Farm & Family Update, Fall 2021

Posted by Hilary & Christopher Mueller on

Dearest Incredible Seeds Community,

It's been a while (a long while) since our last farm update... Despite the greater, complicated goings-on in the world, we hope you've been able to find solace, satisfaction & peace in your gardens over the Summer. 💖

We've definitely had our pandemic ups & downs. Despite some hard times, we've also some very special experiences & revelations. As with everything we share with you, we hope this story inspires & warms your hearts.  

 

🐝 Backyard Beehive Magic 🐝

For those of you who've been with us for a while, you may remember the exciting news from a few years ago: My dad got the kids HONEY BEES for Christmas! It wasn't as chaotic as it sounds... He got them the promise of bees, having ordered a nuc (start up hive) for the following Spring. 

Over the last three years, this bee community has brought our family so much joy! Seeing them "come alive" every Spring. Sitting in the garden, just  mesmerized, as they go about gathering pollen & nectar. The satisfaction of catching a swarm - a branch of Black Spruce, just dripping with docile bees... Incredible!

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A note about our style of beekeeping. We are amateurs. This is not an educational piece & it is entirely possible that our successes have been purely  luck-based! Also, we place the bees' wellbeing ahead of our own want for honey & harvest minimally. The practice of taking a hundred or so pounds of natural, nutrient rich honey from the bees & then feeding them nutrient void white sugar (usually from heavily sprayed, GMO sugar beets...) doesn't sit well with us. We believe in low interference methods & responsible honey harvesting.

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In year one we saw a frost in June that shriveled lots of early flowers, including the strobili (conifer "flowers") in the forest around our house. The Summer that followed was extremely dry. We wondered if the bees had enough food for the Winter. 

Late Frost + Little Rain = Weaker Plants = Lower Quality Nectar / Pollen
We took no honey & gratefully, the hive made it through it's first Winter. 
In year two, the hive swarmed. Now that was an amazing experience! I (Hilary) was sitting indoors & started to notice a loud humming, almost like someone was using a chainsaw in the distance. I glanced out the window & saw thousands of bees in the air! 🐝🐝🐝
 Backyard Swarm
Knowing that this could be the moment where we lose all the bees, we acted fast. While the bees settled around their new queen, Christopher & our-then-6yo quickly assembled a second hive. Thank goodness it went together easily! The not so easy part was moving the swarm to the new hive.
The queen had settled on a Spruce branch, 10 feet off the ground... 
My sister bravely climbed the tree & supported the branch while it was cut with a poll-saw (manual, not powered thank goodness!) We got the swarm into the new hive; no stings, no bee casualties. AND there was still a queen in the original hive! Our bee community was going to double.
Catching A Swarm
Unfortunately, this turned out to be another very dry Summer & honey production seemed low. We wondered whether or not the new hive would be able to build up enough supply to make it through the Winter... We gathered no honey.                           
This past Spring, we found that the second hive had not survived. Oh, we were sad! After having had such an intimate experience with these bees, it was devastating to learn that they hadn't made it... 🥀
As they say, though, "Every cloud has a silver lining."
In our "pivot" back to homeschooling (Third Wave Lockdown), we neglected to clean up the dead hive. This turned out to be a blessing.
Neighbours had observed a hungry Spring Black Bear visiting their composts. Our chickens eat our compost, so we didn't think too much of it. But then, the bear got into the dead hive! Oh, the damage a bear can do to an unguarded beehive... Smashed to smithereens & all the honey & comb devoured! 🐻🍯
But this left our original hive untouched! We figured the bear opted for an easy meal & rather than facing hundreds of stingers. Smart bear!

And the hive is THRIVING!

This has been an amazing bee year! The hive came out strong after Winter, the orchard was full of blooms in early Spring & we've grateful had even rain all Summer. We finally felt confident that we could harvest honey without negatively impacting the bees. So last month, we pulled out enough honey frames to yield 8L of beautiful, dark, golden honey. ✨🐝💖

Backyard Beekeeping


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