Thursday, July 2, 2015

Off to Margarittaville!

Sitting in Margarittaville in the airport as I write this, sipping on one of my first ice cold beverages of the month, ready to depart back home.

We spent our final day on a beautiful 8-mile hike to Black Sand Beach as well as a waterfall in the middle of the forest. Our tour guide Lion (ironically he was a vegetarian) was full of song and spirit as he led us into the unknown. All throughout our hike we stopped at many trees and other various plants for a quick lesson. We learned about roots that give you a strong back when boiled, flowers that can be squeezed into the eye to improve eyesight, and plants that improve memory when boiled. It was amazing how easily he was able to differentiate so many plants that all looked so similar. 

The rest of the day was full of relaxation. This has by far been the most wonderful experience of my life and will surely only be the beginning of my journey.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The final days

Today is the 29th and I only have a couple more days of this wonderous lifestyle before going back to the states. Yesterday I spent a total of 8 hours in the car driving to pick up my brave mother who wanted to join in on the closing hours of this adventure. On the way back from the airport, I caved. We stopped at the Jerk Centre and each had a delicious serving of Jerk Chicken. The vegan lifestyle is nice, but meat every now and then is nicer.

The following day we started the morning with a walk to the cliff side. Mom came on this adventure and we hiked through the town until reaching our destination. Here the little Rastas, who were serving as our tour guide, spent close to an hour attempting to remove a stick from under a boulder. Eventually, they had to settle for a refrigerator door.

Once returned, I gave my mother an orientation in the bees so she would know I've actually been learning while here. We suited up and I showed her what a routine check on a hive looks like. After this we went to the beach and cooled off until lunchtime.

After lunch, we drove off-road, up to the apiary we were constructing in the mountains. We brought about 16 cinderblocks with us to prepare for moving the hives. We also cutlassed out a lot more of the area and set the debris aflame.

To wrap up the night we ate a delicious dinner, snacked on peanuts and pie, and were in bed by a nice 9:00pm.

Due to lack of technology I will be doing one more blog post, once back in America, to wrap up my overall experience here. If you've been keeping up with this blog I appreciate it and hope you've been enjoying it as much as I have!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Days 21 through 26

Day 21:

We drove on dirt roads for about 15 minutes until reaching some of the highest, mountainous areas in Jamaica. After getting out of the car we took an overgrown trail to an even higher altitude where we had the most beautiful view I've seen yet. On the way back to the car we stopped at a Star apple tree growing and had a quick snack. And on the way back to the cabins we stopped at Kwao's apple tree and harvested a few dozen Otaheiti Apples, then made one last stop at the Jack Fruit Tree and harvested 4 of those.

We came back and had a gluten free banana pie then spent some time at the beach. Later this evening my laptop crashed, so I have been making due on the resources I have available.

Day 22:

Went into 3 hives, each with 5 separated colonies inside. Our goal was to figure out which ones were queenless and return at a later date with queen cells for them.

We spent the rest of the day cutlassing out a section for an apiary at the mountaintop we were at the day previous. There used to be an apiary in this location, but due to a hurricane in the past the area was unusable for a while.

Day 23 & 24:

We focused on going through many more hives searching for queens. Once we had enough queenless hives spotted, we gathered queen cups and put each one in a hive that was in need.

We also finished clearing the area for the new apiary and will be moving hives here soon.

Mom will be coming to visit for this last week! Hope she is ready for this natural lifestyle.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Days 19-20

Days 19 & 20:

Spent the majority of my days relaxing due to swelling. Finished my sixth book since I've been here. Now I am feeling much better and will be back in the bees in no time.

On the 20th day, I broke my vegan diet. We went to a fish place at the top of the town where they prepared everything in front of you. The fish was still very intact once served, so you had to make sure to avoid eating any bones. We had a table right over the cliffside, with a beautiful view of the ocean.

The peanut man came as he usually does on fridays, and we ended the night snacking on peanuts and eating fried dumplings.

And now as I right this, it is the 21st, and I'd like to wish my dad a happy fathers day!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Day 17 & 18 - Sting 19

Day 17:

Woke up and helped around in the garden for a while. After breakfast we went on a hike to a new location. We ended up in a cave, with bats flying around right above our heads. Once done here, we continued to Strawberry Point which has a beautiful view. On the way back we stopped at a guinep tree; these tasted very similar to a sour lemon - warhead.

