I have a new phone and it’s glorious, but wow was there ever a lot of drama involved in getting this new phone. First world problems, I know, but I’m going to share it with you anyways.
It all began with Fathers’ Day. We like to go to Port Dover for the day, with the family. It’s our new tradition since my father-in-law loves it, my dad loves it and Russ loves it. We typically go for fish and chips and then walk along the beach or the pier with our ice cream cones. This year, dad suggested that he bring his fishing boat to Port Dover so we could all go out for a ride on the lake. That sounded fantastic!!!
It was fantastic. The day was beautiful but almost too hot, so we waited until later in the afternoon to hit the water. The folks at the boat ramp warned us that it was quite choppy out there, but we planned to stay close to shore anyways. So, off we went, all geared up in our life jackets and ready for some fun in the sun on the water. It was very choppy indeed, and probably worst just along the shore by the harbour, where we were. Mom and Henry and I were sitting up at the front, enjoying the occasional spray of water when suddenly a huge wave came up over the bow and drenched us. We shrieked with shock and delight. Henry laughed and laughed. My mom fussed about her hair. And all I could think about was my phone. I had my phone in my hand when the tsunami hit and it was splashed. That’s it. Just splashed. I reached over and grabbed the roll of paper towels and wiped off and wrapped up my phone within seconds. And then I left it to dry off. I was bummed because it was Fathers’ Day and I wanted to take pictures. I wanted pictures of my dad and of Grandpa Bill because you never know how long they will be around. I was feeling all sentimental and wanting to capture this perfect afternoon so I could have the pictures forever, and instead my phone was soaked and I had to put it away. And that is why there are no pictures on this blog entry, because I don’t have any to share.
The good news is that I had just backed up all my pictures and videos from my phone on to my computer two days before. The bad news is that the bag of rice did not do the trick and by Monday morning, eighteen hours later, I was going nuts without my phone. It’s true. I couldn’t last eighteen hours without my phone!!! We went to the park for the morning where, instead of checking on the news, I had to just sit and watch children playing, which really isn’t as interesting as the pinterest moms make it out to be. Do not judge me for this. Independence and resilience are qualities I deeply admire and try to nurture in our child. I do not get down in the dirt to play cars with Henry. He brings his construction vehicles to the park and he plays independently or with other children. I am the mom who is watching from a distance, in the shade, with a cold caffeinated beverage and my phone. When he falls, he gets back up, waves at me, and keeps on rolling. Because he is that kind of kid, I can be that kind of mom. Or perhaps, because I am that kind of mom, he can be that kind of kid. Who really knows?
All I know is that I had never realized just how much I rely on my phone until it was gone. And I don’t even use my phone as a phone. I hate talking on the phone. I just use it for everything else. For instance, I knew it was hot, but I couldn’t know exactly how hot it was. I like to know. Also, did they find the other capybara in Toronto’s High Park or was it still on the lam? These are the news stories I follow and it was killing me to not know. I wanted to send Tanya a picture via BBM because I knew she would be so proud to see that I was sitting on a park bench, half-way through a bag of Tostitos and jar of cheese by 9-something-ish in the morning. I don’t know what time it was exactly because I didn't know what time it was at all. I didn’t know who else was on their way to the park or if our friends were really going to meet us at the splash pad later. My mom hadn’t checked in with her usual “what are you two up to this morning?” I couldn’t search for new patio cushions on amazon, or send a grocery list to Russ. I was completely lost without my phone. Did I have any new chocolate orders for my business? Had those beekeepers answered my question about feeders? Was there a new review on Airbnb from our weekend guests? It was like being in a sensory deprivation chamber. I was lost and stupid without my phone. I tried to be all philosophical about it, and learn from it, and take pictures with my heart…. whatever.
