Busy As A Bee

 Many years ago, we had ten robust beehives.    We'd feed the bees, check the hives, add new supers when needed; and at the end of each summer harvest the excess honey.  We'd leave enough honey behind in each  hive to assure that our bees had adequate food for the winter.

   It wasn't long after we began beekeeping that the honeybees throughout the world began declining.  There was a lot of "buzz" about colony collapse  disorder... and sadly, at that time, no understanding of what was causing it.  As it turns out, pesticide and herbicide use plays a major role in the decline of these precious creatures.

It was during that time that our own bees began to dwindle.  Each year, only a percentage of our hives would make it through the winter.  Eventually (over 10 years or so), all of our hives had perished, despite starting new colonies when old had died.  It was during the life of our last hive that we found out that Hubbs was deathly allergic to bees.  His intolerance to stings had begun to increase over the years, culminating in a sting that put him in the ER with an anaphylactic reaction.  It was at this time that we decided that we would start no more beehives.  Within a couple years, we had no beehives left.  It was the natural end of our beekeeping story.

Or so we thought.  Last year, a wild swarm took over one of the three empty hives that sits down near the old log cabin.  It was a happy surprise.  However, we no longer owned any beekeeping equipment, so we decided that we would take a hands-off approach to this wild hive.

I loved having so many pollinators flying around the farm.  Hubbs avoided the hives and all was fine.  At the end of the summer, we crossed our fingers and prayed that our wild bees would survive the winter and live to pollinate another year.

This year, as spring brought warmer days, I looked to see if there was any activity around the beehive.  Sadly, there was none. 

I checked the doorway and found many dead bees at the doorway.  Yesterday we opened the hive to find a mass of dead bees at the center of the hive.  I am assuming they froze to death or died of disease.  I feel awful, because I might have prevented this if I had taken an active role in caring for this hive, but I had decided to let nature do its thing.  In hindsight, this was probably a mistake, and one for which I am sorry. One thing that I know for sure is that they did not starve.  The hive is filled with honey.  We were amazed to find frames inside this hive.  We had thought that we had removed all of the frames from the remaining hives.  Apparently we had not.

We no longer have a honey extractor (centrifuge) or any other equipment, so I will check with a beekeeping friend to see if he can extract the honey for us.  

I do miss the days when our hives were full and robust, but having beehives is not worth the risk of losing Hubbs.  He has had two more anaphylactic reactions since the first, and, truthfully, they are pretty scary.  Needless to say, EPI pens are always on hand!

Yesterday was another spectacular spring day.  Temperatures reached 70 and the sun shone through a dramatic cloud-filled sky.  The horses spent their morning in the upper pasture... once again in grazing muzzles because spring grass is so nutrient rich.

By late morning, they were ready to come back to the shade of the barn.

Fly masks replaced grazing muzzles when they came back in.  It amazes me how our quickly our world is taken over by insects.  One day there are none... the next day they are out in droves.

I did a bit of cooking in the morning... using up the last of last summer's raspberries and blackberries for jam,

and I made a pot of chicken gnocchi soup.

Yesterday was bread mixing day.  I fed my two different sourdough starters (each makes a different type of bread) in the morning, and then realized that I did not have enough flour for the two different types of bread I would be baking.  Luckily, we have plenty of well-stocked, little country stores in our area.

  A short ride through Amish country, and you can get just about anything you might need.

This particular store has the best selection of all types of organic flours  - as well as housewares, deli, produce, dairy, baby items and toys. (And it's close enough that I can get to and from on a single charge of our Prius - I've ridden my bike there on occasion, too, but yesterday I was pressed for time.)

I'm still working on watercolor painting, and try to do lessons online as often as possible.  Sometimes it is just fun to play, though, and yesterday I tried this tutorial.

The texture of the moon is the result of salt crystals, which are dropped on the paint before it dries.


Lisa said…
Bees are strange but fascinating creatures. One of our hives swarmed in December. They were all fine the first week of December and two weeks later they were gone. Hive full of honey and not a bee to be seen. Very strange. Bees don't swarm in the winter. But flowers don't bloom outside throughout the winter in Nova Scotia either yet one did here. Strange goings ons.

Your painting is awesome. What site do you take your lessons?
Dee J. Hartman said…
You are a woman who shares with a few of us the love of painting, the love of cooking and baking, and the love of being a beekeeper. Thank you for your enjoyable blog! I,too, love all these activities mentioned today. Unfortunately I gave up my beekeeping since had a vehement criticism of this from a neighbor who lived about a block away from me, who stated that his child had a severe reaction to bee stings, so I sold the two hives that I had had to keep peace with that one neighbor.. Prior to that sale of my bees, I got used baby food jars, yearly, from a friend who had two young ones. I cleaned the jars, removed the baby food labels, replacing the labels with ones which had written on them, "HONEY, from Dee's Bees". Filling the jars with honey, I gave these small jars to friends, relatives and neighbors as gifts at Christmas, along with small loaves of home baked bread. Many of them shared with me that it was a yearly habit to open the jars on Christmas morning and spread the sweet honey on warm, home-baked bread! Those were the days! SIGH!
jaz@octoberfarm said…
well, it's a real kick in the butt that bee haven acres has no more bees. but the memories of bees will carry on! the bees are gone as well as the equipment and certain turkeys that used to attack that centrifuge when they saw their image in it.it's snowing here!
Amanda Rose said…
Like your husband, I discovered I was allergic to bees after becoming a beekeeper. I only had two hives, and lost them both in a cold snap in late spring the following year. I did not replace the bees. I really miss having them, but I also enjoy being able to walk across the yard without suiting up.

I love your watercolor, it is so pretty!
This N That said…
So sorry about the Bees..Terrible situation everywhere..Better that Hubs not be exposed anymore than necessary..
Love your moon painting...Interesting technique..
Your gnocchi soup looks so yummy..It looks like there are little shrimp in it!!
Yup, it's bug season..Doesn't help me love summer..
Enjoy your the rest of your week..I think winter made a U turn...hugs
littlemancat said…
Loving the moon painting - and that soup! So sad about the bees not making it over the winter - but the honey they left, what a gift.