We went into the bees later in the day. Yet again, a new location, where a couple hives were kept on a friends property in exchange for some honey during harvest time.  Afterwards we went to another ladies house, and helped with her hives because she was unable to.

Day 18:

Had an early morning at the farmers market again. Was a similar adventure to last time, except more pineapple and watermelons. Lots of watermelon. Also tried an Otaheiti apple for the first time. They looked similar to a plum and tasted very delicious.

We drove to the apiary on the upper end of the property and checked out a couple hives. One of the hives did not seem to have a queen, and had very many queen cells. This means there is a high chance the queen took many of the bees and swarmed to a new location, leaving roughly half the bees behind. As Kwao was explaining that bees like to swarm in nearby trees, we looked up, and lo and behold - the swarm was in the tree. We found an empty hive, backed his truck up directly under the hive. I got on top of his car and held the hive under the bees while he shook the tree. After my 10th sting of the minute I decided I would spectate the remainder. Next week we are going to check the new swarm hive for a queen. If they have a queen and are laying eggs - good; however, no queen means they will likely swarm right back to where we captured them from.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The days are starting to blend

Day  14:

Tried sour sap juice for the first time with breakfast. Reminded me of a taste similar to orange juice.

We worked on cutlassing down more of the brush in the garden. Afterwards, we went to cool off at the beach for a little while. Later on we rendered the empty combs into beeswax. We boiled the wax in a contraption we made, and came out with a solid portion. We are going to reboil again tomorrow in order to increase its purity.

We next squeezed out more honey comb we had previously collected and ended up with about 3 and a half gallons of honey. We now have more empty combs that too can be turned into wax tomorrow. Now we are left with the sticky cleanup before heading to bed. Peppermint extract is used with much of the cleaning as it repels bees away.

Day 15:

We had our first unsupervised mission in the bees today. First we had to move a hive from where it was to another location, in order to free up the supplies it was sitting on. We also investigated a smaller hive that was captured as a swarm about a week ago. This hive had a queen, eggs, and very dense patterns of brood - All good signs for a hive.

A cook was hired to help in the kitchen, making meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This opens up a lot more time for work to be done in the garden. My roomate Spencer also flew in from Florida today.

For desert we ate chocolate cake and used banana leaves as plates. Once done, we just through our plate right into the compost pile.

Day 16:

Cutlassed out areas around banana trees so they would be able to grow and yield more. We made many batches of wax and experiment with a recipe to make lotion.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day 12 & 13: Bees in the Trees

Day 12:

Started with a morning straight to the bees. We went through a few and had to split the larger hives into two because they were there was not enough space for the worker bees to be efficient. Because each hive only has 1 queen, this means one of the hives will be queenless. The queenless hive will take notice and within days the worker bees will feed one of their eggs royal jelly, thus making it a queen cell.

After breakfast, Agape had 3 friends over who were full of questions about beekeeping. As soon they they were helped we ready ready to go to the hives. On the way out, Kwao received a phone call from a distressed neighbor whose bees had 'swarmed' to a nearby tree (this is when bees do not have enough space in their hive and take off together into a new location). We stopped by her house on the way to the hives and quickly saw the bundle of maybe a thousand bees hanging from a branch in a mango tree. The other intern and myself held an empty hive directly under the branch and Kwao gave the branch a strong shake. Rather simply, all the bees fell into the bottom of the hive, and we quickly had to cover it with top bars so they wouldn't fly out. Her bees had swarmed from a small hive into a tree, and we moved them from the tree into a larger hive for her.

We then went to the original apiary we were heading towards and collected two buckets of honey comb. Once back at the house, I was assigned with taking the bees out of one of the buckets. There were  good 30-40 bees still in the bucket. The trick is to grab them by the wing and throw them far as possible before they attempt to fly back.

Before dinner, we went on a hike with the dogs to a new location. It was a rather deep swimming hole with a large rope swing. I will definitely be returning here when there is more time for a swim. Instead of taking the traditional route back, we were led coast side of the island until we ended up back at our beach.

Day 13:

My swellings were finally going away just in time for more stings. After breakfast we drove to the same apiary as yesterday and collected a bucket of honeycomb. We split a couple more hives and needed to travel to another apiary to pick up top bars. While out we stopped by the Jack Fruit Tree and harvested 3 fruits. Yesterday was also Kwao's birthday, so there was much pie still to be eaten.

Today was a relaxing day and I spent much of it soaking bee stings and bug bites in the seawater.