As the activities of beekeeping wind down for the year the educational aspects begin to gear up. The season of Fall Festivals and Fairs is a great time to get out and educate the general public about the importance of bees in food production and to recruit new bee keepers. I am looking forward to being an active participant in this year’s educational process since last year I was one of the unsuspecting masses. It will all start the weekend after next at the Kanawha County State Fair September 9-12th in Sissonville where the Kanawha Valley Beekeepers Association will set up an educational booth fully equipped with a demonstration hive.
If you have ever had any interest in beekeeping this is a great place to come and check it out. You can get lots of free and useful information about how to get started and why beekeeping is so important. In fact, this is where Fred and I got our first symptoms of beekeeping fever almost a year ago. We were trying to decide how to spend a lazy weekend and I had been debating entering some baking contests so we agreed that the fair was close and I could check out some of the possible competition. I was still in a medicated flux at the time, on leave from the FD, fighting depression and just generally at loose ends, desperate for something to give me a little direction.
I wandered around the fairgrounds in a medicated hazy when I happened upon the beekeeping demo. I had actually gone over there to look at the bunnies, goats and other 4-H displays as a way to waste time while Sarah rode the dangerous fair contraptions sure to induce a seizure in my already muddled state. I like to wander around and fantasize about farm life. Little did I know, a year from that fair visit Fred and I would be deeply immersed in the push towards green. The bees would merely be the tip of our iceberg.
It was while staring, transfixed, at the bees swarming about the comb through their Plexiglas walls that I was approached by the president of the KVBA. He asked me if I had any interest in keeping bees and on a pure whim I said yes. Sure I loved honey, and Fred and I had talked since we met about self-sufficiency, I found bees naturally fascinating but becoming a beekeeper had only ever been a fleeting fancy of my imagination. He told me how they could really use some young beekeepers in the association (and since Fred and I are both solidly in our thirties this should indicate to you the general age of the association) and provided me with lots of pamphlets, cookbooks and additional literature on bees. I thanked him and meandered away from the stall in search of Fred and Sarah.
When I found them the bees were already half forgotten in my dazed condition. When Fred asked me why I had all those papers, I told him about the beekeepers and the live bees and that piqued his interest enough that we turned around and headed back to the booth. Fred and the association president became instant cohorts and he promptly invited us to the next KVBA meeting. Fred and I went to the meeting I do not exactly remember when it was but it was sometime later that fall. Although we still had not acquired any bees at that point we were interested enough to pay the ten dollar fee and join the association for one year. This entitled us, also, to a membership in the state association as well as put us on the mailing list and updated us with any special information that may be made available.
We still were not entirely sure that we had the time or money to invest in beekeeping. Often setting up an initial hive or two from scratch can be very expensive. The bees themselves are relatively inexpensive but by the time you have built the hives and bought the necessary protective equipment you have made quite the initial investment. As we calculated we assumed just to get started with two hives (which is the minimum recommended in case of loss or disease) that we would have to invest between eight hundred and a thousand dollars.
Remember, I was out of work and unsure at that point if I would be able to return. Money was tight and that was a lot to invest in the potential failure of what we still deemed a hobby, however, while we were at the meeting we met the elderly gentleman who in due course would sell us his bees and hives and ultimately allow us to get into bee keeping at a much more affordable price. (If you are interested in the drama of how we came about actually acquiring our bees you can go back to the April entries of this blog and check out the details.)
Now, almost a year later, here we are, full-fledged beekeeper with three hives (no honey to speak of) out corrupting the youth of America, petitioning the local government and participating in all aspects of the social beekeepers network. I hope to see some of you at the fair, if not at Kanawha County’s fair then later on at some of the other fairs and festivals in which we will participate. I will try to update the blog as we nail down other dates. Please, if you read this blog and are at a fair, come introduce yourself. I would really love to meet you.
If you had asked me last September what my life would look like a year from that date I would never have guessed it would involve bees and chickens and homemade laundry detergent, green living or staying at home. I would have probably told you that I would be back to work at the FD within a matter of weeks if not months. God’s plans are not always the same as ours. I spent a good part of last year in a serious state of depression questioning every aspect of my life. Ir really never occurred to me, on any serious level, that I could be happy living a much simpler existence.
One thing I have come to realize is that I must be able to define myself outside of what I do to make money. I think this was one of the hardest things I had to come to grips with. I had a lot of pride in my career, I had accomplished something that few women before me had accomplished and I relished in the pride that went with that. This year has been humbling for me. It has been a year struggling to redefine our lives and our priorities. We have made lots of material sacrifices but we have gained a wealth of strength and knowledge and the contentment of knowing that we have struggled together and with God’s ever present guidance we have persevered.
Life is not easy. Life is not predictable, you can set a course and be blown off it in a heartbeat by death or illness or loss of a job or a car accident or anything. These worldly possessions that we put so much stock in can fall by the wayside in an instant. What do you have when they are gone?
In our family we had built a false sense of security with our things buying more stuff, going more places as filler, lacking any real satisfaction or contentment. I am not saying it was not tough. It was a serious lifestyle adjustment going from two salaries to one, having medical bill stream in and realizing that eating every meal out became a luxury instead of an everyday option. Being forced to budget when I went to the grocery store was especially humbling. We did not do it without heartache, arguments or tears but we did do it. Yes, we have fought, said mean things, questioned ourselves and God’s plan but ultimately we have grown. We have grown closer as a family and we have grown in our spiritual lives too.
As I have said before, this is a process for us, we are learning. We still hit stumbling blocks we still make mistakes ( I still can only remember my recycled grocery bags about fifty percent of the time) sometimes we still fight or argue but we have seen how small changes, baby steps, can make huge leaps in improving our quality of life. By slowly paring down our existence we have gained immeasurable wealth in our satisfaction with life and our general happiness. We take joy in the quiet moments and the little victories: fresh eggs from our hens, a successful hive split, clean clothes off the line.
I consider the words of Paul as he wrote to the Philippians about considering everything of this world a loss to gain Christ and I think about Christ talking to potential disciples and telling them to leave their worldly possessions behind and follow him. No, we have not given up all our worldly possession, but we have significantly reduced them and our gluttonous consumerism. Some of our reduction was by choice some by necessity, some of it was willfully and some of it was by painful pruning but ultimately the result has improved us as individuals and as a family and for the most part we are happier and healthier for it.
These are just some of the things that have been on my mind as we approach the first anniversary of the birth of our greener lifestyle. We are still in transition and in all actuality it will probably be a lifelong process. I want to thank everyone who has encouraged us with thoughtful reflection, as silent prayer warriors, with a kind word or a helpful piece of advice. I also want to thank everyone who takes a minute out of their own busy lives to immerse themselves in this blog and spend a few moments empathizing with us. Thank you for celebrating in our victories and mourning with us in our trials. We appreciate you.
Thank you for reading,
Much love on this journey to greener life,