Sometimes I feel as though I live in a museum, or a nature center, or petting farm. More often than not, our weekends are filled with friends and family stopping by to check out the new baby chicks, or to see the fiber goats be shorn, or to give milking a try. And to be honest, I love it!
I used to rush around before company came over. I’d try to get all the chores done so I could present this perfectly accomplished farm, totally under control, and nothing to do but skip around with my egg basket.
I wasn’t used to presenting a farm. If the turkey coop didn’t smell like lemons I thought I’d be judged, if the garden beds weren’t weeded I thought I’d be judged, if the chickens were molting I thought I’d be judged…It was exhausting!
Finally I got over myself and came to my senses. I realized that people don’t expect a farm to be perfect. And it was only my own foolish pride (and maybe too many Martha Stewart episodes) driving me to an unrealistic goal of perfection.
After I relaxed a bit the farm became more enjoyable. I welcomed people to our farm in it’s imperfect state and found that they enjoyed not only watching us carry out the daily chores, but joining in.
Over the years many of my friends and family have decided to add a bit of farm to their own lives. The world, in many ways, is moving in that direction. I’ve found that we have a great opportunity here to let people taste the day-to-day life of farming and let them decide if it’s for them.
I also help friends and family carry out projects that perhaps their own living situation won’t allow. A couple years a go I grew a bed of straw flowers for my mom while she was in an apartment so she could make arrangements in the fall. We’ve kept 4-H chickens for my friends child so she could participate in the show after her neighborhood banned chicken keeping. My niece wants a pig next year, and we may just indulge that wish and keep it here for her on our farm.
One of the most contagious aspects of our farm has been bee keeping. We have several people in our lives right now that are very interested in keeping bees, but they are lacking an opportunity to get some real, hands on experience.
Whenever we do a bee activity like picking up a package of bees, or adding a box or collecting honey, I call them and ask if they’d like to come over and participate.
Our good friend Stacey has been interested in bees for as long as I’ve known her. She plans on purchasing a colony next spring and keeping her hive on our farm.
This past weekend was her first real hands on experience with bee keeping. She suited up and harvested our honey frames all by herself. She wanted to know what it’s like to really get into the hive, with bees buzzing around and feel the whole experience before she invested too much into the adventure.
She did wonderful! And feels a lot more confident perusing her own dream of having a hive.
If you keep bees, consider inviting people over when you harvest your honey. Put a message on your Facebook page and get people involved. Most of the time people who were once afraid of keeping bees realize that it’s not as scary as they might have expected. I know I was petrified at first, but soon learned that the bees can be gentle living beings who just wants to survive. I have a great amount of respect for our bees.
Joining a bee club is a great way to keep involved and to learn things about bee keeping, but many times there aren’t clubs in your area. We found that the nearest club was a two hour drive for us. Which is do-able but not ideal.
We’re also supporting the bees as a species by supporting another active hive. The more we can do to get people interested in keeping bees, the better the bees as a whole have a chance against extinctions. Once Stacey sets up her hive, she will benefit from the honey and wax collections and we will benefit from her bees pollinating our fruit trees, garden and pumpkin patch.
Here are a few ways to Spread Bee Love
Host a honey harvest party.
This year we harvested a few frames from our hive earlier in summer. When we did, we had about twelve people over to watch us. Many were apprehensive at first to get near the open hive. But as we carried on with the harvest, the viewers became more comfortable and came closer and closer to the hive. No stings were suffered.
Let interested friends help in all aspects of the hive keeping experience.
Purchase a guest veil, suit and gloves to keep at your home. We see it as an investment for the future of bees. Let your helpers start the smoker by themselves, let them open the hive and participate. Let your friends taste the honey, scrape the wax from the frames and see the rewards!
We’ve found that afterward people have a great sense of pride and accomplishment. It fuels the passion to start a hive if their own.
Offer a hive inspection sign up through Facebook or e-mail notification.
Announce when you plan to inspect your hive. Let people sign up and come to your home to watch. With such an educational experience, we have a hard time keeping it all to ourselves.
Help spread the word when local bee keeping activities are happening in your area.
Every once in a while our library or community center will have a speaker talk about bee keeping. Be sure to spread the word when activities like this take place.
Bee the Speaker!
Better yet, talk with your local community centers and ask if you can host a bee keeping talk. You don’t have to be an expert to share knowledge and your own experience with your hive. If you don’t have all the answers, gather resources to direct people. Be up front about your experience level.
Visit local orchards
Many orchards keep bees to help pollinate their fruit trees. Ask if they need volunteers.
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I think many times people imagine things like farming, gardening, bee keeping etc. as a major undertaking and at times…when you put all those things together, it can be. But bees are one of the easiest farm ventures to get started in. There’s minimal involvement. The equipment is fairly inexpensive and you reap sweet, sweet benefits!