Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Its all in your planning and time management!!

Winter is very short.

As this season is now finished its time to be planning ahead.  The days of rushing around until late at night, queen rearing, harvesting honey, putting on supers and hive inspections are now only a distant memory but take no rest, winter is very short!!
I have learnt in the last couple of years that you must never take for granted the apparent lack of urgency in things because there is a list, well should I say a scroll, that unwinds around the workshop, of jobs to be done.
Here is a list of just a few for when I get back to France.
Cleaning old frames, scraping them and rewaxing. (over 1500 to do!)
Mini plus frames, clean scrape and rewax (1500 to do!)
cleaning queen excluders,
cleaning wooden feeders hive top feeders with a scraper and blow torch.
cleaning nucs, mating nucs
stocktake of what materials we have left to use.
Ordering materials.

The list goes on and on. If you don't make lists and decide what you're going to do for this next year, you going to fall at the first hurdle ending up doing winter work in the summer. A complete nightmare.

Waxing in new foundation to our Mini-Plus frames in a huge job but it must be done while we have time. timely winter work pays off in the long term always! it takes us about 10 days to get through enough for the season, so it's a big labour burner, but its essential to have frames ready for the spring growth.

So where do you start?

Be honest and realistic with yourself and also never underestimate how long things take. The labour involved in many aspects of beekeeping is huge, but we do it because we love our job, occupation or hobby (whatever you call it) it is a labour of love, that with beekeeping you have to forget making money and just enjoy your bees. If at the end of that you have found yourself with some money that pays the bills, then the experience is real and sustainable.
There is a joke that goes something like this:

Q: How do you become a millionaire beekeeper
A: Start off as billionairešŸ˜‚.

The truth is, no one makes millions keeping bees but its an occupation and hugely rewarding thing to do everything yourself,  put in your heart and soul and end up with good bees in your hives, (not in the trees) and honey in the barrel to sustain you throughout the long winter.  You are certainly a farmer and the rewards are enormous.
I have to say I've found being a professional beekeeper strangely more rewarding than I felt like an amateur beekeeper. Probably because when you become a professional you're putting most of your eggs in one basket but at the same time your completely in control of what you do and when you do it! when you get the rewards it's so uplifting!!
Having that second job to rely on when things potentially may get tough is purely psychological support. In reality, once you get 200 hives, there is really no reason that with hard work you won't make enough on selling Nucs, queens and honey. If you don't, then really, you are doing something wrong.

In my mind, two jobs actually become a thorn in your side.

You're trying desperately to keep up with your swarm controls in mid-spring but your other job means your not free on the two good days of that week in that a typical early May period when you should have been in your apiaries.! You turn up at your apiary 5 days later than you scheduled to be (because of one thing and another) and you find 40% of your colonies have swarmed or are about too. You're then immediately in to cutting out queen cells, trying to stop the others from swarming,  as well as trying to get the swarmed colony "queenright" as soon as possible. Basically, you have lost valuable time, money and precious resources that if managed correctly, would have been much more useful to you!

Swarms are completely normal but in most cases completely avoidable.

Once you've been down the road of post swarm management,  you soon realise that the second job has to go, or you need to change it in a way that permits you to have the time you need!  This is where reality bites.
I experienced this problem this year. May is a busy month. If you survive it with the majority of your bees in your hives and not hanging in the trees you've done well!
To watch your carefully overwintered stock just fly away is heartbreaking and downright demoralising.

There then comes the labour decisions!!
How much time should you spend on managing one colony? How much time do you want to spend on each Apiary?
I learnt this and learnt that its a variable but there is obviously patterns and seasons that give us leaders into what we should expect during hive inspections.

Swarm Catching

How long should you spend catching a swarm in your apiaryšŸ˜¤ , believe it or not, this sounds like a simple question? I used to always catch swarms but in May and June, you just don't have time.
Firstly, those genetics are the ones you don't want. The propensity to swarm is a very undesirable trait to most beekeepers. I certainly don't want swarming bees and by collecting that swarm and allowing that queen to survive and produce drones for next year! that's one reason,. The second reason is, in reality, collecting a swarm can take a long time, 30. minutes lost when you could have checked another 5 hives is a complete waste of time.
If the swarm is low enough, ok, have a box on the truck, shake it in and move on. Reality bites again.
I learnt the hard way and lost lots of time in Apiaries, thanks to my colleague and mentor, I have changed my ways! but it's s a dilemma.

