Saturday, 28 March 2015

That's all (S)he Wrote

Done with the bee exam, a restorative Guinness
Huge relief at this end today as we make another milestone on our chug through these busy months; I survived my big beekeeping exam this morning over in Longford. This was a 'proper' exam like I can remember them from A levels and University; 3 hours of tough fast writing and rapidly compiling all the material you have revised and forced into your skull in the course of our "bee school" study groups, book reading and internet training videos. 5 questions to answer (Answer question 1 and any 4 from the remaining 7 (some of which were two part either/or style). A proper exam 'hall' with the official invigilator seated at one end, the time-set clock running and dead silence.

Those lambs take shelter from the rain.
Well, we all survived and everyone seemed to be writing a good few reams - I covered 13 sides of A4 but we had all agreed that we would do no post-mortems. Our main comment was that we were all 'of a certain age' and had not written anything like that amount on paper with an actual pen for about 30 years or more, so the hand cramps were killing on occasion and I saw everybody putting down pens and flexing and unflexing fingers to try to get some mobility back into the digits.

Who's the cutest? Probably not the one in the middle, anyway!
As I was going to be in Longford for at least 3 hours, Liz had taken the opportunity to  come with me to the town and try out the shopping potential - Longford is an hour's drive, so we have not really explored it much,though I was much impressed by the Christmas lights up the main street. So we parted in the Tesco car park at 09:00 and off Liz went to suss out Birthday presents for brother and Mum and may also have accidentally bought a replacement laptop for our ancient, ex-work, over-heating problem machine.

Replacement brain-food, Hester's of Castlerea do
a most excellent bacon and cabbage. 
She was then outside at 12:30 to gather a rather shell-shocked husband up and take him off for a restorative lunch and a couple of pints of the black stuff. This being a treat for me, I got to choose the place and my current favourite 'pub lunch' is the bacon and cabbage at Hester's "Golden Eagle" in Castlerea and a pint or two of their beautiful Guinness. I will not find out whether I have passed for months if FIBKA's speed on the preliminary exam marking is anything to go by but I find I don't mind that much. I have given it my best shot and the 13 pages, well, that's all he wrote, it's done now and too late to worry about it.

A nose smeared with Mum's milk and decorated with a long strand
of her wool. Perhaps we'll use those to tell them apart?
Although this was a serious exam, nothing hangs on it, I can keep bees anyway and I am not using the qualification to try to get a job in the commercial honey industry, it was just for fun. It is also just one third of the three you must take to achieve full intermediate status. There is another more science and biology based paper (anatomy, development, physiology, pheromone chemistry and the like as compared to this paper which was on bee-keeping and hive management) and then there is a hive session where the examiners visit you at your own apiary and make you jump through hoops to prove you know what you are doing. I am not sure whether the Longford BKA will be volunteering for either of these, which they would presumably do in 2016 and 2017 respectively. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Early pollen for the bees. Willow.
For now I can put all the books, mags and printed notes away back in their proper shelves and swap over to reading something easy and light instead of the learnéd tomes by Ted Hooper, David Cramp and Claire and Adrian Waring, enjoyable though they were. My lovely relieved feeling joins the flood already established of relief at the lambing which as well as going amazingly well, managed to avoid the bee exam - I was eye-ing that Polly up a little nervously and pleading with her not to do it to me on exam morning. That might have been too much distraction.

Pulmonaria putting on a good show.
Those two things have been a real focus and we can now mentally move on to this weekend's celebrations in Silverwood of the two family birthdays, then Easter. Then we have a stint of Liz being away again (back in Silverwood) supporting one parent while the other takes a break in the sun, possibly my own birthday if it doesn't get lost in the scrum (!), the arrival soon of pigs and all other spring into summer 'ground-rush' events. Possibly even some first 2015 bee hive inspections (I might know what we're at now). It's all go.

A good use for cold roast lamb and the left over suet - mini pies
Meanwhile the baby lambs are thriving on their mother's ample milk and have had a few visiting admirers - even Bob. They are starting to explore their field now as they follow Polly at her grazing and you see them bouncing around on all four tip-toes (it's called "pronking" in deer, but I'm not sure if that applies to lambs). They seem to retreat to the field shelter at night or to get out of the rain. I have had to start feeding the families a distance apart, or the babies mill around the troughs and the grown-ups feel the need to head-butt them away from the food, even though they are not trying to get any. Onwards and upwards.

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