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Getting stung is part of the hobby for beekeeper Jeannie

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Jeannie Olander and her goat Lizzie (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jeannie Olander (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jeannie Olander with one of her bee hives (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

In her 40s Jeannie Olander decided she wanted to study culinary arts at the Bermuda College.

But, despite many queries, they refused to accept her.

“I loved to cook,” she said. “I kept asking if they would take mature students and they kept saying no.”

Then one day out of the blue she got a call from Fred Ming. The lecturer asked if she was still interested and if she could start that day.

Mrs Olander didn’t question the sudden change of heart, she just went.

Fortunately, getting the time off wasn’t a problem as she worked for her father, Lee Rankin, the owner of Hamilton stores This and That and the Knick Knack.

“It wasn’t hard being an older student,” the 78-year-old said. “I loved doing it.”

After graduating she worked at Tom Moore’s Tavern and then at The Margaret Rose at the St George’s Club.

“I was lucky because Alfred Konrad was the head chef,” she said. “He took a chance and let me be the pastry chef.

“We made an assortment of desserts because we did a lot of buffets.”

Mrs Olander became well known for her special occasion cakes. Sugary pastries were often a problem.

“Humidity is a killer,” she said. “You have these marvellous ideas and they just melt.”

After two years in pastry she transferred over to the main kitchen, where she stayed for another seven years.

“Now, I just cook for my family,” she said. “And I have a granddaughter, Eliza, who loves to cook. So I do a lot of cooking with her.”

Despite that cooking is very much Mrs Olander’s second love.

“In school my favourite subject was always history,” she said.

“My family have been in St David’s for 400 years. I am a descendant of Christopher Carter who came over on the Sea Venture.”

As such, the Jacobs Point Road property she lives on has been in her family as long as she can remember.

“I don’t really know how many generations,” she said. “I have never counted.”

Her ancestors used to grow arrowroot in the quiet neighbourhood. She remembers it being even more isolated when she was a child.

“There are a lot more houses around today and a lot of people we don’t know,” she said. “When I was growing up we knew everybody. My family would go to visit a lot more than people do now.”

Playing around in a punt is another fond memory from her childhood.

“We would go out by ourselves,” she said. “The only rule was that we weren’t to go out of the harbour. We never did. It would have been just too far to row.”

She attended St George’s Grammar School which later became St George’s Preparatory School.

“When I was little I would take the ferry across to St George’s,” she said. “I remember that the driver, Mr Darrell, would let me drive the ferry. I thought that was amazing but really we were out in the harbour, so there weren’t many ways to go wrong.”

On the weekends she loved it when her great aunt took her to visit the St George’s Historical Society Museum.

“When I was a child it was a lending library and museum,” she said. “There were no children’s books, so when my aunt was looking at the books I’d be wandering around the museum part.”

Mrs Olander joined the organisation in the 1970s, started volunteering in the 1990s and is currently the president.

She loves helping people who come in looking for information about their families.

The museum closed for a while because of the pandemic. Mrs Olander used the time to garden and take care of the family’s geese, cats and goats.

“My husband lets them out in the evening,” she said. “They like to eat my flowers. Then I yell at them. But they are a lot of fun.”

She kept bees for about five years but found it difficult managing the hives on her own.

Then she and Ian Birch connected.

They maintain 15 hives together, seven on Mrs Olander’s property.

She considers getting stung a part of the hobby.

“I just put vinegar on it,” she said. “The honey is the rewarding thing about raising bees. But it is also fun. They are the most intelligent critters. They are very interesting to read about and understand why they do things. They have regular little communities – from the queen down.”

The hives also seem to have their own personalities. In two of them, the bees are very aggressive.

“They don’t want you in their hive, and they will come after you,” she said.

She has another two hives where the queen bees seem to be very particular – every frame in the hive is arranged to exactly the same measurements.

Mrs Olander met her husband, Peter, in school. They celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary on July 27.

“He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and came to Bermuda when he was two,” she said. “He is an island boy at heart now. He came to St George’s Grammar School when he was 15.

“He went to sea as a US Merchant Marine sea captain for 43 years. He was going to sea before we got married. There were times when he would be away at sea for a year at a time.”

Stuck her alone, Mrs Olander found “other things to do”.

She loved those occasions when she would spend the entire summer sailing with her husband and their two children, Hans and Louise.

“He was on oceanographic ships and cargo ships. Sometimes we would go down to the West Indies or to Norway, different places.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published September 29, 2021 at 8:03 am (Updated September 30, 2021 at 7:58 am)

Getting stung is part of the hobby for beekeeper Jeannie

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