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Ten Acres Is Enough

Post in 'The Green Room' started by jebatty, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    jebatty - what time is dinner normally served at your place ?

    SolarandWood - "compromise" is probably a better word than settle. As jebatty said, I would like to have my cake and eat it too - low cost of living, some convenience, and a good job. Had to find the compromise between proximity, convenience, space, and cost. Very complex equation. We're are located ridiculously close to all manner of ammenities - could easily ride a bike if it were not for traffic-related safety concerns. Most of these I could care less about with the exception of medical facilities, food stores, and places like Lowes/HD. The thought of living out and driving an hour for these services seems crazy and while I'm certainly not counting my carbon credits all of the time it seems to me we're being better stewards by participating in a very local economy and not driving those extended distances. The only way I feel like I've truly settled is in regards to the regulations imposed by my township. While it's a historic farming community, I'm technically supposed to have over 2.5 acres to have any "non-pet" animals. I want chickens, laying hens to be more precise. No rooster. Just hens. Technically, even though we have almost 2 acres, which is more than enough space, I'm not supposed to have them. Seems ridiculous to me and I plan on pushing the limits of "pet" next spring ... I'm hoping if I give my neighbors some eggs nobody will care. Bees might come later if I can get away with chickens.

    One thing that my situation has taught me is to carefully consider geographic flexibility when picking a line of work. I gave no thought to this at all. I will strongly encourage my sons to take this into account so that they can create options for themselves. I basically need to be near a large industrial base and am in a somewhat specialized field. I'm geographically restricted. Had I chosen to be a CPA or pharmacist I could get a decent job nearly anywhere. Then I might have the option of living in a smaller town and having a decent job - remember, death and taxes are certainties and people everywhere have to deal with them!

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  2. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    What's wrong with commuting?
    We have a beautiful old stone house and barns on 108 acres with 80 tillable
    and 20 in woods. It backs up to the Erie Canal and there's a one acre pond.
    We're 30 minutes from Rochester and 45 minutes from Buffalo.
    Nearest hospital is 15 minutes away and the nearest Lowes is 20 minutes.
    We can't see a neighbor from the front porch.
    Everybody out here is not a CPA or pharmacist.
    I can't comprehend your self-imposed "geographical restrictions"
    but I do realize that the grass is not always greener.
  3. SolarAndWood

    SolarAndWood Minister of Fire

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    Kenny, you've got it made. Those stone houses you find in the canal corridor are beautiful and then there is that big body of fresh water 10 mins away. The thing I never got until I started traveling for work is how good we have it in upstate NY. I'll take some lake effect over traffic any day of the week.
  4. kenny chaos

    kenny chaos Minister of Fire

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    Yes, it sounds like we have it made but I'm not a big bread winner
    so we sacrifice a lot, or maybe not. I always wish I had more.
    Matter of priorities.
    Good-day Sir.
  5. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Tim, I may be biased as a beekeeper myself, but I think you would find the bees would be FAR easier to get away with than chickens... I'm keeping mine on a bit over an acre, but my supply lady has customers that keep them on their rooftops and balconies in downtown Cambridge and Boston...

    Beehives are small and fairly discrete, and don't make attention drawing noises... Honeybees are also protected in most places because of their being pollinators. Since the bees in a hive are actually indistinguishable and interchangeable with the feral variety, you are essentially putting up the equivalent of a fancy birdhouse, and acting as a landlord... My supply lady says there aren't ANY places she knows of that have restrictions on keeping them, though in many places you are supposed to register as a beekeeper, and agree to allow occasional inspections by a gov't hive inspector (for disease control purposes)...

    Of course registering can be a good deal in some ways, if you let your local emergency service types know that you are interested, they will put you on a list of people to be called if they have an issue with bees involved such as swarms and such - can be a decent way to get FREE bees....

