Lessons in Inspiration

Barb Patrick is one of my “host parents” to a honeybee hive. She has a strong and healthy hive on her property, and this year, we will add another.

Mom and BarbThe way I met Barb, was through my mom, Betty. They became friends some years ago, and remained steadfast friends until my mom passed in January 2012. Somewhere along the way-I’m not even sure when-Barb and I began to get to know each other better. If you knew my mom, you know that she was a feisty woman. In fact, she could be downright blunt-to the point of rudeness. I say this with complete love in my heart. She was one in a million, and fought a lot of hard battles with grace and dignity in her life. Barb was her friend, through thick and then, through laughs and good times, through card making to raise scholarship money for young women trying to go to college*, through discussions about religion that could get quite heated, and the sharing of tips, strategies and stories about their genealogy work. When one was sick, the other would deliver soup (or muffins, or gingersnaps). I could not imagine losing touch with Barb after mom was gone, and we started meeting up at Starbucks from time to time for coffee. Beekeeping became part of the discussion, one thing led to another, and this is how she became a host parent to a hive.

The dastardly bird.

The dastardly bird.

I like to name my hives, in honor of the queen bee. It seemed fitting that a host parent should name the queen, so this is how it went with Barb. She named her hive Betty.  Barb is a vigilant host parent. When a big fat bird was perching herself at the entrance to the hive (which I have never even heard could happen), and picking off bees-one by one-as they left the hive, Barb called and sent pictures. We wrapped the hive in chicken wire, because it was all I could think of to get that bird to move on. The bees did not like it much, but they adapted, like bees do, and they flew through the chicken wire. The bird eventually moved on, and Barb continued to watch and report on changes, progress, and the like. Her nephew Pete and his wife Brenda have also taken up beekeeping in Lower Michigan. So she gets bee talk in a few different places. As of late, I have corresponded with Pete via email, and it will be nice to trade ideas, from a different part of our state, about the trials and tribulations of keeping honeybees.

Photo credit: NMU Sports Hall of Fame website

Photo credit: NMU Sports Hall of Fame website

So what are my lessons in inspiration? Barb inspires me. She is my friend, and she is also my inspiration. Being the modest woman she is, she will not likely be thrilled that she is the subject of this blog post. In fact, she might be downright irritated.  However, there some things you need to know about Barb. Did you know that was inducted to the Sports Hall of Fame in 1984 at NMU? She was the coach of the first women’s field hockey team at NMU. And without going into the “old boys’ club” stories, she fought some hard battles and stood up for female athletes, where there was not much support (financially or institutionally) to really develop women’s athletics. Title IX legislation, forty years ago, gave legal backing for Barb and other advocates to work toward equal athletic opportunities and rights for young women at NMU.  She was (and is) persistent, focused, passionate, and committed to women’s athletics, and supports young people in their desire to “make it” in life. She lives a thoughtful, purposeful, and full life. Barb probably owns about every tool there is that can do something useful. She has so many tools, that she had to have another storage unit built on her property last year. She is incredibly self-sufficient, and only hires out the work that is just too taxing.

A couple of years ago, I pulled up to her house for a hive check, and saw an extension ladder running up to the second story of her home. There she was, arms above her head, painting under the eaves. I asked her if that wasn’t a little dangerous, and she replied, “It needs to be done!”  In Barb, I see so many qualities I admire. I am technically younger than she is in years; however, I rarely think of that. What I see in her, and what I admire/look up to in her are her zest for life, her independence and self-sufficiency. She is a no-nonsense kind of person, who lives her faith with kindness, compassion, integrity, intelligence, and persistence, and follows where her heart has taken her throughout life. I am honored to call her my friend. And she’s a great host mom. My bees are lucky to be there.

*Note: Barb still meets weekly with a group of women who make cards. The proceeds of the card sales go to the Ruth Pond Scholarship fund at Redeemer Lutheran Church. The scholarships go to young college students and to parents who need a scholarship to have their children attend the church’s day care program. Contact me if you would like more information.

We had to dig the location out for the hive in Barb's yard during "spring" (it is a relative term) 2013. It may not be much different this spring!

We had to dig the location out for the hive in Barb’s yard during “spring” (it is a relative term) 2013. It may not be much different this spring!

An enormous swarm from Betty's hive, high in the tree's at Barb's.

An enormous swarm from Betty’s hive, high in the tree’s at Barb’s.

A healthy hive in the summer.

A healthy hive in the summer.

You can do it – just try something new!

