Night Shoot in Lincoln

This month’s u3a photo group technical challenge was lens flare. It’s possible to create lens flare by using an aperture between F11 or F16 into a bright light however I chose to buy a starburst filter. I’d used one about 30 years ago when I was using film. I’ve created a gallery below.

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Bee Management

Who would have thought that beekeeping would be so challenging, I certainly didn’t. I inspected the colony on Monday and discovered the bees were building queen cells which is always a sign they are preparing to swarm.

It’s best to avoid a swarm because at least half of the colony flies away in an attempt to propagate the species and it reduces the amount of honey they’re likely to produce.

The procedure, called the Demaree method, requires shaking all the bees off the frames in the main brood box and moving them into a new box. It sounds simple but when you are standing in a cloud of bees it isn’t as straightforward as it seems. It wasn’t helped by me being so focused on the procedure I forgot to zip up my head covering and several bees found their way into my suit. Thankfully I didn’t get stung and managed to get them out quite quickly.

The pictures above and to the right show more queen cells on the top and bottom of the same frame. I had to remove them all before placing them into the new brood box. It was difficult to get clear images because the bees were flying in front of the camera and all around my head.

Once all the brood were in the top box without bees I could close up the bottom box, put a queen excluder above it, add the Supers (honey boxes) and finally add another queen excluder and the new brood box to the top.

In theory the bees in the bottom brood box think they have swarmed because there are no young, simply empty frames of foundation. The queen and foraging bees have to work hard to build a new colony. In the meantime the brood in the top box will hatch and join the others in the bottom box as they mature. In a weeks time I need to inspect the top box to double check there are no queen cells and if there are I need to remove them. If that all looks good I can leave them to go through the bees’ growth cycle which will take 25 days after which the top brood box will be empty of young bees and can be removed.

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Good days

The sunny, dry weather continues. Helene came to stay for a few days and we travelled up to Doncaster to visit a Canadian friend of hers who has been in the country for some months. We went to Cusworth House, a family estate that is now owned and managed by Doncaster council. The house wasn’t open but we had lunch outside at the Butler’s café followed by a walk round the grounds.

Making the most of these bright days we went for a walk along the Viking Way between Tealby and Walesby. Along the route there are several large houses. The garden of one of them is laid out in an Italianate style with a wavy garden wall and cypress trees.

As we walked nearer to Walesby there is a deer farm with some cute young fawns keeping their distance.

On the outskirts of Walesby is the Ramblers church. It has fallen into disrepair and we couldn’t see how it would ever be restored. With the sun streaming through the window it was a delightful space despite the damp and musty smell.

We took time to read the articles about its history before heading down into Walesby and the then returning towards Tealby on a different route and the parked Mazda.

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St Barnabas Hospice Hearts

I’m a regular supporter of the hospice because of how they looked after Jane in her final weeks. Over the last few years they have created small steel sculptures for donations. This year it was a heart and all of the hearts were displayed in Lincoln Cathedral gardens.

Today I went to the cathedral to collect Jane’s sculpture which will stand alongside the Forget Me Not and Dragonfly from previous years.

The hospice movement in Britain is unique because they are run with donations. Jane and I used to cycle every year for Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton never imagining that we would benefit from a hospice service. If you have the inclination to support St Barnabas or wish to find out about their services click here…

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First Bee Inspection

I’ve dipped into the hive several times over the past months to feed the bees and now, with the warmer weather, it was time to open them up and take a look to see what’s going on.

The bees are all clustered towards the front of the hive and are busy on 6 frames which is quite normal but I have a concern they are reluctant to spread onto the back frames for some reason.

Below the queen excluder and the brood the bees had built up comb and the queen had laid eggs. The white squiggles are larvae which have become exposed as I took the queen excluder off. Unfortunately these larvae won’t survive. The most probable reason for them doing this is because it is warmer above the clustered bees than spreading along the frames. Hopefully with warmer weather they will stop doing this.

This is a close up of the above image.

When I put the hive back together I interspersed the empty frames within the populated ones. I’ve since been told by my bee mentor Gary, that there is a risk the bees will abandon the separated frames so I need to go back in and put them back as they were originally.

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Wardrobe, Greenhouse and Bees…

The disruption from having the wardrobe fitted last week has finished and the dust has settled – literally.

It has given me an opportunity to cull my clothes and I have several bags ready to take to the hospice charity warehouse this week. I have four suits hanging in the guest bedroom and haven’t worn them since I retired (12 years ago) so I’m recycling three of them.

I’m really enjoying spending time in the greenhouse and watching the seeds coming through. I feel certain I have seen the last of the frosts and so I’ve planted out the dwarf green beans.

There’s still enough space on the floor for several grow bags and it occurs to me that I could sow salad leaves here to get them ready in a few weeks.

