Friday, June 15, 2007

bears

What can I say about the bear?

(I can say I just saw it, 8:30 in the morning, Friday, just an hour ago as I write this. I drove Wenonah to the metro this morning and when I was coming back, drove across the creek and when I did, looked up the hill at the beehives.

And there, trying to figure out how to get through the new, improved, electric fence -- maybe trying to figure out how to turn off the electric fence charger that is now inside the fence far enough away that you need a special rod to push the on/off switch--.

Anyway, there is was what looked like a really, really large black, I mean very black, dog.

Only, and this is when I realized it wasn’t a dog at all. while it was resting on four legs it looked like it would rather be standing on two legs.

And it was bigger than a big black dog, and heavier.

And right then it looked down at me and Wenonah’s red Prius, and turned, standing up on two legs, and then dropping down on all four again to move in the other direction.

That's when I drove the Prius up the hill, The drive swerves up and around the hives. But at the top, again, joins the trail the hives are on.

I stopped the car there, jumped out, and looked down the trail.

This is the way the bear, the black, black bear, was running.

Only, he wasn't here, at least I couldn't see him.

I got out of the car and started walking down the trail toward the hives).

But let’s get back to the newsletter I was writing last night. I can finish up this narrative later.

That the bear has been back? (yes she has, Monday night she attacked a group of four hives, the hives just above the creek, knocking over two, making off -- in her stomach -- with about 30 pounds or so of honey).

The problem with the bees and the bear is that our hives are spread out all over the property (just over 100 acres) and its hard to protect 20 hives when there is one here, two there and even a couple of groups of four around the corner and along the field.

What particularly upsets me about this week’s attack is the hives were sitting behind fortifications.

Massive fortifications. Probably the best bee defensive site we have.

These hives, the ones that were just attacked, are about half a mile from the house. Along an old road, now a trail. On a hill, over looking the marsh.

This is the same site where the bear that has his picture on our web page attacked several years ago. Back before the fortifications.

I guess there is really only one solution. A sort of medieval strategy.

The solution is to bring everyone in. Hide them behind walls. A fortress, or castle. I can picture a medieval fortress with towers and walls manned (I guess in the case of bees it would be womaned since male bees don’t have a stinger and spend their days doing nothing but hanging, being fed and waiting on by the female workers and occasionally leaving the hive and waiting for that almost mythical virginal queen to pass by. But that, of course, is a completely different story).

What we are talking about here is a fort with walls and battlements, deep motes and even rolls of razor tipped concertina wire.

Can you see the picture? Bees in armor helmets and spears up on the walls.

But back to reality. Our problem isn’t the walls and armor. Our problem is the same one many a medieval fortress faced. Rather than fearing the resolute siege the rulers of walled cities had to worry about traitors.

Yes, Traitors!

No, I’m not talking about a bee betrayed her hive, (but who knows).

What I’m saying is that someone compromised our bear defenses.

These bee hives, the ones sitting up on the hill over looking the creek are surrounded by a five strand electric fence.

This is a well maintained fence. No weeds growing up around the strands.

The approaches to the fence are regularly trimmed and mowed.

Not only is there a well constructed fence but the ground is lined with sheets (actually hog panels, a type of movable fence for pigs) of metal.

I had four of these panels on the ground so when the bear, or anyone else, approached the hives and is careless enough to touch the fence their feet will be resting on metal that is attached to the ‘ground’ wire on the fence charger. In other words, the shock given out by our defensive electric fence isn’t just one of those ‘run of the mill’ shocks but a special, ‘premium’ (if you will) shock.

Only, the best plans are of little value if they have been undermined by a traitor.

Here’s what happened. Tuesday, when I saw the mess, (two hives torn apart. Four bee boxes thrown in four different directions.

Honey comb spread on the ground.

One of the hog panels picked up off the ground and thrown up in a tree.

The small solar panel attached to the electric fence charger smashed in two.

Several nearby smallish trees ripped up by the roots.

Honey completely eaten off of eight different frames.

