Act Three

It’s that funny part of summer where I feel like I’m assessing every day. Is this the last warm day? How about this one? Are the rains coming back? The clematis is blooming again. It does this little last hurrah mini-bloom, I think when the light gets the same as the beginning of summer.

The bees are packing away the honey and the combs are getting really heavy. The girls are also getting shitty when we crack open the hives now. The theory there is because they have something to protect and know the season is ending. Wasps descend and attack when we open the lid now, and we try to help the girls kill them with the pairing knives we use to cut propolis off the bars. I didn’t know wasps and bees would literally tear each other apart until we starting keeping them.

The orange hive, which is the one that lost its queen, is still struggling. We have moved more bars over and they did hatch some queens, but I think they were suffering from a lack of food. We’ve put syrup feeders inside the back of the hive, behind their active bars, where they can access them without fighting with wasps.

So imagine taking the roof off of the hive and looking down into it.

You would see a horrible Paint drawing. Just joshin. The point I am trying to make is that the fragile orange hive bees are protected from the kamikaze predations of the wasps because you’d have to go in through the front entrance, where you’d hit a solid follower board with a hole about the size of a small plum. Then you’d have to fight past all the comb covered in bees, who know you smell funny, make it through the last follower board/small hole in the back, and then get the syrup and come back out again.

We have found dead wasps in the very back of the hive. It feels like an Indiana Jones thing when we open it up–behold the skellingtons of the foolish tomb robbers who have come before. We don’t see a lot of that in the purple hive because they have SO MANY FUCKING BEES OMG so there’s always a clean up crew.

Ladies’ Hammer Club was busy busy this week but not very satisfying. I didn’t expect to have my head turned by any of the trades we visited this week, and I was not pleasantly surprised. I think because it’s summer and people are very busy working that we are kind of getting the bum’s rush quickly. Ironworkers were supposed to have us for six hours, but we got there and our guide said, “The usual guy is out crabbing, and we don’t have any ladies to pull in to talk to you today.” We cut some steel with a torch and were hustled out in two hours. The brick and tile masons seemed kind of similarly unprepared and indifferent about having us there. The trades that have been the most gracious, surprise, surprise, have the highest numbers of women and want to recruit them. I want to talk to you about the gender politics I’ve observed but I’m going to have to put a pin in for now since I have a frittata in the oven and am heading out to pick apples this a.m. Soon!

I enjoyed being at the plasterers, but I don’t really want to plaster for a living. I wasn’t aware that McMansions, which look like stone, etc from a distance, are made of thick foam siding with a plaster or faux stone overlay.

It was a great workout though. The mud is very heavy and you’re holding 10-20 pounds of it all day on your hawk and trowel, or heaving huge buckets of mud.

I had fun pressing the hemp threads into the molds, which keeps it from crumbling.

Yesterday I went back to Habitat for Humanity. They’re trying to expand into maintaining communities in need, rather than just building new structures, so I helped with maintenance at a retirement community. An area utility was there as well, providing LED lightbulbs, and the mayor of Renton gave a little talk. I changed furnace filters and fire alarm batteries while my Americorps partner gave a disaster preparedness talk to the home’s residents. I worked with her on the build I went to a couple of weeks ago and she taught me how to use a nailgun. She likes women in my program because we are handy efforty buttkickers and I like her! She said she was hoping I’d join her group.

I was the only person in my cohort there, in part because yesterday was extra and voluntary. Lots of my classmates have to work around class time this summer. I really, really like my group, but it was fun to be solo. It reminded me of when I was doing apartment maintenance right out of high school–landscaping, change light bulbs, dig ditches, whatever. I was outside for most of the day and as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep. We had a second partner, who was my sister’s age and had never done basic home maintenance, and expressed amazement when I could do things like take panels off furnaces without obvious handles or screws, and knew different models of fire alarms and how they worked (which I used to sell/copywrite for at Amazon, plus I’ve always been a little handy).

I heard a lot of stories yesterday, about 50+ year marriages and divorces and children and retiring from good jobs from the state 30 years ago. I cannot fathom being retired for 30 years. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I’m in the home stretch now–four weeks left. We all have senioritis. I have two more three-day weeks, and then a four day week the week of Labor Day, and then my last week is a five-day including graduation. Next week we are going down to King County Metro to see the mechanics’ shop where they work on the busses, and to a real working construction site to get the lay of the land.

I thiiiiink I may actually get a job when this is over. Whew.

Say Goodbye to Your Old Friends

WELL. Yesterday I went to my awesome dentist of a dozen years for the old semi-annual cleaning. I expected someone new because my hygienist of many years got promoted to more of a management position at the office and is now doing advanced dental work. She filled some of my teeth a few months ago. She was THE best and dealt with years of my sad bloody-as-a-stuck-pig mouth, which has since toughened up post-proper nutrition. She promised she would hand me off to someone who was a good fit.

So I showed up yesterday and my appointment started 20 minutes late, which is unusual for this office, but shit happens and I didn’t have anywhere to be. A hygienist emerged who kind of looked like Angela Merkel, but with worse highlight work, and said, “Alexander?” I get that all the time and kind of shrugged it off. Most people apologize once I correct them, but not this lady. “Well that can be a first name, though, right?”

