A MAINE BEE ADVENTURE

Susan Vaughan here. Yes, it’s Columbus Day! Thank you, Chris, for “discovering” this New World. But I’ll leave the celebration to others.

Today I want to share an extraordinary experience. I’ve promised not to name the location and identities to protect privacy, and I hope commenters who recognize this series of events will keep that in mind. This a tale of neighborly and family support and caring by expert volunteers.

Most warm days I walk my dog Sasha on a path mowed around my neighbor “A” ’s field. In mid-September I noticed a hanging “growth” on a tree limb that I at first thought was a hornet nest.

Bees4

Wrong. It was a bee colony. Honeybees, to be specific. I notified A about what I’d seen, and she and a couple of other neighbors investigated. A beekeeper friend of A’s came to study the colony (not hive). He suggested these weren’t “wild” bees but probably swarmed from a hive not too far away. Honeybees cannot survive in the wild in a state this far north. The bees would die, he said, by the second frost. This late in the season, an attempt to move a well established colony would distress them too much.

Bees2

Oh no! We were all horrified. Honeybees are endangered, and we were just going to let these little pollinators die? But don’t despair. The “Bee Man” decided to give it a go. (Bee Man is my term, but I’ve learned that some beekeepers call themselves “beeks.”) If it didn’t work, at least we tried. The colony had settled on the south-facing side of the field, which he said was a very good “bee field,” with lots of wildflowers and no pesticide contamination. Moving the colony might work if the mild autumn weather held and if the bees could remain in that field, but in a hive.

Bees3

Before I continue with the story, a few facts about bees. Different kinds of bees have different homes. Honeybees are the only bees that make honey and thus need a large “nest.” A “hive” is a human-made container for honeybees, with combs on frames inside the hive. In the wild, honeybees create a nest of pods with chambers for the queen, the workers, a nursery, and honey to get them all through winter. A colony can number as many as 60,000 honeybees.

The Bee Man brought a hive to the field, and a group of family and friends set to work. Slowly, gently, so as to disturb the bees as little as possible.

Bees6 Removal

With ropes and help from many hands for leverage, he sawed off both sides of the branch.

dLowering hive

The colony came down to the ground without incident until they moved the log into position on the hive. The bees and their honey were heavy, and three combs broke off and fell to the ground. Luckily, no stinging.

Bees8 - Box Closeup

The next day, the bees removed the honey from the broken combs, which were only partly filled. While we waited for more of them to move inside and a larger hive box to arrive, the Bee Man placed the lid on top as rain protection.

fHive in box & lid

Several days later when the larger hive section arrived, he carved off the rest of the wood and lowered the colony inside. A friend of his donated frames of honey and screens for comb support. Immediately the bees began to remodel their new, larger home and eat the new honey.

iComb lowered

The Bee Man said these were the gentlest bees he’d ever seen, very calm and not bothered by the human activity. No one was stung in this entire process. Now our neighborhood honeybees have plenty of food until the cold.

iBees Boxed

A has a recipe for nectar to keep them fed during winter and has ordered protective gear. She’s a champ. Everyone feels the colony has a good chance of survival. In the meantime, things are humming.

Honeycomb heart

*** I’ll gift a copy of PRIMAL OBSESSION (Print or digital in the U.S.; digital only elsewhere) to the first commenter who can tell me how/why honeycomb chambers are hexagonal. You can find more information about PRIMAL OBSESSION and my other books at www.susanvaughan.com.

Posted in Susan's posts | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Weekend Update: October 11-12, 2014

fallsbooks1Next week at Maine Crime Writers there will be posts by Susan Vaughan (Monday), John Clark (Tuesday), Jayne Hitchcock (Wednesday), Sarah Graves (Thursday), and Kate Flora (Friday).

In the news department, here’s what’s happening with some of us who blog regularly at Maine Crime Writers:

sconelargeKaitlyn Dunnett: Turns out the $1.99 special on Scone Cold Dead (2nd book in the Liss MacCrimmon series) that I mentioned last weekend will last until October 21st AND it’s at B&N for Nook as well as at Amazon for Kindle. This is one of those things, like titles and cover art, over which the author has no control, although I’m certainly in favor of lowering ebook prices. No one tells me much ahead of time, either, so I’m just passing on information as I get it. It does appear, though, that Kilt Dead, the first book in the series, has also dropped in price to $1.99. If you already have these two books, tell your cozy-reading friends. The prices will go back up before you know it.

