Friday, January 29, 2010
A Sample of Life on a Bee Farm
Zachary Kaufman, The Columbian
An array of honey produced in hives near different crops sits on a table to be sampled during Jacqueline Freeman’s class on bee-friendly beekeeping Saturday.
Zachary Kaufman, The Columbian
By Michael Andersen
Columbian Staff Writer
Sunday, January 24, 2010
By Zachary Kaufman
Jacqueline Freeman, right, listens for activity inside her Warre hive Saturday at Friendly Haven Rise, her teaching farm east of Battle Ground.
If you go
What: Natural farming classes
Where: Friendly Haven Rise farm, 20309 N.E. 242nd Ave., Battle Ground,WA
When: Year-round. The next beekeeping class is Feb. 20.
Cost: Varies, but often $50 per six-hour class.
Information: http://www.friendlyhaven.com or 360-687-8384.
Natural beekeeping tips
• Who knew? Bees love seaweed. Pick it up and leave it where they’ll find it. “Seaweed has every mineral known to man,” Freeman said.
• To make a traditional Langstroth wood-box hive more bee-friendly, remove the artificial comb bases and thread a wire through each frame. Bees will build their own structures.
• Consider other hive types. Long, low top-bar hives are easy to use but work best where it’s warm and dry. Warre hives are upright and harder to move, but they closely resemble bees’ natural home: a hollow tree stump.
• Love bees but don’t want to keep them yourself? Plant an herb garden. “Herbs are bee medicine,” Freeman said.
Thirteen cotton-clad bee aficionados, ages 22 to 63, piled into Jacqueline Freeman’s little country kitchen.
Freeman hoisted a yellow jar of butter-thick honey and explained, sadly, how things are done at big bee farms.
“They take their honey, and they feed them — guess what?” Freeman said.
“Sugar water?” one woman wondered.
“High-fructose corn syrup?” asked Ray Marshall of Hockinson, standing beside her.
Freeman nodded, swinging her long blond hair. “It used to be they fed them sugar,” she said. “Now it’s cheaper to feed them high-fructose corn syrup.”
“I hear they’re doing that with the humans, too,” Marshall quipped. The crowd in Freeman’s kitchen laughed knowingly.
Welcome to Clark County’s backwoods boot camp for natural honey production. From the Venersborg teaching farm she runs with her husband, Joseph, Freeman said she’s taught the secrets of bee-friendly beekeeping to hundreds of people who drive in from as far as Bellingham and Ashland, Ore.
They pay $50 for the daylong introduction to bee-raising, including a detailed slide show, hands-on time with three different wooden beehive models and (occasionally) Freeman’s vocal impersonations of different bee sounds.
Freeman’s been leading the sessions every month for three years, one of 20 different classes on natural and organic farming they offer on their 10-acre lot east of Battle Ground.
Freeman said bees have a special place in her heart. They have a special place in her house, too: she estimates that 50,000 of them have been living in their north-facing wall for at least eight years.
That hive was one reason Freeman wanted to buy the place.
“I definitely want to live in a house that bees live in,” she said Saturday. “I put my ear up against the wall, and I can hear them in there. All winter long. There’s something comforting about that.”
Some would find a nest so close disturbing, she knows — just as they’d find bees disturbing in general. But people often have the wrong idea about bees, she said.
“Bees are hygienic,” Freeman told her class. “They don’t put up with any mess in the house. … As long as we don’t take them out, we don’t have a problem.”
Freeman’s 13 students hung on her recommendations Saturday, taking careful notes and cracking jokes with each other during intervals.
Nancy Roberts of La Center said she’d wanted to raise bees “for years and years” but only taken it up two years ago.
After losing her bees both years running, she said, she’d tracked down Freeman to learn more about hives that let bees build their combs in natural patterns rather than following human-designed wood frames.
“That makes more sense to me,” Roberts said. “Let the bees do it their way.”
Michael Andersen: 360-735-4508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.