What the Hell

So I sent out a plea on the TriState Beekeeper forum asking for a mentor. You know, in an entire year of keeping bees, I’ve never seen another person working a hive. Sure, I’ve watched videos on YouTube until I’m blue in the face, but I’ve got questions, dang it.

And this morning, I received a response from one young guy on the forum, and I notice that his signature line is a quote from the Bible—“My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste. (Proverbs 24:13).” You know, Reader, this is not uncommon. Interestingly, a lot of beekeepers attach Biblical quotes as their signature lines on various forums. I don’t know exactly why this is, though I do have to say that it is sort of a spiritual feeling to be among the bees.

This nice guy keeps 40-50 hives and invited me to attend a beginner’s beekeeping class in Kentucky this Saturday…after which he’ll open and inspect the hives he keeps at the Creation Museum. Which is also where he conducts the beekeeping class. Yes. That’s what I said. The Creation Museum. Which I have thus far rigidly avoided.

So, imagine my surprise to realize that I’ve been invited to the Creation Museum by a very nice Proverbs-quoting fellow who has offered to help me learn about bees…he’s the first responder to my plea for help, and, Reader, I intend to go. I intend to go to the Creation Museum and learn whatever this young man is willing to teach me. What the hell. Adventures all around.

Beautiful Comb Drawn (in One Week) on Foundationless Frames

Upon today’s hive inspection I have one very clear realization: I have no idea what I’m doing.

Why on earth did I think I could manage a hundred-thousand bees? I am not as smart as I look.

Seriously, I get in there with those bees and all those cells and eggs and larvae and brood and nectar and honey and pollen and whatever else the hell goes on in those alien worlds and everything I think I know disappears. Then I realize that I know nothing.

I keep asking the bees to forgive my clumsiness. They seem to. I hope they can teach me.

One thing I do know: Those foundationless frames work great! Look what my wonderful Girls of Summer did with the foundationless frames I gave them a week ago (and started from popsicle sticks as described in an earlier post):

Why Do I Keep Bees?

So. Yesterday I received news that Deb’s Uncle Doyle in Waco, Kentucky has collected tons of honey this year. Over the years he’s kept many hives, but now that he’s older he keeps only one—simply because he loves it…the heat in all that protective clothing keeps him from expanding his little operation again.

Anyway, I was bummed. Which, I quickly admit, is a lousy response to such news. It’s not that I’m bummed for him, I’m bummed for me. I’m envious. Although I have to say that I’m cherishing what little (gorgeous) honey I collected this year, so I guess you could say that I’m appreciative.

When that look of pain crossed my face, Deb asked me a simple quesion: Why is it that you keep bees? Which made me think for a while. It seems this answer should be simple. Or at least clear. And it’s not.

After much silence, I responded that I want a hobby that is both challenging and rewarding.

There. That’s my answer. So I guess I shouldn’t be entirely disappointed if I don’t harvest loads of honey each year…and in the long run, I’m not. I’m grateful that I’m up to my eyeballs in educating myself, in reading about bees, in thinking about bees, in planning ahead for next year, in developing a beekeeping philosophy, in spreading an interest in bees and beekeeping, in watching what blooms with a new eye, in paying closer attention to the weather, in thinking about the long-term consequences of chemicals in our lives, in aesthetics. Oh, Reader, you know I could go on and on.

Ten more reasons I want to keep bees:

  1. It’s not boring
  2. I want to give away honey
  3. I want my friends to learn more about bees
  4. Managing hives intellectually challenges me
  5. Beekeeping is an art
  6. Most of the time, there is no right or wrong way
  7. After all the reading and thinking and talking and experimenting, in the end, I have to go with my gut
  8. Managing hives demands innovation, which is something I ┬áneed to practice…I’m not entirely comfortable with it.
  9. I’m going to make some TwoHoneys T-shirts. They’ll be very cool
  10. Want one?

But, honestly, I’m still amazingly disappointed to have such a small crop of honey this year.

They've Got What I Want

You know that feeling you get when you’re on to something? When your intuition tells you this is something really important? Well, I’ve got it.

I’ve been almost obsessed with reading Linda’s Bees. I’m determined to read the entire thing from beginning to end…over 700 entries at this point. This is Linda’s fourth year of keeping bees, and she’s got what I want…I can’t tell you how far she’s come in her four years from novice to Master Beekeeper. Frankly, I have little interest in being certified a Master Beekeeper, but I’d like the knowledge that comes with it.

Anyway, Linda has kept a wonderful blog devoted to her beekeeping experiences, and I’ve got to say that I’m learning more from her almost-daily log than I’ve learned in all books I’ve read. And Linda turned me on to Michael Bush, whose website has me a bit unnerved—I think his philosophy is spot on. I’m unnerved because I have a feeling I’ll be following his lead. Which means changing some things. But it also means going with my gut about beekeeping. I’ve got a good, sound gut, too.

Anyway, over at Not Alice, I post an occasional picture; but Linda posts photographs of all of her beekeeping experiences, and when it comes to this technical stuff, the photographs really help. For Not Alice, I simply use pictures from my iPhone, but the quality is comparatively poor (because I have an earlier version of the iPhone). So, I’ll have to consider taking my better digital camera with me out into the bee yard when I go.

All of this is to say, “Heads up.” I hope to make TwoHoneys a more vibrant place to visit.