Early in the year 2007, I heard a radio advertisement for a Beginning Beekeeping 101 class. It was being held at the Depot Home and Gardens and the cost was only $20.00. Immediately I was interested. When I arrived at work that morning I shared with Ann, my co-worker how cool I thought it would be to raise honeybees since our property butts up against an apple orchard on both the west and north sides. Ann agreed this could be exciting and rewarding, and she quickly added that she’d buy honey from me.
About one week lapsed and I hadn’t done anything about my piqued interest, when out of the blue, my husband Scott and I were driving somewhere and he blurted out, “do you know what I want our next hobby to be?” Not even a half of a second passed before I responded “beekeeping!” Astonished at my answer, Scott said, “How did you know? It must have been that I stressed the word “be”. “No”, I said, and went on to explain what had been on my mind.
Scott was convinced that this was a blessing from God—for both of us to be on the same page! He was so excited that we would have another hobby we could both work on together. And I was thrilled because, for whatever reason, I had been spending too much time lately pondering the arrival of 2010, when we will become empty nesters. I'd become convinced that we needed to begin a few joint activities now, so that when this day comes, we wouldn't be just looking at each other saying, “Who are you?”
We had already become Boy Scout leaders, and we were working our very large vegetable garden together. Participating in church worship and weekly activities is another way we spend time together. But I know that Scouts will probably end along with our child flying from the nest, and there are many hours outside of church events. And gardening, another shared hobby, is a much shorter season in Vermont, than when we were living in California, so I was already anticipating our new excursions on our tandem kayak, but now we had a new hobby to get excited about—beekeeping.
The days between registering for the beekeeping class and actually attending it seemed like months instead of weeks. February 21, 2007 finally arrived, and we spent the day with seasoned beekeeper Lynn Lang, learning until our brains were about to explode. Lynn was using words like brood box, supers, and nucs. Then there was terminology for the bees themselves: drones, workers and queens. That was easy enough, only three types, but then he mentioned nurses and foragers; how did they fit in? Oh—did we really want to move forward with this?
With a resounding YES we wanted into this world of husbandry that has been around for centuries, yet we knew absolutely nothing about this particular realm, except for the fact that I love to consume that sticky golden-liquid that honeybees produce.
We were assured it wasn't too late to begin that very season. We could still order our bees and purchase a hive. Again there was much to be learned. We had our Memorial Day weekend all planned, our annual camping trip with my sister Vicki and her family. Sure enough, this was the same weekend that our packaged bees would arrive. It was mandatory that they be picked up on the Saturday that we were to be on vacation. Two of our church friends, Stephanie and Belinda, both post-grad students at UVM, offered to drive north to Swanton to pick up our bees and drive them to our house. This meant that instead of a 3 hour drive to Swanton, Scott would only need to drive 1½
hours to our home, so that he could install the bees in their hive, and return to our campground before nightfall.
As the season progressed, we read our bee books, inspected our hive, and spotted our queen. We joined the Vermont Beekeepers Association and went to their summer meeting. During this meeting I found myself being voted in as their new librarian. We learned that our association provides monthly workshops at the North Yard and South Yard. We attended all of the rest of the North Yard workshops for the season and continued to gain knowledge about our newest hobby.
September 13th rolled around, and we were invited to a Vermont honey harvesting party at Buck Hollow Apiary, which is run by Dave and Laurie Robistow. It was a hands-on event, and Scott and I were both able to uncap the honey filled frames and hand them over to be inserted into the extractor, which spins the frames until nothing but waxcomb is left. Dave and Laurie will never know what a blessing it was to get this hands on experience before embarking on our own harvest. Again, some local friends in Monkton who weren’t keeping bees this particular season helped us by lending their hand-turned extractor, stainless-steel frame holder, and uncapping tool.
The Wilson honey harvesting day arrived on September 16, 2007, and our neighbors Russ and Robin Baker came to assist us. What a wonderful plan. They had never experienced a honey harvest before; therefore, they couldn’t laugh at us if we did it all wrong. Surprisingly, it went very smoothly, and I think we all had fun doing it. Our honeybees produced 45 pounds of honey for us our first season. We couldn’t have been more thrilled.
As you can see, we didn’t find beekeeping; rather, it found us. We weren’t looking for it, but when Lynn’s workshop was announced on the radio that day, who would have thought it would lead to such a change in our lives. Now that’s the bee buzz, and I’m sticking to it!
Heavenly Honey Apiary