This past Saturday was a really great day. Adam and I drove to the tiny borough of Hanover, CT (which is chock full of adorable old farm houses) to pick up my two 3 lb. packages of bees with mated queens. It was an hour drive back to our house, and it was interesting to have roughly 18,000 live bees in the cab of a truck. That said, they were disoriented from their long drive up from the bee farm in Georgia where they were bred, and even more so from being scooped up and shoved into small boxes with queens that weren’t their own and food that wasn’t honey. The practice is somewhat barbaric, but it is the one at my disposal currently.
We arrived back home to meet my mother, who was both fascinated and terrified by the prospect of watching me hive these bees (she also played photog, so thanks mom!). It’s a quick, if not nerve-wracking practice, but not for why you might think. I’ve (non-invasively) checked my bees three times since I hived them, one time forgoing both gloves and veil. I have yet to be stung. That said, I understand the hives can freak people out.
For me, it was nerve-wracking because I wanted to house these ladies as quickly as possible, but also get it right. I wanted to be sure my comb bars were spaced properly, that the food was the right mixture, that the queens were out of their queen cages in time. Doing so once you have loosed 9,000 confused stinging insects, some flying erratically around your head or burrowing in your pockets or pooping on your hat, is marginally distracting. But I tried really bloody hard to get it right. After all, I chose to become a beekeeper because I’m fascinated by these insects; I want their homes and experience helping me garden to be as close to perfect for them as I can make them.
The process itself is quite simple. Once I detached the boxes from each other, I separated them and signed them hives. I then chose my first box, and whacked it on the ground to get the bees off the top of the box. This doesn’t really hurt them, just jostles them to the bottom (their bodies are so tiny, afterall). Then, I pried off the door of the box, exposing the top of the queen cage and the feeder can. The queen cages were both sealed with circular metal plates, which were more difficult to remove than the typical cork seal. As I withdrew the queen cage, I covered the opening back up with the door (really just a piece of soft pine). I then placed my first queen on the comb bars of the bottom box of the first hive. Returning to the box, I lifted out the feeder can with my hive tool, covered the opening again, gave the box another whack so the bees were in a bundle, and poured them into the hive on top of the queen box. Then I carefully placed the second box’s comb bars, placed my small canvas on the bars as well as the double jar feeder, added my third box (without comb bars to house the feeder), added the quilt box, and lastly placed the roof.
All in all, the process took probably ten minutes. The worst part was that I pulled a muscle moving those cinderblocks earlier that morning.
Having dreamed of keeping bees for a very, very long time, it’s as shocking as it is exciting to finally have them. I wonder if some people who chase dreams fail, not because the dream is unattainable, but because the chase becomes more a part of their personality than the end goal. Keeping bees is a humble dream, though, and one I feel I can continue to perpetuate for – hopefully – years. There is much stacked against bees these days, and I felt bad that they arrived so early that we haven’t any natural food for them.
I ran out on Sunday to purchase flowering plants, grabbing poppies and tulips and irises and velvety purple clematis. I plan on planting lavender, bee balm, borage, and thistle. Our little homestead is starting to take shape, slowly but surely.
Saturday seemed to be a turning point for whatever reason. Perhaps it was the arrival of the bees and spring all at once that put me on a more pleasant plane, but I didn’t seem to be alone. On Tuesday, my boss scheduled a meeting with me in response to the succinct, but professional, email outlining why I felt I deserved pay equity with my coworkers that I had sent to him almost a month ago. (Yes, I know, you’re shocked I can actually curb the use of “cunt” and “fuck” long enough to make a polite point, but I can! It’s all very adult and boring and not at all interesting.) With very little hesitation, he explained that he was, quite simply, cheap (I can relate to that), offered me a raise and a promotion. Perhaps my idealized version of my future isn’t going to slip away quite in the manner I truly believed only a few days ago. (Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll find a way to fuck it up.)
I’ve also started exercising regularly. Finnegan, our newest and most troublesome family member, patently refuses to sleep past 6 a.m., so it is through no fault of my own that I am becoming one of those so-called Morning People I’ve always dreaded. Moreover, I’ve been motivated by an impending stint as a bridesmaid to get my ever-expanding ass to fit in the no-returns-allowed dress I purchased for the occasion. So now I row between 2 and 5 miles a day, every morning. I even managed an average of a 6 minute mile this morning, cranking out 5+ miles in 30 minutes, which isn’t terrible for an exercise-phobic individual like me. While I will deny these very words, even if you pull up this post and point them out to me, exercising has done wonders for my mood. I mean, it could be a combination of the weather and exercise and bees, but mostly, I realize now how much more nauseatingly cheerful and legitimately nice I am of late. It’s disgusting. Andthere’s a small part if me that wonders if some of the reason I haven’t written about the pure joy of the bees before now is because I am happy. Being happy and calm has sucked the snark right out of me.
It’s enough to prompt an existential crisis, but honestly, I don’t think happy people have those.