A few weeks ago, in the midst of the spring nectar flow, with queen cells popping up everywhere, BeeMan decided to split a hive using some of the unwanted queen cells. The three other hives, with more room to grow and no longer honey-bound, resumed laying eggs and all is well.
Honey-bound is when the bees are so busy bringing nectar and pollen to the hive that there is no room for baby bees. The solution for the bees is to swarm. BeeMan averted the swarm by adding more boxes with frames and by providing empty frames in the queen box for the queen to lay eggs.. Having no longer a need to swarm, the queen would kill off any pretenders to the throne. And then, she would resume laying.
And that is what happened. The three original hives are busily filling the frames with brood and honey.
The split, however, never managed to produce a queen. BeeMan surmises that the queen cells he gave them were not viable. The queen from the original hive may have stung them before he created new hive. Why does he think this? He had taken a couple of queen cells back to the house and opened them. They were not alive.
Today’s mission in the bee yard was two-fold: recombine the split with its original hive and check to see if honey is ready to be harvested.
Combining the hives was pretty simple. Put the queen-less box on top of the original hive. Ah, but not that simple. The new bees in the original hive will not recognize the bees that had left. To make for a happy transition, a layer of newspaper goes between the two boxes. The bees will get used to their smells as they eat through the paper and become one big family.
And what about the bees who were out foraging when the hives were combined? They come back home to discover that home is not where they left it!
BeeMan says they hopefully will smell their group and find their way to the right hive. I certainly hope so!
As for the honey harvest, one large honey box on the third hive is ready to go! The other two hives have filled out frames but have not capped all the honey cells yet. We plan to go back into the third hive later this week for the first box of honey.
What’s the rush? Usually we wait until the end of July, but with a bear lurking in the area, we want to be sure the honey ends up in our tummies, not his!
Bear print on our property. Photo by Rich DeMarco.
Maywood is in its glory as the May woods blossom with tulip poplars, black locust, and wild roses. The bees have already had their fill of red maple and skunk cabbage and purple dead nettle, a pretty purple-flowering ground cover that brought in bright red pollen.
Yesterday we went in to the bees for the first time in a month and discovered exactly what we found this time a year ago–queen cells, drone cells, capped brood but no larva, and no visible queen.
A year ago, at the beginning of the rainiest year ever in Maryland, the condition of the hives sent us into a near panic. These were brand new nucs. Had we gotten poor queens–again? We did some quick research and managed to avoid two swarms while getting, in the process, a third hive by creating a split with some frames containing queen cells. What the heck, if it didn’t work, we would still have our two hives. But it did work, and the three hives made it not only through the summer, but through the winter, too! This was the first winter in years that we brought all the hives through the winter.
Last year, the rainy weekends kept us from keeping a closer check on the hives. This year it was a combination of rain, cold, and Mother’s Day that kept us away. At our April check, BeeMan put queen excluders and honey boxes on the three hives, happy that the bees had plenty of room to expand.
Hive A, the only hive with its original queen, had been thriving the least of the three. In April we saw the queen (that I had beautifully marked in green last year!) and lots of active laying, but they had done the least to fill up the hive. So, yesterday, we were dismayed to not find her. Hives B and C had lots of baby bees in progress last month, even though we did not see their (as yet unmarked) queens.
Green dot marks last year’s queen
While we inspected Hive A, a queen cell broke as BeeMan pulled out a frame. Out emerged a brand new queen, not that we recognized her at first. She ended up with some other bees in my plastic tub with the burr comb I’m saving. We were almost ready to close up the hive when I got a better look at her.
“Hey, I think this is a queen!”
Sure enough, the young virgin queen with her slender abdomen was wandering around the plastic tub. (Kind of like humans, the women are slender until they get fat with babies and stay that way forever. The queen gets one wild fling a mile up in the air with all the drones she can handle, and then she is just an egg-laying machine, confined to the hive to reproduce for the rest of the life. She doesn’t even get a career.)