The warmer weather is bringing the bees out in great numbers. I need to undertake an inspection in the next couple of days to ensure they are well and the queen is laying plenty of eggs.

In the next few weeks if the colony becomes too crowded the bees will start the process of getting ready to swarm. The way to avert swarming is to split the colony before they get to that stage. It can be a gamble and is more of an art than a science but I’d like to avoid a swarm if I can.

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Bedroom Update

After eight years of temporary shelving and clothe rails I decided last autumn to have the walk-in wardrobe fitted properly. I’ve had to wait three months but at last the work is about to start.

I’ve temporarily vacated the bedroom, sleeping in the guest bedroom. An interesting experience.

The fitter arrived before the pieces had been delivered because he had the wrong day. Hopefully he will return tomorrow. Within 30 minutes of the fitter leaving the lorry turned up. The guys quickly carried all the wood up to the bedroom. It seems like a lot of stuff for such a small space.

Of course it was raining when the the delivery occurred and the driver had the challenge of turning the truck around without driving on the lawns or demolishing D&Ls house overhang.

He managed it very well with a three point turn

With the spare shelving unit from the bedroom I decided to use it in the workshop at the back of the garage. It required me to reorganise the existing shelving and throw out a lot of old paint pots left over from the build.

It was a useful exercise and the workspace is a lot tidier. It is still a work in progress.

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u3a Photography Themes

This month’s u3a photography challenge has been umbrellas and macro photography. To rise to the macro challenge I bought some extension tubes in February. The last time I used them was about 30 years ago. Then I used a fixed focus lens. It appears that a zoom lens behaves differently with extension tubes.

I started with an orchid. The depth of field is extremely narrow and it requires a lot more light to make more in focus.

The comb I removed from the hive still had bees on it. After a night out in the cold they were slowed sufficiently for me to get up close and personal without risk of getting stung. The longer they were in the utility room the more active they became so I had to cut the shoot. As can be seen the depth of field is slim.

Umbrellas was much more difficult to be imaginative with. I had this idea of taking a photo of someone then overlaying the same person with an umbrella in front of them. I wanted to make the person appear as a vague image through the umbrella but I ran out of time.

Every month we submit an image we’ve taken and like. This was taken in Milton Keynes with the setting sun catching the willows. Technically not difficult – simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

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Good Weather, Food & Bees

The weather has been so good over the past week that I’ve managed to get out and about several times. H came to stay and we went to Chapel St Leonards where we walked for two hours along the beach before eating a picnic on a bench next to the North Sea Observatory.

The drive home through the Wolds with the roof down was perfect.

As part of Lincolnshire’s heritage, I had to take H to Grimsby and visit the National Fishing Heritage Centre. It demonstrates the hardships of fishermen from 1850 – 1970 when Grimsby had the largest fishing fleet in the world. At the time, trawling was the most dangerous occupation in the UK.

Grimsby has seen better days but the civic community are trying to improve the look and feel. What makes a town’s culture is its people… Grimsby is fighting an uphill battle.

Cooking has become an important pastime and I’ve recently explored a couple of new recipes. The first was recommended by a friend – curried salmon on a bed of aloo saag. A delicious combination and one that I will definitely cook again. I also have explored pate for my lunchtime sandwich. A couple of weeks ago I made a crab pate using tinned crab which worked well so this week I made mackerel pate. Looks and tastes good very good.

The warm weather has seen my bees coming and going with plenty of pollen. It was time to open the hive and find out what was going on. I was dismayed to find they had built a mass of honeycomb with eggs and larvae above the brood box. This isn’t supposed to happen.

The only solution was to remove the comb with part formed larvae and a few bees. Sadly it had to be done to make room for the Super box on top. This is where the bees should be storing their honey.

Now the weather has become cooler I will have to wait a week or two to see how this has affected the colony. Hopefully no harm done.

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Spring Flowers…

A tour of flowers around the garden…

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Tech and Gardening…

After 3 years of good service I decided to retire my Samsung Galaxy S10 and buy a new S22. The changeover is made easier by connecting the old and new together and transferring Apps and data, however there are still some tweaks such as passwords and customised ringtones.

After a few days I think I’ve got it set up. I cracked the screen of my old phone within 3 months of ownership and had to live with it for 3 years so this time I’ve bought a wallet for it to sit in. This makes it bulkier but I’m sure I will learn to live with the change.

The recent dry, warmer weather has given me a chance to work on the vegetable plot. The broad beans and garlic sets I sowed in the autumn have grown through and I’ve sown single rows of carrots, parsnips and beetroot in the hope that there won’t be too many frosts.

It is so enriching to be sowing new crops.

