Almonds are Big Beesness

I watched the Oscars this year for the first time in probably 10 years. I’m not sure why, except that for the first time in forever, I had actually seen a fair number of the nominees for best film. I didn’t see the winner — Parasite — and was rooting for Little Women. Oh, well.

But when Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for his portrayal of the joker in The Joker (see how I did that?), I admit that as he began his acceptance speech, I muted the sound before I even know what evil he was trying to condemn. I only knew that he went on for a very long time. It wasn’t until the next morning that I read that his rant was in support of animal rights, particularly, I guess, for the humane treatment of cows.

Cows seem to be the focus of a lot of attention lately. Their passing of gas is being blamed in part for climate change. Good to know that I can still drive my car a block-and-a-half to the grocery store without feeling guilty, and just blame it on cows’ farts.

The latest trend in so-called clean eating is refraining from cows’ milk. You know, the cows’ milk that humans have been drinking for 6,000 to 8,000 years. I guess any milk that comes from cows’ udders should be consumed only by calves. It’s not only inhumane for the little calvies, but bad for our health. Apparently we’ve all had tummy aches for 8,000 years.

As a result, the sale and consumption of almond milk, a dairy-free beverage that looks like cows’ milk but is made from almonds, has skyrocketed. In fact, the sale of almond milk has increased by 250 percent in the past five years. That’s okay. I don’t have any problem with almond milk. I’m sure the American Dairy Association has other feelings, but hey, let them fight their own battles.

Between putting almond milk in our cereal and eating protein bars stuffed with almonds, each American eats about two pounds of almonds per year. And the huge majority of those almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley.

I recently read an article that indicated that not only do almonds take a substantial amount of water to stay healthy, they also require an enormous number of bees to pollinate the crop.

That, my friends, is bad news for the bees. Because at the same time that people are eating more and more almonds that require more and more bees, there are fewer and fewer bees to go around. Hello Colony Collapse Disorder — the phenomenon in which bees are abandoning their hives for reasons that even really, really smart people have not been able to explain. In fact, almond growers require two million bee colonies as compared to apple growers who only require 200,000 colonies.

But thanks to Good Ol’ American capitalism, the problem is being addressed. Almond growers are paying people from other states to haul their hives to California and set up a temporary camp. As you can imagine, however, this puts a lot of stress on the bees. The beekeepers have to wake up the bees a few months early to make their trip to California at the right time.  You know how cranky we all get when we have to get up early to catch a 6:15 a.m. flight.

But perhaps even more detrimental to the bees, California farm country is Pesticide Central. These nice bees that are used to breathing the fresh mountain air of, say, Salida, Colorado, are facing all sorts of diseases contributing to death.

The Almond Board of California, I’m pleased to say, is doing its part to try and solve the Case of the Dying Bees. It makes sense because they have a lot to lose as the bee population dies down. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Managing the changes brought on by our increasingly populated world must feel like that circus game where you hit the gopher on the head and another gopher pops up.

On a happier bee note, I’m pleased to announce that our granddaughter Dagny’s beekeeping efforts will double this next bee season. She has managed to talk her father/co-apiarist into a second hive. Yay on that, because D’s Bees Honey is delicious and more bees mean more honey.

When the time is right, Dagny begins draining the honey from the hive.

She bottles it and sells it.

Dagny is doing her part in saving the bees. I don’t think she even drinks almond milk.

Thursday Thoughts

Never Forget
Eighteen years ago yesterday (can that really be?), we all woke up and began our day as though it was like any other day. It wasn’t. I arrived at work around 7 a.m. For reasons I can’t recall, I telephoned Bill shortly after I arrived. We talked about whatever I called for, and then he said, “Have you heard that a plane flew into one of the Twin Towers in New York?” I remember being stunned by that news. But before I could say anything, he said, “Oh my God, another plane just flew into the other tower.” And so our day, and weeks, and months, and frankly, years began. Because nothing has ever been the same since. Not really. Terrorists struck other places, but not the United States. As the day — and the horrors — progressed, Americans — and really the whole world — set out on a new era. Everyone said NEVER FORGET —  that was the buzzword of the days ahead. I don’t think anyone has. There is not a September 11 that goes by that I don’t cry for at least some of the day. And that’s without watching the tributes on mass media. God bless America.

