Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Bee Keeper Moves The Swarm


When Bill went out to check the pecan trees the other day, he discovered a large black mass on one of them; the bees from an existing hive had decided to move out and amassed themselves on this one little tree. Why they moved is still a mystery. But they did, and he was ready for them with a newly purchased bee hive box, protective suit, smoker, bee brush, and a plain old paper box with holes punched in it, everything he learned he would need when he attended a bee seminar sponsored by the Texas A&M Extension Service in San Antonio and taught by Molly Keck, a beekeeper deluxe, who, in Bill’s opinion, would be quite an asset in a high school science classroom somewhere, turning kids on to science and biology.

He was anxious to keep these bees happy and make it easy for them to set up housekeeping in a second location. After all, bees are an important component in a healthy pecan orchard, so he had everything all assembled and ready, went out the next morning to try out all his newly acquired knowledge-and they were gone!


His new knowledge didn’t explain why they left-they are many reasons they could have left, but they didn’t tell us the reason for this move- but a day or two later, they were back! And, yes, that black wad of stuff is bees, probably a couple of thousand all huddled together.

So bright and early then, the next morning, the transfer began. Bill put on his protective gear, gathered up the equipment, and set off for the poor little tree, all bent over with the weight of this mass of bees. Some beekeepers don’t bother with the garb, but considering that Bill’s dad had been susceptible to anaphylactic shock from bee stings, it wasn’t worth taking a chance. My job was to be on site, transportation- ready, cell phone in hand for a call to 911 if in fact something went wrong and he was attacked by the bees. And in the other hand was my camera so I could document the new adventure. The only problem with that was that I was on the other side of the fence by the rescue vehicle and couldn’t get up close and personal with my camera for the shots I really wanted. But I did get some good ones that tell the story.



The first thing to do is use smoke to calm and lull the bees into an attitude agreeable to being moved. So of course, right off the bat the butane lighter won’t work and the tinder gathered to make the smoke won’t stay lit, which finds the butane lighter thrown into the street in a fit of frustration and me racing back to the house for a better one and some lighter fluid. The second attempt is successful, the smoke does its work, and Bill shakes the bees off the tree into the box, which allows him to move them to the new hive which is set up nearby.



To get the bees out of the box, he turns it over and they fall  out into the hive, but a few remain in and on the box. A soft bee brush is used to literally brush them off and into the new hive. He brushed them off, and they buzzed around but stayed close to the new hive.


That works reasonably well, but a few bees are still on the tree, so another trip is made to get the rest of them.


When Bill set up the new hive, he inserted some flat screen panels made of wood and plastic which provide the bees with a surface to make their honey and comb. After they were in the hive, he put more of the screens in for them to make their home complete.



That was all on June 11; today is July 27, and as far as we can tell, they are content in their new home and seem to be doing fine. Some apparently chose to remain in the original hive down between the casing and the dirt of the water well, so I think it is safe to say he has two working bee hives for the orchard. The trees, obviously, aren’t old enough to bloom and need the pollination work of the bees just yet, but in the meantime, the bees seem to like my cactus blooms and stay busy as, well, bees, collecting pollen from my plants while waiting to pollinate the trees.



Amazing. As is all of God’s creation.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum


Our trip to New York would not have been complete without a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. While I mentioned that visit and shared a couple of pictures (“We Did the New York Tourist Stops, Too,” July 6, 2014), it seems fitting and right to spend a little more time on the subject. I fear I will not do it justice; I was so busy taking pictures and being overwhelmed by the history and sadness surrounding me that I didn’t take notes or read all the descriptions as closely as I should have. And I certainly didn’t take pictures of all the displays. Most of that you can read about in other sites on the Internet, so perhaps I can at least give you some insight into what to expect if you have the opportunity to go there yourself.


The Memorial is open and easily accessible to the public. In the foundations of what used to be each of the  World Trade Center buildings are two-tiered fountains and waterfalls. The names of those who were lost that day are engraved in polished stone that define the edge of each of the fountains. A young woman was quietly polishing part of the wall when we were there. I asked her how often she cleaned and polished it; she smiled and said, “Every day.”




I purchased tickets online ahead of time for entrance into the museum, which is required. Then you have to be there at your appointed time to gain entry.


The museum is the building with the slanted roof.


The museum itself is built mostly underground at the original foundation level and is quite large. We toured most of it, but I know there were some parts we missed. And these pictures can’t convey the quiet, disbelief, and reflection felt when you are actually standing where it all took place.

As you go in, steel beams from one of the attacked buildings are standing by stairs that lead down into the foundation.

And in a second  location is another set of beams that were hit by one of the airplanes. I had the presence of mind to take picture of the plaque that identified this one.


