I’m a softie what can I say. Or should I say my wife and I are softies.

Today was a typical Friday. I worked on my minimum wage project for most of the day; finding some time to network a little too. While I did that the spouse went grocery shopping and stopped at Lowe’s to pick up door knobs for the cabinets in the laundry room.  While she was there I got a sad little text from her:

wife: Lowe’s has 5 river birch clumps and a japanese maple on clearance for $5. they need TLC.

me: I’m fine with the birch. no maple. how big are they?

(Lowe's garden center clearance aisle.)

(Lowe’s garden center clearance aisle.)

wife: taller than me. not sure they’ll fit in car.

me: ok we can pick up with trailer later.

wife: ok, all paid for and set aside.

wife: maple looks sad all alone now without his friends.

me: i don’t like japanese maples. that’s what people who don’t know anything about landscaping put in their yards because their neighbors have one. they plant them right before they clean out their immaculate garages and go golfing.  I don’t like japanese maples.

wife:  😦

So eventually she came home, I finished up my work and we ate dinner. We loaded our boys in the RAV4 and I hitched up the trailer. Off we were to Lowe’s.

This is what we came home with:

These guys followed us home today. Five river birch and...

These guys followed us home today. One, two, three, four…..five river birch and…

.... this guy.

…. this guy.

C’mon….do you honestly think I’m a complete monster? The little maple was so pathetic. Our birch trees were all loaded on a cart by the check out.  Way, way, way in the back in the clearance section was a pathetic 4′ tall japanese maple tree, lying on its side, roots exposed to the world. How the hell am I supposed to walk all the way back there and just leave it there.  They would have probably thrown it out after closing time.

So I reluctantly peeled off six dollar bills and exchanged it for sixty-seven cents, a receipt and one japanese maple tree.

This totally goes against my better judgement and everything I was ever taught by anyone who taught me anything in my nearly 40 years on this planet. The chances of any of these trees living is slim and none. So we watered “slim”, “none” and their four friends when we got home and we’ll plant them tomorrow morning. Why I feel compelled to try to save things that are basically dead already I have no idea. First it was the bee on my door last week, now this maple tree. And this coming from a guy who once had to shoot a deer a half-dozen times before it’d die. I wouldn’t wish being me on anyone. No way could someone handle my self-imposed lunacy. Heck, crazy people get weirded out when they’re around me….I make them uneasy.

Still in the back of my mind my thought is to only hold onto the maple until I can nurse it back to health. Then on a dark, moonless night I’ll swaddle it in a burlap bag and drive out to some well to do suburban neighborhood and leave it on someone’s front porch, with a note that reads something like:

Please see to it that this ornamental tree finds the love and attention it deserves in your kind, caring, lacking (we noticed you’re the only house on the cul-de-sac without a japanese maple) landscape. Do not attempt to find us. It’s for the best that he think you are his one and only family. 

I’ll eye dropper some salt water tears on the page for effect.

Back inside the house I went up to the wife’s secret beer stash in her studio fridge and grabbed two Buds. I thought about three but then my brother would be sending me AA pamphlet in the mail again. Upon reaching the foyer I had a choice: A) go lay on the couch, open one of the two Buds, and scuttle all hope for today…there’s always tomorrow right? Or B) put the door knobs on the cabinets in the Laundry Room.  I sighed audibly three times to myself, put the beer in the Kitchen fridge, then walked into the studio and grabbed my drill.

I measured the knob placement on the office cabinets and then took a look at the Laundry cabinets. I like to center the knobs left to right on the vertical trim of the door. In this case half of 1.5″…so I measured over 3/4″ and made a mark. Up and down wise? I apparently like to line them up with the inside edge of the flat part of the trim. Take a look at this pic to see what I’m talking about:

I like to put the knobs halfway on the vertical trim and line up with the inboard edge of the horizontal trim.

I like to put the knobs halfway on the vertical trim and line up with the inboard edge of the horizontal trim.

Then just find a drill bit that is a slightly larger diameter than the knob screw, and drill the hole. Oh, open the door before you drill unless you like the dimple look on the inside cabinet frame like this:


From a practical standpoint though, this dimple mistake is good because it gives the wife a tangible source of resentment going forward, as opposed to some sort of underlying emotional neglect thing that costs hundreds, if not thousands, of therapy dollars to unearth during football season.

After all the holes were drilled I used my trusty utility knife to break out the knobs and their mounting screws. It’s kinda weird, the little screws are in a bag inside the knob bag. Ugh, two bags to cut through. Well that doesn’t sound efficient to me (after all it’s nearly eight o’clock on a Friday…who’s going to drink that beer if I’m spending all night putting knobs on doors?).

So I decided to cut both bags at once…you know, half the time right? Well one bag is tougher than the other. Sure enough the outer bag cuts open and the tougher screw bag launched out, carried by the tip of my utility knife. Next thing I know the screw bag darts across the washing machine, through the giant hole in the wall and falls straight down into the abyss:

What are the chances?

