This young couple want to help others learn what theyve learned.
Ansley and Barry Livingston have been in Mancos for three years, and they both have gardening in their upbringings, having grown up in rural areas. Barry has been a carpenter by trade, remodeling homes and making furniture. But when they moved here to Colorado, after living in town for a couple years, they found a place they love in Weber Canyon with three acres. And they wanted to raise a garden, have some chickens, and generally live a simple, rural lifestyle. Raising bees, however, was something they happened on as a natural extension of that lifestyle.
They like to attribute much of their bee knowledge to a couple in Durango, who have been doing it for many years.
Its beekeeping for common folks, Barry said with a smile. We figured if they could do it, so could we!
So they listened to their friends and did a lot of research on keeping bees. Barry, with his woodworking skills, put together a top bar hive for their own use, using instructions he got from a beekeeping website.
The more people talked to us, the more we would see interest, he said. So every time I would build one, I sold it to someone else.
Interest in keeping bees has grown in this area, he said, and hes excited about that.
The beehive design that Barry built is not like the hives one is used to seeing, with the rectangular layered box. That is the Langstroth hive. It is, by far, the most popular type of honey bee hive in the United States and other parts of the world. It has numerous boxes, open at the top and bottom, which contain frames. The deep boxes contain the brood nest and the shallow boxes hold the honey. There is a top for weather-proofing and a floor underneath.
However, the main difference is that in the Langstroth hive, the combs are provided for the bees, ostensibly to make their honey production easier. But the Livingstons believe, as do many other beekeepers, that honeybees need to make their own honeycombs, as well as their honey.
Its just more healthy and natural that way, Ansley said.
The hive they use, the top bar hive, is closer to what nature would provide for the bees, the Livingstons said, and thats what they want.
In common farming practices, bees in a hive are not getting the food that they need, Ansley said. And unhealthy bees, and their hives, attract mites.
Some mites are OK, just like we all have some bacteria in our bodies, she said. But, they said that if a hive is healthy, it should be able to take care of any mites that they have.
So all that theyve learned about bees, theyve learned by trial and error, by listening to other beekeepers and by reading and researching.
Were not experts, by any means, Barry said. But we do want to help people who are interested in learning about and keeping bees, and you learn how to keep bees by just keeping bees!
You can learn a lot from bees. They are our indicators, they both said. Theres been a decline in bees since World War II. They can teach us about health and about community. Unless they are threatened, they wont hurt anything or anybody. All they do is for their community. They are very organized and selfless, and they have their own form of communication. Not to mention, said Ansley, that honey is a complete food.
The Livingstons will soon be on the swarm list for Montezuma County, which means they will be one of the beekeepers who are called in the event that a swarm of honeybees is spotted. They have also found a couple of good outlets for getting healthy bees in Texas, New Mexico and Durango. They dont currently have any bees, but their plan is to have some this summer. Thats the reason they are busily planting their garden, with the health and feeding of their bees in mind.
Two websites, www.backyardhive.com and www.beeguardian.org, are great resources they use.
The Livingstons also have a few chickens on their farm, recently acquired from the neighbor. They plan to have more of them as well, and Barry has constructed a portable backyard chicken coop. It has two nest boxes in the top section of the coop, and there is room for four to six chickens in the coop, depending on their size. The coop can be moved around the yard as the chickens need to scratch in the grass. There is ease of egg-collection and feeding.
Both the top bar hive and the portable chicken coop can be seen at the Mancos Public Library.
The Livingstons like to think their lifestyle will contribute to their beekeeping, gardening and chicken-raising. During this time of recession and little disposable income, they prefer rural living where they can have animals, and become as self-sufficient as possible. They dont just want to read about keeping bees or raising chickens they want to do it. And they feel its possible for us little people to do these things.
Ansley is excited about teaching other people about bees, she said. Id like to help people get into bees like we have, she said. Id like to assist them with the hives especially people who are, for one reason or another, afraid of bees.
This area, Barry said, is such a good place for this kind of lifestyle.
The sustainability in this community is great and the people are really committed to doing the right thing. .... Its starting to feel like a bee community!
I think there are a lot of pretty gentle folk that really like bees, he said. But if we can do it, anybody can do it. Were just worker bees.