.

So if one takes in to account the actual savings we will be making by producing our own meat, and offsets that against the cost of the pen for them, we are still, actually, making a profit. And the set up is a very well-made one that will last us for years to come.

I have arranged for the man who is going to deliver it tomorrow to help me carry it up the steps to the garden, and I'll be able to put it together myself as it's apparently in very easy-to-assemble flat-pack form. So by the time you get home on Friday it will all be completely organised and we can spend the weekend relaxing rather than constructing poultry accommodation.

I really hope that you think I've made the right decision.

Your loving wife,

Ally xxx

Monday, 21 May 2007

mothering skills

Well, we've put our offer in - but there's another open viewing this Thursday, so I can't honestly see them coming back to us until after that. I have the yips.

I am also having to deal with Kate Madness. For some reason she has *seriously* taken against the place. As we were driving towards it on Tuesday I could feel her attitude changing from neutrally interested to really, really negative; and once we'd arrived there, she literally went around gathering negative points, some of which were realistic and some of which were completely made up.

It's quite unlike her - she does get bees in the bonnet about things, but not normally this badly. For example, she has been telling me that the house will cost thousands to put right. It won't. It needs a bit of a kitchen revamp and a bathroom revamp at some point; but everything else is in better decorative (and structural) order than our current house.

And for some reason the fact that it is ten minutes drive from the very-well-supplied-with-facilities village is a HUGE, HUGE no-no for her. I have been asked a million times how I'll feel living there on my own while B is away (very happy, because my next door neighbour won't be able to see whenever I turn the kitchen light on and phone me for a chat); told that the baby will probably be mentally scarred because it won't have friends living next door to socialise with (thanks, that's very helpful); told that it's not a fit house to bring a baby up in (this from the woman who is VERY keen for us to live in a caravan on a building site over the winter whilst doing a strawbale build) because of 'all the work that needs doing to it' (what work?); and so on, ad nauseam.

I am, to be honest, getting a bit fed up.

There is a possible issue with the water supply - it is spring fed and for the last few years the house has only been used as a weekend cottage - so the vendor is (uncharacteristically honestly, I thought) not able to vouch that it will hold up all year round under constant use. However, the house has been there since about 1750, so we feel that it is safe to assume (ok, perhaps wrongly) that the supply is relatively constant. And if it's not - well, we have the budget for a borehole. And other people manage to bath in mud. So why shouldn't we?

So all things considered, I have not yet quite reached the point where I snap and shout "it's us that's going to live there and we like it, so for goodness sake please put a maternal sock in it". But that time is fast approaching. B may have to have that conversation - I get a sneaking suspicion that there may be an element of "Ally is pushing B in to this" going on ... which is not true at all. If anything, he was more positive about the inside of the place than I was.

Anyway, let's move on. Nothing to see here.

I have spend the day sorting out quotes and fillocking around with paperwork. I have also done some broody-chicken rearrangement - two broodies were mothering eight chicks between them - but this morning when I went up there, Broody 1 was pecking some of the chicks, whilst Broody 2 was happily mothering them all. Result - Broody 1 is back in her pen with her husband, childless, whilst Broody 2 has all eight. Call me heartless, but providing counselling for poultry with attachment issues is right at the bottom of my list of priorities at the moment.

I think I deserve tea. And possibly cake. So for today, that is all. Ha!

Saturday, 19 May 2007

sting in the tail

Odd few days.

On Wednesday, I sat on a bee whilst I was sorting out one of the hives. It didn't hurt very much, probably due to all my padding in that area.

On Thursday, I absent mindedly walked in to a HUGE cloud of bees swarming in the garden, as I pottered up to water the tomatoes. I got stung on the earlobe and I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS.

Quite apart from the difficulties of dipping ones ear in to a cup of bicarb of soda solution to take the sting down, I look like I have had the right-hand side of Frodo Baggins' head grafted on instead of my own. Mrs Three Legs also got stung and both of us panicked quite badly for half an hour or so, until I worked out that she was panting because it hurt, rather than panting because the sting was in her windpipe.

We're both fine now, but I was annoyed - we have worked out that the reason we are getting so many swarms is that we have only allowed a quite small gap in each hive for the bees to walk up from their bottom story to their top story. So they think that they have a lot less room than they actually do and are packing up and sending excess ladies off to start a New Life In The Off World Colonies. Owner-operator error is therefore contributing to the issue, which is always annoying; and the worst kind of that kind of error is errors in livestock management. I'm cross with myself.

