So much family closeness!

So much family closeness!

So much family closeness!

As many of you may already know, both Josh and I work for our business, Bee Lovely Botanicals.  We also homeschool, car school, farmers market and craft show school.  You get the point, Josh and the boys and I spend alot of time together.

What’s it like to spend so much time with your husband?

A friend of mine once suggested that one of the topics that we talk about on our blog is what it’s like to work with your husband.  She wondered because when her husband was home, her schedule was thrown off, and at the end of the day her to-do list was the same as it had been that morning.

I can understand that completely, but there is a difference between a husband using some vacation days to finish a project and a husband that works from home full time.

What I’m missing out on….

There are some quiet peaceful times that I don’t have as much as I used to. The boys are some how hard wired to get up about 10 minutes after I do.  It amazes Josh that they’ll sleep in if I do, and they’ll get up early if I do.  (Except for the oldest, I think he might actually sleep for an entire day if I let him.)  Quiet Bible study and devotion times are a thing of the past. The other side of that coin is that I can sneak away while Josh is working with the boys and, although it requires a little more focus, and quiet is definitely not the word to describe it, I can still have my study time. Another aspect is that  everyday Josh and I do a devotion with the boys.

That scenario pretty much describes what it’s like to live, work, and homeschool.  You lose the quiet, contemplative times. You lose the peaceful housekeeping that stays done at least until everyone gets home.  You lose knowing where something is because you’re the only one that uses it and puts it away. You lose this ideal image that you have of yourself, your kids, your husband.

But what I gain is so much more than what I’ve lost!

It is truly a blessing to be able to spend this time with Josh and the boys.  Our “unconventional” life is far from perfect, but it is abounding in blessings from God.

I get to spend time with my boys before they grow up and fly the coop. We get to see their personalities and senses of humor develop, and we get to be a bigger part of their development.

Josh and I have gotten to know each other so much better, and we’ve learned to work together more efficiently than we ever did before. (We’ve been married for 17 years, and working full time together for 2.)

I know that this time will come to an end, one way or another. The boys aren’t babies any more, and they won’t be boys forever.  It is my earnest hope and prayer to make the most of the time we have now, and that these experiences set all of us up to be ready for whatever God has in store next.

What about you? Do you work with family? Would you want to?  We’d love to hear your thoughts on so much family closeness!

Here’s to you, small shopper!

Here’s to you, small shopper!

Here’s to you, small shopper!

“I had the pleasure of meeting this cute family this September at Penn’s Colony. I got soaps and a Lip Balm. The soaps are heavenly smelling and leave my skin soft and moisturized. The lip balm is probably their most underrated product. I got one free with my soap purchase. It is the Pink Lemonade scent and it is absolutely the best lip balm I’ve ever used! I use it every day. I love supporting small businesses whenever I can because I too have a small business. This is definitely a business my family and I will continue to support! ”  -Lizz

The boys talk to a customer at a Younkers “Meet the Maker” event.

Our home-schooling, entrepreneuring (it’s a word, don’t judge me), craft showing-type of lifestyle definitely has its ups and downs.  My car is old, and we find  a lot of ways to cook gluten free chicken.  We are definitely not keeping up with the Joneses.  There are days that we work almost around the clock, and more than a few that leave us puzzling until our puzzler is sore.  There isn’t really more risk in our lifestyle than any other, it’s just that the responsibility is concentrated on Josh and me.  There is no teacher, manager, or boss to blame, or turn to for help.

While there are so many difficulties, and always so much to learn that it’s overwhelming at times, there are definitely unique blessings and opportunities that we wouldn’t find in another walk of life.  One of the biggest blessings that we have is that we get to meet and connect with so many people from all over the United States and from all different backgrounds.  We have homeschooling friends in Mississippi, penpals in Pennsylvania, and friends near Chicago that make bug art.

small shopper

A pack of letters arrived today from our pen pals in Pennsylvania, complete with artwork they learned from a book we sent as a Christmas present.

We have THE best customers!

We also have THE best customers in the world! Thank you for supporting our business.  You’re willingness to take a risk on a business and a family has been crucial to our growth!

So here’s to you, the trendsetters, the small shoppers, the thinkers outside the big box store. Thanks for coming along for the ride, and we hope our business is as much of a blessing to you as you are to us.

Colonial Craft Show: Mixing Business and Education

Colonial Craft Show: Mixing Business and Education

Colonial Craft Show

Our family honey bee and beeswax product business finds us at farmers’ markets most Saturdays from spring through early fall, and at some amazing craft shows after that. This past September we were juried into Penn’s Colony, in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania for the Colonial Craft Show. The really unique aspect of this craft show is that all the vendors dressed in colonial period costumes (1750s-1770s) and most performed a demonstration of their craft. The attraction for us was both financial and educational.

