Sunday, December 28, 2008


"Before I was aware of it, Tookoolito had the 'tea-kettle' over the friendly fire-lamp, and the water boiling. She asked me if I drank tea. Imagine my surprise at this, the question coming from an Esquimaux in an Esquimaux tent! I replied, 'I do; but you have not tea here, have you?' Drawing her hand from a little tin box, she displayed it full of fine-flavoured black tea, saying, 'Do you like your tea strong?' Thinking to spare her the use of much of this precious article away up here, far from the land of civilization, I replied,'I'll take it weak, if you please.' A cup of hot tea was soon before me - capital tea, and capitally made. Taking from my pocket a sea-biscuit which I had brought from the vessel for my dinner, I shared it with my hostess. Seeing she had but one cup, I induced her to share with me it's contents. There, amid the snows of the north, under an Esquimaux's hospitable tent, in company with an Esquimaux, for the first time I shared with them in that soothing, cheering, invigorating emblem of civilization - T-E-A-!"
Being a narrative of an expedition in search of John Franklin, 1860-1862
by Charles Francis Hall

Friday, December 26, 2008


This morning at about 8 o'clock Henry made his first attempt to crow.
Illustration by Randolph Caldecott

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Image from Agence Eureka.
Go see some very funny animated dancers at Elliot Cowan's Sandwichbag. Well, it makes me laugh.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bring Out Your Dead

On mild days in winter, such as we've just had, the bees have a bit of a clear out. And one mustn't be too alarmed to see a pile of a few hundred dead bodies lying outside the front door of the hive. After all, in mid-summer they die (and are born) at a rate of 1000 a day. They just don't all expire at once. In a heap. In full view.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mrs.Snooke's Tortoise

December 17th, 1774 - 'Mrs. Snooke's tortoise, after it had been buried more than a month, came forth & wandered round the garden in a disconsolate state, not knowing where to fix on a spot for it's retreat.'
Listen out for 'The Portrait of a Tortoise', a Hooting Yard holiday season special on ResonanceFM to be broadcast 12:20 on Boxing Day. I know that I will be tucked up in front of the radio with a turkey sandwich and a cup of tea for the occasion.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Good Bees

"In the first edition of my book, I reproduced numerous photographs of all the annual beekeeping activities, including driving bees from a skep, a job that ends in hitting it with sticks. Now it can be seen from these photos that there are bees in the hive in question; that the operators are wearing neither gloves nor a veil; that they have as their sole weapon a modest Bingham smoker; and finally, at the foot of each open hive, there is my dog sitting peacefully, my dear friend Polo, a cocker spaniel with long ears and long hair, ie. it has everything needed for just one bee to create mayhem if it was dissatisfied... Thus, bees are not bad by nature." Abbé Warré

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Bar Hives

The bees are out and about today enjoying the 12° temperature. Michael @ Articles & Texticles just sent me this link to a TED talk on the plight of the bees. In summary, Mr.vanEngelsdorp would like to encourage anyone with a lawn to turn it into a meadow and then take up beekeeping. Sounds reasonable to me. But I've been reading some more interesting ideas on sustainable beekeeping here and here. Smaller hives, more swarms, and less interference, allowing the possibility for the bees to be able to evolve in a way that they can coexist with varroa - which they have done elsewhere. In India, the grubs emerge from their sealed cell 2 days earlier than ours do, which means that any varroa in the cell with them don't have time enough to reproduce. I will build some small top bar hives this winter following the design developed by Abbé Emile Warré and perhaps have three or four smaller colonies going by the end of next summer. An English translation of his book 'Beekeeping for All' can be downloaded free here (with plans!).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Saint of the Day

"Rain and inclement winds, the mists of the morning, the ambushes laid by a hastening twilight, carry off hundreds of workers who never return; and soon, over the whole little people, that are as eager for sunshine as the grasshoppers of Attica, there hangs the cold menace of winter. They gather in the centre of the hive, contract themselves, and cling to the combs that contain the faithful urns, whence shall issue, during days of frost, the transmuted substance of summer. By the concerted beating of their wings - the little sisters that have survived the flames of the summer sun - which go quickly or slowly as the temperature without may vary, they maintain in their sphere an unchanging warmth, equal to that of a day in spring." (a 35° day, that is!)
The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck

Ambrosius - patron saint of beekeepers

Friday, December 05, 2008


Rather disconcertingly, the rooster is starting to bear more than a passing resemblance to Peter Stringfellow. And he started out looking so handsome, but that's probably what Mrs. Stringfellow said about her little boy.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Tomato Collection 2008

Here are this past summer's varieties - from the most flavoursome to the least.
As always, click on photo to enlarge.