The Hermitage Sisterhood

The Hermitage Sisterhood

Sunday July 30th – The Shilling Bees

Greetings to you all! I’m new to this blogging lark but I thought it was time for one of the new generation to get involved and tell our side of the story.  For those of you who have been paying attention you will know that I am the daughter of the Happy Hippy Queen and as with all the new princess brides this year I have a beautiful yellow crown.  We had the honour of being selected for both sets of assessments and we behaved perfectly for both.  The workers assessment day was blessed with fine weather but the poor drones had to contend with gloomy and at times drizzly weather.  The General had to hold a large black and white umbrella over us to keep us dry.  The Grand Inquisitor commented that he’d prefer red and white stripes.  However she had remembered the caramel wafers this time so he was slightly mollified.  We haven’t heard the results yet but we hope they all passed. No doubt the General will come and tell us when the results are out.

We’ve generally had a very quiet July, not many apprentice days, which has been peaceful.  Us new brides are all busy building our families and getting on with our winter store cupboards, although the weather hasn’t been great for the foragers.  One nice day followed by two dismal ones, any break sees my girls out there collecting like mad.  The General says we are lucky to live near the river with its lovely summer flowers, the meadowsweet, the willowherb and now the glorious balsam.  Many  of my flyers are coming in like little ghosts dusted in the white pollen and many of my girls now have a permanent white hourglass on their thoraces.  The General tells us that the glorious balsam is a much hated plant, but we love it as it is a great bounty allowing us to fill our pantries for the winter and it flowers for ages too so we and all our wild cousins can feast to our hearts’ content and stock up for the lean times.

Today was the first apprentice day for a while with newly married princesses to be found and given yellow crowns.  It was a very busy session with the General, Trog, Aye Aye Captain and the Banker busy with lots of apprentices.  Four new princesses were crowned queens with another two to be inspected next time.  This means that the Hermitage estate is busier than it has ever been. And the good news is that my mother the Happy Hippy Queen is still in residence – Aye Aye Captain saw her today.  The General was a bit worried that the Charabanc to Cherryburn had been a bit too much for her but after some R & R she has revived and still going well – I hope I’ve inherited her genes.

Apparently we are in for a busy August with apprentices every Sunday now.  Well I’d better get on with building the family.  I’ve enjoyed bring you all up to date, till next time.

May the river provide.

The Shilling Queen

 

Saturday 8th July – Assessment Day

Hello everyone this is your Ginger Queen here reporting on the latest goings on down at the Hermitage. On Thursday we had a visit from the regular maintenance crew, the Under Gardener strimmed our lawns to almost bowling green perfection. The Groundsman went around snipping off anything that was overhanging and might create a menace. Then the troops were assembled and The General started to inspect some of us – it was obvious something was up.

She looked at the High Fives first, scrubbed all their furniture clean and gave them a fresh puzzle gate into the pantries, which were very full.  She ummed and tutted a bit, although as far as I can see they are doing really well and almost bursting out of their home.  Then she moved on to my next door neighbours the Shilling Bees, they also got all their furniture scrubbed and a new puzzle gate, she seemed really happy with them.  The Shilling Queen is the daughter of the Hippy Happy Queen and is just carrying on in that easy going way so typical of that family.  They make lovely next door neighbours. Next up were the Cherryburn bees, they got the same treatment, scrubbed furniture and new puzzle gate.

They all got together then with Trog and the Wee Dentist to have a bit of a conflab and that’s when we found out what was happening.  Apparently Saturday is Assessment Day, the Grand Inquisitor is coming to inspect some of the students and the sisters’ homes need to be just right for the practical part of the test.  The Shilling Hive and the Cherryburn bees were deemed to be acceptable by the team but they all felt the High Fives were a bit too busy and maybe intimidating for the test day. So they needed to choose another family for the assessment and who do you think the General went to next?  You guessed it – us of course, the Stars of the Hermitage.  Apparently it was only because we are not an end of terrace house that we weren’t first choice.  So we got the furniture all scrubbed and tidied and a nice clean puzzle gate too.

