Monday, August 15, 2011

Guest Experiment: "Make" Your Own Honey

Due to unforeseen illness (is it ever foreseen?) and since my current experimentation is requiring more time than anticipated, I asked Owen to share his experiment in something that we will never be able to do at this house: beekeeping (thank you, Nick's deadly bee allergy). Owen and Emily and their two daughters (and baby #3 due today!) were some of our first friends here - Emily actually attended Madeline's birth as my doula a whole 3 weeks after meeting me! They are genuine and kind and capture one of the reasons why I love the Iowa City area (yes, I said Iowa) so much. They are this seamless and beautiful blend of urban and rural (not to mention just plain awesome people). They live in an old farmhouse on 5 acres surrounded by corn, but are active participants in the "city" community. And the majority of "city folk" here work hard to bring the farm to the city. You get to meet the farmers at the markets and coops in town and are actually invited go to the farm to see where your food is raised and grown. It's just a truly amazing and real community. So thank you, Owen, for your ongoing friendship and for sharing your foray into keeping bees.

Naturally, people ask me why I started beekeeping. They might expect that it reminds me of my childhood in some way, maybe a close neighbor that kept bees in their backyard, where I would visit the busy, humming hives on hot summer afternoons. But no, it wasn't anything romantic like that. I started beekeeping because I was curious. Kristin asked me to write a guest post for I Can Do It Myself and after reading her blog over, I think we share some common defects. I too want to do it myself, I too want to save money, and I too want to engage with my children. Who doesn't?

I first met an actual beekeeper at the Iowa City Fairgrounds during the Johnson County Fair in 2010. He had a display set up but he wasn't particularly outgoing. He looked a little wild, with a round, red beard that completely hid his mouth. He said that at one time he had sixteen hives, but these days he's down to only three. "Too much dinking around with these dang swarms." See, he doesn't want to pony up cash for new bees, as bee prices have gone up sharply in the last ten years, instead he tries to catch them in the wild.

I grabbed a pamphlet about the local East Central Iowa Beekeeper's Club and asked a few questions, something about how much it takes to get into the hobby and when I should place an order. I think I got a few basic pointers, but I don't really remember. That year I tried to order a package of bees via e-mail, but I was too late for the season. "We are completely sold out of bees. You need to order in Feb or March. Phil Ebert."