Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Beekeeper's Apprentice

Wow, I'm doing two posts in a month!  Now that's pretty uncommon during summer...  Well, the hubby is off on a wilderness EMT certification course for a week and I have absolutely zero contact with him!  We have always been able to communicate in one form or another, even when I went to Switzerland and we only emailed.  But this is completely different and I’m trying my best to be an independent wife for the week.  So here goes my adventure time (I’ll spare you the super random stuff and share only the really amazing and fun stuff)!
So let’s see…Oh, right!  I’ve been being a beekeeper’s apprentice (I think I’m going to patent that term as my own).  A friend of mine just got married to a local beekeeper and I am quickly becoming friends with him as well.  I mean who can say they know a beekeeper and even if you can, you probably agree with me that they have the coolest (not temperature wise) job in the world!
What have I been doing you may ask? Well, I started off helping him label his leftover honey from last year.  The crop for this year isn’t quite ready yet and if most of you didn’t know, bees generally don’t make honey year round.  We therefore sell last year’s crop until this year’s comes in.

Honey comes in many colors and many flavors.  Both are dictated by the primary floral source a bee is collecting nectar from.  In the photo above, the primary source is knapweed-a noxious weed originally brought to the US because the nectar makes amazing honey.

Once I got labeling down to an art form, I started helping sell the honey jars at the market since beekeepers in summer are busy bees (you see what I did there) and are constantly working to make sure their hives are healthy and successful in addition to collecting frames full of honey and processing the product for sales.  

Honey sales at the local farmer's market with my friend, the beekeeper's wife.

Okay, so after a few weeks of honey sales at our local farmer’s market, the first honey harvest was upon us and I was invited to help my friend “rob” the bees.  This entails removing the top box generally full of honey comb (there are usually 3-4 boxes per hive) and taking all the tops back to a warehouse where the wax caps are removed with a heated knife and the honey is then free to flow out of the comb into a vat. It can then be heated and filtered for bulk sales (think honey bears in your supermarket) or left alone as raw natural goodness that is what this particular beekeeper believes in.
Now, I’m going to go off on a tangent about how honey in supermarkets is most likely not one hundred percent honey and usually has fillers such as corn syrup, etc.  The best kind of honey is unheated and unfiltered, because then all the natural enzymes, vitamins, etc. are all left in the honey and can/have been used for centuries as a natural medicinal product.  Okay, so moral of the story is to buy honey from your local beekeeper and make sure it is RAW!
Fun Fact: Honey is the ONLY food product that will not spoil over time.  Archaeologists actually found intact honey in an ancient Egyptian tomb. How cool is that?!
So back to keeping bzzzy ;)… I went out today with the “master beekeeper” (what I’ve taken to calling him) and we collected all of the top boxes that contained honey.  There was quite a technique required that involved a natural concentrated almond scent  that the bees don’t like (placed in a tray on top of the hive), along with a bee smoker and of course beekeeping attire.  There’s obviously more to it than that, but I won’t bore you with little details (too late, right?!).

The "master."

The "apprentice" aka ME!

Anyways, I was absolutely enthralled by the sound of a healthy hive upon removal of the lid.  The buzzing becomes a deep thrum you can feel in your throat and since the bees are “tamed” with the almond scent and smoker, they don’t all swarm out at you like I may have imagined in my head a thousand times before opening the first box.  It was an experience I will never forget and I hope to continue to help this friend.  Maybe someday I’ll potentially keep some of my own bees, but I highly doubt I’ll ever be as ambitious as his 200 hives and his father’s 1200 hives. One or two would definitely be manageable! 

So, that’s about all I have to bore you with today! Bees are absolutely fascinating creatures and I’m still learning something new every day.  I highly suggest studying up on this magnificent insect, because without them, much of our agriculture would not exist and without agriculture, how would we eat? The honey bee is important in so many ways and so many variables affect them, so borrow a book and learn something new!  Until my next adventure…

Friday, July 18, 2014

Spontaneity, kind of...

