As I left the windmill and headed down the hill, I couldn't stop thinking about how the ranch provides so many opportunities for learning something new. It's like a school for horticulture. I'll never forget when I first saw a tamarillo, a buddha's hand, or the flowering thistle, sea holly, at the Ferry Building shop. I was amazed by their appearance as well as unsure of their origin. And of course, I knew this visit would be no different.
Earlier in the day, I was invited to observe some honey bees Now, let met be honest. I am really not fan of insects. I don't like spiders. I hate it when a moth is flying around in my bedroom, and I can't stand it when ants are in my kitchen. Nothing worse than having ants in your kitchen. However, I do like honey. So, I decided to check out the bees. I made my way to the upper part of the ranch were the fruit and vegetable gardens are located.
At the gardens, I met Shari DeJoseph. Shari is the Olive Orchard Manager, and one of McEvoy's senior employees. In addition to overseeing the olive orchard, she is also responsible for managing sixteen honey bee hives for the ranch. This is the source for honey sold at the Ferry Building shop and on McEvoy's website. Not all of the hives are located at the ranch, but I'll explain that later.
Before I continue, I did a little research on the internet and found some interesting facts on honey bees. I discovered that honey bees represent only a fraction of the 20,000 known species of bees. The primary purpose of the honey bee is to accumulate and store honey for the colony. There are only about seven recognized species of honey bees. According to Shari, the Italian honey bee, which is the most common bee for producing honey, was selected for the ranch. This bee is known for being gentle and producing large amounts of honey. Just like other bees, the honey bee is also an excellent source for pollinating plants and various crops.
Before going to the bee hives, Shari pulled out a pair of long white gloves and a pair of hats with veils attached to them from her car. I also noticed she was carrying a substance that looked like a block of hard peanut butter. I was afraid to ask what she had in mind, but my curiosity got the best of me. She told me we were going to feed the bees, and we had to wear the protective clothing in case the bees got excited by our presence. I stood there with a look on my face like I was denied a bank loan.
However, I mustered up some courage and put on the gloves and veil. For a moment, I felt a little like Mr. Green Jeans and Dr. Leakey ready to embark on a new expedition. If only my high school biology teacher could have seen me.
We made our way through a small orchard of peach trees and came upon the hives with bees buzzing around them. In fact, there were hundreds of bees inside as well as outside the hives. My assignment was to hold this substance, which is known as pollen substitute, while Shari broke off chunks to place inside the hives. The pollen substitute is made up of brewer's yeast, honey, soy, and a few other things thrown in for good measure. The purpose for the substitute is to provide a food source for the bees and to help the colony survive the coming winter months.
Earlier, I mentioned that not all of the bee hives are located at the ranch. It seems that honey bees are like humans. They're kind of fussy. If they're not happy with their environment, production of honey will be down. Honey bees do not like windy conditions, hard winters, or cool wet springs. Therefore, Shari has strategically placed honey bee hives throughout Marin and Sonoma counties. The results of this maneuver has paid off, and our most recent harvest came from the hives located a few miles from the City of Petaluma.
She also mentioned the hives at the ranch are struggling just like the rest of the bee population throughout the world. For the past several years, there has been a slow decline in bee activity, and this could be due to certain environmental conditions. However, there is a sign of hope at the ranch. Shari pulled out a couple of frames from one of the hives, and we saw new larvae and honey. Which means the queen bee has been busy mating and worker bees have been busy gathering nectar to make honey. Hopefully, Shari and her staff will be able to harvest honey from this location in the near future.
As I walked back to my car to return to the city, I couldn't stop thinking about my day at the ranch. It started off with a staff meeting. I learned somethings about wind mills and got up close and personal with bees. But I couldn't stop thinking about that mysterious noise I heard coming from the brush. What was that noise or creature? Who cares. I had a great day at the ranch.