Let it go

Miracles and Sky Lanterns

You know, Reader, I’m in beehives almost every day, but I forget to tell you about it. I forget to take pictures (which is not easy to do when my hands are covered in honey and bees and my phone/camera is in my back pocket and I’m alone). So I miss sharing delightful discoveries with you.

I also realize that all those pictures of bees and honeycomb and queens sort of run together…if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

So I might just start writing whatever is on my mind here:

  1. I’m in conversation with someone about placing bees in a very cool location. We have a few hurdles to face, but we have desire. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I would tell you more, but I’ve learned not to articulate my vision too concretely in public until the deal is sealed. It’s not that I don’t trust you, Reader…I think this strategy was ingrained into me as a child. Don’t say it until it’s done. It’s a hard thing for me to do.
  2. I heard last night that miracles occur naturally and frequently…in other words, miracles aren’t meant to be phenomenons. When they don’t occur, it’s probably because we won’t get out of the way and let them.
  3. Sky Lanterns
Let it go

 

Sky Lanterns Aloft
Sky Lanterns swinging in the night
Radishes from Amy

Radishes, Lettuce, and Pears

I love keeping bees not only because of the bees and the honey…I love keeping bees because they present me with challenges, and they allow me to spend time with people I might otherwise never meet or hang with.

You remember Amy the swarm capturer? I think of her as Cincinnati’s version of Martha Stewart (with attitude) complete with garden, kitchen, chickens, etc. (FYI: Amy is way more buff than Martha. Amy lifts the heaviest hive boxes). Some of my visits to Amy’s bees end with a gift from her garden.

Yesterday, on the way to her hives, Amy pointed out that her pear trees (from which she collected her swarm) are already bearing fruit. Sure enough…there were tons of little brown pears growing. I love pears. And when I left her, Amy gifted me with some beautiful finger radishes, lettuce, and two jars of the pretty pears she canned last season.

Deb ate every radish that I didn’t add to our Amy’s-lettuce salad, and at Amy’s suggestion, we used the pear syrup to sweeten our iced tea. It was a delicious meal (though Amy would probably disapprove of the tube of Pillsbury Grands! Golden Layer biscuits that Deb specifically requested we eat with our steak. Deb needs comfort food right now).

Notes on a hive body

Sublime: So Beautiful It’s Terrifying

 

Notes on a hive body

Yesterday was awesome! The weather got so nice that I could inspect all the bees in my care.

All the living hives are doing well. All the queens are laying, all the hives have stores and brood…which means they soon should be bursting at the seams.

One hive in particular KNOCKED MY SOCKS OFF. It’s the hive that lives at Simon and Patti’s place…one of the Zia Queen Bee hives. Simon named it the Queen Elizabeth hive. Probably because he’s from England.

So, the QE hive was going GANGBUSTERS. Bees are everywhere. Tons of brood on almost every frame. Drone brood, too. There were so many bees that it felt sublime…it was so beautiful that it frightened me a bit!

I’m sure this hive felt so squeezed for space that they’re planning a swarm…none of the other hives I saw have any drone brood. In other words, this hive is preparing to make a new queen…but they’ll need some drones around to mate with her, so they’re preparing the drone brood first.

I doubled their space and opened the brood nest. Both of which should make them feel as if they have more room.

 

Bob in his basement

On the Construction of Bob’s Top-Bar Hives

Kim and Bob joined us for pizza last night, but before we headed out we headed down into their basement where Bob keeps his shop. We wanted to see the progress on his top-bar hives. Well, they’re as good as finished…and, I must admit, they’re really wonderful.

Bob found some plans online that he liked and built two hives from scrap lumber (I’ll ask him for the site address so I can link it here). I don’t think these took him long to build, but then, he’s sort of a professional at these things. It would probably take me an eternity. And much aggravation. But, as you can see here, it doesn’t seem to have challenged Bob all that much.

