Archive for the ‘Beekeeping’ Category

Whirlwind

These days, every hour counts. The days are rich and full. To-do lists are as endless as laundry but I am rejoicing in the sweetness of it all. I’m sorry that my posts are sporadic, as my opportunities to write peacefully are few and, like now, usually take three times as long as they used to because I am quietly typing one-handed with a sleeping babe on my lap. But life is happier and busier than ever.

Elijah is now a whopping four months old. My squinty, wrinkly newborn is gone and has been replaced by a cooing, plump, joyful little boy. He is a calm and cerious child, but delights in our time together. There’s just nothing that melts my heart like his smile when he sees my face. For that reason alone, I hope time slows down and that he doesn’t grow up too fast. I know my presence won’t always bring immediate joy, so I want to cherish this time when I can make all bad things go away with a comforting word, a smile, a nursing session. I understand now what it truly meant when my own parents would tell me that if they could have protected me from the hurts of the world, they would have. I would do anything to keep this child’s sense of innocent joy.

He is my life, pure and simple. I never knew I could love this much.

And the rest of our lives is a whirlwind of work and play. We now have 5 working hives, 3 of which are in very good shape, and the other two of which the outcome remains to be seen. Our original hive is struggling with typical bee pests–mites and moths–and we are doing our best to manage the problems organically and without chemicals. It is hard.

My little one is stirring so my time draws short, but needless to say that life is good. God has blessed us, and my heart overflows with gratitude every day. I never knew it could be this good.

Hiving Day

Last weekend we hived two new packages and attempted to install a new queen into our failing swarm hive. We’ll see today how everyone turned out!

I am continually impressed by how the amazing cohesiveness and intuitition of a honeybee hive. The more I study them, the more I want to learn. The more I want to truly be a bee-keeper and not simply someone who has bees. These bees and the way in which they help our land, our food chain, and even my own sense of responsibility as a caretaker is growing in its importance to me.

I’ve already arranged with a local farmer to teach some beekeeping courses this summer. We planted some buckwheat in the yard and are doing our best to keep the failing swarm hive going. We’re even on the waiting list for another package of bees in May–and, if everything works out (the swarm survives, our original hive requeens properly, our two new hives do well, and the waiting list hive comes through), we’ll be a five-hive property. Very exciting.

My goal for this year is to prepare for a mentorship program next year. It’s so important to me to have an education-based business model, rather than a sales-based one. Good business is built on relationships.  And, for us, good caretaking is built on helping others to learn from both our mistakes and our successes. Not to mention I love being a teacher–but, of course, if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that! 🙂

I’m hoping to update our business website as well today!

Bee Happy

Hard to believe, but it’s that time of year again when the beekeeper really starts rolling. We have an order arriving on Thursday which will contain two packages of bees and one extra queen, which will hopefully round out our small homestead apiary to four hives. Since I did such a poor job of updating you once my pregnancy hit me full force, here’s the rundown of our exciting bee-happenings from last year.

After we started making the honey, we realized we had a really good thing on our hands. We purchased a small hand crank honey extractor and harvested the surplus honey from our hive. All in all, we got almost 40 lbs. of surplus honey, plus plenty left over to feed the bees over the winter. Harvesting was sticky and fun, and through the generosity of our friends at Tangleweed Farm down the road we were able to sell some of our bounty. Here we are at the farm’s Open House selling our goods:

The sale of our honey was such a success that we had a whole email list full of customers. Our smaller, second harvest of the season was sold out before it even hit the shelves. This year, we’ve already had people asking about our honey, so we decided to make a go of expanding the business a bit.

In addition to the honey, I’ve started tinkering with beeswax products as well. So far I’ve made some basic lip balm and have just ordered some supplies to play with the recipe a bit. I also hope to try my hand at candles, soaps, and some healing salves–all using our girls’ honey or wax.

Of course, it’s tough to do this without mentors. There are no local beekeepers that we know of that can really show us how to do some more sophisticated maneuvers like rearing our own queens or collecting pollen to sell. So a lot of this is trial and error. But we’re reading everything we can get our hands on and luckily there is a large support system for small scale beekeepers on the internet. And we’re having a lot of fun.

Who would have ever thought, when we began dreaming of our own homestead, that I’d be a beekeeping gal who makes my own lip balm, collects eggs from the backyard coop each night, and gave birth in my own bedroom? Not me. But thank God for these blessings–I wouldn’t have it any other way.