Today is an auspicious day: The Piette Honey factory has broken even! Starting from January 1st, 2012, I have a net positive $18. A big shout-out to John Zehms and Katie Amaya, without whom this threshold could not have been crossed.
Now, my accounting is particularly suspect because I’m depreciating all of my assets in one year. I did that because I never know what will happen in the next year- I might get American Foul Brood and have to burn my hives. Or maybe I’ll get tired of the whole thing and give the hives away to a friend. Plus I can’t think more than a year into the future, so it feels unfair to expect my hardware to retain value over the next 5 years.
I didn’t keep good records last year. I kept good track of my expenses, which was a total of $561. But I didn’t keep good track of the selling until I realized that I ought to start keeping track. I had receipts for my expenses, but no receipts for the sales. Plus I started out giving a lot of it away, so there wasn’t very much actual cash income! This year we organized much more and did many more cash transactions. I think charging for my honey improves the perceived value of it, and like I’m always saying to the Goods, perception is reality. Anecdotally, I always charge myself $10 a bottle.
Now here’s the numbers: This year I spent $557. I got about 150 pounds of honey, so my cost is $4 per bottle- if you accept my accounting methods. If you don’t, it’s about $2 per bottle. (Of course, that doesn’t include my labor costs. If I were to include that, I would never break even!) Earlier I implied that my income was $575 for the year, but it was really only $509 in cash. The rest was given away, and in fact, I’ll probably give away the last 50 pounds, now that I’m solvent. I don’t want to make this into a real business that actually has profits. Also, I think I spent about $100 of my income on snacks and gifts instead of putting it away in my mattress, so I actually only have about $400 in cold, hard cash. It’s very hard for me to keep cash in my pocket. What can I say, I’m trying to stimulate the economy! I also gave myself a loan for the initial investment at the beginning of the year, but I don’t plan on paying that back.
So what will I spend my newfound $400 (or $18) on? More beehives for next year! I hope to buy two more hives for a total of four. While I will theoretically have twice as much honey next year, I know my costs aren’t fixed. I’ll probably need to buy a honey extractor. And I’ll need to do a lot of painting of the old hives. And hopefully my mean hive will die and I’ll need to order replacement bees, which get more expensive every year.
But here’s to next year! May God bless the bees and send some rain next summer! And here’s to the next project: Maple Syrup in the spring! I did a trial run last spring and it was awesome. This year I’ll see how much I can ramp up.
Last evening my family and I went to the Washington Farmer’s Market to sell some honey. The event starts at exactly 5:00 on Thursdays at the Washington square, and of course we were running behind (who doesn’t with three children?) But we made it in time and set up our card table. (Funny story- we don’t own a card table, but we had borrowed this one from the Jacksons for our family reunion a few weeks ago. We keep not connecting at the right times to return it, but apparently that was God’s intention. Thank you Jacksons!)
There was a very strong breeze, so I didn’t put on the tablecloth. Instead I just bunched it up under the partially-capped frame that I brought for show-and-tell. Afterwards I threw away the tablecloth- it was a cheap plastic one- because it wouldn’t have been worth cleaning off. It was sticky!
I doled out about a pound’s worth of honey on unsalted crackers for people to sample. After a while I just liked giving people samples for the sake of seeing them enjoy it, whether or not it led to a sale. Next time I might buy smaller crackers, because the standard saltine not only used a lot of honey, but it was a little more than a mouthful and had too much taste to let the honey taste really shine through.
That’s not to say that we didn’t sell any honey! We certainly did! I think we sold 17 one-pound jars. While not enough to cover expenses for the year, I think that if we go back a few more times we can break even. My goal is to pay off the previous year’s expenses so I can grow a little bit bigger. Some year I’ll decide to stop growing and then we can start profiting? With my luck that year I’ll have to start replacing equipment all over again!
Emily and the girls made the whole event possible. While I spent the evening extracting and bottling, Emily was hard at work at the computer designing the new labels. They’re printed out on 2″ x 3″ adhesive shipping labels with all of the important information. Then the girls, in the morning, drew their bees on them. Gwen was keeping track, during the market, how many of her bees were chosen versus Greta’s. Greta did a rainbow theme- where she colored each bee a different color, while Gwen did multiple colors for each bee. She even had a black-and-gold Hawkeye bee. Thank you Emily and the girls for all of your hard work. In return you get… honey toast for breakfast!
Towards the end of the evening the town band started playing old ragtime tunes (Jelly Roll Morton), Emily bought brownies and ice cream for the girls, and I went over and talked to the other vendors and bought some half-price bread (fantastic! “Multi-Grain Health Bread”). Overall we had a blast at the Washington Farmer’s market. If it weren’t for the Girls’ early bedtime we would go every week, selling or not. As soon as I can get another super pulled off of the mean hive and bottled, we’ll be back.
I’m well into my second year of beekeeping- In fact, I’m almost done with my second year! I’ve brought in and bottled a quarter of the harvest so far, there should be at least 90 pounds more to bring in. Now I just need to sell $300 worth and I’ll be solvent enough to do it again next year! I’m not quite ready to write a second post about the adventure, but I do want to point everyone to my writeup after the first year, here. This a very flattering picture that Emily took when I found my first frame of capped honey: (At first, Emily would regularly come out with me, sans armor, with the camera to take pictures. What a brave woman!)
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Welcome to the new piettes.com website! Please bear with me while I update things to get the same functionality that I had before. I had originally written the old website sometime in 2001, and I had been just incrementally improving it. But then I was hacked and a lot of nasty code was inserted into everything, and the scripts that I wrote to clean it up ended up trashing a whole lot of other stuff. So welcome to the new site!