I have kept honey bees on the Isle of Newfoundland in and around the town of St. John’s since 2010. I use this simple blog to record all of my beekeeping successes and failures so that maybe it can become a space that allows new beekeepers to discover their own intuitive intelligence for beekeeping, a place where getting it wrong is the first step to getting it right. Or not.
This blog is written and illustrated with photos and videos intended for hobbyist or easy going backyard beekeepers like myself, not commercial beekeepers who often require a more systematic approach to beekeeping. New or prospective beekeepers in Newfoundland might appreciate my Guide To Beekeeping in Newfoundland, a collection of practical beekeeping tasks I’ve learned over the years that actually work.
HOW DID I EVER GET HERE?
I got interested in honey bees after reading about people keeping bees on their roofs in Chicago. Then I began to follow some beekeepers out of California whose methods were perhaps a bit too natural and ill-advised for my cold climate. That led to more realistic and practical online lessons from David Burns, which led to several more months of online research, and finally on July 18th, 2010, the bees arrived. That means I’ve kept bees in Newfoundland for 4151 days — if you’re impressed by that kind of thing. I harvested my first batch of honey in September 2011, and it was delicious.
As of November 2021, I have ten Langstroth honey bee hives near my house in a rural-like location outside St. John’s. I kept bees in the city in my small backyard for a couple years but decided to move them to the country to keep the peace with some unpleasant neighbours. I made my fair share of mistakes in the beginning, and as a basically mentorless beekeeper these days, I continue to make some doozies, but I feel pretty good about where I am now.
I don’t show off my beekeeping credentials, but I’ve done my homework, enough to satisfy my unambitious approach to beekeeping and to keep myself in honey all year round.
I happen to keep honey bees on the island of Newfoundland, but I am not a member nor a spokesperson for the Newfoundland & Labrador Beekeeping Association.
My name is Phillip Cairns. That’s Phillip with two Ls and Cairns is pronounced like we’re all going to Karen’s place for a cup of tea, just like Ian Hanomansing pronounces it (thank you, Ian).
WHO AM I, ANYWAY?
I can’t believe you’re still reading this.
I strongly value my privacy and that of my family and friends. I don’t post photos of myself online if I can help it. But here’s a brief bio if you really want to know:
I spent a lot of time when I was younger living outdoors in the country air of Nova Scotia reading Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (cue Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major), firmly believing him when he said: “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” I still believe that.
I studied Phenomenology and Religious Philosophy for several years with the intention of teaching at a professorial level before walking away from it due to the cabin fever of my ivory tower to pursue work in the creative arts. I worked at NIFCO (the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-Operative). I have worked on three feature films in Newfoundland, some TV shows, several documentaries and too many short films to count. Currently, I work as a “production technologist” at a local university, a fancy way of saying I’m stuck in a stuffy office all day, five days a week, 8 hours a day. But, financially, it allows me to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth — when I’m not in the office.
I live in a quiet semi-rural neighbourhood close to the ocean where I spend most of my free time hanging out in my beeyard and petting my old dog, Ray. I play European board games with a kind person who lives in my house and I probably binge-watch too many shows on Netflix. And Dr. Seuss books give me the creeps.
All text, images, videos and other original content © by Phillip Cairns (me), unless otherwise noted. “Mud Songs” and “Mud Songs Beekeeping” in association with beekeeping are also owned by me.