The new greenhouse is being put to good use. I have some more broad beans coming through and have sown tomatoes, sweet peppers, green beans, cavolo nero, red cabbage, and flower seeds – sweet peas, aubretia and penstemon.

I’ve bought a couple of tomato bags ready for when the seeds have grown large enough.

H bought me a max/min thermometer which is a useful addition.

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Work in Progress…

Over the past few months I’ve taken responsibility for developing and managing two more websites – Market Rasen Beekeepers and Lincolnshire Beekeepers Association.

At the same time WordPress, the tool I use for building sites is undergoing changes in how to use the software – sites are built using blocks. To explore this further I’ve decided to use my own site as a guinea pig. To be honest I get so few visitors it probably won’t be noticed. As from this weekend there will be some changes and some of them may not work.

If you wish to make a comment at any time please do.

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Old Friends…

At the weekend the “family” managed to get together for the first time in many months. We managed to book a table at the Britannia Inn, Northampton.

A good time was had by all.

I also met up with my college friends this week at the Harley Gallery close to Worksop. The café there has excellent food. It does mean it is always crowded so we had to eat lunch outside in the sunshine. The wind was biting which meant the soup orders cooled very quickly. It was lovely to catch up and to see everyone looking so healthy.

The gallery always has an interesting display and it is very well presented. Our next meet up will be at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield.

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Party, Cyphers and Stones

At the beginning of last weekend H and I went to a retirement/birthday party for one of H’s friends and ex work colleagues, Neera. The party was in Milton Keynes so we stayed overnight at the Peartree Lodge hotel. We had a good time.

Whilst in Milton Keynes we booked to visit Bletchley Park, the home of British code breaking during the Second World war. We arrived at 11am and didn’t leave until 4.30 pm which is an indication of how interesting we found the whole place. We found out afterwards that we had still missed some buildings.

Mid week H and I went to Scunthorpe to see the film Belfast. We had lunch in M&S, which was, surprisingly, packed.

The film was heart-warming and at the same time disturbing. I struggle to understand the complexities of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Once again religion is used as an excuse for tribalism.

We ended the day by going to Louth for dinner at the Marrakesh restaurant.

At the weekend we once again stayed at the Peartree Lodge in Milton Keynes to catch the Counterfeit Stones at Wavendon Stables. I last saw them in October 2007.

It was a great night of good music, humour and nostalgia.

On Saturday morning we took a stroll around Newport Pagnell (coffee and toast in the Swan Revived) before meeting the “family” for lunch at the Britannia Inn, Northampton. Afterwards I dropped H off at her house and drove home.

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Dutch Courage…

My brother-in-law and his wife, R&N. took part in the Dakar rally in January. Two weeks in the gruelling Saudi dessert.

When the rally was over the car it was shipped to the Netherlands and Richard asked me if I would help retrieve it. This required us to drive over to the Netherlands and for me to drive it back. It would mean me driving a rally prepped car I had never driven before in a foreign country, on the “wrong” side of the road. I approached the task with some trepidation.

Like all travel out of Market Rasen it required a train journey to King’s Cross. Never simple because I had to get a train to Lincoln, change for Newark Northgate and then get on the LNER train to London.

After recent storms this was never going to be easy and the East Coast Mainline had problems with overhead powerlines, which meant I arrived in London an hour behind schedule.

We left London after a filling fish & chip supper just after 18:30 and arrived in Harwich with plenty of time to spare. Once through customs we drove onto the ferry and headed straight for our allocated cabins.

I have never undertaken an overnight ferry crossing – this was a first. In fact I haven’t been on a cross channel ferry for over 30 years.

The cabin was surprisingly spacious with TV and ensuite bathroom.

After the high winds of recent days I expected a rough crossing however I was rocked to sleep by the gently rolling rhythm.

With disembarkation at 6.30 and a change in time zone I was living on caffeine and adrenaline.

We undertook a 3 hour drive in the Ford Cmax across the Netherlands. We arrived at the collection point then I started to “earn” my keep. As a rally car there are not many comforts and the interior was covered in a fine layer of sand. Getting into the driving seat and pulling on the full harness was quite torturous. There were several times when we stopped for a break then Richard was driving away and I was still strapping in.

My brain soon switched from left-hand driving to right hand and all I had to do was follow Richard in the Ford. We had decided to kill some time by driving to the Louwman motor museum in the Hague.

The Louwman museum was a real find. The café was set in a mock street setting which was superb. We had bowls of soup with chunky bread before exploring the museum, we had plenty of time to kill because the ferry didn’t leave until 22:00.

We wandered through all of the spaces and managed to stay for 3 hours, we would have stayed longer however the museum closed at 17:00.

