Posted on 28th December 2021 at 17:15
That’s another year done! I am not talking about the obvious issue but about what was managed despite the national situation and I shall celebrate the positive people and events that have crossed my path in 2021.
This year has been a little less tough year, financially speaking but still no walk in the park. I expect everyone has struggled to a greater or lesser degree. However, the bees have been a constant. Whatever else goes on in the world the bees in my charge have to be cared for. Whilst that has been a necessity it has provided respite from the troubles for the business and for that I am grateful. I have also discovered that other people have gained something from my posts on my beekeeping adventures and misadventures. That is good to know.
The new season started well enough. A nice cold period to followed by a improving weather picture. However March and April were very dry which affected the development of what little Oil Seed Rape was about and the other hedgerow plants. Then May failed to turn up. The month of May is important to honeybees as they really start to build up in strength as the weather improves through May......except May was cold and wet. Many beekeepers found their bees shivering in their hives in May and when the weather improved in June the bees were not ready to exploit the natural bounty. Then July came along, Whilst other parts of the UK experience heat waves or storms the East Midlands was just grey. Unseasonably cool, not cold and a lot of heavy showers. Consequently many beekeepers had no excess of honey to harvest. What honey that was collected was left to the bees.
My harvest was a little down compared with other years. It seems my strategy for autumn feeding, over wintering and spring routine paid off. When the weather improved in May my bees were ready. Most of the UK Bee Farmers won their harvest from the beginning of June into the middle of July. Scottish Bee Farmers faired better as they had the better of the weather for a change.
I have invested in some new kit for honey processing. One item was because I was upgrading and the other because of a breakdown. The planned purchase was a warming cabinet. The new one is three times the size of the old one which, was second hand when I bought it. The new one has better temperature control and is altogether smarter.
The unplanned kit came about because my heating element on the honey tank failed. No problem I will just replace it…..Erm..no. The threaded ring had cracked. Water jacketed honey tanks are rarer than hen’s teeth. It did not help the situation that the breakdown occurred just as my big Christmas orders were coming in. I supply a number of customers with jars for their hampers. I managed to purchase a tank only to find the heater control was defective. It took a few days of phone calls and testing to convince the supplier of the issue. In short order they discovered the whole batch of controllers were defect and organised a replacement.
It was a tense week.
The unintended consequence was that I had to change the way I filled the jars. The new honey tank was not suitable for fill jars directly from the tank. I bit the bullet and bought a semi-automatic filling machine. It has sped up the jarring process and with consistent accuracy of fill. The pinch point has moved to labelling. That is the next area to improve.
Click HERE to check out my Patreon site to see a video on the topic
I got myself wrapped in corporate clothing.
EPT workwear in Coalville organised long sleeve polos, dress shirts and fleece embroidered with my logo. A nice straight forward transaction.
The dress shirts are for talks when I am trying to be presentable. The polos and fleece are for field work.
School for Bees did not happen again this year. However, I continued to look after the colonies on school sites. I just absorbed them into normal rounds. A couple of schools were generous enough to give me a small stipend to cover the overheads of keeping their bees. Feedback suggested the kids still got a kick about having them around.
The good news is that two new schools have signed up for 2022, which is nice.
If you would like to know more about School for Bees check out this link - School for Bees
Sales of honey have increased throughout the year. I buy my jars, 32 boxes to the pallet. In 2020 I had two pallets worth during the year but had several boxes of jar going into 2021. This year I am into my third pallet of jars!
We have lost one customer this year but gained four. All customers are increasing their orders and online orders through the website remain buoyant. I have one customer that lives in the USA but has the honey delivered to a friend in the East Midlands. We don’t deliver internationally. Maybe that is the next step?
Order your honey online at https://thebeefarmer.co.uk/webshop/honey/
Lock down afforded a little space for other projects since I was not attending events. I sat down and wrote a online foundation course based in the cloud as an online, distance learning platform. I set it up as a separate company and called it Bee-Plus.org. It is hosted on the same platform as university learning platform. It is a fab way to learn. Available 24/7/365. Work at your own pace. Bite size lessons with quiz, chat rooms for questions to the tutors and zoom sessions for tutor face time. Numbers are building after my soft launch to learn the student's way of working on the platform. It is not always used the way you wrote it!
I also started to offer a course “The Business of Bee Farming". Beekeeping is one thing but how to get to do it as business. I have a few people working on the course. Watch this space. I will be developing this suite of courses.
Click on the image above to find out about the courses
email me at email@example.com
People of 2021
Meeting and working with people has been tricky but I, and them, have operated in a cautious manner. Luckily most of my work is outdoors.