Bob: architect and bee steward

Bob plans on painting the hives (I told you he’s sort of particular) because the material he used wasn’t designed for holding up outside. They’re gonna be green…the color of their leftover house paint…which is two gorgeous shades of green. I’ll post a picture of the finished hives when we introduce the bees to it, okay? But this is what it looks like right now:

Bob's almost-finished KTBH with observation window
Liz's wonderful KTBH

Low-Down and Uppity. But We Get Along Great.

Kim and Bob want to add another hive to their apiary. They have two seriously strong hives already. They’re  hooked on keeping bees, and they want to expand. This year, we decided to add a top-bar hive to their mix.

Bob is an architect. And I mean to say he’s perhaps beyond an architect. He’s a big-time architect. Big time.

Last week I alerted him that it’s time to begin thinking of building a top-bar hive (from here on out referred to as a KTBH…for Kenya Top Bar Hive). But, I told him, we need to build a KTBH that includes a window so we can watch the bees without disturbing them. Also, TwoHoneys may be installing a couple of KTHBs at the East End Veterans’ Memorial Community Garden this year, and I’d like those to have windows, too. The less often we disturb the hives (and the gardeners!) in a community garden, the better.

Bob wanted specifications: “Link?” he wrote. (Bob communicates in single-word emails, so this endeavor was not without its challenges).

But KTBHs are known for their lack of standardization. I responded in my usual eloquent way and included this image with a rough idea of its dimensions.  Which I’m sure cracked him up. Bob’s sort of into, you know, “specifications,” a word rooted in “specific.” I think more in terms of loose ideas.

Bob was silent for a while, and then he sent me an email with this link and wrote, “This is acceptable.”

I wrote back that his plan should work but that I thought the hive was a bit too fancy for my tastes.

He responded, “I’m an architect, not a junk dealer.”

See?! That’s what people actually think of my wonderful top bar hives! Which I absolutely love. Don’t you just love that old tin roof, Reader? I do.

I told Bob he was uppity.

Yesterday, Kim text me to say that Bob was already in full construction mode and that if I wanted to be sure things met with my standards, I’d better get over there soon.

Bob emailed me later in the day to say that he’d made not one but two KTBHs.

I’ll head over there today to see what wonderful creations have emerged. Don’t worry, Reader, I’ll supply you with pictures.

 

Don’t Tell the Bees It’s Still February

The weather this week is unbelievably mild. I don’t know what to make of the non-winter we’ve had. It’s probably the end of the world, but it sure feels good.

I fed all the hives under my care yesterday, and they were all beautifully active. However, the colonies with the most enthusiasm live in the Foster’s yard. Interestingly, these hives limped along more than others last season…before winter, we beefed them up by combining a number of our weakest hives, and now they’re going gangbusters and hauling in pollen by the bucketful.

Both Simon and I were astounded to see them so active. When I first spotted them, I thought they were gonna swarm right away. Perhaps I should give them more room soon. I’m sure this weather is messing with our usual timing.

(I love the sound of all the leaves crunching. Odd that you never hear that stuff until the video is uploaded and then it’s deafening.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLZEsnbYIMI&list=UUeiIt_hbhDt0bO52Xl3a91w&index=1&feature=plcp

 

Belly up

Yes. But I Cannot Go Belly Up.

Belly up

Here’s my current dilemma: How can I get a bee business to steadily grow in a contained sort of way?

This is what happens: Along the way, some wonderful people learn that I keep bees and that I help other people begin beekeeping. And those wonderful people really really really want to keep bees, too. So they invite me to help them get started. Now, how do I say “Yes” to all these nice people while also keeping the business contained (which means keeping my costs down, my profits up, and my time well managed)?

Let me explain why this is a challenge: Not all of these wonderful future beekeepers live near me. Most of them live 30-40 miles away…and they don’t all live near one another either. I mean, if they all lived near one another, then most of my problem is solved. But some live 30 miles to the north; others live 25 miles to the east; another 20 miles south, in Kentucky. And next season, we hope to install 10-20 hives on the farm south of Lexington. And somehow I need to coordinate all these visits to all these hives once every 9-14 days.

