I didn’t want to sell it. I wasn’t planning on letting it go. I had just about 3 pounds of the most beautiful, sweet smelling beeswax that you’ve ever laid eyes on sitting on my shelf when I got the phone call. ‘Hey Melissa, this is D. we’re friends with R and we want to … and we’re looking for beeswax… starting a candle company… the refinery…’ I think my first response was something like ‘that’s awesome, but we don’t have any beeswax right now but if I hear of someone else with clean/chemical free beeswax then I’ll let you know. We are a very small operation and we don’t have bulk beeswax for what you’re looking for…’ It went something like that because I wasn’t going to sell my last couple of pounds of wax that I worked really hard to render and get all the bee parts cleaned out of to the competition. No way! After all, I just started making candles and needed it for my own candles and lip balms and soap. Besides, beeswax is valuable. At least to me. At least my beeswax is valuable to me because I know that it is 100% clean and free of toxins. I know our bee yard is very secluded and we don’t treat our bees with medications and our honey ‘crops’ are wild and aren’t being sprayed with herbicides and pesticides and other junk. Mosquito control doesn’t even fly over. I know it takes 7-9 pounds of honey to make a single pound of beeswax and that a honey bee spends its entire life to make 1 teaspoon of honey. It’s valuable. And it’s sold. Andy sold my beeswax.
After I spoke with D for about 10 more minutes guaranteeing him I’d let him and his wife know if I hear of any beeswax, I put Andy on the phone because of some other mutual interests and friendships. After my hackles went down (did you read the part about them starting a candle company and them being all professional with a cool name? ‘The Refinery’ is the name of their candle company by the way and Deliciously Unrefined is our farm business’ slogan by the way-weird, right?) and I heard Andy give a dissertation on honey and beeswax and beekeeping and then ask how much beeswax they need and heard him say-oh just a pound? Then I sort of gave him a glare and ‘don’t even think about it’ and then I totally caved and started looking for the scale to see how much I had. Because I’m a sucker and I felt guilty for having jealous thoughts and for hoarding my beeswax-even though it’s not technically hoarding when you use it and make things and sell those things that you make. That’s actually a business even if it’s a tiny business. Maybe it’s more of a hobby, but it doesn’t matter. My beeswax is sold and we’re actually having dinner with these strangers in a few weeks, because Andy also invited them over for dinner sometime and I suppose I’m going to have to get over the fact that I have to wait a while before we can harvest anymore beeswax for my own candles. That’s okay. Lord willing, we will harvest more and I’ll get over myself.
Every winter Andy takes inventory of our unoccupied beehive boxes and frames and repairs, cleans and assembles them to prepare for the Spring honey flow.
Some frames need to have propolis scraped off or wax moths parts removed (we don’t fumigate and they don’t survive in empty boxes) or boxes just need a good dusting. I love seeing how our beehive collection has grown over the years and remembering the ones that were painted with ‘oops’ paint or that are so chippy they’d make the latest shabby chic trend setters proud.
I love thinking about the honeybees that will occupy these beehives and hoping that they’ll survive for years to come. The hives all change year after year. Some strong hives have half a dozen shallow or deep boxes on them. Some weak hives just a couple. It’s always a puzzle and an interesting one to configure and observe.
Andy’s been keeping bees for 8 or 9 years now and it’s something we are both proud of and love to reap the benefits from. Just tonight, Pinecone asked why we have so much honey and simply understood that it’s because we are beekeepers. We are beekeepers.
Words mean more to me than I care to admit. A compliment will have me floating on clouds and a criticism can ruin my day. I know that my ‘love language’ is words of affirmation and boy was I feeling loved this morning.
You see, we are beekeepers and farmers and homesteaders and grow-your-own-fooders and all that kind sort of back to the land kind of stuff. We have been since we’ve been married and haven’t looked back, because well life just wasn’t quite as full back then.
Not like it is now anyway with children and umpteen hundred farm animals and who knows how many tons of chicken litter and 3 no wait, 4 different farms that we’ve been on in the last 6 years. Someday, Lord willing, we’ll have a place that our children’s children can glean from, but until then, we’ll keep stewarding the land to the best of our abilities wherever we live.
So, this morning when I received 3 different messages about our honey and our toil on the earth, I was over the moon. You know, we hear it every now and then. Someone will say our honey is the best they’ve had or we’ll win a blue ribbon at a honey tasting or a customer will call us with their yearly order to be shipped across the country or simply driven into Savannah. It always encourages us and gives us motivation and joy to keep going.
The crazy thing is, our honey is sitting in buckets in our bedroom. We’re making do, sitting on a pile of liquid gold in the corner of our bedroom, because we have limited space and that’s the safest place for it. Also, I haven’t been promoting our honey at all even though we’ve already harvested our spring and fall honey and reordered jars and it’s all ready I go. I’ve been sort of hung up about making a really cute label and transitioning from ‘Urbanna farm’ to ‘the honey bee queen’ for our honey jars when it really shouldn’t even matter what the package looks like, because like Andy always says: ‘good products sell themselves.’ I know details matter, but what really matters is that I love this gig. I also love when other people love this gig and tell me all about it.
After the Tupelo harvest, Andy relocated the bees to the Savannah River where we have access to a secured bee yard full of hundreds if not thousands of Chinese tallow trees. It’s really amazing that we can move our bees from one honey flow to another just as soon as they happen and that we can harvest honey twice a year and have two distinctly different types of honey.
For being a very, very small operation with just half a dozen bee hives or so at any given time it, we’ve got a pretty good thing going on. Currently, I have 5-5gallon buckets of our spring honey from the recent Tupelo flow in our bedroom and have been bottling it up by order. The big guys harvest their honey in 55 gallon drums, but our little operation suits me just fine and has actually grown quite a bit from the first few wee harvests, where we ladled out each precious drop.
Lord willing, we’ll have an official honey house some day and won’t have to convert ‘Papa Harold’s’ garage into a honey house after each flow, but for now his garage is set up perfectly with the equipment and tools that we need to extract the honey on a bi-annually basis. Papa Harold has been Andy’s bee mentor for almost a decade and has been keeping bees longer than we’ve been alive. It’s so good to have him in our lives and we’ve learned so much from him, including how to remove bees from buildings and trees and everything in between.
The Chinese Tallow honey crop is almost guaranteed each year whereas the Tupelo is a much more fragile flower with absolutely zero guarantees and a very specific region of growth. The Chinese Tallow tree is hardy and invasive and actually illegal to plant in some areas, because it can take over-sort of like the kudzu vine.
It’s really neat to learn more about bees and their nuances and just how particular they are about specific measurements and all the amazing things that make them so important to our lives. Even after years of beekeeping, it feels like we are just getting started.