Back to the Land

My New Unexpected Hobby of Bees

Back to the LandA couple years ago, my husband developed an interest in bees and beekeeping. I already had an interest in honey. I add it to a lot of meals and use it in canning. For Christmas in 2012, I gave him a homemade certificate good for one hive. I was going to make him one. Well, it got added to the to-do list, and you know how that goes .... and goes ....

My husband purchased a wind turbine in the summer of 2013 from a man near Worthington Minnesota. While he was picking up the turbine, he managed to also purchase three bee hives, bee equipment and some wine-making supplies. Which is probably a good thing, my "present" seemed to moving way down the to-do list.

My husband spent the rest of the summer and fall learning about bees by reading books, articles and talking to beekeepers. In February 2014, I ordered bees for his hive. First step in ordering bees is to find a supplier. I found one in Northern Minnesota. Mann Lake, Minnesota, is our neighbor to the east. Step 2 is to determine how many you need. I ordered two 3-pound packages of Italian bees, which include a queen. A package of bees contain about 14,000 bees. One package of bees are needed for each hive. I planned on having two hives. I chose to pick up the bees at the company the first weekend in May.

As plans usually go in our household, things change. My husband took a job that required he be gone the first week in May and the weeks proceeding it, so I had to have a crash course in beekeeping. I managed to get the hives assembled and placed. It is recommended they be placed in a shaded protected location away from sprayed fields and high traffic areas. I placed one in our tree belt and one on our friend's farm.

When it came to actually picking up the bees, I will admit I was a bit nervous. I sent the company a couple emails with questions like how do I transport them? Do I need a trailer? They were helpful and thoroughly answered my questions, but I bet they chuckled under their breath. I was told I needed no special transportation equipment, a car is fine. I should plan on getting the bees in their new home that day or the next at the latest. Dusk is the best for introducing bees to a hive. When I set up the hives I learned I was missing a few pieces, so I asked if their store would be open. To that, they said yes.

The weekend came, and off one of my daughters and I went. It was a long ride but having one on one time with my eldest made up for it. We arrived about noon and the place was packed; an organized mad house. We hit the store and bargain cave first for supplies, then picked up the bees in the warehouse. They were in little escape proof cages made of wood and screen. They rode all the way back to South Dakota on the backseat. (My 10-year-old quickly moved up front.) It was a quiet ride, but I will admit the first fly that flew by made us jump a bit. Close to home, we swung through a fast-food drive thru and had the windows down for fresh air and scared the lady at the window so bad she ran away and never came back. Someone else had to give us our order. We all arrived safely back to the farm without any strings or great mishaps.

I had better save the next step in this journey until tomorrow's blog. I had better get buzzzyy.

My daughter and a package of bees

By the way, when you are a beekeeper everyone thinks their bee puns are funny. :/

Changes on the Farm Plan

Back to the LandOne thing I have learned about life is it changes. Three years ago, my family moved from small-town America to a small farm (just outside of small-town America.) We did the whole huge garden and a variety-of-animals thing. I have blogged about our experiences on the farm before. Well, as I said, things sometime change.

My husband moved positions in his company and now travels quite a bit. Being we homeschool our three children, we decided as a family to start traveling with him. The current term for this type of schooling is roadschooling. The kids and I are excited about seeing the country and all of the learning opportunities that we will be experiencing. Traveling so much means things on the farm had to change. We had to either find homes for, put animals on shares or butcher all of our animals. Homes were found for the dog, alpaca, some of the rabbits, laying hens, goldfish and some new kids (baby goats). The rest of the dairy goats as well as the calves and pig are out on shares (we share them with others/co-operative ownership). Only have two rabbits left to re-home and 49 broilers to butcher before we leave. The garden will be considerably smaller. I can come home in the fall and barter my labor for produce from our local growers. We found a tenant who will double as a house-sitter and keep an eye on things. So, yes, things have changed.

Our plan for the farm also changed. I have been working on developing a more permaculture approach to our farm. I’m planting more perennial plants like fruit trees, strawberries and fruiting shrubs. We just set off two beehives (next blog topic) since they are more of a hands-off producer. Instead of a large garden, I plan on planting the area to clover, which will add nutrients back into the soil and assist our bees in making superb honey; should also cut down in the lawn and garden care. Many other plans are in the works.

I have learned that you must be flexible in life. I believe the changes we are making in the farm will be beneficial to us when we come home to stay in a couple years. I spoke to the people at GRIT, and they would like me to continue my blog to discuss permaculture, roadschooling, talk about the places we visit, introduce you to the people we meet, and enlighten my readers about agriculture we will see and learn about on our journey. I hope you will enjoy taking this journey with us.

doing homework outside

Photo: Fotolia/Barabas Attila