The Top Bar Adventure Begins



Sometime this past year I decided I wanted to become a beekeeper. Maybe it was because of the massive bumble bee die-off that occurred in Oregon last year, or the influence of More Than Honey a 2012 documentary about modern beekeeping.  More likely, it was the way that years ago my mind/soul attached itself to the part in the book The Fifth Sacred Thing where the main character develops a physical and spiritual connection with bees.  I just wanted to put more bees into the world and honey and candle making would be a nice benefit. So, I signed up for a top bar beekeeping class taught by Seattle beekeeper Jeff Steenbergen and sponsored by The Puget Sound Beekeepers Association.

I made my way to the Center for Urban Horticulture classroom on the UW campus on a cold and rainy Saturday in February. Sipping my coffee at a long work table, I looked around at my fellow newbie beekeepers – mostly older hippies wearing Gore Tex and some sort of comfort/Birkenstock-type footwear,  as well as a sprinkling of young hipsters with smart-looking glasses and facial hair. I was somewhere in the middle age wise and took off my own Gore Tex immediately, shuffling my comfort-clad feet nervously. I have always hated being part of a “trend” and beekeeping is certainly trendy now. All the earth-conscious cool-kids are doing it now that composting and backyard chickens are passe.

The top bar class was full of information and like a good student, I jotted down everything. Important questions like “What is your motivation for keeping bees?”  mixed with practical notes about bee space and how to build a hive.  At the end, I was excited, overwhelmed and nevrvous….I had taken the class but still felt like I should know more than I did to be responsible for 15,000 bees.

But then again, I felt unprepared for motherhood and no one died.

This is the beginning of my journey with bees, and it starts somewhere in the middle of my lifelong fascination with nature, gardening and small-scale farming. This blog is part diary and part information through personal experience – I am by NO MEANS an expert.  I am not certified in anything except overwhelming curiosity and a tendency towards stupid mistakes. I hope you enjoy it.

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