What are the chances?

four year old: “Dad whatca doin’?”

me: “Um I dropped something” (As I drag the dryer out, crawl on top of it and shimmy down the back side)

four year old: “Did you drop it in that big hole?”

me: “Um maybe bud.” (Yeah, it’s definitely in the big hole….no way…it’s totally g-o-n-e)

four year old: “Mom! Dad lost the screw for your knob so now you won’t be able to open one of your doors!” (like…he says it as loud as you can imagine, btw)

me (mumbling to myself): “We really need a policy on tattling in this household. I mean seriously…a comprehensive ‘when is it right’, ‘when is it wrong’ policy.”

Well turns out it didn’t matter that I lost the screw. The lone drawer requires a longer screw that did not come with the knobs so “neener, neener, neener….I didn’t need that dumb screw anyway“. I found a longer screw from a previous job and it worked like a charm. The lost screw also adds thermal mass to the wall; Joe would be proud.

We now have really nice looking chrome knobs on our Laundry Room cabinets. The knob monkey was not on my back for very long at all. He didn’t even have time to unpack.

Knobs on cabinets. Also note the ceramic goose decorations are out, after sitting in a box for over a year. We're finally moving in and making our house a home!!!

Knobs on cabinets. Also note the ceramic goose decorations are out, after sitting in a box for over a year. We’re finally moving in and making our house a home!!!

That’s it.  Nothing else really happened today. So we learned I’m somewhat inept, crazy and I have a soft spot for plants that really should just be thrown out. I guess there are worse traits in life. It’s Labor Day weekend peeps. Stay safe, have fun, enjoy life.

Bee Update

Yay! Two posts from yours truly in one day. We checked on the bees and alas they have yet to move into their penthouse apartment. The mid-sized super is still vacant. It has a lot of bees in it and they’ve waxed all the frame seams but no honeycomb on any of the frames.  Not sure what the deal is but with nothing going on up there, it pretty much assures us that we’ll get no honey this year from our lone hive.

My streak continues though as I was the first to spot our queen during our routine inspection. This time she was on frame seven of the first super…the middle box in the hive.  This is where she usually is when we see her. Usually on frame four through seven, which is smack dab in the middle of the hive. As we inspect frames we see about two or three with honey on them then the middle ones have eggs and brood.  We didn’t see many eggs, but lots of capped and yet to be capped brood so that was good. Once we saw the queen and all looked well we didn’t bother checking the lower box this time around.

The hive looks really good, knock on wood. Only incident was Christine got stung through her glove today, her first sting. It didn’t bother her one bit. I’d cry like a little girl but just another day at the office for her. I don’t even think she put any “stuff” on the sting when she got inside the house.  She’s tougher than you think.

It was good to see our girls again. They look great and we missed them. We’re glad they are doing so well and it looks like they are enjoying our yard and flowers. And no big deal about the honey. We can get some next year.  Yay bees!

Checking the hive.  We look every two weeks or so. Today was sunny and warm and our population is back to normal so bees were flying everywhere.

Checking the hive. We look every two weeks or so. Today was sunny and warm and our population is back to normal so bees were flying everywhere.

Bees doing their thing in the hive.

Bees doing their thing in the hive.

When our girls are lined up like this they mean business. Time to smoke them lest we have a cloud of angry bees buzzing us.

When our girls are lined up like this they mean business. Time to smoke them lest we have a cloud of angry bees buzzing us.

You can see larvae waiting to be capped. The little white maggot looking things inside the various cells.

You can see larvae waiting to be capped. The little white maggot looking things inside the various cells.

Random Thursday Update

I have yet to move my office back downstairs. They finished my studio floor last week, so the room isn’t closed off anymore…I can go back now. But I kind of like it up here in the loft.  The only downside is it gets kind of warm up here in the afternoon. It’s so high up that the HVAC system has trouble getting cool air up here to replace all the hot air that collects in the room at the top of the house. And lately it’s been so hot and humid outside that opening the windows doesn’t really do anything during the day.  Pondering this though, maybe that will be a good thing in the winter time when it’s cold in my office / studio.

The room is a really nice space. I could definitely see a desk up here and a little sitting area. And it’s location means that my family has difficulty finding me at times which is always a plus. The last two days, I’ve turned on to watching the yellow birds fly around the front yard. I hadn’t noticed them before but they look to be having so much fun out there. They love our black gum trees.  Makes getting anything accomplished more of a challenge than it really needs to be. Would be fun to be a bird for a bit. Oh well, I’ll move back downstairs sooner or later.

Now that the laundry room cabinets are in as well as the sink we can finally put everything in its place. Her new organizing book in hand, the wife has been awesome organizing things in there. She brought up 6 boxes from our ramshackle mess of a basement and was able to finally put stuff away. I helped out. We actually threw stuff out, created a box for donation and one box…well…that was for junk that didn’t need to be in the laundry room but weren’t sure where so it’ll go back in the basement.  Next up will be the linen closet and all the office junk drawers.  Rome wasn’t built in a day so to speak but every little bit counts. We should be organized completely on or about the day they put our ashes in an urn. Which is a vast scheduling improvement compared to where we were just a few months ago.

