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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lesson #2: Just Because Someone Says "I Checked To Make Sure Your Oder Is Right" Doesn't Mean They Actually Checked To Make Sure Your Order Was Right

So after our workshop at the Ohio Beekeepers Association in Wooster, We found out that there is a very short time frame in which you need to get your sh** together if you want to be a beekeeper. Coming out of the workshop, we realized that we should have ordered everything including our bees and queens back in February. So we really had move if we wanted to get started this year. We looked at some supply catalogs and thought the simplest thing to do was order starter kits (includes hives, frames,protective wear, smokers, tools ect.).We also wanted to buy full bee suits rather than rely on hats and gloves alone because as this is our first year, we are a little uncomfortable with the idea of going without full armor. Well all of this stuff we ordered from a company called Dadant. We thought it best to pick them up at their store in Albion, Michigan instead of having everything delivered. The shipping would have cost us a hundred bucks or more because of the weight of all the supplies. It was time for a little road trip.

We got to Dadant after about a two hour drive in the rain. Thank you Greg for getting tired of hearing me complain about driving in the rain and taking my keys away from me. This Dadant place was basically a big warehouse with a very tiny store front. When the employee finished helping a couple, he helped us pick out a bee suit. He is a pretty big guy, I'd say over 6 feet tall and pretty stocky too (to put it nicely). His shirt was way too small for him and in reflection, I think he looked like a human version of Winnie the poo. No wonder he is in the honey business.

When he was ringing us out he started telling us all kinds of stories. Some about beekeeping, some having nothing to do with beekeeping. I mean, this guy talked our ears off. He gave us tips about when to work with the bees. "Whatever you do, don't work with em when its windy, just rained, is about to rain, or is raining." "Don't work with em in the morning or in the evening, and don't wear deodorant." What? No deodorant? Apparently you can't use any scented soaps, lotions, shampoos, deodorants, ect. because it agitates the bees. So now I have to go out and buy unscented toiletries to keep the bees from attacking me. Fantastic.

The worker gave us plenty of no-so-useful tips while he was helping us also. How to please your wife, girlfriend or significant other by making chicken stew for dinner, how he played dirty football in high school (throwing salt or lemon juice in other players' eyes), how he is a diabetic and was recovering from a leg infection and surgeries (gross), and a wide variety of other topics that I can no longer remember.

This still unnamed fellow eventually got around to ringing up our order which came to a whopping 730-some dollars-GASP!! Thank you Greg for taking care of that. I am keeping track of the tab. The guy told us he hoped we had a very large vehicle for our order. He told us to meet him at the overhead door around the other side of the building to load our stuff. He met us outside with a hug pallet stacked with a bunch of huge boxes-our boxes. While Greg was trying to figure out how to put the seats down in my little Nissan Rogue, The man finally introduced himself as "Tiny Tim". How fitting for a giant, human version of Winnie the Poo.

While Tiny Tim stood there watching us struggle to pack my little SUV with enormous boxes he asked me what my name was. When I said "Erica" he said "well Erica, do you like sweet stuff?" Well I thought this was an odd question, but without really reasoning I answered "Yes, of course!" Then he said "Follow me! I have something I think you will like." Greg looked like he was doing a fine job of loading the car and I all I was thinking about was sweet stuff so I followed him back into the warehouse.

All the while I was following Tiny Tim through a very creepy , very dimly lit area of the building I never realized that I had just let a strange and giant man lure me into a dark corner with treats! You'd think this is where my stranger danger sense should have kicked in but I guess I was more concerned with what kind of delicious treat he was about to give me. He took me back to a storage room and showed me a monstrous box of honey candy. He gave me a bag and said I could have as much as I wanted! Awesome. I took a couple huge handfuls-didn't want to be too greedy now. Then Tiny Tim led be back out into the light of day where my friend had just finished up loading the boxes, seeming to have no concern for the fact that a complete stranger-and I mean strange-was successful in tempting me into follow him into a dark deserted building with the promise of candy. Thanks for having my back Greg :) It was only in reflection that I realized the "don't take candy from strangers" rule I learned in kindergarten never sunk in.

