I recently came out with my first children's book: Rutherford the Unicorn Sheep Goes to the Beach. Cute, say the people that have picked one up so far (get your copy here!).
Well, last weekend I headed out to beautiful Western NY to do the photo shoot for the next book in progress: Rutherford the Unicorn Sheep... something to do with Beekeeping. It was fun, if tiring. I like hanging out with my parents, and of course I love doing bees with my Dad. But I encountered some difficulties I certainly didn't expect.
1. My first batch of photos were entirely overexposed. Talk about stressful. I went back to the house after an hour and a half in the bee yard with some supposedly great photos, and sad, sad day, most of them looked like this:
Very distressing. However, during the second half of the day, I fixed the issue and proceeded with much higher quality photos.
Lesson Learned: Buy a better camera and take some photography classes.
2. It was extremely hot. Now, I've worn a bee suit plenty of times in my life, but when you stop the work to take photos of everything that is happening, everything takes twice as long. This means wearing the bee suit for twice as long, not being able to drink water as often (due to the hat and veil), and still having to finish work despite the fact that you've been working all day.
My Dad deserves a shout out at this point, for putting up with all my shenanigans, being patient and letting me taking a bajillion pictures of everything that was happening while I was simultaneously being less than helpful to him.
We ended up getting a bunch of work done in the beeyard and also harvesting something like 50 pounds of honey. Not a huge amount, but still worthwhile. Plus it was gorgeous, light locust honey.
Lesson Learned: Drink more water and don't take pictures while doing bees in the middle of a hot summer day in a full bee suit.
3. I got stung. This is to be expected, when doing bees, particularly when you're like me and rather careless. I wore flipflops and one bee crawled up my pants and got me smack on the leg. The other one was an accident--I was balancing to take a picture and lost my balance and put my hand right down on a bee. Poor girl.
Bee stings are an interesting thing. There is a general sort of tension or fear of getting stung--even as someone who has been around bees my whole life--but once I got stung that second time, the tension completely went away. My dad says it goes away for him after the third sting, and he's been a beekeeper for decades.
One time, when we were taking a colony out of a house, I got stung eleven times, but only the first three hurt. Apparently, I built up a temporary immunity to the venom. That's a nice feature of being a non-allergic human when you're harassing a well-built colony for hours. The swelling for my stings went down within a few hours, and the itching was gone by the end of the next day.
Lesson Learned: wear socks and shoes while beekeeping.
4. Skunks like to eat bees. This was definitely a problem. In addition to his hyper and excitable personality, I had to work extremely hard to prevent Wilfred the Walnut Skunk from eating every bee he came across. The Beekeeper was a great help in this regard, as Wilfred holds a great deal of respect for someone that can manage so many delicious snacks at once without giving into the temptation to binge. The Beekeeper assured him that he doesn't feel this particular urge, although bee venom is particularly banana-y, but Wilfred didn't really get it. Which is good, as it helped keep him in line.
At the end of the day, after Wilfred the Walnut Skunk had behaved himself, the Beekeeper did let him eat one drone. This was a huge treat, and the Beekeeper didn't mind as the drones are mostly useless.
He enjoyed the snack a great deal.
Lesson Learned: Don't take skunks into the bee yard.
5. I drove 8 hours for the photo shoot. Normally I try to combine trips like this with trips just to visit, but this time it didn't work out as I plan on releasing this book on September 19 at the Honey Harvest Open House in Howard, NY (put that on your calendar) and needed to move up my schedule. So I ended up driving 8 hours on a Tuesday afternoon, working in the bee yard for 1 day, and then leaving the next morning to drive back to NH. It was a loooong 3 days.
On the other hand, June is the absolute best time to visit upstate NY. Everything is green, the clouds are stunning, it's warm but not hot, cool but not cold, and generally the people are in a much better mood than any other time of year. Bonus plus: wild strawberries! Dad and I picked a few handfuls, and then my wonderful Grandma Sieling gave me 2 quarts of homegrown strawberries to take home with me. Double bonus plus: DUCKS! I love ducks.
It was definitely worth it.
Lesson Learned: Plan my business trips better and make time to have fun.
Stay tuned for the release of the next Rutherford book - something about how he gets to go visit a beekeeper and meet bees! Or, you can see more sneak peek photos on Rutherford's own blog!