The harvest is over |

The harvest is over

Monday was the autumnal equinox, the end of summer and the beginning of fall. It was 49 degrees last Friday, just a taste, then the nights warmed back into the 50s over the weekend. It was 39 degrees this morning.

I finished the last of the harvest Friday, “extracting” is what beekeepers call it. All of the honey has been extracted and bottled and tucked away safely. Over the weekend I cleaned up all of the extracting equipment and during the week it will all be stashed away and the transformer toy will go from Honey House to candle factory. Factory may be a little grandiose, it’s basically my hideaway in the winter and I make candles, but you get the idea. The candle making does contribute to the cash flow, so not only do I enjoy my winter days in the Honey House dipping candles I make a little money at it to boot.

Even with the loss of the honey still on the beeyard out west that was washed away I got a little more than I had expected. Before I start extracting, before I make the trip to Denver for containers, I go through the beeyards and try to get as good an idea as possible just how much honey I have on. To this I may add an estimate of what I think may still come in, based on my years of experience and the characteristics of the particular season. I’m usually pretty close.

I find though, that as the losses mount and the statistics become more and more discouraging, I tend to shy away from the figures. I don’t really want to know exactly how many colonies I do or don’t have, how many I’ve lost in the past months or year, how many of the packages made it to fall or spring and just how much they actually cost me.

I do have to make a pretty close estimate of what the crop is going to be though so I don’t get more containers than I need and have that money tied up in unused containers sitting in the Honey House taking up room. Worse, I don’t want to get to the end and find that I don’t have enough containers to put the last of the honey in. I’m usually pretty good at it, but this year I was way under, so when I added up the figures I was surprised with a nice bonus. Nevertheless it was still a small crop compared to what would have been normal just a few years ago, but I’ll have enough so that everyone should get some and I should be able to parcel it out over the coming year.

It’s a strange set of circumstances around here post-flood. For many, and for much of the surrounding territory it’s business as usual. You don’t have to travel far though without entering what sometimes looks like a war zone; roads torn away and bridges gone, fences leaning downstream strung with debris or torn out completely, houses flooded or washed away, large logs or tree stumps far out into now dry fields.

I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in early June of 1965 and on the 15th Barbara and I packed all of our worldly possessions in a 1959 Volkswagen Bus (we discovered the Volkswagen Bus long before the Hippies) and headed for Colorado and a future we knew not. We passed the Great Denver Flood of 1965 on the 16th as its last flood waters flowed into the streets of the small river towns of western Nebraska and bled into the soil.

I got a summer job with Santa Fe Truck Lines loading semis out of the old Moffat Road Railway Station under the 15th Street Viaduct. We would load three to five semis in a shift with all sorts of mixed freight; appliances, feed, piping, irrigation equipment, sides of beef, destined for towns to the south that I would only see many years later, like Las Vegas, New Mexico, where last spring, headed for a conference in Santa Fe and behind schedule I pulled off into the old part of town and did a radio interview by cell phone with the Santa Fe Public Radio Station. Little could I have imagined when I was loading those semis what the future would hold for me.

Later in the summer I made deliveries around lower downtown, to the Wazeee Market and Denargo Market and many of the warehouses and businesses and saw first hand what the flood had done. In some of the warehouses close to the river the workers would point with awe and pride at the flood they were recovering from and the high water mark was often 10 or 12 feet up on the brick walls. Everything was coated with a sheen of gray/brown silt that had a very distinctive aroma whenever it was moistened by rain or humidity.

Up until now the 1965 flood was the largest on record and its effect was dramatic, but it pales in comparison to what we have just experienced because the current floods were so massive and widespread. Many beekeepers lost colonies or like me, had entire beeyards washed away. Amid the devastation were small signs of hope, and the attached photo is one of those, the small beeyard of Richard Carlson just upstream from the Haystack Golf Course on Left Hand Creek. The flood waters carved away at their small island, as you can see in the photo, but when the waters receded they had been spared.

Now that the honey is off I’ll make a round of all the bees and try to get them set for winter. It is 39 degrees this morning, for the second day in a row. Jack Frost is knocking on the door. ❖