By noon, Henry and I were headed to the Telus store at the mall. We haven’t been to the mall in at least a year. There’s a reason for that. His name is Hurricane Henry. I thought we could be in and out quickly, that we were ready to face the mall again. Famous last words. The first stop at Telus revealed two service reps busy serving customers and four people hovering. We walked the loop around the mall and came back, only to find another four people had joined in the hovering. One of the hoverers was also a mom. Her husband was wheeling her two toddlers around the mall while she waited and she smiled sympathetically in my direction. Since I was on my own with Henry, and without a stroller, I needed a solid strategy. We went for fries, because I figured Henry could sit down in the corner of the store and eat his fries while the rep helped me solve my phone issue. Sadly, the fries were almost gone and there were still several hoverers ahead of me. We went for another walk and when another pop-in confirmed that they were still too busy, I headed for the stroller rental booth. I desperately needed to contain this kid and the fries had not done their job. While I was trying to sign out the stroller, Henry made a break for it. He ran right through the jewelry store and right into the back where their safe is located. I found myself leaning over the counter, doing that uber-quiet, uber-angry mom yell through clenched teeth. There was some hissing involved. He sheepishly came out before security arrived and I swooped him up and plunked him on the counter at the lottery kiosk / stroller rental place. The lady was sympathetic, even when his remaining fries dumped all over the counter and into her booth. She agreed that I definitely needed that stroller. I had to leave my car keys as collateral. I asked if I could leave Henry instead. She didn’t think it was funny. I was close to tears.
We wheeled back to Telus, where a throng had gathered, just to spite me. So, deciding that I was not going to lose my place ‘in line’ again, I began pushing the stroller around and around the outer aisles of the store. Around and around and around. I was like the lion at the zoo, just pacing the perimeter and ready to bite someone’s, anyone’s head off at any moment. Henry was eating Timbits, at this point, and yelling whenever he couldn’t see the parrots and monkeys on the screen at the front of the store. Finally the third service rep came back from lunch and one of the other workers told him that he’d better help me first, for everyone’s sake. The multitude agreed. Long story short, the rep told me that it would cost between $200 and $300 to fix my phone. If I upgraded to the newest Samsung, I would get $200 on the trade-in and only have to pay $320 up front. It seemed like the logical solution. And so he began to, ever so slowly, set up the new phone with all kinds of apps I didn’t need or want. He couldn’t save my contacts, but he made darn sure I had the Telus app on my phone. And then he wanted to show me every case available for the new phone. I was trying to explain that I didn’t want to get a case at this point, that we just needed to go and he was not listening to me…. when it became apparent to all of us that Henry had pooped his pants. Telus guy was suddenly efficient. There was no more sales pitch, upselling, app-adding and the like. That guy rang us through pronto and we were free to go home. We dropped off the stroller and poor Henry waddled his poopy self across the parking lot to our hot car, where I was able to change him in the trunk. It was only 31 degrees out. No biggie. It was all good.
Because I had a glorious new phone. The world was right again.
Oh mercy. You would not believe how sticky things have gotten around here, and it’s not even honey harvest time yet!
So, I learned the hard way that a hive can starve even when surrounded by beautiful blossoms. We lost one of our hives just a few days after we put the nucs in. The bees needed to draw honeycomb before they could store food and those in the hive were eating more than the forager bees could provide and the hive died. At least that’s what we think happened. So, after doing some research, we decided to feed our bees since they were small nucs to begin with and because they have to draw so much honeycomb before they can start to store much honey. If we make it that much easier for them to get the food they need, they will be making honey that much sooner. Typically, beekeepers feed in the spring and the fall to ensure their bees survive the winter. The feeding we are doing now is just to help them get established and then we will leave them to do their thing the natural way.
And here’s where things started to get sticky. I went to look at hive top feeders that hold a lot of sugar water so you don’t need to refill every couple of days. Many beekeepers use jar feeders at the entrance to their hives, but I would be driving all over Brant County every other day trying to keep those filled, so I was looking for something larger. With a price tag of $38, the hive top feeders were just too expensive for this operation, given that we have 22, er 21, hives. So an older, wiser beekeeper showed me his homemade system which involved a 10-litre bucket with holes drilled in along the upper rim. You fill the bucket with sugar water, put the lid on, and tip it over. It airlocks and the bees get what they need through the holes without drowning in an open container of syrup. This sounded great to me. I bought six buckets from him and set about retrofitting them. Russ brought home 32 kg of sugar for me. I mixed 30 kg of sugar into 30 l of water and stirred until my forearms were screaming for relief. Everything in that area of the basement was sticky. That was just the beginning.
