Much has been happening in the the three weeks since I last wrote (much of it inside my head, and therefore hardly relevant), but what one mostly has to show for it is soap. Kind of a lot of soap.
Since March 19th, I have made beeswax soap three times, and have done so with a range of other people, and none of them twice. In short, I have been a saponifying flibbertygibbet, a faithless converter of bee products into bathsuds. It just seemed like the thing to do.
On March 19th, my dad was dying and I did not know. That day, Kameha (a new friend from the beekeeping club) and I made beeswax and palm oil soap that turned an unearthly golden shade of brown. On March 25th, my sister and I got together (with my friend Gerry, too) to sort-of sort-out all manner of confused feelings, and made some beeswax and lavender soap. By mistake I put in twice as much lavender as required, but people seem to like it. Last Saturday, MaryEllen came over and we made a very simple beeswax and honey soap for sale at an upcoming event. That is the soap pictured here. I made molds out of PVC pipe, half-and-half containers and a box in which some fancy Calvados came years ago, and you see all that soap in its pre-cutting up phase in the picture above.
You would almost think there were no bees anymore, only beeswax, but that's not true. I visited the girls on April 10 to check on swarming tendencies, and whether we were still on target to make splits this Spring. We are. The second picture here is of an empty queencup, evidence of crowded conditions but no swarm yet: it would have to be filled and capped for a swarm to be imminent.
There is nonethless so much news, so much going on, and it's a little anxious making. Last Thursday, MaryEllen and I drove to a Dadant beekeeping supply store, a humble little place, taking all day to do it. I purchased all the woodenware necessary to become a mother of five (colonies of bees, that is: getting two more hive set-ups in addition to the two already on the roof and the one out at a park in the suburbs).
Did I tell you about the park in the suburbs? Well, if not, I must have totally neglected the fact that (in addition) I will be placing two more colonies at a monastery only a few miles from my house. Finally, just a week ago, three new beekeepers installed two packages of brand new honeybees just a mile or so from there, with some advice from me. One of them told me he became interested in beekeeping due to an article I wrote for a local food co-op. That felt so wonderful, I am so grateful to them for joining the world of the bee-lovers.
Tomorrow, two new queens should arrive, and I will have everything I need (and no more excuses) for moving ahead with the two new monastery colonies. The bees for the park will arrive later in the month, in a much less intimidating fashion.
I've tried not to hassle the bees too much lately, but I also think I am sort of anxious about what I am getting myself into...so many bees. But it's not really the bees, it's worry about how a life is spent, and about concentrating on universes so small and orderly, rather than the big scary one from which I am taking a sabbatical of sorts.
Writing this blog is a way of picking up the threads and gathering them together again, of deciding what to think and what to do. This is the first blog entry of my second year of beekeeping, an activity that has come to mean more to me than I ever would have guessed. Soap and philosophy and friends and flowers. A lot of thoughts about life and death, and visits from both. Sometimes it seems like it's just too much, and sometimes not enough.