Patti, serving Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pear

My friend, Mary Doll, emailed in February to ask if I would do an “entertaining with honey” cooking demonstration for Karen Larson Interiors. My first thought was, “I am not that great of a cook. Of course I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) do something like this.” Then…there was this niggling voice in the back of my head. A year ago, I worked with Mercedes Turino, Health Coach (check her out at Healthy Intuition on Facebook!). As a result of the work we did together, that little voice in the back of my head said, “Of course you can do this! Try something new! Besides, it’s a long way off and there is SO much time to plan.”

So, I said yes. In the dead of winter, it really did seem so far away and I was sure I would have everything planned well in advance. As my “date” rolled closer in late May, I did not anticipate that I would also be remodeling our kitchen, and helping my high school GSA students plan “Rally for Respect” on Harvey Milk’s birthday (May 22nd-coincidentally, also my birthday). I had doubled the number of hives I had this year, new bees were coming in, and our daughter was graduating from grad school. (Factor in my full time work as a high school counselor.) My wonderful husband, Lee, tells me I tend to over commit myself. This is certainly a true statement. I still do it, because there are just so many interesting and challenging things to do! But…good grief. I did not feel like I would survive the month.

Since I am writing this, I obviously have survived that month, and I must tell you that putting myself out there to do something totally outside my comfort zone turned out to be SO much fun! I met new people, tried my hand at some new things, and received some very good ideas to consider as I nurture a small business along the way. And Lee, true to the great guy that he is, jumped right in there to help me. I introduced him as my handsome assistant. We prepped, cooked, served, and talked our way through a two hour presentation, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Karen Larson, Mary Doll, and Karen’s other staff were wonderful hostesses at the gathering, and had so many nice touches available to make it comfortable. Soundtrack from Secret Life of Bees was playing in the background for mood music. The feedback we received from class participants was so positive that we were invited to return for another class. Another cooking class is in our future! I hope you enjoy the pictures. In the next few weeks, look for a new page on my blog, where I will post “tried and true” recipes. Raw honey is SO good for you, and these items all turned out to be quite tasty! Hmmm…what to try next…

Hibiscus Honey Iced Tea

Lee, cooking Cumin-Chicken Skewers

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Sugar Cakes

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First of all, I have to say that one of the BEST sites I have found recently about beekeeping (and my favorite to read when I can’t sleep) is www.honeybeesuite.com. I came upon it this week, after reading that one of our local beekeeping experts and great all-around guy, Joel Lantz, was making candy boards to put on his hives. I wasn’t sure I would have the time to make the candy board frames and all that goes with it, so I thought, “Hm, there must be a shortcut.” Beware the shortcut. Although I have high hopes this will all work out.

Those of you who are “local” blog readers know that it is only spring on the calendar in the Queen City. Last year, we had no snow, and an unseasonably early spring for “these parts” in late March. In fact, it was in the 70’s here last year, my  bees were out collecting pollen, and all was good. This year, our snow banks are still so high that we woke to the sounds of the “snow bank cutters” this week at 3 a.m. They had to be cut down around town, because it was hazardous creeping out into intersections—visibility obscured by the height of the snow banks. But, I digress.

The reason this relates to my bees is that I am worried they may not have enough food close by, to survive until we have some pollen for them to get directly from Mother Nature. If the girls are still alive—and I truly hope they are—they cluster near the center of the top hive box. Honey can be very close to them, and they still may starve, because weather conditions are so cold that they remain clustered. Joel’s idea about the sugar boards seemed wise, because I just don’t know how long it will be until the resurrection of spring occurs here.

Back to this great website, written by a woman named Rusty. By the way, her stories are hilarious (e.g. the one where the bee got into her bra). One of her articles was about making sugar cakes. They sounded small, compact, and a lot easier than my making sugar boards. If you are an interested beekeeper, the recipe is on her site. Basically, I cut the recipe back a little since the number of my hives is small. Starting with only two (yes, two) cups of water, I added 10 pounds of sugar. I was doing alright at first. After a while, I started thinking I needed to be a body builder (which I am not) to “stir constantly.” It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  So I’m doing this in my bathrobe (also not wise). The bathrobe came off, because I was so overheated trying to stir what felt like concrete. Lee ended up coming to the kitchen and taking over. It cooked to the hard-ball stage, and then I quickly scooped it onto paper plates. It was unreal how fast it turned rock hard. It was a big sticky mess—but I do feel a great sense of satisfaction now that it’s done. Added a bit of apple cider vinegar and some Honey-B-Healthy during the process. I have 6 big flat sugar pancake looking things cooling in the kitchen. I’ve chipped all the rock-hard sugar off everything upon which it spilled (pans, stove, garbage can, floor—you get the picture). So how was YOUR Friday night?