More Beezness
As I have documented in the past, our 13-year-old granddaughter is a beekeeper. A month or so ago, she and her dad (her fellow apiarist) gathered and bottled their honey…..

It’s as delicious this year as it was last year. This past weekend, Dagny (who is an entrepreneur as well as an apiarist) set up a lemonade honey stand, and she and her sister Maggie Faith began the big sell. This sweet team made a total of $370 in two hours!…..




September is an R Month
I have been so hungry for oysters on the half-shell. So the other night, I convinced Bill that we should go to a neighborhood restaurant that offers a fabulous happy hour featuring lots of different fish and shellfish, including oysters at a buck a piece. It wasn’t a hard sell, because Bill likes them as much as I. Oysters are supposed to be more delicious in months that include an R. These certainly were…..


It’s Murder
I recently wrote a blog post about my television binge watching habit, and mentioned Midsommer Murders in particular. I want to alert my readers that to my chagrin, this program is being eliminated from Netflix’s offerings as of October 1, 2019! Yikes. I better get going. I’m only on Series 13, and there are 19 series. Gotta go!


Dee’s Bees

About a year-and-a-half ago, Bill’s son Dave made what, to me at least, was a surprise announcement. We are going to become apiarists. Beekeepers to us mere mortals. Perhaps it had been a dream of his for some time. It certainly is a worthwhile endeavor. But it still caught me by surprise.

What didn’t catch me by surprise is the fact that his partner in the buzz business was going to be Dagny Tess. How could it be anyone else? She has been handling bugs and spiders and who knows what else since she could walk. Of course keeping bees was going to be the next challenge she would accept.

Their endeavor started in April, and in August of last year, Dagny told me sadly that the queen had vanished from the hive. She and her dad purchased a new queen who arrived in a little box, undoubtedly with HRH engraved on the outside. The idea was that they would put the box into the hive, thereby allowing the workers and drones to get used to the new queen. Unfortunately, a week or so later, HRH decided to try it on her own, escaped the box, and vanished. Dagny told me there was some hope that another bee had crowned herself queen, but the chances were slim.

The two apiarists were reluctantly optimistic that there would be honey last summer, but alas, there was not a drop to be had.

Fast forward to July 2018……

Hoo-rah! The bees had been producing honey. In fact, when the family came home last week for a reunion and Maggie Faith showed up on my doorstep, she informed me that Dagny couldn’t come because she was gathering honey from the bees.

As it happens, the bees had produced nearly four gallons of honey, and being the nana and papa, Bill and I are privileged to possess one of the first jars of Dee’s Bees honey (the best honey beesiness around, according to her advertising director, Alastair)…..

I will confess to you that I am not a fervent fan of honey. It’s okay, but it’s not something I would necessarily require in my pantry. Nonetheless, I will tell you that Dee’s Bees honey is absolutely delicious. According to the 12-year-old apiarist, the flavor of the honey produced depends on the flowers from which the bees get the nectar. I believe Dee’s bees get their nectar from God’s own garden, because the honey is right tasty…..

And the keeper of the bees is completely adorable…..

When Dagny and her family return from their summer trip in a couple of weeks, honey collection, jar-filling, and sales will begin in earnest. The jars will sell for a mere $10 each, much less than the honey that was selling at a flower nursery I recently visited…..

Local honey, by the way, is purported to be exceptionally effective in helping people with allergies, particularly grass-related allergies. And need I remind you?…..

Let me know if you are interested in purchasing some of Dee’s Bees honey. Remember, it’s the best in the beesiness.

Thursday Thoughts

Ding Dong
Yesterday afternoon, our doorbell rang. Who should be standing there but Maggie Faith? Wait, what? I thought you were driving around the west coast in an RV. Actually, I knew they were coming home for a family reunion on Jll’s side, but I didn’t actually think I would see them much — if at all — with their busy plans. It so happened that Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole were visiting, and had their hands up to their elbows in — what else? — slime. It was a very fun reunion of our own, and it was a joy to hear about the McLains on the Road from Maggie’s perspective.

I asked Maggie what her sibs were doing. All going different directions, eager to catch up in the short time they have. How about Dagny, I asked Mags. Busy caring for her bees, Maggie responded. Of course. This is year number two for the bees, and they are apparently finally becoming productive. Dave posted this photo on Facebook…..

