Hand-Forged Top-Bar Hive Tools: They’re pretty, they feel good, and they do the job

If you want one, I can make one for you

I use these top-bar hive tools a lot at this time of year. They’re terrific for reaching deep into the hive to gently detach brace comb the bees have attached to the side walls.

I’ve hammered the curve in the handles flat in order to pry apart those propolized bars.

I think they’re pretty! I like it when a tool is not only functional but is pretty and feels good in the hand.

I’m hand forging these myself, and I have a few for sale…no two alike. If you’d like one for yourself, contact me for images and pricing (liz@two-honeys.com).

Soon we’ll have the Products section of the website working…which means you won’t need to contact me via email to place your order. It’s a process though, Reader, and right now I’m still deep in bees.

Poetry Sunday: Carrefour



O You,
Who came upon me once
Stretched under apple-trees just after bathing,
Why did you not strangle me before speaking
Rather than fill me with the wild white honey of your words
And then leave me to the mercy
Of the forest bees.

No Worries: If I Mess it up, I’ll also Fix it

Top bar hive with slipping top bars

I’m still paying the price for a choice I made in preparation for spring…I thought I’d found a terrific and inexpensive material from which to build this year’s top-bar hives.

I built about 10 hive bodies from rough-cut cedar fencing…the cedar fencing isn’t too expensive, and I love the way it looks and feels. I thought it was perfect for the bees.

Immediately, however, once we all installed our bees in the newly-built hive boxes, we discovered the first problem with the cedar fencing: It’s very light…which makes it good when it comes to handling the hive boxes, but bad when the wind picks up. So, when the winds blew and before the bees had built enough comb to give the hive weight, the hives toppled over. Toppled hives all over town. Not good for bees. Not good for the beekeeper’s psyche, either.

Later in the season, when the bees increased in number and after they’d built comb and stored brood and honey, another problem raised its ugly head: The top board of cedar siding began to bow under the weight of bee life. This creates two unwanted situations:

  1. It created a gap between the bottom and the top side boards…and the bees quickly begin using this gap as an entrance. And, for reasons I’ll explain in another post, we want the bees to use an entrance at the end of the hive bodies…not in the middle (this relates to the location of honey when the bees cluster over winter…see why I’m not going into it now?!).
  2. When the sides of the hive bow outward, the bars that rest on the top board slip into the hive.
  3. Which means the honeycomb rests and melts on the bottom of the hive box.
  4. Bees never intentionally attach comb at the bottom…they use that space for travel (and other things).
  5. And when the comb melts to the bottom of the hive, the beekeeper has to rip it apart to remove and inspect it. Not good

Therefore, this situation must be rectified.

I’ve figured out a solution to the problem, but it requires visiting each of the affected hives and, hive by hive, replacing the flimsier cedar siding with more substantial cedar. I’ve learned to perform this operation on the spot (though it does require moving the bees temporarily into another hive body).

At first, I was kicking myself for having to go around and repair all those hive bodies when I thought I had other, more-pressing business to do. But now I simply see it as the price to pay for becoming more aware. It’s also a terrific opportunity to see the bees with my customers and my friends.

And it’s good to do whatever is required to make something right…so people know that if I make a mistake, I’ll fix it.

Poetry Sunday: Rapture



In the desert, a traveler
returning to his family
is surprised
by a wild beast.

To save himself
from the fierce animal,
he leaps into a deep well
empty of water.

But at the bottom
is a dragon, waiting
with open mouth
to devour him.

The unhappy man,
not daring to go out
lest he should be
the prey of the beast,

not daring to jump
to the bottom
lest he should be
devoured by the dragon,

clings to the branch
of a bush growing
in the cracks of the well.
Hanging upon the bough,

he feels his hands
weaken, yet still
he clings, afraid
of his certain fate.

Then he sees two mice,
one white, the other black,
moving about the bush,
gnawing the roots.

The traveler sees this
and knows that he must
inevitably perish, that he will
never see his sons again.

But while thus hanging
he looks about and sees
on the leaves of the bush
some drops of honey.

These leaves
he reaches with his tongue
and licks the honey off,
with rapture.

Don’t Click on this Link Unless You Want to Salivate

Reader, it’s harvest time. And let me simply introduce you to two first harvests. I’ll let the images speak for themselves. No more from me about how wonderful this is. No word from me about toasted medallions of french bread spread with butter and warm, fresh, local honey. I don’t want you writhing in envy.

Nicola's first harvest from Hive Gobnait
Heidi and Anne and their first honey harvest

Of course, if you want this experience for yourself, call me. I’ll get you set up.

The Honeycomb-with-a-Drop-of-Honey T-shirt

Reader, the newest installment of the TwoHoneys t-shirt is now available for purchase: $15 for a handoff exchange; $20 if we need to mail it.

You, too, can wear your very own glorious 2012 rendition (designed by the wonderfully taletented Nicola Mason) by contacting me (liz@two-honeys.com). Tell me if you prefer your design on the front or on the back and tell me your size. I wear a medium. I can also wear a large if I shrink it just a smidgin.

See how this shirt makes your shoulders and your back look friendly and strong and your waist look slim? Perfect.

TwoHoneys t-shirt


Bob checks out the truck

My Beekeeping Truck

No, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with my truck, Reader. Well, one of the many eight fine cylinders isn’t firing. Which is Not a Big Deal, and a mechanic will soon fix it.

But my friend (and architect and fellow beekeeper) Bob LOVES old cars, and he has delighted in my truck. He could hardly hold himself back from digging into it.

We stopped at Bob and Kim’s house and somehow the talk turned to my misfiring 5th cylinder, at which point Bob grabbed a handful of tools and said, “Let’s check it out!”

Of course, once he got into my truck, he needed more than the few tools he brought with him. When this occurs (and it always occurs), my job is to run to the basement and then bring to Bob whatever tool he requires. I think he’s surprised that every time he asks, “Do you have a _______?,” my answer is always, “Yes.”

Bob checks out the truck
What Bob does for fun on a Friday night

These sorts of jobs almost always engage whoever is around. Which means that Bob employed his wife, Kim, to Google and research the firing sequences of 1972 Chevy pickup cylinders. She was the one who told us which of the cylinders is the 5th cylinder. She was also the one to fire up the truck.

Bob and Kim fire up the truck
Okay, Kim, start 'er up.

And, in case you’re wondering, Reader, yes, I also ended up flat on my back in my driveway under my truck and getting my hands quite filthy.

It’s very good to know and be comfortable in the guts of your own truck.

Bob is currently building four top-bar hives that will knock your socks off. If you want one, let me know. Worth every penny of whatever he decides to ask for them.

Poetry Sunday: Endangered Species

Endangered Species


Out the living-room window
I see the two older children burning
household trash under the ash tree
in wind and rain. They move
in slow motion about the flames,
heads bowed in concentration
as they feed each fresh piece in, hair
blown wild across their faces, the fire
wavering in tongues before them
so they seem creatures
half flame, half flesh,
wholly separate from me. All of a sudden
the baby breaks slowly down
through the flexed branches of the ash
in a blaze of blood and green leaves,
an amniotic drench, a gleaming liver-purple
slop of ripe placenta, head first
and wailing to be amongst us. Boy and girl
look up in silence and hold gravely out
flamefeathered arms to catch her,
who lands on her back in their linked
and ashen hands. Later,
when I take her in my arms

for a walk to that turn on the high road
where the sea always startles, I can see
how at intervals she’s thunderstruck
by a scalloped green leaf, a shivering
jig of grassheads, or that speckled bee
that pushes itself among
the purple and scarlet parts
of a fuchsia bell. And her eyes are on fire.