Outside the yard has gone to complete shit.  I can’t remember the last time we were out there. The weeds are loving it and the veggie garden is all but abandoned. Bees?  Oh yeah we should check on the bees. This weekend we’ll strike back and try to wrap up some things out there….finish the front bed, mount bat houses, turn a blind eye to the back yard and even cut the grass. Bees will get their time in the spotlight this afternoon. Hopefully they’re filling the upper frames. If so we can may just eek out a jar of honey before season’s end.

One thing that did get fixed outside is a broken spigot on the back of the house. Now we have a fancy new 1/4 turn spigot that works great. I’ll have to take a pic and share the info with you when I get a chance. With that I think ALL the plumbing stuff is added / fixed that was on the list other than the master bath sinks which are still broke – their water stops rendered useless. One thing our plumber pointed out was we have a push button water stop in the half bath. Very cool and I didn’t even know we had that. That may be a solution for our master bath, but would involve buying new drain hardware. Not that important right now. And I’m still waiting to hear back from our other plumber on the status of fixing the water stops on the Master Bath Kohler faucets. You’d think $700 faucets would be a little better quality but I guess not. They’ve been looking into a solution for the last 4 months so I’ll give it a few more months before I blow my brains out.

Speaking of blowing my brains out, Whirlpool claims that they’ll just credit me for the 4-way dryer vent that I didn’t need and wanted to return. I don’t have to return the vent kit. So if anyone wants a 4-way dryer vent kit, let me know. It’s worth $50.  That only took 3 months to resolve…or at least claim that there is a resolution in the works. Customer service is clearly dead across the board. Take what they give you and smile cause this is as good as it gets.

I’m battling a painting in my studio and it’s winning. Looks like garbage on canvas, but I’ll rescue it. It’s a commissioned piece so hopefully my buyer likes it in the end. Work has been hit and miss but we’re not starving just yet. I think we’re done with house projects or at least the expenditures for a while…need to get out there and finish these projects actually. We’ve got gallons of paint, boards of wood and whatnot waiting to be added to the house. Just need to get ‘er done. Fragmented days add to the excitement but also the feeling of living life on a treadmill.

Enough of my ramblings, I’ve got a painting to go battle in my studio.

Sunflowers are just so cool. I wonder when we can harvest sunflower seeds....

Sunflowers are just so cool. I wonder when we can harvest sunflower seeds….

Something ate our watermelon.  They didn't like the seeds though. Our veggie garden is in such disarray I've been chucking stuff over the fence when no one is looking. If I see one more zucchini I'm gonna puke.

Something ate our watermelon. They didn’t like the seeds though. Our veggie garden is in such disarray I’ve been chucking stuff over the fence when no one is looking. If I see one more zucchini I’m gonna puke.

Plumbing Day

Today we knocked some more things off of the list. Our plumber came over and installed sinks in the laundry room and studio. Before he could do that though we installed the new counter tops in each room. We measured the sinks and cut out the rough openings with a jig saw. We then attached the counters with a screw through the corner cleats in the base cabinets.  Once the counters were in place installing the sinks didn’t take too long.

We also had the plumber raise the hot and cold water outlets for the washing machine in the laundry room. This will allow us to turn off the water in case of an emergency without having to move the washing machine out from under, the yet to be installed, counter top. We decided to leave the electrical outlet above the future counter too in case we ever want to use it to plug in an iron or crafting tool. By the way, the washer weighs a ton so when we do the counter top over it, we’ll make the counter removable. That’s the only way to man handle the washer in and out; if the counter isn’t in the way. One last thing, we’ll just cut holes in the counter for all the hoses and power cord from the washer. It’ll look fine.

Now I just have to patch up the drywall in the laundry room and that project should be done for now.

laundry sink faucet includes a sprayer which will be good for cleaning the litter box.

laundry sink faucet includes a sprayer which will be good for cleaning the litter box.

Our linen patterned laminate top with the sink installed.

Our linen patterned laminate top with the sink installed.

We moved the washer shut off box up to clear the counter top we'll install above the washer at a later date.  Now on my to do list is fix the drywall.

We moved the washer shut off box up to clear the counter top we’ll install above the washer at a later date. Now on my to do list is fix the drywall.

My studio faucet is just a simple bar faucet.

My studio faucet is just a simple bar faucet.

Now I can clean brushes in my art studio.

Now I can clean brushes in my art studio.

Today's vegetables picked from our garden - we made big salads for dinner tonight. Yummy.

Today’s vegetables picked from our garden – we made big salads for dinner tonight. Yummy.

Fuzzy On My Door

Yesterday morning I awoke early to unlock the studio door in preparation for the workers finishing off my studio floor this week. I also needed to take the waste down to the curb so I slipped on my shoes. As I opened the studio door a small fuzzy body fell to my floor.

“What are you doing here?” concern in my voice as I bent over and slipped a car key under her legs. Most likely she was one of our bees and now she clung to the key as I pulled her closer to my eye. Her tired little body was covered in dew. For whatever reason she had spent the night clung to my door. Maybe she had been trying to get a hold of me and spent the night knocking our my door, only it’s virtually impossible to hear a bee when they’re knocking on one’s door I reckon. So there she sat, perched upon my key, near death. Bees need to be in their hive at night, not on my door.

