When I started beekeeping 4 years ago, besides taking a class, I started looking around the internet for any information I could find. You have to be picky – some information on the intertubes can be sketchy. Since I was using top bar hives, the pickings were kinda slim – most information is about Langstroth hive keeping. One of the first sites I found was the Backyard Bee Hive blog, where I found information about Marty Hardison and his hive design – the first I used for my hives. And, HB, the blog writer, lives in Colorado, so her information on plants and seasonal beekeeping tasks was relevant to me.
Another site I found was Happy Hour at the Top Bar. I thought the name was pretty cool, and as I perused the site, I saw that it had a lot of good information about top bar beekeeping and beekeeping in general. The blog creator, Julie, started beekeeping about the same time I did. She is much more adventurous than I about trying new things like making splits, moving brood/eggs between hives to keep them vibrant and making single piece wedge top bars without losing fingers. She posts great summaries of talks that she attends with information from prominent beekeepers.
I started leaving comments on her blog, and she started following my posts and we developed a virtual beekeeping relationship – sharing information, ideas and laughs. I even won a raffle that she had! HB also chimes in on Julie’s blog.
I knew Julie lived in Connecticut, where I lived for a brief time. When I was back there for my father’s funeral, we took a hike at one of the lakes near where my sister lives. Soon after that, Julie posted a picture of a lake near her house and it looked pretty similar. So, I contacted her offline, telling her that I wasn’t trying to be a stalker, but was wondering if the lake was the same as the one I had just been at. It turned out it wasn’t the same lake, but was pretty close by.
Over the years, our virtual friendship extended to Facebook and even my wife has become her FB buddy. So, besides beekeeping, we keep up with each other’s lives through that venue. Julie was very supportive of me during my cancer treatments and has nudged me along as a beekeeper – I’m not sure I would have done my first split without her support and instructions. We share many of the same tastes in movies. Julie’s hives are named after queens and princesses and my favorite is Princess Buttercup – from The Princess Bride.
Last week, I went to a family reunion back east, and part of the time was spent in Connecticut. As I was planning my trip, I thought it would cool if Julie and I could meet in person, so contacted her and set up a plan to visit. Last Friday, Diana and I finally got to meet Julie (and her family) in person. We had such a good time – eating a delicious lunch, talking about bees, meeting her new chickens, swapping ideas about comb storage and observation hives, and finding 4-leaf clovers. And of course, there’s the honey exchange – sharing the fruits of our bees labors.
It was a wonderful afternoon and the only downside was that the time went by too fast. There are so many questions I forgot to ask – but those will keep until the next time we meet – maybe in Colorado!
For all the disdain of social media, this is an example of the positive power of the internet. Here’s to many more years of friendship and swapping ideas!