When I’m not beekeeping, I’m a scientist who works as a contract employee for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)**. At the current time, I can’t go to work because the president has decided he wants a wall between Mexico and the U.S. to stop illegal immigration and drug flows across that border (even though that’s not how most of either happens). And since he isn’t getting his way, he’s decided to let portions of the U.S. government be shut down – including NOAA. In addition to the 800,000 Federal workers who are either furloughed or forced to work without pay (which used to be called indentured servitude or slavery) during this shutdown, there are 4+ million contract workers like me who are also affected. Fortunately, I work for a cooperative institute that has already gotten some money for my work, so I am still getting paid (at least for now – until the money runs out). But the federal employees that I work with and support are not. I’m working from home as best I can without access to the tools and data that I need to do my job most effectively. I’m spending my time taking on-line programming courses, upgrading my laptop and doing what I can with the limited resources I have.
I could go on at length about the stupidity and injustice of this all, but as my nephew points out, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Since I’m spending my days at home, I have 2-3 fewer hours of commuting each day. That’s freed up some time to take on non-work projects like home maintenance, yoga, meditation and winter beekeeping activities when I’m doing my work.
Going into the winter, I had 6 hives that were still alive. We had a pretty cold December and I noticed that the two hives in my backyard (BnB1 and the rehived observation colony) didn’t have much activity, even on the few warm days. I did an inspection in late December and sure enough, both colonies had perished. But last I checked, the other 4 were still kicking.
BnB1 had a lot of honey, including 4 bars that were cross combed that would have been messy to harvest in the summer. Since I now have some more time on my hands, I figured this would be an opportunity to clean out the hive and harvest some of that. Harvesting honey in the winter has some challenges. Cold honey doesn’t flow out of the crushed wax easily and some of the honey in the combs was already crystallized. So, it took a bit longer to strain than it does in the summer.
I bought a bucket warmer to help the process along. This did help, but I had to constantly monitor the temperature so the honey wouldn’t get too hot (above 94°F). I really need to have a thermo-control for more automation. Even with the warmer, a lot of the honey was still bound up in the wax. I decided that instead of continuing to try to get it out, I would freeze the crushed wax/honey for now and feed it to the bees in the spring if they are short on stores.
In the end, I got 10 pounds of honey which I labeled as #nowall honey in honor of the shutdown. I hope this shutdown ends soon for the sake of my colleagues who are not being paid even though they still have bills (food, mortgages, child care). I’m especially concerned for those federal employees forced to work without pay who keep us safe on a daily basis like FAA air traffic controllers, TSA inspectors, Coast Guard personnel and the National Weather Service (NWS) employees who steadfastly provided weather forecasts during the major winter storm of Jan 19-20th. So, if you know any of these people, show them a little sweetness, help them however you can and tell them you appreciate what they do. Because right now, none of us is feeling that our service is well appreciated.
** my views are personal and are in no way intended to reflect the views of my employers.