My trip to Corvallis with Steve yesterday was a lot of fun. The Corvallis Winter Indoor Market was small, but fairly choice- there was a good variety of things available and had we a cooler with us, I think we probably would have purchased more than just the Jerusalem artichokes I bought (and am going to try to plant).
We later met up with friends for lunch, but before that while killing time until they arrived, we went into Robnetts Hardware on 2nd and SW Adams in Corvallis. My very first job was in an old hardware store, the Orchard Supply Hardware on West San Carlos in San Jose, California. You could buy brass screening by the square inch, or quarter inch galvanized pipe, or various fasteners by the pound, or bordeaux spray, or a crank-style ice cream freezer. It was a great place, and expanded over the years into several stores, and then it it was purchased by WR Grace, who ruined it. But I still haven't lost my love of hardware stores, especially old-fashioned hardware stores (feed stores do it for me as well), and I knew I was going to love this place when we got closer and I could see all manner of oil-based lighting in the windows. It was just as good inside, and I had to tell three different people who wanted to help me that I was just there to have fun. I lost sight of Steve; presumably he went over to the plumbing section to look for stuff that he could use in his brewing. Then I wandered over to the other side of the wall, and found a part of the store that made me feel like I'd wandered back in time. It was old, and wooden and with a fairly low ceiling, and the right side was lined with rolls of all kinds of screening, hardware cloth, fencing fabric, etc. The left side had all kinds of lumber and poles and whatnot that I haven't registered in my mind, because I was too taken with the hardware cloth. They even had the number eight size (eighth inch) that I needed for the bottom of the hive. It was two-fifty a linear foot (and the roll was three feet wide) so I bought two feet of it, which I think will be enough for two hives. If you were standing where I was, looking out to the street through the roll up door, you could easily imagine a horse-drawn wagon waiting to be loaded. I was told later by our friends that hardware store is over a hundred years old, which I could easily believe. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to photograph it for you. In any case, it was the coolest hardware store I've been in in a long time, and now I know what they have, I would drive the one and a half to two hours it takes to get to Corvallis from our house just to go get something from them. You could say that Home Depot is a home improvement store, which is what they say they are, given the stuff that they carry, but you can't say that they are a hardware store, even though they have some hardware. Plus, my experience in Home Depot's tool department is that I know a lot more about hardware than those idiots do. For instance, they don't seem to know what a ratcheting offset screwdriver is, although they do stock one (had to find it myself), and a fellow who looked like he should know better didn't seem to know the difference between a handsaw and a circular saw (if I'd wanted a circular saw I would have asked for one). But Robnetts in Corvallis? Now that's a hardware store.
To answer Kathy's question in her comment on my omelette post last night: yes, I have extensive woodworking experience, but none of it has been too terribly fancy. Making your own top bar hive is a perfect woodworking project in which to get started working wood because as long as the hive holds together in all weather and doesn't have any gaps, it should be fine- bees aren't terribly picky.
The less wood working knowledge you have, the more you should stick to the plans that Phil Chandler has graciously made available free through biobees.com, because it will be easier for you to put together. But because I have experience, and have read about and watched several other hives being constructed online, I feel pretty confident winging it where I can or need to. Kind of like recipes. I tend to stick to a recipe if I've never made the thing before, but sometimes don't even use a recipe if it's something I've made a lot.
We had a nice lunch in Corvallis, and then went to go check out our friends' place on two acres on the edge of town. They live in the kind of neighborhood to which I aspire: small acreages side by side so that you're in the country, but not too alone. Theirs is a good little acreage, with lots of room for improvement, by which I mean they have a fairly clean canvas on which to work. The apple orchard should probably be replaced, which I believe they have planned. Some of the trees have very good apples, so they'll try to save those. But they've staked out four thousand square feet for a garden, that will have everything in it, including the soft fruits like berries. They also get deer that wander through their property, so fencing is a must if they want to keep anything, and that, too, is in the plans. Two acres looks to be about right for what I want to do. So- lucky them.
I am trying hard not to be jealous.