When Honeydew and I were engaged and discussing where we would make our life together, we decided that it would be a lot easier for me to move 250 miles north to Babb, with my cookbooks and backpacks and sundresses, and open a law practice in sort-of-nearby-Cut-Bank, than it would be for him to move 1,000 hives of bees and all the equipment that accompanies them to Missoula, the small metropolis of western Montana where I lived when we first met. The house I owned in Missoula at that time had a yard about the size of the Subway deli counter, and we just couldn’t see such a move for the bees working out well, especially in light of my insane neighbors who complained about me parking my car in front of my house. That I owned. Apparently the former owner/tenants had not owned cars, and the neighbors had begun used to parking in front of my house. Bees, who know no property lines, would probably not have been welcomed by them.
We decided to buy most of the assets of the Chief Mountain Honey Company from Honeydew and Honeydew’s dad – at that time, they owed the company together. Today, Honeydew’s dad runs a smaller version of it himself, and we run the Glacier County Honey Company, just across the valley. However, one cannot simply purchase the assets of a commercial beekeeping business and store them on the back 40. Bee equipment needs a home, too, and honey cannot be extracted out in the parking lot or the beekeeper’s wife becomes incensed and quits. The health department also objects, though they seem to object to people breathing.
So. We built Warehouse No.1 together last summer, in the midst of our wedding. It stores honey supers, extra hive bodies, 55g drums for packing bulk honey, our forklift, tools, and other beekeeping necessities. And although we did not envision this particular use, Warehouse No. 1 also provides a home with a concrete floor for our basketball goal, the gorgeous antique Waterloo ice box I bought at an estate sale shortly after we were married, Pseudo Sister’s worldly belongings (she is preparing to move to Montana – yay!), Honeydew’s broken down old snowmobile and soon enough, odds and ends from my childhood home. But, my friends, 50 x 60 x 16 feet of storage is just not enough. I know. The mind simply reels.
Since January, we have been designing Warehouse No 2., an 80 x 120 x 16 foot area in which we will extract and pack honey, the backbone of our livelihood. Honeydew and I are relatively young, but we are not completely stupid, having nearly 10 years of higher education between us, but building Warehouse No. 2 has tested our patience, our smarts, and in some ways, even our marriage. It is making us stronger, don’t get me wrong. But with Warehouse No. 1 we simply saved our money and then cut a check.
Sure, there were bumps along the way. But we were not met with bureaucrats at every turn, demanding plans and measurements and arcane label requirements and checks. Every single one of those bastards wants a check. Please excuse my foul language. I believe that “bastards” is the first word of ill repute I have uttered on this blog, and I hope that it is true that unladylike language really hits home when it is not often used. Our frustrations with building this warehouse run deep.
Like I learned in the study of family law mediation, when opposing sides come to the table to negotiate, the issue is rarely as set forth in the pleadings. Yes, the parties are having problems co-parenting their children. But if you are a skilled mediator, and can get them talking about what is the driving force behind their stated issues, you will often find that the actual problems are not so much as whispered at in the pleadings. Actually, he feeds them only corndogs for dinner. She introduces them to every man she’s ever thought about dating. He was abused as a child. She abuses alcohol. Nothing is black and white. Which is why there are many days that I do love being a family law attorney – if you can get down to these issues, sometimes the problem set forth on paper, in all its inadequate verbiage, can be solved, or at least sandbagged, for the kids.
Same problem with building Warehouse No. 2. The health inspector, the architect, the engineer, the cement guys, the electricians, the plumbers, the drywallers, the crane operators, the secretary of state, the county planner, the department of public health and human services, the land use office, the loan officer at the bank - all they see is the dollar figure needed to build this warehouse; whether the incorporation documents for our business were properly filed; if our honey labels list the weight of our honey in pounds and in grams; how many hand wash sinks are called for in the plans; if the plans have been certified by the state board of building inspectors; whether we got a well permit, and a building permit, and an electrical permit, and a septic permit, and an engineered water system; or if the contract they’re entering into with us provides them pay on days that it rains. They don’t see Warehouse No. 2 as we see it: the proverbial basket in which all our eggs are placed - the building that will provide us with an income, and other Montanans with jobs, one day – where we will live out our lives together, season by season – a building and a business for which we have already sacrificed much, and for which we will sacrifice much more, in the future. Warehouse No. 2 is our dream and our nightmare.
It seems that no one involved in its construction can believe that Honeydew and I are trying to do the right thing at every step along the way. We don’t want to see the building blow down, either. That would seriously impede our ability to do business and be self-supporting, not to mention that we would likely be around during such a disaster, and be killed in the process. We have no plan but to package anything but the finest honey in the free world – we take enormous pride in our bees and their honey and our business. We have no interest in putting in a faulty septic system or defaulting on our loan – we live on this land, and love it fiercely, and would not do anything to endanger our stewardship of the same.
But no one seems to see that, and while our Warehouse No. 2 is certainly not their personal problem, after thousands of miles of red tape and an endless amount of unforseen checks drawn on our checking account, we are starting to take it personally. In marriage, as in any relationship, partners bring their strengths and weaknesses to the table. I have found in building this warehouse, while running two small business, our household, and still trying to keep the promise I made to myself on my long drive home the day my brother died (to treasure at least part of each day, to breathe in the sunlight, to take a moment to listen to the stars fall), that I do not handle this amount of stress very well. It makes me weepy. Thank God, Honeydew handles it without tears, and handles my own at the same time.
But this afternoon, we finally got some good news from one of the many entities holding what they simply see as a piece of paper to be dealt with, and what we see as a key card in the deck of our lives, and we commenced construction. Our well driller arrived, and though not every card is firmly in place, we told him to go ahead and drill. No matter what happens, we will need water. And so he began to drill.
Our good luck continued, as darling Frosty with Western Waterworks in Kalispell, Montana, hit 2 gallons/minute at about 40 feet, and then 15 gallons/minute at about 125 feet.
More on this later. Honeydew and I smiled for the camera for the first time in a long time.
You can ignore the earplugs drowning out the air hammer working the metal well casing into the ground and my eyes, bloodshot from a morning spent in tears over bureaucracy. Pointless, I know. I would stop them if I could. But I’m not above drowning bureaucrats if I have to. Anything, anything for Warehouse No. 2. Y’all keep your fingers crossed. I’m going to keep my head high, and talk myself out of shelving our dream, collecting unemployment, and eating onion dip on the couch all day. As my uncle Vince would say, “Illegitimis non carborundum.” Don’t let the bastards keep you down.
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