An overview of beekeeping.
Deep in a New Mexico winter, with the moaning wind pushing the temperature even further below zero, we huddled around our wood stove and pondered ways to come up with the meager sum needed to continue our back-to-the-earth existence through the coming summer.
David, 8-year-old Amy and I had left a life of relative affluence behind us when we moved from the midwest to New Mexico, and it wasn’t without a great deal of self-discipline and weeding out of old attitudes that we’d been able to reduce our exchange of actual cash for goods or services to about $100 a month. Still, as long as we continued to drive a car (in this case, a cantankerous ‘58 pickup) and until we were well enough along to grow-feed for our animals, money was a necessary evil.
But what could we do to get needed income without entangling a large part of ourselves in a world we were trying to get away from? The general exchange rate of time for money was just not in our favor even if we DID want to work away from home which, of course, we didn’t. Besides, we weren’t within easy commuting distance of any town offering employment anyway.
To make matters worse, the unemployment rate in New Mexico is such that if one wants a job he often has to make it . . . witness the number of craft shops in the state. My husband, David, and I—however—were trained in very unmarketable skills: we were both college English teachers. In time, perhaps, we could learn to weave, make pottery or do leathercraft. But time and tools were short.
We had been quite inspired by Scott and Helen Nearing (authors of LIVING THE GOOD LIFE) and the way they had cultivated a life style that required as little cash as possible. For what they did need, a small maple sugar operation was sufficient.
Maple trees are few and far between in New Mexico, however, but—aha!—people everywhere crave a little sweetening, and they’II pay those that supply it for them.
Why not bees? Why not the honey business?
Actually our reasoning processes were somewhat more slugish and somewhat less independent than I’ve indicated here. The suggestion that we go into bees came first from an older friend who had kept them as a boy in New Mexico and our advisor remembered enough about beekeeping to give us the confidence necessary to carry out our scheme. Otherwise I’m not sure we’d have had the courage to face all the unfamiliar equipment or the bees themselves.