Monday, May 27, 2013

Those Happy Industrious Mennonites

-Posted by Isaac

After years of me pulling all the weight around here, my mennonite wife finally managed to do something:

 Kidding, Honey, kidding!

This is the latest in a long successful string of Jayne projects. She co-authored a book! Seriously, an actual book! Published by Adams Media, it will be at Barnes and Noble and other such stores around mid-June. Or if you're interested, just pick up a copy from us at a market.

 It is exactly what the title reads: a book about crafting using products from the hive. It's about 150 pages long, explores beeswax projects with candles, soaps, lotions, lip balms, salves and also many cooking recipes using honey. Jayne was in charge of the beeswax section.

Of course Jayne didn't want me to blog about this, and when I insisted (You don't just write a book every day!), she instructed me not to sound too braggy. So I won't. I guess authoring a book speaks for itself.

This found its way to facebook last week and the comments generally went like, "Awesome! You run a business, you feed, clothe and entertain three small children... how in the world??"
Jayne is just taking it all in stride, deflecting the spotlight as usual and moving on to the next task. It's a bit different from the normal approach (my approach) which involves gobbling up compliments and basking in the glow for as long as it lasts. I'm even inclined to coattail Jayne's accomplishments. "Well, you know what they say, ' behind every great woman...' "
It makes me think that Jayne may be a little closer to being truly happy and it also reminds me of a particular Todd Snider song. One that talks about success and how you've reached its true pinnacle  when you don't even care about the money, compliments or publicity that come along with it. The next time you see Jayne, go ahead and congratulate her (although she probably doesn't need it).

In other mennonite news, a fellow named Anthony Zimmerman contacted me a few weeks ago about some hives for pollination. That first phone conversation I (rudely) asked if he was mennonite. I know there are many conservative mennonites around Bainbridge farming produce. Sure was! This week I loaded up 12 hives at four in the morning and took them south to where Ohio turns beautiful.

As I expected, but even beyond my expectations, the Zimmermans are quite an industrious family. Six greenhouses, 3000 hanging baskets, acres of pumpkins, squash, cantaloupe, tomatoes, hay, draft horses and chickens... just a start. They also play around with lumber, producing pallets and operate a bike repair and sales shop.
Anthony was about my age, talkative, inquisitive, enthusiastic, and modestly (much like Jayne) didn't want his picture taken. (I then thought better of going around snapping shots of all the family's endeavors.)

The greenhouse on the back forty
 We covered a wide variety of subjects in the hour I was dropping off the hives. Hiking came up.  He said that he and about 10 others were going out to Vermont to hike the Long Trail next month. Wow!
He also directed me to the Buckeye Trail which ran just south of there about three miles.
I later filled the morning with a long and beautiful trail run. Thanks, Anthony.

Six (blurry) hives in the morning sun
Back at home I told Jayne about the operation, the productivity and how impressed I was. "Mennonites just seem to have it together. They're in to everything and they're good at it..."
She just looked at me and commented, "You married into some good genes didn't you?"

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First Swarm!

-Posted by Isaac

Our first swarm of the season moved in about two weeks ago. No sweat catching this one-- they came to us! I was late getting the swarm traps out, and somewhere out there a nice sized swarm decided that this looked like a good place to put down roots:

They moved in during the middle of the afternoon, the roar catching our attention. I was working on the house with my cousin Perry (construction whiz and Abercrombie model in Maizy's eyes). We both stopped to watch nature take its course. A hurricane of bees darting every which way; I dared him to walk out in it. Much to my surprise, Perry walked right out and shot some video! Here it is if you want to stand in Perry's shoes. 
"Oh Perry, you're so handsome!"

So by and by, I finally managed to get the traps out. Nineteen loaded and out the door. Fingers crossed.

As I said in a blog post about this time last year, it's a little like fishing for bees.

I know if I was a scout bee searching for a nice pad, I'd head straight for this box. Just look at those locust blooms!
 Black Locust trees in full bloom!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

2 a.m. - Our Babies are Home

-Posted by Isaac

I just dropped the last load of bees off, it's drizzling, 2 a.m., and now I'm too hopped up on Coke (the caffeinated sort) to sleep. Might as well post about it.
The apple pollination came off without a hitch this year. No break-downs, no busted hives, a few stings, and (Thank God!), no burying the truck in the mud and running home at three in the morning.
Off the wagons, onto the truck...
 We were lucky enough to have a rainy day taking the bees into the orchards, and almost lucked out today, bringing them out.  Almost... I had to wait a couple hours, catching a mid-afternoon nap under the apple trees. What a pleasant respite... unfortunately I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of the big hunks of pollen the bees were bringing in. By 5 p.m. the rain had started again and that's when the work began.
Night pictures: I starting thinking about this post a little late.
Rainy midnight caffeine stop
 No real troubles. Just nine hours of trucking and lifting. I just dropped the last yard off, finishing with a big hive:
All done: 1:45 a.m.
 I called the yard rent landowners earlier this evening to let them know I was coming, possibly in the wee hours of the night. One conversation went like this:
"1 a.m.? In the dark? In the rain?"
"Yeah, should be about that time... I hope my diesel doesn't wake you."
"Well if it does, don't expect me to get up and help you. You picked a kinda nasty line of work, didn't you?"
"Are you kidding? I love this. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing right now. Well... maybe one thing. (ha, ha, ha.)"
"I don't know, man. I don't know about you beekeepers."