Saturday was a beautiful day.  The Grand Inquisitor arrived and commented how smart our estate looked, so all the Under Gardener’s hard work and copious amounts of sweat were worth it.  The Grand Inquisitor led each candidate through their practical bit and then whisked them off into the shade for the third degree.  All of us specially chosen sisters behaved impeccably (as always).  While the candidates were being grilled in the shade the General sweated in the sun doing some cleaning, I think she has been stacking it up.  She scrubbed, washed, scraped and wielded the flame thrower with great gusto.  I was a bit worried she might set the shed on fire, but the only damage was a few scorched nettles and a roasted woodlouse, which inadvertently got in her way.

The Grand Inquisitor seemed satisfied with the candidates although he gave nothing away but he chided the General on the lack of caramel wafers.  Well, that’s the worker cohort examined, the drones are up next for assessment in two weeks time.  Note to the General – Don’t forget the caramel wafers!

May your pollen stores be plentiful

The Ginger Queen

 

Sunday 25th June – The Happy Hippy Bees Day Trip to Cherryburn

Today we went out to meet our adoring public.  Beefest at Cherryburn needed a display of exemplary, calm and steady live bees and who better than the Hexham Beekeepers’ star turn – The Happy Hippy Bees!

The General and the Doctor installed all of us in the charabanc and whisked us off to the other side of the river across the scary bridge.  All the usual staff had gathered there to talk about us and how important we are.  The Groundsman, Mrs Groundsman and the Under Gardener were all there as was the Commander in Chief, the Chief Swarm Catcher and the Dirty Jobs Lady, we haven’t seen her for a while.  Our fans loved seeing the sisters and tasting the lovely honey.  We had lots of people trying to spot me and it was usually the sharp eyed children that managed it (adults are rubbish at it!).  There was lots going on with all the lovely ladies and gents from The Broomley Bee Project and Rob the Warden from Cherryburn.  We even had a brief visit from the Bonkers Broomley Blonde, who knows everyone and talked her way around the whole show.  I think all the families enjoyed themselves, there was lots of music and activities and everyone sat on the lawn and had picnics.

The General had to go early to sort out her apprentices but I was well looked after by my retinue and after an exhausting day we were returned home tired but happy to find that the General had arranged new superior accommodation for us.  Some of my sisters had missed the day out but were very pleased to welcome us all home again.  I think I need a snooze now.

Flower power and all that from your very tired

Happy Hippy Queen

 

Tuesday 20th June – Decimus Hive – The Ginger Queen

Well, now it is almost Midsummer’s Day and the turn of the year.  We have been very slack at keeping you informed of our goings on down here just lately.  To be honest you couldn’t make it up if you tried, we’ve had house moves, new queens being married, a bit of a famine although the General is calling it a June Gap, which I think is a bit mild!  And then to cap it all The Mystery of the Disappearing Queens – yes, more than one of them have disappeared with no apparent reason, but more about that later.

I’ll start with the most important news.  I’ve moved house, but taken my top storey next door rather than being relegated to the bottom terrace, just shows I’m better than that snooty Polyhive Queen.  The General sneaked down on her own one day in a gap in the rain to check on me and sure enough the housemaids were preparing to move me out, so quick as a flash (well as quick as she could given the weight of our pantries) the General moved my top storey to the empty space next door and gave me a pantry for which we were very grateful when the famine hit.  Some of the old sisters on Golden Girls Row have been struggling, mostly because they are in the little wooden boxes with few foragers and not too much space but some extra food from the General has averted that crisis.  The General says it’s the first time she’s known a proper June Gap here and is blaming the good spring and the yellow peril being ready too early and finishing early too.  We did have some interim stuff but then a week or so of poor weather and not much following on has caused untold problems for the sisters.  However, the weather has picked up – Scorchio!  The blackberry is flowering and the meadowsweet is about to start so things are looking better on the food front.

We’ve had a few good marriages too.  High Five has a lovely new dark queen, the Doctor saw her and gave her a yellow crown.  The Cherryburn Hive also has a new queen, she’s a bit more stripy but she also has a new yellow crown and then at the last apprentice day the Shilling Hive next door was inspected by Trog and his ladies and found to have a new queen.  She also has a yellow crown now.