The young queen was easy to trap and mark and plop back into the hive. Alas, I still only have the one green marking pen, so both the old queen and the new queen wear green dots. The new queen has a more delicate dot, since I did a better job this year. So, are there two queens in the hive about to fight to the death? Or just the new one? Our next hive check may tell.
Peanut shaped thing hanging off the bottom of the frame is a queen cell
Hive B was very active and full and looking more like it wanted to swarm than to replace a queen. The top box was all honey, so we were assured that the queen was in the bottom box when the excluder went on. BeeMan decided to make a split, taking two frames with queen and brood cells, two frames with honey/nectar, and three empty frames to start a new hive. He will add more empty frames soon. There are still queen cells in the original hives but since we did not see the queen, we were afraid to destroy them. He added another honey box so they have more room.
Hive C was also very active and looking more swarm ready. BeeMan, on a hunch that the queen was probably still in there, got rid of all the queen cells and added another honey box.
The advantage of having several hives is being able to try different things and see what works. We learned a lot last year. Let’s hope that we learned enough!
I took this photo because a student bought a painting of it. Came home to realize that I bought the same scene three years ago!
We were dining in Montmartre when the news broke that Notre Dame was on fire. Almost instantly, our phones began dinging with texts from back home.
“Notre Dame is on fire!”
“Where are you? Are you ok?”
Concern for our well-being came with snarky comments, too: “Was John smoking cigars in the restroom at Notre Dame?”
“We are fine! We did not do it!”
After dinner, we made our way to the steps of Sacre Coeur, the highest point in Paris, where we joined many others in dismay to watch the glow of a historical treasure burning into the night. We stayed up there until 11:00 p.m. to give our group their first glimpse of the twinkling Tour Eiffel, but the Tour Eiffel did not twinkle that night.
Notre Dame as seen from the steps at Sacre Coeur. Photo by Addison Mueller, a student on our tour.
Our initial fear for the structure of the cathedral gave way to concern for the bees of Notre Dame. We knew that three hives were kept on the roof of Notre Dame, but the roof was now gone! Fortunately, the hives were not kept on the very top of the cathedral (that would be a bit difficult to manage!), but rather, thirty meters lower on roof of the sacristy on the north side of the cathedral. The sacristy did not burn; however, Notre Dame beekeeper Nicholas Geant had concern for the temperature near the hives. The bees would be doomed by melting wax as much as by flame.https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/19/europe/notre-dame-bees-fire-intl-scli/index.html
Miraculously, the bees were not harmed by flame, heat, or water. Drone footage and video by those with access to the roof show the bees zipping hither and yon as usual. (Now the question is when the beekeeper will be permitted to tend to the hives. Spring is a very busy time for beekeepers as well as bees!)
The fire at Notre Dame affected, but did not diminish, our trip. We had planned to attend a Tenebrae service on Holy Thursday. Instead, we took our group to see the magnificent stained glass at Sainte Chapelle, built in the 13th century to house the Crown of Thorns relic which was rescued from the burning Notre Dame.
Streets near Notre Dame were blocked and some metro stops were closed, which made getting to dinner in the Latin Quarter less direct, but we had only one glitch, when our guide had us going the wrong direction on the metro! Good thing our group knew to follow the listing of metro stops posted on the train!
“Hey, Bibi! Aren’t we going the wrong way?”
“Oh! Yes! We are! Everyone off at the next stop!”
And just like that, our group of twenty-three hopped off and turned around to go toward the Latin Quarter. At dinner, our waiter told us of the cinders that fell just outside the restaurant when the spire of Notre Dame crashed in flames.
Our Seine River cruise detoured to avoid making its usual circuit around Notre Dame on Ile St. Louis, but we still got plenty of photos of a now-twinkling Tour Eiffel.