She seemed kind of awkward and out of it at the same time. I had this funny feeling like she was really ill at ease and her sentences would start out kind of quiet and hesitant and increase in volume and certainty by the end, like she was at a terrifying interview and giving herself little pep talks every 10 seconds.

I mentioned my allergies, because I could see some of the products out on the table that I knew had corn in them, like the tooth polish. “Oh, I didn’t see that. I’ll make a note in your chart about those,” she said. I thought this was weird because I knew my old hygienist had taken extensive notes last time I was in.

I’ll skip past the rest of the weirdness, like her way of questioning me about what corn actually does not me (not a weird question–she just phrased it oddly like everything) and then her telling me all about how she went vegan five years ago and all about vegan cheese. I had to tell her like three times that yes, I have made cashew cheese. I felt like she didn’t believe me because she started quizzing me about the ingredients, which I knew and was able to tell her. And did I know about almond and coconut milk? What.

There was some folderol with the water pik thing, which is so painful it makes me twitch involuntarily.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Well, no. I forgot how painful that thing is. It’s not been used on me for at least five years, thank god.” I didn’t want to explain to her that I thought I’d try it, since my teeth are overall less sensitive now. STILL PAINFUL.

She switched to the old school metal picks, which is great with me. My previous lady did a great job with them, even when my mouth looked like the elevator in The Shining. Now I barely bleed. I noticed she was skipping around a bit, and being fairly perfunctory with some teeth when she stopped abruptly and I heard a “ting!”

The pick had hit the ground. She bent over, retrieved it. I did not hear it being placed on the tray or put aside. Did the floor pick…go back in my mouth? It couldn’t be. I felt myself tensing up a little. She was letting the sucky tube hang on the edge of my mouth, like it was a hanger and I was that dry cleaning flippy in the backseat of a car. I started really tensing up.

Okay, this is very pathetic but I got really anxious then. She was reminding me of the dentist who did my first filling when I was six, who had me hold my own Novocaine shot still inserted in my gums when he went out of the room to get something. I was very scared about the shot anyway, but to have to hold the needle in my head and be alone in the room was a bridge too far. I felt like I was right on the verge of being a little teary.

I told myself to GET A FUCKING GRIP; it was just a terrible cleaning. Then the sucky thing fell out of my mouth and landed on the floor. I listened for a sign that she was changing the plastic, or the straw itself…nothing. It went back into my mouth. Something flipped in my head then, weirdly. I began to find the situation humorous somehow. “Just get through this,” I told myself. I think she dropped a pick twice more. When she finished my teeth weren’t clean. I was a tiny bit heartbroken my old hygienist had seen fit to pair me with this person.

I asked myself in the car why I didn’t confront her right then and jump out of the chair. That was an extremely valid question to be asking. I think I still have this habit of shutting down sometimes when shit gets weird or off script. It’s a bad “habit,” and an old one. Shit got weird a lot when I was growing up, and there was absolutely nothing I could do to change or control it, so I always got pretty poker face. My sister had the opposite reaction. When she got pushed too far she would scream! I remember thinking to myself, “I did not know that was possible.” Part of me admired it, in a way, even though ideally she wouldn’t have had to repeatedly react to trauma with earshattering screams.

It’s funny how you can step on an old rake, isn’t it?

My dentist was also new, since I had to reschedule my appointment due to Lady Hammer Club. The dentist seemed very young and was wearing red Converse and sitting on a yoga ball. I felt about 90 then. Then he told me my teeth were “cute” and there was marveling over my intact, straight wisdom teeth. WHAT. (Again.)

At the front desk on the way out I was scheduling my next appointment with the office manager, whom I have known from that office for many years.

“Sooo is Angela Merkel new?” I asked.

“Why, what happened,” I got from the manager, deadly serious.

I told her about the dropped tools and she blanched and apologized. I told her my teeth didn’t feel clean. I told her that she was generally clumsy and kind of mashing my nose and face. I skipped the part about veganism because I wouldn’t say she was proselytizing or being mean really.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” I told the office manager. “I eat food off the floor. I’m an animal. But I like to choose what comes off the floor and into my mouth.”

I was given a free reclean for next week. Then something good happened. The office manager said, “Angela Merkel is covering for your new hygienist, who is visiting her family in Europe for a month.” She was just a sub! Whew. Anyway, that is enough about my trip to Spain, my childhood pain.

Lady Hammer Club Update

The apprentice wrangler at the carpenter’s shop was upset we’re spending time in shop class building birdhouses and not cement forms. Also we are not carrying enough plywood or driving enough nails. We’re being timed on 3 at various angles and I came in under a minute and was proud of myself. HA. Apparently the test at the carpenters’ is 21 nails in two minutes. NO FUCKING WAY. I do not want to be a carpenter. My sad hand got bruised just doing a total of 21 over the course of an afternoon.