Barb Ross: Next Saturday, October 18, 2014, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, I’ll be featured at the Author Luncheon at South Freeport Congregational Church, 98 South Freeport Road
South Freeport ME 04078. I’d love to see you there. The cost is $15 per person. Reserve a ticket in advance by calling 207-865-4012; no tickets will be sold at the door.

Kate Flora: This coming Tuesday, I’ll be speaking about my new books at the Curtis Library in

At the Wilmington, MA library with my two new babies

At the Wilmington, MA library with my two new babies

Brunswick at 7:00 pm. The Curtis mystery series is always a treat to attend and I’m looking forward to sharing my two new books with readers who’ve been hearing about them for a long time. As some of you know, I worked on Death Dealer for five years.

As special treat is that the publisher arranged to send me copies of my new Joe Burgess, And Grant You Peace, in advance of the publication date, so I’d have them for Tuesday. Hope I’ll see some of you there.

Kaitlyn Dunnett (again): There’s a review and giveaway of Vampires, Bones and Treacle Scones (Liss’s Halloween book, now in paperback) at King’s River Life. The drawing is October 18. Click here for more information.

http://kingsriverlife.com/10/11/vampires-bones-and-treacle-scones-by-kaitlyn-dunnett/

 

An invitation to readers of this blog: Do you have news relating to Maine, Crime, or Writing? We’d love to hear from you. Just comment below to share. Don’t forget that comments are entered for a chance to win our wonderful basket of books and the very special moose and lobster cookie cutters.

 

And a reminder: If your library, school, or organization is looking for a speaker, we are often available to talk about the writing process, research, where we get our ideas, and other mysteries of the business. Contact Kate Flora: mailto: kateflora@gmail.com

Posted in Sunday Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Game’s Afoot!

Hi. Barb here, feeling nostalgic about mystery games.

clue boardWhen I was a kid, my family wouldn’t play Clue with me. I always won. The story became family lore and got spun a couple of different ways. I always contended they wouldn’t play with me. My mother claimed I gave up playing with them because it was too easy. Either way, perhaps my future as a mystery writer was foretold.

It was not until I was a grown-up with kids of my own that I discovered the ultimate mystery game: Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. When our kids were small, Bill and I used to vacation with another couple, and once we had wrestled the three, and later four kids to bed, we played this game every single night.

The game, which was published in 1981, had the best game board ever. A map of London. To this day, huge swaths of my London geography knowledge hark back to what I learned playing this game.

sherlockmap2sherlockbookThe players in the game are the Baker Street Irregulars, personified by Wiggins. At the beginning of the game Sherlock gathers you and gives you the case, which is contained, along with all the clues, in a big brown notebook.

The players take turns moving around London and collecting clues. You might start at the scene of the crime, or go Scotland Yard to find out what they’ll tell you. You interview witnesses, who lead you to others with information and suspects. There’s a newspaper for each day of the case, where you can read reports of what’s happened, but also check the advertisements, personal ads and articles that at first seem unrelated. If you are stuck and suspect has an international angle, you might consult with Mycroft. Or maybe hang around the Inns of Court and hear what the gossip is.

Sherlock-Holmes-Consulting-Detective-Screenshot-01The game is completely collaborative. Everyone hears every clue. You are working together to solve the case. There are no dice or spinners or spaces to count, so there is no luck involved at all. You determine where you want to go and in what order.

We would play for hours, often interrupted by encore appearances by our offspring. One memorable night the five-year-old appeared on the balcony ringing the two story living room to announce, “Mom! Dad! My heart’s stopped beating!” Reassured that his heart had certainly not stopped beating, he was led off again to bed.

Together the players decide when they are ready to name the suspect and provide their theory of the case. Then you answer eight to ten questions, comparing your solution to Sherlock’s. The trick is to know when enough is enough, when you have enough clues to make the intuitive leaps required to construct the right solution.

The game later had extensions, additional cases and boards. Even later, it became a video game, but we never followed it there. To me, it’s just happy memories of long summer nights, relaxing with good friends.