Tomorrow I am hoping to get in to each hive and sort them out. And a friend is coming to take the swarm away if we can catch it. It's up a tree and is a stepladder job, so probably B needs to do it rather than me.

He is, of course, absolutely delighted at the prospect.

In Other News, we have had eight little chicks hatch, split between two hens. The chicks are fine, very cute; but the hens are taking some time working out who belongs to who. We've put them in the greenhouse for a bit while they sort themselves out.

And in Other Other News, we went for another internal viewing of the Very Possiblest Of All Possible Houses (Second time for me, first time for B. But the third time we've been up there together to look at the ground). We both love it. (Kate HATED it on Tuesday when she and I went for an internal viewing. Wierd.). We have jiggled our finances so that we can put an offer in before we sell this one (too long and boring to relate how) and are going to do that on Monday. So far we are the only people who are that interested, but they have another block viewing on Thursday of this week coming. I was told on Tuesday that there was a probability that it was going to go to sealed bids ... however that isn't yet the case, so we are just going to put our offer in and see what happens. Wish us luck - we can both see ourselves living there. AND, there is a gooseberry bush.

I am going to finish my half glass of wine now, and go to bed with either Doctor Who and/or Desperate Housewives. I am so unused to booze at this stage, that even half a glass makes me really, really drowsy.

Tomorrow: a report on more swarm-of-bees catching. Sorry, I know I'm obsessed.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

get some goals

Rhys is running a Golden Goal competition - why not pop over and enter? And have a look at his most excellent blog if you haven't visited before.

I am sorting out wine, bees and possibly baby chicks today. Oh, and going to have another look at The Very Possiblest Of Possible Houses with Kate. Looking inside a place being generally thought a good thing before one makes an offer on somewhere.

More tonight. Maybe.

Monday, 14 May 2007

of cabbages

chickenhouse2Let's talk chickens. I've been meaning to for ages.

Here are some photos of the inside of the hen house - we adapted it from a 5' by 7' shiplap shed. I cut a whacking great (for a chicken) hole in the side with the jig saw (aren't they great?!) that has a fastenable door; and then put in a perch with a droppings board underneath. This is because it makes it MUCH easier to clean out - chickens excrete two thirds of their poo at night, so you just have to scrape the board off every so often and they don't end up scratching around in their own whatsit so much.

You can see the nest box underneath, with modesty curtain - they like to lay in the dark. I think that that's Ginger in there, having a quiet moment.

We have a ladder for them to get up and down, but mostly they just fly up and jump down. And their food (layers pellets) is in one corner by the door and the water in the other. We found that in the very cold weather in the winter the water did freeze - and we lined the roof of the house with bubble-wrap; However, I don't think that that was really necessary for the birds, as they are very tolerant of cold. It just made me feel that I was looking after them.

I like the converted-shed idea because it makes it SO much easier to clean out, and to get in there to handle the birds if you need to catch them - you have proper head-room, which would be big-bucks if you were buying a 'proper' chicken house.

The seven laying hens and Dennis the Cockerel live in here. I would be happy to have another two or three hens in there as it stands; but any more than that and one would need another perch. You are supposed to allow 15-20cm of perch space per bird (depending on the size of their breed) and a couple of square feet of floor space each. In theory this would mean that we could accommodate 17.5 chickens; but I think that that's quite a lot in this kind of space, really - it's good for them to have a bit of room inside the house. They like the mixture of straw and woodshavings that we put down on the floor because they can dustbath and scratch around in it when it's too wet to go out.

chickenhouse3We have made them a pen outside, too. Largely because now the garden is growing, their great big chicken-feet are death to any seedlings. And they seem to like to dust-bath in freshly dug soil. So we only let them out for a couple of hours in the day, mostly when we are around. The rest of the time they are pretty happy in the pen. It's about 7' by 15' and is based with concrete slabs and has straw in the bottom.

You can see that there's a pile of logs for them to perch on - which they like to do in the evening before they go to bed - and a grit-dispenser hung up so that they can take a peck at a bit of grit or oyster shell when they feel like it, to help their digestion or their egg-shell strength. There's also a Belfast Sink full of soil and the idea was that they could dust-bath in it; however, they seem to prefer to perch on the edge, and dust-bath in the house.