I hope to see honey in my future!

It’s All Happenin’ at the Zoo
Court’s out of town, and I figured Alyx could use a break. So I took the three Zierks to the zoo with me yesterday. I’m not sure we made it last year, and I was determined to have a go at it this year. There were lots of new babies — a little orangutan, a baby gorilla, a tiny (relatively speaking) giraffe — all so cute. There was purportedly a baby sloth, but the sloths live in the elephant exhibit, and there was a show going on. We weren’t up for fighting crowds. And it was, after all, just a sloth…..

Creamy Goodness
We had dropped off our rental wagon and were heading towards the exit for the zoo when Kaiya spotted a sign: Dole Whips. The Zierks love them some Dole Whips, and I had never tried them. Why not, I thought. Well, needless to say, they were just darnright delicious. Kaiya claimed they were just as good as the ones in Disneyland. And we don’t have to go so far to get it, she said…..


Thursday Thoughts

Bee Update
Dagny and Maggie Faith stopped by on Monday to visit their Zierk cousins (who Bill and I were watching for a couple of days). I pinned her down to get an update on the bees. She admitted that she and her father had not checked for a while, but she seemed entirely unconcerned about the queen bee. In her mind, things are fine and honey will be available soon. Being a bit more skeptical, I would feel better if she had actually SEEN the queen, but then I’m not a beekeeper and never will be. I am, however, a honey-eater, and eagerly await D’s Bees Honey.

Climb Every Mountain
I’m going to give you a heads-up on something that will be happening on Sunday. Eleven-year-old Dagny, who has been taking climbing lessons for quite a while, is going to be undertaking her first outdoor technical climb. A friend will guide her on the third Flatiron Mountain in Boulder. The climb will involve quite a bit of elevation and some rappelling. More pertinent to me, it will involve a one-hour hike to even get to the base of the mountain. Bill and I – along with much of Dagny’s kin – will be there to cheer her on. That is, presuming I can make it up to the base of the Flatiron. Fingers crossed. Allen plans to climb as well. Bill and I plan to eat a picnic lunch and hold our collective breath. I will get back to you about the whole adventure.

Back to Normal
I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had been watching Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole for the past couple of days while their parents are out of town. I dropped them off at school yesterday with a kiss and an I-Love-You, dropped off the suitcases and car seats at their Nana Carol’s and Papa David’s house, where they spent yesterday afternoon and night. As for me, I spent the afternoon sitting in my La-Z-Boy watching the most mindless television imaginable. I’m not apologizing either! But here are a few photos of our adventures…..

Kaiya and Cole made fluffy slime on Monday. Shaving cream makes it fluffy. While the whole slime thing is kind of lost on me, they love it.

Monday afternoon, the kids and I went to Willow Creek Park and played on the play ground a bit. Well, they did. I watched. We then walked a bit to nearby Willow Creek, where Cole threw in about 5 lbs of sand a handful at a time. Kaiya and Mylee preferred racing leaves down the waterfall.

Cole and his Play Doh. What more can I say?


Thursday Thoughts

Not Quite School Daze
I mentioned in a recent blog that all of my Denver grandkids are back in school, but I was wrong. I got a call Tuesday from Maggie Faith. “Can I come over for a little bit?” she asked. I told her of course, but I thought she was in school. Not until this upcoming Monday, she informed me. I was relieved she wasn’t playing hooky. When she arrived, she immediately asked me, “What do you want to do?” as she always does. “Let’s cook something,” she went on to say, and started rooting through my pantry. Maggie likes to take random ingredients she finds in the pantry and “create” a masterpiece. The so-called masterpiece might include pieces of beef jerky cut up into some peanut butter, add a few pepper flakes and a handful of marshmallows, bake for 10 minutes, and then consume. I wasn’t quite up for that, so I suggested instead that we check out Pinterest and find something to make using existing ingredients. We landed on some simple Danish rolls using canned crescent rolls. I actually didn’t have the rolls, so I made a quick run to the grocery store. When I returned, Maggie had persuaded Google Home to play top 40 hits. She was dancing around the kitchen, and had used instant lemonade, instant ice tea, and instant fruit punch (which I didn’t even know I had, so it must have been older than she) to make a punch. “Want some?” she asked. I declined. We set to work on our Danish, and just about the time we got the dough laid out and the cream cheese mixed with the sugar, she got a better offer. Her friend Molly wanted her to come out and play. “Bye Nana,” she said as she hopped on her bike and left me with a dozen-and-a-half almost-put-together Danish rolls. No worries. Papa Bill ate them……