I was worried about those holes and tried to seal them with duct tape for the journey. Russ loaded them into the back of my car, on a blanket – which in hindsight wasn’t the best idea since they were a bit wobbly. I was waiting for a break in the traffic so I could pull out of our parking lot when Russ, exasperated, finally yelled “GO NOW”. So I did. And then he began to yell even more because the buckets had clearly tipped over in the back. I pulled over at the corner and he hopped out and righted the buckets and then just stood there looking in the trunk and yelling. I got out and yelled too. Passersby were very amused. We were not. It was one of those marital moments. I wanted to give up right then and there, now that my trunk was sugar-coated and I did not feel like working together on anything. Russ said he would do the job alone and took the buckets and put them in his trunk. (Because it made sense to ensure that his trunk would now be covered in sugar too). I decided to go to the beeyards anyways, but there was no way I was going with him because I was too angry. So we went in our separate, sticky cars.
At the beeyards, things went from bad to worse. Russ now had a trunk full of sugar water as well. So there was that. And then the first time I took off the duct tape and turned over the bucket, it just began to glug and ooze out of those holes. It flowed in every direction and showed no sign of stopping. I finally turned it back upright, plunked it on the top of the ‘dead hive’ and told the bees to have at it. I warned them not to drown and drove off to our next spot. At the farm, it only took a few seconds for me to determine that this was definitely not going to work. That bucket was oozing everywhere and I no longer cared. I just left it. I figured if they didn’t like it, the rain would wash it away anyways. We didn’t even bother going to the third yard. When we got home, we tossed the rest of the buckets in the basement and spent the evening not talking to each other.
So it was back to the drawing board. I eventually came up with, what I think, was a pretty good plan. I found an inexpensive alternative to the hive top feeders by walking the aisles at Dollarama until I discovered items that could hold the syrup and provide a ladder for the bees to keep them from drowning. I purchases all six of the store’s salad spinners – a bowl for the syrup and a basket that sits in it and acts as a ladder. And then I purchased many simple basins and in them I placed colanders to act as ladders. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, for $3 per hive.
On Tuesday, Dad, Russ and I planned to go out and inspect the hives and install the feeders. Dad arrived with another 30 kg of sugar he’d picked up at a wholesaler. We stirred and stirred and stirred. We filled the holey buckets and tried to tape the holes again. Dad suggested that we take their SUV this time, so we left my sugary car at home in case Mom needed it to drive Henry somewhere. As Dad was loading the buckets into his trunk, I kept warning him that they would tip. He assured me that they wouldn’t. There was not going to be sugar in his trunk. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 43 years on this earth, it’s that I am not going to win an argument against my dad. He is always right. Well, like, 99% of the time.
Long story short, we got our beautiful new McGyvered hive top feeders installed in all three beeyards’ worth of hives. It was a hot afternoon and a lot of work, but we did it. We inspected the hives (they are doing just fine) and installed the feeders. And when we arrived home, we were very sweaty and very sticky. But at least we were all still talking to one another.
Saw my mom yesterday. She wondered what we had done to her trunk. She took a trip to the grocery store, grabbed her reusable bag from the trunk and at the checkout realized she was stuck to her wallet and her purse. Then her bank card. Then she stuck to the car keys, the door handle, the gear shift and the steering wheel. She’s not sure how the sugar ended up on her sandal, but everything stuck to her shoe. She left a trail of stickiness all the way home and it all started with the sticky grocery bag, in the trunk that most definitely did have its share of syrup spilled throughout.
Just another adventure in apiculture. As mom pointed out, this is nothing compared to how sticky things are going to get once we start to harvest that much honey!
I spent a good chunk of my childhood living overseas, in developing countries, where life was hard for everyone and there was always the potential for bad stuff to happen. My mom taught me very early on that if I were ever to find myself in trouble, I needed to find the mamas. When I was older and I moved to Haiti, and later to Kenya, she reminded me again, to find the mamas. When I backpacked around the world by myself, her words went with me and I knew that, should things go bad, I should find the mamas. To find the mamas, in my experience, means to find a woman. Because more often than not, a woman will help. They don’t have to be mothers, in the biological sense, and perhaps ‘find the sisters’ might be a better phrase. But in many cultures, and certainly in the ones I grew up in, the mamas are older, wiser women who will always offer assistance if you need it.