A cloud of bees circling in the air).

What I noticed when I got closer was that something allowed the bear to bypass the electric fence without getting a shock.

Somehow, for some reason, someone had reached in through the fence and had switched off, the on/off switch on the side of the electric fence charger.

In other words, someone with workable fingers had reached through the electric fence and carefully, dexterously (I should point out), flipped the switch to the off position.

Shutting down our defensive perimeter.

Opening us up to outside attack.

Betraying 200,000 or, is that, 300,000 hard working, industrious honeybees.

And in doing so, betraying me and our honey loving shareholders.

In other words, unless bears have suddenly begun to understand the concept of electricity and electric fence chargers. Have begun to comprehend the concept of on and off switches.

Unless it was the bear that reached in and turned off the fence.

The alternative is that someone with fingers and a working concept of on and off, aided the bear.

Betrayed us.

Someone turned off the switch.

So, after coming out and saying it, pointing a finger, so to speak, Let’s drop the subject. Let's turn away from the thought of betrayal, and instead go on to happier news.

The Farm News.

The second week of vegetable delivery is finished, and it seems all is well so far.

So far a lot of greens. But in Virginia June is about greens. That’s what the share will mostly consist of this month.

It won’t be until July until we start seeing the more traditional vegetables.

Other news. While the year has been terribly dry we’ve had some good rain over the past couple of weeks. While we were irrigating over 15,000 gallons of water a day, we have since been getting more than that much in rain.

And while our vegetables sure need the water, so do the weeds.

And with all that rain the weeds have been growing. particularly the weeds growing right next to the onions. Which means, for the onions sake, the weeds need pulling, Which means, we would sure appreciate some onion weeders.

How about this Saturday?

If you would enjoy (is that too strong of a word?) weeding we would appreciate your help. Noonish on Saturday.

And while you are at it, we are growing flowers that shareholders can pick. We have a number of cutting marigolds and salvia out in the field ready to be cut and taken home. Shareholders, even if you don’t want to do the weeding, you can come out and cut a bouquet of flowers.

And, with that, I can’t really think of any other pertinent farm news. if you have questions about any aspect of the program, e-mail me and I’ll try to give you an answer.

I have had several e-mails, though, asking for recipes for the different vegetables. We have a recipe section on our webpage. I have a number of new recipes that people have sent and when I get a chance I’ll be posting those also (if you have a favorite recipe that you want to share, send it on to me).

People have also been writing, asking for pictures of the specific vegetables. My webpage is so full I can’t really add more pictures but remember, it's really easy to google up a picture of one of these vegetables. type in the veggies name and then "+ picture" and you will get more photos than you need.

Which makes me think of my morning visitor. I wish I had a camera in the car. That was what I was thinking when I jumped out this morning and looked down the trail to where those beehives were.

From the top, looking down, you can’t see the hives. The trail is overgrown.

In fact, I couldn’t see if there was a bear still down there.

I left the car door open with the morning’s version of Democracy Now! playing on WPFW.

Was the bear still there?

What would she do if I walked up on her?

I walked down the trail, carefully (did I ever tell you the time I was hiking just north of the golden gate bridge and walked up on a mountain lion and ended up chasing her down a trail as I tried to yank my camera out of my day pack?)

And thought about the hissing sound from the other night. It turns out bears hiss when they are thinking aggressive thoughts.

Black bears? Are they more aggressive than brown bears? People had always asked what sort of bears we have up here. That one, was sure black.

I pushed a limb aside to try to get a view of the hives.

And while he might have looked something like a dog, I was thinking, I never saw a dog that looked anything like that. It was just that he had black fur and had four legs.

But larger than any dog. Taller than my 150 pound Great Pyrenees.

No wonder poor Andorra didn’t fight it off the other night. She was being brave to even get close and bark at it.

I could see the hives.

They were still standing.

The fence?

You know, this is really getting long. Maybe I should just stop now. Send it out as a newsletter and maybe, tonight, if I get around to it, finish up the story and post it on our blog.

How about that?

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