    Gooserider
  6. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Gooserider - I'll think about bees first - thanks for your thoughts. It seems as though they would require a bit less work than chickens, but probably more expertise required before startup. Do you have trouble with the local wildlife harassing your hives? We have loads of raccoons, opssosums, and are currently enduring a skunk infestation. I have eliminated 3 in the past 3 weeks tearing up my yard and garden, and got 5 last year. Neighbor across the street got 2.

    Kenny - free time is the most precious commodity I have. I could easily have a larger spread but would be further out, and I would have to spend more time in the car to/from work, etc. While having more land would enable me to do more, I'd have less time in which to accomplish those things I'd want to do. There's nothing wrong with communting if you don't mind spending more money on gas and a larger fraction of your free time in the car.

    My geographical restrictions are purely work-based. I'm a materials research engineer and spent close a decade of my life in school to achieve educational goals. The pro's of this route were/are that it enabled me to get a pretty good job straight out of grad school that paid well and had excellent benefits. I've changed jobs once since that time and was able to get an even better gig work-wise. The downside, is that there are concentrated pockets throughout the country where I can work, mostly centered around industrial bases. If you go down the road I have you tend to get further siloed into a particular niche as well, so the longer time you spend in a specific industry the harder it is to make a switch - this limits you even further. I have friends who have spent the last 15 years in the semiconductor industry - they'd be hard pressed to get a job with an aerospace company, and vice versa - at least working as an engineer. Manager, that's another matter but to hardcore engineers becoming a manager is akin to joining the dark side of the force.

    I guess when I look at the time I invested in school and the options it generated for me (which are pretty good minus the geographic restrictions) I tend to think what I might have done differently - that's what led me to pharmacy or CPA. You could be a CPA out of your home and work primarily in tax season - my neighbor did this. Made a nice living and had ample free time for other pursuits. Pharmacy was another top choice simple b/c you can go to a 6 year pharmacy program and at the end of it have a Ph.D. in pharmacy and a six figure job waiting for you with reasonable hours, a signing bonus if you go with a big hospital or phar. firm, and the ability to get a job almost anywhere if you work at the corner pharmacy. That's a sweet deal. It's all about generating options in my mind - I figured those two careers would give you the most in terms of where you live, personal time, and geographic flexibility.

    All that said, your setup sounds pretty sweet. I'd love a stone house - the ultimate low-maintenance exterior and ballistically sound to boot! Your commute doesn't sound all that bad either - if I could find that around here, I'd have gone for it. I guess the problem here (we're in the Cleveland-Akron area) is that Cleveland is a very spread-out city. The actually downtown area is not all that big, but there are many town/suburb areas. Lots of sprawl. My ideal location would be either further south and a bit west of where I am now into Amish country - beautiful land, or east of Cleveland proper into Lake county which is probably similar to your area, complete with ridiculous lake-effect snow. However, I'd be driving a minimum of an hour each way from either of those locations and that's in ideal traffic and weather conditions.
  7. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    Bees are a LOT less work than chickens, I don't think you will find any sort of "animal husbandry" project that takes less time and work... From spring to fall when the bees are active, I probably do something on average once or twice a month, takes me perhaps an hour at a time - usually takes me longer to get the gear out, fire up the smoker and so forth than it does for me to actually do the work in the hive... Harvesting the honey is the only big time consumer, takes a few hours to spin out all the frames, depending on how big a spinner you have.

    Startup costs are pretty high, figure about $200 / hive for the wood and wax, $200 or so for personal gear and tools, and $80 / package for the bees themselves - You can cut that some by making your own stuff, but it can be a challenge to do some of it... I'd say it is easy to build the hive boxes, but would purchase the frames... Once you've started, as long as the colony doesn't die (which some do) the only real expense is maybe a few bags of sugar, for spring feeding, and possibly some medications... Probably the toughest "big ticket" item to deal with is the honey extractor, which can be VERY expensive depending on how large, and the type of unit you get, but they can often be rented or borrowed, so that can be avoided to some degree, and again it's a one time expense.

