I have some bad news about one of my best friends.  She isn’t doing very well.  She’s a tree so don’t start getting too weepy.  But still.  She seems pretty sick to me.  I’ve been putting it off but I have a horrible feeling she’s going to have to be put down.  Or in this case cut down.

The 150 year old maple tree in my backyard (totally guessing the age) has a lot of branches that are dead or dying and she just seems like she’s giving up.  I’ll have to call the city about her because technically she’s on their property so they’re the ones that’ll probably make the call about whether she lives or dies.  I have a feeling it’ll be the later.

The canopy expands across the street and my backyard providing soul and shade to my little spot in the world.

Every other year I tap my maple tree and spend hours upon hours making just enough maple syrup to get me through a couple of winters.  I don’t share, I don’t give it away, I don’t even show anyone my maple syrup for fear they’ll ask me for a bottle.  I don’t blame them, I’m sure they have no idea I’d rather eat their veins than give up a bottle of my maple syrup.

I’ll never be able to replace everything that tree gives my backyard;  the shade, the mood, the shadows.  But I might be able to replace the sweet jars of goo it gives me.

Enter the bee.

I have been considering then dismissing the thought of getting bees for 8 years now.  Everyone I know says bees are hardly any work at all, but neither is maintaining a drawer full of clean underwear yet most days I worry I’ll get into an accident wearing a “back of the drawer” pair of gauchies.  You know the ones.  They either have loose elastic and don’t sit anywhere near your bits, or they were a well intentioned gift from a partner that has never had to endure the discomfort of wearing anything made out of cheap lace and whore.

So no matter how little time keeping bees might take, they do take some time.  More time than washing a load of laundry.

But now that this tree of mine might be on its last roots I’m thinking I could possibly replace it’s spot in the backyard with a pretty little beehive.  ACKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!  I can’t do this. I don’t have enough time. I. Can. Not. Do. This.

I’m gonna do it.


I’m so conflicted.

Part of the reason I couldn’t have bees in the backyard earlier (aside from the whole time thing) was that beehives need sun.  At least some sun in the morning to wake them up and get them started on their day. Without that big tree, I’d have a few spots of morning sun.  And afternoon sun. And evening sun.  There’d be a lot of sun.

There’d also be a lot of bees.  Most honeybees are pretty docile, but still.  It’s a small backyard, I already have what might be a killer chicken on my hands and I can also assure you I have giant, killer, Cicadas that whirlyfly right at your head every once in a while.  Don’t underestimate the power of a Cicada until you’ve had one try to whirlyfly up your sneeze chute.

Maybe I’ll just get a goat.  I’m sure they’re hardly any work at all.

Have a good weekend and let me know if you have bees and what your thoughts are on them.  Ditto for the goats.  Or llamas.  Or Alpacas.  And most especially sloths.




  1. Darla says:

    So sorry about your maple. You will miss her shade even more than her syrup.

    • Marla Swartz says:

      Replace your maple tree with another 14 foot maple tree and yes get bees. We did. Three boxes worth and we got two that produced this year and yielded nearly five gallons of honey this year. They do like shade and trees and flowers and gardens Our acre garden provided flowers and cukes and squashes flourished so much this year with the bees there nearby.

  2. Robert says:

    YES!!! get an ALPACA! or maybe a cashmere goat! Maybe even a vicuña???
    Why do I sound (read? ) so enthusiastic (enthusiasmated?) ???

    • Karen says:

      A vicuna! That is definitely the way to go. It’s decided. I can’t believe I forgot about a vicuna! Can you imagine the scarves and sweaters I could whip up. 😉 ~ karen!

    • Robin Star says:

      I have done it all and loved it all!!!

      And here is what I have learned (in 60 years) through it all.

      Do as much as you can afford in time and money.

      Give your heart and soul to each animal and know that they will at some point leave you (one way or another) .

      And when you can no longer lift a feed bag or walk with your goats or ride your horse or run when the bees swarm and try to sting you to death or shear your alpacas (especially the Vicuna) who hates it the most or bend over to milk your cows or stand through the joyous yard hogs who love you to death and break your knees running through them or you can no longer catch your protection donkeys or Llamas who are trying to kill your free range chickens and ducks or you can’t get your Pyrenees off the couch to sit down and you close your eyes for the last time you will know that you lived a wonderful life and you will be content.

      • Robert says:

        I envy your stamina, I’m exhausted just from reading all you have done and I’m not even 6 months in into my 24 years of life

  3. I thought of getting a donkey once until I read the requirements of the average donkey, which included needing an animal friend for company. But bees…? Sounds like a very good idea. If you go ahead with it, I’ll be very interested to read about your progress!

  4. Lois Baron says:

    Are we talking about the huge maple in the picture that seems to be *inside* your fence? Does the town own your backyard? I am so confused. As usual. So sorry at the thought you might lose the tree, though. I’m terrified that the huge oak in my backyard that prevented me from extending my renovation more than three feet in that direction (not that I could afford more) might kick the bucket. Although, happily, seeing as how it’s an oak, I have no need to tap it because, hey, clueless. Do Canadians just get born knowing how to tap a maple? (Maybe I got up way too early today and should be asleep already.) Fingers crossed for the maple. Do not get the bees. regardless. Unless you think you could train the killer chicken to protect you from errant bees. Which, for you, should be a piece of cake.

    • Karen says:

      There’s a certain amount of property that the city “owns” on all the houses. They measure from the middle of the road a certain distance and if you’re within that distance then technically it’s city land. Mainly that just means if you have trees the city is responsible for trimming them etc. ~ k!