I had a summer full of colony visits with m Many of them booked at the previous Christmas as gifts, others as part of a celebration and yet others for lovers of honeybees or just curious. Whilst the weather was generally poor it was warm enough for visitors and the bees. I only had one wash out. Still, we had a nice chat stood under the top part of the tailgate until we had to give best to the rain. We got soaked. The couple came back another day and were just as pleased.
It was an odd feeling to discover that many visitors prime reason for their short stay in the East Midlands was to have a colony visit with me. Then they went off to do other activities, which seemed mainly to be eating and drinking. I think I have to improve my knowledge of local pubs and eateries. I might start listing them on the website.
Book your summer colony visit by clicking HERE
The colony visits have been run at Cattows Farm for a number of years. We have a nice relationship. Cattows sows lots of flower bearing plants, Pick you own raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and various types of currants along with sunflowers and pumpkins which all feed the bees and bee pollinate the plants, giving a crop. Cattows also has a splendid new café. The café offers afternoon teas which I promote. Many folk make a day of it with bees and a posh tea; come for cake and stay for the bees. My honey is now a feature of the deli so now you can take a pot of honey home with you.
Check out Cattows Farm by clicking HERE
I have a second venue to run colony visits. It is called, Squirrel at Wellsborough. A little over three years ago Tony & Jess asked me to support their application to convert a stable block into a craft venue and shop. A very long story short, this summer we were able to install a hive and have our first colony visit at Squirrel!
Jess does make very nice cake, just saying.
Click on the logo to see their website.
I have done a few talks for the Women’s Institute (WI) and other social or environmental groups. One sad thing is that WI do not sing “Jerusalem” anymore. I used to like that.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to give a talk to your group.
When doing my limited but necessary long distance travelling, I managed to meet up with some great beekeepers. All passionate about bees. Two sets of people worthy of special mention (if I mention them all we will be here all night)
A. @Beekeepingkids on Twitter are based at a primary school in Cumbria. Encouraging, enthusing, educating and inspiring children in the wonderful world of all bees, beekeeping, nature & the environment. Committed but underfunded. They know, as I do, that beekeeping can help kids in many ways include social development and self esteem.
B. @GwenynGruffydd on Twitter based in Carmarthen, Wales. Gruff started from nothing 11 years ago when he decided to pursue his dream of beekeeping. He runs a small holding in rural wales. He also has a Youtube channel about his work and life. A more committed family to beekeeping is hard to imagine.
I supported “Swad in Bloom”. They had a beehive in the same way as the school for bees except they were in the middle a town in South Derbyshire. Swad in Bloom shaped their civic project around bees, pollination and flowers. We had open days, cakes were baked, tea consumed and a hive built.
Swad in Bloom is a not for profit community group dedicated to the enhancement of Swadlincote Town Centre through horticultural, environmental and creative activities involving the wider community.
Click HERE to checkout their facebook page or search Facebook for Swad in Bloom
The Patreon and YouTube channels are growing slowly. It is a bit slow over the summer because I am mainly doing bee stuff. Although these are different things YouTube provides the tools to execute the Patreon service. Patreon is described as a membership service. I would explain it as being like a magazine subscription except you can pledge different amounts of subscription for different rewards and perks. Patreon is a way for folks support the work of their chosen maker/creator/artist/project. Much of Patreon content is video. I provide exclusive content on Patreon, usually in the form of a diary. The patrons also get first view of all the video content and rewards based on their level of support.
I have been collecting video content over the summer which I intend to edit and release over the winter. If you follow me a social media you may see posts connected with the video releases.
Projects of 2021
If you follow me on social media you will know I have spent quite a bit of time on top of roofs and in tight corners. Why? Rescuing honeybee colonies from places they are not wanted.
These “cut outs” are time consuming but the householders have to be applauded for taking the trouble to have the bees humanely removed. Some of these adventures end up on my Youtube channel.
Find my Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqIOVbMic-u_8eVFBS2wqnA
For the past few years I have been providing consultancy to Aldi’s bee hotel at their UK HQ. Aldi have a corporate reasonability budget which provides the staff with a beekeeping facility. It’s a great thing for such a big company to do.
I train the beekeepers then guide them along their beekeeping journey. Between us have improved the temperament of the bees and with it their honey production and general wellbeing.
The beekeepers sell their excess honey to the Aldi staff to the company's chosen charity. They raised £1,500 this year.
Youth Landscaper (YLS)
Over the last 18 months I have been working with a youth group called Youth Landscapers Collective. They created a project called “The telling of the bees”. As the YLS Instagram post puts it so succinctly;
“The Telling of the Bees was the result of Youth Landscapers Collective collaborating over 18 months with local bee farmer @the_bee_farmer and a team of artists including @jimbrouwer @urbanprojections @beakerthon and Jo wheeler. We used creative multi-media processes explore and research bees and their role in our lives.
The Telling of the Bees is a magical, immersive sound and light experience that draws on the curious myths and extraordinary facts about bee behaviour and the nature of their collective intelligence.
