I often have some grand ideas for the farm. They range from grandiose to simple, but to me, each and every one are ‘great’! That is, until I really sit down and think about the cost, the work involved, the space they will take up or the look on The Country Boy’s face when I tell him what I am thinking. Like Sheep. Personally, I think that was one of my better ideas – I mean, just think about it. All that wool in my backyard, just waiting to be spun into some luxurious yarn, and then weaving those skeins into something fabulous. See? Isn’t it a great idea? Well, it was, until I thought about the cost, the work involved, the space…..sorry. I’m not going to reveal exactly what the Country Boy said.
But every once in a while, I do have a great idea that fits all the criteria. The latest one was bees. It took a little over a year from the idea to implementation, but, as of Saturday I am officially a beekeeper. True, I have had my bees for about a month, but they were finally able to move into their permanent hives yesterday. Thanks to my wonderful bee mentors, Johnny, Audi and Elaine.
We headed to the hives early in the morning through dew-laced grass. Both nucs showed strong signs of activity. I was armed to the teeth with my Michelin Man bee suit and gloves. My hive tool was in the handy pocket on the leg and I had four frames for the new hives in the box on the four wheeler. I was ready for my first lesson.
It is all too easy to get lost in the moment when keeping bees. I was so focused on listening to Johnny as he instructed me on how to remove the frames full of bees, then watching and imitating him as we gently removed propolis that I wouldn’t have noticed a Louisiana Black Bear approach to steal the honey from those hives. Apparently, the bees had built comb across two frames, and it required cutting some of it out, separating some of it and scraping other pieces. We eased them out and dropped those chunks into a plastic bag.
It took close to an hour to relocate both nucs. I grinned as each frame slipped into place in their new box. I sighed with sorrow at finding out that each time I did something like this, I would lose 10% of my bees. I felt the electric current of excitement as I saw the queens for the first time. I felt the stirring of pride when I could identify between the drones and the workers, and I stood in sheer amazement as Johnny pointed out the difference between royal jelly and pollen. I was also amazed as I noticed Elaine at three years old, standing close by, ready to assist, in her own similar bee armor.
The most amazing part of all of it was when I learned I would actually get to sample some of the first honey from the hive. Originally, it was understood that honey wouldn’t be available until fall at the earliest, with a more realistic expectation of spring. Imagine my delight when Johnny told me all those small pieces of comb we had to remove were filled with that liquid gold and ready to harvest.
So, not only did I get a lesson in moving nucs to a hive, but I also got a lesson in honey harvest. As the honey slowly drained through the cheesecloth into a canning jar, Johnny and Audi pointed out the things I would need to remember: at the end of the day, nothing would be wasted. The plastic bag in which we carried those comb pieces to the house could be laid outside and the bees would clean up the honey. The pan we put the comb into to squeeze out the honey could go, along with the left over comb. Even my honey-dripping gloves were laid out on the four-wheeler would be stripped of honey by the end of the day.
Looking back, I realized that keeping bees can occasionally be hard work. It takes a steady hand, focus and some strength, as those frames loaded with brood and honey can get rather heavy. It takes patience. It takes a strong sense of observation, and it takes a balance of working quickly yet moving slowly.
I am in love. An idea has finally come to fruition, and without a doubt Paradise Plantation will strongly benefit from this one. But the best part is that I have had the opportunity to meet three wonderful people, whom The Country Boy and I now consider our friends. As a mentoring advocate, I have also added two more to my list, and my belief that children should be encouraged and included in all things farming has a living example. Although Audi stood back (allowing me the opportunity to learn hands on), she still offered facts and guidance, while taking photos. Elaine also helped in that respect, and I am grateful. Without those photos, I would never have known that I stood in a dew-laced pasture in the serene morning hours literally surrounded in a whirlwind of bees.
Thank you, Johnny, Audi and Elaine. You have made one of this Farm Wife’s crazy dreams come true. (Now, if I can ever meet Joe, things will be perfect!)
*Note: Johnny and Audi Adams own Honey River Farms in Coushatta. They offer nucs and honey for sale and are able to come and remove swarms. For more details on all they do, Private Message them at https://www.facebook.com/Honey-River-Farms-1415159332123920/?fref=nf , or call them at (318) 332-5372. Their honey is some of the best I have tasted!
(photos by: Audi Adams)
*for a few more photos, please visit my Photo Page!