"Get me a beer!" Honey beer or mead? Perhaps you'll have to wait until the end of the season to make your own, but it will be an excellent, even soothing, reward.
" I am a "hands on" type of person, and I get the impression that alot of you guys are too." Hands-on, eyes on, bee forum on ~ lol - cool thing about the info age, adds many ways to the traditional methods of gaining info & perspectives. Nothing beats hands-on personal experience for dispelling all doubts but it is definitely advantageous to go into any venture well-informed. More fun! :-D
"I know that all will work once I see my first bees and get down to business." Don't be sooo sure! que ~> :evil: "bwahahah" - just JOKING! You're right... it's just "fear of the unknown" but, even in my limited experience (1st time beek) nurturing nature just seems to work.
"We live on 20 acres, nearly all wooded, water near by and tons of black locust, honeysuckle and fruit trees." Bees say "yum". :) What kind of water near?
"We have only about one acre cleared, and that is taken up by a veg garden, chickens, and our house. Placement of hives is gnawing at my brain. Do I clear some trees and open up an area for them?" If you already have an area that gets good full morning sun and preferably throughout the day, with partial late-afternoon shade in hottest part of summer be ideal (but not necessary) ~ they'll be happy and productive.
" We have two young children that seem only to learn by putting their hands on the hot stove," The DO learn tho, right? ;) If anyone here didn't "mess" with bees in some fashion as a child (& learn that precious lesson the painful way) please raise your hand. heh As long as they are told/taught to respect the bees (they defend their homes indeed!) and don't tackle or tip the hive boxes outright :shock: I think they should be fine. Other animals can be sorta fierce too - chickens have those pointy beaks and will charge ya! ;) But big +1 to fenced in hive area for protection from ALL pests (2 and 4-legged).
"...and trespassers..." Ditto what everyone else has posted thus far: fences and signs and definitely take lawful action if necessary.
"Should I file somewhere in city hall and have it recorded that we have bees? Has anyone else out there had this kind of insanity,...or are we the only ones? We can't be, can we?" I've heard and read of a LOT of insanity. Eminent domain comes to mind as one particularly egregious example. That being said, how one proceeds through the maze that is municipal governmental bureaucracy is probably a very personal decision, not to mention potentially complicated (they don't call it legalese for nothing). If you own your home outright vs. have an equity interest (the bank owns it), etc., etc., all determines your standing.
"Also, what about the noise and vibration of a large riding mower?" I'd be curious about that one too. Not that I have to worry about it in my own circumstance (hives are fenced in and on a deck/overlook). I sure wouldn't mow close in front of the hives. I have to power-wash and paint my deck though... gonna have some temporary bee-hive logistics issues there. lol
Ahh - Annette posted while I was replying... suit up eh? No mower tan for you. ;) Do you notice they get riled up when you buzz directly in front of them?