Saturday, April 14, 2012

Beekeeping At Johannes' Adventure Playground

One of the things that's surprised me in Germany is that there seems to be a lot less fear of kids hurting themselves while playing. I know that in the United States people are always afraid of getting sued for pretty much any injury anywhere at anytime so everything, especially for kids, is designed for maximum safety and minimum likelihood of injury. It's very different here. I've seen some what I'd call crazy designs for stuff at playgrounds that we'd never "let happen" in the U.S. because you know that some kid would fall and hurt themselves and the city/state/government agency would have to pay for physical and mental treatment for the rest of the kid's life. Yeah, it kinda' sucks because how can you learn without falling down and/or making some mistakes?

A rockin' German Spielplatz (playground) in the U-Park near the main train station in Stuttgart:

I know that some of the kids will get hurt but I love the idea that they get to push/learn their limits. Our roommate Berat is a volunteer board member at the local Abenteuerspielplatz (Adventure Playground), which is a place where kids can go after school and on Saturday to learn to make fires safely, do wood working, construct structures, along with a bunch of other cool, supervised, and safe activities. It reminds me a bit of what we used to do when we were kids in the Pennypack Park near to where I grew up in Philadelphia. The difference is that this is supervised and done in a safe way. What a great way to learn and have fun at the same time.

Well, guess what! Adventure playground isn't just for kids anymore! Berat's best friend Johannes has his own Adventure Playground and we were invited to spend the afternoon having a barbecue and learning about bee keeping! Woohoo! Hope I don't get stung!!!

Johannes' Adventure Playground (it's not really called this) is on a couple of acres that his parents own in the Weil der Stadt area west of Stuttgart. He and his parents have a couple of small structures, a bunch of fruit trees, and a beekeeping operation. But, first, it was all about the nice BBQ that he and his girlfriend Angelika prepared for us, which included a few different homemade breads, four different kinds of meat, some fresh veggies, and a bunch of other treats. Can you say "spoiled"?

As part of the adventure, we got to start a fire with kindling so that lunch could be prepared over the open flame. Berat showing us how it's done in Germany:

The happy adventurers - Berat, me, Diana, Angelika, and our host, Johannes:

Once we finished lunch and cleaned up everything, it was time to check out the bees! They have at least twelve hives going and his parents pack the honey and sell it at fairs and, more importantly, share it with friends!

Johannes told us that this empty frame had just been put in place about a week or so before. The bees are working away at building new combs:

I was very surprised at how mellow the bees are. We were pulling out the frames and literally moving the bees around with our fingers so that we could sample of some of the fresh honey and see some larvae growing.

Probably the coolest thing that happened during the day was getting to watch a bee being "born" (or is it hatched? Or???). Johannes spotted one bee that was breaking out of its comb cell so we waited until it had fully emerged. Verrrrry cool!

We were also lucky enough to get to see one of the queens. Johannes usually marks them with a white paint marker to make them easier to find. He said that the paint doesn't harm them but that, over time, the other bees end up grooming the paint off so he needs to redo it occasionally.

After our beekeeping session we went around to see some of Johannes other projects. He's got a bunch going at the same time. He's growing some different types of fruit including one apple tree with several apple varieties grafted on it. It reminded me of my neighbor from when I lived in Oceanside (California) who had an avocado tree that he had grafted four or five different types of avocados on it. Johannes is also "building" a wine cellar under one of the existing buildings. He dug down and built the roof structure out of rock and mortar first then started digging out the ground below the new roof to create the room. What a ton of work! The last thing that he showed us before we packed up for the day was one of his chainsaw sculptures that he does. This is one that he's just starting:

We headed over to his parents' house for some cake and tea and so that we could check out some other Johannes fun stuff. Oh, his mom's homemade cakes were to die for! After our snack we went down the basement to see where and how the bulk honey is stored...

...and Johannes' wood-working shop. Because Johannes' mom is from Finland, they've built a sauna down there too! Wow. And that's not all. Johannes also makes Honigwein (honey wine) and a couple of fruit-based spirits, which I'll write about some other time. Uh huh, they're good too!

Johannes is one of those way-too-smart people that you occasionally meet. He's always got some new project he's working on so that he can learn a new skill or figure out how something works. He reminds me a lot of my friend John from San Diego who is also way too smart and is always tinkering with some new project. I think one of John's most recent projects had something to do with his son's class launching a weather balloon into space...yeah.

Thanks to Berat for the introduction and a huge thank you to Johannes for sharing his Adventure Playground with us! We learned so much and didn't get hurt -- not even one bee sting!


  1. You are so right about the kids! That is why are kids are so skiddish and scared now days. That is great that you were able to see one of the queen bees! Thanks for sharing.

  2. nice I used to live in weil Der stadt from 1987-1991 and visited in 2000 and 2005. hope to be back soon in weil Der stadt.


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