Today has been circled on the calendar for a while. We, here at Bishop Family Bees, have been busy planning and arranging and constructing and we were finally ready to actually set up our hives so they will be ready to go when the bees arrive in a couple of weeks. It turned out to be a pretty chilly day to be working outside. But there was so much promise in the air and in the soil. The trees are budding and spring is upon us, slowly and tentatively, but upon us nonetheless. We are going away next week and I feel a bit sad that we will miss my favourite week of the year – the week when my garden bursts into bloom and colour is everywhere. That first week of May is always so wonderful, with the magnolias and tulips and redbuds and hyacinths all competing for my attention. I will be sure to take before and after photos just to show you what a difference a week can make when spring finally comes to town. In the meantime, my hives lent enough colour to the occasion today. They are something else.
Each hive has a bottom board which is the base of the hive and the main entrance for the bees. They often gather on the front step, so to speak, and use the space as a take-off and landing zone. The bottom board has a wire mesh on it which prevents any mites in the hive from crawling back up after they fall down through. And there is a white removable board which allows me to check and see just how many mites each hive is battling at any given time. It’s a simple, mechanical way to fight mites and allows me to avoid treating with chemicals if at all possible. We’re going with a five-box system with our new hives, so the bottom three boxes will be for brood and the bees’ honey stores, and the top two boxes will collect the extra honey they provide for us. Bees will fill whatever space you give them, so when late summer comes, we will begin to remove full frames of honeycomb from those top two boxes. They will already have stored plenty of honey for themselves for the winter. And then on top we have a hive-top that has been specially constructed with an extra layer of insulation. We are already talking about other insulation we will add this fall, to give our hives the best possible chance for surviving the cold winter. We aren’t worried that the hives will ever get too hot in the summer, but too cold in the winter is a definite concern. Summer will be here before we know it and I will forget that I was ever worried about them being too cold when I see lines of bees out on the front step, flapping their wings to provide ventilation in the hive!
So, today was moving day, part one. Dad brought his pickup truck and his trailer so we could lug all our hive boxes out to the countryside and avoid having to do that step when the bees arrive. Our first stop was out near Princeton, where Milt and Elaine have the most beautiful little country property. It is really quite magical. And tricky. A creek runs right across the property which will mean lovely cool water for our bees. But it also represents an obstacle when it comes to harvesting honey. For now, we were able to take the truck over the neighbour’s field to get to the lovely spot where the hives will be nestled under the apple trees. Once the crop is in, we will be relying on Milt’s ATV and a few boards to transport boxes of honey across the creek. That is going to make for some great stories, I’m quite sure! Milt is going to be a first-time beekeeper this season so we are going to enjoy working together and learning from each other as we raise our bees together.
After we had unloaded and set up at the Tulley property, we headed in a south-easterly direction to Devon Acres Organic Farm where we found Robin and his son, Aaron, clearing out some brush and erecting a fence for our bee yard. Our bees will join their bees in a spot on a hill between the cows and chickens and ducks. We had great fun arranging our bee boxes in a pattern, although I think I would prefer a random pattern after all. I have one more opportunity to change that all up, when we bring the bees over in a couple of weeks.
And then after the requisite lunch at Swiss Chalet, we headed over to St George where Ron and Nancy Book have graciously offered to host half of our bees, smack dab in the middle of their amazing property. Those hives look so lovely, all nestled in under the trees along a stony hill beside the barn. Nancy is already talking about photographing the bees and I can imagine that I will become obsessed with taking pictures of those particular hives, especially in the late afternoon sun. They were striking on a cold and cloudy day. I can only imagine how charming they will appear in the months to come. We took a few selfies and our day’s work was done!
And what was Henry up to all this time?!? Well, Henry occupied himself at all three places, by stomping around pretending he was a T-Rex. Nana kept a good watch on him while he explored. (Henry is always a full-time job for one of us on a work day.) Henry romped about, chasing cats and chickens, collecting stones (“dinosaur bones”) and rolling around in a pile of burnt debris for a while. He was filthy, tired, and happy when we finally called it a day. He wasn't the only one. I too am thoroughly enjoying getting my hands dirty and doing some lifting for a living. It felt great to be out in the fresh air with my rubber boots and work gloves on, engaged in yet another project with my dad. Filthy, tired, and happy is a good way to end any day, I would say.
Kari Raymer Bishop
Lover of Jesus, cheeses and tropical breezes... seeking balance in life, even as I embrace new challenges and chase new dreams. I am wife, mother, daughter and friend, as well as teacher, entrepreneur, activist, writer, beekeeper and hostess. Come along on the journey through my long-awaited midlife crisis!