Sunday, February 16, 2020

Catch up

The sun played hide and seek for most of the day. It was out in the morning when we walked but then decided to take a nap around lunchtime.

I had a ton of chores that I've been shuffling for weeks, so today was the day. The roof over the chicken pen had developed some leaks. When it rained hard, the hens got a shower while they sat on their nests to lay eggs. 

There were a number of other small projects that nagged at me each day that I managed to do. It felt good.

Jilda and I met a friend for coffee at Books a Million this afternoon. She worked at the rehab center where Jilda works but left for another job several months ago. We sipped java, talked books, and caught up.

On the way home, the sun came back out and the blue sky behind a crop of white clouds was remarkable. 

By the time we got close to home, the sun has sunk below the horizon and the sky looked like a Renoir.

A car behind me was following closely and there wasn't a place where I could safely pull over and shoot some pictures so I took a mental photo and drove on.

Tonight, as I looked for artwork for tonight's post, I came across this photograph I took a few years ago. It will have to do.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

School's out

You're probably tired of bee-talk. We finished up today just after lunch. I was exhausted. It's a two-hour drive each morning and evening plus about eight hours of instruction.

It will take a few days to digest, and assimilate all that I learned. I almost filled up a notebook with drawings, notes, thoughts, and ideas.

At the end of the sessions, I learned that I'd intuitively done many things right. I also learned that I'd done some goofy stuff. All of the master beekeepers who were delivering the classes "fessed up" about their mistakes. It made me feel better.

I'm glad it's over. I've bought new books and ordered some online to build on what I've learned. Many in the group of people in the class were people half my age. There were a few of us that got a late start, but everyone was excited about bees and what we can do to help them survive.

I'm encouraged.

We celebrated tonight with steaks. Our friend Fred joined us to dine. It was a delightful way to end the day.

Happy Saturday/Sunday.

Our apiary picture from last summer. Soon it will begin to grow. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Tonight when I sat down to write, I knew I didn't have a picture. I've been to bee school all day. After taking a quiz on hive components and tools, it was past 4 p.m. I didn't want to be late for Valentine's dinner.

The sessions are almost two hours south of here, and I didn't have time to dally. Jilda was preparing baked salmon, brown rice, and asparagus. It was incredible.

After dinner, I headed into the office to write in my blog. That's when the "no picture" thang became an issue.

I opened Google Photos and typed Valentine's Day. The picture below was the first one to appear.

Jilda painted this card for me over 20 years ago. I still have it framed on my desk, but the years faded it to a whisper of a photo.

Thankfully, I had the good sense to scan it back when it was freshly watercolored.

It made me smile.

I hope Valentine's Day has been good for you.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Bee school

I started down the training path to becoming a master beekeeper today. My ears and eyes were hurting by the third module. There were six, and this was day one of three.

If I can pass the test on Saturday, I will be an apprentice beekeeper. I had no idea how little I knew.

Today we looked at the hive as a society, hive inspections, parts of a hive, and the anatomy of bees. It's fascinating, excruciating, and so forth.

At the end of day three, we take a test. I'm not sure if my brain has enough free space to hold what I need to maintain. 

I could probably toss some of the old sports statistics, and maybe some of the Gilligan's Island trivia. I don't use that much anymore.

At any rate, they are throwing more at me than professors did while doing graduate work in college. But as I sit here in contemplation, I think what I'm learning here now is more important than most of the things I learned in college.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Time on the road

I drive a lot. I think it was passed through DNA from my dad to me. When thoughts jumble up in my brain, and the path forward is not clear, I get in my truck and drive.

I don't have to have a goal or destination. I just need time on the road. Somehow the drone of tires on asphalt and the wind rumbling through a rolled-down window clear channels in my mind. Sticking my arm out the window and hand surfing the air rushing by the window is therapeutic. I think people could save thousands of dollars they pay for counseling if they just drove.

Several years ago, after I'd been retired for some time, and I was struggling – not financially, but I felt as if I were losing my sense of purpose. My self-worth was at stake.

It was serendipity that my friend Dan who owned some newspapers, asked if I'd like to do some part-time work for him. That resonated.