We have also been to see the glaziers’ (glass splinters, horrifying) and have had mock interviews. I showed up after being in bed for two days with my coffee glutening, thinking I was rolling into a math class. NOPE. Schedule change. I sat in front of a panel consisting of a cement mason (who I already knew), a machine operator, and a brick mason, and got highest marks. I wore my Adblock hoodie zipped up all the way since I was also wearing a shirt with a swear on it, genius. I think I brushed my hair.

Then I got dinged for my absence. ARGH. “We want to see you at 90% attendance, or we won’t be able to give you letters of recommendation.” They also don’t release any of your certifications until and if you finish the program in September. They really have me by the short and curlies here, but the good news is I think they will be able to stuff me into an apprenticeship pretty quickly as long as I do the cha cha with them. Ironworkers is on Monday–very excited.


It’s pouring today and Goethe is hiding under the eave. Stretching, not being furce. Horace is medicated due to thunder today.

Let me take a page out of Pop Culture Happy Hour and say what is making me happy this week.

1. Todd

I’ve been buying 17-cent feeder goldfish to keep in my wee ceramic pond, which is a thing by itself I really enjoy, and waters my bees and wasps, but draws mosquito larvae. Drop some goldfish in there, and BOOM, no more larva in about half a day. The first batch croaked, and I went back for three more. Two of those croaked, and then Todd was The Fish Who Lived. I started feeding him, and the pond was looking like murky nitrogen city, so I brought him indoors to live in a pickle crock with the world’s ugliest mug that I got contracting at Amazon six years ago (we were near Kitchen). He can go back outside when the larvae come back.

I forgot how much I like keeping a goldfish! I used to keep one for Franny when she was going through an intense Elmo thing at two.

2. Vacation week

P. took the week off last week and I wanted to hang with him, but I was sick for part of it and in class. But he had a nice time, and finished the electrical and did some insulating in the basement. When I had days off we did things, like renting a canoe.


Look, he’s even happy trapped in some bitchass lilypads.

We went downtown to the piers and ordered NOTHING BUT HAPPY HOUR OYSTERS and some neat vodka (me) with a lime and scotch for him and did not get ill. I had a feeling about going to a place with a dedicated oyster bar and I was right! We haven’t been out to eat anything since May.

3. Camp

During that week, Strudel had a MARVELOUS time at Celiac camp and did not get ill once! They were so good. She made a bunch of friends and I got her a photo album to put her pictures in. One of the first things she said when we picked her up was, “CAN I GO AGAIN?” Hell yes. Next year we might even go out of town during, but stay close enough in case she breaks a leg or something.

How’s your summer??

ABV Always be vigilant

Compared to the usual, things have been very exciting around here this weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I LOOOOVE boredom. Super into it. But a couple of things actually happened.

I got up early on Friday and fed the chickens and made coffee. I heard a car running outside the fence and peeked over–there was a sedan, running, empty, with the windshield wipers intermittently flapping. P. was actually wearing pants so I sent him outside the fence to investigate.

“It’s stolen,” he said. “The ignition is completely gone.”


Nightmere basking in the morning sun in the chicken pen

We called the cops and an officer came shortly afterwards, and told me that the car had already been reported as stolen. It turns out the owners were right up the street, because a man and woman walked up a few minutes later. Franny espied on what they were saying–they had last seen the car at 8 p.m. and had gone to bed later, and it was gone in the morning. They got in and drove their running, ignitionless car home. It still had half a tank of gas (I looked).

There’s been some progress with the bees. Somehow, we lost our first queen in the orange hive. It’s very possible that we crushed or drowned her, or maybe she up and died on her own. We could tell things were going wrong, because one week they were pretty mad, and then the population began dropping, and the only new bees being produced were drones. This means you have laying workers.

It’s kind of cool if you think about it. No queen equals no fertililzed eggs being laid (fertilized eggs result in girl bees). So the workers take over and create as many boys as possible, which will then go out and hopefully spread their genetics with a queen in another hive. Nature is smarter than just waiting for everyone to die. This condition is commonly referred to as a “colony of lost boys.”

However, you can maybe help turn things around if you have a “queenright” hive. We pulled bars with open larvae out of the healthy orange hive for three weeks in a row, brushed the adult orange hive bees off, and inserted that bar in between existing bars in the ailing purple hive.

Miraculously this can do a few things. The larvae emit a scent that smells like a queen and can suppress laying in the workers. The workers are aware they are missing a queen, so they accept the open larvae, and raise them up to be a new queen. Old hands say this process of adding new bars can take 3-4 weeks before things get corrected again. In the meantime we knew we were providing the purple hive with already capped cells filled with girl worker bees, which would hatch and help nurse new bees and feed the hive. Bees accept unhatched bees as their own.

Yesterday, on the third week after we had begun Operation Purple Queenright, we found many queen cups, which are special cells workers build when they are creating a new queen. Possibly the first strong queen to hatch took over. She then races around and kills any other hatching queens.

So there they were as we peeped in–hatched queen cups. They look like they have little porch roofs over the cells, unlike worker cells (flat) or drone cells (domed).

