The Pursuit of Beekeeping

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance.

Henry David Thoreau

 

I can’t remember how long ago I became infatuated with bees. I do remember asking my Dad if he would consider a couple of hives on the farm. He scowled and shook his head as he told me there was no room for him and bees on the place (I’ve discovered that many folks agree with his view). At the time, I worked a lot and spent many days away from home. I didn’t have time to water a plant much less have bee hives. My infatuation waned due to other responsibilities, but with the promise to revisit.

With retirement on the horizon, I took the beginners bee class offered by the regional beekeeping club. I took notes, asked questions, paid a membership, wrote down member’s numbers, and bought numerous books. I’ve watched more YouTube videos than I can count. As the instructor said in class, ask 10 different beekeepers, get 10 different answers (not what I was hoping for).  Pine hives versus cypress hives. Painted or varnished finishes for the hive. Do I buy Italian bees or Carniola, Russian bees or Buckfast? Negatives include varroa and tracheal mites, brood disease, beetles, viruses, pesticides, and colony collapse disorder. The bees in the colony are the workers, drones and the queen (sounds like a workplace). Have a grumpy queen and the whole colony is moody (sort of like people). Every bee has a purpose and a role (also sort of like people). Face the hives to the south, ensure a wind break, and have water within a quarter mile. If providing a water supply, add a piece of wood so the bees don’t drown. Wow, who knew a bee could drown?

After a couple of months of reading and studying, the romanticized visions of beekeeping vanished. In addition, it isn’t a cheap endeavor. Just to name a few of the necessities; tools, a smoker, beetle busters, wood bleach, and a bee suit. In the early phase of this adventure, I told listeners that I wanted bees because they let themselves out in the morning and they were home by dark. Unlike my neighbor that has sheep that she moves around day to day, and chickens that have to be guarded and thinned out occasionally, I thought bees were the ultimate low maintenance contribution to nature. The joke is on me. I told the hubby that a dog would be easier.

I didn’t chicken out. I picked up two nucs of Italian bees (Benventuo!) on Saturday from a local beekeeper. A nuc is short for nucleus. It means there is an established queen and all the bees have formed a working relationship. If a package of bees is ordered, the queen is foreign to the colony and it takes a little more time for the colony to build (sort of like starting a new job and figuring out how the team works). Bringing home the nucs reminded me of when we brought our newborn babies home. I stood and starred at them. I tried to recall the YouTube videos (Dr. Spoke books for the newborns) telling me what to do.

On Saturday afternoon, I pulled on my white bee suit (looked like the Michelin tire guy) and got to it. I did make the mistake of peeking in at the bees before zipping my veil. Bad idea…..sting directly to the right temple (I’d be mad too if I had been bouncing around in a box). The first hive was torqued. I may have riled them a bit much with the new smoker. Pine needles make great fire material by the way. The second colony was kinder and calmer. I spotted the queen on the second frame. I used less smoke and was calmer myself since the burning pain in the right temple had stopped. I put the top on the hives, added a concrete block, and walked away.

A bit later, I sat in a chair (safe distance)and watched them come and go. Pollen on their legs, buzzing with activity, devoted to their role in the colony, fulfilling a role in our own agriculture cycle, and creating honey that goes on a hot biscuit. I found it peaceful and fascinating. I know the easiest part is over. Now it comes to monitoring for disease, mites, and keeping the queens healthy. The low maintenance thing went out the window, but then again, anything worth doing probably isn’t low maintenance.

Stay tuned. We will learn more about bees together here on Windy Hill.

Beehives

Counting

 

Drinking my morning coffee, I’m pondering the number of coworkers I have watched retire. I know the number is substantial.  I’ve heard peers say they were counting down to retirement. Funny, some started with the first payroll check. On the opposite end, I know workers that love what they do and cannot image a day without it. Sadly, life happened for others and retirement was the forced alternative to the best laid plans.

At retirement receptions, I’ve witnessed childlike giddiness at the thought of throwing away the alarm clock. I’ve also seen tears of joy, indecision, change, and fear. Through each event, I smiled, sniffed, congratulated, sympathized, envied………..and then went on my merry way. I would go back to my desk, tackle the next project and never ask—–what exactly are you counting? I assumed it was days left to work (I admit I had a pile of paperclips), but what do you count when you reach the official day?

It’s my turn. My retirement breakfast has come and gone. Watch in hand, it’s just a couple weeks before the official date. Dang, when did May 1 get so close to the doorstep?  I should be counting something. I should have paid more attention, asked more questions. I mean, what exactly does one count with the official date so close? What do you count when the paperclips and the paycheck are gone? Is it days, hours, expenses, or projects to do? Is it the pounds you gain now that I’m cooking? Is it the number of items on the honey-do list before “honey” explodes? Is it the things that may drive your hubby crazy now that you’re home everyday? (He doesn’t like the way I load the dishwasher:-)

I figured it out. It’s BLESSINGS. That’s what you count.

