When we were undergraduate students in Corvallis, Oregon, my husband and I used to invite random people over for Thanksgiving dinner. Whoever didn’t have a place to go for the holiday was welcome to share the meal and join the small talk. As nearly penniless students far from our families, it was one of the things we could share.
Now we spend Thanksgiving Day quietly, cooking and reading, with a little postprandial hiking if it’s not raining too hard. I love Thanksgiving because, in spite of Black Friday, it’s one of the least commercial American holidays. I can pretty much ignore Black Friday since it starts at the end of summer. Or is it the end of spring?
It’s all about the bees
Every year since I began Honey Bee Suite, I’ve sent a message to the bees on Thanksgiving Day. I like to thank them for providing us with the stunning array of foods we eat, the flowers, trees, seeds, fibers, and all the plants that flourish because of them. And when I say bees, I mean all of the bees, from the tiniest Perdita to the great carpenters and everything in between. To them, I am eternally grateful.
Although the bees are the subject of this website, it is you, the readers, who have given me the reason to keep going and to persist in spite of an endless string of obstacles. So after I thank the bees, I extend my thanks to you, my readers and my friends.
The Internet can be a scary place
If I had known how difficult and time consuming it would be to maintain a website like this, I would have never started. The Internet is scary in many ways, and a self-hosted website is nothing but a target for spammers, denial of service attacks, malware, worms and viruses, and just plain nastiness. And the bigger you get, the more the bad guys take notice.
Fortunately, this past year was more peaceful on the technical side than most. Of course, I spent more money on security, back-ups, monitoring, firewalls, and filtering than ever before. Still, I think it was worth it. Less of my adrenaline reserve was wasted on wondering where the next attack was coming from or how it would look. Notice I said less. I don’t think that knot in my stomach will ever go away completely.
My readers make the website
As much as I admire the bees, it’s my readers who make the website. It’s a funny contradiction because the site began as a true web log, a place for me to record beekeeping ideas and techniques, along with things that worked and things that didn’t. I never envisioned strangers “reading over my shoulder,” so to speak. Posts like “Cemetery Honey” and “A Personal Note to Cranky Old Beekeepers” were never designed to be read by the public, so when folks began to read and comment, I was amazed. Now, ten million hits later, I’m absolutely stunned.
Although I was once the editor of a small newspaper, I’ve learned more about publishing from my website. I learned that readership is self-selecting. The readers who come here are like-minded and seem to appreciate a little science, a dollop of experience, and a hint of humor. The dogmatic types—those who say “There’s only one way to keep bees and it’s my way”—don’t come here often and don’t stay long. Hallelujah.
In my first years, I felt the naysayers were trying to hijack the site, spamming me with beekeeping gibberish. But it’s not so common anymore. I held my ground and my beekeeping philosophy remains the same. I offer suggestions and alternatives, not rules. My ideas are backed by science precisely 89% of the time, and by gut feeling the other 11%. Am I always right? Never. Am I sometimes crazy? Always.
An ongoing dilemma
The biggest problem I have now is a product of success. Simply put, I’m having trouble keeping up with all the email and comments. Back when I received a few questions a week, I could handle them and still find time to post. But now I have mornings when I awaken to 70 or 80 new emails and comments. I still haven’t quite figured out what to do.
The problem is made worse by the evolution of beekeeping. Some of the things I wrote eight years ago need to be updated in light of new studies and recent evidence. Then again, my own beekeeping practice has changed over the years and I try to keep the old posts current. But it’s hard to do that and answer questions and generate new material. I never foresaw this problem, and I only hope my readers understand when I’m sometimes slow to respond.
The generosity of beekeepers
Of all the blogging surprises, nothing has astounded me more than the generosity of my readers. If I tried to “count the ways,” I know I would miss many. Among the many communications I just mentioned are bits of advice, encouragement, and constructive criticism. Ideas for posts come in waves, intentionally or not, and from questions, problems, and beekeeping predicaments.
Beekeepers send me links to interesting news items, events, and research. They send me photographs, stories, plans, and epiphanies. They send seeds, bulbs, tubers, cuttings, honey, tools, and equipment. I’ve received hive parts, bee suits, books, and of course honey. Lots of honey. Then there are those who have invited me into their homes, fed me, and ferried me around.
Also helpful are the emails I dread. “Your site is down.” “Your link doesn’t work.” “You seriously need a dictionary.” Although I dread these messages, I depend on them. I would rather you call me an idiot than let me be one.
And last but certainly not least is the generosity of my husband, Rich, who puts up with all the bee nonsense yet still has the good grace to build, lift, move, and repair whenever I ask him to. Here is a person who is not particularly fond of insects, especially the type that sting, yet supports my beekeeping habit without question. How can I be so blessed?
Promises to keep
When I started Honey Bee Suite, I promised myself that I would keep this site secure for both me and you. I never want a reader to worry about malware or viruses. I’ve vowed to keep the content polite, civil, and as accurate as possible. I vowed to have no garish display ads or pop-ups that push the text out of view or prevent you from leaving the site. In fact, anything that bothers me as a reader is permanently banned.
So when Thanksgiving rolls around each year, the people most on my mind are the donors who have kept me up and running for another year. You know who you are. I guarantee that without your generous support, this site could not exist. The money allows me to pay for the infrastructure—hosting, coding, monitoring, firewalls, antispam, optimization, and email delivery—all the stuff I have no patience for, the stuff that would prevent me from writing about bees.
And as I’ve explained before, it’s not only the money but the vote of confidence that a donation provides. Your votes keep me slogging through the bad times, the blank screens, and the indelicate emails. To you generous folks, I send a special heartfelt thanks and a sincere wish that your Thanksgiving is filled with joy and happiness.
My best wishes to all,
Honey Bee Suite