    Small bee predators like skunks and such are relatively easy to deal with - for instance you stop skunks just by elevating the hives a bit. Bears can be a MAJOR problem however, as it takes a lot more to discourage them.

    What I would suggest is finding a local bee supply place, and / or your local beekeepers association, and take a beekeeping class, as well as reading a few books and or looking at websites. The class is useful mostly for the "local conditions" type knowledge... This is the time of year to get started if you want to do it, as it takes a while to get all the stuff together and you want to be ready to get your bees and start the hive working as early in the spring as possible... (Also note that you probably won't get much, if any, honey the first year, as the bees will spend most of their time building the honeycombs they need for storage, these get recycled so that you get more in later years when they don't have to spend their efforts on building wax...)

    Agreed... Long commutes are a really painful thing. Only thing worse than having to do a commute in your car though is doing it via mass transit...

    Almost any sort of specialized skill (as in requires a degree / certification) in the medical field is highly portable, and relatively predictable demand... Next on my lists of reliable carreers is specialties in the construction trades, or other "hands-on" skills - your plumber can't be "off-shored"... Again look for stable demand and limited entry... If you can get REALLY good, open-source software engineer can also be good as you can live anywhere that has a broadband connection...

    Gooserider
  8. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Gooserider - thanks for the additional advice on bees - I did look some information up on line and there is a NEOhio beekeeping association. I might check them out. I also agree with you 100% on hands-on skills. I grew up with absolutely zero of these and have had to learn the hard way - by myself making lots of mistakes. I am going to make sure my sons grow up having a very broad experience base and would certainly encourage any type of work where you can be your own boss and practice it wherever you like - plumbers, electricians, well installation guys - needed everywhere and there is substitute.
  9. SE Iowa

    SE Iowa New Member

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    Interesting conversation. I graduated pharmacy school when it was cheap in 1994 and almost completed my Ph.D in pharmaceutics. For the record the 6 year pharmacy program ends with what is called a Pharm D. not a Ph. D. It now cost about $20K per year which is similar to all the other "professional" schools such as Dentistry, PT, Med School. Most of the students I work with (I work in a Univ town) have at least $100k worth of student loans when they graduate.
    I quit grad school in my 5th year to marry my wife so that we could stay in the midwest and hopefully have a farm. I now work 3 days a week as a pharmacist and farm 430 acres of corn/soybeans with a little hay and 44 feeder calves. I have chickens inclosed in a dog kennel (one way to get around the "pet" thing) providing eggs. We butcher ruptured hogs for pork, hunt deer, turkey, ducks, geese and pheasants as well as buy 4-H cows every August. We grow a small garden. Everyone makes fun of me wondering why I would forsake a $100/yr job to farm for less money. I have found that the old cliche is true; money does not make you happy. I can have the worst day on the farm and work 16 hours and still be up-beat and be looking for the next. Eight hours in a pharmacy just the opposite. I come home bored, tired and irritable.
  10. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    SE Iowa - alright, some real knowledge here on the pharmacy option! I had thought a pharm d. was equivalent to an advanced pharmacy degree. As far as cost goes, in-state tuition to any big school including room & board will run at least $10k, so $20k while expensive doesn't seem that bad - I still have a lot of saving to do for my kids though ....

    What's a "ruptured" hog? We buy pastured beef and pork from a local farmer and would never go back to conventionally-raised meat. Taste difference is amazing and it's very cost-effective.

