Summer creek time
By CHRISTINE TAILER
Creek time does not seem to understand either the clock or the calendar. There are moments that last forever, as when I sit by the hives and watch the bees, now laden with late summer’s purple pollen, return to their evening colonies.
I am lulled by their continuous homecoming and wonder how there is room for all of them in the hives. As I watch, it seems as though summertime almost stops and stands still.
Then there are other times that I stand in awe of the billowing clouds that sail across the creek valley. It has recently occurred to me that the creek valley skies have been washed in the most amazing sunset colors, but the colors have seemed so fleeting of late and fade so quickly to darkness that I hardly have time to exclaim.
And then, just today, the little cuckoo bird popped out of her door to remind me not only of the clock’s gentle ticking, but that it was time to put my bee suit back on and head out to the bee yard to take the rest of the honey off the hives.
My brief respite had ended. In years past, I have been able to get the honey off of the hives in one fell swoop, moving from colony to colony, and removing the honey-laden frames one by one, but not in the heat of today.
All seemed to go smoothly at first. The bees stayed calm and I easily took off several frames filled with sweet creek honey, but by the time I moved on to the second hive, I could feel the salt sweat dripping into the corners of my eyes. I raised my gloved hand to my veil-covered face only to lower it right back down. Salty eyes it would have to be.
I smoked the second hive and realized that the cotton cloth of my bee suit was clinging like damp tissue to my arms, but the bees seemed calm. I pressed on, blinking my stinging eyes, and trying to move as slowly as possible, thinking that slow movements would allow less moisture to leak from my pores and dampen my suit.
By the third hive, I realized that my suit’s pant legs were clinging to my body like a second skin. I pumped the smoker’s bellows towards the hive entrance. A thin tendril of smoke wafted out. The bees seemed calm and I dove on in.
I easily removed two frames, gently brushing off a few bees, but with the third frame, the bees became agitated. I pumped the bellows, but sadly to no avail. The smoker had gone out.
The bees began to angrily ping against my suit, as they tried to drive me away. I felt the first small lightning bolt of a sting on my right shoulder.
“That’s all right,” I thought to myself, “my gardening arthritis will be relieved.” The second sting was to my left shoulder. “Hmm ...” I thought, “preventative bee sting therapy.”
Then another sting to my thigh, followed by another to my arm, and another, and another. Ten stings in all. It is odd how I kept on working, taking off the honey-filled frames, and finally replacing the inner and top covers, yet still counting the electric stings.
Back on the cabin porch I peeled off my bee suit. It was dripping wet. I carried it inside, flipped on the inverter and tossed it into washing machine, curiously thankful that the sun, which had made the morning so hot, was shining so that I could launder my bee suit. I washed off my face and tasted the salty sweat on my lips.
Several hours later, even though the sun still shone, the humidity had kept my suit from drying. So I sat down on the couch to catch up on some writing.
And then the cuckoo reminded me that time was indeed passing me by. I stood up and went outside to check the clothesline, and yes, my bee suit was dry. And yes, I also packed the smoker quite full with cotton baling twine. Seven more hives to go, but the day was thankfully just starting to cool off. The sun had just slipped over the hill behind the cabin. It was time to get moving again!
Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.