The General is very happy about all this good news – BUT – and there’s always a ‘but’ with the Sisterhood we’ve had three queens disappear – Poof – just like that!  One week they’re here and the next they’re gone.  I think myself there has been a conspiracy with the Bright Shiners Hive.  Let me tell you the story…….

The Mystery of the Missing Queens

It all started a few weeks ago.  One Apprentice day, Trog turned up with some foreign virgins in boxes, wondering if they’d be needed in our Sisterhood – really the cheek of it as if we don’t have quality queens here. (What’s that? Yes I know I was new here last year but that’s beside the point).  The Farmer had quite an experienced group of apprentices that day including the Star of the Future.  When they discovered the Bright Shiners were planning to replace their rather old queen, a blue crown you know, they put her into one of the little wooden boxes and moved her down on to Golden Girls Terrace.  The apprentices suggested that rather than leave a new queen to develop in her own good time they might get quicker results running in one of the Trog’s virgins.  So this is what they did, all the new baby queens were destroyed and the virgin duly run in.  Well the Bright Shiners being a fairly placid lot just accepted her and within 2 weeks she was away and laying well.  So far so good!  A week after the old queen had been moved, the Wee Dentist was looking to see how they were doing, when it was discovered that the old blue queen was no longer there and there was evidence of the sisters raising a replacement.  Did she die of a broken heart or did the move kill her?  We’ll never know.  We’re still waiting to find out what is happening there, probably another week or two before we’ll know.

Back to the Bright Shiners – all going well, new queen laying well – then Ta Da, suddenly without reason she disappears.

Did she swarm?  Unlikely.  Did she die? Did the Bright Shiners commit regicide?  Whatever happened there Aye Aye Captain and The General put in some eggs from the Happy Hippy Queen to see if those naughty Bright Shiners will raise a new Happy, Hippy Sister. Favouritism I think, they could have used some of my eggs to raise more of the Ginger offspring.

So that’s two Queens down, what about the third I hear you ask?  Well that was the littlest teenage sister.  The General has been trying to nurse her along all spring after a poor winter but finally last week when the General inspected, after planning to give her all new furniture to see if that would cheer her up, it was discovered that she was no longer at home and there were new queens almost ready to be born in there.  Did she die or had she moved house?  At first the General thought she’d moved house, but the Doctor thinks she may have just succumbed to poor health.  So again we are waiting to see what happens there.

There you go, all up to date again now.  My little feet are exhausted after dancing over the keys to bring you all this news.  Perhaps one of the new yellow generation might write for you next time.

May your pollen stores be plentiful.

The Ginger Queen

 

Sunday 28th May – The Polyhive Queen

Apprentice day again and here I am with my sisters stuck in this unfashionable little box.  We’ve tried hard to renovate it to our liking but it’s now getting a bit of a tight squeeze.  The foragers have been filling the pantries and the housemaids have been stacking it as neatly as possible but they’re starting to run out of room and putting the stuff all over my laying areas.  I like us to look our best for the apprentices but I’m not sure we’ll achieve it this time.  The Banker inspected us with her team of apprentices today.  I was pleased to see how respectful and careful they were.  They did lots of talking and decided on consultation with the General that we did indeed need a bigger residence.  Are we getting our nice prefab back I wondered?  No!  The General knocked that one on the head smartish.  It’s occupied by my daughter.  In another week or two we should know if she has been married successfully and is starting to raise her own sisters.

So my new home has turned out to be a rather nice cedar residence, with a cooling floor and plenty of new space for the housemaids to get busy on.  It’s going to take quite a bit of work to get it just so and the foragers are reporting that the yellow peril, which has been a great source of food for us this spring, is going to seed.  The sisters have obviously been doing a great job out there getting it all pollinated.  I was a bit worried about new food but my foragers are reporting good hawthorn, lots of hedgerow and riverside flowers and the garden flowers too.  There is also lots of the pink humming bush out in the village and also over the river where our solitary sisters live.  Trog is very interested in our solitary sisters and gives us all regular updates, but that’s another blog altogether.