Learning from History

Leading up to the craft show, I sewed each member of our family a colonial costume, complete with a jabot and tricorn hat. I revamped our canopy to resemble an 18th century tent. We did unit studies on the years leading up to the Revolutionary War. This included creative writing assignments entailing life as an American spy, and reading about key political figures, such as George Washington. We also included historical fiction boos such as Johnny Tremain. My husband even threatened taxation without representation within our “family government” to help them understand the anger and frustration the colonist felt. The boys came away with a real interest and hunger to learn more about this time period.

While at the craft show, the boys witnessed glass blowing, weaving, spinning, woodworking, colonial artifacts, period music, historic entertainment, and battle re-enactments. Because we spent a total of four days as a vendor, the boys had plenty of time to soak it all in. In between selling on the weekend, we were able to do a little touring and visited places that George Washington had traveled through. This included a visit to Murdering Town, where Washington was shot at in an altercation leading up to the French and Indians War. The trip also afforded us the opportunity to learn about geography as we traveled, visited a few other historical sites, and learned about the geology and biology of that area of Pennsylvania. We even had time for swimming, canoeing, hiking, and a few games of tag.

The boys also interacted with our customers, telling them about our products, and using our observation hive to teach them about honey bees. They also did quick mental arithmetic to add up orders and make change. Most of these interactions ended with out customers being thoroughly impressed with the boys’ knowledge, manners, and communication skills.

More Memories to be Made

Working side by side next to our boys is profitable in so many ways. Bee Lovely Botanicals™ did well, but I think the lessons the boys learned and the opportunity to work, play, and learn together was the real treasure we found. We are excited to be able to have the opportunity to journey back to Saxonburg, Pennsylvania to make more amazing memories at this year’s Colonial Craft Show September 16-17 and 23-24.

 

The Clandestine Keeper

The Clandestine Keeper

“Just sit right here, Butch, and the bees won’t bother you.”  I’d heard this story before.  As my father continues the tale, I imagine my great grandfather, looking somewhat like the old man from the Mountain Dew bottle, leaping in the air and being chased by a cloud of angry bees.  “And sit right there I did.  Grampa was right, the bees didn’t bother me at all.  He ran right past me and the bees chased him all the way down the path, but I didn’t get stung once,” Dad IMG_3629concludes.

This was my first exposure to beekeeping, and never did I imagine myself to be a homesteading, homeschooling mama with a beekeeping business.  The only way that I can expain it is that God is good, and sometimes He sneaks up on
you.

In 2007, while I was pregnant with my second son, we found a swarm of bees living in a hollowed out maple tree.  The entrance to the hive was near the ground and Jaden (my oldest) and I would sit and watch the bees return with their baskets full of colorful pollen.  Later that fall, I read many, many beekeeping books while nursing the baby.  The more I learned about bees, the more intrigued I became.  The following spring we started a great adventure with our first package of bees.

During the next year, my husband, Joshua, was laid off when the local high school cut the ag program he taught.  We also found out we would be welcoming a third son into our family.  This was just the nudge we needed to turn our beekeeping hobby into a sideline business.
I spent many delightfully frustrating hours developing our brand, revising labels and product formulations, and coming up with eye catching displays.  While I worked at this, my husband, a biologist with experience in wildlife and agriculture, delved into natural hive treatments, integrated pest management techniques, bee genetics, and efficient home remedies for bee stings.  Our boys fostered a natural interest in pleasing aesthetics IMG_3611 (2)and the scientific process by watching us and helping us work through these things over time.  As our boys continued to grow and mature, our business did, too.  A clear brand emerged, and our natural beekeeping practices became sound and successful.  Soon, we were able to identify our niche.  The boys learned this intuitively from speaking with customers at farmers markets.  Recognizing our niche helped us to not only identify potential customers, but helped us pin point where to sell and advertise.  Being able to choose profitable venues and advertisements increased our sales and helped our bee business continue to grow and expand.

Throughout the last few years, the boys have worked alongside us in the bee yard.  They suffered the occasional sting for the privilege of doing what Mom and Dad were doing (and a small smackeral of honey now and then).  On the days when the whole family wasn’t going to the farmers market, they debated who should get to wake up at 4:30 AM to go with Dad.  Neighboring vendors supposed the boy that got to go had drawn the short straw, it was actually just the opposite.  They’re so excited and enthusiastic to share what our family has worked on.  They’ve set up our booth, packed up products, and lugged display pieces bigger than they are.  Our customers are always impressed with the boys’ maturity, their work ethic, and their knowledge of honeybees and our products.  Work ethic, maturity, and business knowledge weren’t purposefully taught to our boys, but they were inferred through the many interactions we share working together.

I don’t think we ever would have dreamed this path for our family.  It’s definitely full of mistakes and challenges, but we are so grateful to God for leading us on this adventure.  He provides for our family in such interesting and rewarding ways, and blesses us with the opportunity to spend time working, and playing together.