A Visiting Swarm

Last Wednesday Felix came running inside to tell us there was a huge group of bees hanging off of a branch in the yard. We all RAN outside as fast as we could and saw that it was, indeed a large bunch of bees hanging, shoulder-high, on a branch very near our actual beehive.

I remembered that swarms are not dangerous because they have no hive to defend so we went up close to examine it. It was really amazing to see this huge mass of bugs all clinging together. Jem & I ran to assemble an unused beehive to catch the swarm, as we headed back, they all seemed to be taking flight and within a few seconds we realized they were flying up up and over the top of a tall pine tree towards the woods.


It was the perfect height for us to catch it if we had only gotten there in time.


They’ve just left their other home because it was too crowded there (swarming is a natural part of life for honeybees), after they find a nice place to hang out for a short while, they send out scout bees to find a new home. When a particular number of scout bees return recommending the exact same location, then they all take flight together.

“The term ‘swarming’ is applied to the act of a family of bees leaving their home to establish a new home elsewhere.” –The ABC and XYZ of Beekeeping” A.I. Root, 1878

The other side.


Below is a video of them taking off.

This is where we moved the beehive to before we installed the new package of bees in April, they seem to like it better here. This is immediately to the left of where the swarm was.


Cousin Alex was visiting! and can be heard yelling to the bees in the video ‘Where are you going!?’


Wintery winter.

Hello! It’s only January but it’s been a very wintery winter so far. The colors of winter are amazing, as is the winter light. The early morning sun turns the tops of the pine trees pink at the woodland edge.IMG_3089


There are wonderful mature trees next door, which is also our sledding hill (big thank you to our neighbors Dennis & Chelsa).

sledding2Some instagrammed pictures below: shadows, fog & blowing snow.

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Flat grey sky.



Doggie face.

Country livin’

Much time has passed since my last post. It’s October now and we are settling in to our new life in “the country”. Yes, it is very photogenic here.


Above you see the upside of having a dog, I would NEVER have been outside at 6am to capture this scene if it weren’t for the dog.


The flip side of that is not so lovely. These were my good, ie: “real”, reading glasses. Layla just destroyed them with her gigantic mouth and left them in the meadow.



IMG_1096Much of the past month has been taken up with new school activities and new friends and also MUCH pet wrangling. The pets are pretty cute though.


Pretty pictures give the impression that it’s all just pure gorgeousness up here. It is pretty, yes, but daily life is very similar to Brooklyn except with more driving and more time spent outdoors. I still work at home on my computer, still do the 3pm school pickup and still I still listen to wnyc on the radio all day, so for the time being I still feel connected to our old life in the City. One difference is I don’t recall having QUITE so many chipmunks in the house in Brooklyn! Both the dog and the cat seem to like to bring small mammals into the house which totally freaks me out.

IMG_1650I have also become a soccer mom, see below. F has been playing really well and he’s really loving it. He is a super Red Bulls fan, as well as a loyal Leeds United supporter.


We have been taking the dog for walks on the local ‘rail trail’ which is a lovely way to start the day. It sure beats my former commute to Long Island City via the G train. Here is the rail trail in the morning light.   IMG_1949IMG_2014IMG_1950

Saugerties Lighthouse.

IMG_0946For anyone visiting (or living in) the Catskills, a visit to the Saugerties Lighthouse is essential. It’s a Victorian-era brick lighthouse set on a sandy peninsula in the middle of the Hudson River.

IMG_0911 copyIt’s a good idea to read up on tidal info here because the path can get soggy at high tide.

IMG_0933It is a short walk to a great place to have a picnic, or to watch the boats go by.

IMG_0989This was taken at high tide looking west back towards the mountains.

IMG_0936A sandy part of the path.

IMG_0941Believe it or not, this beautiful building is a B & B, and if you book way ahead you can wake up in the middle of the Hudson River. The history of the place is on their excellent website.

IMG_0943We visited on a day with a very rainy forecast so no one was there but this area is usually filled with picnic-ers and swimmers.

IMG_0945This is high tide, but at low tide this is a nice place to swim.


View of the Hudson looking east.

IMG_0983Native beauty Joe Pye Weed in the foreground.


Dog days.

