About

Queen Cells Grafted by Beekeeper Karen Bean of Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey, Maple Falls, WA

Beekeeper Karen E. Bean

Brookfield Farm (Walking-Wild.com and PacificNorthwestHoney.com) focuses on the beauty and bounties of Washington’s wilderness: raw honey, raw honey products and beeswax products from our Naturally Treated, Antibiotic-Free hives.

We produce and create all of our products. I (Karen Edmundson Bean) am the beekeeper.

 

Brookfield Farm woodcrafter, Ian Balsillie, creates a table (Maple Falls, WA)

Woodworker Balsillie

Ian, my husband, helps build hive products and can be found at our the farmers market booths even in the coldest, wettest of weather.  He draws upon his skills as a woodworker who specializes in handcrafted furniture of historical designs (View Ian’s Page at Walking-Wild.com).

 

 

 

 

 

Livestock Guard Dog and Beekeeper Bean in a non-working moment at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

Some both guard and dance

Our off-gird farm lies beneath cedars, alders, and big leaf maples on ridges cut by flowing creeks in the Mount Baker foothills, near Maple Falls, Washington. We share our lands with a myriad of wildlife from deer and bald eagles to bears and cougars. We have been able to do this with the able assistance of our livestock guard dogs, who create a vocal, but peaceful co-existence with the native animals which live on and roam our lands. This also allows us to be certified Predator Friendly by Keystone Conservation.

 

 

 

 

Bees fly in the summer time in one of Brookfield Farm's bee yards

Farm Hives

The diversity of the wilderness that surrounds us is reflected in our crafts and products.  Our honeybees have been flying for over a decade from naturally-treated, antibiotic-free hives at the farm and from near-by bee yards. I tend to the bees and harvest their raw, unheated, unfiltered honey.  I also create Brookfield Farm’s herb-infused raw honeys; organic vinegars infused with raw honey; as well as salves and lip balms made from our chemical-free, antibiotic-free wax.

When I’m not working with bees or honey,  I can be found with a camera in hand in the back country.  My award-winning wilderness DVDs focus on Washington state wilderness trails, with special attention to the Pacific Crest Trail.   My wilderness pinhole photography images and “ripping tales”; (hand ripped wilderness photo collages) are shot during her sojourns into Washington’s backcountry.

Big Leaf Maple, Pinhole Image: photographer Karen E. Bean, Maple Falls, Washington

Pinhole image of Big Leaf Maple

If you find a woman perched on the side of a mountain, pinhole camera in hand, while two or three pack goats wait near-by, that probably is me.

 

 

 

 

Ian’s the woodworker/craftsman. His specialties are rendezvous chairs and wooden tables which fold to three-inches wide with no metal hinges.

Handcrafted wooden rendezvous chairs and table by Woodworker Balsillie. Maple Falls, WA

Rendezvous Chairs & Folding Table

His handcrafted furniture is based on historical designs, to which he adds his own special touch, including stains created from strong British tea. Rendezvous chairs were used during the Civil War. The tables are documented in the Napoleonic era. Ian adds his own personal touch to these historic designs, including a wood stain he creates from strong British tea.

He also creates rustic house wares: lazy-susans, candleholders, cutting boards, and clocks. Some are created from milled lumber; others are hand-hewn from the branches of trees downed by the wind. Balsillie believes that life and work should be simple and not require computers or undue mechanization. He uses a circular saw to cut the milled lumber and a drill to make holes. The rest of the work on Balsillie’s furniture and house wares is done by hand. Visitors to Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey’s market booths will often find him working on his furniture.

Snow covered bee hives at Brookfield Farm, Maple Falls, WA

Winter Bee Hives

Brookfield Farm started out as a dream: We wanted a place in the wilderness. Fifteen years ago we found the land which is now Brookfield Farm. We focused on natural fiber in our early years at the farm: Shetland & Jacob sheep and Cashmere goats. Then I  became tired of shearing, and fell in love with bees around the same time. Beekeeping’s wonderful. It’s science, nature, art, and just plain luck, all rolled into one.

