Hello and good morning!

This is my first real post outside of my introduction, so please forgive me if I post in the wrong area.

I want to start my own apiary. I have done some research, but I have been pretty much going in circles and still have some unanswered questions.

This is my first year I will be beekeeping. I want to do a top-bar hive, as I see it will be cheaper to build. Is this a wise decision to do? I'm sure many people start with this when starting their own apiary. I have read of the comb (please pardon the lack of correct terminology, I'm working on it) growing on the sides or growing together from one bar to another. Would a flexible wooden frame in the top-bar help prevent this? I realize this may not be a minimalist approach, I'm just trying to avoid complications.

I know where I will put them (I plan to build two, maybe 38 in. long, if I remember the dimensions correctly), as it will get good sun in the morning but will have shade in the afternoon (I've read this is the best place to but them). I've heard of setting up two hives for comparison. Is there a recommended distance between the two? Also would it be wise to paint them bright colors?

I've also read of diseases and parasites, though none of the sites I've found have explained to me really what they are nor how to prevent them. I understand moisture can be a contributing factor, but are there other factors I need to be aware of? Maybe that is explained on another forum, I don't know.

I also kinda understand the basic idea of a swarm, and have read this is one of the best ways to go, since they are more... "hardy" I guess than buying them. But I'm a little hesitant on going to catch them on my own. Is it really bad to buy your own set of bees the first year? And do you have to buy or catch them every year?

I live in Michigan, where the temperature right now is a blistering 6 degrees Ferienheit. What would be the best way to winterize them in a top-bar hive? Again in my research I have not really found a method, most sites say to wrap them and make sure they have food.

I know this is a lot, and I do apologize. Up here in Michigan it doesn't really seem to have a big network (none that I could easily find anyway). I know there is going to be a class in March which I plan to attend but I know right now is the best time to get everything ready. It seems like everyone has their own "style" to it, but I guess I'm a little confused as to what the "standards" of bee keeping are.

Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.