-Posted by Isaac
I was a freshman. About 30 years ago, sweating in Ms. Riley’s typing class, frustrated with life in general, but particularly stifled at that moment with the damned keyboard. No AC, dripping sweat on the keys… and I was a horrible typer. I had a window seat, which only helped to further distract me. So many times I would lose contact while the class clattered on. I’d sit and stare. About a mile in the distance stood a lone tree. It was down the long lane leading back to the Knecht farm, and I remember feeling proud that I knew it was a catalpa. No Ms. Riley, I’ll never reach 40 words per minute… but I by God, know my trees!
On the coldest day of the century thus far, the one with -30 wind chills, I drove down my parents’ long lane to check on things. I’ve probably passed that tree a thousand times without ever remembering, but this time, for whatever reason, there it was: the lone catalpa from Ms. Riley’s typing class.
Out there just laughing at the cold.
I hope that it’s standing out there for my grandkids’ fleeting memories.
We hit a benchmark this week, didn’t we? A benchmark for cold.
I know that it’s pretty bad when people are texting their worries and concerns about the bees. No less than five people contacted me with inquiries over how the bees were faring. Jayne got a few questions also.
My less-than-reassuring response: Don’t know. I guess we’ll find out this weekend.
But I do know this- It was a very slow week at the farmstand.
C’on man! Are you guys going to let a slightly below average wind chill keep you from your honey?? Toughen up!
Like it or not, this week we got to experience the nastiest of the nasty. It lived up to the hype. Cold and snow and wind that would take your breath away. Full days of negative temps. Double digit wind chills. How could anything, a tree, a human, much less a honey bee survive through this?
School was closed, of course. Three days. I guess I’m thankful for the distraction. It’s hard to worry over bees when you’re required to serve up chocolate chip pancakes.
Looking back, I think I handled the record lows surprisingly well. I shrugged. I put on my work clothes…
…and went skating.
The bees could be dying in mass, but oh well, there were more pressing things to worry about…
…like falling down.
Jayne and I got to play the role of entertainers.
Katie and Lafe held the fort down.
But continually in the back of my mind was the gnawing thought over the plight of the bees. Would they pull through? What will I find when I start popping lids? Will it be a percentage thing? A war of attrition?
In the winter of ‘13/’14 it got bad. Before the warm days finally came around, we had lost 70%. And that winter I don’t think it ever quite reached the nastiness that we saw this week. Granted, this was a short time, but still… how bad was it going to be?
Most of the year, in fact I’d say about 99% of the time, you can look in a beehive and pretty much know what to expect. As in, you know that you’re going to see living bees.
Not the case after a polar vortex.
There’s just no telling what you’re going to see. I remember stomping through snow, popping lids in the cold of 2014. I thought about Schrodinger’s cat. Hmm… let’s try this one… alive or dead?… Is it even 50/50? This one is alive, but oh, here’s a dead one… Maybe this one is alive and dead…. What if I wait a few seconds? Will it change the outcome?
If I’ve lost you, if you’ve somehow forgotten your particle physics, here’s a short refresher:
Confusing, isn’t it? I know. And I used to talk about this stuff daily. To my freshmen in fact, right across the hall from Ms. Riley’s old room. The point being, in beekeeping, much like quantum mechanics, it can at times look like a crap shoot.
However, as the years roll on, I have noticed one trend with this post-polar vortex popping of lids— I’m doing better. The universe is conspiring in my favor. Meaning, I’m seeing many more living hives. In fact, yesterday, taking the kids to the sled hill, I couldn’t help myself. I pulled into a bee yard and started checking. We had ourselves a little intermission. It was in the yard pictured above. 17 hives sit up on a levy, so they must’ve taken the full brunt of wind and cold. I was prepared for the worst.
We checked ten of them, Mason, Bridger and I, quickly cracking the lid and peering down in. And what do you think we found? Drum roll… ten for ten! Alive! The universe has smiled on us! It’s not random after all! It’s just a matter of doing more things right in 2018 than I did in 2013…
That, and the fact that bees are pretty darn tough. Just like that old catalpa, they laugh at the cold.
It was a load off my shoulders. I have to assume that the odds are in my favor with the next 500 or so. I’ll try to make it around next week.
It put me in such a good mood, we treated ourselves to junk food after the sledding. We were warming by the fire and little Eden came up with her own thought experiment involving quantum randomness. Probing the very fabric of nature itself, she asked, “Why do I have to poop?”
Go on, Baby, tell me…
“Well, I’ve been drinking this pop the whole time, and it should make me have to pee. But instead, I have to poop.”
Wow, now that’s random! And pretty deep for a four year old, I have to say.