It’s so long since I last wrote! And much has transpired. We have moved. We got a dog. And a kitten. And are welcoming visiting family from the UK. So there is lots going on here in Lomontville. It’s hard to synopsize all of this onto a cohesive post but I’ll try.


We packed up our Brooklyn house and put it all in a truck. Of course it was a broiling hot day, but we managed to get everything loaded and moved upstate without incident. So far, moving upstate hasn’t really felt like moving, per se. It just feels like a normal August spending as much time upstate as possible. I just realized that, until now, our upstate house has been sort of half-furnished. Now it finally feels like a home instead of a weekend house because we have all our books, artwork and photos here. We’re still working on unpacking but that can wait.

rainbowThis lovely sight was spotted over our driveway 2 days after we arrived. A lucky omen perhaps?

IMG_0587Introducing Layla Bugs. The first new addition to our menagerie. We adopted her from Pets Alive in Middletown, NY.

IMG_0739Layla is extremely gentle and not too interested in the cats except as playmates. Here we are in the shade with both Luna (cat) and Layla.

IMG_0638Apparently adding one family member was not enough, because no sooner had we gotten Layla steeled in but we raced BACK to Pets Alive and adopted a kitten! Here is Stella test-driving  some kitties at the shelter.


And the winner is… Socks! She is a small grey and white kitten, very playful and cute. And very afraid of the dog. There are a lot of dog gates and cat doors and general pet-wrangling going on over here. The original pet (Luna the cat) and the dog will get along fine, the kitten is the monkey wrench really because she is scared of the other animals. She is ridiculously cute though and sleeps on your lap when you sit at the computer, and bites your toes with her tiny teeth.

IMG_0755We took Layla to Minnewaska where she practically pulled Jem’s arm off pulling on the leash with excitement. She seems a very sniffy dog, so she had to smell EVERY SINGLE thing we came across. She also must have some herding/working dog in her because she seems very concerned that the group stays together. I think we are  sheep to her, and she’s just trying to do her job.

IMG_0348The garden is in full August swing. I have done NO gardening/ weeding/ planting since mid-July. I basically just look at the garden and think of all the things I need to do. But then I don’t do them, I just contemplate them. The flower garden is full of every kind of pollinator you can imagine.

IMG_0784We collected another small batch of honey too. Stella & Felix decorated the lids.

Long live the Queen!

hivesJuly The hive that swarmed lost their queen when she led the workers to a new location (see my brief blog post on that here). BUT when we opened the hive this week we saw that there were eggs and ‘brood’ which means that the worker bees have MADE a new queen, she has mated (!) and is laying eggs. Bee books say that queens can lay up to 1500 eggs a day in the high season, this is a bit hard to comprehend. In any case, we were so relieved to see that the colony is thriving and would continue after the swarming. Whether they make it through the winter is another matter entirely.



Extracting Honey

combWe extracted our first honey this past week! It was really fun. Here’s an empty comb in all it’s mathematical beauty & precision.


This is the frame (the wooden part) filled with capped honey. The bees cap the honey with wax to seal it. The comb is irregular because we only put a half sheet of wax foundation into each frame and let the bees do the rest. Master beekeeeper Chris Harp of Honeybee Lives taught us that.


Here we are uncapping the comb. This basically involves cutting off the wax so that the honey inside can be drained or spun out in an extractor.


Jem & Felix are spinning the extractor, it works on centrifugal force. The uncapped comb with honey inside faces the outside of the barrel and the honey spills out as the frame is turned.


When all the frames are done we opened the spigot at the bottom and the honey poured into a clean bucket with a fine filter fitted on top. The filter just ensures that no wax makes it into the honey. The honey itself is still raw and untreated.


Here’s the honey dripping into the filter.


The honey!! Note the light color. it may be Catalpa or clover honey, we’re not sure. it is very flavorful and clover honey is supposed to be mild so we don’t really know where they got their nectar.


We thought these little bottles would make nice gifts, they hold 8 ounces each so we ended up with about 7 lbs total. The little bear was a gift from Megan at Hudson Valley Bee Supply where we get lots of our supplies.

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Our ladies seemed to really loves these drumstick allium. I think I’ll plant more this fall.

IMG_0176Summer in the Catskills has a lot to offer, and Felix was a huge help with our adventures in honey collecting.