  5. Janet says:

    The caterpillars have done a lot of damage around Dundas/West Hamilton this year and a lot of people have sparse looking trees. Ours are sad looking too. Hopefully it’s just that and not a worse fate for your maple

  6. Megan says:

    I would have an arborist take a look to see if there is anything to do to save it first, but if it is worse case you could always replace the tree. We had a big ole tree die in our yard and we got a cloned flowering empress tree which provides a lot of green and shade. In just two year it’s grown to be almost 20 feet tall. She is just starting to grow out of her “Dr. Seuss” phase with giant (and I mean GIANT) leaves. I’m hoping next year for some of the amazing purple flowers I’ve been promised. Any ways give it a thought,

    • Deborah Burns says:

      I also planted an empress tree, for fast shade in the middle of my back yard, I love the giant leaves, plus, purple flowers in the Spring!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Megan. That particular tree would die a quick death after one Ontario winter I’m afraid. I’ll keep my options open though. ~ karen!

      • Megan Geiger says:

        A lot of sites vary on what temperate zone they should live in some say 7 – 11 others 5 -11, I live in central Illinois and its still going strong. Good luck with your maple.

  7. Lois Baron says:

    And my other thought about bees is: Do not tend them naked.

  8. Haydee says:

    I have a vivid childhood memory of my Mom running across the field, yelling and pulling her pants off. She forgot to tuck them into her socks. #beekeepingrules

  9. Jani Wolfe says:

    Cheap lace and whore….you made me laugh so hard!!
    About the bees…..only you could pull it off and be successful.

  10. cyril murphy or lofty. says:

    Bees are very good if you have plenty of time to keep them going in the winter times,feeding and macking themOK. Tacks a while to get them up and going. But a grat juy to have..

  11. TucsonPatty says:

    It is so sad when a beloved tree is sick. I hope you get a reprieve. That would be better than bees, or alpacas, or especially a goat. My grandma made pancakes for us one morning with goats milk – they were disgusting tasting.

  12. Ecoteri says:

    Try bees – go for it – but not until next season, you have a Winterpeg winter coming soon, and you need a strong, big, healthy hive to get through the winter.
    They are an expensive hobby – you need a lot of paraphernalia that is, unfortunately, costly. Which is why most people I know with bees end up getting MORE bees, to justify the fancy outfits and smokers and hive tools and books and… Well, you get my drift…

    I have had bees of my own (4 years ago – got a full hive from someone who was moving. and it was a full hive in February – which was interesting as they had taken most of the honey off in the fall, but the bees managed to put more honey in before winter set in. ) I started going to the bee club and got to know the bee supplier people, which was useful when my over-full hive decided to swarm.
    it actually sent out 3 swarms.
    which I discovered in a tree after coming home from a business trip.
    so my bee supplier people friends came to my rescue and we gathered up all the swarms and put them in new boxes. where two of the swarms promptly didn’t survive. but the third swarm did survive, until the wasps appeared and attacked the hive and it died, too.
    Leaving me with my original hive – from whom I got some sweet honey.
    That hive survived and we split it the next spring before it could swarm. and those hives all did reasonably well until they all decided to completely swarm (empty the hive) because they were completely attacked by wasps.
    so the next year I got queens and starter bees and tried again – however, it was a bad summer for bees and I lost all of them. ARGH.
    I agree, they are more time than laundry – and it was a chaotic few years in my real life, but I feel badly for letting the bees die.
    The good news is that my current tenants-in-the-barn-loft have put bees back on the property. and since SHE is a certified trained beekeeper (11 months of training in Alberta) the bees are well managed and maintained. I can enjoy them all I want, and don’t have to work with them at all. And I can buy honey from them if I need any.
    The other good news is that I learned a lot while I had bees – they are fascinating both in and out of the hive. Standing in the middle of a swarm is one of the most spell-binding experiences I have ever had – I was completely unafraid, (they have full tummies of honey and are all in a good mood) and just in AWE at the sound and energy of it all…
    I guess this was a big ramble… sorry about that.

    • Taralyn says:

      Absolutely agree. Bees are amazing. When I had the time to work with them in appropriately zen way, I could wear a sundress and sandals and not get a single sting. And you and your neighbors will have fruit like you never didn’t before. And harvesting the different honeys than through the seasons (green tinged dandelion, golden in the peak of summer, claret if the blackberries get concentrated enough come fall) – that’s magical. But. Hives take time and bees die and wasps are evil and so are pesticides. I didn’t replace my girls after the second winter. Sold my gear and the hives – which had a swarm move in before guy picked them up. Hope springs eternal after all
      DO IT!!

      • Taralyn says:

        (Sorry – posted that on my phone Which’s made weird auto-guesses of what I was saying. Hope it’s clear enough. 💕🐝. (As much as hens)

    • Karen says:

      It was an epic story. 🙂 ~ karen!

    • Rebecca says:

      I really enjoyed reading this.

  13. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    So sad about the tree…why not just plant a new one and enjoy it for a hundred & fifty years?…Aww shit…you’re gonna do this bee thing aren’t you?

  14. Laurinda says:

    I also recommend having an arborist diagnose your tree first. I hate to see big trees come down, & maples are my favorite!
    I don’t own any farm animals (YET) except a goofy friendly dog, but when I do, I’ll also be looking into getting a Flow Hive, because of the ease of use. & cashmere goats, because I like goats & I love knitting

  15. Deborah Burns says:

    Sad about your ill maple tree, what a beautiful canopy she provides. Maybe your new bees can learn to hover in formation to make a new canop, you know, after the sun wakes them up in the morning! 🙂

    Personally, I am tired of taking care of things that refuse to help out aroung my house by vacuuming, darn those cats and parrot!! Good thing they have other talents (purring and cuddling) beyond making messes!

    Of course, your bees (to be) will be exchanging gold (en honey) for room and board. 🙂

  16. Kristina says:

    We rent hives for pollination in our almond orchards every January-March, and our beekeeper stages his local operation (we are in central CA, but he is from Oregon) out of our large farm yard (they move in, rearrange the frames in the hives, move them out for the season, then do the same at the end of the season.) A)It looks like a lot of work, but it’s pretty cool. B)When one bee gets pissed off, she brings her friends along. C)Bees are attracted to red hair, not sure about platinum. D)Getting stung in the ear canal is both freaky and painful. But E)They seldom follow you into the shade. Yay.