Here’s a close up of what was happening:

The arrow on the left points to a vacated queen cup. Worker cells are flatter. As a bonus, you can see an emerging worker bee. This is what I meant by the bonus influx of workers you get from sharing bars among hives. So, already in this first year I am very happy to have two hives. Three might be ideal, but that adds a half hour a week to maintenance, and I am not sure we’re ready for that just yet.

The weather is causing the bees to beard (aka “hang out on porch”) in the afternoon to cool things off. We are doing the same.

I bought a silly pool from the drug store.

We’re getting highs in the low 90s here, so the garden is doing great.

1. Zucchini; 2. Tomatoes; 3. Shiso; 4. Thai basil; 5. Lemon cucumber; 6. Italian basil

This morning I woke up to Strudel on the couch.

“THERE WAS A RAT IN MY ROOM LAST NIGHT,” she said.

“Oh lord. Was it big?”

“YES IT WAS HUGE. IT WAS ON MY HEADBOARD.”

Uh oh. We did some investigating and I found poo behind her bed, which did not actually look like rat poo to me. I brought the dogtectives in. Strudel had slammed her door shut, and if the rat was truly as large as she described, it was probably still trapped in there.

Edith found the poo and gave it a good sniffing.

“Yes, without a shadow of a doubt, this is definitely poo, Mother” she said.

“Find Squirrel, Edith!” I said, hopefully. Extrapolation has never been her strong suit.

“Yes, Mother, I have found this amazing poo that you have seen and discovered on your own and it smells weird. My job is done here.”

I called in Det. Horace, who had been sent out to take a morning wee first. He inspected the poo.

“FIND SQUIRREL, HORACE!”

Within thirty seconds, had had tracked the rat to under a dresser. P. sighed and got some gloves and tongs (?), not knowing what he would encounter. He emerged with a baby possum that was the size of a large rat.

“A cat definitely brought this in,” he said.

“Put it in our sucky neighbor’s yard!” I said. He did not. Det. Horace got a raise!!

Franny made a wee card. She said this is what you get when you die.


I love it!

The No 1 Ladies Hammer Agency

Today Morgan and the girls and I went downtown to buy spices. I went a little apeshit (nigella AND sumac) and Morgan went more practical. She’s getting into vegetables too, and that means SPICES. I suggested a field trip since we both have the day off. Everywhere we went people talked to us like we were tourists, of course, since it is high tourist season here.

A young guy with those nice evil “v” eyebrows at Pike Place made me feel a mango.

“FEEL this mango.”

“Okay,” I said, giving it a halfhearted pat like you would to a guinea pig recovering from mange. I was not going to be roped in to his bullshit.

“How was that, EH? EH?”

“It was okay.”

“Listen to this one!” he said about me, as if I was being clever.

“I’ve felt a lot of mangoes.” I just wanted to get my lettuce and to GTFO.

Someone else at a pawn shop asked us if we were tourists as well, of course. I am still on my mission to find those rapper name plate necklaces from the 80s. Where did they go?

“Were they melted down or what?” I asked the clerk behind the counter. He was quite rotund and looked sweaty even in the cool AC.

“That’s what I would do with them,” he said. I didn’t expect him to know or anything.

“Remember when we had lunch at that one place with Mom and some sketchy dudes wanted to pay for our lunch and you got mad?” my sister asked me. That sounded like me.

“Man, no,” I said. “I am such a jerk.”

“Well, it was really shady. Who does that! Mom was all delighted and you were all HELL NO.” I have taken the adage about free lunches to heart, I think.

I had to say that I actually had completely forgotten about it, and it only sounded vaguely familiar. I have blocked a lot of stuff that happened with our mother in my 20s out, and I think that might have been the very beginning of my memory really going sideways. I just have no interest in storing those memories I guess. It’s funny, though, that it was another time when our mother was taking things one way and I was demonstrating a completely different set of behavior and values. Morgan came down on my side.

I bought the girls slushy apple cider and was assured that it was 100% apple cider before I paid. I helped Strudel get her lid on and some slush dripped onto my fingers, maybe half a teaspoon. I licked it off without thinking about it. Strudel drank the whole thing down happily, as did her sister. I started feeling funny about an hour after we arrived home–what I call “balloon head on a string.”

“How are you feeling, Strudel?” I asked.

“Urgh. Bad. My stomach hurts and I’m spacey.” Shit. Franny is feeling unwell too. I think corn is the most likely suspect right now. I am sad to be corned this weekend. This is hard to write and I have found countless typos and poor grammar. I am sure I will leave some in.

I quick pickled a bunch of asparagus recently.

I’m not crazy about it so I haven’t tasted it. I am told it is “less Victorian than usual,” which probably means I backed off on the allspice a bit.

Edith is on a reducing program on the vet’s advice. About six months ago our vet said she was getting into the chubby zone. Not dangerous, but a good time to stop feeding her pecans, her favorite.

It may be hard to see here, but she has a bit of loose skin now.


Strudel is having a good summer of mostly boredom, and hanging with a friend who just moved a few blocks closer. She came into my bedroom and told me that she’s “a tween now.” Followed up with, “I’m going to go paint my toenails.” She is off to Celiac sleepaway camp at the beginning of August.

