Sunday 27 June 2021


You have probably come here from, which is what I put on my "honey for sale" sign on The Footpath, Coton. This page provides information about my distinctly amateur and amateurish beekeeping.

This page begin on 2021/06/27: I intended to fill it in, but it is now obsoleted by the 2022 version. Comments are welcome. A picture: my apiary in 2020.

My apiary

"Apiary" is a somewhat grand name for the patch at the end of the garden wherein my two hives reside. And here you see them. Both are UK "national" pattern, like most UK hives. To the right is "coppertop", which got a new (copper) roof about two years ago. To the left is "old faithful" which is sort-of my original hive, though bits get swapped. In the left foregound are some removed frames; behind that, the smoker sits on top of a very old flat-roof which I don't use, except for putting the smoker on. In 2004 I had four hives; that was too many for me.

The garden backs onto a small overgrown stream (see here for pix) and beyond are little-used fields. To the right is a neighbours garden, but they don't go into the end (not because of my bees, I hasten to add). To the left is a "community" patch of grass that also sees few visitors. The apiary is surrounded by trees but it is a good spot: sunny enough, but also protected from the winter wind.


Extracting honey

After the frames are removed from the hive and de-capped (DESCRIBE THIS) they are then put in the extractor and spun. I have a 1/3 share in a stainless steel "tangential" extractor (which means the frames are placed tangential to the circumference, which means they need to be spun gently, rotated, spun again, rotated, and spun again; which is why the pros prefer radial extractors. Pic showing the inside). Spun off honey then collects in the base of the extractor and can then be tapped off, filtered (in this case via the conical stainless steel filter shown here) to remove bits of wax and undesireable bits of bees, and collected. It is then fit to be bottled.


Lot markings

I mark my honey jars with a "lot marking", as the law requires. These allow traceability. They are generally of the form <year><symbols>. For example:

* 2021f - the year 2021, "f" for "first" - the spring recollte, and the first of that: honey only strained, not heated.

* 2021H - the year 2021, and "H" since the honey has been heated to allow the wax present to melt, so that the honey can be strained off.

Heating, Granulation and so on

Honey will naturally set, eventually. Spring honey, which often has a lot of rape in it, often sets early. Shop-bought honey that has been professionally processed will have been carefully heated, strained and perhaps pre-seeded to ensure the desired degree of granulation. Mine does not get such exact treatment.

If the honey has set, and you don't want it that way, it can be heated. Don't overheat it. Probably the easiest way is to put it into the microwave "for a bit" but do be careful.

Some blog posts about individual years

Bad beekeeping 2020 May: swarm collection, honey extraction and Autumn.

Autumn beekeeping 2017

* A photographic essay: July 2016

* Spring 2015: swarm collection.

* Some notes from summer 2010.

* Queen in the supers, 2009.

Fluid dynamics: honey spirals, 2005.

Book review: Project Hail Mary

Well, it is fun. And I enjoyed reading it. But... Nicole at Goodreads makes most of the obvious objections, so I don't need to. It is too similar to The Martian. Naturally, there would be three humans but the author kills off two of them so he can revert to his comfy one-person-no-personal-interactions viewpoint.

Saturday 26 June 2021

Book review: Out of the Silent Planet / Perelandra / That Hideous Strength

201016491_3540709362695152_2568655642094953640_n Out of the Silent PlanetPerelandra and That Hideous Strength are "science fiction" books by C S "Narnia" Lewis. They all contain a great deal of Christian theology, to a degree that will surprise you even if you've read Narnia. All are well written and worth reading. THS has the best story; P has the least.

OOTSP (we are the silent planet) introduces us to a cosmology in some ways like the medieval model of The Discarded Image. Our hero, Ransom, is shanghaied there by the evil Devine (merely in it for the gold) and Weston (wants to kill all the natives and expand the human race forever outwards). Various things happen, and I will not spoil the plot by telling you what. In the end the good guys win by being overwhelmingly powerful. Lewis has fun with Weston trying to explain his purposes, but needing to be translated by Ransom, and so all the easy gloss is stripped out and replaced by the harshest truth.