I almost wanted to pet her, to provide some degree of comfort. The right thing to do would have been to put her out of her misery right there and then, but I didn’t have it in me.  So my bee, upon my key, and I took a stroll in the early morning sunlight. Through the garden gate, past the sunflowers, to the hive we went. I placed her worn out body at the hive entrance, transparent yellow rays of sun drying her wings and warming her body. I doubt she made it, and I probably put the greater hive at risk if there really was something wrong with her, but what am I to do. Anymore, I just don’t have it in me to always think with my brain. I let her be. One small part of a greater organism. A system where the individual gives their life for the survival of the hive. Something in me just thinks maybe she’d rather see her home, or at least a bee home, one last time.

Back inside our hive of a home we’ve had workers finishing the cement floor in my art studio. The stared yesterday morning by putting up plastic to keep dust out of the rest of the house, and they used a grinder to take off all the paint, drywall and stains in the floor; essentially removing the top layer of concrete. They then applied a semi-transparent stain from H&C Concrete Products. We selected Espresso color to match the cabinets and the bronze tile elsewhere in the house.

Today they applied a clear coat and tomorrow they will caulk all the expansion joints in the floor. In the end we’ll have a floor that can be cleaned more readily and look great.

Because they’re working in my studio I moved out of my office and relocated to the loft.  I really like it up here.  The view is incredible and the leather chairs are somewhat comfy (though the card table is an ergonomic disaster for my neck).  Much more inspiring up here than down in my hallway office, but that of course translates to more thinking and dreaming instead of working.  No one pays me to think or dream.  It’s pretty awesome up here though. You should be up here when it rains. Talk about not getting any work done; instead just stare out the window.

Only thing I wish we’d done was 1) had the time / money / patience to finish it off with a ceiling fan and bookcases (it was hot yesterday ’cause the windows were open to air out the house from my studio finishing…all the air in the house is meant to escape out the loft, that’s why it exists in the first place). Eventually the space will be a library thus the need for shelves. 2) A spiral staircase would be nice to have. The ship’s ladder worries me with our boys going up and down. My oldest joined me in the temporary “office”. He set up his own desk and the whole nine yards.  So cute. Anyway a spiral staircase would be nice and I think it would fill in the corner of the hallway below better. Not a big deal though.

Well I should get back to work, though it just started raining for the first time in weeks.

Maybe it’s time for a break….

A bee at the entrance to the hive. I found him on my studio door. Right or wrong I took him back home.

A bee at the entrance to the hive. I found him on my studio door. Right or wrong I took him back home.

The hive in the early morning sunshine.

The hive in the early morning sunshine.

The new finish on my studio floor. Espresso to match the cabinets and tile throughout the house.

The new finish on my studio floor. Espresso to match the cabinets and tile throughout the house.

Early morning sunrise casts its rays upon a sunflower in our garden.

Early morning sunrise casts its rays upon a sunflower in our garden.

The view out of my temporary office. Sure beats a parking lot view or no window at all like most well off folks got.

The view out of my temporary office. Sure beats a parking lot view or no window at all like most well off folks got.

Bees On The Brink And What We Can Do

[Writer’s Note: 1) Nope, didn’t proof read it…it’s 1am for pete’s sake. and 2) This is an expression solely of my views and opinions based on what I know, what I think I know and how I strive to live my singular life. This is an important topic that I think needs a louder voice in the public conversation. If anyone or any organization has issue with what I have to say, I welcome the opportunity to further the conversation, understand viewpoints, exchange ideas and most importantly work on solutions.]

This week is going slow as I find myself thinking we’re a day ahead of where we really are. We are staying very busy at the estate, though making little progress.  The welcoming warmth of Summer has returned to the area, though we could use some rain.

We went to a special screening of ‘More Than Honey‘ this evening in Kent. It’s a recent documentary on the honey bee highlighting how important they are to human survival and how they are struggling to survive. From the description on the ‘More Than Honey‘ website:

“Over the past 15 years, numerous colonies of bees have been decimated throughout the world, but the causes of this disaster remain unknown. Depending on the world region, 50% to 90% of all local bees have disappeared, and this epidemic is still spreading from beehive to beehive – all over the planet. Everywhere, the same scenario is repeated: billions of bees leave their hives, never to return. No bodies are found in the immediate surroundings, and no visible predators can be located….

…Scientists have found a name for the phenomenon that matches its scale, “colony collapse disorder,” and they have good reason to be worried: 80% of plant species require bees to be pollinated. Without bees, there is no pollinization, and fruits and vegetables could disappear from the face of the Earth. Apis mellifera (the honey bee), which appeared on Earth 60 million years before man and is as indispensable to the economy as it is to man’s survival.”