    You are a great example of career flexibility in action. You have the option of a higher paying job if you did the pharmacy gig full time, but right now it affords you the flexibility to farm. Do you think that it's as geographically friendly a job as I envision?
  11. SE Iowa

    SE Iowa New Member

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    Yeah, A Pharm D. is entry level now. Now most pharmacy Schools are 2-4, which means 2 years (at least) of prerequisite then apply to get in to 4 years of pharmacy school. This allowed for more clinical rotations and clinical classroom work. Essentially there was a year without a graduating class, which along with greater prescription volume from an aging population, has caused an extreme shortage of R.Ph's in the US. The other MAJOR contributor to the shortage is that of the new grads >70% are women (not that that is bad!). With the shortage these women (and in my case a man) are able to work part time for lots of $ and basically name their hours. Really, it is in my opinion one of the top 3 jobs for women, especially younger women. By the way, the tuition is usually $14-17K per year for in-state and $25-27k/year out of state which is where I got an average of $20k/yr. You'd have to add on room and board after that.
    A ruptured hog: Pigs have enormous growth rates and often they slip and "do the splits". Their visceral muscles (bacon meat) of the belly can not hold the "guts" and so they tear when they fall down or get trampled by another hog. Basically it is a hernia in the belly region. Note that the guts do not rip out but there is usually a small bulge anywhere from a 50 cent size to a basket ball. They still will grow normally but pigs are not nice to other pigs. If they see a weakness they will try to "fed" on that other pig. The hog farmer has 2 options with these pigs. If they are less than 100lbs we just destroy them (its not worth it). If they live to market weight (280-300lbs) we sell them to the local lockers for very large discount (say maybe $30-40 per HEAD). Often it is not worth it to load up 5 ruptures and take them to town so we just butcher then ourselves. The large processors will no accept any pig that is not 100% due to legal reasons involving animal rights people. It is just too costly for them to handle anything not perfect. Also the pork belly is usually a premium money maker. This also goes for tail bites. Our last freezer pig was a tail bite.
  12. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    SE Iowa - thanks for the additional info on pigs and pharmacists! What a combo. College cost is really going up - the numbers you were quoting were specific to pharmacy programs, correct? I had mistakenly thought a pharmD was equivalent to doctorate as the programs I've read about (up here in Ohio is University of Toledo which is supposed to be pretty good?) advertise their programs as "doctor of pharmacy" - so no dissertation is required?

    That's interesting about pigs - never heard of this condition, but I've never raised pigs. The pigs we buy are mostly pastured and I guess as a consequence don't get quite as large. We get half a hog which weighs in at around 100 lbs or so which I think is hanging weight, so we wind up taking home a bit less. The difference in taste is amazing though - pork chops from a store are like tasteless hocky pucks in comparison.
  13. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I believe there are lots of trades/professions which can be practiced from afar and allow a person to achieve the "10 acre homesite" dream. Some are very transportable, in that they can be practiced in many different areas; others are less transportable because of licensing or other requirements but still can be practiced from a remote location. I am a retired attorney, and for 9 years I practiced from our north central MN homesite while maintaining a practice based in Minneapolis-St. Paul, 175 miles away. About 1-3 times/month had to make the trip; otherwise telephone, computer, email, fax and mail handled it all very successfully. Could have maintained the practice, but retired after 34 years. Time to smell the roses and do the things that are even more fun than the practice of law.

    The point is that many of us construct artificial constraints as to why we can't do something, a rather negative approach. Why not start with the premise that you can do it, and then construct the trade/profession to allow that to happen? My attorney friends and business associates told me it would never work to do what I did; well, it worked well. I think the appropriate answer was that others really did not want to make the change for a variety of reasons, some probably valid and many probably questionable.

    A dream to do something is just that, a dream. It will never happen. But a goal to do something, now you're started on the path to make it happen. What's stopping you?
  14. Marty

    Marty Feeling the Heat

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    Has any one else read the book?

    What a fantastically well thought treaties on living on the land of the mid 19th century.

    A million thanks for the chance to find and read this gem of a book!
  15. MNBobcat

    MNBobcat Member

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    Hi GR,

    I raised honey bees about 20 years ago. Small time -- got about 5 gallons of honey per year. Has the price of honey gone up? I mean, can you make any money selling it or is it something done purely for self-satisfaction and your own consumption?
  16. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I'm sure the price of honey has gone up, but I don't think it has done enough for a small time beekeeper to make much at it - might pay for the bees and cost of equipment over time, but not much more than that... I primarily use my honey for brewing purposes, I got into making meads a few years back, and that takes a lot of honey to do very much - very roughly it takes about 5 quarts of honey to make 5 gallons of mead...