    Also, trees have natural lifespans. What is a Maple’s? Maybe it just need a visit from a good arborist?

  17. Wendy Thomson says:

    A couple of years ago I wanted to get into bees. I went to a seminar to learn about bees from an expert. His presentation was extremely well done and very informative. I hadn’t realized how much work and focus bee keeping entailed so in the end I opted out. Good luck to you if you decide to go ahead with it.

  18. Kathleen Aberley says:

    I am really sad for you about your tree.
    DO NOT GET A GOAT! They are cute when small, and then… they grow up. And eat everything. I mean everything. Washing off the line, plants… anything! 🙂 A sheep might be better…

  19. MrsChrisSA says:

    Mmm I love the idea of bees.
    But in your backyard? How huge is it?
    How will the chickens react.

    What about putting some hives in your veggie lot – that’s where I would put them.

    Whatever you decide – I think it is a good thing!! Apart from the honey, we need more people to ‘preserve’ our bees!

    • Monica says:

      I was thinking the same on this. I read an article in Hobby Farms by a lady who had a hive in her yard, but all of the bees died the first year. Her yard (an acre) didn’t have enough pollen to feed her bees and apparently her neighbors weren’t big flower planters either. It actually takes a lot of flowers, and having a multiple blooms to ensure flowering throughout the season, to feed these guys. With vegetables it’s one and done for many of them… but maybe if the community garden has some cutting flowers in it or wildflowers around it they might get enough. Plus, you could all benefit from the larger veggie yield!

      • Amy in KC says:

        There are lots of reasons a hive won’t make it during a beekeeper’s first year (or second, or third, or fourth … etc.!). But I doubt it was because her yard didn’t have enough pollen. They will fly for miles to find a variety of nectar and pollen. I agree it would be nice to have them at the community garden because the fruits and veggies would benefit, but the bees will fly all over to find food sources, not just in their own backyard. 🙂

  20. Sandra Lea says:

    The answers is yes, you should get bees and a goat. After all this is what we rely on you for, you do the up front work and then the rest of us can learn from your experiences and determine if we should do the same. Plus I’m sure there will be some great stories that come out of it.

  21. Sheryl says:

    My neighbor keeps bees on a small lot in our development. When I go near his yard one of them usually finds me like a heat seeking missile to sting me. 🐝

    • Sheryl says:

      Also, his honey tastes terrible because his bees drink from the neighborhood run-off trench. Can you keep them at your community garden?

  22. Sideroad40 says:

    I had the same thought as Mrschrissa….bees in your veggie lot? is that a possibility? I have two hives and think that probably your ‘city’ lot might be a tad congested for the busy bees comings and goings. Got a relative close by that’s ‘out in the country’? Our 2 yrs of beekeeping has gone well, lots of learning but it’s absolutely fascinating learning. We’re also maple syrup hobbyists and gardeners so …..yup….. I think you should find a way…..

  23. Debbie D says:

    I am not in the bee camp. Your yard is too small and you enjoy it too much to have the bees that would interfere with your entertaining and making bread/pizza in your oven. If the maple tree has to go, plant another one! However, I would ask for the city/county/province arborist to come out and take a look at it and see if anything can be done.
    If you want a sweet beastie, how about a mini teacup pig? They do not get huge like a potbelly one.

  24. lisa says:

    Was going to ask about keeping at your allotment but, others beat me to it.
    My uncle has chickens (I think 17 or 18), taps his maple trees for syrup, and built a bat house on his garage. I was trying to convince him to get bees. However, they’re up north near Bancroft and if he got bees, he would also get bears. Not sure of anyone who has backyard bears…not on purpose anyway.

    Sad about your tree. It looks pretty majestic.

    • Karen says:

      I want a bat house so badly. I don’t know why I’ve never got one, lol. They’re like $20. And it would fit perfectly on my maple tree! ~ karen

      • Valerie says:

        Bat houses are cool. We have one and the bats actually do use the little house. Also they are quite the conversation piece. They have to be located fairly high up without branches in the way. You will have a wonderful garden as bat guano is the most fantastic fertilizer though there is occasional sweeping required as unfortunately they do not deposit the guano in exactly the right places. The guano is dry and resembles mouse droppings so it is easy to spot and sweep up.
        Best to locate them on the tree trunk on the side away from the house otherwise they may mistake the patio door opening as entrance to their little house and a bat in the house is no fun at all.
        Getting a bat out of the house is a topic for another other post.

        • Shawna R. says:

          I’m looking into a bat house and I’ve been told that they will not move into boxes on live trees. they prefer dead trees, poles or a bat box on the side of the house. please do post if you get one! thanks!
          As for bees, perhaps they would do well near your veggie garden?

  25. Mel says:

    If your blood type is ‘B’ then you need to haves bees! 🙂

  26. Phyllis says:

    If you decide to go ahead with the bee thing…talk to Shawn at market…next to Rudy’s Palettas…he has lots of great info about the “bee”.

  27. Jessica Benson says:

    Please don’t get bees! If you do, then I’m gonna end up doing it.

    We moved to a couple-acre lot four years ago and it didn’t take long for me to start thinking about keeping bees (and chickens). After an all-day class at the University of Minnesota, I decided bee keeping wasn’t for me. Note: the turning point was at the end of class when they talked about shaking a sampling of bees in a jar of powdered sugar to check for and count mites. The instructor told us that really the best thing to do to help the bees was to plant native flowers. So that’s what I did. And I got myself a handful of chickens, in part, thanks to you (that’s sarcasm). I LOVED my chickens for a year until a fox went a ruined everything.

    I can see it now…

    You’re going to get bees and have tons of posts that talk about the virtues of bee keeping, how fun they are, how great the honey is, and what you’ve named them.

    How will I be able to resist?

    If you’re soon going to have a bit more sun in your backyard, plant some flowers.

  28. Ann says:

    I would not go with bees in your backyard. Others have mentioned how they might make entertaining in your backyard difficult.

