I started beekeeping apprenticeship a few weeks back with a neighbor farm.
I've been preparing for beekeeping for the past couple years. It was actually the first time I mindfully reflected on how I learn best- reading fiction. So I read every fiction book I cold find that centered around beekeeping. I started reading a non fiction guide as well, but found that all the other fiction books had addressed most of the content and it would best be used as a reference guide later. Then I had to choose, take a class or search out a mentor or just buy the stuff and the bees and learn as I go. There are lots of things that I do best with the last. I am a hands on learner but also a feet in learner. It is not enough to just have my hands on, I also have to be there and I have to be able to ask questions. Confidence is important as well.
So I chose the middle option which hopeful would allow all the criteria to be met. It has. Very much so. I thought I would be afraid, that it would take more of my effort to not be fearful. Bees are so fascinating and beautiful that I have gotten completely distracted in their details. Last week I helped install 14 hives, completing the process almost solo on 6 of them. I never would have pictured myself setting a queen and then shaking her box of stressed out bees so they would angrily fall into their new hive home. I was in full bees suit but I did get a small sting on my leg because I sat on one. At one point in a previous session I also had one fly up my shirt, but I didn't freak out or get stung. It is a real exercise in being present and mindful. Daydreaming is a task hazard in which I would get stung or accidentally kill bees by squishing or not setting things correctly in place.
In my reading about natural beekeeping, one thing is abundantly clear- beekeeping takes time and attention. Applying chemicals may be easy but in so many instances the time save equals hive loss. There are so many threats to the hive health as well: mites, skunks, wax moths, disease, mildew, freeze....but yet so many things can be done to maximize health and survival manually and carefully without chemical or toxic intervention. That is a mirror of how we aim to live our lives at our farm and that model fits our philosophy of life. When I found out a couple weeks ago that I am pregnant with our third child, one of my concerns was how the pregnancy would affect my apprenticeship. As it turns out, the beekeeper I am mentoring with uses no chemical interventions on his bees or at the farm he and his wife run at all. The only concern would be how much I would be able to lift and carry durring honey harvest in the late summer, but with help I can still do my share. And so, weather permitting, I continue my Sunday afternoon training into apiculture.
Four of the hives will be moving to my farm next week as soon as this set of storms roll through and away. I think I figured out the very best spot for them: afternoon shade, near water, near enough to the house that checking on them won't require a vehicle, high dry mostly level ground, and somewhat sheltered from the wind. The location also happens to be on the edge of our row of elderberry and boysenberry trees and near the black raspberry patches. I hope that makes the lady bees very happy. It certainly makes me smile. It is one step closer to our dream of running a successful orchard and producing honey for my family. In the next few years I hope to add to the hive cluster some of my own as well, but for now this suits me well.
In the next few months I'll post updates and pictures. In the meantime, all of my bee time is dedicated to the bees and the camera gets left behind.