Do you have a favorite mystery game? Any other Sherlock players out there?

Posted in Barb's Posts | 7 Comments

I ought to ….

Lea Wait, here. It’s October. I know, because I can see orange leaves on trees outside my study window. I’d really love to go for a long walk and breathe in the crisp air before the temperatures drop below freezing.

But I ought to start finding and sorting through the Christmas gifts I buy all year ’round, start wrapping, make lists, and see if I need anything else for my children or their children. I should go through the stack of cartons I always save in case I need to ship something, and pick out those I’ll be using for Christmas The others can go in the barn.

I ought to take a pile of summer clothes to the cleaner’s, and take my winter slacks and jackets out of the closet they’re stashed in. Before the temperatures drop I really need to sew on all the buttons that fell off my flannel shirts last winter. I’m pretty sure I saved them all in a corner of my jewelry box. Which reminds me, I need to clean my jewelry, especially the silver pieces. Tarnish is damaging.

I should call the propane company to make sure our generator is set for winter. And order some kiln-dried wood and biobricks for the wood stove in my husband’s studio. But before that I need to clean out the barn, so there’s space for the wood and the bricks. That means taking old magazines, newspapers and cardboard to the recycling center. And all those bottles in the barn … they need to go to the redemption center. Every five cents helps. Plus, we need space for the bottles we’ll empty during the winter. I should check to see when I’ll be near New Hampshire in the near future, where liquor and wine are less expensive then in Maine. If I make a list of all the libations we’ll need for the holidays, I can get them in the house, and save a few dollars.

I should start bringing the porch furniture into the barn. And cover the porch cushions and put them away, too. I’d better not forget to turn off the outside water before that pipe freezes and breaks. And when I do that, I should drain the garden hose and hang it in the barn, ready for next year. Our mosquito magnet is still out, and the mosquitos are finally gone.  The mosquito magnet should be cleaned and put away for the winter. Which reminds me. The mosquitos and black flies may be gone .. but it’s about time for the mice to arrive. I don’t mind sharing our cellar or barn with them during the winter, but there are electric wires on the second floor of the ell and in the attic. Traps or poison. Must get some.

I should run a few errands. I have a pile of books to donate to the library. The lamp next to my husband’s bed really should be repaired. And I’ve been meaning to stop at the jewelry store to see if any of my watches can be repaired, or whether I’ll have to continue carrying a travel alarm clock around in my pocketbook.

I should really clean the bird feeders before it gets too cold. And put away the bird bath. Oh, and I should really get some of those stakes with reflectors on them to put at the end of the driveway so people – especially people plowing our driveway – don’t plow our lawn instead. Which reminds me. I’d better call the guy who plowed our driveway last year to make sure we’re on his list for this year. I should put down all the storm windows, and put balsam-filled “snakes” on all the window sills and where the top and bottom windows meet. (I should probably look up to see what that place is called, while I’m at it.) I should close off the rooms we don’t use (and therefore don’t heat) in the winter, and block their doorways with blankets or more snakes. I need to replace the screen doors with storm doors and put some blankets between the outside and inside doors. I’d better check the outside lights, while I’m at it. Replacing bulbs in ice and snow isn’t fun.

Oh, and I need to do some writing, too. Get a good start on the three books I have deadlines for in 2015. But before that, I should order postcards and bookmarks for TWISTED THREADS, which will be out in January. (That means getting a lot of labels and stamps, too. I should put them on my list. And stamps for the Christmas cards I should be looking for this time of year.)

And I need to sort through my clothes so I’ll have something to wear (I should have gone on a diet, but it’s a little late for that) to my high school reunion this coming weekend, and to my nephew’s wedding in Phoenix in November, and to the children’s book festival and signings and library talks I agreed to do back in July, when November and December seemed a long time away, and promoting a Christmas mystery (SHADOWS ON A MAINE CHRISTMAS) and a book for children (UNCERTAIN GLORY) at the end of the year made sense. (Did I really schedule three events in two states within a day and a half? Do they need posters or an author bio or bookmarks to promote the events? Have I confirmed all the details? I need to check those things.)