I’m not best pleased to be still on the bottom terrace, I think it’s a bit infra dig but three of the other older queens are here too and we’ve decided to rename it the Golden Girls Terrace.  I think it’s looking better as my sister on the end was also moved up to a bigger house by the Banker and her team today and the other two won’t be far behind.  Currently this is where all the action is, while we wait to see if the new queens all get properly married.

We were very honoured today by the presence of the Queen Bee from the Borders, she had her own band of apprentices and I hope they realise how special it was being initiated into the mysteries of the sisterhood by such as she.  She looked at the smallest teenager house and she and the General had long discussions on the best way to help them as they are still not very strong and not really increasing the family.  I think they agreed that the best way forward might be something called a shook swarm – yikes, it sounds a bit violent but I’m sure if the Queen Bee from the Borders thinks it’s OK then it must be.

Until next time.

Good foraging.

The Polyhive Queen

 

Thursday 18th May – The Happy Hippy Bees

What a week it’s been, I almost don’t know where to start. It was a big ole party on Sunday, apprentices everywhere and the General in her element ordering everyone about.  The apprentices were lined up and given a strict talking too about behaviour around the sisters, then ordered into groups.  Most of the regulars were here too; Trog, the Doctor, the Farmer, the Hen Lady, even the Commander in Chief, but we had a rare treat with the Gentleman from the Coast paying us one of his occasional visits (we don’t think he is let out very often) and what a glorious sight he is in his linen jacket, showing us the respect we deserve.

Every sister was visited, some on the most dubious of excuses, with lots of oohing and ahhing from the apprentices and even some quite expert handling.  Some of them had even read our blog and were interested to meet us, someone wanted to know which of us write it but the General was keeping quiet on that front.  My commune passed muster, we had the General in charge of us (I told you I was her favourite!)  All my apprentices had a go at moving the furniture and examining my babies, my housemaids, my pantry – the whole works. But they didn’t see me, I was hiding in plain sight but they still missed me.

We all laughed fit to burst at the end, Trog had been taking his apprentices through the house at the end of our Terrace and telling them how to handle the sisters correctly with due care, not jerking the furniture or make sudden movements, then he discovered they were planning to move out and install a new queen.  It was all systems go; the General swung into action.  Equipment appeared from the shed, the Gentleman from the Coast joined in too but the General wouldn’t be deviated from her plan.  Trog had put the queen safely in a little cage and the new Queen elect’s furniture was marked so she wouldn’t be disturbed.  Then the General went into action shaking housemaids into the little wooden box that was to house the moving out queen along with spare furniture and plenty of food for the pantry.  Poor Trog he’d been instilling in his apprentices how to be careful and there was the General frenziedly shaking sisters everywhere like a demented midget!  Anyway their old Queen is now safely on the bottom terrace along with the Polyhive Queen.  I’m beginning to think all us older Queens are going to end up down there in a little wooden box before long.  It can’t be so bad – the Polyhive Queen has been there for two weeks now and stayed put.

As I listen to my sisters this evening going about their business after all the excitement of the day I think I hear mutterings about how I’m getting old and maybe it’s time for some younger blood.  Maybe I’ll be ending up on the bottom row in a little wooden box soon……

Flower Power and all that

The Happy Hippy Queen

Thursday 18th May – Postscript from the Happy Hippy Queen

Aye Aye Captain inspected us today and found out that my housemaids were indeed plotting to usurp me and now I’m in a little wooden box on the bottom terrace.  It’s not so bad, a bit of decorating and it’ll be fine.  Better than junketing about the countryside looking for a new home that has to be built from scratch.  I don’t think I could cope with that at my age, in fact I’m not so sure I can still fly, haven’t used those muscles for a long time.  I wonder who’ll be next to join us, perhaps we’ll rename it The Golden Girls Terrace.  Now I just need someone to open the door so these impatient foragers can get out and return to the old house.