    We had 3 hives for awhile, inherited from a bee keeping relative. My husband tended them and he had the perfect calm temperament for doing so. But if something could go wrong it did. It takes a good long while to get your hives where they don’t need much tending day to day. But still it is always work, more so than we ever thought it would. We finally lost our last hive this year to robbers who attacked our hive because it was easier for them to rob our honey than go collect and make their own.

    So we no longer keep bees. Hopefully the swarms we were not able to catch off ours over the years has nicely repopulated the wild honey bees in our area so our orchard pollination is still being helped by our old family bees.

    And no goat. Your nice furniture would quickly not be so nice

  29. Susan Claire says:

    Do NOT get bees. For some reason, when a hive decides to swarm they always end up on my property and make themselves at home in a big old bee-ball for a while. I have to confine my dogs until they move on-ever seen a dog attacked by a bee swarm? Sometimes they don’t move on, and I have to call the bee man to remove them-this is not a free service. You have chickens that your care about-imagine how you would feel if they attacked your birds. Do NOT get bees!

  30. Ev Wilcox says:

    Um, no. No bees. That tree looks to be pretty much in the center of your personal nirvana. Really, get another tree. While your piece of the world is very nice-where do the bees fit it? Where would you put them? The community garden would be wonderful, but I doubt your neighbors there would be happy with it! What ever you do-it will be well done!

  31. Jane Doe says:

    I vote for the goats. Goats are amazing. Cross between a cat and a dog. And they bounce on all four hooves when they’re happy. Of course they tend to climb; so you’re likely to find ’em on top of the chicken coop. Regularly.

  32. Vanessa says:

    oh no to the tree 🙁 but if you are thinking of bees, you should check out another blog where she’s forever troubleshooting how best to care for her hives (with ups and downs, loads of honey AND mead!)
    You might get distracted by her adorable donkeys and chickens though.

  33. Alena says:

    Very sorry about your tree; I am totally a tree person (must have been a tree in one of previous lives, in addition to the one where I was a dog) and the thought of losing such a beautiful mature maple would kill me.
    I think you gotta bet the bees. You are the right person for it. I can see you sitting in your RH-knockoff armchair all covered in bees and they are gently kissing you and buzzing sweet words of appreciation into your ears.
    The llamas are a GREAT idea. Or alpacas. Sloths are cool but I don’t if you can make a sweater out of them.

  34. Jen Topp says:

    I would not have bees in a small yard that you want to relax in. Especially since you have a pond. While they will LOVE it, you will forever be in fear of The Sting. Can you have them at your community garden? That would be perfect.

  35. Susan Warder says:

    I just lost a large ash tree that was very big when I moved in twenty five years ago. It is a huge absence, everything looks barren. It’s a big shock and I sympathize completely.

  36. David in Oakville says:

    No bees here but I do have a drawer full of “front of the drawer” underwear. Not that I worry, in Oakville, if you get in an accident no one asks you to undress, fill out a few forms maybe, but clothes stay on at all times. Strange customs you have in Hamilton.

    Praying for your maple because it is a beautiful tree.

  37. Carolyne says:

    I saw the best looking easy using bee hive

    I want one of those

    • Karen says:

      Hey Carolyne! I thought it looked great too but after seeing the flow a few years ago I asked all of my beekeeping friends what they thought of it and they all rolled their eyes, lol. I’m not sure why but they all agreed they weren’t impressed. ~ karen!

      • SueB says:

        Could be justified or could be the suspicion and distrust many people have of new fangled things.

        If I weren’t a filthy coward about stings then I’d do a test, a conventional hive v a flow hive 🙂

  38. Barb says:

    I’d like to see you tackle the beekeeping! And if you want some help I could pop by or there is a new program that you could take at Niagara College:
    I’d like to have some, but I’m lacking the sun. And I thought we have a bylaw against it being close to dwellings!

  39. Elsa says:

    Go for the bees, I have had mine for 4 years now. My garden is so alive with bees and the honey is amazing. I live up the hill from you, you’d be amazed how many beekeepers there are in this area. Yes, it is a bit of work and the costs can add up but you can build your own boxes. You have all winter to read and learn all about beekeeping because its too late for this year, there is a beekeeping guild that meets every month. About your tree, I’m so very sorry, I hope it can be saved.

  40. Carrie says:

    Sorry about the tree. Anything that lives that long and meets its end is sad to me. Definitely plant another. Don’t know much about bees except love watching them “collect” and that they love to drown themselves in my pool. I’m constantly skimming them out. They’re pretty smart but also pretty stupid. Lol
    Goats however are cute but smelly and eat EVERYTHING!!!!!
    Quick story to share….. When we first built our home (very woodsy area) I came home from work one day and there was about 20 goats all over my yard eating all my. new landscaping!
    I nervously get out of my car among the stench floating in the air and try to get inside. They gather around me and start chewing on my clothes and then this billy goat……..not so cute and cross eyed to boot…….was giving me the stink eye (not sure which one,they’re both out out of wack) starts making noise and pushing on me real hard. I was worried he was going to use those horns so I ran up my steps and they all followed me up. After fumbling with my keys I finally made it inside and am now feeling like pigpen with stench floating around me and now stinking up my house!!!!!
    They eventually left and went back home to the farm that butts up against our property.
    The next day the farmer was so upset he brought me fresh eggs,wine and go figure…!
    SO,think twice😨😱
    Had to share!

    • Karen says:

      LOLOL. That sounds like an episode of Fargo. ~ karen!

    • Amy in KC says:

      Carrie, to prevent the bees from drowning in your pool (or at least reduce the number), provide another water source for them, like a birdbath or another shallow dish/container of water. Then make sure you put marbles or stones in the basin that stick up out of the water so the bees can land on those, drink, and not drown.

  41. Shirley says:

    Yeah, get bees. You’re not busy enough. Slacker.

    • Pam'a says:

      What Shirley said.