I really should read the new books just published by my fellow Maine Crime Writers. I’ve read one or two, but this fall everyone has at least one book out, and I want to read them all. I’ve had my flu shot, but I should take the cat to the vet for a checkup. Maybe she needs one. I’ve never had a cat before, so I don’t want to make a mistake with her.

First, though, I think I’ll write all these things down. If they’re on a list, I won’t forget them. And it will be fun to cross them out. That list is a good idea.

I think I’ll start it right after I take that walk …

Posted in Lea's Posts | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Where Do We Get Our Ideas? We Look Around and There They Are . . .

We crime writers are often asked where we get our ideas. Do we conjure them up like magicians? Keep inspirational dream journals? Scribble down snippets of snatched conversations?

Sometimes, it seems, we merely have to live in the right little town.

Vicki Doudera here, and as you know from many of my past posts, I live year-round in Camden, a town in the midcoast known as “the jewel of the Maine Coast..” If you haven’t yet visited this particularly pretty piece of the Pine Tree State, you owe it to yourself to come. We’ve got gorgeous harbors, Camden Hills State Park with 30 miles of trails, lovely Lake Megunticook, fabulous restaurants such as 40 Paper, a restored Opera House, and much more.

Unfortunately — we’ve also got crime.

You may remember my blog about the woman whose husband pushed her off the top of Mount Megunticook, hoping to kill her so he could pocket her recently inherited millions. A jury found him guilty in July, and Charles Black – now my friend Lisa’s ex-husband – was sentenced to 30 years in prison only two weeks ago.

On the heels of that, there was a stand-off at our downtown pharmacy, a sad situation that resulted in a pharmacist being held hostage while an obviously very troubled man demanded drugs and then took his own life.

And now… ? Two high-profile cases involving the theft of millions of dollars. Neither has yet to go to trial, but, in at least one case, the defendant has admitted his guilt.

The first involves a couple, Jason and Mary Throne, who moved to Maine from Colorado, where Jason worked as a patent attorney for window treatment company Hunter Douglas. The lawsuit claims that beginning in 1999, the Thrones created a company that billed Hunter Douglas for patent search services that were never performed. Allegedly they purchased trophy homes in Rockport (the town next to Camden) and Steamboat Springs, Colorado, as well as automobiles and a boat. The story first broke in Colorado, back in June, then quickly traveled East.

Hunter Douglas’ lawsuit alleges that the Throne’s actions amount to racketeering, the crime of obtaining or extorting money illegally, or carrying on illegal business activities. Jason Throne is still in town, attending high school soccer games while the wheels of justice slowly turn.

And now we have another white collar crime in our little town: embezzlement.

This latest scandal broke last week, and it’s a big one for Camden. It involves a former “Townsperson of the Year,” Russell “Rusty” Brace, who is accused by United Mid-Coast Charities (the organization he headed for seventeen years) of embezzling 3.8 million dollars of charitable donations over a period of a dozen years. Apparently he has admitted to the charges.

I don’t think I’ve ever had the occasion to look up the word embezzlement. It is “the act of dishonestly withholding assets for the purpose of conversion (theft) of such assets by one or more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted, to be held and/or used for other purposes.”

The big word in this definition is “entrusted.” Unlike the racketeering scheme supposedly run by the Thrones, this crime (if it is proven to have taken place) involved breaking the trust not only of the organization’s officers, staff, and donors, but of all the charitable organizations to whom the money was supposed to flow,of all the people in our area who supported all the fundraising events. The details are still emerging, but if true, this embezzlement represents a huge breach of trust.

Which is why so many of us here in Camden feel very betrayed. And that, when it comes right down to it, may end up to be the biggest crime of all.

All of this comes at a time when I am finishing up the third edition of my book Moving to Maine, a guide for people relocating here, or merely thinking about it. I talk in the book about how safe Maine is, how people rarely lock their doors, how random violence is seldom an issue.

All that is still true, even with Camden’s rash of crimes. Our state is still much safer than most of the country. But even a jewel has its dark side, and beautiful Camden has never been immune to greed, or whatever it is that makes someone want to push his wife off a cliff, demand drugs at gunpoint, or steal millions of dollars from an employer.

 

Where do crime writers get their ideas? Sometimes, sad to say, we are living right in the midst of them.

Posted in Vicki's Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment