The keeping of bees….continued

Honeybee nuc.

I noticed a lot of bee activity the past couple of days on the outside of the new nuc, so I texted my bee mentor Mike last night.  (This nuc is a small box with 5 bee frames in it.  It was split off the main hive a month ago.)  Mike suspected they had probably outgrown their new home and it was time to move the bees into a regular bee hive box.

He wished me luck. 🙂

Up until now, the only thing I have personally done with the bees is open the hives and peek in….

Bees go to bed relatively early, so once most of the bees were back in the hive, I taped their front entrance shut then carried it down to the new hive.  The thing was a lot heavier than I anticipated.  It had to weigh at least 50 pounds.

Inside of this little box was  20 pounds of honey and thousands and thousands of honeybees…

Opening the lid on the nuc box felt just like opening a Christmas present.

Mike had been correct.

The bees had outgrown their space. The frames were thick with crawling bees, and once I started prying the  frames out of the box, the pitch of the hum changed. It doubled, then tripled in volume.

They were TICKED OFF.

(My first thought was, I sure hope this bee outfit is all it is cracked up to be.)

To give you an idea of how many bees there were, you can buy them by the pound (live)…a 3 pound container holds about 10,000 bees.  I’m guessing there were between 20,00 to 30,000 in that box.  The new queen has been busy the last month.  We learned in class last winter she can lay between 1000 and 2000 eggs per day…

Just wow

Here is a picture some of you may not have seen that I took back in June of a frame full of bees in the main hive:

Frame of honeybees and honey

Doing all of the switching around of the bee frames last night without anyone else present was a rush.  I feel like I hardly know anything, and yet, just like anything else, I have to start somewhere.

Few years ago, I had a woman stumble across my farm blog who makes her living raising vegetables.    You could sense the contempt she had for my lack of knowledge in her one and only comment.  The only experience I had gardening growing up was one year, dad decided to cover the potatoes with a pile of old hay, rather than bury them in the dirt.  I remember pulling back the hay, later in the summer, and seeing all of the new potatoes on the top of the ground. That is it.  The rest of my gardening knowledge has been acquired through reading, and a few conversations with more experienced gardeners…and I still feel like a newbie.

 

I am a teacher.  I love to mentor, especially in the construction field.  SO, when I am on the receiving end of someone teaching me, something new (like bee keeping, or gardening)  I can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher in 2 minutes.

It’s 95% attitude.

 

 

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Apiary Update

When I suggested to my wife in December, I was “starting to feel a stirring” to get into  honeybees…I prefaced my newfound interest by promising  I would not spend money we did not have. 😉

(I’m learning)

There is definitely a knack  to dreaming dreams and not letting money (or the lack thereof) from stifling ones ability to plan.

I got a little cash for Christmas, so I used that to pay for the six week beginning beekeeping class offered through a local community college ($35)

Out in my wood shop, I had some 1 by 12 pine boards just sitting around, got on-line and found some Do It Yourself plans for building the hive boxes.

Mid February,  I met with a woman who wanted to learn how to prune apple trees.  She spent the morning with me pruning, and over the course of our time together, shared, she herself had a small apiary, and if I did get honeybees, I was more than welcome to use her honey extracting equipment come August…

In addition to the cash from Christmas, I had a small reserve of petty cash from people who have tipped me  over  the  past year….normally, that is my coffee fund (Starbucks/ french roast/ beans/ not ground) but feeling as strongly as I do about getting a bee hive (or two), I decided to dip into that.

I did some work last Fall for a local electrician who offered to sell me one of his nucs this spring  (A Nuc is a new bee colony with 3 to 5 frames of bee larva, eggs, etc).  It is a great way to get a jump-start on raising a new colony.

So after totaling up what  two complete hive boxes, frames, smoker, gloves, bee hat, hive tools, bees would cost, the total came to $900.00.  I created a go-fund-me site a few weeks ago with a $1000 target goal.  (Go-fund-me and all of their related fees costs just under 10% of what you raise, so I figured, by the time I paid the fees, if $1000 came in, I would be set, and still live within my budget.