In all the books Lewis is presenting the battle of good and evil; the men he uses to represent evil are modern "scientific man". But this is somewhat odd reading now; the things that Weston proposes are odd:  for example, we would not be sending spacecraft to Mars if we thought we'd be destroying interesting life. Perhaps it is closer to say that Lewis is preferring an older style of life, somewhat like Tolkien not liking Sandyman the miller.

P is kinda a re-telling of The Fall; the Tempter is Weston (or an evil spirit speaking through him) and this time Eve has an... anti-tempter, Ransom. The temptation this time is not a fruit but sleeping-on-fixed-land, and Lewis struggles to make sense of this, mostly by not doing so. Eventually, for obscure reasons, Ransom decides to change to physical conflict, and kills Weston: why this is an acceptable resolution I don't know. It becomes clear that Obedience is important to Lewis.

THS is the best story: a Young Lecturer is drawn into the inner circle of his college, and then into an institute called NICE, before becoming aware how evil it is. Devine returns as Lord Feverstone. The Kafkaesque inability of the YL to pin down NICE to any terms is reminiscent of The Castle. In the end, the theme of Obedience translates into the marriage of the YL and his wife Jane who realise that their modern views are wrong.

In a way I subscribe to Orwell's views (see here). Lewis believes very fundamentally in his Christian perspective, and that provides him with a Right Answer, but unfortunately only under the rulership of something else; humans become, effectively, non-adults: in the sense of not being self-governing. They must Obey. If you're Christian this is fine. If you're not... it provides nothing other than a vague nostalgia that some things were better in Ye Olde Dayes. I've had occasion to say before that governance is hard; palming it off on someone "good" is cheating.

Friday 18 June 2021

Book review: Lord of the Rings

1620676341757-4580e089-2c9b-4221-9301-186b6e5a83c9_ At last! Having read this Quite Often (last in summer 2020, this time finishing in May 2021) I finally review it.

First, I have to point out one of its flaws: the all-too-common one I discuss in Divine Endurance: that of characters-accepting-their-fate. In this case there is at least half an excuse, in that - although it is never said explicitly - there is some external Plan from the One. And yet... all during the Third Age the elves attempt nothing new; they are content to sit within their little forests and just let time pass by. In some sense, in the sense of all that matters of what you do is what carries forward into the future, they might almost as well not be there for most of that time. She seemed no longer perilous or terrible, nor filled with hidden power. Already she seemed to him, as by men of later days Elves still at times are seen: present and yet remote, a living vision of that which has already been left far behind by the flowing streams of Time. Why have the elves lost their get-up-and-go, their oomph, their lust for life?

The good points: it is a good story, well told. It survives re-reading well. This is because it was slowly written by an intelligent well-read person who had pre-written a background (the obessiveness of that becomes clearer in the appendices, where we have for example Short names such as Sam Tom, Tim, Mat were common as abbreviations of actual Hobbit-names, such as Tomba, Tolma, Matta, and the like. But Sam and his father Ham were really called Ban and Ran. These were shortenings of Banazir and Ranugad, originally nicknames, meaning 'half-wise, simple' and 'stay at-home'; but being words that had fallen out of colloquial use they remained as traditional names in certain families. I have therefore tried to preserve these features by using Samwise and Hamfast, modernizations of ancient English samwis and hámfæst which corresponded closely in meaning) . The "magic" is interesting because so rarely explicit... the ringwraiths, for example, just spread fear; they don't cast firebolts or suchlike. Saruman can daunt or persuade, but this is just a normal characteristic, carried to magical extremes.

Quibble: the Ents would like to find the Entwives. Well, why don't they go and have a look? They've had hundreds, nay thousands of years of relative peace in which to do it. Elsewhere we encounter the same bizarre lack of desire to travel. In the story, this works well for the travellers, who can pass on news; but it makes all the people they visit seem parochial.