      Barring that, could you be content visiting someone else’s bees, at least to begin with? Maybe you could trade veggies or chicken poop for honey. I tend to agree that they might be hard to keep in your yard, but hey. You’re KAREN, dammit! You can find a way!

  42. Barbara H. says:

    When we lived in Mobile, Alabama back in the 1970’s, we had a neighbor who lived in one of those grand old antibellum mansions. It was three stories high and had a huge front porch with massive round pillars. He had a problem with honey bees boring into a couple of those pillars. They were active little creatures and made LOTS of honey. In fact, they made so much honey that, after a while it would seep out of the bottom of the pillars and ooze all over the porch. This would happen in the summer when the sun heated the pillars and the honey.
    Not a good thing for ones mansion. He would have to call in someone to jack up the roof of his porch enough to take those pillars down. Then a professional bee person would trap the bees and clean out the honey. As you might imagine, this was a huge process. AND… no matter how well the pillars were sealed and repainted, honey bees would find their way back. So the process was repeated every few years. But the magnolia honey was delicious.

  43. Lynn says:

    If you get a goat, it will need a goat friend so now you have two of the little poopers. And they poop EVERYWHERE. And eat MANY things you wish they would not eat. We had them for a time–Kikos–they are a meat goat & get fairly big. They were SO sweet when they were young but then puberty hit & they were less sweet. In fact, they scared me a time or two. They wound up in the freezer but in a future time, we plan to take another run at goats–maybe diary goats?!

    And we are failed bee-keepers. The hive renewal is on the list when we have a bit more time which is somewhere around the 12th of Never! No rest for the wicked around here! Hope the tree survives but if not, make mead out of the honey!

  44. Elizabeth says:

    Get the bees! Get the bees! 🙂

  45. Stef says:

    I’ve kept bees for years (but they never make it through winter so I end up spending $$ for new packages or nucs.) Decided if they don’t make it this winter (in Pennsylvania, so probably shorter winter than yours) I’m giving up. They’re cool, honey is great, but the time and money is getting to me. They don’t take THAT much time, but even that is too much when it entails getting bundled up in the heat of summer. There’s always a reason to put it off.

  46. annie says:

    Maple syrup,yummie. Little did I know, that you did your own. Let’s just say that the maple LIVES, any chance of a story,better yet a video, of you making some maple syrup? Or I miss that blog? Otherwise, if the maple goes, differently get bees.

  47. Renee says:

    Curious, was your tree just fine before your paving project? If so, it is likely that the paving is suffocating and/or preventing moisture from reaching the tree’s roots, due to being placed within the tree’s dripline. If that is the case, it seems like your entire yard is in the dripline, so I don’t know how you could have avoided that. Then again, it could be coincidence that you put in the paving and the tree is old and at the end of it’s life. Definitely call an arborist before doing anything rash. It could be that it has some weird disease that they can spray for and it will be just fine, retaining your backyard nirvana vibe. They will have all the answers for you..except for how to keep bees. Which sounds intriguing, and will certainly be fun to hear about.

    • Karen says:

      The backyard has actually been paved since I’ve owned it. It was paved with slate by the prior owners 18 years or so ago. Plus the other side of the fence is sidewalk then road. The driveway is near and is gravel so that’s a bonus, but other than the planter bed radius around the base it’s mostly paved. Which I have always worried about. ~ karen!

  48. Marjorie Kramer says:

    Thanks, Karen, for your column, and thanks to all of you for your wonderful stories and wit. You made my day. Since I live in an arid climate (Front Range City, Colorado – aka north of Denver) I mourn the loss of trees and hope yours can be saved with some judicious pruning. If it can’t, then I go with getting something that doesn’t poop. Another beautiful maple? Good luck!

  49. Rosie Walsh says:

    I hope you’ll immediately contact an excellent tree arborist. I haven’t read comments, but urge you to find a certified arborist. Hopefully, you can find reviews on a list of them and choose the very best one. I’ve recently read several articles about how tree health, or lack thereof, has been overcome.

  50. Linda says:

    Ok, you can’t put the words “killer chicken” together in a sentence and not explain yourself. Or your chicken. What exactly is she trying to kill?

  51. Katie Ch. says:

    I’m sorry about the maple. It added so much to your to your yard. 🙁

    However, you could possible create some Bee Gum hives using the trunk of the tree so it won’t be completely gone.

  52. Heather says:

    This is my second year having bees and I’m conflicted on whether or not to recommend others to get them. They aren’t a lot of work like you mentioned, but what I have found is that they are kind of stressful for me. The stressful part isn’t if I’m going to get stung it is trying to make sure that they stay, are healthy, and make it through the winter. There are so many things that can go wrong and they are not a cheap “pet” to have. Last winter I lost both of my hives. One had laying workers that I tried to correct, but they ended up killing my $40 queen that I bought to hopefully take over :(. The other hive had a huge mite problem that I just couldn’t get under control (even with treatments) and died off. The investment is costly up front. You can cut your costs if you build the stuff yourself, but I never had time and was always going to the bee store last minute to buy everything pre assembled. I’m in Portland, Oregon and the cost of a nuc (colony) of hives is $100-180 (I’ve heard of other places being a lot more expensive), which is very expensive if they don’t last you a year!

    This year my two colonies are doing really well. I’ll actually be harvesting my second batch of honey from them today and will probably have gotten a total of 4 gallons of honey this year. The honey that they produced is so sweet and delicious (the main nectar flow here is from the blackberries). I joke around with friends that the cost of my honey to make up for the time and money I put into them is about $50 for a 8 oz jar! It is really relaxing to watch the bees flying into and out of the hive and when they were gone before I got my new bees I missed watching them (it’s like an airport of bees flying in and out of the hives). My bees have not been aggressive at all, but I have heard stories of some being aggressive. Usually it means they are queenless or you have a mean queen & you just need to kill her and replace her with one that is hopefully nicer :). I also have a bigger yard, so I don’t know how it would be to have them in a small space. I have friends that do and they seem to be fine, but I’ve also known their hives to swarm into their neighbor’s yards.