But amidst all the usual touristy stops, Beekeeper John and Beekeeper Wife Me were in search of honey. Our first stop, at the Opéra Garnier, yielded nothing. The honey from the hives on the roof of the Opéra had sold out quickly after last summer’s harvest.
Opéra Garnier, home of the Phantom of the Opéra and some beehives
We had more success in Giverny at Monet’s Gardens. John found a sticky jar of Normandy honey in the gift shop. I gave him grief for selecting a sticky jar, but he assured me that all the jars were sticky. Ah, what a homey touch! (I would have wiped the jars before selling them in a gift shop!)
Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny
My coup came at the unlikeliest of places–the Paris Catacombs. My students had added this to our itinerary and waited patiently–and even happily–in line for three and a half hours–yes, 3.5 hours–to climb down and up over 200 steps to see the bones of 6 million Parisians arranged in artistic patterns. The drama teacher sang creepy stage songs and multiple students simultaneously played their cellphone recording of another student’s laughter for a frighteningly good creepy atmosphere.
The Catacombs of Paris
We emerged from the Paris underworld and entered the gift shop, which was full of ghoulish humor and plenty of skulls on tee shirts, mugs, posters, magnets, you name it. And there it was…Le Miel de Paris! Paris honey from the beehives of Les Invalides gardens, L’Ecole Militaire, and the Musée D’Orsay. Sweetness, for sure! I was even willing to pay eighteen euros for the tiny jar.
Some people wonder why we would buy honey in Giverny and Paris when we have our own honey at home. It has to do with terroir. Just as wines vary not just by grape but by the environment in which they are grown, every honey tastes different. This French-teaching beekeeper wife came home from Paris with three new scarves, four new kitchen magnets, two jars of French honey, and a sigh of relief that the bees still buzz at Notre Dame.
I recently gifted a dear sister-in-law with two homemade beeswax candles. This has prompted her to do a blog post about beeswax candles. And that has been a major kick in the pants for me to share my candle adventure here.
Making candles is so easy! Just melt and pour.
It took me over a year to make two lovingly gifted candles. It took about an hour to make the actual candles but a year of research and development to create the plan.
It begins with beeswax. I could buy beeswax pastilles online, but I wanted to use the wax from our own bees.
But first, I had to purify the beeswax. Normally, purifying the beeswax takes an evening. I melt wax from our hives in a pot of water, and a lovely disk of cool wax is ready for me in the morning. However, I have begun purifying it twice, because the second go-round results in a much cleaner wax. Cleaning it twice takes longer, but once the wax is clean, it can be stored indefinitely and is ready for making candles and lip balm. You can see how I clean my beeswax here.
The Candle Recipe
With clean wax ready to use, I needed to decide on a candle recipe. Pure beeswax candles would be awesome, but I had a limited supply of beeswax. And until we have more success with our beehives, that supply will continue to be limited. So, I chose to blend two parts beeswax to one part coconut oil. I used processed coconut oil because I did not want coconut to compete with the naturally sweet smell of beeswax. For that same reason, I chose not to add any fragrance to my candles.
Starting simple, I planned to make votives. I have more than a bazillion votive holders leftover from three daughters’ weddings. In addition, my aforementioned dear sister-in-law gifted me with about a hundred Yoplait Oui! jars last Thanksgiving. I do not lack for jars, but which jars would be best for my candles? I picked the Yoplait jars because I was planning to give some to my sister-in-law who, as you may have guessed, is addicted to Yoplait Oui! yogurt and the cute little jars. (For her clever ideas, you can visit her blog Now That You Are Home.)
The most important factor in producing a good candle was to determine what size wick I needed for the jars. This is where R&D got serious. I ordered a sample pack of wicks from CandleScience.com. The Candle Science website had helpful information about choosing the right wick size. The extremely helpful information said, “It’s hard to give accurate wick recommendations for Beeswax.” But they offered a sampler pack of ECO pre-tabbed wicks to practice with and the advice that beeswax, burning more slowly, will require bigger wicks than paraffin or soy wax do.
