Thursday, March 25, 2010

The bees are coming!

Well, I guess I’ve now officially learned the first rule of blogging, which is that sometimes you are too busy doing the things you're blogging about to have time to blog about those things. This has been a crazy busy week with things happening on all fronts, by which I mean both daughters, homeschooling, college applications, personal life, and bee world - just to mention the highlights.'

When last I blogged, the hives had been assembled and had their first coat of white paint. Since then a LOT has happened. On Saturday David, a fellow member of the beekeeper’s club, came to the house and helped me scout out a good location for the hives - close to the blueberry bushes, in sight of the house, not too shady, level ground, and far enough away from neighbors. The bees have to be in a place where they'll get full morning sun since that's their cue to rise and shine and get out there gathering nectar and pollen. David had tons of good information on beekeeping and even offered to drive with me to pick up the girls when they're ready! (I have yet to meet a beekeeper who wasn't nice!!) Since then I've gone to Lowe's about a million times and come home with: concrete blocks, 4x4s, more nails, more paint, straps to hold the hives in place when I go get the bees (so as not to lose them all somewhere along I-10) and too many other things to even remember. Seems like just when I think I'm finally all ready I think of something else I need or five more things I need to do.

This morning I got up at the crack of dawn (OK, it was about 7, but it seemed like the crack of dawn) and burned a pile of yard trash the size of a small house, trimmed the limbs on a tree that would have shaded the hive location, and put the final coats of paint on the hives, stands, bottom boards, and lids - all before breakfast. And somewhere in between all the outdoor work we managed to put in a full day of homeschooling, help Emmy with a college application, take a science test, buy groceries, go to a doctor appointment, make dinner, clean out the chicken coop, and work in two pet-sitting gigs. Then, just when I was ready to sit down and eat dinner, the phone rang and it was Bob J. telling me that my bees will be ready to pick up this weekend!!

So . . . stay tuned. Looks like I’m actually about to become a beekeeper!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A birthday, a gorgeous spring day, and a painted bee hive . . .

Today is my daughter Emmy's 19th birthday, and we had a wonderful celebration this morning complete with presents and a birthday brunch. Just like the day she was born, it has been a gorgeous spring day. The buds are popping open on the dogwoods, redbuds, Japanese magnolias, and even the pear trees. The purple and white violets are in full bloom, and the oak leaf hydrangea opened their leaves almost all the way - just from the time I first went outside this morning until I gathered the eggs from the chicken coop late this afternoon. Spring has definitely sprung!

After our wonderful birthday brunch was over I finished nailing up the last bee hive, then took them all outside to paint in the the warm afternoon sun. I'm so glad I decided against ordering the hives fully assembled. I have to admit it was a bit intimidating when I first opened the boxes and saw all of those pieces, but doing it myself feels like a rite of passage - putting everything together, examining all of the parts, getting a feel for what each part of the hive is for and how it will work, envisioning the hive humming with bees. Putting it together myself has been good.

Late afternoon and the sun is getting lower in the sky. The paint is dry, boxes and parts are all hauled back inside for the night (with their first coat of primer), brushes and painter are cleaned, and we all head out to eat for round two of the birthday celebration. It's so nice to lean back in my chair and watch the fruits of my labor - literally. Nineteen years ago, at 7:10 pm, I first laid eyes on this beautiful child who has grown up to be such a wonderful young woman whom I both love and admire. I see parts of her that are so much like me, but many more parts that she has created from her own strength and character. I have been blessed to have my two daughters in my life.

Yes, spring has indeed sprung - and, as my dear friend Rita says, life is good!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Post #3, in which I discover latent carpentry skills, and emerge victorious with one completed hive.

Well, move over Bob the Builder! After a day of gluing, hammering, and hoping we were doing this the right way, I’m happy to say that Eliza and I have managed to put together (completely without any male assistance, I’m happy to add) one finished bee hive – complete with hive stand, bottom board, deep hive, honey super, migratory lid and 20 frames of foundation. In other words, we have gone from this:

to this:

We have tapped in to our inner carpenters and discovered new talents – and have enjoyed ourselves immensely. A fun, rainy day of staying in our jammies and trying something completely out of our comfort zone. And the house has taken on a wonderful odor of beeswax and new wood.

Now . . . on to hive #2!!

1.) Box of mystery pieces

2.) Application of new carpentry skills

3.) Voila! Are here we have 40 new frames
for our beehives!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I've got hives! (No, not that kind of hives.)

Ooh – I just LOVE opening presents! Even when (or maybe even especially when) it's a present from yourself and you already know what’s inside but you just haven’t actually seen it yet. Like when I buy something I really want on ebay and that package finally arrives in my mailbox. So . . . Tuesday night I attended the monthly meeting of the ABA (no, not the American Bar Association – the Apalachee Beekeepers Association - but more on that later) and came home with 3 huge boxes in the back of my minivan, containing the beehives and accessories that I ordered from Rossman Apiaries two weeks ago when I attended the ABA’s beginning beekeeping course.

I’ve been poring over Rossman’s catalog for almost a year now, pondering the necessity of such arcane items as migratory covers, screened bottom boards, Alexander veils and smoker pellets. But still – there was just something really exciting about lugging those boxes out of the car and into the house and knowing that they were finally mine!

Now, if you’re not all that familiar with beekeeping, you may be envisioning my opening up the boxes and removing – voila – something resembling this:

Or, if you’re really not that familiar with beekeeping, perhaps something like this:

But here’s what I actually saw when I opened my boxes:

What you are looking at is approximately 250 (give or take a few) bits and pieces of wood from which I am to assemble, with minimal instructions and numerous bags of various-sized nails, two complete hives – and which will, by the end of this month, be home to approximately (give or take a few) 50,000 honeybees.

It goes without saying that this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “some assembly required.” Stay tuned for progress reports!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I have a guiding principle in my life that I like to call The Rule of Threes. It goes something like this: I hear something new and interesting, store it away somewhere in my brain, and promptly forget about it. I hear the same thing a second time, think "hmmm . . . where did I just hear that?" and start to pay attention. I hear it a third time and I figure somebody's trying to tell me something. Some people look for burning bushes or voices in the night. I go for something a little less obvious.

And so it is that this blog came to be. Several months ago when I first decided to try my hand at beekeeping my sweet daughter Eliza suggested that I start a blog about my new adventure. Then, my smart niece Kristen (who is of a literary bent) asked politely whether I'd thought of blogging my project so that others could share in the experience. Then, just last night, my Facebook buddy and fellow vintage tablecloth aficianado Becky P. stepped up with blog request #3, even adding a "please" and several exclamation points. How could I refuse?
I don't know whether anyone other than Eliza, Kristen, and Becky will ever read this blog. But hey - at the very least, it'll be a good way to keep track of my new adventure and see where it leads. And who knows? Maybe I'll become the next "Julie and Julia" and Meryl Streep will end up playing me in the movie version. If that happens, will you be my book editor, Kristen?

Until then - off to bed, to dream of hives and bees and jars and jars of sweet golden honey.