This Couple Wanted to Renovate an Old Schoolhouse, But it Was Filled With Bees. So They Become Professional Honey Makers.

When life gives you bees, you learn how to make honey.

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My husband, Norman, and I bought an 1837 schoolhouse in 2009 after admiring it for 25 years. It transports us back to the days when Sewickley Township was a bustling place. Along the curve at the bottom of the hollow, a gristmill used water from the nearby creek to grind grain, and a train station warmly greeted travelers. A dirt road carried horse and buggy riders past our one-room schoolhouse.

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The stone foundation, slate roof, slender cream windows and bell tower perched atop the structure all had seen better days. As carpenters by trade, we did not waste any time and began restoring it.

The repairs took us a few years, and one day we hit an unexpected obstacle. As we approached the south wall, we heard a loud buzzing and saw a few friendly flybys. Upon closer investigation, we discovered a colony of honeybees. Looking at the size of it, these girls had been in the wall for a very long time.

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Being avid gardeners, we did not want to kill the bees, but we had no idea where to begin. To find a person to move them and place them in a hive is not easy or inexpensive, so we worked around the bees for about a year. They brought back a flood of warm memories of my great-grandfather, Michael Dudik, tending to his flowers, vegetables and bees. “You make do with what you got,” he would say in his thick Slovak accent.

With that advice in mind, the decision to keep the bees was easy. We were lucky to find a friendly local beekeeper, Mr. Faucet, who was kind enough to come to our property and place the honeybees in a brood box. With support and help from the community, we were able to establish the hive that we now fondly refer to as our “schoolgirls.”

Before we knew it, we were in love with the wonderful world of honeybees. And Norman started building hives for other beekeepers to fund finishing the schoolhouse.

He and I decided beekeeping would be a great business, so we took honey to our neighborhood Italian Club as a test. I had to make three trips home for more jars!

[pullquote]Before we knew it, we were in love with the wonderful world of honeybees.[/pullquote]

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Many local businesses stocked our honey to help us get started. I picked the name Crimson Creek Apiaries because the maples along the water in the fall turn bright red.

Our business of honey production and pollination is going strong, and it is now our full-time job. We sell products at local festivals, make wedding favors and plan to soon open up a honey store.

If you need to relocate a swarm, call “Swarmin’ Norman.” His pals used to call him Stormin’ Norman, but the nickname changed after they saw him working with bees.

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We also offer field trips for kids at the schoolhouse and presentations at garden clubs and churches. It’s so rewarding to share our knowledge and passion about beekeeping.

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Originally Published in Country