Thursday, February 17, 2011


The story so far:

My parents encouraged an interest in and a protective attitude toward the rest of the world from the time I was very small. We had Addams Family Values about the value of swamps before they were fashionable. Books about nature and organic gardening were left around where I could get into them, and I did (I find I had pretty well memorized Peacock Manure and Marigolds, when I got a copy about 44 years after I first read it). I can't remember when I first thought about keeping bees myself, but I do remember considering keeping them on a fire escape in downtown Boston. Something I read at the time said it was hard to keep a hive alive through the winter in New England. Also, I was thirteen.

I lived a bunch of places, but for good or ill I did not keep bees. I identified myself, or rather I felt Ronald Reagan identified me, as an Environmental Extremist. I gardened organically, although I have lately sinned in the matters of Poison Ivy and Oriental Bittersweet. I read about other people keeping bees. It seemed complicated. It is, but not more than anything else, like insurance or car maintenance or chickens or choosing the right kind of wool to spin. Most recently, I found myself reading Neil Gaiman's blog. He got bees, possiblybecause of Sherlock Holmes, or possibly because his 'friends' led him into it by stages. I wish Birdchick would archive her stuff more effectively, not that she has anything else to do.

Beekeeping still sounded like effort, but fun. The manager of the deli in Concord had a hive in her parents' yard, because she wanted to do something to help with the Colony Collapse Disorder. I talked to her about Birdchick's and Neil Gaiman's hives and then she moved to Chicago. (I do not know what happened to the bees). Time went by.
I went to the post office two weeks before Christmas, thinking about it, and that Lorraine and Birdchick had gone to Bee College in Minnesota, and there was never anything like that around here. As I left the post office I looked at the community bulletin board and found a notice for a Bee School, $30, four sessions in January and February.

I asked for and received a book about beekeeping for Christmas.

Oliver Sacks assured me it would be an excellent thing for my brain.

I told my mother about the synchronicity moment with the Bee School notice. She whipped out a $30 bill (well. a $20 and a $10) and told me to go. I mentioned this to one of my friends from the archaeology life, who lives in Nashua (1 floor of a house with a small yard). She said she had always wanted to have bees. I warned Deb I would exploit her if I possibly could. She has been driving the two of us to Bee School. We have had three sessions and read a couple of books, which means we understand what's going on in the sessions.

I have joined the YahooGroups Organic Beekeepers ( a lively opinionated list) and the one for the local group (not quite dead).

In my next post, I'll try to talk about Bee School and what Deb and I are hoping to get.

First Flight

I think I am going to have bees. I am a 54.5 years old, live in post-agricultural New Hampshire (bits of my surroundings are actively farmed, but not most of the divorced, bird-feeding, half-Texan, omnivorous, NPR-listening woman with a Roman Catholic MDiv and two spinning wheels, four cats, and too many books. A lot of them are science fiction. Enough about me; you want more, there's another blog.

This one is going to be about becoming a beekeeper, and host links to articles or books, because bibliography is one of my guilty passions. I love fixing people up with information.

In the interests of getting this thing into the air, here are some things to read. I will come back to me and whatever is happening later, after I have had more tea.

Almost true bees -- Robert Krulwich about forensic pollen and more.The headline is Bees That Work For the Police. but the code says 'bees-who-work-for-the-police". Is it all relative?

Beekeeping was only recently made legal (again) in New York. Here's an article about the, well, they could hardly be the underground, could they? beekeepers before the law changed in their favor. Contains a fine irrelevant quote from Rudy Giulani (not mentioning 911!).

The Beekeeper Next Door A bee grows in Brooklyn, and the other boroughs, and other towns in other states.

Maraschino bees! Bees on drugs!
The Red Bees of Red Hook
The Secret Downside of Urban Beekeeping

And then what happened: Helping Brooklyn's Red Stingers Get Off the Juice.

I am going to try to stay upbeat (that's code for 'not-frothing-at-the-mouth insane') but some of the reports about the envronment make me justifiably batty. I have another blog, Dystopic Fun, which is just links to the latest things that make me....anyway, I will link to it when I have something particularly disturbing that affects bees. But making you click twice would be unkind, so here's a link to a cheery article about Roundup, a soi-disant safe herbicide which was remarked on the Organic Beekeepers YahooGroup as being worse for bee larvae than some insecticides. Regardless, not good.

Enough about that.