Qualifications and Committees

[insert statement about not updating this blog in forever]

In other news, I passed my Basic exam! The exam was in August last year, and after a lot of revision and last-minute swotting, the exam itself turned out to be quite the ordeal!

The exam environment really does do quite amazing things to you, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done any sort of exam, and I think my last practical exam was my driving test – at least 10 years ago. So I was already a bit nervous going in, but once I’d burned my thumb trying to light my smoker I knew I needed to really calm down.

The structure of the exam sets up the basic things that you would do as a beekeeper, during a regular inspection, and throws in a frame assembly question and some theory/knowledge questions as well.

First was the frame assembly. Which went quite well; bit dodgy in the final three nails which shouldn’t come out of the bottom of the frame, but with me inevitably do, but the smoker was another story. Basically, everything that could go wrong, did. I burned my thumb, I didn’t have enough fuel, I swamped the flame, the bloody thing went out once I declared it ready so I had to go back again – ugh, it makes me shudder just to think about it.

But after this point I decided just to take a really deep breath and carry on as normal. I call this the Driving Test Mentality. In my driving test (all those years ago) I was asked to demonstrate parallel parking, and all of us 17-year olds could never decide whether touching the kerb, however slightly, while parallel parking was an immediate fail – but we all knew we didn’t want to risk it. Of course, I was nervous and so I touched the kerb. Just a bit, but I definitely touched it. I told myself to pretend that the examiner hadn’t noticed, and carried on. I passed. My friend on the other hand, touched the kerb and decided that was the end of that; drove without care for the remainder of the test and failed. Hence, the Driving Test Mentality. I just pretended that the examiner for my Basic hadn’t noticed my swearing at the smoker and bumping the bees (argh, I never done this before or since!) and carried on regardless.

Still, I was pretty surprised to hear that I had passed with merit. Really, really chuffed. and very glad it is overĀ  – well done to everyone in my group last year for making it through!

My BBKA Basic certificate.

This has since been useful in my further correspondence with the council about an allotment plot – more on this later.

Since the last time I updated, I’ve another bee-related announcement, and you have to promise not to laugh.

In my everyday life I am a librarian at a university, and over the course of being at Twickenham I’ve obviously mentioned this to people. When the association librarian of 23 years decided to retire at the end of last season, my name was suggested as the new association librarian. It won’t surprise you to hear that I am now the librarian at T&TVBKA.

I went home over Christmas and thought about it and got really, really into the idea. I talked to a friend at work – “you could create your own classification system!” – and I am such a library geek that I got very excited about this. Since agreeing, I’ve got worse, and have made a project plan, documentation, a guide to accessing online resources, and – really – a classification system.

My first committee meeting is this Wednesday, and honestly I feel like I’m just going to ask hundreds of stupid questions. But it’s all part of my journey with bees, and I’m going to update the blog with the details too. If anyone’s interested in the process of creating a classification system, just let me know. Even if you don’t, I’ll probably write about it here regardless.

Happy April!



The dream is over?

So, one of my big beekeeping goals this year was to get my own bees. And you may remember that I have hinted on this blog that I have discovered a local allotment and contacted the council about keeping bees on a plot/corner there.

Well, after a few weeks of emailing, they’ve got back to me to say that they can’t allow me to keep bees – yet. Sigh. It’s a bit of a blow, to be honest, and I had been holding out hope even though I knew they could say no.

When I first contacted them I was sent a very well-written letter about how keen they were to have beekeepers on the allotments and stipulating their responsibilities and mine. Everything was very sensible, and a few things that had come up in questions at Twickenham were already addressed in the letter so I didn’t really have very many questions about it. I requested a letter of recommendation from the TTVBKA and the council considered whether they would recommend me and put the suggestion out to the plotholders so that any concerns could be addressed (allergies etc).

It really comes down the the catch-22 situation of: I don’t have experience of keeping my own bees, but I need someone to give me a little bit of public land so that I can build up experience of keeping my own bees. I’m not wholly surprised. My two years experience at TTVBKA is fine, I think, but it’s not the same as having my own bees. Also, they’d really like me to have the Basic. Which hopefully I will do by the end of this season, and so that should help!

So it’s a bit of a bugger, but the dream is by no means over yet. For one thing, there is the possibility that I could put a hive on another site. The only issue with that site is that it is 25 minutes drive away. Not huge, no, but I don’t want to leap in without thinking about everything that impacts. It will take a bigger chunk of time from my week, I’ll have to consider storing material there, and I will have to be very organised when it comes to extracting honey as it’ll be a drive to get the frames back and forth. But it’s certainly not impossible, so my next task is to give it some serious thought – watch this space, I guess!

