A Break in the Rain, A Walk in the Woods - Photo Journal

If you aren't able to get out in Nature at this moment,
may these picture suffice,
bringing you the beauty and solace this walk did for me.

Alder Reflections

It was pouring all morning then this afternoon I noticed it stopped and suddenly the sun came out.  I went outside to bring in firewood, and the raindrops sparkling on everything like gems drew me out for a longer perusal.

On my way down the mountain (I live on a small ridge in the Appalachias of northern Virginia), I stopped at the hives and checked on them as I am wont to do whenever I am near.  I noticed a bee at an entrance with its tongue out getting water from a rain drop.  :)  It's too cold and wet for them to actually leave the hive.

Goodness, I love that green color.

I brave gentle rain to stay out I am enjoying myself so much; it being warm enough in February for this is the new normal.  I'm not even dressed all that warm (sweater and scarf); am a bit cold, but less than a mile from home.

Happy Moss

I went to my most regular woodland sit spot,
the place where when I go there I feel like I am coming home,
home unto myself.  The Self that is everything and nothing at once.

Where the flowing waters wash my spirit clean.

Microcosm within Macrocosm

Tiny fungal start

As soon as I came in from my couple-hour-ramble-through-the-woods it started absolutely pouring, a full-on deluge.  I feel I am on the "right" schedule when my timing is this impeccable.  I was not dressed to be caught out in it; but I was in the moment and willing to take the chance.

"Come forth into the light of things; let nature be your teacher"
- Wordsworth


This Sycamore tree in the next picture is such a great example of strength and perseverance. Over years the stream has flooded and carved out the earth that used to hold its roots, but still it remains out in the open, exposed and only half supported, but still full of life.

Seeming to sit, perched in the air.

Witch's Butter Brewing

Now that I am constructing this blog, it has turned into a thunder storm with crashes and flashes right outside the window.  This has happened the past couple of winters, but never in my life before, thunderstorms in winter.  "The times they are a changin'."

I am sad to see that there are areas of these woods where the ground, the fertile seedbed of tomorrow, is covered with the invasive Bittersweet berries/seeds (picture above).  This plant was not noticeably here when I moved here over 18 years ago and now it pervades.  It is not readily edible or medicinal, being more on the poison end of the spectrum and wild life does not seem to favor it.  I hope it's not the next Kudzu, because it'd be worse - at least Kudzu is a great edible/medicinal plant.  This next picture shows Sycamore seeds - a beloved tree and one of my first tattoos.

 “I only went out for a walk 
and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, 
for going out, I found, was really going in.”
- ​John Muir

Lake Rorschach

A language as old as these hills

 Update:  The thunderstorm resulted in losing electricity mid-blog, and for 5 hours.  This always drives home how much I/we rely on electricity.  Candles were lit and books read!


Bliss Buzz - Winter Hive Inspection/ Beekeeping Journal

We had a warm enough day (in the 60s) a few days ago for me to go into my hive, Monkey, who I feared had died.  I had noticed she was not active when the others (Stella and Balsamic) were on days in the 50s and that she had not been clearing out the dead.

Lovely, natural brood comb, notice it's differently colored than honey comb.

I also did not hear her when I did my listening.  Throughout the winter I will check on them when I just want to know they are alive in there and to say hello (I don't disturb them often though).  I put one ear up to the hive and close the opposite ear, then knock quietly twice.  This creates a quick rising buzz from the cluster.  Hello gals I say with a smile in my heart.  I talk and sing to my bees during the rest of the year; they know my voice and often even teach me songs and melodies, like Yaje teaches Icaros.  Anyway, I am not a singer, so only the bees get that; they don't seem to mind my lullabies and chants.  :)  In fact, I fancy that they like it.  I do know they pick up on one's mood when one is in or around the hive and singing has a calming effect on us both.  One does not want go into a hive in a hurry or angry, though sitting by a hive when angry will help one to process that powerful emotion into a more productive one.  It's like taking a walk in the woods - Nature has that effect.

Monkey on left, Balsamic on right.

Monkey was indeed dead and I greatly mourn this loss.  This was her 6th winter; she was treatment-free and the culmination of my years of small-scale beekeeping.  My basic goal being to create and support genetics that do well in my area with all its inherent qualities along with my management style which is simply to let the bees do their thing and bee healthy and support them in that however I can.  I feel they know better than me what they want and need.  This is my tenth year but I still feel I've only touched the tip of the iceburg in getting to know the Honey Bee.  Which is partly because of how deep the understanding goes, partly because much of what one is initially taught is wrong imo and I had no like-minded mentor and had to find my own way, luckily with the bees help, and partly because for most of these years I only had 2 hives, though I expanded to 3 a few years ago, and 4 last year.  I am considering doing more, but do not want it to get out of hand like my books and plants have, ha.  Particularly, I'd like to provide locals with locally adapted treatment-free bees (beyond all the swarms I have allowed over the years).