You may ask yourself, “What is this idiotic posing?” I started my class this week (Monday) and today is a holiday, thank god. I got my protective gear and boots right away. I think I am ready to apply for my chosen trade but I am keeping an open mind about the others we’re exploring, in case I want to apply for them too. I don’t want to be more specific because I am a tiny bit superstitious about counting chickens.

It’s nice to be back in class. I don’t want to be an eternal student, but I am ready to learn something new, which is what a trade is in the beginning. I am kind of thinking of it as paid collage.


“MOM I’M GOING TO POSE IN YOUR BOOTS KAWAIIIIIII” Ok.

I’m enjoying getting to know the ladies in my group. There’s youngsters and I think there’s a couple older than me. I don’t say much because I mostly just want to listen. They all have incredible stories about what they’ve done. Women with records (Our teacher: “Trades don’t care.”), women who are currently in shelters, past homelessness, women who live with their parents with their children, women with past lives in many other careers and jobs. There’s stories about dire warehouse jobs, wage theft, being pushed around by corporations, and life-changing motorcycle accidents. There’s even a Microsoft refugee with two children close to my age and of course talking to her was very familiar.

During the OSHA class, the teacher started doing some L&I payroll tax shit on the whiteboard that involved simple calculations.

“Who has a calculator?” she asked. I started doing them in my head and calling out the answers before the person with a calculator on her phone could get an answer. “Who’s good at math?” the teacher said, turning around to see who was answering. I raised my hand. No one has ever said that to me before.

So far I’ve gotten an OSHA 10 cert, first aid/CPR, and practice doing mock interviewing. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t hate interviewing. I’m just used to 1-5 hour loops, not 15 minutes, which is what I have to make a pitch to the committees I’ll be facing this fall when I graduate. There’s going to be math, but it’s easier than what I’ve done so far on my own. Some of it’s amazing and some of it’s kind of time filling. We literally run stairs almost every day, and it’s killing me, carrying this twenty-pounds-extra caboose. I’m doing really well, though, and losing at least a pound a week. I’m looking forward to job site visits and shop days (I’m going to build a bench).

Sometimes I want to not pay attention in class and just interview all the women all day, students and the guest teachers, and find out about their histories and lives. We keep being asked “why I’m here” and I want to say “because I got sick and almost died and when I could walk again I found out I could run and do math.” This is weird, so instead I say Career Change and I Like Math.

I wired this today and they all work, just some of the bulbs are burned out. These are the original ceiling light fixtures from the rec room downstairs. P. has implanted them into the wall and we will panel around them and put the brass and frosted glass covers back on, and then they will be ~arty vintage mood lighting~. My idea.

Intoxicating

Strudel fell into a hole on my street last week and sprained her ankle. Fortunately it was a very light sprain. I sprained my ankle a couple of years ago and Strudel theorizes it was the same hole. I don’t believe it–my street (and most Seattle streets) has lots of holes! Lucky for her, it was a very light sprain. It poofed up very dramatically on the first day, turned an alarming shade of yellow quickly, and then she was walking on it with no pain by day three. Lucky kid. A couple of years ago I don’t think she’d have healed up quite so quickly.

I don’t feel any of my old aches and pains anymore, which frees me up to make new ones. I am just at the beginning of the 100 Push Ups challenge. It used to hurt to do push ups, but I did them anyway, sometimes. My back, my elbows, my shoulders. Now I only stop when my muscles do. Franny and I watched American Psycho late last night and it was okay. I thought she would like it because she enjoys horror and “mindfuck” movies. What I really enjoyed was Patrick Bateman and his “I can do 1000 sit ups now.” I used to think bodies like his were genetic outliers or Hollywood magic. Now, I think I can get about as fit as time and my motivation will allow.

I used to have a very vivid “life of the mind” to the extent I was able, and even that was fading at the end, as my thought processes became increasingly clouded. I think I’m still mourning my old, more destructive, and just plain different former self. Anyone who has been reading me or knows me knows that I am a doer, and if I see a door I want to do through it. I see a lot of different doors now, and I am not hobbled by confusion or anxiety most of the time anymore. Discovering that I can do math this year (not fantastically, but well enough) and that my body will actually get fitter and do what I want–it’s pretty empowering.

I am left with so many questions. I believe people can change, or at least change their own lives. But now I wonder, who am I? Who was I for 30+ years? Was that really me? Am I a fake me now? How much do I sound like a stoned 15-year-old in someone’s basement, listening to Black Sabbath. (A: A lot.)

There’s a lot of before and after in life. I can think of before children, and after. Before divorce, and after. Hell, even before and after dogs was another big one. I am trying to accept this as another before and after, but it is taking time.

So. Up betimes and alone. P. is out of town (Portland). I wish I could have enjoyed the bed a bit more, but the dogs just smash up against me regardless, so by the time I wake up, I am on my customary 1/4 of the bed.

I watered the yard this morning and everything was looking very pretty.

We used to live a block from the rose garden, and when they switched over to not spraying, we watched our favorite roses very carefully to see which ones would continue to thrive without pesticides. Hot cocoa (above) seems to be one of the winners in our yard, as it was in the rose garden. “Silver” roses are my favorite but I am told they are very tricky here. I tried to plant ones that are made for the PNW.