    When I started looking for a place to do bulk purchases, I ran into an old cranky fellow who insisted that if I was going to be using that much honey, I ought to be "growing my own" - and now I am running two hives, getting anywheres from zero to 20 gallons a year... The big challenge seems to be getting the hives to winter over successfully... For various reasons I've had to re-start with new packages at least one of my hives every year so far, which really hurts production....

    Gooserider
  17. MNBobcat

    MNBobcat Member

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    I never had trouble with the hives wintering. We put hay around the supers to insulate them (leaving openings for the bees to get in and out) and made sure to leave enough honey for the bees to eat over the winter. They did fine. Then we fed sugar water in the early spring. It so long ago I'm forgetting things....but I think we may have wrapped the supers in tar paper before putting the hay around them.

    I tried mead at the renaissance festival. I didn't care for it. Which was too bad because I always thought it would be cool to drink mead. I'm guessing there are all different kinds of mead though?
  18. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Hey - great to get this thread going again.

    GR - you, and some other bloggers, have inspired me to learn more about beekeeping and I'm seriously thinking about an introductory class offered by a local beekeeping organization in Medina County, Ohio. It's $50 and is a total of 10 hours of instruction that culimates in some hands-on training in the Spring when it warms up. I'm not totally committed to getting bees this year, but figured this kind of information couldn't hurt.
  19. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    MNB - Unfortunately, a lot of the commercial mead out there is CRAP... The stuff served at RenFaires tends to be among the worst, as often what they are peddling is Bunratty's "Meade" which is a really deceptive brew made from cheap white wine loaded with preservatives and just enough honey for taste, and a load of spices.... They call it Meade to get around truth in labeling, though they make the label so it looks like they are just trying to do the "Olde Englishe" style thing... However Bunratty's is cheap, and the RenFaire people can make a ton of money peddling it...

    There are a few very high quality meads out there, but they tend to be hard to find, and fairly expensive - Honey costs more than grapes, and the few good commercial meaderies are all relatively small scale, without the distribution networks of the megabrands...

    Mostly you have to know the right people as most of the really good meads tend to be home-brews. It isn't that hard to home-brew, though it takes a while and requires a moderate amount of equipment...

    Tim - I've taken one of the local courses, and read a bunch of books - both are useful in different ways... The local courses are good at helping make connections with the local suppliers, and teaching you about what the local climate issues are, and other things along that line. The books can give you more theory about why they tell you to do the stuff they do in the courses... One thing to be a bit wary about is that some of the people teaching the courses can have prejudices about how stuff ought to be done that don't have a lot of solid basis behind them - for instance one of the local clubs is very insistent on teaching people to do plain wax foundation that they hand wire into the frames, as opposed to some of the more modern approaches like "wired wax" or Duragilt foundation which work equally well in many cases, and can save a lot of work.... This is where the books come in handy, as it gives the ammo to raise your hand and ask "The book says X, why do you say Y?" kinds of questions...

    Gooserider
  20. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    GR - I've read a little bit about beekeeping already - what do you think of top bar hives? I was reading that they are a simpler design, easier to deal with, and possibly ideal for small time honey harvesters like I might become.

    Thanks for any opinions you might post.
  21. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    Its funny how this thread was brought back to life again on the subject of bees. Im in the process of building a top bar hive out of pallet pieces and scrap plywood. Its 32" long. I have the body built, just need to add the bar rails, bars, roof and give it a paint job.

    I decided to do bees instead of chickens because 1)my wife doesnt want the chickens 2) come spring I will be working a lot and will have limited time to care for the chickens. So I figured since I like the natural honey my neighbor makes so much, I might as well give it a shot. Plus the bees will help in the garden and I dont have to do much in return...just give them some water.

