May is shaping up to be a very busy month for me and I can’t be happier. I picked up my first hive of bees on Sunday, May 6th and delivered them to their new home in a beautiful garden in Milwaukie, OR. This is my first year keeping bees and I’ll admit to some trepidation and healthy dose of fear about it. Mostly the fear of being stung, which Rebekah from Bee & Bloom said was just something that would happen.
I made the decision early on when I started this business that I would have bees, but I’d gone back and forth about whether I wanted to tend them myself or hire out the management of the hives to Bee & Bloom. In the end I felt it was important for me to learn the basics of beekeeping and have experience with bees, so that I could speak with confidence about the product that I work so intimately with. So in April I ordered my bees from Old Blue Natural Resources and picked them up them on May 6th. I won’t lie, that flimpsy looking wooden box did not fill me with confidence that it would hold the bees to their home while being jostled around in a moving car as I’m headed down the highway to the garden.
Good thing I didn’t see the video of the man who had that happen to him while he was transporting his bees. I think I would have had second, third and fourth thoughts about the whole thing. Lucky for me Rebekah was riding with me so she held the bees and apparently they are pretty docile while in this transition state. They had a new queen and food and that was more than enough to keep them busy. On the drive over I learned a few things, these new hives have new queens and they keep her separated from the bees in this little container otherwise the other bees would kill her since they are from different places. You have to give them time to get used to each other, pheromones time to work their magic.
I suited up for the first time in a bee suit and we went through the process of taking out the queen and putting her in the hive first. Then shaking the rest of the bees into the hive and making sure they have enough food to get them going until they head out and do their own foraging. I freely admit that I was really nervous and to be so close to loud buzzing but I stayed calm because on some level I knew I was protected. The bees were pretty preoccupied with dealing with their new living situation to really feel like the two white clothed blobs were a threat.
We got back to the car and checked each other out to make sure that no stragglers followed us before we changed out of the suits. All in all it took about 20 minutes but I thought it was going to take much longer, so I hadn’t planned for the rest of my morning before I went to work. I spent about an hour reading on bees and ordering more books from the library and Amazon. I’m set to head back out to the garden in a couple weeks to do a first check up on the hive.
I closed out 2017 on a high note, selling out of my first batch of Linden Blossom honey two weeks after our release party. The excitement carried us through the holidays and in January I am back in the midst of planning my next moves. I’ve been working with my friends at Bee & Bloom to educate myself on beekeeping and to plan for my first set of hives to be delivered in May. I’m look forward to sharing with everyone my journey of beekeeping and honey tasting. As a distiller, I spend a good bit of time watching barrels, and for the most part they don’t do anything amazing from the outside, but on the inside I know so much more is happening, which is why aging honey is so fascinating to me. I like to imagine how the barrels interacted with the spirits in them left a memory in the wood and using honey as a medium I can extract those wooden, but not static, memories and share them with a larger audience. I am excited to work with local distilleries and pair their barrels with some unique and flavorful varietals from local apiaries and urban beekeepers. Besides bottled honey, I have spent the last couple months experimenting with flavoring honey and will be offering a selection of creamed honey products this spring.
The Barreled Bee, LLC is coming up on its one year anniversary and it amazes me how fast a year can go by. I took this from an inspiration with a kernal of an idea and jumped into learning about creating a product and a business with the gusto of someone with more free time on their hands than I actually had. I have enjoyed every minute of this past year and I look forward to the coming year and sharing more of my journey with you.
We’ve been working fervently for the last two weeks to get the last finishing touches on photos to use for promotion and to have at the forefront of our site for purchase. Although we didn’t realize how stressful it would be waiting for things to get done, we’re holding up well. It’s amazing seeing the building excitement on social media and we can’t wait for sales of the honey to go live.
We’ve spent the last week working on our Instagram game and prepping demo bottles for a photo shoot and test out the label and bottle finishing ideas. A few hours have been spent mixing wax beads together to get the perfect honey gold color that was going to be the main wax color. Later it was decided to make that color the accent color and go with a simple black wax dip for the overall bottle dip. Searching the aisles we have noticed that small bottles didn’t always have the room on the labels to put instructions on how to best use the product. One solution: small tags on the bottle neck with either simple words or pictures to convey easy messages and add to the design. So a trip to Michael’s and scouring the shelves for tags, paper and decorative twine took up a whole afternoon. The finished product design kind of blew us all away and the impromptu outdoor pictures to get a quick view of the bottle with a label on it was exciting.
We can’t wait for the finished product to make its debut in November.
September flew by faster than expected and continued to be jam packed with activities, deadlines, and a few small bumps in the road to our expected release date. All those things add up to a month of varying levels of excitement, nervousness and panic and a couple wonderful encounters that we want to share with you.
Earlier that month we attended a breakfast meeting hosted by SCORE Portland for women small business owners entitled Slaying Dragons: Women Overcome the Challenges of Small Business Ownership. It was the first time, Lee was going to be out representing the business at an event. At a breakfast gathering at OAME in North Portland, there were 70 women in attendance and all were owners of small businesses from Oregon and Washington.
It felt good to be in a room talking about the same issues, struggles and successes and having other business owners to bounce ideas off of and get advice from. A number of networking opportunities and coffee dates arose from that breakfast meeting and we look forward to when we burst onto the food scene here in Portland.
Do you know a local beekeeper or apiary? The Barreled Bee, LLC is looking for excess honey for sale this fall. Contact us: info at thebarreledbee dot com