As we exited the museum the heavens opened and I was faced with the prospect of driving through the rain, in rush hour traffic, in a city that I didn’t know, on the wrong side of the road and following Richard ahead of me. I didn’t have a satnav.

Amazingly I didn’t get lost and we arrived at the ferry terminal with several hours to kill before boarding at 19:30.

I had a good night’s sleep and was awake at 05:30. We were through customs and border control just as the sun was rising. We then set off for London down the A12, patiently weaving a path around rush hour traffic. Surprisingly I managed to keep on Richard’s tail all the way to his home.

To celebrate our successful venture R&N took me out for dinner at Frederick’s. It was a great night – good company and good food.

Thursday lunchtime found me on another LNER train to Newark Northgate where I had 75 minutes to kill. I walked into the town, visited Starbucks then walked down to Newark Castle station in a minor blizzard. I was home by 16:00 feeling very happy that I agreed to take part in this adventure.

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Dull, wet and windy

Not all of my weeks are busy or exciting. The past week has been very dull. The high winds brought in by storms Dudley and Eunice thankfully haven’t had a major impact on the Pig Yard. The mature trees have remained vertical although they have been dropping twigs over the lawns and drive but that’s quite normal at this time of year.

Some people haven’t been so lucky.

I’ve been kept busy this week taking on the management of Lincolnshire Beekeepers Association website. It is taking me a lot more time than I anticipated largely because it had been developed using a non standard WordPress website builder. There are a total of 39 pages and each one had to be edited. The previous editor left behind a lot of superfluous code which had to be removed however hidden within this code might be links or images. It has been challenging. To view the site click here…

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Packing it in…

It’s been a busy week because I’ve had H (previously known as Julia) staying with me. We met up with my college friends, Tim & Wid, in Barton on Wednesday. Widdy hasn’t been well and it was so good to see her back on track towards full health.

On Thursday we went to the National Holocaust Centre in Laxton, a short drive north of Newark. This wasn’t going to be a “fun” visit but H and I were both interested. She has a very personal reason.

The Centre has been developed from a large family home and is surprisingly large and very welcoming.

The Centre represents the depths of man’s inhumanity to man and emphasises the fact we must never forget the awful things humanity is capable of.

We both felt this is never truer than now with the extreme right wing views in the USA and also reflected in the UK.

We cannot change the past but we can all influence the future and it is our responsibility to be kind to each other regardless. The time at the centre was very informative and it was worth every minute of the two hours we spent there.

We finished the week by visiting Newark. A cold windy day with lunch at the Green Olive café just off the market square. We must return to visit the National Civil War museum at some point.

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February Arrives

The month began with me attending the funeral of a friend in Derby. It was an interesting day because it was a Catholic service and, as someone who avoids church, it was a fascinating experience alongside the inherent sadness. It was the first funeral I’ve been to since Jane’s (6 years ago today). the service was more about god than the deceased. Perhaps I need to write a funeral plan for myself to make it easier for whoever has to arrange it.


I’ve submitted my photos for January’s u3a Photography group challenge along the theme of “Indoors” and ” Winter Sky”.

I think capturing a winter sky was most difficult. What differentiates a winter sky from any other?

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Keeping Busy

Now the greenhouse is complete I needed to install the power socket I’d removed from the shed. It was very cold (3 degrees C) but I cracked on with the job and after a couple of hours it was installed, connected and working. It isn’t quite straight but I can live with it.

The next task is to lay the power cable to Piglets charger and fill the channel I cut out with cement.

I’m in no rush to put back the pots and trays ready to start the growing season however I can see it happening sooner rather than later.

On a cold, grey winter afternoon what is there to do but to go for a walk.

This month’s u3a photography challenge is winter sky and I wondered if there was a chance of capturing a grey sky. I had several attempts and this is probably I came close to capturing the scene – a rusty signpost with signs looking worse for wear.

The fields were very tacky and I managed to collect a lot of mud on my boots; sufficient to raise my height by a couple of centimetres.

Wide fields and grey sky

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Another New Arrival

I’ve been waiting since the end of August for my greenhouse to arrive and be constructed. Like all purchases during these Covid times there seems to be a variety of reasons why “stuff” isn’t available sooner than 3 months or trades people have the time in their busy schedules. Today, on a cold, frosty day, two guys arrived just before 9am and the greenhouse was completed by the mid afternoon.

It took two chaps about an hour to get most of the frame in place and after a coffee or two they were inserting the glass. By 3pm they were cleaning up and the job was finished.

Before putting in the seed trays and pots ready for the spring I will treat the staging with decking preservative. I’m also thinking about what I should put on the floor. One idea I’m contemplating is using the tiles I put down in the garage and replace them with something sturdier. Before any of that I need to sort out the electric socket and the power for Piglet ready for when she starts cutting again.

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