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39 Responses to About

  1. Becky Sturgis says:

    I’m not familiar with the industry, but I’m pretty sure this will be a weird question. My boyfriend and I have our eight year anniversary coming up and his hidden passion is bees. He’s a pilot, but his fantasy job (like a five year old wants to be a rockstar) would be to become a bee farmer. For our anniversary I wanted to see if there’s any way he could live out this fantasy for an hour. Would you guys be open to this idea if I pay enough, or do you know if this is possible anywhere in the pacific northwest? Thank you, and I appreciate your response!

    • Hi Becky – Scheduling is always hard for me. Everything depends on the weather. Plus we’re pretty remote (I don’t know where you are, but we are 25 miles east of Bellingham). Time depending, sure you could come round, we can put him in my husband’s bee suit and we can open a hive…and do something. What might be easier, closer, and have more options is to get in touch with your local bee group (ie Mt. Baker Beekeepers, Skagit Valley Beekeepers, Puget Sound Beekeepers — or whatever is closest to you) –

  2. Elizabeth-Phoenix Agin says:

    Karen, its so nice to hear of beekeepers who strive to create a safe and chemical free environment for the creatures that pollinate our world. I’ve been a beekeeper for the past 7 years and still get excited when I find the queen or watch loads of pollen arrive on the legs of my little girls. I live in oak harbor but am curious about whether you would consider some help in the bee yard in exchange for any knowledge on natural beekeeping you may have to impart on an avid apiarist nerd. I wouldn’t mind the drive 🙂

    I attended a beekeeping seminar not too long ago and your name was brought up when I asked about chemical and medication free methods (a little disdainfully actually which was quite sad. “Well Karen bean is the woman to talk to….if your into that sort of thing”) anyways any information or resources you may have would be appreciated.

    • Hi Elizabeth – what a nice note. I, like you, still get enthralled with watching the girls bring in their pollen and nectar – I really like looking at all the different phenotypes going in and out of the hive. I’m a really long way from you (about a 2.5 hour drive : 25 miles east of Bellingham). But do you know Lisa Phillips of Round Tuit Farms? She’s in Oak Harbor – and a really good beekeeper. You can find her at the Oak Harbor Farmers Market. And come on down to the Skagit Valley Beekeepers Association meetings – if Lisa and Clyde Caldwell go, then I usually turn up too… Could car pool with Lisa maybe. There are a few of us at the club who don’t think chemicals are the way to go (Clyde won’t even touch essential oils). I look forward to meeting you – stay in touch.

      • Elizabeth-Phoenix Agin says:

        Thank you for the quick response Karen. The SVBA was mentioned to me as well as the whidbey island beekeepeers association. I’m interested in both and I’m headed to Freeland tonight to check out the “whidbee” group tonight. I have on more question- do you have any resources about Russian bees? Would I find info here in your blog? I’m curious about the more ‘aggressive’ breed with their increased resistance to harsher climates and disease. I have carniolans now but they seem to really struggle with the rain. I lost almost half to starvation when we had a long bout of rain recently. I have a feeder in which goes against alot of my principles on supporting strong genetics. This is a new hive since moving here to the west coast and so I’m having to adjust to the changes when I had such ease on the east coast…..

        Elizabeth.
        Elizabeth.agin@gmail.com

        PS thanks for Lisa’s name. I’ll look her up in the proverbial phone book tonight 🙂

        • I like Russians – some can be evil, some can be nice — rather like all livestock (we had a ram that used to run at us full tilt, head down – he had 4 horns, he was a Jacob. Jacobs are nice sheep, he was just a jerk). Russians overwinter in small cluster (good for here) build up slow (can be infuriating) and yes, I’d always wear a veil/suit with Russians. I’m getting some queens from Kirk Webster in Vermont. Packages don’t really happen. It seems if you order a “Russian Package” you get a Russian queen with some other bees, probably NWC. Don’t worry about feeding in a dearth (like a month of rain). If you always leave a lot of honey for your bees, there may still be a time when they run out of food – remember honeybees are not suited to our northern environment. Better to eat something than starve.

  3. Helga Hafsteinsdottir says:

    Hello there,
    I am a small beekeeper in Israel and found your information about crystallization most helpful.
    My honey seems to take long time to crystalize, but then it is very hot here most of the year.