    I guess my best advice if you get them is to find someone in your area that has kept bees for awhile and have them be your mentor. Down here in Oregon they have a Master Beekeeper class through one of the colleges and it’s a year long program that teaches you all about bees and connects you with a mentor. It’s an amazing program and a great resource.

    Lastly, you’ll come to think yellow jackets are even bigger assholes! Once the nectar flow is over they start coming around the hives trying to kill your bees to eat them and the honey (I’ve heard of them killing off hives of bees). I feel like I go into battle mode with them starting in late July until Oct-Nov and I hate them so much! Word of advice though, put out yellow jacket traps in the early spring because that is when the queens are out flying around and if you catch a queen you prevent a colony from starting!

    • Karen says:

      I have lots of beekeeping friends so that wouldn’t be a problem, it’s the time. :/ I really should make underwear a priority over bees. ~ karen!

  53. Lynda Loy says:

    I am new to your blog and absolutely love it! Sorry about your tree, always hate to see big old trees come down! If worse comes to worse and you can’t save it have you thought about having a piece of furniture or something made out of it? That way you would have it forever. As to the bees…I don’t know, we’ve had them off and on over the years and it has become harder to keep them alive. As to a goat they will positively eat ANYTHING! Had one to eat the bud right out of rows of young tobacco plants! (This was years ago.) Good luck on whatever you decide!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Lynda! And yes … I may just end up sticking with cats, fish and chickens. And of course the sloth. ~ karen!

  54. kathy says:

    Bits of lace and whore, you keep excelling yourself. Could even be a name for a store. But it’s the city tree trimming that zapped my fun. You didn’t call them chainsaw maniacs destroying your tree so I’m sure my city uses a different service. Power lines down the middle of facing backyards with trees here and there and to “prevent problems” trimmers have come by over the last several years. Their aggressive tree attack, me stating stop now, and no one speaking ENGLISH was a mess. But over the years they’ve killed my maple and neighbors pecan. Now removing those trees is our expense. Yeah I get pissed.

  55. Is a donkey easier than a goat? I know miniature horses can be house-trained to act as service animals. Anyone know if that goes for donkeys too? Little donkeys are adorable! Wouldn’t a little donkey look cute sitting on Karen’s big furniture??!

  56. Irene says:

    Please dont be hasty in chopping down the tree.
    Rene has a point. You may have blocked any water from getting to the roots with your paving. It’s a good idea to skip a paver every meter and a half or so, to allow water to run to the roots. You could plant something like mondo grass in the gaps. It takes a tree a long time (to us) to show its distress. It will also take a few seasons to show you whether she is recovering or dying.
    Perhaps you can open some gaps and do a lot of very deep watering for the next couple of years? Also don’t tap for syrup for a while; let her rest.
    My friend saved a magnificent old oak surrounded by paving by soaking it’s roots every day or two. It was in a bad state. It’s back to being magnificent. 🙂 She has to keep up with the deep soaking now and forever due to the paving, but it’s worth it.

  57. Linn says:

    I completely agree with all of the “call an arborist” posts for your sad Maple. We, too have an old Maple tree that is the focal point of our backyard. It has slowly (5years or so), been putting out smaller leaves, and dead branches. We contacted an arborist about 3 years ago, and his recommendation was to water more, especially where we had added a deck, chicken coop and cement patio. It seems we were also suffocating it with the huge pile of soil waiting for the waterfall that never materialized. Well, the old girl just never recovered. Jump ahead to 2017, and the new arborist cleared the area around the trunk to reveal that the tree was actually choking itself with it’s own 10″ root! So, we hired “Root Cause” (great name for a root doctor), right? He and his crew came in and did major root surgery and carefully pruned it’s companion plants. $1400 later, and I can’t tell you if it helped, or not, but that tree is like a family member, and if it is cured, then it was completely worth it! Plus, it would cost a lot more to remove it! Good Luck!

  58. Amy Watson says:

    Karen, listen to me OK???? DO NOT GET A GOAT…..unless you have an acre or 2 if grass and weeds and tin cans, that’s what goats eat, if they don’t have that they will eat your furniture and then the hen house and when that’s gone they will come after what’s next….your house and garden , so no goat!!!!! Sorry about the tree I really am… go find us a good book to read ……

  59. Tori says:

    Get a Flow Hive. I have one and I don’t even have any bees.

  60. Diane Palecek says:

    In my heart of hearts I want an acre of land with tiny little barn and a couple of miniature horses. I’d build a ramp up to my front door and invite them in for vegetarian pizza every Friday night. Live your dream.

  61. jaine kunst says:

    OK, I don’t have any bee advice but I was wondering why there are leaves over the door to the cob oven. Are you not making pizzas this summer? On second thought, I don’t think you should get bees (too much work, too little time) but maybe a cute arborist might work. Nah, they’re even more work.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. That’s a vase with branches in it on the dining table. Just an optical illusion. 🙂 I’ve made a lot of pizza this summer and am making it again tonight as a matter of fact. ~ karen!

  62. NinaMargo says:

    Karen, before you get your bees, read “The Queen Must Die and Other Affairs of Bees and Men” by William Longgood. You will be able to definitively decide whether you want to welcome these fabulous creatures into your personal universe or just let them visit your garden occasionally. This book was my bookclub’s most recent choice last month – we all loved it!

    I DO mourn the loss of your big beautiful maple. How about replacing it with a beautiful Japanese maple so you can have lacy (but not whore-y) scarlet leaves in the fall?

  63. Brian says:

    2 Words ….. Goat Crossfit !!!!!!
    Your the adventurist type, as soon as you mentioned maybe a goat, I thought of this,
    NOT that you need exercise, not that I think you need exercise, or to loose weight, no that dress looks fine on you…Why does this always happen when I mention exercise to women ??? No I didn’t mean adventurist like that, now you are being silly and twisting my words !!!! In the words of Charlie Brown AARRRRGGGHHHH !!!!!

