Three years ago my friend (and occasional barn/fence/tractor carpenter/mechanic) Steve announced, to everyone’s delight, that he had set up 2 beehives in his City yard. I’ve been following his learning process, progress and setbacks with the same concern he brings to mine with goats.
Bees have fascinated me since age 5. Mother handled all encounters with Nature alike: “You mustn’t get mad at the bee.” It was afraid of me, I had stepped on it, and it died from stinging – to a child’s mind, terribly unfair. Then the 1958 National Geographic with those incredible closeups. And one day in the woods, not long before my family left Columbia Station for Cleveland Heights, a sound like a tractor from the edge of a field where no tractor should be, and a swarm the size of a soccer ball weighting down a large maple limb.
In 1988 when I found the ravines here lined with Black Locust trees, heavy in Spring with creamcolored blossoms and honey fragrance, beehives were a logical thought. But something else always came first. The way horses and dogs accumulated was a caution. I resisted turning into one of those nut-job rural outfits with peacocks, llamas, potbellied pigs and a mud lawn. Goats were a sound investment for the terrain, but more lives to be responsible for.
4 years and 3 kidding seasons in, the goats are settled. Down to 3 horses and 2 dogs, the day’s rhythm is sustainable even in weather extremes. So early this Spring, when a stack of old hive boxes turned up in the cellar of an abandoned house nearby, it seemed like time to add 1 new species to my cares.
My old 3-bay Central Compost Facility moved to the barnyard, leaving a space down out of the wind, open to the East but shaded at midday by a dozen locust trees. Bees would have a clear flight path out over the valley to the ravine and pond. The spot gets early sunrise, never suffers in drought, and in locust bloom season, looks like a heavy snow.
“Everything will happen faster than you expect,” goes a maxim in technology. Who would have thought, after the sunny day I spent scraping and priming those old hives, that an excited call from Alaina would announce that they had captured a swarm in their yard, and that Steve would be bringing it the next day?
So a heavy (3 lb), vigorous colony settled into a loaner hive, till the paint dries on my recycles. Then, when these tireless urban beekeepers saw the potential in locust bloom, two more hives from their backyard arrived. One has a honey super, so there may even be some pale, delicate Spring honey to reward them for scrambling to make this happen. For me, reward enough, 3 or 4 times daily, to observe the coming and going, the colors of pollen, the change in sounds as they respond to a scout message, or settle for the night.
When the camera is back from repair, I’ll let you see the Bee Yard in its lovely setting. For now, some archive images of what the foragers have been finding. More about Steve & Alaina’s beekeeping in all its trials, successes and beauty, at http://pasztphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Bees/12270969_NqhDFb#!i=875419354&k=ZbC2b