    I read your post about the current study that you are involved with and am very interested in seeing what the results will be.
    So now that I have come across you site will keep reading your posts.

    A question were do you get the solar panels that you use for your fence?

    Thank you,
    Helga Hafsteinsdottir
    Israel

    • Ahhh! Just wrote this reply and it got dropped – I’m so better with bees than with the internet. The solar panel comes from Ken Cove ( http://www.kencove.com/), but you can usually find them at farm fencing suppliers world wide. The battery is a car battery. Your honey may have a lot of fructose (fructose and glucose being the main sugars in honey) if so, it will take longer to crystalize. We carry one honey like that, and our customers love it. I wish I could say the AFB study came out perfect, but the hive was still infected. It did give the researchers more information, and they’re going to keep working on delivery of the phages. Hopefully we’ll see them in the future.

  4. Polina says:

    Hello Karen!
    I enjoy reading your blog and subsribed to it for a year now. It’s interesting you guys are interested in having Russian queen and bees, as we here in Russia are divided into two major camps of pros and cons re having them. I inherited my apiary from my grandfather, with bees being Russians (apis malifera malifera), I believe there were inbreeding with the local bees, and they were not clearly Russians. Yes, I had to wear veil always when I worked with them. But I never used or use gloves. As we have neighbors, kids, I decided to change the breed to Carnica. They are calm and easy to work with. Anyhow, I should say that genetically clean/true Russians are really easy to work with too, they ARE NOT agreesive, they are varroa mites resistant and can resist in cold winters, and we have very very cold and long winters in some regions of Russia :)) and they do work during rain, they produce more honey:)). But not every beekeper can easily order and buy a Russian queen here from the breeding bee farm (there are not much here and its not common thing here), they prefer inbreeding, swarms keeping, etc, So I have chosen ordering Carnica queens each May from the breeding fram in the south of Russia (F1 from queens ordered from Austria) to ensure that the breed is clean and tru/authentic. All the best of luck for your bee girls in preparations for winter!

    • Your comment is a fascinating read. I would have never guessed that the Primosky (what we here call Russian) queens would be hard to find in Russia. I love them. I agree with you : they do better in the cold climates, and fly in the rain. I too have had nice ones and mean ones. But I’ve had that with other bees and with sheep and goats, so I think it is often simply the “personality” of the animal, and in a queen’s case, her off-spring. We are just now getting Carnica eggs and semen being brought into this country by Sue Colby. I’ve got a little bit in my hives and they are doing really well. I envy you your pure Carnica queens.

  5. Gary Bachman says:

    Hi Karen, I live in Bellingham and am looking for local beekeeping classes/apprenticeship…any references or suggestions? Gary

    • Hi Gary – I don’t know if the Mt. Baker group is doing a beekeeping course, but Skagit Valley Beekeepers are (there’s a meeting next week). No real apprenticeships, but come on down – to either group – and meet beekeepers that’s the best way– after all, we all have our own way of keeping bees, so if you see a lot of them, you can figure what’s good for you.

  6. Bill Huston says:

    Thank you very much for advertising our cell punch tool !!!
    Sincerely,,
    Bill Huston
    Carriage House Bee Products

    • I love it! I was using the standard grafting tool method : pick up larva, put it down – but I’d not put it down right about 30-40 percent of the time. Other methods take too much wax out of the frame. Your punch works really well, and only takes the cell. Brilliant

  7. Doug says:

    I am left wondering about the initial move to your farm so many years ago. Did you both leave traditional jobs? Do you still have another job while working on your farm? How many hives and how many acres do you have? I’m am urban beekeeper and have long wanted to expand. Thank you.

