So many Bees!

I have seen nearly every bee in our care today, probably 200,000 or so, and it has quite literally made my head all buzzy. Thank goodness I am not a commercial beekeeper!

I even saw bees belonging to the second hive to join our Bee holiday camp as we settled them in at Barsham. They were a little annoyed (not the exact description given by their owner, but much more polite) at the disruption and were really quite loud. As I lifted the travelling screen from the top of the super, the bees on the underside all turned as one towards the same corner and marched. They were buzzing so much they were blurry to look at and the vibration travelling through my arms was quite intense, something I will never forget.

Superhive was generally looking good although they were rather cross today, they also looked as though they were starting on their stores – it is time to feed them. Maybe that’s why they were a little grumpy.
In fact I garnered my first sting, on my thigh, but managed to get some smoke on my leg and no more followed. Hugh wasn’t so lucky and was attacked behind his knees in particular, goodness knows why…

Meanwhile over at Flixton – Frank Hive has increased it’s stores but is still a small colony, no Queen seen today. Betty Hive only had 2 Queen cells, has increased it’s stores and Bluey was seen. Edith Hive was literally a hive of activity, lovely friendly bees, Queen not seen but lots of eggs present. We also put mouseguards on and Gemma took the feeders for cleaning. We have a few more weeks before we need to decide how to manage the 2 smaller colonies over the winter, as 2 units or 1 amalgamated one.

Give and Take: Thank you!

In the next few days there will be a more detailed post about the Give and Take day last Saturday; this is just a short note to thank everyone who helped organise, volunteered on the day or just came and joined in.

So, thank you Eloise, Kris and David for using your own vehicles to collect and deliver larger items, Nick for supplying some muscle on those rounds, Kate for taking the lead and organising the whole thing, Ray and the Chaucer Club for all their help and generosity, Margaret, Daphne, Kris, Eloise, Elinor, Nick, Mark, Charlotte, Cathy, Richard, Paul and no doubt many others for helping on the door, arranging items as they came in, explaining how the Give and Take works, putting up posters and spreading the word.

And of course a big thank you to everyone who brought something along, took something away (or did both).

We recorded pretty much everything that came in through the door – three big van loads, a pick-up full, a few packed cars, a loaded tricycle trailer and countless boxes and bags on foot – the figures aren’t in yet but last time we moved 10 tonnes of ‘stuff’: it looks like it will be pretty close to that this year too.

Shift Together – Transition Rap (SB Version)

I wrote these words mostly on the bus to Norwich via Lowestoft some weeks ago. The song had its first outing at our Big Meeting on August 1st where it enjoyed a positive reception and we all joined in with the music. Due to popular request here is the tailored and updated version:

Shift Together – Transition Rap (Mostly Sustainable Bungay Version)
lyrics by Mark Watson
sung to the tune of ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles

We run on chip fat, we down
Shifting quickly, she got
low carbon gumboot, we got
Handmade beehive
We say grow your own and
Plant for bees
Our soap’s biproduct glycerine
And we wash when we please

He pushing pedals, he got
Roadshow genny,we got
Solstice sunrise, he make
Medicine jelly, she say
Blog and blog and blog in threes
Got to be Transition
Coming up from our knees

Shift together, right now
It’s in the we

She on the network, we got
No-spam filter, we got
Neighbourhood plug-in, we do
Group newsletter, we say
Meet, greet, eat and
Set the scene
Got to be where we are and
Know where we’ve been

Shift together, right now
It’s more than green

We stitch up old sock, we do
Library courtyard, we swap
Local home-grown, we start
Old Spot pig club
We say you and you and you and me
Let’s forage in the the hedgerows and
Eat roots, shoots and seeds

We own production, we got
Sweet jar banknotes, we got
Solar panel, we know
Birch sap tapper, we say
Give and take and take the lead
Join the dots together and
Share what you don’t need

Shift together, right now (oh yeah)
Sow the seeds

Bee Holiday Camp

We have an additional hive of bees with us at Flixton, they are on holiday while their keeper, Hugh (a Bungay Bee Group member), has the ‘oh so onerous’ task of visiting Southern Africa during our winter months. The super-duper looking hive complete with sloping roof and landing board makes Betty and Frank look like dowdy cousins! To reflect her poshness the new hive is called Edith.

