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Perfect Site

I met with Jon and Lisa Zweber in person today for the first time since getting their approval for placing my hives. Zweber farms has a Facebook page (or here) is a fourth-generation dairy farm in the rolling hills of southern Scott County, just northwest a few miles of Northfield, Minnesota (St Olaf, Carleton Colleges, and where my kids grew up), 12 miles south of me (Prior Lake, MN), 30 miles south of downtown Minneapolis, and far enough off Interstate 35 so you don’t hear the hum. They’re less than two miles north of Elko Speedway, so they do get the rumble from the Saturday night NASCAR races during the summer. Might be more than a rumble, I suppose…but at least it’s only one night a week for part of the year.

Jon and his son, Tim are farming 249 acres in Elko, MN…organic dairy, and a sideline, selling frozen pork, chicken and beef. I’ve been working with Lisa for the past 5 years when she’s had computer problems up until recently when she installed Windows 7 on her main computer, and her PC trouble pretty much cleared up. She has been a good referral, though and I’ve picked up more than a couple of new customers in the last few years from her referrals (thanks Lisa. And Emily?  your blog rocks 🙂

Lisa, Jon and I walked out to the back 40 (literally) where they showed me a spot that they would let me use for the hives. We’ve (we=me and the girls) got a spot near a tree-line, and the hives can face south…the earlier the sun hits the front of the hive, the earlier the girls can get out for nectar. (The trees will help keep a little shade for the beekeeper. Me. I hope.)  My access is off the main north-south county road, with a gate, and some level ground so I can drive  200 ft over to the hives. Remember. 250 acres, cows, gate…Keep the gate closed. check. (Tim, you too 🙂

This looks to be about as perfect a spot as I could have asked for, for the first year with the honeybees. Thank you. Smelled pretty nice out there, too. They’ve been hauling and spreading manure, so the whole area had a rich, organic aroma. My wife can’t figure it out, but I love the smell of cow manure on the field.

I’ll be setting up the hives on Thursday to be ready for the girls to arrive sometime Sunday or Monday. I’ll post a few pictures after I get the boxes set up.

Been getting ready for this for a few months, studying, planning, reading…but now that I’m within a week or so of actually installing the bees…I’m actually a little nervous!


Setup Week

The honeybees are due to arrive next Sunday or Monday (17th or 18th April), I’m sort of thinking about them as my 20- or 25,000 “mail-order girls”. (All but a handful of bees, the drones, are female. And of the females, there are two castes: workers and the queen).

Spring really feels like it’s arrived this week. We finally hit temperatures in the 70’s for a day or two, and the grass is really greening up! I’ll be taking the hive boxes out to Zweber’s farm Monday or Wednesday, and be ready for the packages to arrive.

Starting out, our hives are going to consist of two deep body boxes which are 9-1/2″ x, 19-7/8″ x 16-1/4. These will be filled with honey, pollen and “brood”, or the egg, larva and pupa stages. After the girls get these deep boxes filled with honey for their survival, we’ll put shallower boxes above the deeps. These boxes will be separated with a screen that keeps the queen in the lower boxes where she will keep laying eggs, but will allow the workers to get honey into the upper sections. By keeping the eggs from being laid in the upper section, this will allow us to get pure honey for ourselves.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First we get the boxes setup, install the bees and make sure that the queen is healthy and is laying…Here’s an article about package bees

Looking for some nice weather to get these girls started!




So I ordered my hives and equipment from a supplier up in Hackensack, MN. Four deep boxes, 4 shallow western supers all painted pine, ready to put in the field…came with a smoker, beekeeper suit w/ attached veil (with a pithy helmet) and gloves. Hive Tool, Bee Brush, smoker fuel. Frames to hold brood, and hopefully honey.

The boxes came within three days of placing my order, and free shipping. Cool. I felt a little like a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting over the weekend for the boxes to arrive…but when they DID! Better than Christmas. Four big boxes outside the garage, and the delivery guy didn’t even ring the doorbell (go figure). That SOB. But with free shipping, I guess you get what you pay for! 

So I unpacked everything, checked the packing slip, and set the hives up on a couple of 2×4’s in the garage. The smell of the painted wood, and the beeswax covered frames (more on that later) was a little like a pheromone itself. Reinforced my decision to get into beekeeping.

Now there are two hives sitting in the garage, covered with a plastic tarp. Waiting for me to get them out to Zweber’s farm in the next week or so.

(Remember, the boxes are the hives, and the the bees themselves are the colonies)

The ground is still pretty mucky with piles of snow here and there, and it’s a little early to get out into the field. The girls — the bees — aren’t supposed to arrive until the weekend of 17-April, so I still have a little while to get ready…visions of sugarplums? Nope – buzzing bees just working their buns off.


I decided to get into beekeeping as a hobby a few months ago. I met a beekeeper who sells his honey at the St Paul Farmers Market, realized how delicious and different honey is from a local producer, and started thinking about honeybees.

I knew I couldn’t keep them in our back yard (too close to a small park usually full of kids, plus the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate bees). So I talked to one of my computer clients who have an organic dairy farm a few miles down the road from us.

When Zwebers said that they would let me put a few hives out on their land (away from their cows), I knew the first roadblock had been overcome.