My father loved honey. He’d scoop it right out of the jar on a spoon. He’d spread it on bread and butter. When we were kids, we’d have peanut butter and honey sandwiches. We’d have honeycomb in the kitchen regularly.
I didn’t get it…for years.
I finally got it. I tasted real honey, from a real Local Producer, and I realized that the taste that my father had grown up with in Holland was not the “grocery honey in a squeeze bottle”. I finally saw the light in late 2010.
I took a class in “Beginning Beekeeping” from the #1 honey producer in St Croix county Wisconsin, Dale Wolf. Dale is a third-generation beekeeper after his father and his grand-uncle, in Baldwin, Wisconsin. I had a pretty good feeling that I wanted to start keeping bees…but after Dale’s class, I was hooked. Stung, you might say.
This is my blog, hopefully chronicling my activities as a hobby-level, “small-scale” beekeeper. Sure I’d love to get hundreds of pounds of sweet, golden honey to sell at Farmers Market. I’d love to be able to melt down pounds of beeswax from comb cappings and make dozens of beeswax candles to sell. The first year (2011) we got about 30 pounds of honey for ourselves. Our second year the bees let us take almost 200 pounds!
Here, into the fifth year, we’ve increased our hive count to 12. Thanks to a Kickstarter project in 2014, to help us raise a few dollars for expanding the apiaries (bee yards), we were able to go from two, to eight to twelve colonies in three-and-a-half years. And in 2014, we were able to harvest about 400 pounds of honey. Holy Cow! (And we’re really hoping that we can get at least some of our bees to survive winter this year…we did have 2 surviving colonies over the winter of 2103/2104).
But, I started out that first year with two hives–the wooden boxes are the hives. A colony is a group of many thousands of bees, mostly female, that work together as a “super-organism” to get things done — Those two hives in 2011 were the beginning of sort of a great adventure.
In 2012 we built up to 8 hives, and kept that number for 2013. In 2014, we expanded to a dozen. Seven hives are out at Zweber Farms in New Market MN, now; we have four down near New Prague MN, in a great pasture on a 10-acre alpaca farm! And we have one hive just across the road from our neighborhood, with three other colonies owned by Don, a retired Northwest/Delta Captain.
This winter has been really weird. Early cold (Sub-zero at Thanksgiving). Then a warm-ish January, and February is back into the deep freeze. The bees don’t mind the cold, they huddle in a cluster, sort of vibrating to keep the cluster warm, and slowly eat the honey they stored up. Lack of honey, and condensing moisture inside the hive are causes for winter casualties, more than brute cold. So let’s hope for a nice gradual spring with lots of sun and flowers!
Follow my updates under the “News” menu…I hope I can keep up with timely postings this season
Oh…and I’m eating peanut butter and honey again