Tiny Tim suggested we hit up a little diner on the way out of town. He said, and I quote, " Good food, large portions and nooooo hovering." When he said this he put his arms out and made a hovering gesture that made both Greg and I snicker. He looked like a bear about to attack a hiker or something. You probably would have had have been there to see the humor in it but we thought it was so funny that we repeat that phrase every time we get the chance and I even made Greg do the hovering pose for the photo above. We went to the restaurant and it was pretty marginal. But Tiny Tim was right, the waitress didn't hover. In fact, we only saw her when she took our order and gave us our bill. Personally, I like attentive waitresses. If I need mayo she isn't far away. If my coffee needs warmed up she will notice. If I choke on an olive she is there to perform the Heimlich.

We took all our stuff home, opened the boxes, set up a hive indoors for fun.....and realized a bunch of stuff was missing. about half a dozen (and very important)parts to our kit were m.i.a. This is interesting because Tiny Tim made a point to tell us he checked to make sure our order was right at some point before we left. Funny. Greg was pretty pissed but I wasn't too concerned because I had a bag full of delicious honey candy to keep me content. It is hard for me to be angry at anyone who's given me bags full of sugary sweets. We did get some of our stuff shipped to us last week but are still waiting on a pair of gloves- which should have come with the replacement items and didn't. I have a feeling this isn't the last we will be hearing from Tiny Tim. In all honesty though, he seems like a genuinely kind and helpful person and he really gave us some decent pointers for beekeeping. He also gave us quite the memory of picking up our very first beehives!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lesson Number 1: I might end up sucking at beekeeping.

Some of you are may be wondering why I've decided to become a beekeeper. In short, I am doing this because I like honey and want lots of it. But there are other reasons too. We need bees and other pollinators (that are declining in numbers due to habitat loss, climate change, diseases, ect.) to help grow our food and it feels good to support them and all the positive things that come with them. And I like a little challenge now and then.

I've always been interested in beekeeping but never thought I had the nerve, the knowledge or resources to be able to do it until I met Greg, my partner in this crazy project. I have more in common with him than anybody I've ever met and he is the only person who can answer more questions correctly than me while watching Jeopardy. So it is to him that I owe so much gratitude. Without his willingness to try beekeeping with me, I wouldn't have never gotten the courage to take the first step. I am also very thankful to his employer who are much more financially supportive than mine!

A few months after Greg and I met I found out he took a beekeeping class while in college. How awesome is that! We talked about how it would be fun to have a couple hives but nothing ever materialized until January of 2010 when we brought the subject up again. We did an internet search to see if there were any workshops or classes on the subject in our area. Sure enough there was an annual conference and workshop for Ohio beekeepers in early March. I signed us up, we went (along with about a thousand other people) and on our way home we said "Lets do it!" So there you have it. That's how we came about deciding to try out beekeeping for the first time. We didn't ponder it or do much rationalizing. Its not really our style. We just couldn't think of any reason not to try it.

This is the first of (hopefully) many updates about my first year of beekeeping. Once I started telling people that I was going to get a hive, I was really surprised at all the positive feedback I've gotten. I guess a lot of people like honey too! So far, the most important thing I've learned from the books, websites, classes and even a seasoned beekeeper or two is this;I might suck at it. My bees might die or abandon my hive... and I most definitely will get stung. Sounds fun right? I don't know why everyone doesn't keep bees in their backyards!

I have a few more stories to follow soon. Our meeting of "Tiny Tim" and the fiasco of trying to get our supplies will probably be next. I also recently found out that Greg ordered our bees from a pirate and we will be meeting him at a bar to pick them up- so yeah, that is good material for another post as well. Please be forewarned, if my bees die, abandon the hive, don't make any honey or I get stung to death, this blog will come to an abrupt end. So stay tuned.