Saturday 5 July 2014

The Family Gossip

Honey bee, Picture by Katherine Austin
'Tell it to the Bees' they say. Apparently, in times past, the bee hive and the bees were always considered part of the family and therefore had to be included in the gossip and news or they would feel excluded and might take offence. You would visit them each day and talk to them - catch them up on all the hatches, matches and dispatches. Well, be that as it may I do it, but I suspect that has more to do with getting the colony, for whom vibration and transmitted noise are such a huge part of life, used to our voices and our comings and goings so that they do not all pour out of the hive in alarm and in defence mode whenever we pass by or talk near it. The colony, left to its own devices seems very calm, hard working and healthy now. I can creep in on my hands and knees weeding as I go up and down the ridges really close to the hive without the bees even noticing. I am quite glad about this as I did not want the bottom of the veg patch to be effectively out of bounds, or (more ridiculously) have to start weeding wearing the bee keeping suit!

I'm sure these funny looking ginger dogs
were smaller than us when they first
Talking of gossip, Liz has been on a mission to Dublin to touch base with all the family and to catch up on the gossip with our good friends, Therese and Owen. She'd not actually seen T+O for a long time, but said that (as is often the way with really good friends) she slotted in immediately as if she'd just nipped out to the shops. They were amused and delighted by Liz's tales of country living and taking up knitting.

Mutual suspicion? Towser eyes up a Tamworth.
Steak Lady (and Mr SL) have lived for as long as I have known them in a big house chopped up into a gazillion B+B rooms and they have always had this well populated with language students. As a result, they never really retired, and have been working hard, continuously and pretty much all round the year for decades. They have now decided that enough is enough, so the house is up for sale and proper retirement to a single-storey place, possibly somewhere down near the Silverwoods, beckons. Liz was able to catch up on the latest on this while she was there for lunch

A huge supper under her belt, Lucia needs a lie-down in the
Meanwhile, Sparks has also moved to a new place nearer to his work and Liz nipped up to admire this place and to catch up on brother/sister news. At all three places she was plied with gifts and as well, called in at IKEA on the way home in search of standard-lamps, so she came home with quite a car full. We have some unusual foodstuffs including red caviar and a jar of baked-bean type beans but not in tomato sauce, these are 'au naturel' in the French style, floating in a clear brine.

Haricot (Navy) beans 'au naturel' and red caviar
The red caviar (we looked it up) is actually salt-cured eggs but not of the sturgeon, these are from Pacific river-salmon. Somehow they are still in a small jar which only has (Russian?) Cyrillic script on it and a Moscow address. Liz made a tapas-style meal tonight so that we might taste these delights; it was my first ever taste of any kind of caviar. The caviar was, as you'd expect, very salty and had the texture of tiny 'bags' of jelly (the fish-eggs) - interesting and OK. We toned the salt down a bit with creme fraiche but we were fresh out of ice-cold vodka (!) Good fun but I don't think either of us will be rushing out to buy more.

Caviar comes from the virgin sturgeon
The virgin sturgeon is a very fine fish.
The virgin sturgeon needs no urgin'
That's why caviar is my dish! (boom tish!)

Inch long young quinces looking very promising.
Also in the car was a sewing machine, a generous gift from T+O. Liz has been looking for one of these for a while now, and a chance misunderstanding raised the subject. Owen was asking what we had sowed (meaning fruit and veg), Liz heard this as 'sewed' as in needlework. This machine had been gathering dust in a cupboard, so T was delighted to give it to someone who would be likely to use it.

Crab apples coming on nicely
Meanwhile, back here, the 'waif and stray' white cat, Pirate, is now getting well used to us and Liz was able to handle him today (a first). He (for he is definitely a 'he') is now a regular at supper time, yowling around when he sees the dogs walked back indoors from their orchard exercise session and also, for the last 2 mornings, coming over for breakfast when he hears the bowls being filled for our own cats. Yesterday for most of the day he slept curled up on the 2CV roof in the car port, so I put the cat basket up there with a 'vet-bed' blanket folded into it.

The dogs watch the rabbits, the rabbits watch the bee hive?
He didn't use it that day, but I noticed that this morning, he was asleep in there first thing and it was from there that he emerged to come across for breakfast. This is good news - we will need to get him into that to take him to the vet, so if he is already in, then we should be able to just flip the door shut before he realises what's happening. The poor little mite will definitely need to see the vet, he is not at all well. His eyes are bad; his right eye is completely 'gone' and the left seems very cloudy to us. His ears are scabby and dirty looking, and he is eating so much we suspect he may have worms. On the plus side we can see no sign of fleas or other parasites among his white fur and he is a lot less skinny than when we started feeding him 3 weeks ago. We will let vet Aoife advise us, but we think we may be able to get him well again.


anne wilson said...

Thought you might be interested in these snippets of folk law about bees.

Folklore about bees

*If a bee owner dies, the bees must be told of the death and moved or they will leave the hive.

*The success of swarming bees can be told in the following verse: Swarm in May worth a load of hay; Swarm in June worth a silver spoon; Swarm in July not worth a fly.

*Rob your bees during the new of the moon and they'll produce more honey next time.

*Its bad luck to sell bees. (maybe this means someone will give me theirs!)

*If you sell your bees and receive payment into your hand you have sold your luck with your bees. To sell bees you must have the buyer lay the payment on a rock and refrain from picking up the money until the bees are gone with their new owner.

*When a member of the family dies the bee hives must be draped in black cloth to make sure they don't leave.

*If you fail to move your bees when a family member dies-all the bees will die as well.

*If a bee flies in and out of the house-it brings good luck.

*Bees should be told of any major change in the owner's family-weddings, births, etc. or they will leave.

Matt Care said...

Thanks for those, Anne! Fascinating stuff. Wonder how all the modern trade in bee colonies (nukes) including our recent purchase fits in with that!