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This was my weakest hive going into winter–a swarm, caught in late July. If they survive, it will be a miracle.

Now I sit relaxing with a glass of wine. I truly hope the temperature gets high enough this weekend so that I can do a fast peek into the hives to see if they are alive. If they are, they will each receive a sugar cake. The more I have read about biodynamic beekeeping, I confess that I feel twinges of guilt, using this sugar to supplement feed them. However, in the harsh reality of our winter conditions, I think it may be my only chance of helping them stay alive until spring really is here. In the meantime, I’ll go to bed tonight hoping they are still alive. And did I ever say this? I really do have the best husband in the world. With a look of exasperation on his face, as he dove in to help me, I had to say at the end, “Well, it’s always an adventure, isn’t it?”

Wintery Lessons

Elizabeth and Joan hives

It has been a long time…

I struggled with how to begin this blog post, given that I have not written in so long. Once the hectic and enjoyable parts of harvesting honey, spinning, bottling, selling, and readying the bees for winter were complete, I found myself in a writing slump. This is not terribly uncommon for me – feeling in a bit of a slump, on several levels, with the onset of winter. In the interest of turning my face into the light rather than toward the grayness of winter, I offer the following thoughts. I shared two photos below, in which I found – inspiration. They are taken from the wonderful resource of Facebook, where I look to find the pearls, rather than the swine. The other photos are my own.

~As we moved into the short daylight hours and cold of fall and winter, I felt confident that I had done everything I could to support the life and health of my bees over the winter. It has been easy to hold that confidence, during our mild months of winter. In fact, on Thanksgiving Day, I took the first two photos you see below. It was mild enough, that a few bees were peeking out, taking the opportunity for a “cleansing flight.” Very encouraging! I will confess that Lee caught me outside with a stethoscope in December, listening, to see if I could hear their soft, low, buzz through the wood. He shook his head in disbelief. I laughed. Any of you who are beekeepers will totally get it. Now, it is frigidly cold. It hurts to be outside for more than five minutes. I look at the hives from the inside warmth of my home, and wonder, “How can they possibly survive this?” Then, I start to fret over them. Like that has ever helped ANYTHING – ever! They will make it or they won’t. I will be overjoyed if they do, and despondent, for a time, if they don’t.

Pema Chodron quote2012 began with the loss of our dear mom, also known as gramma. The family “firsts”that came without her this year, contained mixes of sadness, great memories, growth, and recovery. We realize how fortunate we were – to have had her with us for 80 years. I have many students – and my husband – who lost a parent when they were children. No one is ever ready to say good bye, are they? As you read the caption to the right, please know I am not thinking about people – I am thinking of our memories, our perceptions, our challenges, and as my dear friend, Carroll Ann, would say, “strangely wrapped gifts.” Simply, it speaks to me. 2013 has begun, with hope and promise, and the rebirth of our green summer days, hiding beneath the snow.

In this sub-zero span of time we are experiencing, I am reading my bee magazines, checking out the new bee supply catalogs that are arriving, and deciding how many bees I will order, making my best guess on whether or not I can split the hives that survive, and wondering how many hives may not make it. It will be a true miracle if Cleopatra and her girls make it, since she was the swarm hive. Lee, is once again giving up the pool table in the family room, the cardboard is laid out, and the new hive bodies are sitting, prepped and ready to paint. Spring is coming! How many new hives will I add? How will it go to have them placed in a new location so I can expand? Hang in there girls. And if we get any warm days, I will be out there quickly, trying to slip honey in for them, in case it is warm enough to take a peek under their winter covers. Stay tuned for updates.

Lessons in adapting

Honeybee and Poppy. As you would guess, bees bring in deep purple pollen from poppies.

Did you know that honeybees are not native to North America? Honeybees first came to North America in the year 1622, according to Brenda Kellar of the Oregon State Beekeepers Organization. I love this sentence from her essay (you can find it on www.orsba.org if you’re interested in reading the entire thing): “The creation of the United States can be found in the footsteps of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L).”