So yesterday, I sold some free range eggs to  someone locally. Our four free range hens have found their egg laying groove again.  They are laying more than we can eat, so I have started to sell them on a limited basis.

The four hens have  not cost us a cent since before Christmas.  100% of their daily food intake has been coming in from  foraging.  I do not have an electric water heater for them this winter either (normally that runs $30 a month in electricity), and when you’re watching pennies, $30 is not chump change….Instead, I use two plastic coffee cans and make sure they have access to fresh water a couple of times a day…birds in the wild, if there is no water, will eat snow, and I’ve noticed the hens are doing that as well.

I am selling the free range eggs for $2.50 a dozen….so when I went out into the shop yesterday to get the $5.00 for the two dozen eggs…this is what I saw:

To date,  counting yesterday’s gift, $370 has come in..which will pay for all of my initial gear, and the forty  frames for one hive…enough to get started.

I have kept my promise.

I have not spent $ we do not have.

Lest you think I am a mooch, I/ we, have also been on the giving end of the equation, multiple times over the years.

I have a very detached attitude about money.  I can give it away and receive it with equal grace.

A Nun, A Machinist, and a Dairy Maid

What do a nun, a machinist and a dairy maid all have in common?

Any guesses?

They are all in my  Beekeeping class.

Last night was week five.

One more week to go.

The atmosphere in the classroom  last night was  electric.  Thirty five people from all walks of life, ranging in age from twelve to seventy-five.  At least 50% of the class are women.

We talked about motivation for going into bee keeping again. Discovered motives were as varied as the people there.

Our instructor told us, this will be his 26th year managing bees… just about everything you can do wrong, he’s done.

When he started out, he didn’t have anyone to mentor him. He did know of one other guy, but that person refused to return his phone calls.

To sit under a master, who is willing to share his wisdom, now that is a gift.

I mentioned on Facebook last week, we were moving in the direction of getting honeybees, and  I had eight different people tell me they wanted to buy honey  when it was ready….

Eight sales, and I don’t even have any bees yet. 🙂

I think I’ve discovered an itch.

Did you know, that large-scale honey producers can cut their honey by as much as 30% and still call it “Pure”?

Something is wrong with that picture.

We also touched briefly on the topic of “organic honey.”   Well, that is also a murky topic.   A beekeeper has no control of where his honeybees will forage, (lawns sprayed with insecticides,  etc.  are all fair game.  A honey bee will travel three miles (or more) in search of pollen and nectar, so according to our instructor, there is just one honey producer in the Dakota’s who is legitimately  certified “organic” because of the several square miles of ground they own…everybody else is pulling your leg…no matter what they say. (Next time you’re in the store, study the labels on the honey jar and get back to me with what you find out)

I crave integrity.  It is such a precious commodity.  While I am far from perfect, I work really hard at being a man of my word.  Two weeks ago, I sold one of my harvest tables to a lady on the East coast.  After a few e-mails back and forth, we talked on the phone. She was amazed I didn’t want a deposit up front, said it was a delight to deal with someone she felt she could trust.  I told her I had not been burnt yet, and that’s how I prefer to run my business.

Yes, on the larger projects I do have written contracts, it’s better for both parties to get as much as possible clearly spelled out and in writing.

Pause.

Now how in the world, did I get from talking about beekeeping to cultivating trust in relationships?

The common thread is trust, and integrity. 😉

(Which is still alive and well, here in the Hinterlands.)

Check out that post on the Hinterlands if you have a second…I wrote it a couple three years ago,  for my farm blog.

So, tell me, how about you,….are there still pockets of trust and integrity where you live?  Give me an example.  Tell me a story. I love stories.

Thanks in advance! DM

 

 

 

 

 

Another evening at a beekeeping class

The chiefest cause, to read good bookes,

That moves each studious minde

Is hope, some pleasure sweet therein,

Or profit good to finde.

