Wednesday 6 June 2007

To bee?

I babysat last night so that Dilly and Al could go to the first in a course of classes about beekeeping. Al in particular has come back full of enthusiasm. Next week, they will have a chance to be dressed up in beekeeper's kit and do whatever you do with a hive. They asked if we'd mind if they want to start a hive - not at all, of course, I'd be interested too. There is plenty of room and we've fields all around, the nearest house is a couple of hundred yards away so we wouldn't scare the neighbours either.

While I was cooking, the Sage went to babysit for a few minutes. Squiffany appeared at the bedroom door (she can turn the handle, so there is a child gate in the doorway) and called out. The Sage went and firmly told her to go to bed and stay there - she was so startled that she went, and not another sound was heard. This morning, her mother asked her if she remembered it. "Yes" she said, "I wanted Pugsley's music to be turned on." Mm, yes, and a few minutes later she would have wanted her potty or a drink of water. Grandpa will be asked to babysit again, I suspect, whether or not Al and Dilly are going out.

I offered to take over the shop for a week or two in June, but Al has (entirely politely) decided against it. He points out that this is a time when lots of home-grown produce is being brought into the shop and he really needs to be there, to negotiate prices etc. Today, broad beans and gooseberries came in. One of the boxes of gooseberries was sold within minutes, to someone wanting to make jam. My mother-in-law used to make quantities of gooseberry jelly, which was delicious and the most beautiful colour. I usually make strawberry jam, quince jelly and marmalade; sometimes blackberry jelly. I like pips, so I'd be happy to make jam of the blackberries, but I'm in a family minority. One year, I made hedgerow jam - blackberries, sloes, crab apples and elderberries - which was lovely, but I ate most of it. The family, while liking the flavour, didn't appreciate the pips.

Anyway, they asked if I'd have any time in September so I checked my diary and gave them a choice of dates. Dilly didn't waste time and has booked a holiday the last week of the month. I asked Al where they will be going. "Up North," he said, "near Cromer."

Imagine, if you will, the map of Great Britain. Norfolk and Suffolk share the Easternmost bulge that looks like a pig's bum, without a tail (is the shape of Britain still commonly described as 'an old woman with a pig?). We are in the middle, though towards the coast. Cromer is on the top north-east corner of the bulge. Only a complete East Anglian could call Cromer 'up north'!


Imperatrix said...

You're very accomodating! I've only made red currant jelly, everything else is jam. If someone doesn't like the pips, they can jolly well make their *own* preserves.

(Of course, I do pit the cherries when I make cherry pie. In Belgium, cherry pie is not pitted, so you approach each bite with trepidation.)

Z said...

My mother once, pushed for time, made Cherries Jubilee without pitting the cherries. The first person to take a mouthful burned his tongue severely!

They do not protest at pippy jam, it just doesn't get eaten. I don't mind the extra trouble, but I would like the pips. I enjoy finding one that had hidden itself in a tooth, an hour later, and nibbling it.

y.Wendy.y said...

I had a friend in Argentina who made the most delicious strawberry jam with was utterly divinely delicious - simply the best jam I have ever had. She gave me a pot once and I treasured and kept it for me. No sharing that one.

I like pippy jam too - also like finding a pip to nibble on later - it isn't gross, is it?

y.Wendy.y said...

Oh darn. I meant to say as well that my father was a beekeeper and it was fascinating to watch him at it, and processing the honey...really worth doing.

y.Wendy.y said...

But I also meant to say that when the bees swarm it can be a bit daunting.

that's all I am going now.

Z said...

If we both do it, it isn't gross, Wendy -"if it's me, it's U" as Maudie Littlehampton pointed out.

My father made fabulous marmalade, with almonds and things.

Yes, a swarm is a bit of a thing, isn't it. However, I can imagine neighbours calling us in to deal with a swarm. We'd become Useful. We'll call on you for advice if we're unsure about anything.

Rog said...

Living in a pig's bottom in East Angular eh Z?

(Are the Schools known as Bacon Academies?)

dharmabum said...

hehe, can't stop laughing at murph's comment there.

a home with fields all around and the nearest home a couple of hundred yards away - what a perfect setting, z. lucky u. i'm getting there very soon, remember that ;)

beekeeping huh? interesting. we once had this guy remove a huge hive from a tree in our grandma's place - and i was eating the honey straight out of the hive. yum!

Z said...

Murph is a wag, Dharmabum.

It's the cheat's countryside, still in the village and with a town only a couple of km away. The benefits of being in the country without the isolation! We've plenty of space but there's a lot of work that always needs to be done. I like it very much here though.

Anonymous said...

Bees only swarm if they are mismanaged (ie not inspected at least every 10 days):) And, I hate to tell you this, and I'm just getting you used to the idea... but...keeping just one hive isn't possible... 3 is the minimum you need in order to be able to manage any disasters.

But, good to see some more potential beekeepers joining the buzz... it's hobby beekeepers that are going to keep this country farming (ie providing sufficient pollinators). There is no money in commercial beekeeping, so almost all have gone. But it is a fascinating hobby. Although there's no money to be made, at least the sales cover costs, which is more than you can say for most hobbies.