Edith arrived on Saturday to a small but keen welcome committee. Unfortunately the bees weren’t particularly happy about the relocation process and a few escapees made their feelings clear by giving Hugh some more stings to add to his not inconsiderable collection (As an aside – Gemma also discovered to Hugh’s cost that it is almost impossible to remove a sting whilst wearing leather gauntlets, rather, it just gets mushed in whilst continuing to cause pain).

We also had a look in the Betty and Frank Hives to see what was happening. After we thought the blue marked Queen in Betty had made her way to bee heaven she was spotted wandering around full of life. So, are there two Queens laying – Bluey and an inexperienced one, or has Bluey been having a funny 5 minutes and laying more than one egg in a cell? This hive appears to be getting less docile and are still creating Queen cells like mad, two with eggs in and one with larvae. We squidged all but two Queen cells and will wait to see what happens next time. As it is getting towards the end of the bee year we will probably try to overwinter Bluey and decide whether or not to cull her next Spring.

Frank Hive continues to plod along with eggs present but yet again no Queen spotted, perhaps the blue paint has been licked off making her more difficult to find as she is quite small for a Queen.

Superhive at Barsham had drawn out another comb in the super box and is filling it with nectar/honey. Eggs were present, although fewer than last time. I forgot to take the plastic spacers with me so we were unable to swap the castellated super for an uncastellated one in our ‘brood and a half’ system. It’s really difficult to lift the frames for viewing when you can’t create any space by sliding them along, we tend to work in a pair – lifting one out each in turn, but it isn’t ideal.

Opening Bungay Library Courtyard Community Garden

We  will hold an Opening Ceremony for the Library Courtyard on Sunday September 19th at Noon, and would be especially pleased to see those connected with the Bungay Society, Town Trust, Town Council, and Three Willows Cafe, as well as individuals who have contributed, or simply the curious – all welcome.

Latest development is planting out of fruit trees – thanks to Paul Jackson for his most recent efforts.

Anyone wishing to take part in a working party at the library over the weekend of September 11th/12th please email; with availability.


Two of our Bungay Community Bees members have been – and continue to be – busy researching the relationship between bees and flowers. Initially they are building a picture of plants useful to bees for nectar, pollen and propolis, placing them within the bee year. Next year we hope to publish an actual bee ‘calendar’ encompassing both wild and cultivated plants to enable us to use these plants in our gardens for maximum benefit to bees.

Charlotte has written an inspirational piece for the Transition Norwich blog about shifting our consciousness to be aware of the bees and flowers about us, linking in with the ‘transition’ concept of resilience. It can be found at ‘Flowermind’ on 10th August 2010.

Queens, Queens, Queens!

The wasps are now becoming a problem and we watched guard bees attacking them at the entrance of one of the Flixton hives, it’s time to put the entrance block back underneath the mouseguard on the Barsham Superhive.

We now have yet more dilemmas, keeping bees is certainly not a straightforward business. The two Flixton Hives (Frank and Betty?) were our first stop last week on my reluctant return from holiday. Betty Hive had seven Queen cells, all containing eggs or larvae, one of which was sealed. The bees in this hive seem determined to supercede their Queen, but we don’t know why – are they unhappy with her? Or are they just confused?

The existing Queen was there, helpfully displaying her blue paint – surely she can’t be condoning all this Queen cell activity? So should we leave well alone and see what they do, or squidge all the Queen cells – knowing we have an egg-laying Queen, or squidge all but one Queen cell just in case they do need a new Queen? In the end we decided to leave everything alone for this week and look again in a weeks’ time. In the meantime both Flixton hives are being fed sugar syrup and Bee Vital to encourage them to build up some stores.

