Honey Depression

This afternoon we harvested honey from our two hives and I felt, well, disappointed with the haul. We pulled in about 1.5 gallons of honey, probably less, which hardly compares to our 3.75 gallon harvest last year. I will weigh everything out later and share photos, but it felt like a great let down. When you wait all year for something your hopes tend to be high.

We bought this house because of the possibilities we envisioned accomplishing here. Dairy goats, rabbits, half a dozen beehives, chickens meandering about, a cart donkey, turkeys in the summer and a pair of bacon-on-legs in the winter, a fodder shed and aquaponics, a grand garden and fruit orchard. These are our beautiful dreams. They will all become reality, but once I saw the poor honey haul come out of the hive super, I felt a stab of pain. As if some of those dreams faded just a bit.

This must be the first-year blues. We are actually in our fourth year (?) or fifth year (??), I’ve lost count, but we are essentially starting our farm all over again from scratch. Very few of our original systems were transferable to our new farm. New sheds and animal shacks needed to be built on top of fixing up the house and painting. When buying a house, some things take priority and I understand that. I just thought we would be further along by now.

Everyone seems to be in a drought. Freyja only produces a quart of milk a day rather than 2-4 quarts (my fault for not doing an AM and PM milking from the moment I weaned the bucklings). Our chickens have been molting and so have not laid eggs in almost two months. The rabbits have failed to breed on the last two tries and so I have not had a litter since January. And now from the two beehives we have, only one hive produced a harvestable amount of honey. We will even have to supplement feed this winter which we have not done since establishing the hives in the first place.

The only word I can come up with is disappointment. I should be thankful, I should, and I am for the most part, but when I look out on the dry, barren land, it leaves me sullen and somber. It has been six months. Sometimes I think we should be in full operation by now, but then Trevor reminds me that we haven’t seen a full cycle here yet. It will happen, I’m sure it will. Perhaps when the summer sun cools a bit and the season drifts into autumn. Then I can dig holes for the garden and save up some water, the rabbits will appreciate cooler weather and will give me many babies, Freyja will be re-bred and I can use my new milking knowledge for good.

I feel like I am running behind and I can only hope that the end of summer will help me find a rhythm here on the new farm, here in Mountain Ranch, my new home.

21 thoughts on “Honey Depression

  1. Sara, It takes time since you are in a new set up just as you pondered about. Don’t be so hard on yourself, it will come…Know to milk twice a day next year, the bees should do better then too. Your garden is coming along…and you know that has a learning curve with the Hugel and watering issues. I am right there with you in southern AZ -we have been in a drought for years now. We harvest water from our evaporative cooler cleaning itself and dumping – I use that for the plant water. Give it time and give thanks for what your have…and make wise choices.

  2. Hey, don’t be disappointed…I’m not getting ANY honey this year and I’ve got uh, (officially 4 hives). My log hives have honey, but I’m not robbing them because it would be difficult and I’m keeping them intervention-free. My Warre hives swarmed several times and are now just barely catching back up. They say “A swarming hive is a healthy hive,” but sometimes, I wonder.
    I’m hoping that your drought gets relieved by some rain as my former state of Arizona has had recently.

  3. It’s hard not to feel disappointed, eh? But Trevor is right; remember that your previous place had been worked on for more than a few months. It will improve. Just hang in there. I like that you’re looking forward to the cooler weather and better harvests already. It’s good to remember that every location has its own patterns, too, and need adjusting to. But you’ll get there . . . ~ Linne

  4. The drought is effecting everything. I think the birds went home early this year. They just kinda folded their hands and took off. This winter is to be an El Nino. And, for the record, I wish my rabbits would stop breeding.

  5. Out of the seven years I’ve kept bees, I’ve only been able to take honey from them three times. How well they do can depend on so many factors, like whether they tried to swarm, how many colonies are in the area, disease and especially the weather – warmth and sunshine is needed for the bees to forage but on the other hand not enough rain means the plants don’t produce much nectar! It’s such a tricky business. Do you have any ideas why they produced less honey this year?

    • Well that makes me feel better. 🙂 I can’t be doing too badly then. I think that they didn’t produce as much this year because of many factors: moved in the spring, we are in a drought, we no longer live near a creek, totally new forage (no maples or fruit trees anymore), and we had a few severe freezes early in the year and lost several hundred bees from each hive.

      Sarah Cuthill

  6. From what I’ve heard, bee keepers in New England are getting good honey harvests. You having a low honey harvest this year is like the low maple syrup harvest for us in 2013 when the sap ran for a week and spring happened. My rabbits haven’t produced viable kits in a year but I’m hoping for a fall litter. Just found 2 buns dead this morning from what I have no idea. I think those of us farming on a small scale and having the disappointments we are shows us why CAFOs came into being in the first place. In theory, they can control everything and count on a good harvest. I think we should enjoy the cycles of our success as the other way would not only be unhealthy, it would be boring.

  7. Sarah,
    Perk up gal! It takes 5 years to grow anything successfully. For that period it’s growing time. You are just getting started again. Like you say, first year. My first year at organic gardening, I got twenty pounds of tomatoes. Now it’s 300+ pounds off the same number of plants.

    Give yourself a break. New ground, new habitat, and too many changes at once. You’ve accomplished a lot in the short period of time since the move. You should be cheering the abundance you got.

  8. Hey there!!!!! Some years will be less and other’s will be over full . Faith has a way of balancing out. As you wake up and look out the window that alone is a blessing. Look pass the dried out yard. And you’ll see that there is a rainbow looking back. Your home, family, and pets are there and with this hot weather around in the long run it’s giving you some time to rest. Because when the weather gets cooler and everyone will be comfortable to produce more than you going to have time to relax. I myself have no garden now, down to only 1 cow and 1 steer( he’ll be gone next month to the butcher) and 1 calf from 5 that I had. And 6 hens 1 rooster instead of 11 hens and 1 rooster. And with this heat we had I’m thankful. chores are guick and easy for now. So cheer up!!!!!! Look for the rainbow it’s really there! Everyone have a great day!!!!

  9. I feel you. Our two hives are dismal. We had swarms, we now have wax moth in one. My chickens aren’t even molting and laying badly, we think we have an egg eater now and a very bad mother who killed chicks as fast as they hatched. Drought killed a lot of fruit trees. I was ready to give up especially reading other people’s blogs and reading about their great harvests. I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself so I’m glad I’m not the only one 🙂 Things will get better though, they always do. I have to learn patience as well. I want things done now but I know it takes time.

    • Oh man! Sorry, but I’m glad someone else out there has had a bad year too. It just plain sucks to think that you’re the only one. There has been very, very little harvest here this year– never fear, we are in the same boat. That is one of the biggest things that irritate me about the blogging world: people only post the good stuff, the photo perfect stuff, the successes. You don’t see so much of the ugly stuff like rotten, split tomatoes or shrivled gardens.

      We can learn patience and prepare for next year together. 🙂

      • Yup. Next year is going to be awesome. *positive thoughts * lol. This was my first year at our new place as well. They say we’re in for some winter rain so that’s hopefully going to help. I have big plans for my little food forrest and I’m also going to try some Korean natural farming to try and boost fertility in my sun burnt soil. I might even get to it this year if the temps finally drop below 95.

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