Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Do you sell honey?

honey comb from Morristown
Do you sell honey?

It is a question I am often asked when someone realizes I am a beekeeper. The answer thus far has been no.

What I have been doing for the past 3 years in working with the bees is trying to wade my way through the teachings of experienced beekeepers.
You see, for some time now beekeeping has been about stealing honey and pollination. Otherwise, (the other, all to common question) "what use are the bees?"

We live in a society that places high value on things (a.k.a living, sentient beings) that reap profit. If these things do not reap profit, we disregard them or manipulate them to make them into profit.

The other day I got into a discussion about wasps. The person I was speaking with was struggling with wasps continuously building nests on their deck. "What are they good for, what use are they? I am just going to kill them."

Rewind a week and I have Bob, the farmer telling me that before the wasps came to his place he struggled with worms in his cabbage crop. "No more worms for this place, the wasps have eaten them all!"

I digress. Or do I? There is a point to this. All creatures on this planet are here for their own reasons. I will not pretend to know what the reasons are. Not even sure what the human purpose is, but I am sure it isn't to exploit every other species and I am pretty sure that every other species' point isn't to serve humans. I could be wrong though.

So the bees...most books and teachers come from a background of years of exploiting bees for profit. Few have taken the time or have had the inclination to understand 'beeness'.

some top bar hive bees a few days after being given this bar
Bees have their own nature as do humans. We hurt each other when we view our relationships merely as a give and take; when we view 'other' as an object to exploit or take advantage of. As a culture, it is important for us to learn to listen. Yes, time is money and listening takes time, but aren't relationships the mainstays of our existence? Isn't it time we put more value on our relationships (our friends, family, animals, bugs, land, food...)?

beautiful bees and burr comb in Vancouver

So no, I do not sell the wonderful honey that the bees make from their hard work of harvesting nectar from the numerous dandelions, clover, linden, sweet william, salvias and numerous other wild and cultivated flowers that grow within their reach. I am too busy working on a relationship with a species whose nature I have barely begun to understand. After 3 years with them I am realizing I barely understand my own human nature.

I do know that it is in my nature to love sweetness and the bees graciously offer that to me and for this I am thankful. I am also thankful for all the beekeepers who love and care for their bees while taking the extra honey they make to sell to us folks who have a love of all things sweet. I am thankful for the bees for making extra! I am thankful for the land for producing so much sweet bounty for all creatures. I am thankful for all creatures! I am thankful that you are reading my words.

40th anniversary of earth day...what are YOU thankful for?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MMMMM! Spring Salad!

Just add radishes, garlic mustard, dandelion greens and spring onions. Salt and pepper and I am one happy lady!

The Japanes Hornfaced Bee

The Honeybee Alliance's newest member:

For a few days a couple weeks ago I found my apartment a buzz with bees. I was confused as they would come as early as 6:30 am (much to the chagrin of my gf) and honeybees are late risers. Who were these bees poking in every hole in my apartment?

I watched as each morning between 6:30 and 11 am anywhere from 1 to 5 bees would come into my little apartment and check out all the holes. These bees sound and look like honeybees but they have their mandibles open, where honeybees rarely do. Hence the horn face, I suppose?

I watched as two bees took to an end each of my pilates cord which hangs from my curtain rod. Over the corse of a week these pods were growing inside the cord.

I watched as the mother bee would bring in pollen, sometimes even dropping it on my floor. I was so excited to have a hive IN my apartment, a little nest of solitary bees growing right before my eyes as I went about my days.

The pollen was sweet when I tasted it off my floor.

I learned that the Japanese Hornfaced bee is actually one of the best pollinators in the world! I read on that, "In an apple orchard, an Eastern honey bee on an average day will pollinate around 50 flowers. The Japanese Hornfaced Bee (Osmia cornifrons), which falls into the classification of mason bee (genus Osmia), can visit 15 flowers a minute, pollinating as many as 2,450 apples a day. It's a solitary bee commonly used for commercial apple pollination in Japan and is at least 50 times more effective than the honey bee when it comes to pollinating apples (as well as most other tree fruits.) "

After a long day at work and a long drive to NY state I came home and went to look in the tubes to see a bee face looking out at me...but this time, there was no bee, but a seal of pollen/mud? I guess this is it until October? More bees are coming around looking for holes and I am in the process of making a home for them with Japanese knotweed (a noxious weed in the area that is full of hollow tubes just the right size for these little pollinating delights)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ode to a Blade of Grass in April
-Gunther Hauk

New and new, and ever new
On dry souls like freshening dew
You glisten and shine
With emerald green
Bold blade reaching for the blue
Drinking light and
Fettering fleeting sylphs
Into bondage of substance.

You, trodden 'neath harsh cleats on fields of play,
Unappreciated when growth is abundant
And mower-charges soar high,
When pollen fills field - and watery eyes;
You, who quicken the heart's beat
When dandelions wink with golden eyes
At resentful suburbanites.
Yes, you! Image of life
Resurrected from dead of winter,
You feed beasts with bloating udder
So fat milk flows,
Feeding us all.

You bowed your head
Under the graceful, etheric step
Of the Great Gardener.
You emerald banner of life,
Let me tread lovingly on you
Who vowed to green with us,
Year after year -
Till the end of days.