Actually going into the film, my wife and I didn’t know what to expect. Just this week I read a Time Magazine cover article on honey bees, and as it turns out many of the facts I read about in the magazine were highlighted in greater detail in the documentary. Bees are so fascinating in my opinion, and their importance to our survival can not be overstated enough.  Here are some of the points I found interesting, that were highlighted in the movie:

  • All the colorful fruits, nuts and vegetables like apples, almonds and cucumbers are pollinated by bees, the boring stuff like corn and wheat are pollinated by the wind.
  • Honey bees are not native to North America, they were brought by colonists who wanted fruits and vegetables like they had at home in Europe.
  • California’s almond crop, which is 90% of the world supply of almonds, is pollinated entirely by bees trucked in, often from out-of-state. The bees pollinate the trees then they have to be trucked out promptly after the bloom is off, otherwise they would starve to death if left in the miles upon miles of monoculture almond groves.
  • In China, Mao ordered all the sparrows killed because they ate too much of the people’s grain. This caused a huge infestation of insects so the gov’t sprayed every thing with insecticides killing all the bees in some regions. They now have to pollinate their crops by hand, using human labor instead of bees.
  • While bees are not native to Australia either, the bees there are devoid of the Veroa Destructor mite which is decimating bee colonies in North America and Europe.
  • Africanized honey bees may be one of the best bets to save the honey bees. They have better immune systems, and produce more honey than the docile domesticated bees being farmed world-wide.

Ultimately what it comes down to is that mankind has worked diligently to enforce its supremacy over the natural world, which in turn is leading to the ultimate extinction of mankind. The only question is whether any other species will outlast our own.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the term used to describe the mass death of bee colonies across the globe. No one knows exactly the cause. Most likely it’s a variety of things. In my opinion though, and the movie outlines it nicely, ultimately it’s mankind insatiable need for food (sustaining an overpopulated world), expansion (capitalism and ideology), and domination (ego and ideology) that will be the downfall of the bees….and anything else that gets in the way of man’s manifest destiny. One hath look no further than the Bible to gain insight into man’s mentality for 2,000 years that has gotten us to where we are today:

Genesis [1:26, 1:28-1:30] “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth….'”

“God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.”

God may have said it was okay, but in reality our myopic short-sighted domination is killing us and the world around us.

An example from the movie is, and as lay people the wife and I both were a little surprised, that the industrial apiarist didn’t know what the cause was for his bees dying. It all falls under CCD but common sense was telling us something different. The almond pollinating bees are often sprayed with fungicides meant for the trees, while they do their pollination work during the day because the workers can’t work at night. The fungicides don’t kill the bees directly but can be found in all of the larvae created after spraying causing them to sometimes die. Then the bees are loaded onto tractor trailers and shipped across state lines with no ventilation so many overheat and die there. Then they are so weak they need to be doused in antibiotics and fed sugar-water instead of nectar. The hives travel from North Dakota, to California to Washington and back to North Dakota once a year, every year. All in close quarters where colonies interact and spread disease and water down their genetics, and reduce their ability to ward off infection. At the end of the year hives are forcibly split into 4-5 new hives to replace the ones they lost and the cycle starts all over again. (In the wild a hive may only split into 2 new hives by the way.)

And we wonder why bees are dying off?

C’mon you don’t have to be a Harvard grad to know that we’re screwing with the natural system for our own perceived gain and it’s a really f*cking dangerous game we’re playing. This is common sense, grade school stuff but few have the courage or influence to challenge the system. This industrial system is defended as being the cost of progress. They wish they could manage bees like our grandparents did but now everything is 10x bigger and as such needs to be managed accordingly.  This mentality permeates throughout our culture, business and industrial sectors, so in a way who can blame them.

Maybe it’s in our DNA?

Overall I liked the movie and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about bees in general (the movie opens with an epic view of a queen hatching) as well as the challenges they face in our world today.

What can they do to fix it? Start working with nature not against it.

1) Stop practicing monoculture agriculture on an industrial scale. Here’s what an almond grove looks like (along with an article on beekeeping and almonds):

The edge of an almond grove, imagine it going on for miles in every direction.

The edge of an almond grove, imagine it going on for miles in every direction.

Bees travel up to 3-5 miles to find pollen and nectar. When there is just one crop, e.g. almonds, corn, wheat, rice, etc. throughout that range, bees can’t survive. In fact nothing can. Nature thrives off diversity, not monocultures. But our huge demand for corn, and other crops means large industrial farms that grow nothing but one crop for miles which are essentially like deserts for bees and other species. These monocultures require copious amounts of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to survive resulting in weak, disease prone species of insects, plants, and ultimately humans. For example, large companies like Monsanto create toxic genetically modified seeds with insecticides in them. That way the toxins are throughout the plant, even the bits we, and the bees consume, which ultimately poison bees and everything else. Then the same company sweeps in and looks to save the day by developing medicines for bees to treat the problems that probably wouldn’t have existed had they not destroyed our food supply in the first place. But this is how we think. They’re no different from most of the people, businesses and industries out there in regards to how they think and act. At some point it’d probably be better if they just put a bullet in us and called it a day.

On the other hand diverse polycultures naturally take care of themselves and every organism living within them. They require fewer resources and intervention by man (which makes them cost less in the long run actually if we thought that way). We need to get it through out heads: work with nature not against it.