  • Opportunity, mentors, laughs, talented and smart peers, visionary bosses, coworkers, education, memories, safe travel, audio books, music, podcasts, retirement plan, industry friends, and life’s lessons. Teachers, community, forever friendships, good health, and a long career in the rural environment. The ability to adapt to and with change. A work family that pulled you up and along when grieving.

 

  • A supportive and loving family. Healthy children and grandchildren, siblings, and close friends that kept me in the loop even when I was always working or studying. A renovated home that finally came together.  Sleeping in my own bed. A view that is peaceful. Gorgeous sunsets.

These are the things I’m counting. Blessings.

Retirement is not the end of the road. It’s the beginning of the open highway……………..pexels-photo-730662.jpeg

Life is good….but cold and windy today……. on Windy Hill. Adventure awaits…….well, when it gets warmer…..

To Granny’s House We Go

I didn’t post a blog last week. My daughter and the two grandkids were here all week. Need I say more?

Our daughter Kelci is on maternity leave after the birth of our grandson on February 14th (a valentine baby and also Dad’s birthday). After being holed up in her house for six weeks, she needed a change of pace. Her husband Will had returned to work at the medical clinic, the baby was suffering from a touch of acid reflux (we called it colic but it still means nonstop crying), and their 2.5 year old daughter was adjusting to a new brother by NOT sleeping in her bed. No matter the age, sometimes a person just needs a visit home.

The kids arrived on Saturday and the weather misbehaved all week. We hoped for warm days and less wind. We got rain, cool temps, and brutal gusts (the kind that flips the outdoor furniture). My friend from North Dakota was also here a few days (she and a couple of other friends surprised me with their visit to my retirement party) and she brought sundresses. They stayed packed in her suitcase.

Despite the wet weather, we didn’t allow it to dampen our spirits or curtail our fun. Highlights of Addison’s week were visiting the neighbors. New lambs were born. Betty Ann became the proud mother to Fiona and Franklin. There were also eggs to gather (a few didn’t make it to the house), chickens to feed, and sheep to pet. We had one nice day of sunshine and Addison agreed to a ride on the 4-wheeler if granny agreed to come along. We also squeezed in some baking time.

Highlights of Rylan’s week were snoozing peacefully in his swing and being fed whenever he was hungry. He had longer spells of alertness and gave us all some big smiles (no not gas, real smiles). He was held, sniffed, and rocked by everyone. We laughed at his arm movements and boxing jabs.  It’s probably because he is so sore under his arms after being tossed around like a sack of potatoes. He was a trooper.

I believe Kelci had a few nice moments herself. She made it through a whole cup of coffee a couple of mornings without having to nuke it multiple times. Although the weather wasn’t great, she witnessed a couple of nice sunsets. She had a spinach and cheese omelet for breakfast almost every day and took a hot shower without listening for the baby to cry. It’s the little things.  Will arrived on Friday and our son Nelson joined us for dinner. One of the peaks of my week was to have the entire family together for a few hours. Laughter is always on the menu.

IMG_2378

On Saturday afternoon, Kelci and Will packed the car (packed is right with swings, diapers, Easter baskets, clothing, 2 car seats, etc.) and headed south. Like all parents with small children, they hoped their timing of just feeding Rylan and Addison’s nap time would carry them home in a reasonable state of peace. It’s always a little sad to see them go………Now, the house is quiet. The refrigerator is empty. Granny needs a nap.

It was a nice week here on Windy Hill.

The Neighbors

After reading the launch post of my blog, my neighbor said, “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything about your interesting neighbors.”  Taken aback a bit, I realized she was right to call me on my lack of introduction. My neighbors unquestionably deserve a mention. Matter of fact, they are interesting enough for an entire post.

When the hubby and I made our list of pros and cons for buying the parent’s place, the “neighbors” were taken into consideration (just to clarify, they were on the pro side). It so happens these neighbors are part of the family, the baby sister and her husband (now that you know she is the baby of the family you understand why she asked about being left out). They built a house on the family land a couple of years ago, but that was after constructing a photo studio…….. a mini version of the log house.  They are awesome photographers. They specialize in high school seniors, school and sports photography, and commercial and environmental shots. I can also vouch for their ability to make me look less scary in a headshot. That takes work. Since I gave them a plug here, go ahead and check out their website amillerphotoevent.com.

In addition to photography, they flip houses. They aren’t into the shiplap like the Gaines, but their work and renovation projects sell fast. If not for my neighbor and her designer’s touch, my sunroom would be blue, the bathroom floor would be something besides tile (some ladies like jewelry, my sister was thrilled with a new tile saw her hubby purchased), and I wouldn’t have an accent wall that everyone seems to admire when they visit.