So, with a sample pack of wicks and a variety of jars laid out in a grid on a paper bag, I melted the 2/3 beeswax-1/3 coconut oil in a double boiler that is reserved exclusively for playing with wax. That took about 45 minutes. Then I poured the hot wax into wicked jars. That part was wicked easy.
The Test Burn
A very important step came next–test burning the candles. If the wick is too big, the candle will burn too fast. It the wick is too small, the candle will not burn fast enough and the flame could drown in a pool of melted wax. Another problem with a too-small wick is “tunneling.” Tunneling happens when the wax does not melt to the edges of the container, so the candle melts down into a hole in the center of the jar with wax still along the sides. The proper size wick should result in a lovely pool of melted wax to the edges of the container after a two hour burn.
We dined by candlelight that night of the test burn. Although the candles were systematically laid out on the kitchen island in rows labeled by jar and wick size, the science experiment still cast a romantic ambience over the room.
All did not go as planned. I ran out of wax before getting to the correct jar with the correct wick size. All the candles had wicks that were too small.
I melted some of the candles again and tried with the largest wicks in my sample pack. It seemed to be a tie between the ECO 12 and the ECO 14 wicks. I decided to go with the ECO 12.
Being an optimist, I ordered 100 wicks. (Add that to the list of things my daughters will be tossing when I’m dead.)
I made another, smaller, batch of candles with this year’s wax. The yield was four Yoplait Oui! jars.
And I think the wick is too small.
And I think that the Yoplait jar is not the best choice for my candles. A straight-sided votive would burn better. And I probably should use a smaller jar. The 4 oz. Yoplait jar is about the same size as a small Yankee tumbler.
Next year, I will try a narrower jar and/or the ECO 14 wick.
But I would also like to try to find the right wick for a pure beeswax burn.
As though bags of cucumbers and bushloads of tomatoes aren’t enough to deal with the week before heading back to school, we just discovered some amazing gourmet mushrooms growing along our driveway. These aren’t the cute little morrels that John found where the ginko trees used to grow. These babies are enormous.
Hen of the woods or black staining polypore?
The first is growing near the mailbox. We contacted our chef buddy who contacted his mushroom buddy who believed that we have a hen of the woods. Mushroom connoisseurs go crazy over these. One hen-lover makes special lasagna with it—one to eat now and one to freeze for later. Hen of the woods mushrooms grow at the base of dead oak trees. Sure enough, this one is at the base of a dead oak tree, and two more are growing on the other side of the tree. The hen is a fall mushroom and can be found as early as late August after heavy rain. It is not quite mid-August here but it has been unusually cool and wet…as our flooded basement can attest to. They often re-appear in the same location year after year. Hmm. So maybe we now have a morrel location in the spring and a hen of the woods location for the fall?
Or do we have a black staining polypore? The black staining polypore turns black where you touch it or cut it. Growing under the oak tree, this mushroom is beautifully white on the underside and does not turn black when we touch it. However, once it is harvested and sitting in the mudroom, it immediately begins to turn and the cut edges are definitely black. The polypore’s season is July and August. It has a wonderful earthy fragrance, more intense than a portobello. While not as exquisite as the hen, it is edible and freezable, even in its blackened state.
Walking back to the ‘shroom for more photos, I spotted another mushroom along the drive. After having researched the hen, I was pretty sure I was now spotting a chicken! A chicken of the woods mushroom.
Chicken of the woods
Chicken of the woods has been described as tasting like…ready? Chicken. Or crab or lobster. Our new mushroom friend recently dipped hers in egg and flour and fried it for a heavenly meal that even her ten year old step-son liked.
I thought we were having hamburgers for dinner tonight with a slice of tomato and home-made pickle. Looks like the menu is changed to mushroom surprise. It’s a surprise because I haven’t decided which one to cook first or how I want it prepared. I also have to decide what to do with what we don’t eat.