Quibble: how do people know that the chief Ringwraith will not be killed by the hand of man? The mechanism for this prophecy, and others, is unclear.

I'm not sure how much to object to stuff about "blood"; the Numenoreans in Gondor have declined, having mixed their blood with lesser men. Here's a description: The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall, and stern as stone, his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king out of the mists of the sea had stepped upon the shores of lesser men. And this is how things work: great men of renown have special power, by virtue of themselves and that renown. Or All told the Dúnedain were thus from the beginning far fewer in number than the lesser men among whom they dwelt and whom they ruled, being lords of long life and great power and wisdom. So you could call this meritocracy: they rule because they are better and fitted for it; in the book this is true; in real life, it's what they want you to think.

Quibble: Saruman's attack on Helm's Deep makes little sense to me (but see here for a different view). S has sent out his Orcs against Rohan; at first, to the Fords which are lightly garrisoned. Where will these orcs go after the fords? To Medusheld, of course - that's where Theoden and the Rohirrim are. As it happens, unpredictably, T rides forth - but the orc host doesn't know this. T happens to go to Helm's Deep, and the orcs go there, though if T hadn't gone their, it would have been a pointless trip for the orcs to an outlying nearly unmanned outwork.

Lastly (because this is in no way an attempt at a complete review) I like the way it ends by trailing off. The story ends, in a way, with the destruction of the ring. Then it ends with the feast of praise. Then it ends with them leaving Gondor. Then it ends with the scouring of the Shire. Finally it ends with Sam coming home. But then we get the life and death of Aragorn. And then what happened after. Finally I think it actually ends with Legolas and Gimli. This is all well done.

Re-read: 2024/04

I think I find the absence of religion striking. Perhaps it is because there are genuine supernatural powers known in the world: certainly the wizards, but also to some extent (from the hobbits' point of view) the elves; so they feel no need to invent a religion? And yet we know (from the Silmarillion) that there is a genuine God who created the world; and there are powers (Maya) some of whom some of the elves must have met. Yet no-one feels any urge to worhip (aka, seek favours of) any of these powers.

Why are the elves so wonderful? They're allowed to be fair of face, and graceful, and so on, but these are mere physical characteristics; and being long-lived they may well also have become wise. But why are they not-evil? When the Fellowship is in Lothlorien, the elves are practically magical, and we are told there is no evil in Galadriel. I have an answer: because they have no desires. There is no striving in the elves, no lust for power or glory or anything really; the great years of Feanor are in the past, they live quietly, they do nothing. "and into ashes all my lust" as Marvell put it.

Monday 7 June 2021

Bad beekeeping, 2021

This post written in arrears, when fb reminded me of some pix (here). This post backdated to 2021/June/07 to fit. Text I wrote then "Before I forget: one super out of old / lhs / two-super hive. Mostly capped and respectable top super. One and two frames from rhs, lots uncapped (am I early? I'm never early), many frames interlinked. Bees well behaved". My "apiary" index page.


and a general view


and some frames.


Thursday 3 June 2021

The hut on chicken's legs

Or, Pictures at an Exhibition. I recommend Richter's version. But here, I am recording the pictures that my mother has on her stairs. Pictures digitised on my Pixel 4a5G using the Google Photoscan app. Click on pix to go to the Flickr originals. Mother generally wrote stuff on the back, which I also copied; click on the date for that.

Rumour says that Jenny has Roland's genealogical tracing; I should find that sometime,

Marjorie and Annie

We begin with mother and Annie, or Pat(ricia).


Lucy Farley

Holding Beaumont (my Grandfather). Gladys (his sister, not my grandmother) and Edward in the pram. 1907/08.


Farley children

In the pram, my grandfather. R, his sister Gladys and L his brother Edward. Circa 1907.


Frampton family

Standing back (R to L): Jack, Frank, Douglas, Alice. Jane (seated) holding Barbara. Cecil.


George Farley

Died sometime 1930s. Had a shop in Croyden. 


Gertrude Frampton

Mother's grandmother.