Good luck to you all and if you need any advice, just shout - after 11 years we can cope with most things!

Z said...

BW, we've done it again! I was leaving a comment with you at the same time as you wrote that here.

3 hives or more seems good to me. I had a feeling that one alone wouldn't work. We've a friend who's a beekeeper and, a few years ago, the WI went to be shown round - he said the same thing about swarms - does it mean that they are running out of room and need another layer (oh, these technical terms I use) on the hive? He started as a hobby, btw, and now does it full time, with a bit of this & that in the winter. He drives up to Lincolnshire in apple blossom time with the hives, to pollinate the trees.

And thank you very much for the offer. If this happens, we'll really appreciate advice. I really like the thought, I must say.

How do we know said...

Hmm.. that vacation thing gives me an idea for later.. ;-)

Z said...

HDWK - you're not going to leave us in suspense for too long, are you?

Dave said...

Cromer is indeed a wildy, windy, northern place, somewhere near the artic circle, if I remember right.

It certainly seemed like that, when I visited it yesterday.

Z said...

My sister-in-law lives in Cromer. She says it's always windy, too. I used to live on Lowestoft seafront - we would lie in bed watching the curtains billow (literally, and the windows were shut), but at least we only faced east, not north as well.

I hope they will be a bit inland, it's a campsite!

The Boy said...

North in September and camping? Brrrr... Then again, I used to go camping in the snow in the Rockies, so shouldn't be one to complain. I just never did it with kids!

Lucky them to have you and the sage so close. With my mum in Canada, and the wife's a five hour drive away we get help for the odd week, but not for the odd night!

I'm currently consuming a rhubard and ginger jam picked up at a local fete. Wonderful stuff. We don't do much jam making, but I might have to try that one.

Z said...

It's only about 45 miles north of here, in fact, not really the Arctic - Dilly called it a campsite but I'm not sure that they'll be in a tent. I haven't asked all the details yet.

Rhubarb and ginger sounds good. I wonder if I've got a recipe.

Pat said...

It will be interesting to learn - through the young(er) about bee-keeping. That's your honey sorted along with all your lovely jellies and jams.
Without looking at a map you don't sound to be a million miles away from North Walsham.

Pat said...

Z and Wendz if you want gross:- every day I eat raspberries or strawbs or blueberries, sprinkle mixed seeds on my lunch time salad and eat hazel nut yog. Guess how I spend the afternoons.

Z said...

I daresay we'll all get involved, especially when it comes to filtering and bottling the honey. Al sells local honey (about 12 miles away) in the shop already and it's much nicer than the commercial brands.

North Walsham is about 30 miles from us - it's about as far north east of Norwich as we are South.

Z said...

Well, that proves it then. Wendz and I are in excellent company *wanders away sucking teeth*

Anonymous said...

does it mean that they are running out of room and need another layer (oh, these technical terms I use) on the hive?

That's one of the reasons. The bottom box where queen lays eggs and the worker bees raise them is called the 'brood box', the upper storeys, above a flat wire meshed frame (the Queen excluder, for obvious reasons) are 'supers'.

The other main reason is that the exisiting queen is getting old, unproductive egg-wise, or otherwise not producing the correct pheromones to keep the hive happy, so the workers differentially feed the lava to produce new queens, and, once the first (usually) queen cell (where a new queen is formed) is sealed, either the old queen leaves with some of the bees (a prime swarm), or a newly-hatched queen leaves with some (usually fewer) of the bees. If there is more than one new queen, either they will fight to the death of all but one, or all but one will leave with some bees (mini swarms).

However, as bees don't read the same books as the beekeepers, there are many other factors involved! You'll all soon learn to 'read' a hive to see what is going on.

As Al is taking classes, I'd hope that the local beekeeping association (who I assume are running them?) runs either a 'rent a hive' scheme (whereby you can try it out for a year to chefck it's for you, without having to make the large initial financial commitment needed), or a scheme whereby people help an established beekeeper for a year to gain experience before starting up the following spring?

One final point - you will find that if you ask 100 beekeepers the same question you will get at least 100 different answers! The old boys who've kept bees for 60-odd years aren't neccessarily the best sources of info either - they've often had one year of experience 60 times, rather than 60 years of experience!!!

2 books that I'd particularly recommend that tell you all you need to know: Ted Hooper - Guide to Bees and Honey; Clive de Bruyn - Practical Beekeeping. I don't know if you read Country Smallholding, but the bee column in there isn't always the best advice, we feel.

Z said...

Thank you, BW. You are a peach, or maybe I should say a honey. I'll have a look for the books.

It sounds as if there is support on offer and I think the course is over 6 weeks initially. I should think next week will lose a few people, who will find they don't care to get too close to the bees themselves.

I think it's the Suffolk association running the course. Al sells borage honey, which comes from nearer Ipswich, which he gets from the person running the course, who himself lives locally.