You are probably all pleased to know that this will be a shorter post today. I don’t have to cram two days worth of information in, as yesterday, and it was a blessedly slower day. This morning, as Ferry was loading up the skeps, Sun Hives, and propolis tinctures for the conference that starts tomorrow, Jacqueline, Joseph, and I headed off for a walking excursion in downtown Haarlem. This town center is a huge, ancient plaza, anchored by an exquisite cathedral that I was not willing to spend 2.50 Euro to go see. I’m getting thrifty. Things are expensive here with the exchange rate. Here I am, ready for any kind of weather…

We are not seasoned foreign travelers, and Haarlem is not a major tourist destination. Now, we are not interested in major tourist towns, but in some ways, they are easier for foreign travelers to get around with better access for credit cards, more English used. On our way out the door, Jacqueline said, “We need to find an Apple store, because my old cell phone just won’t hold a charge anymore.” The map that could get us home was on her phone. But, of course, the Spirit of the Bees was looking out for us, because one of the first shops we bumped into was a cell phone repair shop. With a lovely shop owner from Wales! Battery problem solved!

Off we went! I love odd signs and I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the Cathedral with this sign. The shop turned out to be an adult toy store, just a few blocks from the church…

Here is a better view of the Cathedral…

This is most certainly a bike culture over here, but nothing like Portland. The bikes are stout and well used. Not a lot of ten speeds, and most with various sizes of baskets and carts attached to front, back, and over the handlebars. Yes, the roads have many parked cars, but the main traffic in the plaza is all bikes. Cars cannot come into the center. Why can’t we do more of this in our cities?

And how is this for an innovation? metal “rails” along staircases so that you can easily wheel your bike up and down with out the “bump…bump…clump…”

Another wonderful sign. A chickenbar! And eggs! We need one of these back home…

I’m not an extravagant shopper, buying primarily from thriftstores at home, but I simply could not resist splurging on a couple of items…

A lovely new date book for next year for my bee and skep weaving classes, and these two scrubbers that I simply CAN’T find at home!

We had no idea what these creatures were. Geese? Storks? Gorks?? Whatever they were, they were big and lovely. I saw very few lawns around houses here, but rather all of the grass was in parks, and along the canals. The Dutch make good, efficient use of space, and the tiny yards of the homes are packed with flowers, vines, and shrubs. Trees sprout out from between the bricks and cobblestones, and are staked up and cared for. 

I don’t know if this is true, but it felt like we were wandering a spider’s web, with the Cathedral and plaza at the center, and these narrow, lovely little side streets webbing out like spokes from the center. This is a typical residential street.

We wandered for several hours, and ate at little cafes with divine bread, and licked gelato.When we returned home, I walked into the dining room and saw this:

Instantly, I began squealing and happy dancing through the dining room. This may not look like much to you, but I’ve coveted one of these for years now. It is an old “smoker pipe” for beekeepers that I believed were not longer used. The ones I’d seen were from videos of the 1930s in old skep apiaries. Unlike our typical smokers, these are small and you load them up with tobacco or sweet-smelling herbs and you puff smoke out to your bees. I don’t use smokers, but this pipe enables you to breath small puffs of smoke that will keep bees away from your face, and that you can use to gently blow bees off of the edges of a hive that you are trying to close without smooshing bees. And you can use this hands-free! 

Right now, if I’m approaching bees that I know are cranky but for some reason I simply must interact with them, I put on my bee hat and veil. I hate wearing my bee gear. It is clunky, and when I put it on, I feel like I’m armoring myself against the bees. This is not the way I want to approach bees, ever. With this pipe, perhaps I can simply light up, puff a bit, and keep the bees away from my face. I don’t care if I get stung on the hands or arms, but nasty bees buzzing in my face are unsettling. I’ll let you all know if this works when I get home. Even if I never use it, I love it. I love that it came to me from Ferry, and I’ll remember him every time I look at it. Here I am, demonstrating…

Meanwhile, Ferry worked on his Sun Hive stand for the conference. He cut the wood in his upstairs weaving room, and assembled it in his living room…

Sorry, but I just can’t resist just one more photo of my simply groovy pipe! (Even if it does make me look like a blow fish)…

I’ll leave you with this image of the beginning of one of Ferry’s skeps, like a sweet, round, straw moon. Tomorrow, the conference begins!