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye
As I was out on my morning walk the other day, I observed two women standing in front of a car with the back opened. The car was packed to the gills with suitcases and other travel paraphernalia. They were tearfully hugging one another, and I teared up myself. I remember the days when my sister Bec and her family would travel from the East Coast, or my brother Dave and his family would travel to Denver from AZ. We would always have such fun while they were here, and it was so sad to say goodbye. We would all cry.  Say what you will about technology, but with all its flaws, it certainly has made the world smaller and communication easier. What with email and Facetime, I never feel very far away from my family and friends. I hope the woman has a safe trip to wherever she is going.

More Beesness
I telephoned Dagny yesterday to try and ascertain the status of the beehive. You might recall that my last update told you that the queen bee had died and the two apiarists had purchased a new queen. That queen was in a little box that they set inside the hive, the idea being that the drones and workers would get used to her before letting her loose in the hive. According to Dagny, that queen escaped her little box on her own. Apparently it was a bad decision, because she was quickly killed by the worker bees. But alas, all is not yet lost. There is a glimmer of hope. Dagny said that when she and her father checked the other day, it looked like there might have been some eggs that had been laid recently, indicating the existence of another queen. It would be one that the other bees chose, I guess. Or, said Dagny sadly, it might just be the glare of the sun and not eggs at all. Time will tell. I believe Camilla Parker-Bowles Windsor is watching carefully to see how one becomes queen when one is tired of waiting.

Twinkly Citrus
I crocheted these adorable citrus scrubbies this week, and posted them on my Etsy page. They worked up really quickly, and I think they are cute and cheerful-looking. Kaiya was surprised when she checked them out. “I like the way these feel,” she said. Check them out on my Etsy page (link above).

When Mylee was over at my house the other day, for the first time in a very long time, she didn’t have her hair in pony tails or in a bun. In fact, it was completely loose. I was taken aback at just how long her hair is….


Friday Book Whimsy: Flight Pattern

Karen White is one of the more prolific authors whose books I read. I have found some to be really good and some to be not so good. Flight Patterns was not only really good, I think it might have been the best that I have read to date.

First of all, it incorporates beekeeping into the storyline. And since members of our family have taken up beekeeping (read this post), it is a topic of utmost interest to me. White begins each chapter with a fact about bees, and I found that in and of itself very interesting and fun. Though bees are part of the story, the story itself is not about beekeeping. So if bees aren’t your thing, don’t let that discourage you from reading this very good novel.

Georgia Chambers has been estranged from her family for 10 years. She resides in New Orleans, where she works with china, mostly antique Limoges china. She knows everything there is to know about china patterns, which is what brings her new client James Graf to her. He has found amidst his things a couple of pieces of very unusual china that bears a bumblebee pattern, and he wants to find out the history.

This leads to that, and Georgia finds the need to go back to her home of origin in Apalachicola, Florida – a real town located in the panhandle of the state, on the Gulf of Mexico. She has not seen her sister Maisy, her mother Birdie, or her grandfather (who is an apiarist) since something devastating happened 10 years earlier. Just what that event was is kept a secret throughout the book, with just bits and pieces of clues provided the reader. All we know is that Birdie hasn’t spoken  a word since then, and Maisy won’t have anything to do with Georgia.

The character of Georgia was one of the most interesting characters of any Karen White novel I’ve read. She was private, cold, and yet likable. The pain she feels by being separated from the family she loves so much is spelled out so clearly, I could feel her pain myself. Maisy’s anguish and Birdie’s – well – craziness, are handled in such a way as to not make them disagreeable characters, only troubled.

As all of the pieces fall into place, the reader begins to understand what created such a divided family. The ending was satisfying and not schmaltzy.

Flight Patterns might be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Here is a link to the book.


It’s Not My Beesness

I’ve been hoarding this particular blog story like a survivalist hoards bottled water and cases of beef jerkey. It’s just such a good story. I wanted the time to be right.