Everything in the yard is absolutely going gangbusters this year. A hot summer is predicted. I am happy either way, as long as it’s dry. In 2009 my router melted. In 2006 I remember it was a glorious year for tomatoes. These things seem to cycle every few years.

I’m really enjoying doing this lately:

I’m not sure I’ll go back to fillets now. I was always daunted by the cost of a whole fish, and the…wholeness. Now I just walk in and ask them to scale and fin it, take it home, and stuff it with aromatics. This salmon was $40.00 (4 lbs.). We get about 4 dinners out of a fish like this. So it ends up being about $2.50 per serving. That’ll work. I figure if I can make giant roasts and always work with whole birds, then this is doable too. The fennel is from my garden! Since I’m not working right now, I am challenging myself to use every bit of everything. I mentioned I made gravlax recently and I dehydrated the skins and saved them for the dogs as treats. No wonder they like to sleep smashed up next to me.

The bees in the purple hive were also up beetimes. They are lean, mean buzzy machines over there now. It’s impressive. Franny helped me work the bees yesterday and it was really fun. She did great. She did say she was worried about getting stung, of course, but neither of us did. The comb hole that P. and I left last week was almost completely closed up. I’m not worried about them right now because I see a great variety of babies, pollen, and nectar, including some capped honey. You can hear the chickens singing along in the background.

I trimmed the roses out front around tax day, as some people say you should. It’s the first time I’ve touched them since I moved in. There was a lot of cross-caning and dead wood. This year they are looking great and are very pretty next to the raspberries. Year three here is when everything is taking off, plant and manimal.

Hathor the Cudinator

I can barely see a little wall in my house so I am still hard at work.



Started curing gravlax today for a dinner on Thursday, considered rendering beeswax (I need more supplies like cheesecloth and a pot I can ruin). Yesterday we worked the bees per usual and then Franny and I went to Display and Costume and Goodwill to find elements of our Twin Peaks costumes for the contest. I will make a mini album of the process. Both of our costumes are going to be complex and we will model before striking out for Fall City in July. I will publish right before we leave. I know this sounds paranoid but I don’t want anyone to scoop us since they are such good ideas. I don’t know if we’re approaching the Cockeyed levels of awesome, but we are excited.

I’m hopping back into a Whole 30 tomorrow to reset some of my habits, so today I made farewell banana/pecan/cinnamon waffles with syrup and P’s strawberry peach jam. Tomorrow I will be a good monkey and finish up lessons in natural logarithms. I will be glad to have log out of my life for now!!

Upbeetimes and breakfast with wives

Call me Samuel Beepys. If you have not seen this really cool video yet of a bee metamorphosis, I highly recommend it.


pollen baskets ahoy

Over the past three weeks we’ve been fixing a self-inflicted disaster. I was gripped by indecision paralysis about something called comb guides. Here is what the inside of our top bar hives look like, basically. You can see that there are literal bars that are supposed to remain movable, that is to say, not glued together with comb (wax) and plant goo (propolis). Check this out: it did not occur to me that if I did not make “guides” on the bars that the bees would get in there are perceive it as a big cave and just start building comb anyfuckingplace. Because surely horrible smoky bears will not come once a week and tear the roof off and poke around, right? Wrong. It’s like Minecraft except I’m the monster.

So they started building their hanging combs on the cracks between the bars, or two to a bar. This was causing everything to be fused together and to fall down when we would try to inspect. I am so dumb. It’s like any hobby you get into–there’s a million ways to do one thing, and everyone has a different opinion. I just never decided on one thing.


double combing

So we went in and retroactively added some square “dowels” to some of the bars and fixed what we could. But this has caused a lot of chaos in the hive and for me to be stung many times now. Sooo I am over that fear. I get kind of feverish feeling and semi-useless for the rest of the day. Plus there is the big adrenaline dump (for me, some people are probably super casual about it).

Also I have discovered that it is terrifying opening a hive and looking into it sometimes. I get kind of frozen, just seeing the thousands of bees and hearing them raise their buzz until it is louder and truly angry-sounding as we get close to the queen. I think this is the last day we will be wrecking shop and the new comb is being drawn straight.

Even though you have done nothing wrong I have still made you a terrible drawing in paint to show how this works.


cutting away the double comb veeeery carefully

Fingers crossed next week I will not be stung. So far I think this is going well in that they are still alive and reproducing, and we have seen combs full of honey, but we are just leaving them alone for now.


Too many Todds on the dance floor

This is some wayward comb that we had to remove that had some drones hatching out of it. As we have been moving comb around and removing fallen comb from the bottom of the hive, we’ve been putting it back on top of the bars if it has capped brood. This means the baby bees are done eating, they are just sealed up and growing at that point. If they stay warm and safe they seem to hatch out okay in the “attic.”

This is some of my favorite bee-behavior (beehavior): festooning. You can see fallen comb bits on the bottom of the hive. We had to clean those up, which caused the stings.