It's important to have a sturdy floor to the pen, so that foxes can't dig up-and-under. DEFRA regulations (if I read them correctly) say that to be defined as 'Free Range', your hens should have a square yard of outside space each (ie, 9 square feet). That, IMHO, is not very much at all. It would mean that in this pen, we could fit 11 hens. And to me that's not 'free range' at all. So that's the absolute minimum I would recommend in a pen. It's obvious that the hens are bored when we keep them in - their egg production drops off a bit and when you pass by the pen they all rush to the gate, in Chicken Excitement. They much prefer being out ranging round the garden; so I am looking forward to getting the vegetable beds sorted so that they can amble round again all the time. As a poor substitute for going outside, we take a piece of string and hang up a cabbage, or the lettuces that bolted when I briefly turned my back. They can spend an afternoon jumping up and pecking at it in turn and then jumping back to dodge the swing - a bit like swing-ball for chickens actually, only with brassicas.

I'd better go and shut them up in a minute - I chuck a few handfuls of corn in to the pen and they all troop in and I shut the door. And that's it - time for bed.

Sunday, 13 May 2007


Bastard clients who post you cheques that bounce should be hung up by their toes and beaten to within an inch of their lives with the squiffly end of a multicore cable.

In other news, yesterday I caught two swarms of bees. Yay! It appears that if B puts his foot in the middle of my back and pulls the zip really hard, I CAN get in to the bee suit.

Because we had yet ANOTHER swarm (which was sitting in a heap on the ground), as well as the one hanging in the tree, it seemed like it was my turn to do something about it. So I smoked the one on the bank in to the nucleus box, where they are now patiently waiting for a friend to come and collect them*.

And the swarm in the tree I managed to drop in to a cardboard box by hitting the tree stump firmly a few times with a rubber mallet.

This was quite exciting, both for me and for the bees - most of them dropped off on the first whack (apparently the older the bee is, the quicker they let go when you whack whatever they're clinging on to) and after two or three more whacks, about five sixths of them were in the box.

Then I tipped the box of bees in to a spare hive and went and stood patiently and waited for the cloud of quite cross bees buzzing around me to get fed up and go away.

Eventually they did, and the colony are still there in the hive this afternoon. They had started making comb in the tree, so I snapped that off and chucked it in with them. This morning we have been to visit Bob The Bee Man Of Bettws, and bought some new brood frames to put in the hive to make it all nice and spick and span for them. I shall organise the hive and put the new frames in tomorrow, so long as it's stopped raining.

In the meantime, we have found somewhere that we really, really want to live. It ticks ALL our boxes - right location; right amount of land (two thirds of an acre); right size house (two bedrooms, outbuilding for office space); right kind of central heating (solid fuel, so easy to add in solar hot water panels); own water supply; own drainage; and, miraculously, right price. Only we don't have a buyer. I have spent a couple of hours looking in to Bridging Loans (eeek! at the interest rates) and those companies that buy your house in ten days for less than it's market value (eek! again, but slightly less so). We are, almost literally, praying for a buyer or some kind of financial miracle.

As a brief break from all of that, I am now going to stir my rhubarb wine.

* I have swapped it for a small pig, which will be arriving in the autumn when it is ready to leave it's mother. By then, hopefully we will have somewhere to actually KEEP a small pig.

Friday, 11 May 2007


Making chutney has proved so exhausting that I am just going to sit here with a bag over my head for a bit, if that's okay?

Thursday, 10 May 2007

crumbs of comfort

My brain's a bit sluggish this week, sorry.

There have been Some Things happening though.

For example:

  1. There is another swarm of bees in exactly the same place in the garden. Yes. That's right. ANOTHER SWARM OF BEES. Gah. They swarmed on Sunday morning when it was warm, sunny and still. Since Sunday afternoon it has been chilly, breezy and rainy, all guaranteed to make your average swarm of bees grumpy in the extreme. And your average bee-keeper, to be honest. B had three goes at catching them, failed miserably and has now gone to Birmingham for the week in relief. I have promised not to don the bee suit and climb the bank in his absence in view of the fact that my sense balance is completely screwed - all the weight has gone from my bottom and migrated to the bump. It feels very odd.

    This morning the bees were still there, huddled under the tree-stump. I am hoping that a friend who is a bee-wise will be able to come round on Saturday and collect them up and take them away - six hives of bees would just be ridiculous at this stage.

