Letters From A Beekeeper’s Wife

Home, January 1, 1917

Dear Sis;

The Christmas box that came the day before Christmas from your house could not have been more enjoyed. Billie has been out on his skates every day since, and the girls are delighted with their muffs. They have always wanted furs but we thought we couldn’t afford them. Now that they have muffs we are going to take the money out of our private I.P.T.A. fud and get them neck pieces to match.

Have I ever told you about the I.P.T.A. fund? It stands for “It Pays To Advertise” – and it certainly does. We never realized how much it pays until our road became part of the Jefferson Highway. A year ago last Autumn, just after the concrete road was laid, we found that we had considerable fall honey which was very good but it was what the buyers call “off color.” Rob conceived the idea one day as we sat watching autos whiz past that we might be able to sell our honey to passersby. That is an undeveloped trade, so if we can sell to them it means just that much more honey disposed of.

He talked about it all winter off and on, but, man-like, never did anything until spring. One day he painted a big sign, “HONEY FOR SALE,” and nailed it to a post at the gate at the east end of the lot. It wasn’t a sign painter’s job, and maybe that convinces the city folds that we have “bee honey.” Mother was here at the time and maybe she told you how scandalized she was by that sign! I don’t see just why she thought it so much worse to sell honey at our door than to send it away to be sold, but in her mind it “lowered” us in the social scale to have the sign up. I don’t take much stock in social scales. They are never balanced, are they? So I was just as eager as Rob to see what would happen. I had a little honey in a quart Mason jars – not the green ones, of course – all ready and had previously ordered some plain labels. I don’t believe it was more than an hour after that sign went up before an auto stopped and a man came up to the door. To be sure, he didn’t buy-he wanted comb honey- but he was interested and even went to look at the hives. The next day another auto stopped at the sign – a Ford this time – and those people took a quart of honey. Its queer, but we seem to sell more to Fords, perhaps because they can stop more easily. We but the 65 cents in a Mason jar and Mother assured us that we’d never have any more to put in from that source, but we felt elated. If only one person a day was halted by the sign and bought one quart of honey we would be getting twenty cents a pound for that much honey instead of seven or eight. There’s a big difference between wholesale and retail prices.

Well, do you know that scarcely a day passed after that but some one stopped to buy? And as the warm weather came on, bringing tourists by the score, we could scarcely keep up with the demand. That’s why I have so little canning done for this winter. We actually had to buy more honey to sell to our auto trade, which makes Rob sore when he remembers that most of our crop last year was sold at wholesale. We noticed that machines coming by from the east stopped frequently but that those going the other way got too far past before they could slow down, and we usually lost their trade, so Rob put another sign at the west end of the lot to “catch them coming and going.” It’s tremendously interesting to watch the machines come flying by – then come to a halt. There’s a little conversation, some hesitation, then (particularly if there are children aboard) some one is almost sure to get out and walk up the line of basswoods. Our Mason jar bank was outgrown long ago – on Labor Day we took on $35. With this weather of course traffic is at its lowest ebb, and yet I dare not have less than a half dozen jars ready on the shelf. There are so many calls for comb honey that we will buy some next summer to have on hand, Rob says he can buy that cheaper that he can produce it, but he may be that’s true of the extracted too, for selling honey is more profitable than producing it.

The nicest part of all is that so many come back for more. Rob has visions of someday selling all of his own honey and more besides, from his own doorstep. Wouldn’t it be fine if he could? Mother is convinced now that it pays to advertise and has even got over the feeling the “it isn’t done by the best families.” We have accomplished more than all the profit by widening her horizons a little.

I forgot to tell you that Rob has promised to take me to the state convention this month – the beekeepers wife convention of course. I’ll tell you all about it later. I’m curious about it.

Your loving sister,