Saturday, July 12, 2014

Welcome and Bienvenidos! Beginning my musings.

The most appropriate way to begin any blog always seems to be a welcome, so…!Bienvenidos!

The general topic of this blog will be bees, but within that wide theme I see myself covering it in a variety of ways. I foresee there being anecdotes from my beekeeping journey, daily updates of what I am doing with my hives, how-to articles, musings about these fascinating insects, and other odds and ends/tidbits.

Me, taking a break from the bee work and using the hive stand as a bench—in the apiary I have up on a coffee farm in west-central Honduras.

My beekeeping journey started in 1991 and quite by accident—it was something that had never even crossed my mind. I graduated from a university in Wisconsin with a degree in print journalism and Latin American studies. Coming out of high school, my idea had always been to combine the two somehow. Journalism experience I got during my university years working with the student newspaper and two of the local newspaper. My Spanish was lacking, however. I wanted to learn it but it wasn’t my main focus during my university years.

When thinking upon graduation about how to improve my Spanish linguistic abilities one of the most obvious ways was for me to join Peace Corps. You live for two years in another culture, do good work for others, and you have to learn Spanish. I went through the interview process and finally got the eventful phone call.

“We would like to invite you to be part of Peace Corps Honduras,” said a lady at the other end of the line. “How does that sound?”

“Great,” I replied. Honduras is Latin America and that is where I wanted to be.

“We would also like you to be part of our beekeeping program there. How does that sound to you?”

“That sounds good,” I told her without really thinking. Honestly, what was going through my head was if that would get me to Honduras than why not.

My Peace Corps training group for beekeeping, at the Escuela Nacional Agricola in Catacamas, Olancho, Honduras, January 1991.

A beekeeping workshop for fellow Peace Corps volunteers in 1993. Yea, that’s me, the one with the long hair and a beard on the right. Try to find the clean-cut me in the previous photo—Peace Corps will do this to.

So I just sort of jumped haphazardly into the world of beekeeping. Up until that time my only experience with the bees was freezing when a bumblebee would come and circle around my head as a boy playing on the lawn, waiting for it to go away. It also consisted of always having peanut butter and honey sandwiches as an afterschool snack (“Mom, I’m hungry. What’s there to eat?” Honey and peanut butter were ever present in the cupboard.)

And so my beekeeping adventures began, with the bee bug biting (or should I say stinging) me strong during our Peace Corps training. After 23 years they continue to do so. There have been ups and downs in this beekeeping journey, but these little nectar bears have always continued to play a role in my life. You can plan your career as much as possible but you never really know where life will end up taking you.

After marrying my Honduran wife we decided to try to make a go of things in Honduras. I’m still there. I’ve had several different employment experiences during those years but bees have always stayed part of the mix.

Over the years I have also had the opportunity to work with a couple commercial operations. One was a large melon grower in southern Honduras who needed the hives for pollination. The other was a commercial beekeeper in Central Wisconsin (where I grew up) with just about 2000 hives for honey production and almond pollination.

Bees in central Wisconsin—loaded up and ready to move out to the almond groves of California.

Extracting the honey from John’s beekeeping operation in Central Wisconsin. That’s John on the left—a wise man with lots of beekeeping experience under his belt.

I have also had the opportunities to continue teaching beekeeping outside of Peace Corps—most recently through the Partners of the America’s Farmer to Farmer program with the beekeepers of Jamaica. As I write this I am in the beginning phase of my third mission with this project (and presently spending a quiet Sunday morning swinging in a hammock that overlooks the ocean!).

Building pollen traps for top bar hives with beekeepers from the St. Mary Bee Farmers Association on the north coast of Jamaica

So with this I will end this first blog post. Hasta el próximo (until the next one)…


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