Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Rest of May

Bees, piano recital, working hard to finish school work, and finally getting enough sunshine to till and plant the garden. May was full and happy and blessed in every way.

We were absolutely shocked one evening to discover that the evening song we both always associated with American Robins actually belongs to our Black-headed Grosbeak. We don't see them very often, and always assumed that they only migrated through the area as they show up on the bird feeder occasionally, but not for very long, and never for consecutive days.

Now that we've had this quite delayed epiphany, we're amazed to realize just how much we're hearing that song and from quite a few individuals scattered throughout the woods.

It's always good to learn something new, and we were both relieved to realize that it wasn't just he or just I, but we BOTH were wrong this time!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Music Lessons

For three years now, my kiddos have stuck with their lessons; he's learning guitar, she's learning piano. Sometimes they hate practicing, but for the most part, they keep working at it without too much complaining on his part, and with mostly joy and delight on her part.

I think that we're pretty lucky and definitely very blessed to have found sisters that teach at the same location, and we can schedule the guitar and piano lessons to fit in the same 30 minute time slot. Not only is the location and time convenient, but these ladies make learning music fun. They are so encouraging and positive; the complete opposite from the piano teachers of my childhood who did nothing but critique and point out all of the things that I did wrong. I couldn't be happier to have found them.

The end of the year recital only features the piano players, so Mr. Guitar Man got off easy without needing to perform in front of strangers (which he's deathly afraid of). This being the third recital for our pianist, she was still very nervous, but handled it like a seasoned pro.

She has advanced to the second column of players listed in the evening's program, and it was a relief after all of the fumbled songs before her (the evening starts with the newest players and progresses to the 10th level graduates) when she went up and absolutely killed it. She says that she messed up on the foot pedal at one point in the song, but none of us could tell. I couldn't be prouder of my girl.

Our guitarist has mostly been learning strum patterns and chord finger positioning to enable him to play just about any song he wants, but with the focus being on worship-style songs suited for a church service. The thing that happened this year that made the kids the most excited was when our pianist advanced enough in her abilities to start learning the same on piano. They now have a total of 2 songs that they are able to play together, which is delightful to watch. Maybe some day they'll gain enough confidence to join me on stage on Sunday mornings at church.

Yes, he really IS that tall. Or she's really short... or both. :D

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tales from the Hive

During the last week of very wet weather, the bees un-capped and ate the honey I was so excited to see with its special wax coating. But that's okay... it's early in the season, and this is Oregon, after all.

The most exciting thing I saw today, other than spotting my Queen again, was a few baby bees nibbling their way out of their brood chambers. In this first picture, you can see pollen packed into cells (different colors, looks glossy in some), nectar (shiny, looks black because of the black foundation on these frames), capped worker bee cells (center of image, looks rough and slightly raised). And up on top of the frame is a dedicated lady, fanning her wings just as hard as she can to try to cool her family down.

And now, for a little Queen-spotting. Can you find her? She has the same coloring as the others, but her abdomen is twice as long, and she's usually surrounded by a circle of attendants.

Here she is up close. And if you squint your eyes and look closely, you can see baby bee larvae all curled up in their cells. They look white and shiny. Once they get to the proper stage of development, the nurse bees will fill the rest of their cells with food and cap them off to finish growing.

My Italian honey bees are SO friendly and calm. Not one single aggressive action toward me yet, and look at this little hitch-hiker that rode back to the house on my hat. Just hanging out, like its no big deal to be on a human's hand. LOVE.

Today, I added back the second story to the hive after taking it away last week. After doing lots of reading and research, I've decided to switch the bees over to foundationless frames as much as possible. So I popped all of the foundation out of the frames that came with the second box and put some paint stir sticks in along the side rails as guides to help keep the wax straight. I moved one frame with pollen and nectar on it up to the center to help give them some encouragement to build up.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dreams Really Do Come True

The year was 1987, and I was just becoming aware of music outside of my parent's record collection and favorite radio stations. I was finding my own radio stations, and a pen pal sent me a mix tape full of songs from the band U2. I was hooked. Their album The Joshua Tree has been a steady sound track to my life ever since it was released that glorious year. But there was zero money for travel from our small town, let alone to buy concert tickets, so I contented myself with my pirated mix tapes.

A decade or two later, there was an opportunity to see U2 in concert for their newest album at the time, but I was newly married and still barely making ends meet, and paying over $100 per ticket just wasn't a wise choice. In retrospect, I was probably being too conservative and part of me wishes I had just thrown caution to the wind, but you know what they say about hindsight...

2017 was apparently the year for me. Thirty years after that favorite album was released, U2 set out on a second The Joshua Tree tour. I wanted to go so bad I could taste it. So, I twisted my dear Farmboy's arm (he likes the band, but is not nearly as enthusiastically as I), recruited a fellow long-time devotee along with his (also not quite so enthused) wife, and booked train tickets to Seattle.

The concert tickets themselves were high up in the nose-bleeds, but at last, I was GOING TO A U2 CONCERT! Thirty years of waiting. And boy, was it ever worth it.

There are a billion nay-sayers out there, criticizing anything and everything about this particular band, but you have to admit that they are gifted in more ways than one. I don't know many other bands that have stuck together as long and produced as prolifically as U2. They are currently one of the world's best selling artists in history, having sold 175 million albums worldwide. Not bad for a bunch of Irish school boys.

The train ride from Portland to Seattle was a first for me, and a highlight of my year, just because of the beautiful architecture of the old train stations; Union Station in Portland, but especially King Street Station in Seattle, with it's amazing ceiling and art deco tile work.

Despite a weather forecast that looked chilly and wet, Seattle provided mostly blue skies for our entire visit. A relief, as the concert venue is outdoor (who in their right mind plans an outdoor concert in May in Seattle?). We had fabulous Uber drivers, waited in lines around the stadium with a lot of other middle-aged people reliving their teen years, ate yummy stadium hot dogs, and then, when we finally stepped into the arena, we realized that our previously side-view nose-bleed tickets that had been upgraded by the ticket agent at the last minute, were now just about as good as it gets without being on the ground floor.

Giddy about our seats. Is this really happening?

Mumford and Sons opened with a great set of some of their biggest hits. This was just the icing on the cake, as they are also a band that I like a lot.

The videography for  U2's concert set was incredible. Breathtaking. The people they have running the show behind the scenes must be a highly skilled and talented group of people. It was hard to tear my eyes away from the screen to look at the little figures of those four musicians on the stage. Even if I had been disappointed with the songs (which I wasn't) or with the words spoken (again, not), the spectacle of lights and video were enough to make the evening memorable.

But feeling like a teenager again... that was the most priceless part. I'm still wishing I could relive that day over again even though I'm typing this up 7 months later (gotta love that post-dating feature that blogger has!).