Starting the 2017 season with news

So my season started, and I have been late in updating the blog to reflect this (what a surprise).

I went back to the apiary in Twickenham at the beginning of March, to pay up my BBKA membership for the year, and say hi to the beekeepers. After starting a new job in April last year, my free time and work/life balance really got out of kilter, and I couldn’t find the time to go down to the apiary every Friday evening. It’s been a year in the ‘new’ job now, we’ve moved house, and I’ve been able to change my working hours a little, and so time and headspace for bees is opening up again. Sigh of relief.

After a year away it was comforting that some of the members remembered who I was, and the Secretary’s first words to me were ‘doing your Basic this year, then?’ – to which my answer is yes!

This year’s major beekeeping goal is passing the Basic Exam, and last weekend I went down to the apiary again to meet the rest of the group I’ll be studying with this year. Last Friday was a beautiful sunny day, the first summer-feeling day we’ve had this year, and I optimistically brought my suit with me. Of course, we didn’t actually get to open the hives as it does still get cooler and darker in the evenings by the time we get there, but lucky me – I carried the suit, boots, and hive tools all the way from Surrey to London to Twickenham and back to Surrey again all in one day. Oops.

In any case, it was great to meet the other 12 people who will be studying for the Basic this year, and the two tutors who will be taking us through the year. We talked about the format of the exam, the curriculum, and got to know each other a little. The season proper will begin next Friday and of course I will be missing it, so in two weeks’ time I’ll see which group I’m in, and what they’re going to plan for the year. I’m really looking forward to getting going, and feeling like this goal is back on track!

Finding a home for bees

Another goal for this year was to get my own bees, if I could manage it. And now that we’ve moved house I have had a minor breakthrough (hopefully soon to grow in size). While wandering around the new area, I stumbled upon some allotments which are only five minutes walk away. Which seemed perfect! My current arrangements involve around 30 minutes travelling each way and so they’re not always the most convenient (although they are definitely interesting and worthwhile).

I emailed the council to find out more about this, and this week received a reply. This in itself was enough to get me jumping about my hotel room (I have been away at a conference all week) and I’m hoping that I can get enough things to align that it might be a possibility this year after all.

So, if it’s not too much of an imposition, keep your fingers crossed, reader. And I’ll be praying to the beekeeping gods for a bit of good luck.

New Year, new bees?

So, it looks like I gave this blog its own off-season – oops!

After my last post in October last year, I didn’t have anything more to do with bees. J and I weren’t able to meet up after that, and the hives didn’t really need opening over the Winter anyway, so that was that for 2016!

And what have I been up to since? Mostly, I have been settling into my new job, and I’ve also been very busy with buying my first place, so there’s definitely been enough to be getting on with. And now I’m back to thinking about my beekeeping plans for the next year.

My main aim for 2017 is to pass the Basic Beekeeping Exam, and I’ve also been thinking about where I might keep my own bees. Late last year I contacted Surrey Beekeeping Association and received a really lovely response about their courses, which at the time were fullybooked for 2017. But even if they weren’t, my work commitments would make it difficult to get down to their apiary in time for meetings, so I have a feeling that’s a stretch to far at this point. Interestingly, we were walking around the area in our new place last weekend, and stumbled upon some allotments which we had never seen before! So my new plan is to contact the Council about keeping bees there. To be honest, I’m not holding my breath on that, as I’m not sure they’ll allow it, or how long it might take to sort out, but it’s definitely worth a go! And it’s so close to home!

But I’ve also renewed my TTVBKA membership for 2017, and shifted my working hours ever so slightly so now I can definitely make it there every Friday once the season starts and get back into the routine. First meeting of the year is next week, so I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of that again, and I’ll see if anyone remembers who I am.

So after a bit of a busy year with lots of adjusting a big life changes, I think I’m ready to go back to my beekeeping goals and see how far 2017 can take me – all to be detailed in this blog, of course. Welcome back!

October catchup

OK, so I’ve not actually seen a lot of bees in the past few weeks – in mid-September I was away at a conference for work and stayed in York for the weekend so I didn’t get to come home, and since then either J or I has been unavailable. I’m currently at home on the sofa, feeling ill and not at work. This Sunday, which is usually bee-day, is my birthday, and so I probably won’t be around then either – if I’m not still ill, that is!

But for lots of other beekeepers this is a busy time of year, with honey shows taking place at lots of different associations and on 29th October the National Honey Show is taking place. I just googled the lectures and they look really interesting!

For me, I’d like to attend, but I still don’t have any bees to take the knowledge back to! Hopefully in the next year or so things will settle a bit and I’ll be able to get on top of this as a plan and get some bees of my own. So who knows, maybe I’ll be attempting to gather enough honey to show in a year!