After that rather perplexing visit we looked in the ‘Superhive’ at Barsham which is ticking along really well, we even spotted our beautiful Queen and suddenly all my disgruntlement at returning from holiday vanished.

Library Courtyard Progress Report (VI)

Friday 31st July and the topsoil was delivered – tipped onto the forecourt by way of a kind donation from V C Cooke of Ellough – 4 tons of the stuff to move into the raised beds. Happily there was an enthusiatic team of volunteers ready and waiting with shovels and wheelbarrows. Coley came along and helped us remove (and refit) the decorative iron panel so access was much easier and within a few hours the job was done: Dozens of sacks of lovely 15-year-old manure (c/o Steve and Joy of Mulberry Mill Stud) was incorporated with the topsoil, and finally tamped down by vigorous stomping including a wonderful demonstration of pogoing by Mark in the centre raised bed, as he wailed an X-Ray-Spex number to the amusement of everyone (and bemusement of passers by). Thanks to all who came along and soon we’ll begin planting out and deciding the next steps toward completion. A glimpse of what the bench seating will be like was provided by Paul Jackson cutting and fitting a length of rustic oak plank which was curved ideally to fit into the recess of the circular bed. [pictures below courtesy of Mark & Charlotte]

We would like to thank Iain Huggins and members of Bungay Town Trust who have pledged a £500 grant towards the project.

Hard Labour

I published this post on This Low Carbon Life (the Transition Norwich community blog) yesterday (Saturday 31st July). Here it is verbatim.

When the first rains fell
we did what was necessary
we climbed down from our lofty thoughts
and began to work the fields

(from ‘Poor Memory’ by Alberto Blanco, trans. Mark Shafer)

Some weeks ago I met a woman on a bicycle just outside the village of Uggeshall, a few miles from where I live. She was born and raised there, has a garden orchard and sells her apples and jams outside her gate. She told me she remembered the moment when practical jobs and skills started to be looked down on in favour of adminstrative and office work, which was about the time she left school. We were roughly the same age. I am 48.

I was born in London, and grew up in High Wycombe on a council estate. My dad was a car mechanic and my mum cleaned offices and worked in shops. My dad also repaired wind instruments as a sideline, and built our kitchen cabinets himself from wooden fruit crates. My maternal uncles, who like my mum had emigrated from Ireland in the 50s, spent their lives laying bricks on building estates in London.

I passed my ‘twelve plus’ exams and went to grammar school. The last thing I wanted to do was work with my hands. I didn’t know how to do it and I didn’t want to know. I couldn’t wait to grow up and move back to London, which I did, where I worked in television and then studied for a degree in languages.

Yesterday, eight of us from Sustainable Bungay turned up to shovel five tons of earth and compost into the new raised beds and borders at the Library Courtyard Garden. I met Paul (‘Coley’) the bricklayer for the first time. You can see his fine work in the photos.

In all we were there for about four hours. It was hard, physical work, made lighter by the fact we were doing it together, for something that the library courtyard group, led by Nick, has been planning and working on for over a year now. All the negotiations with the librarians, organising a permaculture weekend, a community consultation, the design meetings, sourcing the bricks, soil, manure, plants and trees and transporting them, finding a willing bricklayer. All this and more with the inevitable delays, frustrations and disappointments – WOULD THIS PROJECT EVER HAPPEN?

“Transition is a white, middle-class movement,” is a criticism I hear all the time. But like the famous “We’re all middle class now,” it appears to be saying something when really it acts as a conversation stopper or sends us running off to see how ‘we’ can change how we’re perceived.

The fact is whatever class we are from, when we float around with our ‘lofty thoughts’ and opinions and don’t get down to the actual work, others unseen, mostly somewhere else but sometimes in the same house or group, will be picking up the tab. Doing the hard graft, the cleaning, the mining, the building, the paperwork, the phone calls, the communicating, the organising, the donkey work.

For Transition to work we all have to pull our weight.

Pics: Sustainable Bungay Shifting and Tamping Down Soil at the Library Courtyard Garden; Wheeling Barrows and Raking