My favorite part of beekeeping is tinkering with the hives, trying a crazy idea I heard somewhere, or experimenting with a new piece of equipment. The process of learning, tweaking, and improvising is much more exciting to me than seeing how many pounds of honey I can squeeze from a hive. In some years, all my tampering goes awry and I end up harvesting nothing. In other years, Im floating in the sweet stuff. But as long as I learn somethinggood or bad, positive or negativeI consider the season a success.

The time I spend with experimentation is a form of bee zen, an opportunity to be outside with the insects and the flowers and the sky. I often confer with catsShould it go this way or that? I askbut end up doing things my own way most of the time. The best part is leaving all the technology inside.

How many projects I get to try depends on how many colonies I can overwinter and how strong they are. This past winter came on the heels of severe summer and fall nectar dearths, and my bees have been struggling for months on nothing but sugar and pollen substitute. So far, they are hanging on, but I can feel them getting weaker by the day. Sometimes I feel like they will make it; on other days I wonder how many more rainy days they can take.

Still, Ive been trying to think positive thoughts and prepare for this years try-its. Some are new and some Ive tried before. My list of projects looks like this, assuming I have enough strong colonies:

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