Thursday, 29 August 2013

a field study of bourgeois flow regimes


As Field Study's Man in E11, I have been immersed (lost) in the fluid dynamics of honey this last week. Our honey harvest or extraction for 2013 is very nearly complete and I can report we have a yield of 62Kg from our apiary of 2 hives. Both honey bee colonies were left at least 45Ib/20Kg of stores to which they can add for the autumn and winter. Last year we did not harvest any honey and we also chose (by necessity?) to feed the bees through the autumn and winter because the stores were so meagre. I'm pleased with this yield and I like the flavour and other qualities of the honey. One of the other qualities of honey that appeals to me is the viscosity of the liquid and how it behaves when poured. Here is a selection of images from the extraction and jarring process.

 a frame of capped honeycomb from a beehive

we sliced the wax capping off using knives heated in hot water

the wax capping was saved to return to the bees

The honey in the uncapped frames was extracted using a motor driven extractor that spins the frames at high speed and so forces the honey out centrifugally. The extracted raw honey, along with various other bits of detritus (wax, dust, pollen, bits of plant), accumulates in the bottom of the extractor. We transferred the raw honey to a storage bucket from which it was poured into and through a muslin filter, to prepare it for jarring up. 

While there are possibly various ways of speeding this process up I don't know about them. Part of the appeal of the process to me is the pace of it determined by the qualities of the materials - the found temporal nature of it.

 a honey tail and coil

Many hours this last week have been lost and found in the ephemeral sculpture or sculpting of our honey - it's glistening fluid density, aromatic kinematic viscosity, the rhythm of stokes and poise, the gentle diffusivity of momentum accumulating in a viscous flow and slowly draining pool of bubbles. 

Field Study's Man in E11 has fantasized about installations of artfully poured honey and other liquids - a sort of 'poor art' (oh dear!) or 'Arte Povera' based on the elemental stuff of his allotment doings. Such fanciful notions may well express his petit-bourgeois affectations. 

Meanwhile the true workers in the field have been reunited with some of their plundered winter supplies and I hope to present what they have made of it soon.

cappings returned to bees - 23rd August. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

a field study of wasp intelligence.

Allotment Table Top - 9th September 2008.

Last night we set about the task of extracting the honey from the 'supers' removed from the apiary. We 'mmm'ed' our way through the sticky process of uncapping the honeycomb and using an extractor to centrifugally spin the honey out of the comb. The yield, taste and quality seems good so far and, inbetween our "mmm's" of appreciation, we also discussed the problem of wasps. Their various beneficial and pestiferous characteristics (from a human perspective) were compared and we did not agree on whether or not it would be better not to have wasps at all.

While breathing in the many fragrances of thousands upon thousands of days of honey bee toil my mind drifted back to September 2008 when our allotment table became a site for what might have been some form of written communication between wasps (Vespula vulgaris) and humans. There was a wasp nest under the nearby willow tree. The wasps would emerge from the nest, fly up into the tree and then drop down onto the table. For a while we could not gather around the table for lunch.

Field Study's Man in E17 did, however, venture closer than others to take some snaps of the activities of the wasps on the table top. They were, he assumed, collecting wood fibres from the increasingly weathered surface. The varnish was beginning to crack. To his amazement, the wasps appeared to be inscribing the table with what he saw as symbols. He observed numerous wasps working their way about the surface of the table chewing along the lines of the inscriptions - and, it seemed to him, extending them. I wish, as Field Study's Man in E11, that he had recorded the extent of the inscriptions more diligently - perhaps by making a full scale grid/plan of the table surface and recording each section so as to be able to reproduce the whole communal inscription.

What would you have made of these?

  September 2008

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

'Field Study's Man in E17' is lost for good.

A gloaming -18th August

'Lost and Found in E17' has been renamed 'Lost and Found in E11' and with that change I have decided to call off the search for 'Field Study's Man in E17'. My search and rescue effort has, on the whole, been very poor although there have been a few daring and sustained efforts to find the figment of my imagination wrapped up in that name. 

Last night, for instance, I tackled hordes of marauding wasps - Vespula vulgaris - to see if the field student had resorted to the pleasures of our honey bees' stores. I thought it possible the field student had become a wasp and joined in a bevy of jasper assaults on the hives with the intent of robbing us of our not inconsiderable honey harvest. I smoked, swatted, squashed and shook the wasps away but all the while, in the midst of the frenzy, I kept a keen and protected eye open for the wayward and waspish field student. I was taken aback and alarmed at how many wasps there were in the apiary and the damage they could do. I tried very hard to focus on each wasp's individuality but my patience and tolerance was sorely tried when I felt a searing sensation in my leg that was a wasp stinging me. I swatted the blighter off and stamped on it in anger and frustration. 

I removed all the harvestable honey stores from the apiary and wrapped them in various sheets and bags to try and prevent any more wasps (and bees) getting to them. Each full 'super' (a box/section of a bee hive containing honeycomb frames in which bees store honey) can weigh up to a cumbersome 14Kg and so it was quite a physically demanding task shifting 6 of them around carefully in ways that evaded the opportunist wasps and (some might say) deprived honey bees. The process of harvesting honey involves excluding the honey bees from the 'supers' before their removal from the hive. This action, combined with the old deteriorated state of the hives might account for the ease with which the wasps got into the hives. There were gaps and holes for them to get through and fewer bees to fend them off.

