We are just a little bit excited around here! Last week my beekeeping partner and I harvested three frames of honey from our bee hive. We should not have taken so much honey, it was a greedy gesture but we could not help ourselves. You see, we have a very strong colony with a prolific Queen. There is a tremendous amount of growth in the colony but not much honey. We are hoping to overwinter the bees which means we should have left the honey for the bees. Hopefully in the next month or so there will be enough foraging that the bees will store more honey for the winter. Regardless overwintering is tricky and even with enough honey the bees might not survive.
We have learned a great deal over the course of the summer, starting with two hives. We stood by and watched the complete collapse of one hive that was queen-less from the start. It was an emotional struggle with a high learning curve. I felt like an irresponsible beekeeper that could have and should have intervened sooner. I should have listened to my mentor who recognized the signs within days. Instead I consulted an array of beekeepers, all experts with great knowledge and experience. Torn between who to listen to we did not take any action and hoped for the best. Meanwhile our second hive thrived and delighted us with each visit. We had a few bumps in the journey, a period of time in which we though we had lost the Queen but this time we acted on the advice and generosity of my mentor and the colony has multiplied and multiplied.
So last Monday Paula and I removed three frames of honey and brought them home to harvest some honey. We were overwhelmed with excitement and energy. Neither of us had any idea what we were doing, having never harvested honey before. We removed the wax casings from the frame and let the honey drip into a large container. A few days later we strained the honey, three times through three different size strainers. I wanted pristine honey that would glimmer in the jar. We no sooner got started straining when we became completely preoccupied with dipping fingers and licking honey from our hands. We stopped abruptly and proceeded to toast slice after slice of bread and lathered the honey on the toast. Even Tina got in on the fun. In the end we had about two gallons of honey, enough to fill about 50 four ounce jars.
I am not a huge fan of honey. In fact, I don't really use honey much at all. I didn't come to this hobby with the longing of a harvest. Getting honey was always the second story for me. However, I am beyond delighted to hand out my little jars of honey to family and friends who have followed our journey. Most of my honey has gone to my Tibetan friends who regard the honey as medicine. My friend Pema took a jar to a local monastery of Buddhist Monks who are blessing the honey. I also recently learned that honey is a traditional part of the Jewish new year celebration so I am doling out jars to all my Jewish friends for Rosh Hashanah. Nothing gives me more pleasure than giving away the harvest. Of course I saved a jar for myself.
My original hope was that somehow I would be tamed and tempered by the bees. I long for something that will quiet me down, slow me in a way that I will become more deliberate and mindful. While I am still convinced that bee keeping can lead to this end, it was an utter failure this summer. I brought way to much stress and worry about my work life to the bee yard which is exactly what I was hoping to temper. I won't beat myself up over this, it was an unusual spring and summer with ongoing worry about contract negotiations and striking at work. My worries about work are far from over and the bee keeping season is winding down so any opportunity to be quieted will have to wait for next summer. Regardless I remain hopeful that next season will bring a new opportunity for this lofty goal. In the meantime Paula and I are committed to another year! I also wanted to give back to the planet in some small way and to that end our landowner tells us he has the best, most robust vegetable garden he has ever had and attributes that to the bees. So in the end we provided some pollinating serves to a generous land owner which is very satisfying.