Time and again, without fail, the mamas have come through for me. Around the world, I have been rescued by mamas. Housekeepers have nagged and cajoled me for not being more careful. Market ladies have warned me and herded me in the other direction when they knew what I didn’t - that there was trouble ahead. Women have lingered when I have been threatened, have yelled when I have been followed and have delivered warnings with their eyes when we did not share the same language. Mamas have picked me up when I have fallen on dirty, crowded streets. Mamas have guided me, in person, when I have lost my way in a foreign city. Mamas have fed me and lavished me with gifts given out of their own poverty. Mamas have never let me down and I am forever indebted to the mamas of this world.
Life here in Paris is pretty safe compared to the big world out there. But it was hard for me for the first couple of years as I tried to adjust to life in a new town. It got even worse when I was no longer working but was, instead, home on maternity leave with a vulnerable baby who wasn’t supposed to be out and about in the community because of the germs. That was a very long and lonely winter. But then I found the mamas and my life changed entirely.
I know that a lot of people say that they hate Facebook for all the drama and pettiness and I just don’t understand that. Maybe I just have a really good quality filter on my Facebook, because for me it has always been a wonderful means of building community and connecting with people. In Paris, I found community through a Facebook group called Paris Mommas. It was started by a mama who saw a need in the community and came up with the solution. Since she started the community group on Facebook a couple of years ago, the group has become a very popular way for mamas in the area to connect and to help each other. The mamas may be at home or at work, but they are still connected with their phones. With over eight hundred members, the group is a treasure trove of wisdom. I honestly use the Paris Mommas more than I use google, because the mamas are faster. They can tell you what sunscreen to use and which shops in town sell it, who the best pediatrician is, what the price of gas is, where kids can eat free, what that loud noise was, how long the line up at the walk-in is at any given time, if your kid’s hat is still at the park, if there is a dog loose on the main street, where the power is out, if a rainbow has emerged over the town, what that rash is, who can paint your house, how to get that stain out, where to throw a party, which mechanic to trust, which neighbourhood is being hit by door-to-door salesmen, what that flower in your garden is called, if the splashpad is finally working, what time anything opens, where peanut butter is on sale or what baby food has been recalled. They sell anything and everything, and also just give things away all the time. I swear nothing is wasted in this town. Even coupons and bonus codes are passed on to those who can use them before they expire. This is just like an old time village, except they are all connected by the magic of wifi instead of gathering around the well or the marketplace. You can’t tell me that life is so different in our modern world, after all. We aren’t as alienated and alone as they tell us we are. Even in our modern society, we are connected and when someone needs help, the mamas still show up. I have never put out a request for help or advice that wasn’t answered. Several times, I have asked for specific donations to help out a teenaged mom or a new refugee family, and complete strangers have shown up at my back door with their generous gifts. Every single time. The mamas in this community are a never-ending source of advice, encouragement, information and assistance.
There has been very little drama or conflict in our group, although I think we've learned, the hard way, to avoid such topics as circuses or circumcision. The Paris Mommas aren’t particularly political (who has time?!) but they are very practical. This week, one of the mamas sent out a message about a homeless gentleman she had been chatting with in the park. He had shared that he was having a difficult time and could use some help. I waited for the comments to come, the warnings and watch-outs, the cautionary tales. They never came. What did come was comment after comment after comment, an entire column, of suggestions and offers of help. Within hours, the mamas of this community had provided this gentleman with a new tent and warm blanket and nourishing food and toiletries and a flashlight and new shoes and grocery store gift cards. They all spoke of him with respect and compassion. They met his needs in a very practical and kind way. And they did it as individuals coming together as community to reach a very specific need, instead of just assuming that agencies and organizations would ‘take care of the issue’. Wayne is not an issue; he is a person. And the Paris Mommas treated this person with such love this week that I teared up every time I read another message on my phone. And many of them did so with their kids in tow, so that they could model what it means to show kindness and respect to those who are different from us. As one mama wrote: “Our job is not to judge. Our job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Our job as human beings is to lift the fallen, restore the broken and to heal the hurting”.
Wayne found the mamas.
So this blog entry goes out to the Paris Mommas, most of whom I have never met but all of whom I deeply admire and appreciate. I am grateful for the community within the community that we have built for ourselves. I am grateful that I found the mamas.
Kari Raymer Bishop
Lover of Jesus, cheeses and tropical breezes... seeking balance in life, even as I embrace new challenges and chase new dreams. I am wife, mother, daughter and friend, as well as teacher, entrepreneur, activist, writer, beekeeper and hostess. Come along on the journey through my long-awaited midlife crisis!