Just after Annabel was born, we got the call that our bees were ready!
(I would be seriously remiss in mentioning their arrival without mentioning how they arrived. Steve, who never set out to be the beekeeper (but certainly is now), and didn't take the class or read the books, and never started this whole bee business to begin with. For, in the flurry of a busy season of breech baby appointments, life, and a birth... I wasn't exactly, um, ready for the bees when they were ready for us. As in, I was still in bed with a newborn and had nothing prepared for the bees. But he took it in stride (as he always does) with some "are you serious?" laughter...and set out driving all over the state, gathering all the equipment and gear I needed (the folks at Bee Pride in Lebanon totally set us up while laughing with us, not at us, thankfully), putting it all together in a day, painting through the night and then driving (a whole long ways) to pick up those bees and bring them home......all with four kids in his charge and at his heels. He's the bee's knees, that man. Ha!)
If not physically ready, this winter I really did mentally ready myself for their arrival. Ashley English's recently published Keeping Bees was one perfectly-timed resource for us. In addition, last fall I took a six-week beginning beekeeping class through the cooperative extention at our State university. I'm so glad I did so - I learned so much there from listening to other beekeepers, and the particulars of this region of beekeeping. I came home from the first class and told Adelaide that my (fabulous, by the way) teacher says that honeybees are 'cute and fuzzy!' Adelaide replied with a hearty, "Totally!"
Can you guess who volunteered (begged) to be my bee keeping assistant? Of course.
A few details: For a variety of reasons, we opted for medium langstroth hives (I do know about top-bar, but for a variety of reasons, wasn't quite up for it this first year. We'll see what next year brings.) We opted for local overwintered nucs with a Maine-raised queen (I reserved them in the fall).
So here's the honest and real-deal thing about the bees for me. I love them. I'm fascinated by their culture, behavior and life cycle. I'm in awe of what they do and how they do it. I believe strongly in helping them, and their vital importance in our ecosystem - much grander than their place on our little farm here. And, of course I love their honey (and beeswax too!).
But still...there's just something. Something instinctually in my body that gives me butterflies each time I walk over to the bee yard. A little something I have to quiet in myself when they're flying all around me, buzzing. Something that tells me to, um, run. There's just that something initially counterintuitive to poking around in a box full of tens of thousands of bees. I resist it, I take a deep breath, I remember what I know about them and try to forget everything false I've been taught about them. But it's there - that something. I'm excited to see how that feeling changes - it already has a little. Each of the few times I've opened up the hive, the time spent has been a little bit longer as I peek around with such curiosity and amazement at what they're doing. Walking around our garden and the trees and flowers all over our little farm, I get a little giddy with excitement, and dare I say a little bit of pride in them, when I spot one of 'our' honeybees at work. My eyes glance over to their hives a few times as the day progresses, just checking in on them, even though they need so little from me. I love knowing they're there. Slowly, cautiously and with a whole lot of respect...I think I'm falling in love with them.
Cute and Fuzzy. Totally.