This is likely because they made honey, wax, and propolis available, along with the added benefit of their pollinating European seeds and saplings, changing the landscape of the vegetation of North America, as they spread across the country. It would take almost 200 years for the honeybees to reach the west coast, likely due to the challenging Rocky Mountain divide. One caveat I would add, is this: You may find differing reports, depending upon your sources and how much you read. From what I have read, this all makes sense to me. Since I love honey bees, I found it fascinating reading. I suppose my fascination with this reading is also linked to the process of getting the bees ready for winter.

Our honeybees can and do survive the harsh winters of our northern climate, and it seems to me that they have a greater likelihood of doing this with a little help from the backyard beekeeper, along with the commercial beekeepers. In one of my earlier blog posts (Lessons in unexpected places), I wrote about Gunther Hauk, and his support of biodynamic beekeeping. This leaves the bees to thrive, as much as possible, without our assistance. (I still would love to attend his conferences sometime—maybe I would change my practices if I did?) Well, he lives in Virginia, and if my bees and I lived there, I would be tempted to try it. Given our cold and snowy (need I say LONG) winters, our honeybee friends need a little help.

Once all of our lovely blooming plants start to fade and die as a result of the cold nights, increasing hours of darkness, and the start of the snowy season, I do some supplemental feeding, using a 2:1 (sugar: water) syrup mixture for fall. I try to finish this before it gets too cold, so the bees have a chance to take it in, process it, and tuck in for the winter. There are the occasional lovely days…like this weekend…when the bees were pretty active. Much to my surprise, they were coming back to the hive with yellow and orange pollen. I was really surprised, because I didn’t think there was anything else that could be blooming with the cold, wet, blustery weather we have had. Since it was warm enough to remove the outer covers, I added a moisture board, which basically helps wick the moisture (condensation) that collects inside the top of the hive. Picture the cold winter weather outside + bees working inside to keep it warm and toasty = condensation. Without this help, the water can rain down on the bees, and they are more susceptible to dying from being too wet than from being too cold. When it gets really cold, I will slide black covers over the outside of the hives, before they are truly tucked in for the winter months. I leave ventilation holes (for those rare days of winter when they can leave for a “cleansing flight” on decently warm days (warm, by U.P. standards). I also put a mouse guard in place at the bottom of each hive bottom entrance. Mice need to over-winter too—just not with the girls.

So, it seems a pretty symbiotic relationship, at least when beekeepers use no medications and no pesticides, and make sure to leave the bees plenty of honey. They bring me much fascination, teach me many life lessons, and create delightfully tasting honey, not to mention propolis and wax. I, in turn, try to help them out with some support to stay healthy and attempt to be a catalyst for their proliferation.  The bees help our local environment, and pollinate many of the fruits and vegetables we all enjoy. Bees seem pretty adaptable, and pretty flexible. I try to be both of these. Some days I succeed in greater degrees than in other days. Here is where I can’t help but turn a little philosophical as I write. (I am sure I inherited this from my dad.) One of my favorite sayings is from Ernest Dimnet, French priest, lecturer and author (1866-1954).

“The happiness of most people we know is not ruined by great catastrophes or fatal errors, but by the repetition of slowly destructive little things.”

Our honeybee population may eventually be destroyed, if we do not stop the repetition of slowly destructive things—pesticide use, ignoring the environmental clues we get from sick, dying, and dwindling numbers of bees, medicating them for short term gain, thereby risking a long term toll on the health of the honeybees.

So it is with bees, so it is with people. At least, I have found this to be true in my personal life, in the care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health, and in my relationships. We can become so adaptive and flexible that we end up giving ourselves away—then wake up one day and wonder, “How did I get here?” So care for yourself, value yourself, and balance this with the care you bring others, your work, and the relationships you value in your life.

Be intentional, be in the moment, always moving toward balance.

I keep working on it…every day.

One of the most inspirational people in my life ~ who taught me many life lessons.
Me – Dad – Lisa

 

The power and teachings of the SWARM

To the beekeeper, a swarm is something you try to prevent. Why? It reduces your hive by roughly half the number of bees that were there before the swarm, the queen takes off with the marauding travelers (translation: hive has to work to rear a new one, if one hasn’t already been growing), the hive is weaker for a while, and honey production will likely not be as great.

For the bees, however, swarming is a natural occurrence. Based on everything I have read, it sure seems like it is what they are born to do. It helps them proliferate by splitting and creating two hives where there previously was one, and the argument can be made that bees will be healthier in the long run—moving and taking up new residence elsewhere means a new home, (hopefully) free of pests, and the numbers of bees theoretically will increase. Beekeepers will tell you that bees swarm because they are too crowded, or because they are overheated in the sultry days of summer, and some beekeepers will tell you that they will do it no matter what you do to try to prevent it. “Scout bees” check out a location where they will congregate, and somehow they communicate the plan so they all end up in the same place. Once there, they surround the queen and remain there until they find a new permanent home.