This strange-looking wall is what they call a slurry wall, a feat of engineering to keep water from seeping into the buildings. This a part of the original wall and was left in the museum because it became a symbol of resilience in the months after 9/11. This wall held against the pressures of the attack and kept the water of the Hudson River from flooding lower Manhattan, the subway, and the PATH tunnels (Port Authority Trans Hudson-a mass transit railway). It was not built to withstand an attack but originally to allow the World Trade Centers to be built without seepage from the river interfering with construction. But its strength kept the water out and the havoc that would have made things even worse after the attack.

All sorts of pieces from the original site were on display, like this section of wall. I did not identify it, but you can see the memorials and messages left on it by the public.


We saw this small Statue of Liberty when we visited New York in 2010 with Colten. At that time the statue was on display in a small museum near the attack site. I thought surely she would be here, and as I turned the corner, there she was, quietly paying homage to those who sacrificed to save others.
Alas, I did not get a picture of the second half of the plaque. As I recall, someone was standing in front of it, and something distracted me before I moved over to the second half. But you get the idea.

There were other items deemed worthy of display that played a part in the aftermath of the attack, like a section of stairs called the Survivors’ Stairs that led people to safety after the attack, and this fire truck


And then there were many pieces sent to the city of New York as a way of expressing condolences and support, like this hand-fashioned tapestry.

So if a trip to New York is in your future, plan ahead, order museum tickets, and be prepared for an emotional visit.



For more information about the slurry wall, go to:

Sunday, July 6, 2014

We Did the New York Tourist Stops, Too

The Lion King was the main event, but we managed to squeeze in a few more stops as well. Let’s see…

We began our first full day with a ride on the New York subway; that’s Erin in the green top with the family in front of her.


to  the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, a sobering experience.

The museum is the slanted building behind that line of trees. The people are standing around the waterfalls of the memorial.

Next stop was the view from The Top of the Rock.
As you can see, it was overcast that day. Look closely at the water to the right and you can make out the Statue of Liberty.

Supper was at Bubba Gump’s where we all filled up on shrimp.

The next day was the trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It rained all morning, but the umbrella street vendors magically appeared and we were covered.

After returning from Ellis Island, we took in the Indian Museum, which was right there,

and discovered that the Jewish Heritage Museum was within easy walking distance, so we did that, too. There wasn’t much of distinction to the front of that building, but this shaded pathway leading to it was lovely.

AJ had heard about Katz’s Deli, a landmark deli with the claim to fame that the infamous scene from When Harry Met Sally was shot there, so we had lunch there, sampling typical New York deli pastrami and Ruben sandwiches.

This was the night for our Broadway musical, so we dressed and only had to walk across the street from the hotel to see The Lion King.

The next day was more museums. First stop was the Museum of Modern Art, specifically for Maya to see Van Gogh's “Starry Night.” It was a neat experience to see it person and not the page of an art book.

Then it was on to the Museum of Natural History for Ben and the dinosaurs; the kid in all of us liked that. I found the evolution of the horse and the Mastodons and Mammoths especially interesting.

Central Park was across the street from the Museum of Natural History, but no one but me was too interested in that. AJ said a park is a park.

We found a taxi driver who was willing to take all five of us to the Circle Line cruise tour. Be prepared; by law only four are allowed in a taxi, but if one of the passengers is seven or younger and small enough to sit in one of the adult’s laps or squeeze into the back seat, some of the drivers will allow it. So we had the taxi experience.No Cash Cab, however. We did enjoy the boat tour. The view of the city from the water is a nice contrast to being on the streets with all the big buildings.


The decision had been made to take in the Empire State Building at night since we had seen the city from above during the day at the Top of the Rock. Not a good decision, as everyone else seemed to have the same idea. After at least an hour and a half of waiting in line, one of the ushers came forward and announced, “If you want to walk the last six flights of stairs to the top, go this way; if you want to wait another 30 minutes to ride the elevator, go this way.’ Well, Ben had had enough, and he made the decision for us. He groaned and announced,. “Well, I’m not waiting another 30 minutes.’ and headed for the stairs. We all fell in and followed him up the stairs. And it really wasn’t that bad. What was bad was the cold wind and the wad of people to wade through when we got to the top. But it was beautiful. We did get to ride the elevator all the way down.

The next morning it was time to go home. On the shuttle to LaGuardia as we stopped to pick up others going to the airport, one family turned out to be from San Angelo, Texas. Small world syndrome at its finest! LaGuardia is in Brooklyn, a totally different kind of city compared to New York. And this is where we actually saw gas stations, which you just don’t have in Manhattan. All those cars and no gas stations, an odd situation for Texans to understand.

After a quick change of planes in Dallas, we were back in Austin; didn’t even lose any luggage. It was obvious we were in Austin by the guitar decorations at the baggage claim area, a nod to the SXSW music scene, no doubt.

it was quite a trip. We may have played the tourist card that some travelers find a cliché, but for us it worked. We can do some of the other things on the next visit. Road trip, anyone?