Our honey business was started totally by default.
We were having some pollination problems on the farm with our vining crops such as zucchini, melons and cucumbers and were told we should consider putting some honey bees on our property. Not really needing another job to take on here at the farm we thought we would look into having a bee keeper put some hives here to help in this department. This turned into an extremely bad experience with the bee keeper not exactly a reputable fellow so after some bad experiences we thought “heck having bees we certainly couldn’t get stung as bad as this bee keeper fellow had stung us now could we?
This is how we started our bee keeping here on the farm. With no interest in anything other than improving the pollination for our vegetable crops, we soon found we quickly needed an outlet for all the honey our sweet little honey bees were diligently producing and thus that is how we came to be in the honey business- totally by default!
Our crops production improved tenfold and we had such an abundance of this honey that we could not use it all no matter how much we cooked with it or slathered it on bread, cereal or any other way we could fathom using all this golden sweetness. After attempting to ask some bee keepers in the Columbus and Marysville area for advice only to be met with sarcasm and deceit it was obvious we better invest in some reading material and learn what to do. We learned quickly we needed to invest in some equipment to process our honey so we could bottle it, and then we started infusing our honey with herbs, we designed our own honey tags, and learned how to weigh and label our honey. We had to learn how to care for our bees and their hives and then our sales just kept growing and thankfully our bees produce enough for us and our customers. It has been a learning curve and it’s been quiet an education, you could say we learned by trial and error and of course we are still learning.
One thing I learned early on and was ever so thankful for the new equipment I had purchased for this new learning curve and that would be my new John Deere zero turn mower. This mower does an exceptional job mowing the yard and the field where all our produce is. It also came in quite handy to mow out back where the hives are. Having moved from a cumbersome garden tractor that I had mowed with for over 25 years this new mower cut my time in half. I was told while shopping for one how fast it was, little did I know at that time that they were not talking about time but speed.
One morning I decided after harvesting some of our produce that it looked as if our grass needed mowed and I certainly looked for lots of reason to use my new zero turn, I truly enjoyed mowing it gave me lots of time to think and reflect and come up with such wonderful ideas for the farm and our commodities. About noon I started mowing first the yard by the house and then the barnyard then I moved out to the field where our produce is. Normally it takes a good 6-8 hours to mow our place. I was certainly impressed by the time I was saving. Yes I thought they certainly are right about the time. Why I thought I’ll have this place done in half the time it normally takes and I was so impressed by how close I could mow around objects trees, barns, the produce beds and yes ultimately beehives.
I had read in one of our the joy of bee books that you could mow close to the bee hive providing you didn’t hesitate but kept going and even better if you time it at mid-day when the bees are mostly away from the hive gathering-pollen for honey.
I took my first pass by the hives piece of cake, then kept going around the whole field and was coming in for my second pass when I noticed that I should probably cut a tid bit closer to the hive to get the thistle that was starting to come up in front of the hives. Super piece of cake as I looked back over my shoulder. Then out of nowhere a, and please allow me to say it again “a” bee dived my hair and appeared to get caught. Having read my bee books numerous times it definitively stated “never swat at a bee.” I didn’t I thought he would work his way out of my hair but he didn’t.
Now it baffles me how the other bees managed to hear that little bastard in my hair scream over the roar of my mower, but scream he did. Quite quickly all those so called bees that were supposed to be out and about pollinating were soon in hot pursuit of what I thought, as I slowed down and watched, the swarm coming at me. Then it dawned on me they were not out on any joy flight right now those bastards were coming for me. I quickly pulled back the handles to my zero turn mower and sped up certainly I thought when they see me mosey out of there they would certainly just head to their hives or possibly that is where they were heading anyway they just chose the same path my mower was on. I quickly assessed the situation and decided it was time to swat the not so sweet bee that was stinging me on my head but this meant I had to release the handles to my mower and therefore cause it to stop. I quickly decided against that brilliant strategy and started zigging and zagging my mower across the field directly toward the barnyard, somehow those bees kept up. I then put the mower in high gear and continued to zig and I zagged. I finally pulled those handles to the mower all the way back and as any good dragster would do I headed for the home stretch and got out of there. From my distance I noticed my husband standing in the barnyard watching. I thought to myself what the heck does he want. He appeared to be doing some funny little dance maybe a rain dance I don’t know but he looked comical to me. Finally as I got closer to the barnyard the bees obviously deduced I could outrun them and gave up pursuit and went back to what I hoped was their work. As I pulled up in the barnyard my husband was smiling and nosily asked “Problem dear?” “No” I said “not at all but I finally understand why dad always said not to believe everything you read.” As I proceeded to drive on to put the mower away for the day the thought crossed my mind of my conversations with people who pointed out how fast a zero turn is.
By Cathy Rollison-Krist
Watch this its life on the farm.