Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some pictures from Hiving Day!

I met my wife Priscilla at the Woodstar Cafe on December 27th of 2008 when I needed to plug my laptop in next to her table. It was then that I saw she was reading a reprint of the 1966 Lower Manhattan Redevelopment Plan. As both an urban planning and zoning geek and a librarian I recognized hardcore nonfiction when I saw it. I saw her as a potential mate right away.

After the usual Western New England winter courtship of cross country skiing, discussing the virtue of woolen base layers and a spring of visiting more than a dozen maple sugar shacks for breakfasts she accepted my proposal of marriage at the Skinner House on June 1. We married by her father the Rev. Cannon Miner at the Pelham Public Library with the reception at Forbes Library on September 7th, about 9 months after having met.

Along the way we cut down an overgrown hemlock hedge around our property between State and King Street, Priscilla showed great braveness when multiple bees got stuck in her hair and we planned and built our downtown home into a small urban homestead. Work is ongoing, but 8 fruit tress arrived today from Miller Nurseries, worms are back to work composting and Grendel, our beloved American short hair cat, keeps the place mouse proof.

This story is about our new business Preservation Honeybee.

Here are some pictures from Hiving Day. We took delivery of our package bees from Dan Conlon over at Warm Colors Apiary last week on Thursday April 8. Since temperatures were so low we had to keep the bees on our dining room table until Saturday morning.

For Priscilla and I these 10 hives represent the transition from hobby beekeepers to business people. It wasn't cheap or easy to get started. We've borrowed money from both our families to start up. I guess, minimally, it costs about $250 to put a hive on the ground but there are expenses beyond that. These bees are being kept at our friend Andy's house. It's an ideal site in so many ways, We can easilly bicycle there and it's a stones throw from the community garden and downtown Florence. Best of all, it's a friend's place.

We are thankful to families, Andy and the Conlons for making this possible.

We assembled and painted the hives over the winter, with help from my Mom, Philomena. I am pretty meticulous about assembly and painting. We glued and nailed every joint. We primered and sanded between each coat of paint. All this means it took a lot of time to do this right.

For us, though, it represents good care of an investment. We want these hives to last for many years. As important, if not more, is the idea that durability is a cornerstone of sustainability. All our hives are produced on the east coast and the latest round comes from a producer a short drive away.

We're happy to be able to produce a quality food product from within the city of Northampton. In Northampton or in Florence Center a bee on flowers outside your window could very well be ours.

Now, on to the photos:

In this photo I am applying a mixture of food grade mineral oil and our own bees wax to the surfaces of the hives that will contact one another. I like to have only food grade substances near anything that will be inside the hive.

Here we have a smoker and some "punky wood" or rotten wood we use as smoker fuel. We didn't use the smoker this day.

Here is Priscilla filling up jars with sugar water to feed our bees. The newly arrived bees have no food store to get them started, so we need to help. Here is Priscilla being helpful.

Here we see an empty frame, the bees have not built wax comb onto it. So I pour some syrup onto it to help the bees accept it. Bees are stimulated to produce wax when a weak syrup of sugar water is ingested by them. So, to help them build we provide it.

We use paintbrushes to spread the syrup around.

Where possible we use "drawn comb" this is comb our bees from made last year. Since these bees are totally new they'd have no comb of their own if we didn't provide it. This gives these bees a huge head start. Best off all we know this comb was made by our own bee from our home apiary so we know it's pure, natural and disease free.

Yikes! Here are the bees! 10 packages of 10,000 bees each. That's 100,000 bees.

Here we set the bees out, you can see how beautiful this place is.

Priscilla sprays the bees with sugar water before we start working with them. This calms the bees. A well fed bee is happy and docile!

We remove the top and pry out the can of sugar water that has fed the bees in transit.

And we shake them into their home. They really fall out of the box like Cocoa Puffs. Well fed happy bees hardly fly at all at this point. They just drop in a go to work. I find this to be one of the strangest things ever. Also, this point represents the transition of months of planing, work and expense into a reality. It's pretty special.

Shake, shake, shake those bees in!

The bees settle into their new home.

Some final work before we sit back.

A view from one of Andy's outbuildings. What a great place.

We're confident of a great outcome. We may have some spring honey from our State Street Area hives in late June. We hope to be a place were people can learn about bees and be inspired to produce food in the city. In addition to bees we have fruit trees and a large garden in Downtown Northampton. Please check back with us often to see what were up to.


  1. Say, is that a baking pan of that extremely bee-tasty fondant food?

  2. I m really enjoying your blog! Beautiful pictures! Your love of nature shows through!

    Love, Laura B

  3. Nice blog! Laura showed it to me - very professionally done. Adam - you can put a few in my backyard in Hadley??

  4. Andy, that is bee fondant, in the picture of Priscilla spraying the bees. You can see it on a tray in the foreground.

    Laura and George, we're adjusting to having as many hives as we do! 15 is a HUGE increase from 5, so someday we may have more, but in the next couple of years were not planning on it.

  5. Very interesting, Adam. Hope it works. Fut, if they DO decide to swarm, you've got the traps, HA.
    We're looking forward to B-Day at Andy's place.
    Great photographer. I like the flowers at the end, Priscilla!