Standing Stone Brewing Company

beekeeping

3 Lessons We Learned at Bee School

Last weekend our Standing Stone beekeepers attended an all-day bee school, hosted by Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association (SOBA).  The guest speaker, Lincoln Mettler of Mountain Rain Bee Products in WA, is a beekeeper of 35 years, and at one time had 2,500 hives by himself! In comparison, we’re going into our third year of beekeeping on our One Mile Farm and have two happy hives. Nonetheless, Lincoln had great advice for all varieties of beekeepers, and we took away lots of information to guide us in our future bee-care efforts.

Though we accumulated six full pages of beekeeping notes and drawings (our brains are buzzing with information!), here are the three major lessons we learned from a day at bee school:

bee hivesKeep a journal.

Feeding, harvesting honey, splitting hives, and treating for mites all require keeping track of dates. Bees run a tight ship and operate on a schedule, and so should any good beekeeper. Keeping a journal handy near your hive will help you remember when you last visited, what you did, and when you need to come back. It will also help you keep track of what worked or didn’t work year to year. There’s a lot that can happen within a hive, and every hive is different. Write down your thoughts, methods, and dates to keep a good history and move forward.

Tap into your local beekeepers association.

Our area beekeepers association, SOBA, is a wealth of information and resources. SOBA sends out newsletters, hosts workshops, offers seasonal tips and reminders, and connects beekeepers with one another to share stories, failures and successes. SOBA also works with local retailers to keep beekeeping supplies in stock, and has a honey extractor for members to rent. Check into your local beekeepers associations and clubs, and seek out other beekeepers nearby.

Bee Girl, a local advocate for beekeeping, conservation and education, helped us get started with our hives three years ago, and offers classes, workshops, and one-on-one hives visits. We recommend tapping into your local beekeeping experts, and looking into beekeeping mentoring programs. Remember, beekeeping methods can differ based on climate and surroundings, so learn what others are doing locally to maintain thriving hives.

beesKnow that everyone does it differently.

It turns out, there’s no one way to keep bees. There are lots of ways people keep bees! Beekeepers’ methods differ depending on whether you’re hoping to harvest honey to sell or enjoy at home, pollinate fields, or just spend time with bees as a hobby. Some people re-queen their hives every year, while some let a successful queen run her course. Some people do mite-rolls (a mite-counting method) with powdered sugar, and some swear by rubbing alcohol. Some harvest once in summer, and some harvest all spring and summer long. Learn about different possibilities and decide what’s best for you and your hive. And give yourself a break if you find out your doing something a little different than your neighbor.

Lastly, a big thank you to Shastina Millwork and Ruhl Bee for donating wonderful goodies for the bee school raffle. We won a new hive tool and will certainly put it to good use practicing the new methods we learned last weekend!

By in Food, Standing Stone Farm 2

Sweet Rewards of Our Honey Harvest

SSBC Beekeeper Danielle with hives (photo: R. Koning)

We’re buzzing with sweet joy as we welcome our first batch of honey from our bees on Standing Stone Farm! We’ve been tending to our beloved honeybees all summer long, and as we prepare to wrap them up warmly for the winter we delight in a sweet treat from our bustling hives in return.

Busy hive entrance

We started beekeeping on our farmland earlier this summer with four single-level beehives. These colorful boxes live in a sunny pasture in the middle on our farmland on Eagle Mill Rd. in Ashland,OR, surrounded by bushes of blackberries to supply plenty of pollen. As our hive populations expanded over the summer we added several more levels to our hives, giving our bee friends and their queens plenty of room to grow their families and make delicious honey.

In September, as the warm, sunny weather began winding down, our Standing Stone beekeepers took a course from Bee Girl of Ashland, OR all about winterizing beehives and harvesting honey. Here, they learned that honeybees need plenty of reserve honey to supply their diet during the cold winter months when they don’t leave their hives. They also do well in small, combined hives that contain their warmth and don’t let cold wind gusts inside.

SSBC Beekeeper Rachel preparing honey (photo: C. Meeks)

After the class, our beekeepers spent a day inspecting and consolidating the hives to prepare them for the cold winter months. They left the bees with enough honey to keep them full with food while pulling the extra honey that was leftover once the bees were settled in their new, cozy spaces.

Back at the restaurant, we harvested our honey using an old-fashioned “crush and strain” method, pushing the honey through a fine mesh strainer to separate the liquid and wax. Once finished, we filled five liter jars with fresh, delicious honey to use in our restaurant. We’ll be sure to use it in dishes that let its natural sweetness shine through, so stay tuned to special’s board for honey delights coming soon.

Final product – fresh, raw honey! (photo: R. Koning)

To enjoy local honey at home visit your community’s farmers market or food co-op and stock up for winter. The sweet treat is a delicious traditional aid for soothing a chilly-weather cold or flu, and a yummy ingredient in cooking and baking or homemade mead. And if you’re interested in starting your own hives at home, be sure to visit the Bee Girl website for resources, tips and community classes in Southern Oregon.