Here I am, a few days shy of my one year anniversary here at the “new” place, and still buzzing with things to do, things I want to do, and feeling a sense of accomplishment over the things I’ve done so far. It seems with every task I accomplish, I think of six more I want to do – it’s infectious! Right now I want to (need to, really) sit down for a few days and make a plan. I have so many ideas swirling in my head at any given time that I need to sort them out and prioritize. The days are flying by and several things are becoming timely as well.
First and foremost, I need to get my beehives squared away. Yes, as in honeybees. This interest came out of nowhere it seems, but I am so keen on becoming a beekeeper and can hardly wait until spring. It all started when I got an e-mail from Mother Earth News last summer and one of the guest blogs was about natural beekeeping. I was immediately intrigued. There’s just something about beekeeping… Was it Ulee’s Gold? The Secret Life Of Bees? Or perhaps it was that wild hive I found in the woods in the Oakland, California, hills back in the mid-1990s – my nose leading me to the tree, the sweet smell of honey pungent in the warm sun, and the hollowed tree waxy and humming with life.
So I began my research, even buying local honey to taste the different kinds. Wowza. I’m not big into honey (can take it or leave it), but compared to grocery store honey…well, there is no comparison. The fresh local honey is all the things I remember about honey as a kid (used to love it). I guess I DO like honey – when it’s fresh and local (unpasteurized). Even so, I didn’t want the bees for honey so much, but just to support bees in the environment. Honeybees have been hit hard in recent years. Colony collapse disorder has decimated hives across the country, and bees need all the help and encouragement we can give them.
I talked to the folks at the beekeepers information booth at the Evergreen State Fair in August, and went to the Woodinville Farmer’s Market “Honey Fest” in September and tasted some more honey, bought a few “varietals,” and talked with the beekeepers there (some of the same folks I saw at the fair). And I signed up for a beekeeping class being held in October by the Northwest District Beekeepers Association. When I took the class – a one day seminar of the A-Z about beekeeping – I knew I was hooked. I took home the workbook handed out that day and about a month later went to Beez Neez Apiary Supply in Snohomish to take the apprentice beekeepers test. I passed with a score of 100% and am now an Apprentice Beekeeper as recognized by the Washington State Beekeepers Association. Now I need to buy my hive(s). I’m still deciding whether to get one or two hives – I want to try my hand at a top bar hive, but all the recommendation I’m getting is to start with the Langstroth hive (the kind of hive you’re most likely familiar with – other than a Winnie the Pooh-style straw skep!). The Langstroth is the prevalent hive used in the US today – the square boxes stacked three and four high – and since I’m brand new to this, it would be best to start with something people can help me with (knowledge base). Top bar hives are a little different, there are few of them around (so far!) and have their positive and negative points. But more on this in a future post.
I took another short class on “Natural Beekeeping” a couple of weekends ago, hosted by a local farm, 21 Acres. The instructor was great, and I added to my knowledge bank about bees and beekeeping. One thing I’m learning is that beekeepers are an enthusiastic and well organized bunch (kind of like their charges) – there are several beekeeping organizations in the area – and all are eager to share their knowledge. I’m a member of the NWDBA, after taking the class with them in October. The club’s next meeting is February 8th, and I’m planning to order my hive and tools, and my bees at that meeting. I need to have the hives set up, painted, and ready for the bees by mid-March. My three pounds of bees and their queen will be arriving in April and I want to be prepared. After that I need to start planting – my bees will be hungry!