Friday, January 11, 2013

Confessions of a Bad Beekeeper

Today up here in NW Indiana we are enjoying a balmy day of over 50 degrees.
I thought this would be a good chance to check on the bees - and see if I saw any signs of
 life about the hives.
So - I went a knockin'.  On the hives that is.  
The last time I did this tom foolery in January, I got stung in the neck.


I only saw three sluggish bees flitting about.  It has me worried.  I think it's just too damp and dreary for them to venture out.  That or their all dead.  I'm going with my first theory.

I've always lived life with a wide-eyed wonder - a devil may care attitude - and the thought that if anything was worth doing, that it was worth doing poorly in the beginning.

Let's talk about beekeeping.

How in the Sam hill I ever got interested in beekeeping - I don't know.  I didn't even like honey that much.  I'd never been exposed to anyone that kept bees - I'd never actually seen a honey bee - but only bumblebees, wasps, and hornets - which everyone calls bees.


Drives.me.nuts.

24 years ago when we moved into this old farmhouse - I visited the library.
I brought home a slew of books - all about living self sufficiently on a few acres.
I was hooked.
I wanted to slaughter hogs and spin wool by kerosene lamp - I wanted to raise chickens and double dig garden beds.
Then I came across a beekeeping book.
I could be a bee wrangler!
The thought of somehow controlling hundreds of thousands of live, stinging insects - well, let's just say - I found it downright intriguing.  Plus, the added benefit it would add to the garden.

Let's be real here.
I'm a poser.  Glenco tells me this all the time.  I'm a poser, and I'm all about the gear.  Beekeeping has gear.  I loved it.  I loved the idea of seeing lovely boxes of bees interspersed around my perennials - I didn't necessarily want to do all the work involved with beekeeping - I just wanted to look like I did it.

How could you not want this?

Beautiful Beehive Mother's Day Card


Well, 22 years later - I finally got around to wrangling those bees.
I ran into a guy at a garden center who said he was on his way to a beekeeper's meeting and he invited me to tag along.  I didn't tag along - but I did take all the information.
Well why not.  Now or never.  Put your money where your mouth is.
And money there is - it's a bit costly to get started.  The hives average $120 each, the bees - a 3lb starter package is $75 (or was when I got them), then you have your bee suit, your smoker and hive tool.


One week later I was working a bee hive in my bare hands and shaking like a...well I don't know what I was shaking like - but use your imagination.

As most things go in life, at least in my life - the reality of it is quite different than the picture I had in my mind.  I am still holding on to this fantasy picture and plan on re-arranging my beehives, and painting them a vivid violet color and painting 'bee happy', 'bee kind', etc. on them - and surrounding them with a bee friendly perennial garden.  Oh. yes. I. am.

Anyone familiar with the housing projects in Chicago - called Cabrini Green?
It's been torn down - here is a photo when it was still around.


Well...I'd like to introduce to you what I call 'Cabeeni Green'.
These are my ghetto hives.


Mismatched, duct taped, ill fitting lids, one's even sitting on a flipping lawn chair!
I'm embarrassed to be posting this up on the Interweb.

I am the clutziest beekeeper in the history of beekeeping. 
It's hot, heavy work y'all.
Sweat is stinging your eyes, and you can't wipe it cause you have a huge veil on your head.
Imagine carrying an oozing 60lb box of bees and honey, blinded from stinging sweat in your eyes, using only your fingertips.

I've stumbled and fallen with boxes of bee frames, still with bees in them.
I've been stung.


Please don't complain about the price of raw, local honey ever again.
Thank you.


You then get to bring that hot mess up into your kitchen and start to extract it and bottle it up.
By the time you are done - the cat is covered in it - it's under your stove, on the light fixtures and on every single surface in your kitchen.
And there's always a rogue bee in the house - always.


But you know what?
It's all worth it when you taste that incredible nectar!  Especially when it's still warm from the sun.
I had never tasted real honey before - it's intoxicating!

There's something about beekeeping - you don't keep them - they keep you.
I find myself completely relaxed and in such a happy state of mind when I'm out in the hives.
When you first pop the lid off - and hear the happy hum of the bees - you smell the beeswax and honey - it's hypnotizing.  They are truly amazing, fascinating little creatures.

And then they get mad and sting you.
The end.
:-)

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Hey - I have answered questions and comments on my last post - let's see how this goes.  I know you actually have to come back to read them - bummer, huh?
Oh - and you all should have gotten your Caper Bags (Wendi P - I haven't got your email address!  I still have your bag sitting here - Hedy - I haven't gotten your check yet)
Aaron leaves a week from today to Vegas.
Gracious.