They make funny little daisy chains between the combs. When we pull the bars to inspect them, they are often chained together like this. After we were done and my heart was all racing and I was starting to swell from stings, I had a snort of gin and then mopped the kitchen. I really look forward to Saturdays now.

This morning I made sunscreen, because the last time I put on my (corny) regular sunscreen a few weeks ago I had one of my “narcoleptic” episodes where I fell asleep randomly, as I mentioned that I do recently.

It was pretty easy. I joke about my narcoleptic episodes sometimes, but corn is no joke for me. When I worked for M$ I had a loooong bus ride home and I would deeply, deeply pass out. One time I woke up and the bus was packed and a guy was kind of pawing me. A. that shouldn’t have happened to anyone but B. if I am honest, I have to say it didn’t bother me that much. Would I like to kick him in the kidneys until he pees blood? Yes, I would take that chance. But (hey let’s get darker) much worse things have happened to me. I didn’t have anyone to tell at the time, so I didn’t tell anyone. I went into my trusty ol’ Don Draper mode of “it will shock you how much this never happened.”

BUT LET’S AVOID THAT MOVING FORWARD, OKAY. Homemade sunscreen. HIGHKICKS.

Let’s have a picture of a dog terrified by a robotic vacuum. I’d just gotten back from a run yesterday. She does this every time it runs. Poor baby.

Five Weeks in Prison

I made no friends. But I did make some dope cash, which made up for Goethe’s Hulk-out face smashery and when the water heater popped this winter. Tomorrow’s my last day here. They wanted to kick my contract out to August, which is nice I suppose. But I have to get on with my life.

Plus my online math class is going to “expire” in June, so I need to finish that as well. I really need to do something (for money) that I give some fucks about at this point, now that my girls are so big, and not just collect a paycheck. I give many fucks about my 4 million hobbies, but they fall into the expense column.



Separated at birth???

Franny was gone this weekend being miserable at her dad’s house, sadly, and we went off and ran a local 5K run by a doughnut company. I have no pictures, because my sister and I got our timing off kilter and she actually wasn’t at the finish line. I thought she might have been ill or caught in traffic so we waited for a bit and then went back to the car to grab my phone…and there she was at the finish line wondering where we were. I was so fast I finished in record time! Just kidding, I was slow like a turtle.

I have yet to meet a database that won’t mongle my name. One of my diplomas came misspelled like this even. Ha.

Strudel took off like a shot at the beginning to find her friends and finished before we did, and was waiting for us at the finish line, alone.

“How’s it going,” I said, when I picked her face out of the crowd.

“Bad. I’ve been here for like 15 minutes and I can’t find Auntie Morgan,” she complained. We checked her time later and she finished only five minutes before we did. Each minute is multiplied by three when you’re ten I guess.

P. is asking me when we are going to run our next 5K, and I say, “I’m not sure.” There were things I liked about it and things I didn’t.

    Like:
  • Greenlake is REALLY flat, so there was a sense of ease
  • I got a cool shirt
    1. Did not like:
  • The 11-year-old who kept dashing ahead of us and then would stop to walk right in front of us
  • I did my duty and brought a cool story about a woman whose dog punched her in the stomach after anal sex and she shit herself, which effectively rendered him speechless and unable to think of anything to talk about, which made the first mile slow. I thought it would help to have conversational topics!
  • Strollers, and people who think four-year-olds will run a 5K. You can barely cajole those beasts into dressing themselves
  • Paying for something I can do in my own neighborhood for free felt dumb and the doughnuts smelled disgusting when we came around the last bend
  • I had a good time, though. And then Morgan and I caught up and she came to my house for brunch.

    The day before, we worked the bees and then P. took off to the local tool rental place and got a tiller.

    “You’re going to till up the backyard the day before we have this race?” I asked.

    “Yep,” he said. I watched him crank it up and his arms start shaking and I was like, “That guy is going to be sore tomorrow,” and he was!


    Taking a wee break.

    He got as close as he dared to the beehives. They did not care for a gas-powered tiller narming up the dirt around their house. So I get the little spit of land in front of their houses. I forgot to snap a finished picture, but I put in foxglove, bee balm, shasta daisy, alyssum, lupin, black-eyed susans, and something I’m probably forgetting. He put six tomato plants in the larger chunk of land. We pretty much used up the original garden, between the kiwis, medlar, fig, hives, and where the tomatoes were last year is full of a rotation of crimson clover (which is about to bloom, squee).

    I let the chickens out to scratch it all up, figuring it couldn’t hurt. They were really into actual grass so I had to lure them to the dirt using some flung pepitas.

    I am excited to get rid of my jank, broken decaying ye olde patio crap. I finally pulled the trigger on a new table that will hold guests and some chairs that were not free ten years ago and are now falling apart and have been spraypainted in a hail mary attempt to not make my backyard look like West Virginia (as P. says, who lived there). All the furniture came yesterday and Strudel and I were unpacking it as the afternoon rain started.

    I opened the table box and realized it was already open and the table’s corner was munged. It was packed very poorly.

