Homestead Beekeeping: How to Keep Bees

Virginia Owens shares how she and her family created a beekeeping business in New Mexico from the ground up.


| November/December 1971



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Virginia Owens talks about beekeeping and hopes to convince others that it’s quite possible to keep these little creature healthy, happy and productive enough to provide some measure of family income... even though you may not know what you’re doing at first.


ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

 It will be quite obvious from this article that we are still beginners in beekeeping. All the better! Often the greatest help to the novice is the example of another amateur's success, rather thanor in addition tothe advice of experts. 

What I hope to do here is not so much offer a manual for prospective beekeepers as to convince others that it's quite possible to keep these little creatures healthy, happy and productive enough to provide some measure of family income . . . even though you may not know what you're doing at first when learning how to keep bees. Thank heavens, the bees do!Virginia Owens 

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.





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