Death - a part of Life.  Death begets Life, Life begets Death...

All the dead bees from the hive in the bottom of a large wheelbarrow; I will feed them to the birds - a treat for them.

Stella before clearing...
...after clearing the entrance for ventilation.

So, the inspection became an autopsy.  I found no signs of disease or serious pest infestation, Monkey had plenty of stores (3 medium supers of honey), and a large enough population (about volleyball sized cluster).  The cluster however was a super below the stores and not next to any, so they may have starved.  I do not understand why they would not be at, or move to, their stores as we have had plenty of warm enough days intermittently throughout the winter for them to do so.  I wasn't able to get any response to this question in beekeeping groups online, as to why this would happen...maybe with climate change and the sporadic weather (we had 70 degree days in late Fall not too far from single digit nights in early Winter) they got caught unaware; there were a lot of single bees throughout the hive doing their thing.  They did not have any brood to stay with to keep warm, so no discernible reason to not move.

Or maybe she was not queen-right.  I could not find the queen during the autopsy and I went through the hive thoroughly.  So maybe she died in the fall or winter and they did not have the means to replace her without brood.  So sad. I am told that hives will just give up when this happens.  Which makes sense since they would be doomed anyway (unless I as a keeper had a warm winter day to go in and notice this and could remedy it with brood from another hive - this being a long shot but the type of interference/support I do give the bees).

Another possibility is that they got too moist and then chilled, but this theory I feel is the least likely as there is no mold in the hive, I have screened bottom boards, quilt boxes on top, and the hive next to Monkey made it with similar conditions.  The only difference was Monkey had an entrance reducer, Stella and Balsamic did not, but I just can't believe this is it as most beekeepers seem to recommend a reduced entrance, but something to consider nonetheless...  Also we had this serious blizzard you see in the pictures that landed us with 31" of snow that did block the entrances of all hives for hours while we shoveled to them, but again 2 made it, so I don't think that's it.  Alas, there is no definitive answer and so we go on...


I also went into winter with a fourth hive, Lorax, whom unfortunately did not do well and was fairly weak going into late Fall, meaning she had low population and not a lot of stores (she was new this year, and an out-of-state, not treatment-free package, something I intend to never purchase again).  She ended up being robbed which I caught happening but did nothing about.  The irony is I think it was likely Monkey who robbed her as Monkey was such a strong, vigorous hive.  I allowed this because not only did I think there wasn't much I could do short of propping Lorax up with lots of artificial feeding, but also because I don't feel inclined to support weak genetics and dying off is the way of the wild.  I want bees that survive without much interference on my part.  I will give a little food if that is the difference between life and death, but after this robbing, it was no simple matter and robbing is hard to stop.  Also, this hive not being like the others and therefore not having interchangeable components means it's hard for me to manage.  This was my second try in this hive, which is a hexagon, made with Sacred Geometry in mind, and more tree like.  I may just use it as a bait hive again...  I realize through my involvement with beekeeping groups online that the source of my bees is largely the problem and I am fighting an uphill battle from the start because of it.  Monkey was also an out-of-state, not treatment-free package, but she made it and kept making it!

The very edge of Monkey's cluster, dead.  Note the bright pollen in a few cells and the queen cup upper left.

Luckily Stella is her split so I have Monkey's genetics there.  Balsamic was a package, so exciting to see her making it and she sat right beside Monkey so similar situation environmentally (small woodland clearing, semi-shade).  Stella sat in the sun in the garden and was a hot hive, and yes I mean her mood in addition to temperature.  I had a fig near her I expected to shade her, but it did not grow as expected.  That will need to be remedied this year as I think the summer sun may have been a bit much...

Another queen cup, this one at the bottom and likely from prior swarming; the ones higher up are for supercedure.

I also have Monkeys genetics in the wild woodland bees she birthed by way of swarm over her 6 seasons.  These wild bees are likely to be the drones that mate my queens.  I happened to be around for 2 of these swarms and it's a magical experience when the air fills with bees and the buzz cacophony fills the entire yard as they come out of the hive and group.  Unfortunately, they gathered about 30' up in the same tree each time.  I hope to put out more bait hives this year, though I've not had any luck with them in the past.  And I still am putting it out there to collect swarms others notice but do not want, but have yet to have this work out either. 

