Monday, February 20, 2012

A Companion, A Beekeeper, and A Man With a Memory

My companion, Bill, came to live with me ten years ago this June 2012.  When we got together, he had been widowed the year before, losing his wife of 23 years, Sharon.  She had several health issues and suffered from chronic illnesses which resulted in her death.  There is a photograph of Bill and Sharon on the living room wall when they were young and newly married.

Bill is a man with a phenomenal memory possibly due to being a savant.  He remembers many weather statistics, history facts, coin collecting, sports, baseball, and other trivia. He is also a skilled beekeeper, having been raised in a family that had a highly successful bee and honey production business since the early 1920's.  The family bee business no longer exists, as his parents are deceased and his siblings are also gone.  He still keeps bees as a hobby and is very knowledgeable about all the ins and outs of beehives and honey

In the course of living with Bill and sharing our companionable love and affection, I have learned a lot about bees and what is involved with keeping them.  It has been an interesting lesson to learn about bees, especially at a time when Colony Collapse Disorder is in the news media  in the last few years.   When Bill works with his beehives, he quite often gets stung and rubs the area until the stinger comes out.  Occasionally, there is a hive that is more miserable than others and he speaks of the bees boiling out of it in anger when disturbed.  It doesn't help that one of the other beekeepers will bang the wooden supers that house the beehives and get that particular hive riled up, so it does boil out angrily.

Bears are not a friend to beekeepers and ways are devised to protect hives from the damage of foraging bears.  Some beekeepers place electric fence around several hives attached to batteries and set up cameras to view the marauders.  Other locations may be chosen due to being protected by lots of brush, such as prickly ash, or in areas where bears are seldom sighted.  The area around Fort Drum was formerly good for honey production, but now bears are often found there and do irreversible damage to what Bill calls beautiful hives.

A lot of sweat and labor goes into honey production and the building up of hives.  The hobby beekeepers who are in the apiary field on a small scale, generally wrap their hives in tar paper in the fall to winter them during the colder months.  Hopefully, during the winter there will be a few days of warmth, so the bees are able to have a flight out of their hive to dispose of their bodily waste.  If this doesn't happen, survival is not as optimum.

I have learned in the course of my lessons from Bill, that I'm not afraid of bees.  I sit in his truck sometimes when he's working with them and I have the windows down.  I have been stung once and remembered Bill's advice of not getting all angry about it and slapping and jerking around in panic.  But then, neither do I don a hat and veil and use the smoker to calm them as he does.  It is a mesmerizing experience to hear the hum of a hive, smell the sweet pine needle smoke, and watch Bill minster to these creatures as they form a haze of flight around him.  I have seen the master at work with his bees. 

Most likely, there will be more posts about bees in the course of my writing.  It gives me an abundance of material to write about and reflect on from our ten years together.  Bill's aptitude for memory, I will write about another time.  He has been written about before in other places and I hope to expound on what has been written and give  a fuller picture of him.  I hope there will be better understanding in the course of writing about Bill and our life together.  One person made a comment to me once that he knew all about that big German.  I take that as a challenge, in my own way, and Bill might add, "What's the matter jealous, because you're not one?"

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget to continue your blog, Laura. I enjoy reading your posts. They are interesting and informative. They are good enough to make your dad proud of them. Please continue telling us about Bill and yourself. Gail