    Here's a pic of my top bar hive.


    also more info on the top bar method
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Top-Bar-Beekeeping-Method.aspx

    Attached Files:

  22. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    "Ten Acres" really has been fun. More power to the bees!

    Our little garden (two plots, each 5 x 20 or 25?) might be supplying my wife and I with our full year's requirement for green beans, carrots and squash, plus seasonal radishes, lettuce, broccoli and cucumbers. It's nearly Feb and we still have some fresh carrots and 2 fresh squash left. Lots of beans, carrots and squash still in the freezer. Also have a whole deer in the freezer, with a little bit of 2008 venison still to finish up. We've really slashed out food bills with a small garden and hunting success.
  23. MNBobcat

    MNBobcat Member

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    I had never heard of the top bar design until you shared it. Interesting concept. I scanned the article you posted. It seems the only advantage to the top bar is lower cost. But it has a huge disadvantage when it comes to getting your honey. You can't spin the frames to extract the honey. The article talked about mashing the honey and wax and then trying to strain some honey through cloth. I think you would end up with almost 50% of the honey still left in the combs and in the container and kind of a sticky nasty blob to handle.

    Honestly, if it were me I'd go with the traditional rectangular frames.
  24. BucksCoBernie

    BucksCoBernie New Member

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    Its definitely more cost effective on start up, especially since it hasnt cost me anything yet haha. Im just looking to get 4-5lbs per year for myself and have the added benefit of the bees hanging around the garden.

    I wonder if i could use an air compressor to blow the honey from the combs??
  25. Gooserider

    Gooserider Mod Emeritus

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    I haven't personally done a top bar hive, but I have mixed feelings about them from all that I've read... They do meet the standards for a "movable frame" design, which is important from the standpoint of needing to be able to monitor hive health and such. I'm not at all sure I'd call them a "simpler" design - the angles in the hive body are critical if you don't want the bees to glue everything together, and they aren't the usual and customary angles that most of us use in woodworking. OTOH the modern "Langstroth" design (the stacked boxes that most modern beekeepers use) has more pieces, but they are all designed so that they can be made with standard tools, etc... If one buys the parts from commercial sources (I do, as I feel that building my own doesn't save enough to justify the extra hassles to do so) and uses an air stapler, it is possible to build a Langstroth hive in a couple hours - so there isn't much there to save...

    When working, because the frames are surrounded on all sides, it is easy to put them down on the ground after pulling the ones out that you need to remove to get the space to work the rest of the hive - this is harder with a top bar as most of the comb is exposed...

    Harvesting is also a very mixed bag. A top bar is very easy to harvest, as all you have to do is cut off the comb and crush it to squeeze the honey out, and you end up with a lot of wax as well.... No need for purchasing or renting a centrifugal extractor like you need with a Langstroth hive... The downside is that your bees only have a certain amount of resources - which they can use to either build honey, or build wax... With a top bar hive, they have to build new wax every time, before they can build honey to put in it. A Langstroth keeps the combs with minimal wax damage or removal, (just the cappings) so after the bees have built the combs for the first time, they can devote almost all their energy to making honey to keep refilling the "recycled" combs....

    Thus with a Langstroth, you get more honey and less wax, while with a top bar, you get less honey and more wax - it is a question of where the priorities are...

    Another advantage of the Langstroth is it's flexibility - it is very easy to add boxes as needed for either brood raising or honey capacity...

    One setup I have seen pictures of, that looks like it might be interesting is a hybrid configuration, with a top bar bottom section, roughly the volume of a Langstroth's 2 deep brood chambers, that has an opening in the back to allow the beekeeper to stack Langstroth honey supers - theory is the bees use the bottom for brood raising, and store their honey in the Langstroths where it is easier to harvest...

    Gooserider

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