I wasn't going to add any more animals to the farm, so I added 10,000
We all sat at the front door from 10:55am. Our postman, Jim, has always been a punctual sort of fellow and we can set the clock by his 11:10am arrival on the farm. The waiting isn't uncommon - in turns we have all been known to watch the windows for our much awaited deliveries from the back of his red van - for me, cookbooks and yarn, for Kevin - new saws and blades for carving and the kids seem to forever be waiting for a package from Grammie.
That day, though, we were all waiting together, guessing at every passing sound if it was Jim bringing us our much anticipated parcel. Our 15 minute wait dragged on for what seemed like ever until finally, the crunch of tyres on the drive were his. He climbed out of his cab and slid open the side door as we stood back and watched him pull out the small white box marked "Highland Bees". We laughed about how his job was never dull, chatted about our plans for honey and he put his name down for the first jar.
As he handed me the box, I was struck by the weight of it. In retrospect, I don't know what I expected from 10k+ honey bees, their brood, frames and honey, but I definitely expected it to be lighter. The physical weight aside, there was something else heavy about the box...
I have been responsible for lives other than my own for the last 11.5 years. I remember the moment the tiny 5lb baby Ellis was placed in my arms and the following realisation that his life was literally in my hands. I thought there must be some mistake - how could I be in charge of such an important thing, I had barely kept a houseplant alive in the previous 27 years.
Two more children, a dog, 3 cats, 5 goats, 17 sheep, 16 chickens, 3 geese, 5 ducks, 2 turkeys and a peacock later, you'd think that I would be well used to the role of caretaker, but there was something different this time and it wasn't the sheer number of lives contained therein. Bees aren't like the hobby sheep I keep to cut the grass that could as easily be done by the mower or the goats I milk for cheese that I can find in shops, there is something a bit more urgent about stewarding these little lives that simply wouldn't exist without beekeepers.
And just like those early days with my other babies, I keep checking that they are ok - watching them come in and out of the hive, just like I had watched little chests rise and fall in their sleep, leaving them for longer in between visits, trusting that they will be OK.