36 comments:

  1. Hi Jayme, Not sure if you are aware but I thought I'd let you know. There is a new health store here in cedar lake right on 41 between Loe's and McDonalds on the east side of the road. The lady who owns it is awesome. She does have some natural products for cleaning and toiletry. She is also pretty much willing to order what you ask her to also. I'm hoping she gets enough business to be successful here in CL. Nice having something like this so close.... And its not a chain.

    Tammy
    Cedar lake

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    1. Hey Tammy! Yes! I have seen it - but haven't gone in yet. I'll make a point to go in soon. : -)

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  2. I have a dream to have chickens someday. A friend of mine realized the same dream about 7 years ago, but recently has told me she is giving it all up because it would be cheaper to regularly buy organic, free-range eggs than it is to continue to buy/feed/tend her flock.
    So, I still want chickens, but now I'm hesitant. I hate chicken poo. (another chicken friend said chicken poo smells a bit like scrambled eggs. gross. Can I eat scrambled eggs ever again?) I can't wring a lid off of a gallon of milk let alone a head off of an ailing chicken. I have a dog that loves to herd things ~ birds, butterflies, kids, cars, and would SO enjoy freaking the feathers off of a group of hens.
    Bees? At least they would get my dog to stop chasing them. And the honey certainly smells like bee vomit, not poo, but that's a good thing, right?

    I need to move out of the 'burbs before I'm too old to get a flock of something winged.

    Happy Beekeeping, brave woman!

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    1. Well, I would still get the birds. You are getting ahead of yourself. Yes - if you keep the chickens contained and bought feed is their only food source, then, yes, it's cheaper to buy eggs - but if you can let them free range about some - you'll get a most superior egg, and it won't be as costly. I think everyone needs to have chickens for at least one year of their life. : -)

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  3. Jayme, Do you know "the bee lady at hilltop farm" ? She lives in Kokomo. She keeps bees too. I am fasinated by them...would love some but hey, I would not want to hurt them...so not for me I guess. What do you put on the stings? xoxo,Susie

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    1. Hey Susie! I don't put anything on the stings. I take a couple of Benadryl and usually fall asleep. Ha. Not too convenient - but I get such a bad reaction to the sting - that I have to do that. I have an epipen in case things really get ugly. I do know Cindy via blogland!

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  4. Well now, the funny thing is that it's cold here in CA and I right this minute sat down with a cup of Earl Grey with YOUR HONEY!!!! Please don't give up on this dream of yours....I mean dream of mine:-). I love your honey.

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    1. Oh, no chance of me giving up my bees! In fact...good news...Glenco checked on the bees yesterday, because it was over 50 AND sunny - and he saw signs of life in every hive except one. So far so good!

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  5. I know I can come here for a laugh and it does my soul good!!!! Someone else who can relate to my "wannabes"!!!
    You're description of "life" as you hoped it would be is so me!!!! Except I wasn't smart enough to go to the library...I had to create my own!!! And while I've leaned to do a great many things I'm really quite lazy at heart! I want to have chickens, because I want a cute coop,(with signage), want to name them "Phyllis and Myrtle", and I want to have cute eggs in my fridge...is this wrong???? I think not! I don't, however, really want to have them around all the time, take care of them, find someone to feed them if I'm away, etc. Maybe I just need a playhouse! Right now, my neighbor keeps me well supplied and I rather like it that way!!!
    That is just one example of my want vs. reality!!!
    I was a little upset that Y2K didn't happen as I wanted to show what I was worth...but I'm so glad it didn't because I really enjoy a hot shower!!!!

    The ghetto ref. is great!

    You.Make.Me.Smile....all.the.time!!!!!

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    1. Oh Holly - you crack me UP! We are kindred spirits for sure. I want to live in a fantasy world where everything is picture perfect and charming. I mean...is that too much to ask!?

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  6. Jayme,
    Your honey is delicious and I just finished my last little bit I bought from you last year. My grandaughters love the jar I gave them also! I can't wait for some more.... Love reading your blog you make me laugh!
    Happy New Year! Pam

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    1. Happy New Year Pam! Stop by some time! Hopefully I will be dressed, otherwise you might find me in my bra answering the door. : -)

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  7. I think we have the same image of beekeeping, lol! I don't have any bees yet but one day I want to have at least one hive. In my mind, it's dreamy, yes it is! And, for now, I'm going to keep having my dreamy beekeeping dream!

