This essay was sent to use by Jeff Slaymaker
of Clarinda, Iowa. His youngest daughter Josie submitted the essay
as part of her application to the pharmacy program at Drake University.
She had struggled over what to write so Jeff suggested beekeeping.
She was accepted to the program and got to talk about what the
beekeeping experience had meant to her. Thanks Jeff and Josie.
As a kid, I was what most would call a tomboy,
from playing baseball with the boys to climbing every tree in
the nearby park. Being the younger of two girls, I did “girlie
things” also; I held my fair share of tea parties and stuffed
animal weddings, but I always preferred playing in the mud and
collecting rocks in my pockets. I suppose my inner tomboy is part
of the reason why I enjoy beekeeping.
When I was little I would ride with my dad out
to where he kept his bees. I’d sit in the truck and watch
him in awe while he would open box after box. Every once in a
while he’d bring over a frame of honeycomb covered in little
dancing bees and hold it up to the window. It would always make
me smile and think “when I grow up I want to be just like
my daddy and keep bees!”
My dad is a CPA, and while he is very good at
what he does, he was an important part of the company he was with
and worked long hours. Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until
after my sister and I were already in bed. After going a couple
weeks without seeing much of my dad, I began to look forward to
our bee outings. Soon my mom and dad realized that my dad would
have to find a new job with regular hours, so we moved.
A few years ago my dad surprised me with a helmet,
gloves, and a veil of my very own. After years of watching him
open boxes, I finally got to help him! I was so excited, which
made the drive out to the bees seem longer than ever. It was fun
to see all the bees up close and have them flying all around me.
I was scared at first when they would swarm up, but I got used
to it. Luckily, I didn’t even get stung on my first time
out! So for the past couple years I’ve been helping him,
and I’ve even had a few hives of my own to look after.
Every spring the bees start to build up the honeycomb.
We check on them every couple weeks over the summer and watch
them grow in number, occasionally having to add on another box.
By the end of the summer we’d have several little white
towers all in a row, and that’s when its time to start extracting
the honey. When my dad was about 16 he built an extractor out
of an old washing machine motor and a garbage can. It’s
not pretty, but, after almost 30 years of use, it still works
At the beginning of every fall we go collect
the frames. This is the toughest part of beekeeping in my opinion
because I always get stung at least three times while collecting
the frames. Then we take them all down to our basement and spend
a couple hours extracting, which involves spinning the honey out
of the comb and into a bucket. We sell some of the honey to cover
part of the expenses, but we do it more for the enjoyment.
I don’t know if this would classify as
something that was life-changing, but to me it has been a very
meaningful experience and I really enjoy spending so much quality
time with my dad.