We lost my dad this week to a fast growing cancer that was found too late. To the very end, he was planning and making lists for us to tackle, so I thought this column from last year was the perfect tribute to his personality. We will miss him terribly, you can make a note of it.

It doesn’t happen often that we catch my dad in a mistake. He is meticulous about details and, even if he is wrong, he has some form of data with which to convince you that he is right.

On the rare occasion that we are able to correct him, say for confusing the day that something is going to happen, for example, upon hearing the correction he says, “That’s what I said, make a note of it!”

Of course, he is just being silly in brushing over the inadvertent mistake, but it is also very indicative of his personality to suggest that notes are being taken on day to day activities.

You see, Dad is the king of note taking. Seriously. I doubt that you know anyone who can top the scribing I am about to reveal. It is one of Dad’s most endearing characteristics, and I have often wished to be as diligent as he.

My dad was a beekeeper for much of his adult life, in fact he is the source of my love and knowledge of the subject. Some time ago, I wrote about Dad asking me if the tulip poplars were blooming here in Georgia and pulling his notes from the early ’80s to compare the dates that he had noted them blooming back then.

In the spring of 2019, within minutes he pulled blooming notes from 1980 and 1982, nearly 40 years earlier. Tulip poplars are an important springtime food source for honey bees, so it is not surprising that he wanted to record these details way back then, but it was shocking that he could instantly have that now obscure info at his fingertips so much later.

These notes were jotted on the 5x7 cards he kept for each of his hives, a discipline we BeeShees practiced when we first started beekeeping.

Our first BeeShee beeyard was a single yard with five hives, one for each of the founding members of the group. We named our hives, and each time that we visited we wrote down notes about what we found. As our hive population and locations grew, we fell out of the habit, which is kind of silly considering that such notes would be much more helpful as our load became greater.

Over our 10 years of keeping bees together, our max number of hives has hit around 25 with three or four of us managing the remembrance of the details. Dad maxed out at 50+ hives at once and, with help from my mom, he managed all of that data on 5x7 cards for each. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Beekeeping data is just skimming the surface of all that Dad transcribes for fingertip access. As you walk through their home in Virginia, you begin to notice that there are notes written on all manner of items throughout the house.

Open the laundry closet and you will find that the large bottle of liquid detergent has a date written on it. This way, when it runs out, he can calculate how long the supply lasted, perhaps even down to estimating the number of loads based on average loads washed per week.

The Citrus Magic air freshener spray in the bathroom has a date on it, too. It is the family favorite brand, all-natural and made in the USA. A couple of years ago Dad noticed that Kroger was putting the spray on clearance, preparing to discontinue carrying it, so he bought up as much as he could find to hold in reserve. The date on the can is the date he pulled it from the closet, again hoping to track how long each can lasts in use.

In the pantry closet, there is one of those industrial-sized rolls of plastic wrap that they picked up at Sam’s Club on February 15, 2013. Yep, 3,000 feet of plastic wrap is still going strong at their house these seven years after they bought it. Also noted on the box, I might add, is the purchase price of $10.82+0.55 tax=$11.37.

Then, one of my notable favorites is the hat that he bought from the Amish community in Ohio back in the early 2000s. He wrote the date on the inside of the hat brim and wore it to work in the yard for many years. When the top of it blew out, he wore it over a baseball cap until we finally got him a new one a few years ago. I keep forgetting to check for the exact date inside the hat.

It may sound like I am making fun of Dad for his meticulous note keeping, but I promise that I am sharing it with you with absolute awe and regard.

He has passed all of the beekeeping books that he collected over the years to me, and it brings me great joy to open the cover of each one and find a detailed note of where and when it was purchased, sometimes including the receipt, or even won in a raffle drawing at a bee club meeting at the local Western Sizzlin’.

Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media that she has been taking notes on the woolly bear caterpillars each year to determine the severity of the upcoming winter, and wondering if anyone had yet seen one. The more black in their furry coat, the more harsh the winter will be. She says it is more accurate than the experts in her experience.

Her post reminded me of the value of note keeping that I have learned from my Dad, but I realized that much of mine happens through social media posts.

If I want to remember when the tulip poplars bloomed, I go to Facebook, because I probably posted something about it.

If I want to remember what the woolly bears are wearing this year, I seek out that friend’s post.

My how times have changed, make a note of it.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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