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A Day in the Life of a Bee Keeper

A Day in the Life of a Bee Keeper

Hearing Yves Ginat talk about his life confirms it.  Beekepers must be the happiest people in the world. One could argue that as a Frenchman, Yves is a natural bon vivant - but there’s more to his happiness than a genetic disposition for the charmed life.  Yves, who is based in Tasmania’s  D’Entrecasteaux Channel, has worked hard to build a rich life that’s close to nature, and he’s done it by creating his biodynamic apiary company, Miellerie.

Yves’ farming experience canvases an agricultural internship in France,  experience on a biodynamic farm for people with special needs in Scotland, and apiary experience in New Zealand and Tasmania – building on the skills he learnt from neighbours as a young boy growing up in France.

Perhaps most telling about his approach to farming, and perhaps the key to his happiness, is his commentary on his time in Edinburgh.

“The [Scotland farm] project was based on two ideas. The first is that farming can be lonely work, and that many farmers appreciate having company and assistance in the field. The second is that people with special needs benefit from working outdoors with their hands – under supervision,” says Yves. “The thinking behind this project was informed by Rudolf Steiner’s work, and was based on Campille principles. People with special needs nourished the farmer, providing him with company and another pair of hands. The people with special needs experienced a direct connection to the land, which is so often lost by urban living.”

Yves chose beekeeping because he realised it would allow him to travel, and wound up in Tasmania working for a beekeeper who eventually made the decision to retire – but slowly. Over the following years, Yves purchased the hives from him as he could afford to do so, and Miellerie was launched in 2005. It has grown to employ a team of six since then.

Miellerie honey is distinct for a myriad of reaons, ranging from the biodynamic practices that are built into its production, such as using essential oils and herbal remedies to harness the vitality of the bees’ colony, to its flavour.  Miellerie classics are leatherwood honey, and ‘Lake Peddar’s Nectar’, which is made from a blend of banksia, tea tree, button grass, melaleuca, and native peppermint blossom.

The blends are works of art in themselves, and Yves spends lots of time talking with older beekeepers, walking the land, finding stands of suitable trees, talking with land owners and undertaking trials with bees to make new flavours.

Yves now lives with his family on the ouskirts of a town on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, a little south of Hobart. “We live on a quiet bush block with paddocks to explore and play in, with a garden and chickens to look after. We are surrounded by trees some peppermint, eucalypt and wattle,” says Yves. “In winter it is sometimes covered in snow for a day or two.”

Today he takes us through a typical day in winter, spring and summer.

A good day in winter

I rise with the family and spend breakfast with them as we chat at the table. We all get ready and I drive them to school and continue on to the Honey Shed.

I may do some paperwork for a while and put on my overalls and spend most of the day on a project in the shed. Perhaps figuring out the design of a new machine or perhaps building new hives or repairing old ones with Steve or Sam.

Lunch we have in the lunch room around the table with lots of talking. Once the afternoons’ work is complete I drive to the school and pick up our girls and head home.

We start the fire, eat a little and then start some baking, perhaps a pie for desert. My wife Georgina usually cooks dinner and we share the adventures of the day around the table. After the girls are in bed Georgina and I have some quiet time. I may read or do a little project homework in front of the fire. Bedtime is usually early.

A good day in spring 

I may rise early and leave home before the house wakes up. In the Honey Shed I organize what we need for the day so we are ready to go when Sam arrives. We both put our bee suits on and drive a short way to where some hives are kept. We look at each hive to see how the bees are doing and drive to the next place along the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.

We will stop for a lunch at some time between 11am and 2pm at least for 30 minutes. My lunch is usually left overs from last nights family dinner. When we are finished  checking on the hives we head back to the Honey Shed to unpack and cleanup before leaving. If I am able to, I pick the girls up from school and perhaps head to the beach to play in the water before heading home.

A good day in summer

...may start the night before. I may leave home after dinner and drive with Sam or Steve to Lake Pedder in Tasmania’s southern wilderness. In the morning we check all the hives and see how the bees are doing. Where we can, we collect boxes of honey the bees have stored. We load them onto the truck and drive back to the Honey Shed to unload before heading home.

At home after dinner I will be organising and planning for the next few days. Checking the weather, chatting to other beekeepers and contacting Sam or Steve to arrange help with the bees or extracting the honey. Bed time is usually early.

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Miellerie honey is available now.