    I have such a thrift store/vintage/freecycle mentality that sometimes it is hard for me to decide to buy something new, and I fret over purchases for weeks. So long that the first table I wanted sold out for the year, ha. I had a little tear to see this and I felt foolish for not just finding some old, pre-scratched, less-broken-than-the-previous-stuff crap somewhere.

    Of course since I had all the furniture and it was raining, I realized the cover hadn’t shipped yet. I put the cushions indoors and before an actual human who worked to pay for them could enjoy them, BEHOLD, A WILD NIGHTMERE APPEARS. BOOOOO. She colonizes eveything.

    And then there’s the shopping cart issue still, speaking of jank…I need to take this back to the store it came from a couple of neighborhoods over. I was going to turn it into a shopping cart made of succulents, but I have no idea where I’d put it.

    “Weh! Mom, I’m a baby!” Oh god no. That performance probably caused the final death knell of my ovaries.

    Bees are in

    We got up early and went to a site near Boeing Field to pick up the bees. It was pretty cool to roll up on a trailer full of bee boxes, and feeling the mild terror that two of them were ours. I added some more pics to the top bar hive album and there’s a video in there as well. If you look closely you may notice that P. and I have matching hats with bills to keep the mesh off our faces. If the mesh rests against your nose, you will likely get stung right there.

    Franny was very brave and took pictures in her flip flops and shorts. She is the insect whisper. She was picking up loose bees off the ground at the pick up site and looked sad when P. told her she could not take a loose one home. Then her new friend flew off her sleeve and into our trunk as we loaded the packages in, and she beamed. “I always pet bees,” she said.

    It’s really a perfect day to install them. Mild, clear, warm, not windy. The backyard is full of bees now as they get oriented in their new homes. The air filled up when the sun finally hit the hives. We didn’t get stung once, which was a relief. I was just kind of bracing myself for it.

    The queens looked active in their little cages and we plugged the holes up with marshmallow, which she and her new friends should chew through in about 3 days. Shan’s coming in a bit to hang out and spend the night as she’s up here on a little business. Lucky me! Haven’t seen her for a year and a half. Very excited. I made sure she’s not allergic to honeybees.

    Hello to Sring*

    * The infamous “sring” cake in all its glory.

    Busy weekend, and busy past couple of weeks. I guess I should start with Easter. What happened? Not much. I decided to see what would happen if I followed the recommended advice and set aside eggs in the back of the fridge for a couple of weeks. I was very surprised I was coordinated enough to remember to do this! As expected, the air bubble was bigger and they were easier to peel. Whoopie. Cross another one off the bucket list, I suppose.

    Sometimes I like to show off my eggs because they turn out cool, but this year they were kind of a hash. I bought discounted egg dye kits a couple of years ago after the holiday (tie dye, marble, and glitter) and they were kind of lame! Next I think we will go back to feats with ordinary dye. These eggs were quickly ushered into an egg salad made with spicy chipotle mayo.

    Other than dyeing eggs with the girls, and making some nicer dinner since lamb’s on sale and it’s a Sunday, I am wildly inconsistent about Easter. I don’t do a lot of candy because I feel like I have to draw the line somewhere–Easter really isn’t our holiday. But it’s nice to say hello to spring. And baths! Have some bath loot, girls.

    I made Franny an Easter basket plate.

    And also Strudel.

    And then I roasted a lamb leg that I stuffed in part with minced preserved lemons I made in February. I got down to my last one-and-a-half and I sliced some more and added more salt to the jar while I watched part of Going Clear. I know Japanese pickles can be done in an “endless” way like this so we’ll see if the same is true of lemons. Between the acid in the salt I doubt I’m breeding new life forms in there. And it is FUN to dig around in a salty lemon-oily jar. It’s like beach mad scientist as a kid.

    I was a Bisy Backson yesterday in the sense that I did all those things you put off in the week, because enough is enough in one day sometimes. I took Strudel out for a refurbed taller bike, which she named Dr. Krieger.

    This will be her last bike before she gets a full-sized one, unless the frame explodes or something. Am I winding down on child ranching or what? There’s a lot of parenting left to do, but I cannot even pretend I have little kids anymore.

    I also finished a mini-project last weekend: tagging the trees.

    I used 18 tags, and only one of the trees came with the house (the Italian prune). We’ve been busy. To be fair, four tags went on the frankencherry alone.

    I wasn’t as helpful with the beehives this weekend as I would have liked. We decided to divide and conquer. I helped where I could (caulk, moral support) and P. just hit it really hard. It was forecasted to rain today (and has) so we tucked them onto the porch for now. Franny is on deck to paint when it clears up a little later this week.

    I ran out of caulk so I’ve not quite finished the roofs.

    Hello have you heard the good news about beehives

    This Saturday we’re going to pick up two packages of Italians and then bring them home and dump them into the boxes. I know people have done this thousands of times, but it still sounds bizarre. I will bring my camera so I can capture the site of a truck full of bees (I hope).

    Franny has been in fine form lately. She was in a great mood on Sunday and decided to dawdle some before cleaning out the chicken coop by giving the dogs rides. Poor Edith was tiny terrified until Horace joined her.

    Horace joins the fun.

    Bonus party trick.