As a beekeeper I can never learn enough about the keeping of these amazing creatures. I am always learning about the craft of keeping bees and most, if not all, of that comes through spending time with other beekeepers and sharing experiences. I had the privilege yesterday, while vacationing in Ireland, to meet one of the nicest, most innovative and smartest beekeepers I have ever met. His name is Olly Nolan and he keeps bees about a half hour outside of Dublin. Currently he is managing 42 hives. Olly’s dream and desire is to become the largest beekeeper in Ireland. After spending time with him I am convinced that he will achieve that dream.
When I knew I was coming to Ireland I worked on reaching out to various beekeeping groups/organizations in Ireland and it was through this effort that I came across Olly. He was kind enough to host me for a visit to his farm. Recently his Heather Honey received GOLD from the “Blas Na HEireann Irish Food Awards” based in Dublin, and was also named “Best Food Producer in Dublin” for his Heather honey! We talked bees and beekeeping for over an hour. I brought him a couple of Muth jars of my honey as a gift and he returned the favor with a jar of his Heather Honey. I also bought a few more jars of some of his other varieties.
This was my first ever trip to Ireland and, Lord willing, perhaps I can come back again some day. If I do I will once again swing by Olly’s Farm and spend time with my new friend talking bees. It is amazing the friendships that can be made through the love of these amazing creatures. If the Lord allows me to come back to visit Olly one day I am convinced I will be spending that time with Ireland’s largest beekeeper!
(photo: Olly Nolan holding the gift of two Muth jars of my honey from the States)
Watched a couple episodes of this new documentary on Netflix called Rotten. The initial episode talks about how China has sought to undermine/destroy the honey market in the US through “watering down” the honey with various syrups, etc. As a beekeeper it makes me upset to see how this happens. It is no wonder why so many of my honey customers cannot believe how great my honey tastes since it is real and raw! So many have never had real honey. Haven’t watched the other episodes yet but the one on honey was spot on and sobering! Buy real, raw American honey! You will never regret it!
No matter how long you keep bees when checking your hives you never lose your excitement when you locate the queen. She is the life blood of a successful hive and seeing her and the results of her efforts, lots of capped brood, is always an encouragement! This photo was taken in the summer of 2017 in one of my hives and she was a “laying machine.” Now that we are in the brittle cold winter she has all but shut down laying and her workers are doing all they can to keep her warm and survive. Making sure there is enough food and keeping the interior of the hive dry is key to overwintering.
On November 17, 2016 about 50 folks attended a “Pollinator Workshop” on the Salem4youth Ranch in Flanagan, IL. Salem was chosen by Bayer as one of four organizations from across the US to receive this honor. In addition to sponsoring the event, Bayer donated enough wildflower seed to sow 5 acres on Salem’s 50 acre campus. Currently Salem has 7 hives and is looking to continue to enhance pollinator forage going forward. Salem is surrounded by row crops so forage is lacking. This effort is designed to provide not only Salem’s bees with additional forage but also provide an “oasis” for the local and migratory pollinator population. Salem4youth is one of Bayer’s “Feed A Bee Partners” in the ongoing effort to provide solid forage for our pollinator population.
Well it’s mid winter. Although I miss seeing our bees working the flowers in the warm breeze and being able to photograph them, now is the time for me to work for them. I have been working toward providing the best forage opportunities for them when they emerge from the hive in a few months. Now is the time to research and obtain wildflower seeds to sow in early spring. I have found a real openness by a variety of seed suppliers and Ag related companies to help provide solid forage options. The photo below is an example of the generosity of multiple seed suppliers through gifts of wildflower seeds. We sowed about an acre and a half last spring (2015) and we are planning on adding another 2 acres this year.