Monday, May 21, 2012

Record Keeping and Discovering SEEDS Farm

Meet my good friend and beekeeping partner, Paula! I could not keep bees without her! I am so grateful and thankful that she joined me in this adventure. At its core beekeeping feels like a solitary activity, I can't deny it. However I know for me that having a partner has been the best unexpected highlight of the journey. I simply love doing this thing with her, I especially love the enthusiasm and energy she brings to the bee yard! I keep bees for the magic of utterly unexpected moments filled with giddy joy. Paula is the giddy joy.

When I first got it in my head that I wanted to keep bees I had no idea what I was getting into. Anyone who knows me will tell you, once I have an idea in my head it is a done deal. I immediately signed up for three different beekeeping classes, yes, I also have a problem with excess but that is a different story. I signed up for an 8 week college class and a weekend course on beekeeping taught by the University of Minnesota. A few weeks before the 8 week class started we had Paula and her partner over for dinner and I mentioned the beekeeping class. Paula was all over it! Apparently she had wanted to keep bees her whole life. I talked her into taking the class and talked her into a partnership in a matter of minutes. It was too late to sign her up for the weekend course so I took that by myself, developed a wicked crush on the instructor, a famous bee guru, Marla, and promptly enrolled in her graduate level field class. We were prepared. Our first year was a bust and a blast. We lost a hive and got a gallon of honey. We learned a great deal. Most importantly we learned the value of good record keeping, or the lack there of since we didn't keep any.

During our second year we decided to keep an accurate account of our hive inspections, what we found and what we did in each of the hives. No big deal, we had two hives, it was easy. So far this year I have gone to those records countless times to find some specific detail of information to help us with a current situation. The logs have been helpful in any number of ways. With five hives the record keeping has become more of a job than I expected. Last year we used to just pull the binders out as we sat in the car at the bee yard to update them. Now we usually bring the books into the coffee shop in Northfield that we stop at on our way home and sit at a table and do our record keeping. I am also really grateful we named the hives as it makes keeping track of them so much easier! We update the records, review or findings and plan our next moves. Should we add another brood box? Is the hive ready for a super? How are the populations? How much comb do we have compared to last week? Endless chatter and planning as I sip my decaf and Paula drinks some fancy cooler. I am sure we sound like bug geeks to bystanders, I guess we are bee geeks.

Today we didn't really do much as we are trying not to disturb the bees too much! The Turquoise Bee has drawn out comb on about 80% of the frames in the super we threw on a few weeks ago. We are hoping to stay ahead of the upcoming nectar flow and will probably add a second super next week. We didn't bother going down into the hive, no reason really. We divided her so we know the population is a little low and she won't swarm. We also did a cursory look at Crazy Comb, oh goodness she is just so true to her name, what a mess. No comb in the super or the third brood box which was disappointing and the population looks strong. We really should be looking deeper for swarm cells and removing them rather than keeping our fingers crossed. Mr. Abbott seems week and sluggish. I had hoped to see more brood and an expanding population from the divide but so far not too much. Royal Ruckus was a ruckus, a jumpy group of girls that don't like us looking in on them. The Yellow Lady is working hard and the bottom box seems full with a little comb in the second box. Katrina's Drone Den, also full in the bottom box and a little comb in the second box, just about right for new packages I'd say. We fed the new packages and Mr. Abbott and removed our entrance reducers. We can see pollen going in everywhere, eggs and brood in every hive and we spotted all three queens in the hives we inspected which is very reassuring!

On our way out of the bee yard today we decided to stop at the foot of the hill leading up to our bee yard. For two years now we have been watching a swath of land that seems to be taking shape into some kind of community garden. Every time we drive by we wonder exactly what is going on and who is managing the land. More to the point we wanted to see if any pesticides were being used. Today we noticed a few women working in the field and someone in the greenhouse so we parked the car and went to meet them. After all our bees are surely pollinating their gardens! SEEDS Farm. Social Entrepreneurship, Environmental Design and Stewardship. Wow. A community farm involving college interns collaborating with the Community Action Center Food shelf and Farm to School program providing affordable, fresh and sustainably grown produce. Good stewards of the land, we didn't need to worry about pesticides, all organic.

It might be a little quite around here in the coming weeks as we let the bees do their thing and deal with some things outside the bee yard. We have the Tibetan Monks schedule for a Puja on June 22nd and baring a swarm that will be next big excitement in the bee yard.

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