The piece includes music generated from the collection of audio recordings we made during the project. They include the tooting of queen bees, a moving swarm of bee sounds, the voices of YLS replicating bees in a hive and the sound of the woodland on the Timber site itself.
With bee populations in decline, this collaboration between Youth Landscapers, David the Bee Farmer, the Boothorpe Bee colony seeks to connect us more deeply with our native pollinators and share their incredible story at this time of climate emergency.”
Check out the YSL blog for the story of "The telling of the bees” at Timber 2021 at https://youthlandscapers.com/2021/07/15/the-telling-of-the-bees-at-timber-21/
There is a video of the piece as well as pictures.
Take a little time out, whilst things are quiet, to look at their wider work at https://youthlandscapers.com
An unexpected fall out of the pandemic is greater use of webinars. I have attended webinar of speakers from all over the world, mainly speaking on bee keeping topics but also on environmental subjects. Normally one would have no chance even hearing about the talk must less attending the talk in a foreign country for two hours on a Tuesday night. Self-improvement through education is always a good thing to do. Stay curious!
I was engaged to provide a number of honeybee colonies for a PhD student . The goal of the study was to discover the effect of honeybees as a pollinator on cultivated fruits. Interim observation during the trial have thrown up some unexpected results. I am not revealing them to anyone. That is for the PhD student thesis.
I provided a quantity of honey for Everards brewery in Leicester. They have moved to a new facility in Leicester and they have a development brewery. They are now doing tours and have a café. I am finding it hard to find something not to like.
I had a special trip out to Leicester City Football Club. I created a sampling table and display for the home game Champions Club pre-match breakfast.
I provided techincal background to author Laura Riley's novel "Falling in to us"
Wren Richardson has hated me from the second I stepped foot on her precious farm. I offer an olive branch, which she snatches from me and uses to slap me in the face. Yet despite her stubborn, determined and infuriating ways, I am drawn to her like a worker bee to a queen."
Find out how Cole & Wren get on at Goodreads - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58765466-falling-into-us
On safer ground, I contributed to the "Forever podcast" You can hear what was said at https://www.buzzsprout.com/348536/9010804
I went to the first Bee Farmer Association (BFA) meeting for two years. It was held at Quince Honey Farm in Devon. Ian & Paddy Wallace gave us a great day out. Ian gave a very infomative and hillarious talk on the development of the Quince honey farm and operating at scale.
If you are passing South Molton, Devon Quince is a great place for a stop. On the ride home I took a detour to see Gwenyn Gruffyd in South Wales It turned in to a 380 mile days ride. Tired but happy.
In late December 2012 I was informed I had won the UK Champion Slow food producer of the year for my honey. What was most gratifing is that the award is based a public vote. My customers and supporters came out in force to register the value they put on my honey and the other work I do in education and the environment. That gives me a great deal of encouragement to continue what am doing.
Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. It was founded in 1989 in Italy. They are a not–for–profit organisation seeking to promote a better way to eat, celebrating the rich food traditions of the different nations that make up the UK, and protecting our edible biodiversity. They engage members of the public, food producers, chefs, businesses, academics and a global network, spreading and enacting their philosophies internationally and locally.
There were many categories in the competition. They are listed below with the winners. These category was duplicated for each of the home countries. The best in each home nation category were judged and became the best in the UK, except for the Slow Food Cahmpion of the UK award which is won simply by the most votes polled.
Best Deli or Grocer
Best Restaurant/Food Eatery
Champion Slow Food Product
I was in august company and feel honoured to be mentioned in the same breath as these producers. Click HERE to see all the winners and to find out the Slow Food person of the year.
I have already signed up for Ashby show and Donisthorpe Apple Day. In the New Year I have to look into Ashby Steam fair, the Canal Festival. I have asked as a guest speak for Slow Food at Timber Festival. I am talks about other involvement at Timber festival.
I am keen to go back to Melton Mowbray Food festival. That is always a good event, although I think I spend all the profit from the day on fabulous fast food and comestible to take home. I have WI talks booked for 2022 and one in 2023 (if I am spared)
Hopes for 2022
Relief from the on-going pandemic would be nice. Besides that; more time to do videos, a few more School for Bees locations, continued visitors to the colony sessions and creating more beekeepers through the foundation course.
It would be nice to see the online foundation course at Bee-Plus.org get into its stride. Folk that have completed the course have found it comprehensive and detailed. With folks being locked down it would be a great thing to do in readiness for the spring for the start of the new beekeeping season.
Thank you for taking the time to read this tome. Thank you for providing support to me in whatever way you were able. It is very much appreciated.
I wish you a peaceful New Year.
As Dave Allen was fond of saying as he signed off, “Good night and may your God go with you”.
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