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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

Things we know and things we don't

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

If you say that farming is a gamble, nobody will argue.

But experience helps. And knowing something definitely helps.

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A few months ago I had high hopes for this now barren patch of dirt. By July I thought we’d be looking at a lush field of hay. Forage grasses mixed with yellow and white sweet clover, alfalfa soon to be blooming… nope. I sort of struck out with the planting part. The bee work got the best of April and May, and I don’t know where June went. I think I’ll blame it on the rain. And now, finally planting, Brian commented that the clover won’t even bloom until next year. Doing some further research (calling the seed guy), I discover that he’s right! I’m an idiot. (Brian, thanks for putting it in a kind way.)

An idiot hay farmer.

Live and learn, I guess. We’ll probably be buying hay this winter. Ignorance has a price.

But let’s not dwell on ignorance alone. Let’s talk about some things we know. Some things are a sure bet.

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For instance, a pretty face, a sweet product, a sunny day, a popular market… chances are, you’re going to sell something. When it comes to moving the honey, I’ll put my money on Jayne.

But what about the making of honey? Never a sure thing. Bee farming, like any farming, is gambling. After 15 years, I’m not quite as ignorant as I’ve demonstrated with the hay, but I’m still learning. And every year, almost every season, I’m still surprised by something.

We’ve learned that honey will vary season to season. In this area with our three distinct honey flows, we’ve made a business out of it— Spring, Summer and Fall Harvest.

But even the seasonal nectar flows can vary year to year.

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On the left is the 2018 spring honey, on the right is the beautiful 2019 stuff that just came off the hives. Why would it be so different? A better locust flow? I don’t know…

And I’ll bet the summer honey will be a little different also. I’ll bet it’s light. Last year was light. The nectar came fast and furious. It was July 1st, 94 degrees and sunny, I shook a frame and was amazed at how much the bees were suddenly bringing in.

This year on July 1st, we had nothing. The bees were pecking around the honey house, hungry and robbing anything they could find. Zero nectar out there.

This week everything changed. Like a flip of the switch, suddenly we’re in a major honey flow. (That needs an exclamation— a major honey flow!!!!)

I shook a frame on July 10th, 90 degrees and sunny:

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Like a gusher…

The bees were suddenly busy, completely ignoring the sweet smell around the honey house. In fact at lunch one day, I left a load of wet extracted spring supers on the truck for 20 minutes or so.

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Came back to find zero interest! No robbing at all. That’s how good this flow is. The bees are super busy.

What could it be?

Well, I could venture a guess.

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Why are we suddenly seeing summer nectar in mid July when last year it was two weeks earlier? Well, I’m sure weather is a big factor, but the biggest reason, I think, is that this year our nectar source wasn’t mature on July 1st.

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That’s right. The soybeans! The planting was late and sporadic this year. We’re finally seeing the first of the soybean bloom, and many fields are later still. Some will be blooming into August.

Things are looking up. I’ve been adding supers all week.

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Will the girls live up to my high hopes? It’s highly dependent on heat and sunshine, but I’ll let you know by August. The vast fields and soon-to-be millions of blooms will do their part.

Never heard of soybean honey? Well 15 years ago, I hadn’t either. Once again, live and learn. In fact (much to my delight), the idea of the soybeans being a summer nectar source is still a hot debate. I’ll scroll through informational sites about honey plants and there won’t be a single mention of the lowly soybean. Is it ignorance? Or does it just not fit the narrative? Maybe the people who write this stuff don’t make a living from selling honey…

I’ve even argued with beekeepers. They’ll say, what about the clover? The bees are all over it!

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And it’s true. The bees will work clover hard when it’s hot and sunny.

I love to see it. I’ve even promoted it.

Makes me think of a dark night about ten years ago when a nefarious science teacher went out and seeded a fifty pound bag of the stuff on school grounds.

(Teachers touch the lives of so many!)

(Teachers touch the lives of so many!)

Now in my retirement, it’s fun to walk over and see a job well done.

But bees working clover doesn’t automatically equal honey. The bees have been on it since May, and all through June the supers remained dry. Suddenly, this week the nectar started flowing. Coincidentally the same week the soybeans started to bloom. Hmmm…

I’m not 100% sure, but it’s more than a strong hunch, and I’m thinking those vast fields with their multimillions of blooms probably hold some nectar. I’m putting my money on the soybeans.

No wait, I told you earlier, my money’s on Jayne.

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And I think I’ll keep it there. Jayne takes away some of the risk. Soaps, salves, candles, lip balms… the selling, the marketing, the smooth running of a business. Bees and honey are for gamblers. I’m happy she tolerates it.

Round 2

Jayne Barnes

-Posted by Isaac

Sometimes I wish I was a dumb old cow.

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They don’t seem to mind the water at all. I watched them for a while yesterday evening. It was during a short rain intermission. Post 2.2 inches, pre 1.5. We had just come back from visiting Grandma, having driven through an area that we later heard got a 5.2 inch thumping.

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This gives us around six inches in two days. Pretty wet, but not near as bad as the ten inches they’ve had just a few miles west.

Tough time to be a farmer. Even a bee farmer. Even a homeowner. With record rain, hard rain, you get the unwanted nastiness— living room water damage (that will be really hard to hide from our guests.)

I guess we should’ve fixed the roof  last  summer…

I guess we should’ve fixed the roof last summer…

And you get the unexpected, unwanted surprises. Eden and I have been working on a few more of these raised beds. Totally safe from flooding, right?

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Sometime in the middle of the night the water came up so high in the yard, it actually grabbed one and took it for a ride. This morning we found it on the other side of the bridge, luckily caught in the trees.

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Also, those trees didn’t look like that yesterday. There was so much water coming through with so much force, it basically sucked a load of soil and roots and trees right into the mire. We’ve got a mess.

About 9 pm, one of those trees got sucked in toward the power line and knocked our electric out. We had to read bedtime stories with flashlights. Then it occurred to me, my night was just beginning. No electric means no sump pump, and three plus inches of rain definitely means water in the basement. At midnight I finally gave up waiting for the electric, pulled on some gum boots, strapped on a headlamp, fired up the generator, and waded through six inches of water to find the pump. I wondered how many other poor souls were doing the same thing?

Since that little ordeal got my blood pumping, I decided to take a midnight walk, you know, see the sights. Just a quarter mile down Randle, the water was flowing like a powerful river across the road. Probably 10 feet above normal stream level. I know I’ve never seen that! And on this side, it had risen up to the hives in the yard. The field was vast lake. (Wish I had a picture for you.)

Wasn’t I just saying that we had never had water so high? Was that just two weeks ago?

First thing this morning I ran down to check on the levee hives. Good news!

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They’re still there! Just as it did before, the water had made it up to the first box, but not higher. We lucked out once again. Jayne wondered whether we should go ahead and move this yard when things dry up.

I’m still thinking it over. It’s a lot of work to move a bee yard (when you’re not getting paid for it.)

Surely we’re safe now… This couldn’t possibly happen again… could it?