This is feeling like Part One of a mushroom series. And I haven’t even gotten to the intriguing topic of cucumber chips.
Stayed tuned. And if back-to-school side-tracks me, then you’ll just have to nag. I have a feeling we will be dealing with the bounty of the land for quite awhile.
Post-dinner update: guess what? The chicken of the woods tastes like chicken! We cooked it up using a recipe from Forager Chef and it was like eating chicken tenders. Once we’ve waited 48 hours to not die from the chicken, John plans to saute up some of the other. I really deserve a prize for being a supportive wife.
Not yet 8 a.m. Vacation Man heads to the beach to set up camp for the day. He’s not the first. He has been spurred to action by another Vacation Dad hauling beach gear down the street. Yesterday, he set out after eight and barely found a good spot. Today, while he claims his turf, the procession of Vacation Dads begins, probably spurred on by seeing him. Half a dozen WonderWheelers lumber down the street. Not on the sidewalk, mind you, but down the middle of the street. It is that early. They rumble and creak, piled with chairs and umbrellas and boogie boards.
Toys and towels will come later, with the women and children. But we are hours away from that. Lifeguards won’t report for duty for another two hours. Sleepy-eyed children are still slurping cereal while watching cartoons. Comatose moms nurse their coffee. Early risers are just now coming home from their runs, coffee and even newspapers in hand.
But Vacation Dads are out providing for their families.
A good beach position is important. You want to be juuuuuuust beyond the high tide line, at the crest of the rise of soft, fluffy sand. Not only does this put you in front position, but this is where the breezes are best. For families with young children, this position enables parents to supervise children from their beach chairs. If they are too far back, some parents will still try to supervise their children from their chairs, but their cries of supervision can only be heard by the annoyed adults sitting around them.
Yesterday, it went something like this. Little Dillon (never saw the boy in my life but I know his name now like I know my own) wanted his cousin/aunt/young female adult person who was used to doing his bidding to come out of the water and tend to him. He is maybe four years old.
“Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!…Emma, I need you!” He shouted this over and over and over and over again. Louder and louder and louder. But still, his little voice did not reach Emma, who was rolicking in the waves with other young ladies her age. We (and the couple next to us) could hear him because he was sitting in front of us. Mom was behind us, in her chair.
“Dillon! She can’t hear you!” Yeah, well, Dillon couldn’t hear Mom either. “Dillon! Dillon! Dillon! She can’t hear you!” This went on like a recording on repeat.
Oh. My. Gosh. It was all I could do to stay in my seat. I wanted to tell the mom to get off her butt and talk to the boy quietly. Or tell Dillon to quietly wait for Emma to come out of the water. Or even go into the water myself and tell Emma that Dillon needed her.
No, one does not correct other families at the beach, anymore than one gives unsolicited advice to people being attacked by seagulls while eating. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to laugh when a teenage girl’s cry of “Gack!” is followed by “And this is why I hate the beach!”
Beach rules: Don’t correct other families. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Stake out your spot early.
I don’t know that other beaches adhere to the early stake-out rule. It might be unique to the Cape May neighborhood we frequent, where families rent by the week or month and have routines. It reminds me of Baltimore rowhouse neighborhoods during snowstorms. There is no law that says you can stake out your parking spot with lawn chairs just because you shoveled it out. But woe to the obnoxious neighbor who parks in a spot that someone else shoveled.
Like parking spots after snowstorms, people at our Cape May beach generally accept that the early bird gets the prime location. Even if the early bird won’t sit in it for hours. It’s part of the beach culture here. And astute Vacation Dads pick up on this quickly. Is it a desire to keep the Woman happy? Or is it a testosterone-driven competition? Whichever, with every successive day, the WonderWheeler parade gets an earlier start.
Based on the number of prime spots already taken by 7:45, today’s parade must have started at dawn.
Another tree made it onto my hit list this week. It must come down. It has attacked and offended me.