  2. I am developing a social life! Courtesy of There are four of us who live in the Welshpool area and yesterday we met up for lunch and discussion about killing poultry, making cakes, pickling eggs and What To Do With Too Much Rhubarb.
  3. This morning I was up at 7am slicing rhubarb for wine. I also cleaned out the kitchen cupboards and the fridge - I think it might be hormonal. If I was a rabbit I'd probably be pulling my own fur out and using it to line my nest at this point. I'm not, I hasten to add. Before someone asks.

  4. I have bought some maternity clothes on eBay. They are fab and I can sit down (and clean out the hens) in comfort now.
I have some chicken-house photos to post, probably tomorrow. When I will also have made apple chutney.

Now, I go to twiddle with my strawbale house plans. Also, I think there are probably biscuit crumbs stuck under my keyboard - the space bar doesn't seem to want to work.

Sunday, 6 May 2007


Do you know JUST HOW DIFFICULT it is to buy a maternity ensemble suitable for cleaning out a chicken house?

For today, that is all.

Friday, 4 May 2007

was you ever bit by a dead bee?

bees1Okay. It's been busy.

On Sunday, the bees swarmed, in to a tree-stump in the garden.

Exciting stuff.

I couldn't get in to the Bee Suit, because of the bump; and B is still mildly bee-phobic. Also, the place that they had swarmed to was almost impossible to get to.

So we formulated A Plan. The Plan involved me giving B a bump-up and propping him up against the bank whilst he balanced a cardboard box in the tree over the swarm. Then he used the smoker and encouraged them to go up in to the box, propped up with a broom-handle.

This didn't work. They resolutely kept hanging to the tree-stump and refused to go upwards in to the nice, quiet, dark box.

So then, after a phone call to the local Swarm Co-Ordinator, we got our Nucleus Box, jammed that in the tree instead of the cardboard box and smoked them again. By this time the bees were probably coughing like sixty a day old lags - but they all shifted up in to the box. It was really amazing to watch - they sort of flowed. Even though I didn't have a suit, I was able to get quite close, because they were so placid.

After most of them had gone up in to the box, we took it off, popped the lid on it and then put it on a white sheet on the ground near the tree-stump, feeling quite smug with ourselves.

All the bees in the box then promptly flew out and rejoined the swarm.

This was presumably because we hadn't got the queen up in to the box; so we took the lid off the box again, shoved it back in the tree and had another go. This time it worked very smoothly, and when we put the box back on the sheet, all the remaining bees in the swarm flew over in to the box, rather than the other way round.

The colony sent out bees to sit just outside the nucleus hive and scent the air so that the laggards knew where the main body of the swarm had gone. We watched about a dozen of them in a line on the sill of the hive, all with their bottoms in the air, fanning frantically with their wings.

Then we went away and had a cup of tea.

bees2The next day we put together a proper full-sized hive and transferred the frames with the bees crawling on them from the nucleus box in to it. Again this went very smoothly. Yay!

As an encore, full of misplaced courage, we decided to open one of the other hives and put a 'super' on it - a new storey of empty frames for the bees to fill with honey. However, the second hive were less good tempered - and I was blase about their temperament because the previous hive were so calm.

There was lots of buzzing and two got stuck in my hair. All three of us panicked and one of them managed to sting me before we squashed it. It didn't hurt nearly as much as I expected - B bathed it with bicarbonate of soda solution and today it hardly hurts at all.

So today's encore was to open up the other three hives and put 'supers' on them. This went really, really well - I stayed a safe distance away (about five yards, under the trees) and B took it very, very slowly, smoked them very gently (which makes them calmer and wanting to eat honey, rather than buzz about frenziedly). All his movements were a bit like he was either underwater or on the moon. We discovered which one of the hives it was that had swarmed - there were much fewer bees in it, because half of them had flown away with the swarm. So we have three very enthusiastic and large colonies and two smaller colonies which we probably won't get much honey off this year.

We should next open them up in a couple of weeks - really we should go through the frames and see whether there are any new queens developing, and destroy them so that they don't swarm, and check for Varroa Mites and Foul Brood.

In other news: We've had a few viewings, no offers as yet. And we've found a place that we like, but it's coming up for auction at the end of the month, so unless we get a buyer before then we can't go for it. However, we're both very relaxed about the whole thing and pursuing a 'what will be will be' mentality; whilst also still investigating the Straw Bale Self-Build information-gathering.

Thursday, 3 May 2007


Still here, everything fine, just really, really busy with house-viewings and work. Back in a day or two.