    • Back when we were a fiber farm (shetland & jacob sheep, cashmere goats), I “commuted” to my work as a cameraman in L.A. I would go down for months (once almost a year) at a time while Ian stayed at the farm. Then Ian worked as a teacher for troubled youth. About 8 years ago (we had already left fiber and were into bees) I committed to the farm – that was hard, put positive. A journalist asked if I missed “the industry”. My answer: “I certainly miss the money, but not the stress.” I’m glad I made the move although I do miss “shooting”, so now I do pinhole wilderness photography. Ian now works as a part-time and on-call librarian which allows him time to make and sell his fabulous handcrafted furniture. So I was never “traditional”. Ian was, kind-of. Go for bee yards. I only keep up to 20 hives at the farm, the rest of my 80-odd hives are in local “bee yards”: huge yards, pastures, and farms where people want or need bees. They get pollination from first bloom to last bloom (and a quart of honey). I get great sites for bees. Win-win for everyone. So you can expand without acreage – but you will have to drive. Keep the job while you do bees – beekeeping is a hard way to make a living… you need lots of hives.

  8. Great to see local beekeepers! We are a plastic honey bottle manufacturer located in Kent Washington who work with several local honey groups. Aaron Packaging, Inc. http://www.aaronpackaging.com. Keep up the great work!

  9. Ryan says:

    I have a question, I was looking through my hives an noticed a lot of crystallized honey in few different hives… All hives live with bees, is this normal?

    • Yes, it’s normal: crystalization is the normal state honey wants to go to if it’s not kept warm. Is the honey in an area other than where the bees are (ie few bees working it). Are your temperatures low (it’s hot here, but not everywhere). Could it be honey from last year that over wintered? Is it a kind of honey that would crystalize fast : ie berry honey? Lots of factors – bees can eat it just fine. But it is unusual to happen in a hot summer — thus the other factors — I’ve had honey crystalize over winter in a hive in an area that the bees didn’t get to …. hope that helps

  10. Bonnie Summers says:

    Karen,
    I was just listening to the Kiwimana podcast you did last year in November. I also am fascinated by the science of bees and beekeeping. I think they are fascinating as well. I used to raise Nubian goats so enjoyed your photos or your grounds crew. We have Langstroth hives and I just started my first Warre hive this spring. It’s doing great so far.
    I’ll check your site from time to time. I also have a horrible internet connection. I usually find a Mc Donald’s or our YMCA’s have high speed.
    Bonnie

    • I know the trials of finding the internet. Until last month I was always parked outside the library or the gas station (WiFi lands). Now we actually have DSL at the farm (you know the “big” technology of the 1990′) – can’t grumble, at least I’m warm. I’d love to know how your Warres compair to your Langstroths.

      • Bonnie says:

        We don’t have DSL yet. You’re lucky. We’re also wondering how the Warre will compare to the Langstroths. We plan on adding a couple more Warre’s in spring.
        I plan on only checking the hive if I think there may be a problem. I’ve only opened it 3 times since May. I won’t take any honey off until spring after they’re well into the nectar flow. This hive has a nice temperament and looks like all is going well so far. Hopefully they’ll winter ok.

        • sounds like they’ll do great (barring all the problems that can hit a hive — I don’t usually see my bees from November to March – except on dry, clear winter days — it’s pouring rain right now). The “don’t harvest until spring” works really well for a beekeeper I know up here – she’s got the best hive of Italians I’ve seen, and Italians do not do well in Whatcom Co. Washington.

  11. kenneth says:

    I go experience for 3years as a keeping bees I know to working with bees if want me you can call me on 0834763271.

  12. abillen says:

    Hi,
    First of all, congratulation for your blog, which is very interresting and full of usefull information.
    I am a Belgian citizen living in Rwanda, and I am working on a beekeeping project here, in Rwanda.
    By organizing the local resources, we aim to create an ecosystem in which local population can work and improve their living conditions, and can afford eating honey. Honey is a very good nutriment supply for these rural population and can contribute to face malnutrition among the countryside population.
    The project also aims to help protecting the bees worldwide, as part of the profits will be given to bee protection and environment protection funds (such as WSBF, Greenpeace, etc).
    To start the project, we are currently raising funds through crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The funders will not only support local population as well as bee worlwide, but they also get some of our Rwandan honey at the end of the year, after we have done our 1st harvest.
    For more information on the project, please find below link to the Indiegogo crowdfunding page:
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rwanda-solidarity-by-bees/x/9959250
    https://solidaritybybees.wordpress.com/
    I hope you find our project of interrest and if so, we hope you could also contribute to this project by helping us to promote it and encourage your blog members to participate to the project. I would be glad to participate to your blog by doing some interview and presenting the project to your visitors.
    Africans have a very effective technique for catching the swarms of bees and it could be an interresting topic for an article to your blog.
    Looking forward to hearing from you soon.
    With thanks,
    Alain BILLEN
    Tél. : +25783002112

  13. Angela says:

    Do you offer LGDs for sale?