 

Thursday 11th May – The Happy Hippy Bees

It has been a beautiful afternoon, just right for the sisters to be soaring amongst the flowers doing their thing and providing for our commune.  The General visited us this afternoon, the Handyman and the Under Gardener looked on, all was calm and soothing.  The General positively hums when she visits us, perhaps she’s been inhaling something stronger than honey and propolis, but hey, we don’t judge.

The General was a little stressed at first, as she has the first bunch of apprentices coming on Sunday and needs to have some sisters ready for visiting.  The Cherryburn Queen has just bunked off. The Under Gardener saw them leave across the fields minutes before the General arrived. Her estate agents must have found a better residence. Although we don’t gossip here in the commune, I must say I’m not surprised, the Cherryburn Queen always was a bit flighty and thought herself better than the rest of us, as in the dim and distant past she was descended from some of the Professor’s bees.  Then the General discovered the High Five Queen had moved out a day or two ago.  No wonder she was a bit stressed out. However, we did some deep breathing together and the General realised that she still has her best sisters right here.  I’ve been around a while now, my crown colour is blue and I’ve seen a few sisters come and go.  We are buzzing along nicely here and the General was much happier after visiting us, although I think the Under Gardener and the Handyman thought she was a bit bonkers as she cooed over us.

The General was working along the terraces and things definitely improved after her visit to us.  The Ginger Queen next door is doing very well, they are a bit more ambitious than us and dare I say it, work harder too but hey ho! It’s good to take your time and smell the flowers. That’s our philosophy.

I know she had been worried about the third terrace that houses the troublesome Cherryburn bees, the little polynuc and two teenage sisters that have been very poor after the winter.  However the Polynuc bees have now outgrown their little house and warranted a move to a full size cedar residence.  The Under Gardener and the Handyman did the honours and they were moved swiftly and cleanly into their new home, with the store cupboard topped up for good measure.  Then there were just the teenagers to visit and despite some trepidation on the part of the General both sisters surprised her with small but definitely growing families.  Phew! We could feel her relief from here.

So we are all tidied up and ready for the apprentices on Sunday.  The Under Gardener has had to take over from the Groundsman on the tidying front as the Groundsman is currently hopping lame.

Flower Power and all that

The Happy Hippy Queen

 

Thursday 4th May – The Polyhive Bees

Oh Dear!  You have no idea how shabbily I have been treated – me, the Polyhive Queen evicted into to a tiny wooden box of a home and put down on the fourth row.  I’ll never live it down.

Let me tell you the sorry tale.  Today the General appeared with Aye Aye Captain, Trog, the Handyman and the Wily One.  The Handyman has been busy putting a smart new sign on the shed and installing mega security on the shed door.  The Wily One was made to clean floors as The Dirty Jobs Lady wasn’t here.

Aye Aye Captain inspected us and very interested she was in our prefab, it’s been so warm in here that I’ve laid babies from one end of the house to the other.  The housemaids have been hinting that it’s time for me to move house and slimming me down ready for the move.  My estate agents have been out and about looking for new premises, while the housemaids have been making plans to replace me.  However, before my estate agents had settled on a new house, Aye Aye Captain found the housemaids’ preparations.  You’ve never seen a fuss like it – the whole team swung into action like a well oiled machine, although I thought they looked rather more like headless chickens!

A scabby wooden box was brought from the shed and I was put in there with some of my housemaids, somewhere to lay my babies and some food to see us through and transported to the bottom terrace.  The General made soothing noises saying I’ll get used to it and I’m so special she doesn’t want me to move away. So she’s provided me with a temporary home and when we get a bit crowded she’ll give me a new home.  I’ll be keeping her to that promise.  She won’t get away with treating me like this.

By the way Aye Aye Captain wasn’t very complimentary about my prefab.  It might have kept us warm all winter but the fact that the housemaids had lots of space to build the boys nursery under the furniture and arrange them as they saw fit and not in the regulation straight lines was a problem.  Lots of my boys’ nursery was destroyed in the re-organisation.  The Handyman was quite upset about this saying it was such a waste of our time and energy, he’s a nice man.  Trog said a slatted rack, whatever that might be, would solve the problem and quick as a flash the General asked him to make one for us.  Meanwhile, Aye Aye Captain and the General, the heartless pair, just continued to tidy up the nursery, with some muttering that at least it would help rid us of a few of the pesky mites.

