Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Moving Bees/An Advertisement for Home
For those of you who are unfamiliar with my family, my dad is a bee-keeper in the north east portion of the lower peninsula. In the northern part of the state, farmers raise a lot of cash crops (I think that's what they're called), like cucumbers, peppers, etc. And unlike most plants, cucumbers are not pollinated by the wind. They have to pollinated by bees. So, farmers paid my dad to unload a few hives into their cucumber fields.
It was a pretty good gig, especially for me, because for me it was about the least amount of work I could do with fewest stings (unless we dropped a hive off the forklift, which happened sometimes) and the most money per hour. It was also not a job you preformed in the heat of the day when the bees were out of their hives, but in the cool of the evening or in the early morning. Most of the time, "moving bees" went something like this. We would leave the house around 7:30 or so and drove my dad's huge, flat bed truck (that was from the 70's) with his orange fork lift (a converted tractor with big tires) about a half an hour north (which says nothing for how many miles it is, because on a good day with perfect conditions my dad's truck could only go about 60 mph). Once we got to where we were going, it was still inevitably too hot or too sunny, so we would go to one of several greasy spoons that we haunted in the summers. We would have an ice cream or a piece of pie or my dad would have a cup of coffee, and I would have a Coke and some candy until it "cooled down". Then we would we drive the big truck out to the job site, smoke the bees with a little smoker to make them sleepy, and my dad would take his forklift and load them on the back of his flat bed. Then we would drive out to the cucumber patch and unload the bees. I'm not sure if you understand yet how this was such a good gig. My entire list of responsibilities included:
- Be a passenger
- Eat pie/ice cream/candy
- Drink Coke
- Puff two or so whiffs of smoke into an already sleeping/calm hive
- Stand and watch as hives were unloaded from a truck
- Be a passenger again
- Get paid
However, my favorite part about moving bees were the nights that my dad had to move lots of bees into a remote field and it took him a long time to unload all the bees, because on those nights (even at 14 or 15 years old) I realized that it in the calm, hazy, summer twilight, that Michigan was perfect. I would stand there on some little tractor lane, often by a small crick (or less romantically, a drain ditch), listening to the crickets, watching indigo flood the sky, breathing in sweet, warm air and admiring how beautiful it was.
Don't get me wrong, I've always been and always will be a city girl. "Urban," is how Brian often describes my clothing and preferred lifestyle. But when I hear crickets, or see mist coming off a body of water, or smell that familiar and sweet smell of earth, I think of home and I think about moving bees with my dad. And I remember again how great Michigan is in the summer.