Just prior to learning about our new fate as farmers, I spoke these words out loud, quite plainly, to a friend:
“I don’t see myself ever keeping bees. They’re just so … mysterious.”
Now, let me explain this sentiment. It’s not that I don’t love honey and revere the work that bees do. In fact, it’s that reverence that led me to believe I didn’t deserve to be a beekeeper. Bees are amazing little creatures, each individual working diligently through their entire lifespan as part of a greater whole to create the most perfect product that could ever come out of your farm. I can’t even wrap my head around it. I, in contrast, am not as disciplined. I’m a creative soul, a dreamer, who likes to jump into projects on whims, not necessarily seeing them through to fruition. While I admire any being who can methodically work their way through a process, I’m not at all like that. I didn’t think the bees needed me up in their business, mucking things up.
Well, hindsight is pretty hilarious, isn’t it? Just a few weeks after declaring myself a non-beekeeper, Mr. B and I learned about our new 50 acres—a piece of land with which we would inherit, you guessed it, a hive of bees.
Don’t get me wrong—we were pumped. But with honey production already underway, we had a lot to catch up on. Of course, I deferred beekeeping responsibilities to Mr. B, an engineer who could nerd out on the feats of our newly acquired colony—these insects are like his “people,” and I was content to merely be a helping hand.
So, I called my beekeeper friend and beeswax supplier to help us get to know our bees a little better.
We suited up, opened the hive and, not to be biased or anything, discovered that we have the best bees on the planet! Gentle, healthy and abundant, they’d already been hard at work making us a welcome home present: lots and lots of honey.
Despite having a million other things on our plate regarding the move and getting the farm in working order, honey harvesting jumped to to the top of our to-do list. With some loaned equipment and the guidance of our bee mentor, we pulled 15 full frames of honey from the hive: nine left by the previous owners containing fall-made honey and six with newer spring honey.
Rather crudely, we uncapped the comb using a dull kitchen knife, but the honey oozed out with amazing beauty. The sticky syrup drenched our fingers, and we couldn’t resist helping ourselves to more than our fair share of taste tests.
And y’all, I’m so sorry you can’t taste it, but honey doesn’t get any better than this. (Again, it’s not like I’m biased or anything.) In the lighter spring honey, you can pick up the floral notes of the flowers growing in our meadows: the butterfly milkweed and the red buds and vetch all coming through. It’s my favorite. The fall honey, a little darker and cloudier, has a deep richness to it—Mr. B says it would make a great pancake topping.
The biggest treat out of all of this, though, was something I learned about myself: I love keeping bees!
I love opening the hive and hearing the buzz of the bees fanning their honey. I love the thrill of the tiny insects flying around me as I pull out the frames. I love the care the bees take to build their comb, forage for their food, fill the cells and, with the skill of a chef, cap the cells when the honey reaches just the right moisture content so that it can be perfectly preserved. I love the viscosity of the honey as it pours out of the comb once it’s been uncapped, and the variety of flavors it takes on depending on the season and surroundings.
I still don’t quite understand how bees do what they do, and I’m not sure that I ever will. But there’s so much beauty in the mysterious—to know that we humans, no matter how hard we try, can never replicate something so perfect.