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9642 Randle Rd
Williamsport, OH, 43164

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

Blog

First round of winter

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

Ok, enough about Jayne already. Let’s get back to the bees.

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I’m killing three birds these days. 1. Winter spacers go on the hives. 2. Supers are stacked in the yards. 3. Honey rent is delivered to land owners.

The work doesn’t end when the cold weather comes, it only changes. I’m alone most of the day, and I guess you could say the work gets more introspective. Thinking about this, brooding about that. I’ve got my thoughts, my podcasts, my truck radio. NPR when I want some news, the AM ‘angry white man’ stations when I want to feel angry. And white.

I’m sure I could speed things up if I brought someone along, but in some ways, that would ruin the whole thing. These short cold days provide a sort of meditation.

Sometimes Facebook provides the entertainment. I always like to check up on the commercial beekeepers page. (Talk about angry white men!) Or I’ll sometimes find something truly remarkable. Here’s something ancient and modern and ugly and beautiful all at once:

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Sunset on Mars- Meditate on this a while.

Whoa… deep.

Ok, let me talk about these thee birds in more detail. If it’s going to be a dry day, the first thing that happens is the truck is loaded with supers. I can get about 120 stacked on the flatbed following an early morning run and before the kids get on the bus. There’s a handy hour in there if things are going right.

After the kids are off to school, I load up with the yard rent for the landowners I’ll be visiting.

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We’ve got 42 bee yards on other people’s land, and this time of year all the land owners receive $90 of product or money. A small Christmas ‘thank you.’

After collecting supers and honey rent, it’s off to the yards. With 120 supers on the truck, I can knock off three or four yards before I have to return for more.

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I’ve been storing supers in the yards for a few years now. It makes sense. Opens up the barn for winter work, and even more important, saves a trip in the spring when I really need those supers on the hives. Some yards get a small stack (above).

And some get a big stack.

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As you’ve probably already figured, it depends on how many hives are in the yard.

But it also depends on the spring forage. If there is a lot of honeysuckle and autumn olive in the area, I’ll throw another super on a strong hive.

Here’s a yard of invisible bees.

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Six yards look like this. These girls are sitting at home right now, waiting to go into the apples in April. I’ve learned that apple pollinators can be really strong (when things go right) after they come out of the orchards in May. As in, you’d better have enough supers.

Here we have the cell phone yard.

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Every year these girls show me that the “Cell phones are killing the bees!” theory is most likely bogus. This is an awesome yard. Especially in the spring. Could it be that the cell tower is enhancing the foraging? Hmmm…

So after the honey rent is delivered and the supers stacked, bird number three involves actually popping lids and looking at the bees.

Cold days are the best.

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The bees put out moisture as they slowly metabolize their honey stores. You can sort of see this with that ring of frost on the lid pictured above. To prevent the condensation from dripping on the cluster all winter, there needs to be some ventilation. A spacer takes care of this.

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The reason that cold days are the best is because I can put the spacer on and check the girls quickly. No smoke, no veil needed. It takes seconds.

I’m also checking food stores. On a cold day in December when the bees are in a tight cluster, looking down, you shouldn’t even see them. They should be under three, four, five inches of honey.

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Those that aren’t, the lighter hives where everyone is up high, will be fed a sugar patty in January. They get marked with the brick up. This year, I’m guessing that only about 10% have a brick in the “feed me!” position.

Ideally you have a box of honey on top and a big cluster on bottom. Yesterday it was warm enough to split a few and really check.

 (Still working on the protein patty from October.)

(Still working on the protein patty from October.)

Most are looking great. Especially the hives with younger queens.

So that’s my routine of late. It’s enjoyable. It’s peaceable. I’ll do three or four yards in the morning and maybe another couple in the afternoon.

I have to be careful though. If I happen to go in the honey house between trips, they may try to put me to work. It breaks my meditation. On a normal day in December, I’ll find Jayne, Katie, Kristen and Hannah all busy… running around frantically filling Christmas orders. On most afternoons, my second trip involves a drive to the post office. The bee truck doubles as Santa’s sleigh.

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Feeling Irrelevant on Open House Weekend

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

First and foremost, we had a good day didn’t we?

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Clear blue cloudless skies, bright sun, temps in the fifties. Sunday was like a dream. It was so awesome to see the girls out and about. Dare I say happy? If we could only get one of those days every week, I think I could hang on. I think I could bear the rest with no complaining. Is one day too much to ask? Apparently so. It’s looking like thirty degree gray crap for the next seven.

So we’ve been doing a Christmas Open House for a few years now. It’s grown and grown. This year they came from all over, north and south. You came from all over. Thank you!

We ran out of parking. And at one point, even getting to and from the honey house proved tricky.

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A day before our gorgeous dreamy Sunday, Saturday brought buckets of cold, cloudy wet crap. Just a dash of water. But it didn’t seem to slow the Christmas shoppers.

In anticipation, we got the place cleaned up and cheered up.

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Heated up and brightened up.

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Just inside, there was a multitude of free homemade cookies and Christmassy drinks.

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And if you wanted to hang around the cookie table, you could get yourself a quick honey bee education. Nothing like sugar to spur an education.

Further on, the big extracting room became a full on store.

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Just about every workable space was filled with something.

I do have one nagging fear with this Christmas shop- one of these years, either a great honey year, or someday when we have few hundred more hives, we’re going to run right up against extracting season. Meaning, we’re going to need this space for its original purpose.

What do we do then, dear wife?

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And I have another fear. A fear that slowly grows as the years go by. And this year, browsing around this makeshift shop, that fear became even more evident.

I’m becoming irrelevant.

Let me explain as we look around the shop.

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My dear wife doesn’t need me.

Me or my bees.

Just look at all the great stuff she’s dreamed up.

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Without me.

Without lifting a single super in the summer…

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…or feeding a single hive in the winter.

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This business was once about the bees paying the bills. Every surplus cent, it seemed, went right back into buying more equipment, which turned into more hives, which in turn gave us more honey. I was happy to bask in the glory of being the (much needed) beekeeper.

Well things have changed, haven’t they? We now sell far more gift boxes than buckets of honey.

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It’s called retail!

It’s called wholesale!

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It’s not the same as wholesaling honey. Even when you wholesale gift boxes, it’s pretty much like retail.

Now people even come and put their own gift boxes together. We just provide the box.

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How easy is that?

All this to say, we are slowly looking more like Burt’s Bees… and a lot less like Burt the beekeeper. Burt is becoming irrelevant.

Let’s face it, anyone can produce honey. Even comb, even infused.

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It takes someone special, some combination of business savvy, foresight, and creativity to turn standard old bee products into what I get to witness in my extracting room every December. And what you get to find online all year.

It’s all Jayne.

So what do you think? Will she keep me around? Even if I insist on messing with bees for a few more years?

Way back in the day, Burt insisted on messing with bees. His partner, Roxanne Quimby wanted to look into lip balms and lotions. Burt was having none of it. He decided to sell his third of the business. $130,000.

Do you know what Burt’s Bees is valued at today? I’ll tell you: Right around One Billion!

Oops.

One billion dollars.

Sometime in his later years Burt Shavitz was asked if he regretted selling out so early. He took a nonchalant attitude. He shrugged…. Ah, Burt’s Bees… been there, done that…

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…got the t-shirt.