Phewy!  It sure has been a while since the last post, but I’m determined to keep this blog going until at least the end of the year!
                Okay, so the last time I wrote about plans to leave the donut shop, a bike trip with a friend, and as much summer fun as I could possibly handle.  Well, I have completed them all.  I left the donut shop at the end of June and went on an amazing bike trip in the end of June as well.
                Obviously there isn’t much to say about the end of something such as the donut shop.  I was tired and thought it was time to move on.  And what better way than to do something completely insane (in my book) and take a spur of the moment bike trip with my friend Izzy.  When she originally mentioned the trip I was completely jealous and hoped with all the powers in the universe that I would be able to go with her.  Well, the new owners of the shop didn’t need me during any of the time that the trip was taking place, so I was completely free to go.  And then I got panicky.  Why you might ask? Well, for one, I own a beach cruiser.  Yes, they are cute and super vintage, but it’s not fun to ride that baby up and down hills with only 6 speeds.  And two, before the first leg of the trip, the most I had ever rode on a bike in one ride was 10 miles.  To put this second point into perspective; on the first leg of the actual trip we did 15 miles and that was the shortest day. Luckily (for me), Izzy’s mom hurt her ACL and therefore couldn’t ride her mountain bike while she was recovering.  That meant that I got to borrow it for a few days before the trip and during. 
                So enough about logistics, let’s talk picturesque views!  If you aren’t familiar with Montana, you’re going to have to either look up these towns/places/areas or just live through my pictures.  We started right outside of the little reservation town of Ronan.  From there we began our first leg heading North into an excruciatingly strong headwind.  Not cool (at least exertion of energy wise)!  It took us way longer than it ever should to bike that first 15 miles which took us to the outskirts of Polson (on Flathead Lake) and then slightly around the East side of the lake, near the Finley Point turn off.  We stayed with Izzy’s family friends on all our nights of the trip. 
The two of us at our starting location.

Proof  in motion.

The Polson Hill.

Panorama of where we were heading.

Fun Fact:  Flathead Lake is the largest fresh water lake West of the Mississippi River.  Hopefully I didn’t totally make that up and it isn’t actually West of the Missouri River.  If it was the later, I feel like that’s a pathetic thing to be proud of Montanans!

                And back on track, so we spent the night near Finley Point on Flathead Lake and continued our “misadventure,” as we named it, North all the way to Lake Blaine.  This was the longest day by far and double the mileage we did on any of the other days.  The total was something over forty miles.  Luckily we started early and beat most of the morning traffic around the lake as there is not a large shoulder for most of that ride.  After stopping in Big Fork for a second breakfast and making a bunch of Lord of the Rings hobbit references, we continued on to the second home we were staying at and arrived around noon.  We had their beautiful home to ourselves and quickly became acquainted with the hot tub.  The rest of the day and most of the next morning we spent watching HGTV as it was pouring!

Day 2: We loved going downhill!

That's me being silly with early morning delirium.

Going uphill is equivalent to hell, or as I'd imagine it.

The lovely home on Lake Blaine.

And the view from the hot tub ;).

                Eventually the rain gave in and we started our third day to outside of Whitefish in order to stay with the final family.  This day was pretty uneventful and a mere twenty-something miles compared to the previous day.
                Day four was definitely the hardest for me.  I surprisingly wasn’t sore, but instead the rain continued to pour and we had no choice but to bike in it to arrive at our destination.  We were instantly soaked and although we only biked in the twenty mile range that day, the terrain was rolling hills all the way to West Glacier where we met Izzy’s mom. 

SOOOOO close!

We had to stop for a celebratory fist pump!

And the next day in Glacier National Park.

Lake McDonald, where we stayed the night with Izzy's mother and grandmother.

Walk of the cedars? I think that's what they called this area...

I might add that the going to the sun road was not open when this was taken and still is not open in the park.  They had some avalanches that set them back on clearing the route.

                I can honestly say that I would do the entire trip over again without even thinking twice.  I had the most amazing time with my friend, her family’s friends, and the scenery was breathtaking.  Life’s adventures are truly what you make of them and I choose to not dwell on the pouring rain and the constant struggle up hills, but the fact that we biked over a hundred miles (104 to be exact) in four days.  It may not be Tour de France speed (AT ALL), but not many people can claim the same accomplishment so I guess I feel exactly that, accomplished!
                In other news, I have indeed started training on AutoCAD with my dad to help out in his business and make a grownups amount of money.  I actually enjoy the work I have been doing for him and I think it helps that I have been supplementing my “job” with other work along the side.  I’ve dog sat, and baby sat, and I am even calling myself a beekeeper’s apprentice.  Basically I’m following a friend around and observing all he does in his career of beekeeping.  It’s an absolutely fascinating field and I love learning all about the different types of bees, honey, and even methods of keeping. 
                I’ll hopefully have more stories soon!  There’s a bunch of camping happening in August and floating season has officially begun!  We will have to wait for some of the smoke that is currently engulfing Missoula to clear.  I don’t know about anywhere else, but I feel like I’m wrapped in a shroud of smoke whenever I go outside. 

                Well, enough complaining and until next time…