February 21, 2011
I've always been fascinated by bees and last summer I decided to join the local Beekeeper's association to find out if I could ever be brave enough to keep bees myself.
Joining a BKA is a great place to start because you can learn a lot from other beekeepers and share ideas and experiences that relate to your particular region. A good association will also offer well organised practical demonstrations and relevant lectures. Some have a mentoring system (look at www.britishbee.org.uk for local associations).
After having a couple of 'hands on' sessions with the hives at the teaching apiary last summer, I decided to enrol on a 3 day beginners course (if you are a member of a BKA you have automatic access to any of the courses). The course aims to provide sufficient information about bees and beekeeping to beginners so that when you start keeping your own bees you will have a good idea of what is going on in the hive, what to do next and your responsibility to the public. It also addresses how best to care for the bees, the equipment needed, the year's tasks in the apiary, extracting and preparation of honey products.
There were no live bees on the course but the lecturers were all experienced beekeepers who were happy to share their knowledge and wisdom. The sessions were lively and informative and by the end of the last day I definitely had a dose of 'Bee Fever.' Now I am hooked it is possible that enthusiasm may cloud my judgement... Beekeeping is so fascinating it is understandable that beginners want to rush out and buy a couple of hives straight away, but beware, I was warned that beginners luck was invented for beekeeping! Perhaps I should develop good handling skills before expanding my enterprise too greatly!
Watch this space...
February 02, 2011
It's that time of the year again, when I need to take stock and think about the successes and failures of last years growing season. I'm not really someone who is organised enough to keep a record but I'm usually pretty clear on a) which varieties didn't work out b) which ones really shone and c) the wild cards which were surprising and memorable.
To find out more about growing unusual types of fruit and vegetables I would highly recommend looking at Mark Diacono's book 'a taste of the unexpected.' Mark is head gardener at River Cottage and runs Otter Farm, the UK's only climate change farm and home to orchards of olives, peaches, almonds and apricots.