    • Sorry, no (and sorry it took so long to get back to you, crazed here). If you’re in W. WA, a good source can be found in the classified of the Capital Press newspaper. Look for the guy with the Great Pyranees X Akbash dogs – our Khan is from there, magic. Also try Breezy Meadow Cashmere Farm, Bellingham WA – these are pure-bred Maremmas, long history of breeding good dogs there. Hope that helps…beyond this area there is a Livestock Guard Dog Association, a bit out of date, but some links still good. Hope that helps – they’re magic

  14. perla says:

    what happens when the honey queen cell doesn’t grow (form) what do you think might of happen?

    sorry for asking these silly things its that I’m working on my science fair projects and its about honey queen cells
    thank you

    • There are no silly questions – But it depends on the circumstances. If you have a queenless hive and they don’t build queen cells, they possibly did not have the proper larvae to work with when the old queen left. Or you could be between queens: old queen swarmed, new queen not laying yet and you missed the queen cell moment. But if you mean the cell is kind of there but they didn’t finish it in a graft: they might not have liked the larvae you gave them (you might have killed/hurt it) – we all do that to some of them. OR there’s a queen in there. OR there weren’t enough bees in your starter/finisher (or hive). If you mean the cell doesn’t look right: again could be an issue with the larvae you used (or were available in the hive), or, again, not enough bees. I can recommend 2 good books on this: 1) Honey Bee Biology – Mark Winston (I think) and 2) Marla Spivak’s booklet on queen rearing (it’s a how to) also a book by (I hope I get this right) Jules Furt (French) I think it’s called Queen Rearing – you can get it in English. Never hesitate to ask questions. It’s how we all learn

  15. Landi Simone says:

    Karen, would appreciate your permission to use the photo of the two MAQS pads on the brood super in one of your posts. I’m an EAS Master Beekeeper doing a presentation on timing varroa treatments with local honey flows and would like to use your photo in the discussion of formic acid treatments. I like it because there are almost no bees (which is what happens as soon as you put the pads on!) – Thanks! Also, if you grant permission, please let me know the exact wording of the credit that you would prefer.

  16. Shellie says:

    Hi from Houston, texas! I ran across your site while I was researching how to make a creamed honey starter.. my boyfriend and I sell local honey and I can’t seem to pin point a good resource of info on how to make a starter. We would like to make creamed honey to sell but unsure of a good process or just how to go about it. Do you have any suggestions or resources that could help?
    Thank you!!

    • Hi Shellie – the basics are (now this is all in runny honey): 1 part of a honey that will crystallize smoothly, 9 parts of a honey that you want to crystallize smoothly, but wont. Mix together, gently, unless you want whipped, seal and put in 50F place for about a month. Creamed honey is just smoothly crystallized honey. I know nothing of TX honey (bet it’s good), so you could buy a creamed honey as your starter and you’re good to go. Most folks I know mix in 5 gallon buckets with a paint mixer bit attached to a drill — beekeepers always repurposing eh?

  17. jesse straight says:

    Greetings! My son and I are new to beekeeping. just started two boxes last spring. the bees seem good and we have a few supers to harvest! I am wondering if we may be able to rent your extractor for a few hours/half day. Our bees (and farm) are near the black mountain ranch and so are quite nearby to you! I’d love to meet you, we have bought your honey many times and remember when you were at the bellingham farmers market well. my phone number is 360 393-5507 and email is jkstraight@gmail.com
    We’d like to try to extract the honey next week/weekend 9/21-9/25.
    thanks!
    jesse

    • Sorry for the delay in getting back to you – my husband was terminally ill and died, so I’m just catching up now. The Mt. Baker Bees Association has a shared extractor – I’d suggest being a member. Hope you found an extractor.

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