The tree is perfectly healthy. For years it has grown near the corner of our house, sneakily growing taller and reaching smidge by smidge over the driveway toward my car. And then, just as my car approaches its first birthday, the tree begins splotching sap. First, a curious clear sticky blob appears on the driver’s side door handle. Then another streaks down the window. Blip and blop, sticky patches bloom everywhere. Where is the source of this oozy mess? I look up and see just one possible source…the red maple that now arches all the way across the parking pad. Last summer, when I bought the car, the tree did not reach this far. It did not drip sap on the car last summer. Last summer, it did not offend.
This summer, the tree has crossed the line. Encroaching on the house is bad enough–it encourages the squirrels to find new access points to the attic. But messing with my car? See, Tree, now you have made an Enemy.
Mr. Handyman Husband already has tree-whacking on his To-Do List. He even has Son-in-Law salivating at the prospect of felling some trees. However, there is a waiting list of trees that must come down.
First in line are the two dead oaks out front that suffered a direct lightning hit a few years back. These are the trees causing Son-in-Law to salivate, for standing dead trees mean instant firewood. Standing dead trees also pose the greatest risk of becoming falling dead trees, often in the middle of winter when a tree crashing through the roof is most inconvenient.
Next in line is the perfectly healthy hickory tree on the other side of the driveway. This tree does not drip. It drops hickory nut bombs. Then they roll across the driveway like grenades, ready to pop under the weight of car tires. The car parked beneath the hickory tree belongs to IBM, so Handyman Husband does not care so much if the hickory nuts leave dents all over it. His lovely Ford F-250, however, is an altogether different story. The truck can get muddy, but dents? No tree will ping nut bombs at the truck. So, the hickory tree is next after the dead oaks.
There are easily five or six more trees on The List, but the sap-attack tree takes precedence and immediately earns placement as Tree #4.
“How many trees can you take down at one time?” I ask Handyman Husband.
“We could take several trees down, but then we would have to deal with what is on the ground,” he replies.
He knows what I want. I want all the trees to come down and he can deal with the mess in stages for the rest of his life. I know it is impractical and unsafe and probably beyond human strength. But he’s been doing things for years that have been impractical, unsafe, and beyond human strength. His eye roll lets me know to back off. He can only do what he can do.
In the meantime, I have to deal with tree sap stubborn enough to withstand a high-pressure car wash. A little bit of research provides a quick and easy solution: hand sanitizer! I squirt a bit onto my finger, rub it into the sap to break it up, then wipe with a clean towel. Repeat forty thousand times to hit every single sap drip and voila! Sap is gone. Well, maybe there were twenty drips, not counting the ones on the roof that I can’t see and can’t reach anyway. It didn’t take long at all to remove a week’s worth of tree droppings.
The tree still must die. And I still must wait. But armed with hand sanitizer, I at least do not have to drive around town with tree boogies stuck to my car.
I should have packed eye drops, but I forgot that Colorado air is dry enough to suck out all your eyeball juice. In Colorado, no one says, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” like they do in Baltimore. In Colorado, when it is hot it is dry hot. Sweat doesn’t stick to skin like a wet blanket. No, the air in Colorado is like a hot towel fresh from the dryer. Perspiration wicks right into that hotness, tricking one into thinking it isn’t happening at all. At dinner, I chug two tall glasses of water and realize that I am just as dehydrated in the Dry Land as I am in Sauna Land.
By Day Two, my sinuses are disgustingly crusty, reminding me of a visit to Spain where tour group members from Las Vegas complained about the humidity while Baltimoreans were discretely dealing with dried up bloodied boogers. Ah, but on a brighter side, the tiny persistent patch of maybe-poison ivy is drying up. Too small for a prednisone cure but too stubborn to succumb to over-the-counter cortisone, it seems to have met its match with 20% humidity.
