I'm continuing to research different approaches to beekeeping without foundation in various types of "long" hives. Haven't come to a full conclusion yet, but I'm leaning toward using frames with NO FOUNDATION rather than only top bars.
It will still be done without stacking boxes, so working in the hive won't require lifting heavy boxes up and down, but can use some standard sized frames to make things more interchangeable with the rest of the world - and likely less expensive as well. Bees still build their own comb, natural, hopefully more healthy and treatment-free with no chemical residue in the wax.
I'll update when I know what we're going to do. I may have to put it off for another season due to needing more time to learn before making a final decision. Bees need to be installed in my area around April 1 and I may have too many other things taking up my time to be able to pull it off that quickly. We shall see.
I've been "conversing" with experienced beekeepers from all over the country via email and have learned a lot from varied perspectives. Very interesting and it seems that I'm starting to get a better handle on things and can maybe make a better informed decision before too long.
When we finally get a hive setup I'll have the birds and the bees.