Oh well, here I go, life on the bottom terrace, my one consolation is that I’ll soon be joined by some of the other queens – I’m just the first this year.

Good Foraging (although I seem to be sadly lacking in foragers just now)

The Polyhive Queen

 

Monday 24th April – Decimus Hive

I was beginning to think the General had forgotten us and our nearest neighbours.  Everyone else has had their houses restructured after the winter but we seemed to be forgotten.  It was getting so crowded up here, the housemaids wanted to rearrange the pantry above my babies and I was being forced to go and lay in the winter stores cellar.  However on Saturday she turned up and set us all straight.  My main chamber is now nearest the door with the pantry now moved above the puzzle gate as it should be.  My housemaids are happy although they will have to raise the children above the puzzle gate before they can use those areas for food.  When the General was rearranging she was most diligent and looked most meticulously for me, discovering me at last in the cellar, she caught me carefully and put me back into the main chamber.  She told me how beautifully I was doing with eight combs of new babies and lots of food coming in.  I think I’m her favourite!

I’m quite new to this Sisterhood as I was conceived elsewhere but raised and married at the General’s home.  I ended up down here because the Doctor thought I was too ginger!  He’s got a nerve – have you seen the General?  Although I have to say she’s getting more than a bit grey around the edges.  Anyway the General thought since we were such a lovely, quiet lot that she’d bring us down here and here we thrive.  I love living here it is warm and sheltered and my foragers tell me there is loads of food out there.  The yellow peril is blooming all over although it’ll need to warm up a bit if it is to produce enough food for us all.  My antennae tell me it’s going to get colder before it warms up again.

My sisters in the next house along the Terrace are not doing quite so well as us.  The General told me they are about half our size but looking OK.  She is going to remove their winter stores cellar altogether as it is empty and needs sorting out as it’s all a bit of a beggars muddle in there (at least that’s what I thought she said!).  She has put in a one-way door to channel all the sisters down into the main chamber which she assures me has a well stocked pantry.

Just before she left she put the floors in here and next door to catch some of the pesky mites and says she’ll be back to count them soon.

May your pollen stores be plentiful.

The Ginger Queen

 

Monday April 17th – The Polyhive Bees

Well, the General was up early this morning.  Only a few of the sisters were flying and then we felt a draught right up the combs as the sliding floor was removed.  And we thought we might get a lie in as it was Easter!  Anyway the General reported that there were only a few of the pesky mites on the floor, she wiped it clean and put it back.  Then off she went along the terraces to check our sisters’ accommodation to see how clean their floors were too.

While she worked she muttered on about how well some of us had survived the winter and that she’s a bit worried about two families down on the third terrace that are looking a bit poor (well compared to my household that is).  My girls and I got a splendid new prefab last year it’s a bit bright and unlike the Tardis it’s a lot smaller on the inside than it is on the outside!  Some of the sisters along the terrace sneered a bit saying it was not as good as their superior cedar houses but I must say it has kept us snug as bug all winter (well quite a lot of bugs actually).

The new Groundsman has done a fantastic job on the gardens, they are looking neat and tidy and well trimmed.  He’s even put new bark under our foundations and it looks ever so smart. Even if he does bring that noisy great machine to cut the grass, just as well he wears that hat; some of my guards don’t like it much.

I think The General is getting ready for something.  She has been having a tidy up in the shed and The Dirty Jobs Lady was made to go around and count all the stuff in the shed and on our estate then write it all down and send it to The Banker.  From what I can gather The Banker is very important as she is the one who pays for all our new furniture and food and medicines if we need them.

I believe we are just about ready for another visit from the General as I know two of my neighbours haven’t yet had their homes inspected. The General says she’s waiting for warmer weather but we’ve had plenty of warm days and where has she been?  Waiting for lambs she says.  I don’t know, you just can’t get the staff these days.

Good foraging

The Polyhive Queen