Tuesday it was bees: we had a most thrilling hive inspection as our last field trip.

We got to see some varroa mites, how to check for the tell-tale odour of foulbrood,

what a hive about to swarm looks like, how you graft a queen cell, how you mark a queen,

how you split a hive, and how you recapture a swarm that hasn’t left yet. It was not the best time of day (evening) or the best weather (a bit damp) but the bees bore it as best they could, and brave Larry showed us how an experienced bee-man can handle even cranky bees without nets or gloves…

..on account of he had very kindly lent me his jacket and veil. And has spent his entire life around bees. I feel hardly qualified to have my own hives just yet, but will spend a little more time hanging out with bee-folk and see how I feel next year.

Then, on to Saskatchewan where I’m participating in the Sage Hill spring poetry colloquium at St Michael’s Retreat Centre in the Qu’Appelle Valley,

where the ticks are active if not biting (phew). They’ve been crawling over us night and day, even those of us who haven’t gone outside let alone into long grass. This evening I found one hiding on my person. Here she is practicing her backstroke in a drop of water, before sinking into the last hot bath of her life.

Our colloquium leader Erin has researched the subject thoroughly, and apparently it’s unwise to try to crush them (even if you can) in case they’re carrying a disease which you can then spread on yourself by accident. So I think scalding is quick and merciful.

Anyway, there are eight of us here from all across Canada, all with manuscripts in progress. We’ve been having a good time doing poetry exercises and plunging into some hard editorial graft. Between meals, walks (in the short grass, thanks) and strolls into town. Where there is surprising variety in fire hydrant, I happened to notice.

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