Last, the neighbors have chickens and baby doll sheep. Receiving fresh eggs unquestionably has its perks. The baby dolls are just adorable with cute names. All, but one, are expecting baby lambs any day. Oh, and the neighbor just got new baby chicks. Baby lambs and baby chicks will earn this granny extra marks with the granddaughter. Who doesn’t want to pet a lamb and hold a chick at Easter?

So, having neighbors that are family, friends, talented helpers, and just plain fun to be around positively enhances life here on Windy Hill. It’s nice to have someone to drink a cup of coffee with (did I mention they have a cappuccino machine) and to share pizza on the deck. As Gilbert K. Chesterton said, we make our friends: we make our enemies: but God makes our next door neighbor.

Life is good on Windy Hill.

Windy Hill

Our new place doesn’t need a name, but I wanted one. It has an address for identification and we call it home. We called it Mom and Dad’s for 20 years. Even after their deaths in 2011 and 2013, we still called it Mom and Dad’s.

At some point, I noticed my struggle and my sisters to call it something else. We needed something less sad. It happened naturally to start calling it the farm. Even though it isn’t a working farm today (unless you count briers and privet), it has the acreage for possibilities. We didn’t think it too unrealistic to call it the farm.

It doesn’t take long to realize the wind blows all the time at the farm. When I was young, we lived across the road in the house that Mom and Dad built in the 1950s after they married (They built this house after retirement.). I remember sleeping in the front bedroom with the wind whistling around the corners until I covered my ears to sleep.  I had lots of dreams about The Wizard of Oz when the wind howled at night (I actually thought our apple trees turned into tornadoes….that’s another post.).

In summer, the wind provides much needed relief from the humidity and heat. In winter, the wind is not a good thing. It’s brutal. It pierces your skin and chills straight to the bone. When Mom was still here, I remember ringing the doorbell and waiting….and waiting……and waiting. Between Mom’s loud music playing (My own loud music and reading addiction came from Mom), her slower pace, and the square footage, it could take a while. When she finally arrived to let me in, I would fall into the doorway with my teeth chattering from the wind. Granted, it isn’t North Dakota frigid, but for the south it’s pretty darn cold.

So although I spent years in marketing and trying to be creative, it wasn’t that hard to find a name for our home. The truth is…the wind blows all the time. Our house is on a hill. I’d love to tell you it was something much deeper and emotional that created the name, but just plain calling it like we feel and see it.

Windy Hill it is.

We love this life on Windy Hill.

Adventure Awaits

That’s what the sign says. A retirement gift from a co-worker. The official retirement date is later this year, but with some time built up, I’m planning to spend a few months relaxing and preparing to say, “I’m retired”. I’ve had a job since 12, so it’s uncharted territory for this Type A personality. I believe it will take practice.

My timing isn’t great. In addition to figuring out how to retire, David and I just moved. We’ve lived in the same house for 30 years. We bought Mom and Dad’s place in 2016.  Who knew it would take 16 months to renovate and paint (that’s a whole post by itself)?

I had no way of knowing when I turned in my notice for retirement that moving and quitting would roll into one big, life changing ball. The quote comes to mind that life happens while busy making plans.

So, I now have free time previously dedicated to the two-way trip to the Bluegrass State, and the 50+ hours of actual marketing work. I also have the extra time I dedicated to  painting 400 miles (not really, but felt like it) of stained trim. Don’t get me wrong, the house is not finished. There are no doors on the closet or laundry. There’s more trim to paint (I missed some). We have a laundry room leak that continues to baffle us, and corners without accent chairs (when I took down the Christmas trees—big space left).

There are recipes to try (or better yet, investigate a Blue Apron or Hello Fresh service), and I’m seriously thinking about starting some bee hives. I believe the honey bee needs help. I hear if done well, there’s honey in it for us. We love honey.

When the weather warms, I want to put to use the small amount of knowledge I gained from the Master Gardener class (My fault not the instructor’s. He lost me at grasses.) and plant bee-loving and bouquet flowers. I have a half-finished lasagna garden.

I have a beautiful grand daughter and a brand new grandson born a few weeks ago (He’s adorable by the way).  I will have and make time for granny adventures.

So, with all the possibilities – here are the real reasons to occasionally post a blog.

  • To entertain myself and my brain so I don’t forget my words. (I’ve been moving into the stage of calling everything a “thing”.)
  • Writing will give me something to do besides sniffing paint fumes in a room with little ventilation.
  • I sometimes have introvert tendencies so a connection to the outside world is a must-even if it is not in person.
  • While searching for a subject, it will help me “take notice” of what is important.

That’s the plan anyway.

Join me here at lifeonwindyhill.com.

Adventure awaits.