Persephone, my sweet, gentle, beautiful Common Black Ratsnake, died this spring -- I cried, and I still miss her.
But her death provided the occasion for our first family burial at Haven, and perforce, the siting of the place where we will lay the bodies -- the mantles, as my beloved Lee calls them -- of our loved non-human family members, at least. Maybe Lee and I as well, when the time comes. We'll see.
It's a pretty shelf of land near the south border of the property, not far from the mostly-abandoned railroad tracks. Her grave, marked with a large piece of rose quartz, lies next to a discarded railroad tie that provides a nice place to sit.
The shelf is outside of the area that will be graded, but quite near it, so it will be a short walk from our house, but still in a wild-ish spot.
It is also a good place to put a hive or two of bees. This spring, like last year's, has been unusually cold and wet -- winter-like (for west Oregon) far longer than usual. That's hard on bees, as well as crops. But finally we are beginning to get a few bright, sunny days, and green growth and blossoms are bursting out while they can. In short, it is swarming season, and I want to catch a swarm of bees -- at least one, preferably 3 or so.
But one must be prepared to not only catch a swarm, but appropriately house it, and I'm struggling to accomplish the necessary preparations while any swarms I catch will still have a chance to build comb, raise brood, increase, and store sufficient honey to go into the leaner seasons strong and able to (hopefully) survive. Bees (and other pollinators) are having such a dangerously hard time now! I've wanted to keep bees for years now, and now that we have Haven, I want to start this year!
I got a bee veil/hat combination -- more comfortable on me than the separate hat and veil. Like most clothing items, protective beekeeping clothing as found in the standard beekeeping suppliers stocks simply doesn't fit me -- the separate veil that one ties on with string took a strangle-hold to my neck that was intolerable, and the integral veil/jacket combo's were simply a mission impossible. The gauntleted bee gloves were too large in the glove and too small in the gauntlet. Annoying.
But I can sew! A few yards of netting, some elastic cording and cord stops and such from the Mill End Store, a pair of nice leather dress gloves at home that I haven't worn in years, and I have what I will need to make the soft veiled hat into more full upper-body protection. Elastic velcro'd bands to close the bottoms of my pants will serve to keep the bees from crawling up my legs inside my clothes. I'm considering spats to better seal off my comfy outdoor shoes. That should set me up well, clothing-wise, for catching swarms. I don't think I'll generally need to use all that protective gear for day-to-day hive tending, but swarm-catching can put one in the midst of thousands of swirling, flying bees (albeit generally docile ones) when you work to shake them into the box. Even docile swarming bees can panic and sting if they manage to tangle themselves in your hair, or inadvertently trap themselves in your ear (as happened to me at a beekeeping class this past month.)
Now I need to acquire and slightly modify a cardboard box (such as printer paper comes in), for catching the swarm. Today I got a Top Bar style nuc box (a small box suitable for temporary housing of a swarm, for raising a new queen and starter bee colony, etc.) So, progress is being made in beekeeping at Haven.
Matt, owner of the excavating company that will be doing our grading, called today to find out whether we had decided on a grader. I reassured him that we both wanted him and his crew to do our work, but with the delay forced by wet weather, we now need to get a loan to have sufficient funds for the job. Matt says it will probably be June before the ground is dry enough anyway, but that he would put our job in mind when planning the coming earth-moving season. They will need to be paid 30 days after the job is done, so we have a little time yet to arrange financing.
I'm probably going to have to rattle the cage of the person who was supposed to email me from Northwest Farm Credit Services. And also contact their competitor regarding rural land loans.
Lee and I are currently planning to go out to Haven and start clearing some of the smaller trees within the area to be graded on Sunday, so I researched chainsaws today. We won't want a big one, not being skilled and experienced wielders of chain saws. We'll let the folks in the Excavating company (Matt is a former logger) log the larger, more dangerous trees in the area to be graded. But we'll want a good quality chainsaw, since we'll need such a tool periodically for the foreseeable future, not just during the grading phase of building Haven. A Stihl with a 16" blade and easy-start technology has been recommended for us, for c.$240. Not cheap. In fact, pricier than I had hoped. But probably a fair price. I didn't make it out of the house in time to get it today, but maybe tomorrow, after the OSBA Bee Day...
Oh, yeah... I asked the engineering firm to stake the outlines of the area to be graded, so we now can actually see it on the ground, and know for sure where we should take down trees. I also have tentatively identified a place for us to put the roundwood that we keep for future construction purposes, as well as firewood; and also places for the stumps and duff to go -- piles that will serve as habitat as they gradually compost and return to the earth. Matt will be coming out to Haven at 10am Sunday to have a look, and let me know whether the places will work.
Scott and Shannon made an offer on a house on acreage, and the offer was accepted. They were to have closed this month, but the deal fell through, and they are stressed and disappointed. As Scott puts it, they are desperately in need of some occupational therapy -- they need to DO SOMETHING! So they are happy to help with the clearing. In fact, I suspect that chain-sawing may may be down-right therapeutic, from what little I've heard. I'll learn more when we get together with them at tomorrow's Bee Day.
(Did I ever post here that Scott and Shannon, after moving temporarily into a shared rental house last August, decided in September that they couldn't live in the same house with anyone, and so had decided they couldn't share Haven with us after all? I can't remember. Anyway, all four of us felt a funny combination of grief and relief. But this decision was a success, for we had all agreed that it was most important that we remain friends, and avoid getting into a situation that would jeopardize that. Our friendship remains strong, and Scott and Shannon still plan on helping us to build Haven, even if they will not live there, as we will remain friends with them, and help them with their new place, wherever it may be. They do want to find their home in the same general region as Haven, loving the forest and geography there, so they say. That will be good.)
The wood violets, bleeding hearts, oxalis, and trillium are finally up and blooming at Haven, a month later than last year. In fact, the trillium are turning purple and withering with age. The alders, vine and big-leaf maples, willows and other deciduous trees are leafing out, and the blackberries, eaten down by goats, are poking new sprouts up only to have Lee whack them off with Harvester, his machete.
Lee and I celebrated our 16th Handfasting (wedding) anniversary on Beltaine Eve, April 30th -- at the Northwest Blacksmiths Association Conference in Mt Vernon. Not our usual venue for our anniversary, but there you are. We both got into the hands-on repousse class, too! YAY! I found out that silver holloware is the "modern" "traditional" gift for the 16th wedding anniversary, so now I'm eager to make a repousse'd sterling silver piece -- perhaps a quaich -- for our anniversary.
But our biggest, most important task is building Haven -- and moving there before the year is out, preferably before the summer is done! We want to be there so badly we can taste it. This place in Beaverton is just Stepping Stone. We yearn for Haven.