The first time I saw a swarm, I was both terrified and fascinated. My cousin Liz was visiting from Minneapolis and she called me outside to see what was going on in the backyard. There were thousands (yes, thousands) of bees swirling in a wide vortex all around the backyard. The noise was incredible. Imagine the buzzing you hear from one bee, magnified by a few thousand. It was craziness! Eventually, they rose higher in the air, and disappeared. That was a wild weekend. Another hive swarmed, and this one lodged in a tree, very high up in the air. There was no way to try to retrieve it. Yes, I said retrieve it. Once the swarm “settles” in a massive group of bees clustered around the queen, they are quite docile. They may stay for a few hours, or a day, if you are lucky. I must say, the first time it happened, I was disheartened and discouraged. What had I done wrong? I checked regularly to make sure they had enough room, I vented the hive, and I checked the frames for swarm cells. Still, it happened. I fretted and worried and wondered if the hive could recover, and wondered if I would lose them over the winter.

Then, on another hot summer day, excitement! My neighbor, Phil, asked me if I had a new hive. He pointed it out in one of the pear trees in our yard. It was massive…the biggest one I had seen. I frantically called Jess and Grady Shull, beekeepers extraordinaire, who arrived to help me try to retrieve it. Our neighbor John brought an extension ladder from his business, Connie brought me a glass of wine, Janey, Andrew, and Joel took pictures and video, Phil held the ladder while Grady sawed the branch as we tried to support the sheer weight of it. It turned out to be a neighborhood event! My husband Lee was golfing that night, and he was thrilled that he was not at home. After much careful maneuvering, we shook the bees into a hive box, and capped it. The real test would be the morning—would they still be there? Alas, they did not like their new home, and they were gone by mid-morning.

In the last three years since I started beekeeping, I have witnessed multiple swarms, or, I have seen the after effects by doing a hive check and realizing there must have been a swarm—the telltale sign is that the hive population appeared drastically smaller than my previous check. Somehow, an evolution has occurred within me in the way I view swarms. This transformation has done two things for me.

First: I may feel some disheartenment when I see a swarm happening, because I do hate to see any of my bees disappear into the woods behind us, but beyond this—what is new is that the last time I saw a swarm swirling up from one of my hives, I ran outside to our deck, and stood right in the middle of it with my arms stretched wide open. I know, some of you are thinking I’m crazy, right? But seriously, it is a force of nature to be reckoned with! It is amazing, and powerful, and beautiful. And it is the way of life moving on, no matter what people think should be done to control the process. I stood and watched, listened, and appreciated the power of it all. Maybe I feel differently because I know I do the best I can with my bees, and I realize they will ultimately do what is best for themselves. Maybe it is because my mom’s illness over the last few years has helped me realize I really have no control over anything, so I might as just well relax. Or maybe it’s like I said to my friend Chris, “let go or be dragged” while we were struggling with some work issues (my day job). You know what I think? All of them are the same, and it is one big circle of understanding to appreciate this—acceptance and gratitude.

Second: I am now brave enough to tackle a swarm with a relative amount of confidence. This feels pretty good, given where I started (in somewhat abject terror) during my first beekeeping summer. The last bee swarm (July 2012) was in a relatively low branch. Lee suited up, my neighbor Joel suited up, and the three of us tackled it—calmly and systematically. And guess what? They stayed! This is my Cleopatra hive (remember my earlier post about naming the hives for a queen?) These bees do their own thing, are unpredictable, and a little wild. Wherever they came from, I’m glad they are here.

There have been so many swarms over the last few years that I have collected quite a variety of interesting swarm pictures. I hope you enjoy them. AND, if next summer rolls around and you see a swarm of honeybees in the air, or settled in a branch I can get to with a ladder, CALL ME! I’ll be there.

(click on any photo to view in larger frame)

Lessons in unexpected places..