The dilemma of catching swarms in your apiary.

Time management is crucial to a successful operation. Plan your time, Plan your week. Stick to the schedule wherever possible.  It will pay you dividends in the future.

Right now I  am back out in sunny Hawaii for nearly a month, I am enjoying some fantastic scenery, Beekeeping with Alicia and helping out with the chores on her busy Apiary.  Were cleaning up some hives and frames, making up all boxes so there ready for use with new frames etc.
I never dreamt in my life I would ever be fortunate enough to visit Hawaii

The stunning morning view of Mauna Kea in the background is always breathtaking!

             Look what bees did for me!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The excuse for my absence -Bees and Life.

 Bees and life!

Photoshoot by Chris Campbell of Hiveshare

Well, I am back blogging. I am determined to share more what I have learned in my beekeeping.  According to my last post, it was March last year! where has the time gone? I can tell you it's just been awesome!

Those who have been following my YouTube channel (all about bees in Brittany.).  I can say how much I am enjoying sharing my experiences with bees, it's just amazing to be able to share what I do. The comments and feedback are wonderful and I thank you all!

So here we are,  were now early December, the first frost on the ground this morning and boy was it a cold one. Seeing and hearing all the social media from around the world, makes me feel kind of humbled as to our privileged position in the climate zones. Were never really too hot, never really too cold. were lucky here in Corseul Brittany, La belle France!

What I would like to do over the next few weeks is write about my experiences over the last two years and bring you up to the date with where I am now. I have treated myself to a gorgeous MacBook Pro which is beautiful. Perfect for when your travelling as well as enabling me to write at home. As my children have grown up, my desktop Mac has bee hijacked and filled up with each of my children various projects.

I am going to be upgrading this blog site too. Time for some better pictures and a fresh look, so bear with me as this all takes place.

Big changes

A huge amount has happened to me over the last two years. 
I feel I have fallen on my feet,  Fallen in love,  Tasted success with beekeeping and learnt a whole lot about life! 
My children are also finally growing up, which means I don't have to be home when they are. I am getting a life again! ( yes a life so I can work harder lol)
Finding a formula that works for you but also pushing yourself is a difficult balance. I've always had at least two jobs and last year I was finally able to reduce my gardening activities to just one client. This is always a difficult thing for anyone to do if you're depending on both jobs for the source of income, but I knew that because of my successes it was now time that I relied on less one my old job and finally was able to take that step and make that leap.
The other issue is it's so physically difficult to juggle two jobs in the spring. Clients want the grass cut on a regular basis, bees like to swarm on a regular basis in spring,  What do you do? 
I hate not being able to do the things I say I will do.. but my bees had to come first if they didn't, I would never be able to get ahead! 
I needed 200 + colonies for production, as well as brood factories and Finishers so I can make nucs with my own queens that I raise form my resources. This I have achieved and at this moment I am going into winter with a various assortment of colonies, nucs and mini nucs to give me the financial support into next spring and plenty of bees and queens for next year.

Next year is going to be really interesting. I have given notice to my one existing gardening job, my last month of work will be March, from then on its just bees that will give me my income. I have nucs to sell this spring ( I hope) and some honey to give me some turnover until then until hopefully, we have another good spring harvest. 
The circle of beekeeping is a fascinating one, each year its the same but each year is completely unique. 
Being able to understand each year's uniqueness is the key to good time management. The is what I am only Just learning and what a learning curve it is.

Here I am talking about the spring harvest this year. I was amazing to have 6 barrels of honey from one flow  but I suppose I can say I did earn it. I worked really hard and the results are there. 
As I say in the video, if there isn't honey in the barrel, you might just as well go back to your old job! because it's that which pays the bills.

Speak soon and think positive! you can achieve whatever you want to manifest! I dreamt of one day seeing this, well here  I am, honey is in the barrel!!