    • Karen says:

      I’m officially offended. I could e a s i l y lift more than a chicken. Goat Crossfit. Pfttt. Toooo easy. I’m going to eat ice cream now. ~ karen!

  64. marilyn meagher says:

    No bees,no goat more tree

  65. Suzy Charto says:

    don’t wait too long to take care of the tree. I don’t know if you saw what happened in Montreal this week. The damage from the trees was awful. Wouldn’t want this to happen to you.

  66. Amy in KC says:

    GET. THE. BEES! I convinced my dad to get beehives and bees this year. I don’t live with my parents anymore, so my dad is mainly in charge of the bees, but it’s a team effort between the two of us. I did a lot of research beforehand, but it’s hard to remember everything (and there is a TON to learn—they say you’re always learning), so I don’t really know if we know what we’re doing. But my dad has a kick out of watching the bees bring in the pollen and also pollinate his garden. I think it’d be awesome if you could get hives at your community garden, but it completely makes sense if they’re not allowed there since it’s a rented space. I think it’d be worth a shot in your backyard. Your backyard is pretty big and the bees will fly up to several miles away to bring in pollen. Honeybees can also be pretty docile … they don’t want to sting you because they will likely die afterward (the stinger gets stuck in human flesh and is ripped out of their abdomens) … it’s the other stinging insects (wasps, hornets) that give bees a bad reputation. 🙁 Not to say that they won’t get mad/scared from time to time, but that’s simply when you leave them alone!

    Regarding the expense, as someone above wrote, you can build your own boxes/frames (and even your own hives!) to save money. There will still be a lot of expense, though, but if you’re successful and can sell some honey (or give away as gifts, replacing money you typically spend on gifts), then that offsets some costs, too.

    Mostly it would be amazing if you had bees not only because bees are wonderful and important, but also because then I would learn from you because I know you’d have some incredible well-researched posts! 😉 So it’s a little selfish.


    • Amy in KC says:

      P.S. I wanted to mention that they advise you to have two hives. I wanted a Warre hive because it’s supposed to be more hands-off (and more like a natural hive), and my dad’s buddy who is a beekeeper only knows more traditional hives, so the other hive we have is a Langstroth. So far the Warre hive is booming and the Langstroth one is doing OK, but doesn’t seem to be as well populated. We will see!

    • Karen says:

      So. I’m confused. Where do you stand on me getting bees? ~ karen!

  67. Carolyn Schneider says:

    Can you put a bee hive in your community garden? I would love to have a hive, but am allergic to bees (and deathly afraid of them).

  68. Steph says:

    Yes to the bees! Time-wise, bees are not a huge investment. 20 minutes or so every few weeks to see how they’re doing and if you need to add a super (so they’ll have more room for honey). Money-wise, it can be a different story, but if you make the decision now to get them next spring you can do what I did, which is just buy the equipment a little at a time all winter so it doesn’t feel like it’s so expensive. You don’t need a lot of space and the chickens won’t mind, either. My hive is right in the chicken yard- I thought I’d keep all the livestock together :)- and the bees leave the chickens alone and vice-versa.

  69. Jody says:

    I’m so sorry about your tree. If it needs to come down please keep some of the limbs and part of the trunk to make stools, cutting boards, serving platters. Christmas gifts from now till……..
    And bees, lots of bees. Happy pollinating, honey producing bees.

  70. SusanR says:

    If you get goats, you can’t have anything else in your yard – no yard furniture, no pizza oven, no plants. They’ll destroy everything. They’ll chew up the galaxy chair, the cushions on the furniture, the WOOD of the furniture. They’ll knock over the furniture, tables, pots. Plus, if you think a rooster is noisy, spend a day next to a goat pen. Your neighbors will NOT be happy.

    The bees will take more time than you want them to take, and they will interfere with your enjoyment of your yard. They’ll eventually sting your guests to the point they won’t want to attend your outside gatherings any longer. They’ll be all over the pond. Koi won’t eat more than one dead bee, before leaving their bodies to float or sink. Bees CAN kill Koi with stings. Bees also attract things that like to feed on bee larvae, like mice, rats, skunks and raccoons.

    How about a butterfly farm? You seem to enjoy hatching butterflies. That could be very rewarding.

    I hope it turns out the tree can be saved. The roots might need more nutrients than it’s getting. An arborist is the first step. And if the tree can’t be saved, keep an eye out for other maple trees in your neighborhood. You might be able to swap eggs for being able to hang a sap bucket on their maple tree.

    Whatever you decide, I’m sure it will be the right thing for you to do, and you can always find some beekeeper to take the hives, if it doesn’t work out, just like you did for the rooster. Goats might not be so easy to get rid of.

  71. Linda says:

    I have bees. I love them. I just got them this year and my hive has already swarmed, made a new queen, and made so much honey I was able to swipe 2 frames worth guilt free. That said, getting started with bees will run you 500.00 – 750.00. Heck a nuc of bees alone runs 120.00 – 140.00. Also, during the summer they need to be checked every 10 days to ensure the queen doesn’t get honey bound and add boxes and frames as necessary. I recommend doing your homework over winter and then diving in early spring next year. Lastly, paint your boxes fun colors. White is dull dull dull! I did mine in pink and orange with pink, orange and burnt gold mandalas… because I could ;D

  72. Linda says:

    Here’s a pic of the hive, post painting and pre bees.

    • Karen says:

      Very nice! I’m still not convinced I have the time to devote to them but I can’t help but being pulled in their direction. 🙂 ~ karen!

  73. Berit says:

    I’ve kept bees for the past two years. There is definitely a learning curve so you will need to factor in several hours worth of education time. Additionally, you will spend a fair amount of time in the spring and early summer both building the boxes and frames (if you choose to go the cheaper “assemble yourself” route) and getting the first hive established. Once everything is put together and the bees are installed, maintaining them it’s not a full time job but it does require a couple of hours of time a week the first few months. The honey harvest takes a solid day. I harvested around 60 pounds from my hive this summer and it was a long day of work.

