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9642 Randle Rd
Williamsport, OH, 43164

Honeyrun Farm produces pure raw, honey, handcrafted soap, and beeswax candles in Williamsport, Ohio


Leopold by the Fireside

Honeyrun Farm

-Posted by Isaac

Cold week on the bee farm.

I guess we've almost had an all-time record year for snowfall in December. I took the kids sledding this week on a rare pre-Christmas snow day. It was 11 degrees when we took to the slopes.
Wondering how the bees were faring the cold, I walked right over to the ridge:

Burning through the food! These hives were fed a sugar patty on November 7th. You can see that this particular hive has nearly finished it. I took too much fall honey from this yard and I'll be working to keep the girls alive the rest of the winter.

I'm often asked what the bees do all winter. Hibernate? Migrate?
Well, neither really... unless the beekeeper is set up to migrate. (Maybe we'll be there someday. I could use some Florida about now.)
What bees do is cluster. They form a tight ball around the frames and vibrate their wing muscles to produce heat. To do this they need food. Ideally plenty of honey. I've had to feed patties to about a fourth of our hives. I'll continue feeding until the days warm and the pollen returns. Seems like a long way off.

I'm never asked what a beekeeper does all winter, or how a beekeeper stays warm... but I'm going to tell you anyway.

I like wood heat.
Sure, the furnace works, but in my opinion the radiant stove is far superior.
As Jayne showed you in her last post, we've improved on our cave, but I hope we never give up on our good trusty fire in the living room.

Bees go foraging for their wintertime heat source and so do we... but we forage all winter.
This week my brother and I launched our efforts on this mighty old oak at Crown Hill Golf Course.

Oak makes some of the best firewood. I've watched this tree slowly die over the years, having grown up just a mile away. I ran past it almost daily the years I worked on the course, knowing its heat would probably warm me one day.
Sure enough, December 11th it met the chainsaw.

When I'm into cutting wood or sometimes simply reading by the fire, I like to think of Aldo Leopold:

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” 
― Aldo LeopoldA Sand County Almanac

If you haven't read A Sand County Almanac, please, check it out. It's one of my favorites. Leopold chronicles the year in his beloved Sand County and his February essay is titled Good Oak.

He expounds on his thoughts, cutting into an old tree, remembering the many years and historical events occurring during the tree's life; the sunlight collected, later to be returned as heat energy from the fire.

"If one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend the weekend in town astride a radiator."

About 160 years old. Maybe a Union soldier stumbled by this young sapling.

Four loads of firewood have so far come from this old white oak. At least three more will come out of the mighty trunk. It warms me this very moment as I write next to the fire.

I'll leave you with Leopold's finishing paragraph:

"These things I ponder as the kettle sings, and the good oak burns to red coals on white ashes. Those ashes, come spring, I will return to the orchard at the foot of the sandhill. They will come back to me again, perhaps as red apples, or perhaps as a spirit of enterprise in some fat October squirrel, who, for reasons unknown to himself, is bent of planting acorns."