As our first beekeeping summer winds down, Eric (the neurotic beekeeper) harvested a very small amount of comb honey to eat with our own apples for the new year. There’s a victory there – the bees have done very well, building up to a healthy population with plenty of honey for them and us. The real trick, of course, will be seeing them through the winter, but we’re pleased with the first experience and thus far our signs look good.
One of the things that allowing Eric to be the primary farmer on the beekeeping project has revealed is a fundamental difference in our approaches. Eric likes to know what the right thing to do is, and keeps on researching until he finds it. My feeling is that there are always dozens of reasonable sounding, smart ways to practice husbandry, and the trick is going to be finding the one that works for us – and that one only finds that out through experimentation. I tend to research obsessively as well, but then pick a methodology that appeals to me and go forward. Eric, however, wants to read every paper – and given that apiarists write more articles than any other kind of husbandfolk, that could take you a while.
For the first 10 years of our agricultural adventures, I ran the farm, and Eric (who calls himself “an awesome serf”) did as I suggested. This wasn’t for lack of my trying to get him involved – he preferred to have me be the researcher and the energy behind the farm. The bees are his first solo project, and although he keeps offering to share them with me (I’ve wanted bees for years), I’m happy to see him making his first harvest, and seeing the results of his own management model. Over the years Eric has become a full partner (although I’m still the driving force in what to do next) in animal husbandry, but his relationship to the plants we grow has been “Ummm…is that something that I should pull out or something we want to keep.” Now, all of a sudden his interest in where the bees source their pollen has made him (gasp) reconsider the plant kingdom ;-).
Whatever it is, however, it has all gone swimmingly. The neurotic beekeeper is rightly proud of his results – and that comb honey, with the few Northern Spies we have harvested (almost all of our apple crop, also a product of our bees, was blown down by Irene – but mercifully the peaches and quinces almost all survived, so I can’t complain too much) will grace our New Years table as we head into the high holidays.
There are plenty of arguments for an against the different choices we’ve made in hive structure and management. It is quite possible that in coming years we may change our thinking – but I’m just grateful for apples, honey and the bees this year.
L’shana Tovah Tikatevu!