    I’ll also second the comment about bees being an expensive hobby. There is some opportunity for DIY and getting things second hand but it’s still a little bit of a money pit.

    Re honey: newly established colonies will often not produce enough honey the first year for a harvest, especially if you start with packaged bees (as opposed to a nuc). Many first time beekeepers have to wait until the second summer to harvest any honey. And that assumes that you can get the hive through the winter. Keeping bees happy and healthy is significantly harder than I thought it would be.

    As far as space, you probably need a good 4-6 feet in front of the hive that you cede to the bees and their flight path. While honey bees are fairly mellow, they do need a few feet of free space in front of the hive for take off and landing during the months that they are flying (generally, when the temperatures are above 50 degrees). You definitely don’t want the front of the hive directly in front of a high traffic area of your backyard. The bees will just end up bumping into (and likely accidentally stinging) you and your guests.

    All that being said, I love my bees. I love watching them fly in and out of the hive. I love hunting for them in my garden. I love watching them pack on the pollen pants. I just love them. They are fascinating little creatures and it blows my mind that they create this delicious, edible substance that stores for months in a box in my backyard. Nature is freaking amazing.

    I’ll conclude by saying they are more work than a house plant but less work than a chicken. And, of course, always happy to share more of my limited experience and knowledge if you decide to take the plunge.

  74. ugh, Him Again? says:

    Bees, try to get Russians.
    Goats are cats with horns and hooves.
    The epitome of mammalian perfection.
    Is that something you are ready for?
    Never goat, always goats.
    Llamas are wonderful idiots as long as you get past Berserk Llama Syndrome.
    Sloths, sneaky buggers.
    I had a chat with a sloth in 2015 and have not been out of bed for more than 6 hours at a time since.
    They spread their attitude and it infects you.

  75. Donna says:

    I vote for the arborist and if no hope, an incredibly expensive tree large enough to provide shade immediately. I vote against the bees. One of the posts mentioned wasps attacking the bees. I live in S. TX. That old saying that everything’s bigger in tx may not be totally true but it DOES apply to wasps. Big fat, red, juicy looking, aggressive wasps. Always on the hunt for water for their nasty little nests. And I’ve tried all the clever little Pinterest tricks to deal with them. Failures, all of them. This year I’ve put saucers of water on the edges of my property, away from the pool and grandkids play area, and my garden. But I travelled so much I have no idea if that idea is effective or not. May try again next year or move back to SC where wasps are normal size

  76. Ellen says:

    I got bees last April. They are fascinating. I feel like a whole world of pollinators has opened up to me because of what I notice now. And I’m in awe of these little creatures and what they can teach us.

    Get bees. In the spring. It will change your life.

  77. Leisa says:

    I’m sure there’s something like this in your area, but if not…

  78. Deb J says:

    Sorry. Normally I read all of the comments – it’s one of the reasons I like this blog. There are others but … This time I did not. I’ve been at the cottage, medical emergency (not life threatening), etc etc. But I like the bee idea AND … here in staid old Ottawa one can rent bees. You sign up and they put a hive on your location & they look after it. You get the honey. I’ve thought about it but our spot is not ideal. But CBC Ottawa has bees at their transmitter site. And I figured something like that might be good for you. Maybe even the Ottawa bee-ery.

    Sorry if somebody else beat me. Didn’t read them all. And good on ya if ya did.

  79. Sherry in Alaska says:

    Umm… If the tree in the picture is the tree you’ve written about and said tree is on city property, why is your fence behind it? It’ll certainly change your entire yard if it has to come down. That would be a real shame. It’s so nearly perfect now. Maybe she just needs a good arborist to help her along……… Planning for a ‘post tree’ yard might be premature.
    I’ve had goats. You’re either a goat person or you’re NOT. I am not. And you really can’t have just one. Unless you want goat poop all over your yard, you have to have a pen. And, and , a……. What do you want them for? Milk? More time. Meat? Probably not. Yard ornaments? Get an elf. So I say no on goats.
    Bees? Small yard. Expensive hobby: hive, bees, beekeeping outfit, and more. Plus if any of your neighbors are allergic to bees, expect grief. Just buy local honey at the Farmers’ Market.
    Best choice if the old girl has to go plant another tree. Really what could be better company than a new tree?
    Good luck!

  80. Nicole F. says:

    I’m late to the party (post) so forgive me if it’s already been offered: two words – Flow Hive. I have been pondering bees for quite a while also, and this has me more serious than ever. Watch any video of them harvesting on their Facebook page and I can’t imagine how you wouldn’t be dreaming of how your honey can be differently flavored depending on the flowers in bloom nearby. It would be another way for me to live vicariously through you. 😉

  81. Nancy says:

    Beekeepers don’t like the Flow Hive because it’s a gimmick. It’s not an easier way to keep bees. You still have to keep and maintain the bees the same as any hive. The “ease” is in getting the honey out of the hive with just a tap. My beekeeper friends all said the same thing, No. They also said that the cell frame that the honey is stored in and separates to create the flow is made of plastic and they are concerned about plastic off gassing and causing harm to the bees. The ads make it sound like it’s an easier way to keep bees but it’s not. It’s just an easier way to harvest the honey.

  82. Rebecca says:

    If you choose to keep bees, I would really enjoy following along.

  83. Nicole says:

    Get a goat. I have extras. 🙂

  84. I vote miniature donkeys.

  85. Amy in StL says:

    Call an arborist. My parents have an enormous oak and the arborist had to cut away half of it after a lightning strike. It had a beetle infestation and yet it survived. Nobody thought it would, but with proper treatment and trimming it’s healthy and coming back.

  86. Julie says:

    Sloths are easily potty trained but smell terrible. Trust me.

  87. Glenda says:

    Puh.leeeze. Get bees. Teach me! I want them too. I have 1/3 acre and love supplying nectar rich plants for bees. High time they started giving back! Lol

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