I was being a little cynical, but the truth is I really do love the pollination work. Alone with the night, my thoughts, the road and the bees. I love it. I can think of about a hundred things that could be worse. A real job (teaching) for instance.

This year the moving of bees was made easier with these special bottom boards I built during the winter:

They have a little trap door on a swivel so the bees can simply be closed in when it's time for the move.

And then opened back up when the bees are brought back to their home yard.

One benefit of moving hives for pollination is that it's easy to change a bee yard or set up a new yard in a better location.

When the bees come out of the orchards, you can fill your new yard quickly without carrying nucs and splits one at a time.

 I set the blocks and timbers for this new bee yard a couple weeks ago. It was a sunny warm day, so Bridger came along for the ride. While I worked on it, maybe twenty minutes, he wondered up the slope toward the lane we had just been on to access the location. I watched him a minute from about thirty yards off, but from the angle I stood I could only see him from the knees up. He was throwing rocks and seemed pretty content. When I finally walked over to get him, I found out why he was so content:
Umm... Mommy may not be happy about this.

Friday, May 3, 2013

God Smiles on the Midwest

-Posted by Isaac

As a lucky few of you know, I sometimes have my misgivings about living here in good ol' Ohio. About once a week, through the winter especially, my very lucky wife gets to hear the worst of my rants: "This is such a flat nowhere place with flat nowhere weather... it sucks, Honey... I'm so tired of it... we don't live anywhere... there's nothing to look at... nothing to do... just tractors and trailers round here... this is just a nowhere place producing food for people who do live somewhere..."
And it goes on.
If I ever get going like this at a market, please just walk away. You caught me in a foul mood.
Jayne is stuck with it. She married me.
As you well know, it's not so bad. I take a little truth and turn it into a big ugly complaint. I'm good at being unsatisfied, and I know I'd find something wrong with wherever I lived. It's just my sunny nature.
The reason for this post is to show you what the Spring can do to even a pessimist like me. For the past few weeks you too have probably noticed things waking up:

Our wonderful pear tree

"Good morning, young Japanese Maple!"
 And the bees notice too. Like fireworks, each tree and flower takes its turn.

The bee yard peach tree
 Although I'm busy these days driving from bee yard to bee yard, I can't help looking on in amazement.

Bradford Pears everywhere dot the roadside

Redbuds too
We have thirty-some hives at Crownhill Golf Course. As the grass greens up, willows light the horizon. There's no better place to be a small pollen-hungry insect.
Or a runner.
Or even, God forbid, a golfer!

And in the non-manicured, set-aside areas of course you get these beauties:
Go Away, Mr. Chem-lawn!
 I love dandelions. And so do the bees.
Other flowers are on purpose:
Tilled garden,  Jayne's tulips, and the white cherry tree behind.
On purpose or on accident, it's like God decided to reach down and touch the Earth. (In spite of my complaining)
And I'm wrong in saying there's nothing fun to do around here.
Reason enough to drop everything and get out in the woods:

We've found a lot of shrooms this Spring, as Jayne has been posting, and we're trying to grow some of our own.
Hard work, growing mushrooms.
 The warm rains brought not only the morels. The apple trees must have also gotten the "go" signal because I started getting pollination calls about 10 days ago.
This year I got lucky with a couple rainy days. The pollination work of moving hives doesn't have to be done at night if all the bees are stuck inside waiting out the rain.

Bees on their way to Sunny Hill Orchards in Pickerington
The apple trees are about as full-bloomed as I've ever seen:
Mason explains the birds and the bees ...
Adding to the business and midwest joy, the market season is right around the corner. Our outdoor season is always kicked off with the Earth Gathering in Chillicothe. This is a fun little enviro-friendly festival celebrating Earth Day and the awesomeness of Spring.

Come check it out next year.

See you this Saturday. Get your honey fix at the North Market and Worthington Farmers Markets!  Jayne will also be at the Eco-Chic craftacular in Clintonville from 11-7.  It's a fun art/craft show with great local food trucks, bands, and even demos throughout the day.