2) Stop moving bees around. Once a polyculture is set up, set up bee hives and don’t move them. While the industrial bee keepers will sue Congress to stop this from ever happening, because like most industries: if it’s common sense then it must be bad for business, it doesn’t mean we can’t do it anyway. With all these polycultures around create a network of beekeepers and leverage the buying power of the industrial trade group, AND the pros of the local apiarist that is critical to beekeeping and bee health. Keeping bees in one place and letting them migrate naturally will assure that they are stronger and keep diseases and pests from spreading. We were at a beekeepers meeting recently and the bee specialist from a major university in the state showed a chart of bee disease in Ohio. No surprise the instances of disease followed the highways. Local bees are more stable, less stressed out and less prone to spreading disease.

3) The government needs to do a better job funding bee research and bees need a louder voice in Washington D.C., in Hollywood, at the barber shop, during dinner time. If I knew the first thing about lobbying I like to think I’d rather enjoy being a bee lobbyist.  People who love bees tend to be too busy to stand up, or they’re not cut from the ‘run and gun’ vocal sales men for Big Energy, Big Food and the other groups setting the course for national policy. And frankly it’s not just bee people that have a tough time with this, but for our purposes today we’ll stick to bees. No one realizes how important they are (as well as many other species, social causes and other causes) to our survival as human beings. Also the negative impact we have on our economy with our misguided plans, procedures and practices.  One example of progress that will never fly in D.C. is a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides like they have in Europe. The Big Chemical companies are too powerful to let that happen even if it means we starve to death, and our economy collapses, in the meantime.

What can we do to start fixing it? Realize we have a voice, a vote, and we are more powerful than any gov’t or corporation.

1) Buy local honey. Stop buying it from China, which is where most of what you see in the supermarket, or Walmart or any other large chain comes from. Chinese honey has the pollen stripped out so you can’t tell where it came from (or maybe it’s not – read this NPR article that says no pollen honey is fine – I disagree), and it’s laced with chemicals. Pollen gives honey it’s signature, and technically if there is no pollen in the honey it’s not honey. Large domestic honey producers aren’t much better in my opinion. They move their hives around which is bad like we mentioned before. They also have so many hives to manage that the process is completely out of step with how bees should be treated in my opinion. Also they’re more likely to have pesticides, and drugs in the honey which over time accumulates in our bodies. The best you can do is buy your honey from a local apiarist. You might even be able to see the hives and land your honey came from. Look up your local bee keeping association for a source. If you don’t have one, think about starting your own hive…

2) Become an apiarist. It’s fun, exciting and not nearly as daunting as you think. You’re hive will essentially become a new pet, and you can go as little or big as you want. If you have kids, even better. It will give them an appreciation for the natural world and where their food comes from. And your garden will have never looked as good as it does once your bees find it.

3) Choose a different path. Stop investing in companies like Monsanto, and Bayer that are killing us and bees under the guise of feeding an ever-expanding population. Read more about bees or where your food comes from or the ingredients in products or whatever interests you and can have a positive impact on the world around you. Then go share, teach and learn more. Forward this blog to someone (or forward one that’s a well written version), or send someone an article on the topic. Spread the word. Leave the place better off than you found it. Curb our population growth; I know this is tough but we’ve reached our carrying capacity for this earth (actually exceeded it). Ask difficult questions of your gov’t, the companies you buy stuff from, of your grocery store, of your family….of yourself. And then go find the answers. These are just some ideas off the top of my head.

4) Buy local, organically grown food. We’ve lost touch with where our food comes from. If we knew, then we’d probably make some changes. Buying local reduces our dependence on industrial food sources that foster the proliferation of chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics that ultimately are going to kill us all. Also be aware, if bees go away I hope you can live on corn, wheat and rice the rest of your life. Forget about other veggies and fruits. Not gonna happen. Unless you want to put on a bee costume and dust pollen on flowers instead of going to the spring opener of your local baseball team.

5) Plant native flowers and plants in your yard. Stop using toxic herbicides and pesticides, and use organic fertilizer. Hey, I know it’s tough. I just sprayed yellow jackets with Raid the other day, so let’s all take baby steps and at least agree to work towards a zero use goal.  Our bees love our clover in the yard and the wildflowers we planted, as well as the veggies. Maybe you hate bees, and humans….the least you can do is plant something way off in the corner of your yard that bees (or another animal might like).  I wish we lived in a society where having natural looking landscapes were seen as impressive and the man made manicured landscapes were kind of frowned upon. I just think the world would be a happier place for us, bees and everyone.

What can bees do?

Well bees are pretty incredible but they are at the mercy of what we decide to do. We’ve virtually eradicated wild bee populations and with each year bees become more domesticated and dependent on us, and our industrial ways – dependent on our medicine and food substitutes.

It’s up to us. Not our kids, not our grandparents. Not the government or the almond growers or industrial honey producers. It’s not even up to China (though even they admit, pollinating by hand is an asinine way to live).

You and I have to figure this out.

And yeah, it’s kind of is a matter of life and death.

Home Alone

This is my bachelor weekend.  The wife and kids left to go visit her sister so here I am left all to myself. As anyone who has a family and hectic lifestyle knows, being alone for an hour, let alone two days, takes an act of congress. I’m not sure I’ve been alone in the last four years. And frankly it’s not all it’s cracked up to be really. The life is kind of gone out of the house with just me and the cat here. I had grand plans to get all kinds of things off of my “to do” list but in reality I’ve accomplished very little.  I guess I’m finding value in the freedom that accompanies not doing anything constructive. Which if you know me is also an extraordinary feat: doing nothing. Eating unhealthily, watching non-family friendly movies (e.g. Django Unchained) and playing video games is about all I’ve done.

