Trying to Beehave.
In 1976 Wendy and I purchased a new home in Castle Hill. It was a well-maintained property that had previously been owned by an avid gardener. He had put a great deal of effort into building a beautiful garden which I had taken over. With the native bush at its doorstep it was a rural property that was located on the fringe of the city. A small quiet street that provided equal access to round corner as to Castle Hill. I had always had a desire to have land after growing up with family farms in Annangrove and Stock and Bingle.
Come the early 80’s I needed a new hobby – so I decided that becoming an apiculturist, or beekeeper, was a great idea. We had the land and we had some great nature around for the bees to forage. It also provided entertainment from time to time. I often remember the kids mowing the lawn on the ride-on going past and “bumping” a hive and being chased by a swarm of bees. I remember Neil launching off the lawn mower one day and running and jumping into the pool… That aside, we produced some great honey over the years.
By the early 90’s the suburban sprawl had started to impinge on our rural house and the developments crept up to the back door. Surveyors were putting pegs all over the property which Wendy would constantly remove or just move. It was time to move the bees away to a safer and more suitable place. It was lucky that I had purchased a small block of land that was perfect for them near Hawks Nest… This was my hobby farm and I registered myself as a primary producer given my background in farming. I quickly found out that I was not the farmer that I thought I was. We had a goat for a while at Castle Hill to keep the blackberry’s down, so I thought they would be a great addition to my farm. I purchased a tribe of goats and put them on the newly fenced property. Seems that goats can jump a five-strand barbed wire fence. As such, if you are in the area, watch out for a tribe of goats… they could be mine. The Farm, now with cows after the goat fiasco, would be a perfect location to move the Bees to.
Being and engineer I thought of a plan and had been successful doing this a couple of times before… There were already 6 hives on the farm with the bees producing a great amount of honey.
The plan was simple, Smoke the bees to calm them, tape up the hive and lift it onto the trailer (Nugget for those that know my 4WD trailer). Then remove the tape and leave them sitting on the trailer for a week. The night before we leave, tape them back up again and tie them down onto the trailer… Early the next morning Wendy and I would drive to the farm and drop off the trailer removing the tape later that evening. Then the following weekend I would come back and place the hive in its location near the shed and the dam in the middle of the 100 acres.
What could go wrong?
The first part of the plan went like clockwork… I managed to relocate the bees to the trailer and leave them sitting in the yard for a week until we were ready to make our journey. Friday night after work I ducked over to the trailer and taped up the hive and tightened the ropes holding down the 4 hives on the trailer. The next morning Wendy and I woke up early. It was a normal Saturday morning at home. Craig, Todd and Neil were all asleep in bed and a bomb wouldn’t have woken them… Craig and Neil would have been at the pub until the wee hours of the morning, and Todd would have been working at the pizza shop, then studying for Uni until about the same time as Craig and Neil rolled through the door… They would meet in the kitchen for an early morning feast of white bread and cheese leaving the mess for Wendy to clean up.
Wendy and I hitched up the trailer and set off to Hawks Nest at a reasonable 9:00am start this Saturday. It was all going well down New Line Road… As we turned from Boundary Road to Pennant Hills Road, a car darted in front of our truck and the trailer… I jumped on the brakes and swerved to avoid hitting the car. Consequently, the trailer hit the gutter and one of the Hives bounced straight out and dropped into lane two of Pennant hills road. The others shifted sideways and created a large gap allowing what remaining bees we had to escape. I remember looking in the mirror and seeing the two hives just about off the side of the trailer with honey dripping from them and a cloud of bees heading in all directions! We stopped at the first set of lights on Pennant Hills Road and the car next to us was beeping his horn. I just waved and kept looking ahead. Lucky for us the lights shifted from red to green and we were away again.
Wendy and I agreed that we needed a new plan and we needed to get out of sight fast! We turned off pennant hills road as quick as we could and took the back streets up to Hornsby and then on to the old pacific highway. As we drove, we agreed that we would find a side road in the national park and we would swap drivers… I would grab the broom and sit on the back of the tray. Wendy would reverse like she was launching the boat and jump on the brakes… At that moment I would give the hive a good shove with the broom and they would tumble off the back… Then Wendy would get us out of there as quickly as she could… Wendy was not a fan of the plan as I had to be careful as I was not long out of hospital from a heart by-pass.
We found the perfect place and put the plan into action… I jumped out and left the door open for a fast and safe retreat should the bees attack. The first time Wendy reversed nothing happened (she was concerned for my safety) and the hives just wobbled a little. After some quick coaching, the second time they moved a little, then the third and fourth time they finally dropped off the back of the trailer…. By the time I got back in the car all Wendy could do was complain that I left the door open and that a couple of bees had gotten in the truck.
Back on the road again, we joined the F3 (now the M1) and headed to Hawks Nest with an empty trailer, the highway still went via Karuah. At the petrol station just before the bridge in Karuah Wendy and I stopped for an ice-cream and discussed the situation agreeing that we would never mention it to anyone! As we were sitting there eating our ice-cream a man walked up and was complaining about the number of bees around. As we nodded in agreement, I looked across at the truck and the trailer, and noticed that the back of the trailer was dripping with honey. Winnie the Poo would have been in heaven seeing the honey that was dripping down the sideboard and the numberplate.
After washing down the trailer at Hawks Nest, it was just like any other weekend relaxing weekend up there. We arrived home on Sunday night and put the trailer away. The Kids, didn’t ask, and we didn’t tell…
Wendy and I woke on Monday morning with our secret still intact. I headed off to work and did my normal morning routine of opening and getting the staff working. My business partner, Rodney, arrived a little later and as we always did, we debriefed on our weekends. He inquisitively asked me if I had been in the Pennant Hills area on Saturday morning… He had heard on the radio that a swarm of bees had been reported on the corner of boundary road and pennant hills road. As such, the school fate that was running at St Agatha’s Catholic Primary School had to be cancelled. He believed that sounded like something that would happen to me…
I knew that Rodney would have known straight away it was me… As we sat there laughing, I told him the story. I had tried to beehave myself but as luck would have it, and as most people know… I am not able to.