Thursday, March 29, 2012
Sometime last spring, my Mom decided that she and I needed a new hobby. Her father was a beekeeper and my father has a small orchard on his farm. Beekeeping seemed liked the logical and exciting new hobby for us. Now most who know me well are probably now thinking, " a new hobby is exactly NOT what she needs"; however I was thrilled. The whole process intrigued me, the farm can always use more pollinators, and the prospect of extracting lots of fresh, raw honey gathered right in my own backyard was a major plus. So, we jumped right in and ordered 4 packages of honeybees.
I think we both figured, "How hard could it really be?" My grandfather was an exceptional, well known and well respected beekeeper in the Northeast. Surely the beekeeping skills are hereditary and these simple creatures will flourish with little care. Besides, we had watched my cousin care for his hives the past several years on my parent's property. He made it look rather easy as well.
Earlier this week, these thoughts made me laugh as I examined our hives with my Mom. Amazingly enough, 2 hives did survive the winter and are completely thriving. "Great" you may think! However, the job of the beekeeper is to try and establish a delicate balance. You want the bees to thrive and reproduce, but not so much that they run out of space and swarm. Then, you go into shock as half of your hive abandons you and heads for the trees to find a new home. You try to salvage what is left and move on. However, at that point your chance of having surplus honey goes way down. Our hives were overflowing with bees, honey, pollen, brood and queen cells. ( which indicated a swarm was imminent). So mom and I floundered around a whole lot and finally decided to split our 2 colonies into 5 colonies. We gave each new colony some queen cells, honey, brood and bees. Then, we hoped for the best. Mom in her great wisdom says, " Well, I guess it is all a learning process. If it works, then we know we did the right thing-- if not, we know what NOT to do next time." I just have to smile. It may turn out just fine. She was right about needing a new hobby, anyway!
After an exhausting afternoon beekeeping, I had to tend to some activities I am more familiar and confident about. Josie and I have started lots of flats of cut flowers for market this summer. We have some "Old favorites"- such as sunflowers and zinnias, but I have purchased some new seeds as well to try. Some of our new cut flower varieties for the upcoming market season include, "emerald tassles" amaranth, Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, Black tip wheat, "marble arch" salvia and some new perennials. I am excited to see how they turn out.