One thing I knocked off the list was going out and finding sinks for the laundry room and my studio.  Finishing both rooms is contingent on getting the sinks installed next so it is imperative that I picked out a couple sinks. So after sleeping in until 9:45am this morning (which I haven’t done in over a decade) I contemplated what to do with my day, and decided to drive up to an area plumbing supply showroom. I had previously struck out when looking for sinks at Home Depot and Lowes. Looking online was daunting and would require a long wait for sinks to be shipped out. So I took a chance by hopping in the Rabbit and seeing what I might find at Welker McKee.  After waiting a while a nice sales woman helped me pick out the perfect, simple white sinks made by Mustee.  One sink is sized for our 30″ laundry cabinet, and the other for the 24″ cabinet in my studio.  They are simple fiberglass construction and they do not have faucet holes in them. I’m assuming my plumber can cut the holes for the faucets. And yes, I still need to pick out faucets for each. I think the sinks are a deal at about $70 each, and both were in stock so we’re back in business. Just need to get my studio floor finished (I have to remove the cabinet to finish the floor) and get the laundry counter made. Then I can get the plumber out to hook them up.

Other than my sink buying adventure I’ve done pretty much nothing. No bat house has been erected, and the upstairs gallery wall remains unpainted.  No yard work (though maybe water the plants like I was supposed to do yesterday), and no design work.  There are a ton of things that should or could be done but you know what? I don’t really care today. I need a mental health day to be lazy. Although I am working on a painting for a client of mine here and there today, so that kind of keeps the ‘not working’ guilt at bay a little bit. Maybe tomorrow can be bat house day. So here’s to random ‘lost’ Saturdays devoid of work or play.  And to Sundays when your family comes back home.

Studio Bookcase Design And Death.

Well after a day of designing stuff for other people with mixed results I decided to design something for myself this evening.  Here is the plan for the bookcase, which will be located around the corner in the alcove of my studio:

Studio bookshelf design.

Studio bookshelf design.

The lower section is flared forward to allow me to store books and magazines on the left and paint jars on the right. Midway up is a little 4″ shelf for life’s miscellaneous debris. Everyone should have a shelf for debris. Right now it’s all accumulated on a window sill in the studio.  Up top are little 6″ shelves for paint bottles.  The big opening at the bottom is an access panel for a water line shut off valve.  This book-case will be painted tone on tone like the other shelves and walls in the studio.

I enjoy designing things for myself because of the creative freedom it affords me. Unfortunately the pay is horrific.

On a sad note, today the only polar bear at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo died. He or she was the subject for several of Christine’s works of art. In loving memory, here’s a hand cut paper piece of artwork depicting the (now dead) polar bear (when he / she was alive).  Sad.  We’ll miss you furry guy (or gal).  Happy seal hunting in the sky to you.

RIP Cleveland Metroparks Polar Bear.

RIP Cleveland Metroparks Polar Bear.

Burn Out

The number one rule of being a writer, or even an average blog writer, is writing creatively as often as possible. Well I’m sucking at being a writer because I haven’t written here in over ten days. In my defense we took a well needed vacation and I’ve been busy walking the tight rope between getting things done and going crazy with all the monkeys on my back.  Now all of a sudden Summer has flown by and I don’t know where all the time has gone.

I have been spending a lot of time getting some projects underway or at least planned out. I’ve had several tradesmen out to look at various projects including a small electrical punch list (adding outlets to the porch and finally hooking up the outlet in my studio), a gentleman came out to quote sealing my studio cement floor before we put in the new storage shelves, and I got an estimate on pressure washing the decks in preparation for staining them.  The pressure wash guy looked at washing the grey streaks off our gutters too but we ultimately decided to leave them because they’d just come back most likely. They only bother me and no one else cares so we won’t worry about it now.

For the studio floor there are several options. The company we’re going with uses H&C products, which I think is a division of Sherwin Williams. The finish that looks the best is an “infusion reactive acid” stain, which provides a mottled look. But the process sounded to hazardous for our comfort in our home – 4 day process, have to mask doorway to the rest of the house, and there are carcinogenic materials in the finished product. Instead I decided upon a water based semi-transparent decorative stain that is zero-VOC. We selected “espresso” which will hopefully match the tile found elsewhere in the house.  I just have to clear out everything from the studio so they can come in and prep, stain and seal the floor.  Once sealed I should be able to spill paint on it and have it be easier to clean up with soap and water.

Once the studio floor is done, we’ll start installing the new shelves and finally I’ll be organized in my studio, before I go insane.  Thank you god.

Speaking of organization, we got the laundry room cabinets installed and we love them. They make the room look more finished and now we have a ton of space to organize all of the laundry room essentials. I know all this costs money, and I know we should pitch 90% of what is in our home, but in the meantime it’s nice to have a place for everything. The cabinets should help with resale value as well, if and when the time comes for that. With the cabinets in, we’re waiting on laminate and then the countertop. We also need to select a sink for the laundry room and get that ordered….. So much to do not nearly enough hours in the day. If I win the lottery, the first thing I’m doing is hiring a personal assistant or two.