He gave me a freelance assignment to interview one of the wealthiest people in Alabama. The gentleman lived near the southeast edge of Alabama.

That day driving for hours through the backroads of Alabama was transformative. I saw things in a new way. The interview was delightful.

During the drive home, I stopped by the road to stretch my legs. The moss hanging from the trees, and the light reflecting on the metal roof of this house built during the Great Depression did a mental reset on my malaise.

I was grateful for that day and my time on the road.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


I've been cleaning out the junk in the old house and barn for over a month now. Several trips to the dump later, and I can hardly see that I've made a dent. I made a management decision to go to plan B.

Calling the local recycle place, I put my name on the waiting list to get a dumpster. I'm not talking about one of those wimp dumpsters that restaurants use, but a REAL dumpster.

My phone rang today and the woman said my name had come up on the list. I gave her directions and about an hour later, a truck showed up with an orange beast. It holds 30 cubic yards of junk. I could put Rhode Island in that dumpster.

I then got on the phone for a neighbor that does day labor work. He's coming next week to help me clean out the rest of the junk in the old house and the barn.

Soon, I'll be able to process my honey in the old house as well as store all my beekeeping tools and spare parts. There will also be enough room for a writing space, an art space, and an exercise room to use in bad weather.

It's too late to back out now, I had to knock off a liquor store to rent the dumpster. Onward and upward.

They don't make locks like they used to.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Missing Caillou ~ my column from Sunday's paper

I woke up in the night to the sound of thunder. Instinctively, I pulled my hand from beneath the covers and reached down to pet Caillou.
Then I remembered he wasn’t there. Storms will no longer terrify his gentle soul. He died on Monday.
He chose us over 10 years ago. Early one morning, he was standing outside our great-room window peering in as we sipped our coffee.
Both Jilda and I walked out and sat on the front steps to pet him up. He was the most beautiful collie I’d ever seen. He had a collar but no tag.
It took some time, but we found his owner. She sent her brother to come and fetch the collie. Later that day, he was back.
We sent word that the collie was back at our house playing with our dogs. He was there a few days before they picked him up again.
The next day, I heard a pitiful sound from the backyard. Stepping outside, I looked around and couldn’t see anything, but then I heard the moan again. 
I walked in the direction of the sound, and near the edge of the yard, the collie was hanging on the back fence. He’d tried to jump into the yard, but his back paw poked through one of the chain links, and he was hanging there. 
Most of his body was inside the fence, but the chain links were holding his paw like a vice. I bolted to where he was trapped and held him up enough to take the pressure off his leg. He was too heavy to hold and remove his paw, so I yelled to Jilda for help. Together we dislodged his paw, and he hobbled into the shade to rest. 
Later, when the neighbor came back to fetch the dog, the collie tried to bite him. He’d made his choice. They never came back for him.
We named him Caillou (Cow Loo) after our great-nephew Jordan’s favorite cartoon character.
Caillou was an instant hit with the kids. Every time we had a family gathering, he was in the middle of them. He was a master ball handler that took kickball and soccer to a different level. He would grab the ball and play keep-away from the kids. He was in doggie heaven.
He also liked to herd kids. If a toddler wandered toward the edge of the yard, Caillou would use his size to nudge the child back with the others.
During the three years Jilda took infusion treatments for her immune system, she spent days on the couch. It wasn’t hard to find Caillou during those times, because he was there by her side.
In the last several months, we noticed that something about him was changing. He couldn’t walk but one lap when we walked each day, and he spent more and more time on his bed in front of the box fan.
Then this past weekend, he crawled under the laundry room and would not come out. He stopped eating and drinking. When I took him to the vet Monday, he was passing blood. Tests showed that his organs were shutting down. 
We made the decision to put him down rather than subject him to torturous treatment that would only prolong his suffering.
I leaned against the car as I waited for them to bring his body out. The sky was cloudless. A gentle wind rattled the American flag on the pole in the parking lot. Maybe a stronger man would not have cried, but as I helped load Caillou into the car, I wept.
I dug his grave in the backyard near where we buried Ol’ Buddy, Black, and Charlie. 
We will miss our friend.

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