The time, my friends, is right. The story must be told. Here’s why…..

Dave fought the bees, and the bees won. This round, at least.

Here’s the thing. My stepson David and his brood have become apiarists. Beekeepers.

Their adventure with bees officially started in late April, though the plans have been in the works for considerably longer than that. And let me be clear. The adventure really is Dave’s and Dagny’s. After all of these years, Jll is not surprised by anything Dave does, so beekeeping didn’t raise an eyebrow. The rest of the kids are marginally interested, but have other things grabbing their attention far more than the bees that have taken residence in the southwest corner of their urban back yard…..

We all know the plight of bees in the world today. For a variety of reasons, including increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat, and disease, honeybees are disappearing. And if bees disappear, the planet loses more than simply honey. Bees pollinate trees and vines that grow almonds, pears, avocados, grapes. What? No wine?

Remember The Bee Movie? Jerry Seinfeld freaked us all out with his animated movie that demonstrated what would happen if there were no more bees. Shortly after that movie was released, Jen, BJ, and Maggie were all eating lunch al fresco, when a bee started buzzing by their table. Jen is allergic to bees, so without giving it a second thought, Maggie swatted the bee with her shoe when it landed on the table, swiftly bringing about its demise. BJ nearly had a heart attack. Do you understand what is happening to the bees?  he asked. Do you understand what would happen to Mom should the bee sting her? was Maggie’s reply.

I don’t dislike bees. I actively dislike wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets, all of which are aggressive and live in my backyard. I kill them every chance I get, despite Dagny’s horror each time she witnesses the murder. For heaven’s sake, I tell her. You guys are running around without shoes on! But bees don’t give me angst because they generally aren’t interested in stinging me. In fact, Alastair told me that despite the fact that he has a bee colony living in his back yard, he has only been stung once, and the bee that did the dirty deed was dead. It was simply lying on its back with its stinger in the air and Alastair stepped on it with the above-mentioned bare feet.

Dagny has been stung on at least one occasion, and the guilty bee was alive when it struck. I was with Dagny shortly after, and I will tell you that besides the pain from the sting, the fact that the bee bit the hands that feed it (it was actually her butt, and she doesn’t feed them) really hurt her feelings. Why, Nana, why?…..


To date, Dave’s and Dagny’s bees are increasing in number. Recently, they have been observed bearding, which is when they accumulate roughly in the shape of a beard for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s hot outside and they are trying to cool down the inside of the hive so that Her Majesty the Queen is comfortable; or 2) They are getting ready to swarm, meaning take off for another hive. Apparently Dave and Dagny’s bees were just hot because they’re still there……

The bees have also begun the process of filling in the honeycomb with wax, which, if I understand it, means they will begin producing honey soon.

It won’t be long now before we will be seeing our first batches of D’s Honey, so get your order in early.

Unless, of course, Dave dumps the whole hive in the river in disgust once he can again see out of his left eye.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.

Saturday Smile: The Sunny Side of Life

In a period that was sort of sad for Bill and me following the death of his mother, the grandkids once again provided necessary smiles.

We hadn’t even gotten home from Chicago when this photo arrived in my inbox with the message Guess who got her braces off?…..

The answer, of course, is Kaiya. Since she is only 8, I’m sure the braces were only preliminary, since orthodontists have figured out that if they can convince parents that kids should have braces twice instead of once, they could take more vacations. But isn’t she pretty? And proud. And happy, because now she can drink root beer.

The night of Wilma’s funeral, the family gathered at a restaurant. The adults liked chatting with family members they hadn’t seen for a while, but it was kind of boring for the kids. Joseph and Micah, however, were able to keep themselves occupied and content for quite some time, perhaps enjoying some quiet time away from cousins — and each other….

We stayed at a hotel that served a free breakfast each morning. Alastair came down the first morning, hair quite askew, and made his version of the perfect waffle — no butter, no syrup, lots of whipped cream….

I couldn’t stop myself from taking a picture of Micah’s fully little-boy knees, all scraped up….

Last but most assuredly not least, Miss Dagny shows off her beekeeper’s attire as she and her family embark upon a beekeeping adventure. They have the clothes; they have prepared a spot in the back yard; now they just are awaiting the bees. A lot of cuteness underneath the protective gear…..

Have a great weekend.