It was late evening by the time I finished dealing with the wasp kerfuffle. As the sun sank into King Georges Reservoir I felt a pleasant coolness when I removed my bee suit; my clothes underneath were saturated with sweat. It was time to get on with the watering, the task I had initially gone to the allotment for that evening. It's August and in the allotment gloaming of this high summertime midges and mosquitoes are legion. As the sun sank so they rose, all intent on a Julian Beere flesh fest - yuck!

I got on with quenching the thirsts of the legumes, brassicas, roots and sub-tropicals while enduring the itchy attentions of pullulating mini-beasties. I was somewhere in the region of a rampant lauki when the itch of the apiary wasp sting returned, asserting itself above the myriad other diminutive bites and stings. It occurred to me that the wasp responsible for the venomous gift was probably none other than 'Field Study's Man in E17 Vulgaris'. I shuddered, a spasm of fear as the imagined venom coursed through my veins. I was immersed in a fantasy of anaphylaxis when I remembered I'd stamped on the stinging wasp. A hot flush of guilt boiled up behind my ears when memories of other stings reminded me I had only received the most shallow of stings owing to the protective layers of clothing. So much for search and rescue; seek and destroy more like!

When I finished the slightly saline irrigation of the site I returned to the apiary and peered into the gloom. Just about discernible were the remains of some the wasps and bees but not the wasp I remembered stamping on. How would I have seen it anyway? I had 'squidged' it (him) into a jasperine pulp. I imagined the gooey mess being devoured by ants and with that grisly image I accepted all that remains of 'Field Study's Man in E17' is his waspish corpse dispersed via the guts of many an ant and, of course, the dwindling venom from that most shallow of pricks. My mind swam in a dizzying cocktail of arthropod juices rendering me incapable of continuing the search.

Welcome, 'Field Study's Man in E11'.     

Sunday, 11 August 2013

a field student found

Elephant Hawk Moth - 10th August 2013.
Pond edge.

Field Study's Man in E17 is probably more lost than found (in E17?) following an upheaval that was a move (of home) from Walthamstow, E17 to Leytonstone, E11. He was comfortable with his attachment to E17 in some respects however an opportunity to take up residence in an altogether more affable domicile in E11 was not to be missed. The field student might have got mixed up in a flux of relocation that included a relatively large quantity of paper - various studies - which could not be accommodated in the new abode. Most of the studies, stored in the form of notebooks, journals, loose leaf bundles, sketchbooks, had not been out of the storage boxes (and those boxes out from the remote storage places) for years. The studies as a body of work existed in an entropic state, in that the time and energy available to sort out and pack the possessions did not allow much in the way of reacquaintance  or rediscovery. Having to jettison so much so indifferently felt like a form of abrogation and nullibiety. I had the grim, morbid and maudlin thought that I might not have been me sorting through my copious stuff. Who would sort through it and what would they save? Whoever I was I accumulated a lot of sacks full of paper, an eviscerated and chartaceous mass that was destined for the allotment for some redemptive application.

The studies are soaking in wheely bins and barrels full of water, garden waste and compost - a process that will create a pulp which can be composted further and the resulting material returned to the soil. There may be more fictitious and fanciful processes involved that see the composting as a beneficial interaction in the life cycles of the site, and that the recycled energies of those studies emanate in the wonderful flora and fauna of the site - such as the Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar found near the pond yesterday.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Monday, 22 July 2013

a field student spoke with a wild plum in his mouth, he thinks

Wild Plum - Prunus domestica?
21st July 2013

The field student is all fingers and thumbs recently in his efforts to document the flora and fauna of the allotment site. Sticking his fingers (and occasional thumb) into the photographs may be a disingenuous gesture given the Rabelaisian pretensions he divulged back in May . If he is somewhere or something between the giants, Gargantua and Pantagruel, the attempts (pictured) to convey some scale may be as potentially misleading as his field identifications/namings. The field student ate some of the fruits featured in the pictures and they seemed sweet and 'plummy' to his palate. His scoffing of those fruits of the hedgerow (H-G) have not yet proved reckless however caution will prevail and only the pictures of the fruits will be shared.

'Food for Free' and 'Flora Britannica' (Richard Mabey) provide a variety of names for the Prunus species -  Bullace, Damsons, Wild plums, Crixies and Winter Crack. 'Crixies' is the vernacular for wild damsons in Essex and so the field student may have been spitting feral 'Crixie' stones here, there and everywhere (sic) with only a little regard for the 'Byzantine complexity' of the 'genetic reservoir' they represent. 

We have been negotiating the complexities of a discussion between Richard Mabey and Steven Poole (along with many other writers and comment makers) about being out and about in the field, and writing about it. Field Study's Man in E17 is trying to work out what sort of plum he speaks with in his mouth before commenting more on his escapes to the virtually sun dappled allotment.