    If you ever come to Vegas to visit Aaron, I would love to meet up with you. I'm only an hour south of there. What fun we could have!

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    1. We could have fun! Aaron will just be there a week - and as much as I would like to go with him - I won't be this time around. When I am a camp host, touring the country in my vintage camper - I'll be sure to let you know when I hit Nevada. : -)

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  8. A neighbor just gave us a jar of honey tonite after we went over to set up their wi-fi for them. They don't have their own hives so no idea where it is from... think I'll eat a bowlful tomorrow.. LOL Okay, perhaps just a tsp. full .

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    1. I'm glad you have a local source! It's the best!

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  9. I just laughed out loud when I saw your bee neighbourhood. I think I may be a poser too!

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    1. :-) I'm so embarrassed of my bee yard. Surely, I'll make it pretty this year....surely I will.

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  10. Love your cabeenie green...still laughing

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    1. I know..it's hysterical isn't it? Ha ha! Cabeeni Green...it's hard for me to say CabRini Green now.

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  11. I love your rag tag bee town. lol Your heart is there and that i the most important thing- Blessigs- can't believe that boy is going to Vegas. xo Diana

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    1. My rag tag bee town. That is so cute. You make everything sound sweet Diana!

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  12. If you wrote a book, The Life of Jayme, I'd be reading it, first, because I have already read the short stories, second, the minute I get stung with the first sentence I am buzzing with , "whatz next!". A title might be, Ghetto Hive, or Aron Goes Vegas, or Honey Bee Hive, (not Boo Boo) . . .

    In your spare time could you start writing a few chapters! I will be the first in line for you to sign my purchase . . .

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    1. I can see it now - touring the country in my Squirrel - doing book signings. So let it be written, so let it be done!

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  13. I have entertained the idea of keeping bees but my sensible better half says maybe not. But I do have my chickens, which I love dearly. Loved reading about your dreams. Understand them completely. :) I am lucky to get honey from my country neighbors. I just posted about making homemade granola with Clover Honey from up the street. Have a wonderful weekend. ~

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    1. I'm so glad you have a good local source for your honey - so important! Granola...oh how I love and miss granola! I gave up all grains, boo.

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  14. You are braver than I. I love honey and I buy raw local when I can. I will never have hives on this farm though, I once got three bees stuck in my hair as a young girl and every time I think of it, my scalp starts to tingle, no kidding.

    Great breakfast shake - plain yogurt, honey, berries of any kind, banana, flax oil or seed, rice milk. Throw it in a blender and enjoy!

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    1. I'm just now getting into the green smoothies! I will give this one a try - but I'll have to skip the yogurt cause of a dairy sensitivity - my neighbor has a horrible child hood memory of bees, and she seems extra nervous around here in the summer.

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  15. I bet the bees with the lawn chair brag to the others that their hive is nicer! I grew up on wild honey, Dad and his brothers would find a "bee tree" when hunting in the woods. Later on Dad had hives and loved tending them. We sweeten with honey or agave, pure gold!

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    1. How cool that would be to find a colony of wild bees!!!

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    2. There's a colony of "wild bees" in Southlawn Cemetery not far from our farm....

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  16. As a wanna-BEE bee-keeper I have to laugh along with your adventures in bees. I have never gotten any farther than purchasing the bar beehive, painting it green and tucking it cozily into a little corner of my garden, (where, I might add, it looks quite charming, albeit empty) I have ALL the bee books, and excitement, and maybe this year, I will actually purchase those little buzzers.(Even though I don't care that much about honey.)

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    1. Once you taste YOUR honey - you will care about it...at least that's how it was for me. Just go get the bees and learn as you go - seems that's the only way that works for me - otherwise I'll never do anything. Good luck!!

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  17. this cracked me up. i'm sorry?
    i'm totally, TOTALLY the same way with things. i like the idea, stink at the whole follow through. i may adopt your logo about the first time trying something!

    p.s. the free bates thing last post had me loling so much my kids got out of bed to see what mom was laughing at! needless to say they thought i was nuts...

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    1. You totally crack me up - I can just see you waking up the whole house laughing! Ha!

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  18. Cabeeni Greens cracks me up. We thought our hive and the bags of leaves waiting to be compost beside it looked ghetto. i also thought we were the only ones to destroy our kitchen extracting. I told myself it was because it was our first time and we weren't prepared, but I guess it just goes with the territory.

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