Now that delight can greater be

Than secrets for to knowe

Of Sacred Bees, The Muses’ Birds,

All which this booke doth showe

_____________________

From the preface to First Lessons In Beekeeping

     I am inhaling a 6 week evening class on the basics of beekeeping.  Last night was week 3.  There are 35 men and women, boys and young ladies in the room,  all spell-bound by the wisdom we are hearing. (“and learning the secrets of the sacred bees”) 😉

    It is one thing to read a good book, it is something entirely different, to be able to interact with someone in person.

ie.  “This is what they suggest in the book, BUT……………. Here is what I’ve discovered happens  if you do that in our area.”

     Our instructor Jim has been keeping bees  for ???? (Not sure how many years)   I do know he  manages  around 400 hives in a three state area.

__________________________________________

       And on a personal note….

    Last Saturday and again on Monday,  I had the opportunity to mentor two different people interested in either starting an orchard or tending existing apple trees.  Both spent a couple of hours with me as  we talked specifics.  I enjoy those kind of opportunities.  It feels like I am passing the torch on to the next generation myself,  although in this case, both students were at least as old or older than myself). 😉

    Back to the bees…..

      I feel like a racehorse in the gate at the Kentucky Derby when I think about managing a bee hive (or 3)….

    The creative juices are already starting to flow…..

     wild-bee-2012

Wild bee in our  orchard

2012 growing season

Worker Bees…a meditation

honey-bee-flowers

Google Image

The life expectancy of a worker honeybee is 6 weeks.

Just 6 weeks!

Do you know what eventually kills her?

She dies because  her wings wear out, and she is unable to get back to her hive.

This past Thursday night  was my first bee keeping class.  I enrolled in a  6 week, 18 hour course titled First Lessons In Bee Keeping.  Class didn’t start until 6 PM.  I didn’t get home until after 9:30, which is way past my normal bedtime, so you know I’m motivated. 🙂

By the end of these six weeks, I will know whether or not I want to take the plunge and become a bee keeper.

Here are a few more bits of bee trivia….

In a healthy hive there can be, between 60,000 to 80,000 worker bees at the peak of the season.

A healthy queen honeybee may live 2 to 3 years, although due to the chemicals on plants these days, you’ll be lucky if she makes it a year.

There are 3 different types of bees in a hive:

A queen,   the worker bees and the  drones.

In a good year, you can expect to harvest 40 to 80 pounds of honey off of one hive.  Last year our instructor Bill told us, was not a good year.  He averaged  40 pounds of honey per hive. ( He has 300 hives.)  A gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds.  Bill recommended a minimum of 2 hives for starters…for reasons I am not going to get into here…but even if it was a bad year, that would potentially = 80 pounds of honey or 6 and 1/2 gallons of local honey.

Side note- this past year we have made the transition from white sugar to honey.   Not going to go off on a bunny trail right now, but the more I learn about  the white pure cane sugar many of us grew up on (and  corn fructose)  the more I am motivated to replace those  sweeteners poisons with honey.

 

” Anyone can plop a bee hive out in the back forty over the summer.  You are not a bee keeper until your bees have survived through the winter.”                Bill the bee keeper

Pause

And on a related note…

I did not get home until 2:45 AM this morning.  Went in to work at 11 PM last night to clean, then set up a banquet hall for a Ducks Unlimited meeting.

I’ve always said, if I had to, and work was slow, I would go to Hardees and flip burgers.     Well, I finally got my wish 🙂

Construction work is  slow.   I have a friend who works part time for a commercial cleaning company.  His boss told him, if I ever needed work, to give him a call.

So last night I got up close and personal with all of the toilets, sinks, and urinals in a 400 seat conference center, as well as an introduction to dry mopping, and reading a table placement diagram.

Last night the story of the Prince and the Pauper flittered through my brain…You remember that story right? A prince and a pauper trade places..and each gets to experience life in a whole new way….

Here I am a self-employed business owner, used to hiring and firing, bidding work, collecting, dealing with customers, and all that goes into being self-employed…

and last night…

I was a worker bee.

(Notice I didn’t say “just” a worker bee.)

There is nothing  degrading about cleaning bathrooms for a living.  Talk about job security.

Woke up this morning with a song in my heart.

____________________

Tell me about some of the types of jobs you’ve had over the years..(even if it was 50 years ago)….DM