Day Two is also when my body notices that there is hardly any oxygen at 5430 feet. I was born at sea level (ok, maybe fifty feet above, if you allow for whatever floor of the hospital I was on). The altitude of my hometown is 6.9 feet above sea level. I currently live a whopping 689 feet above sea level. I forego hiking today. Instead, I ponder the mysteries of the universe at the planetarium.
By Day Three, I can enjoy the low humidity and oxygen-deprived hike trails all at the same time. I think I am adjusting. I overhear a clerk at McGucken’s Hardware telling a co-worker that she had to move “back down” because her oxygen levels were too low. “Down” in Baltimore refers to “Downy Ocean, Hon” where we rinse our sticky sweaty skin in salt water. In Boulder, it means to come down off the mountains. Yeah, the struggle is real.
I think my eyeballs are drying out. I miss my eyedrops, the ones I use to treat excessive screen time. They are in my other purse, the bigger one, the shoulder breaking one, the one I downsized because I do not need to constantly carry with me stuff for every possible contingency. But dry eyes is a contingency I forgot to plan for.
I did plan for my usual skin care. Still, the little tubes of moisturizer in the hotel that I usually stash as souvenirs in my suitcase to keep in my desk at work? Gone. Every day, my skin soaks up the whole dang tube.
By the time I get semi-used to Rocky Mountain air, it is time to come home. Reentry to Sauna Land is delayed by a band of thunderstorms in Baltimore that prevent our departure from Denver International Airport by an extra two eyeball-sucking hours. We emerge from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport into a slap-in-the-face literal 100% humidity. As we drive home, steam rises from the highway. Closer to rural home, puffs of low lying clouds hover barely overhead, and as we drive through the cornfields on our road, we see that the cloud puffs emerge directly from the field. Rainfall is evaporating but there is no room in the air for it.
The air, full of oxygen and saturated with water, is heavy to breathe. I understand now how my (few and far between) houseplants feel when I finally relieve them of my neglect (all the more desperate since they often sit right by a sink). I am like those dehydrated toy sponges in a capsule that come to life in a bowl of water. Hydrating and blooming, I will be bloated again by morning.
I think of the family from Austin, Texas, that sat next to me on the plane, who had vacationed at Yellowstone and were now visiting friends in Baltimore. They must think they are drowning.
My tag-along trip to Boulder while John is taking a class here got off to a near disastrous start. And by disastrous I mean epic fail, I should have stayed home. But the ticket was bought, and it’s Boulder, so how bad could things be, right?
Premonitions of disaster began when I checked our hotel website. We had stayed there five years ago and it was perfect for me five months after a new hip. The hotel had a pool, beautiful grounds, and backed up to the Boulder Creek walking path. The only downside was that breakfasts were not included and we had to pay extra to get a mini-fridge in our room. Now, the website alerts guests that the pool is closed for repairs. Grrrrrr. Then I read reviews from a month ago that said the main front revolving door was broken, as well as the elevator, and the landscaping consisted of weeds. But we’ve stayed there before and people can be such whiners, you know?
I was working on having a good attitude, when, on our way from the airport to the hotel, our rental car got pinged by two road stones. The windshield looks like the victim of a driveby shooting. The bad vibes on this trip were increasing. (Attempts to reach a human being at Avis have so far been futile.)
We pull up to the hotel and, yes, the “landscaping” consists of weeds. The main revolving door is still broken and a sign at the front desk informs us that the elevator is not working either. We retreat to our pock-marked rental car to think. Thinking takes about 2 seconds. There is no way we are staying at the Millenium Harvest Hotel. Every thing about the place screams “cash flow problems!” The pool repairs are inconvenient, but there is no excuse for a front door and elevator to be broken for a month. And the weeds, hey, if I wanted weeds I could have stayed home. They at least have to be interesting.
(I found the following weed at Sawmill Ponds.)
John pulls out his ipad and pulls up the list of IBM approved hotels in Boulder. The list is long and almost completely booked. Ah, but there is a new Hyatt on Pearl Parkway with a vacancy. We grab it and hightail it out of the nearly vacant Millenium parking lot.