Not only do I need to coordinate all of my visits to the hives placed in a certain region,  but I also need to coordinate my visits with the keeper of the bees…the bee stewards…and most people aren’t available during weekdays to inspect their hives. Which means I could be driving hundreds and hundreds of miles each week…and at inconvenient hours.

So, yes, of course I can do it. But I can’t do it for free. I cannot go belly up just because I love bees and all these wonderful people. Which gets us into a tough spot—I have to charge for this service. Yes, there are all sorts of financial models for this…I just have to figure out which models make the most sense for my purposes. No matter how I cut it, though, some people will not like the way I answer “Yes.”

I won’t bore you further with this, Reader. Just want to let you know what I’m wrestling with now that the bees have slowed their activity. The bees and I are all turning inward and preparing our big plans for spring.

Liz and Simon check out the veil

Getting our Ducks in a Row

The Georgian packaged bees and their queens arrive in less than a week. The California packages arrive about a week later. So, yesterday I helped my new bee stewards set up their new hive boxes.

Each bee steward has agreed to host two hives. I’d initially planned to have many bee stewards…I dreamed of bees in every yard…but something told me to set some limits. Thank God. I’ve settled on two stewards who live near me…these are people I like a lot and with whom I’ll enjoy visiting. This summer I’ll have to feed the bees almost daily, so keeping them close to me means they’ll more easily become a part of my daily routine. Because new bees require a lot of attention and food, I have a feeling that keeping these 7-9 hives thriving this summer will be a handful (for those of you doing math: 2 stewards x 2 hives each = 4 hives. I’ll keep 3-5 hives at my place).

For each steward family, I’ve ordered The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping, one veil, one hive tool, and one large smoker…to be delivered when they receive their bees.  I think that’s a nice way to start off, don’t you?

This year the bees and the equipment belong to me, and I agree to oversee all management. The stewards will receive a percentage of the honey their hives produce. Next year, if the bees survive the winter, the stewards can choose to buy the bees and equipment from me and assume the management. If everyone’s happy with the way it works this year, we can also just stick with our current arrangement. If the stewards tire of the bees, I’ll move the bees to a new yard.

Liz and Simon check out a veil

 

Simon and Patti (and Molly the dog) set their hives
Eunice (left) and Burnsie (right)

 

 

A Beeyard Deal

When I got home from work yesterday, I lit the smoker, changed my clothes, and headed out to the beeyard. (I say “beeyard,” but it’s not really a separate yard, it’s simply the space where I keep the bees at the edge of the wood behind our house. I just like to say “beeyard.”) I removed the bottom 10-frame deep box because it’s a ghost town in there. The bees had not yet moved into it. There were maybe a couple of cells of stored pollen in the entire box, no eggs, no other activity, so off it went.

Then, I placed an 8-frame medium box on top of my apiary’s last remaining 10-frame deep…the one that houses my awesomely surviving Amazons and their wonderfully gorgeous queen. I replaced the top cover, and that was that. No more disturbance.

Speaking of beeyards…I think I’ve lined up an 80-acre place within a 30-minute drive of my house where I can keep a lot of bees. My friend, Michael, who is building a home on a part of the acreage, has agreed to let me keep bees there; in exchange I’ll teach him what I know about beekeeping. I’ll give him his own hives to work. So, that’s totally cool, isn’t it? If I collect any swarms or if any of my future cut-out attempts succeed, those bees will go to Michael’s place.

Yesterday, too, I ordered veils, hive tools, a smoker, and a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beekeeping for each of my bee stewards. They don’t know about their bee-steward package yet, and I think they’ll like it.

I’m thinking of naming my future honey “Amazon Honey” and my own personal future queens “Amazon Queens.”  Perfect.