Medicinal Propolis
 Overall I am sad about the loss of Monkey but the positive in this situation is that I have not lost the genetics completely and I have lots of stores for the remaining hives that will assist them getting through the winter, coming into Spring strong, and maybe I will even get to harvest some honey this spring...  Mourning the loss of my friend during autopsy was mixed with the blessed sweetness of fresh honey that I licked directly out of the hive with gratitude.  Loss is all the more extreme when mixed with the Love that created it.

Also, I harvested lots of Propolis in the process of autopsy and will be making an herbal blend of "sick room" incense with it soon that I will sell through Ravenwind Botanica.  I plan to split the remaining hives come Spring and surplus honey will go to them first, along with all this wonderful drawn comb, giving them a huge head start.  And I will leave you with a very recent video of the vibrant Stella after most of the blizzard snow had melted.  :)

On another note, I am excited to see how my Mason Bees wintered over and this Spring am putting out Leafcutter Bee houses...  Bliss.


'Cheshire Kaleidoscope' - a new bio pic / meta-collage!

I wanted to create an avatar pic that represents lots of the things I am into; I managed to incorporate art, gardening, belly dance, herbalism, and beekeeping (and maybe even spirit!) in this meta-collage...

'Cheshire Kaleidoscope'

...and while we're at it, some stimulating reading material (one can never have too much of that!) and lastly, a video that is the Yang to this winter's Yin....

“If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death
Perhaps the world can teach us
as when everything seems dead
but later proves to be alive.”
- Pablo Neruda
“He who has rejected his demons badgers us to death with his angels”
  -Henri Michaux
"When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power.
We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper."
  - D.H.Lawrence
 “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” 
 -​ ​Louise Erdrich, '​The Painted Drum​'​

This video was taken at the height of summer's growth and watching it now in the depth of winter's rest really showcases...
"...when everything seems dead
but later proves to be alive.” 


Take and Eat of this Body: a collection of words and images

"If one doubts the walking of the mountains, 
one doesn't even yet know one's own walking."
- Dogen

'Primordial Herald'

"The further a society drifts from the truth, 
the more it will hate those that speak it."
 - George Orwell

The talkative Wren

"Everyone has talent.  What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads."
 - Erica Jong

'The Birth of Death' 

“For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” - Isaiah 42:14-16

Firewood Rainbow

"I feel and think much as you do, 
care about many of the things you care about, 
although most people do not care about them. 
You are not alone."
- Kurt Vonnegut

'The Future's Provenance'

"It is ironic that, while concentrating 
on the defense of our country from enemies 
who would destroy it from without, 
we should be so heedless of those 
who would destroy it from within."
- Rachel Carson

Rippling Out Through Eons:  A Rock Found at Work

"Those who don't feel this Love pulling them like a river, 
those who don't drink dawn like a cup of spring water 
or take in sunset like supper, those who don't want to change, 
let them sleep." 
- Rumi

Cars that used to be - on their way to being something else...

“I’d rather be whole than good.”
 - Carl Jung


Uplifting! Rose Vanilla Sesame Cookies

Your tastebuds will dance a jig!

These cookies are chewy and crispy at the same time.  A delight for the mouth!

And using this quantity of real Roses makes them medicinal! 

Rose is cooling, assists with digestion including lessening gut inflammation and creating a healthy gut mircrobiome (anti-infective), supports good mood by addressing Liver stagnation, and as such is used for insomnia, frustration, depression, resentment, and fatigue.  In TCM, we'd say Rose, Mei Gui Hua, moves Qi and harmonizes Blood.  It can be useful for menstrual complaints.

Grind dried Roses until powdered.  You can use a coffee bean grinder.

Ingredients and Directions:
1 2/3c. flour
(you can use and mix various flours, I like these to use sprouted whole grain flours because they are better for you and also quinoa as it is a complete protein)
1/3 c. powdered Rose petals or buds
mix above in separate bowl with 1 tspn. baking powder

In another bowl mix:
2c. sugar
1/2c. coconut oil, melted/soft
1-2 tspn. vanilla extract (amt. depends on how strong you want the vanilla)
1c. sesame tahini, well mixed first
2 eggs

Blend together, place on greased baking sheet by the teaspoon scoop
Bake 350 degrees . 8-12 min. (less time for chewier, more for crispier)

Makes about 80 cookies; this is 8 minutes cooking for chewier.

This is 12 minutes cooking for crispier.

These cookies will delight your senses, first when you bake them and smell them, then when you eat them, and lastly when Rose works her magic!

You can harvest your own Roses for this; just make sure they are chemical-free!
These can be wild-grown or from your organic garden.