We arrive at the Hyatt and the receptionist hails from northwest D.C. We hit it off immediately. She informs us that the only room available for immediate check-in is a corner suite with mountain view. Would we like to see it? There is a slight charge to upgrade. I totally agree to pay the $25/night upgrade that IBM won’t cover.
The suite is awesome. John and I are giddy with delight and disaster averted. The suite is probably larger than our first apartment. Kitchenette with fridge and microwave. Real coffee mugs and glasses and dishes and stainless flatware. A living room and separate eating area. Comfy bed with phenomenal pillows. (How can a pillow can be thick and heavy and squishably soft all at the same time?) There is an indoor pool that opens to a courtyard. All the amenities of a good business class hotel, tasty breakfasts included. Nothing gritty about this place.
The view? Mountains and a sky full of puffy clouds. And oh, yeah…Barnes &Noble, Whole Foods, and a wine shop. What more could I need? Last night, after a stressful day, we dined in on wine and cheese. This morning, after dropping John off at class, I stopped at Sawmill Pond Trailhead for a wetlands walk with mountain views. This afternoon I will read by the almost outdoor pool, and this evening we will have dinner with our favorite Bouder resident, niece Colleen.
Things are definitely looking up.
I don’t know why I photo’d geese when I see geese everyday at school!
This little bee enjoyed the cactus-y weed. Like a clover blossom or chive blossom on steroids.
The boy is propelled toward adolescence like the bottle rocket he has just launched into the trees. With a whoosh, whistle, pop, and a burst of light, the pre-pubescent boy is in constant motion, loud, and bursting with self-discovery. And, like the bottle rockets blasting every which way or zipping dud right into the ground, the boy is aimed in the most general of directions.
It wasn’t so long ago that he drove the little battery-powered tractor across our yard and through the next to visit his great-grandparents. With faces peeled to the kitchen window, we watched attentively through the trees for his arrival at Nana’s door. Today, in a new step toward manhood, he drives the zero-turn mower to the same door. And back. In circles and zigzags and, rarely, a straight line. It’s not that he can’t drive in a straight line. He won’t. Who wants to drive a straight line in a zero-turn? His controlled zig-zagging holds some promise that he could actually mow the lawn. And his reverse slide into the mower’s parking spot is reminiscent of his aunt’s impressive eighteen second parallel parking of the minivan for her driver’s test. But what he really wants to do is drive round and round in tight little circles. I suppose one could get the grass cut that way, leaving our Google Earth image looking like so many teeny-weeny crop circles.
His visit to the great-grands has netted him a marble chess set worthy of the budding chessmaster. Zig-zag crop circle boy is impressively analytical. Next week is chess camp and, after that, PopPop, who first taught him the game, will never beat him ever again. This week PopPop lost to the boy, checkmated fair and square. “I can’t even blame scotch,” he sighed.
The boy is in his element now that his grandfather is home from work. Helping his grandmother harvest peas and beans was ok for about twenty minutes, but not nearly as adventurous as finding a turtle. Unfortunately, finding a turtle requires a full day of outdoor wandering (preferably with another pre-pubescent boy) and a good dose of luck. What he got from teacher/grandmother was a gentle suggestion to find something to read. That suggestion went over like a wet firecracker. The middle school has recommended a soul-crushing twenty-five books to read over summer vacation. He is doomed to fail, so why even bother when he could make ingenious Lego creations from watching YouTube videos.
But PopPop is home and that means the boy can light a bonfire and ride the zero-turn and shoot bottle rockets while his grandparents sip adult beverages.
Meanwhile, inside the house, cell phones ping with un-answered texts from Mother of Boy.
“Hellooooooo where is my child?”
He’s outside by a fire playing with explosives with his grandfather. The boy moving toward manhood and the man regressing into boyhood. Controlled danger. It’s all good.