One other monkey I’m getting off my back is the window crank monkey. When they built the house three cranks went missing so I finally ordered new ones. Can you believe it, the bill is $96 for three sets of window cranks….eeek.  But at least that will be off my bucket list. Serious windows got bought out / went out of business so they’re under the Alpen name now. Regardless my old rep is the same. Something of interest: I had to describe which window cranks I needed to order them. Someone smart realized that they should color code the cranks so you can describe if you need a “right” or a “left”. Take a look at the photos and you’ll see that the “left” ones are silver and the “right” ones are gold.  Good idea.

Outside we’re slowly getting the fabric down in the front bed…still! We did plant the new, real, oak leaf hydrangea and transplanted the impostor ones.  I really like the texture of these new hydrangea; they look great outside the dining room windows. Elsewhere I put together the mail order bat house and mounted it to a 16′ 4×4 post. I just have to mount the other bat house to the other side and then go erect the post with houses attached out in the yard.

We’ve been harvesting a bunch of veggies, and wild blackberries in the yard and garden. And many of the wild flowers are still blooming. Everything looks beautiful. I find great pleasure in looking out my studio window as I work at the drafting board. Such a happy and pleasant view.

Sorry I haven’t been writing much lately. Not sure it will be any different in the coming days. But there is a lot going on project wise, life wise and work wise. I’m wearing many hats…which is how I like it I guess. I even have an art commission and I’m working on some things writing wise beyond this blog. So it’s all good. I’m too neurotic to make any of my endeavor amount to anything but that doesn’t stop me. It’s better to burn out than it is to rust right?


A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A silver left crank on our Serious brand window.

A "gold" right crank on our Serious brand window.

A “gold” right crank on our Serious brand window.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Assembling one of the bat houses.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

Laundry room cabinets are installed.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4x4 post, slipping a 3/4" strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

I mounted the bat houses to a 4×4 post, slipping a 3/4″ strip of cedar to mount the bottom of the house to the post even with the top of the house.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Oak leaf hydrangeas planted in front bed.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.

Wild flower annuals I planted from seed this year.

Yellow Jackets And The Godzilla Bug

Today I had enough of watching the yellow jackets flying in and out of the corner of the house so I decided to investigate further.  The other day I caulked a block of wood covering the nest’s main entrance. Well now they’ve been going in and out of the back door entrance under the corner boards.  I borrowed the wife’s make up mirror and set it on the ground so I could see up into the corner.  Sure enough I could see a big hole and exposed blue foam plain as day.

You can see the metal termite shield was left short here allowing yellow jackets to come nest in our walls.

You can see the metal termite shield was left short here allowing yellow jackets to come nest in our walls.

I waited for the yellow jackets to return. In case you didn’t know, bees and yellow jackets come in and out of their hives or nests pretty regularly throughout the day when the sun is up.  I waited and saw yellow jacket land and crawl up the dark “hole” under the deck, then I saw another enter the little hole by the blue foam.

One amazing thing I discovered as I watched more and more yellow jackets return home, the mirror on the ground facing upwards totally confused them.  So much so that they wouldn’t or couldn’t re-enter their hive.  They would fly in circles and eventually tire themselves out and fall on the ground where I’d step on them.  One even exhausted itself to death, lying dead on the mirror when I came back later in the day.  I’d have to test the hypothesis out scientifically but a simple mirror may act as a way to get rid of yellow jackets without using chemicals.

After watching the yellow jackets for a while I used the mirror to guide me in my caulking chore. I spread caulk on a piece of wood then used my gloved hand to squish it in all the holes and cover the blue foam.  So far so good. If they keep going in there through another entry I’ll have to call an exterminator to consult and may have to rip the corner of the house off, investigate, remove yellow jackets, re-side it and paint it.

Here you can see caulk covering the entrance to the nest.

Here you can see caulk covering the entrance to the nest.

Here I've covered up the blue foam with caulk.

Here I’ve covered up the blue foam with caulk.

We did take advantage of a beautiful day to take a walk after dinner.  I snapped some more photos for you to enjoy.  Check out the “Godzilla” looking bug I found chillin’ on our wild purple flowers.  Pretty cool. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time to look closely at the world around you.  I can only how much I’ve missed over the years in my rush to get from one place to the next.

A beetle crawling on a plant.

A beetle crawling on a plant.

I have never seen a bug like this before.  Pretty cool. Probably something invasive, ha.

I have never seen a bug like this before. Bright green body, dark green “shell” and orange eyes. Pretty cool. Maybe it’s molting or probably something invasive, ha.

We have a grove of some remarkable trees off our driveway.  The knots in their trunks look like souls or tree spirits trapped in bark.  Very cool indeed.  Worth a look should you visit.

We have a grove of some remarkable trees off our driveway. The knots in their trunks look like souls or tree spirits trapped in bark. Very cool indeed. Worth a look should you visit.