One of the best things I did this summer, in the interest of restoring and reconnecting, was to take a road trip with our daughter Jessica. We wanted to see a different part of the country, so on recommendation from my dear friend, Carroll Ann, we mapped a trek to the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway. Not having done something like this-leaving on a trip with (really)-not much of a plan, the end results were, as you might guess, unpredictable. This was a good summer for me to do this. Leaving the Queen City Bees to their own devices, off we went. I rented a cabin along the Parkway. The cabins were advertised as “rustic,” built by the CCC’s (Civilian Conservation Corps) many years ago. Nestled in the mountains, we truly thought we were on a road to nowhere as we kept driving. In fact, we had more than one experience where we wondered, where in God’s name are we? GPS worked seldom, we lived by our maps, and carried plenty of water and snacks in the car, because we truly never knew where we might end up—especially on those hot, sunny days of summer. Rocky Knob Cabins turned out to be great, and I realized that “rustic” to a U.P. woman left me with some pretty low expectations of what we would find there. I was pleasantly surprised! So how does this teach me more about bees? That part is coming.

In addition to some hiking and quite majestic views along the Blue Ridge Mountains, we discovered many things: Rocky Knob Cabins were a little gem tucked away in the mountainous winding roads, a wonderful Italian winery called Villa Appalachia, I was able to zip line through the trees without killing myself, and a little town called Floyd (Virgina) which has a “jamboree” every Friday night with people playing music literally everywhere.

It turned out that there was an artisan market weekend taking place in Floyd while we were there. Once we started chatting with some friendly artists in downtown Floyd, we realized that this was a big deal in this tiny little town. It turned out that there were over 40 artists, tucked into the hills, valleys, and mountains surrounding the area. Trusting friendly people in and around Floyd, we started looking for the first dirt road after you see a log cabin on the left-and similar types of directions. The dirt roads eventually turned into 2 dirt tracks with foot high grass in between, and we wondered where we might end up. Pushing the idea of the movie Deliverance and banjo music out of our heads, we found the people of Floyd, and especially the artists, to be kind, generous, incredibly friendly and inviting. We were asked into homes, studios, saw mills, and were trusted to leave the money on the counter and a note if the person wasn’t available at the moment. What an amazing place! This is how we discovered Spikenard Farm Bee Sanctuary.

In all honesty, I had never heard of Gunther Hauk. It turns out that he is a nationally known beekeeper, and he has been interviewed in some recent movies (Fellow beekeepers will recognize the movie names  Vanishing of the Bees, and Queen of the Sun.) Not seeing him around the area of the hives, I asked his assistant Jane, if I could meet him. It turns out that he was running a four-day training, for hundreds of people who had come from all over the country to see him. Jane started telling me about biodynamic beekeeping, and with that conversation, my vision for where my beekeeping journey might go started to expand. There is simply no way to capture, in words or the pictures I have included here, how phenomenal this Bee Sanctuary was. Everything that exists here, exists for the sole purpose of helping bees live, heal, and thrive. The variety of plants blooming was phenomenal. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as the backdrop, we wandered around more hives than I had ever seen. I learned about Warre hives. In the Langstroth hives, which most local beekeepers in our area have—the bees build “up” and the beekeeper keeps adding a new box as they need more space.  Jane explained that the bees building “up” through each box added to each hive, was really for the ease of the beekeeper, not for what comes naturally to bees. In the Warre hives, the bees follow their natural instincts, and move down, so boxes are added in the opposite way. Apparently this is more natural for the bees; however, more work for the beekeeper. But it’s all about the bees, so which is more important? I guess that is the whole point in biodynamic beekeeping. Everything done here is very intentional, to help the bees heal, remain healthy, and proliferate. I was also able to see top-bar hives, and a six-sided Venus hive, as well as multiple Langstroth hives. Under the protection of a “lean-to,” I walked by about 40 hives. The noise was deafening, given the thousands of bees that were taking care of business, in and around the hive. The lean-to, I am guessing, gives some respite from the hot Virginia sun. A series of pictures follows, giving snapshots of what was quite a majestic sight.

What started out as a somewhat aimless, unplanned trip, ended up giving Jess and me rich, colorful experiences in a place we never knew existed. Gunther Hauk moved to the U.S. from Germany. In the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he has created a sanctuary which draws hundreds of people. They, in turn, hopefully return home and spread the wealth of knowledge and passion for taking care of our planet—by taking care of the honeybees. (Check out the link below the photos for more information)

http://www.spikenardfarm.org/index.html

What did I learn on this trip?

Bee adventurous.

Soar through the trees on a wire trusting that the person on the other end will guide you in.

Make new friends.

Love the earth.

Carry a good map, a full tank of gas, water to drink, and be ready for whatever you find.  Change your course at any time. Adventure awaits.

Take time, to be with your family. The years pass swiftly.

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