This past Saturday I received my Beekeeper Certification. After two years of classes and fieldwork, 12 of us graduated with our pins and certificates of capability… or maybe just sheer stubborness. One of our instructors, Susan, continues to comment that, like the t.v. show, we are the survivors. We began with 24 second year beekeepers for this certificate and only 12 are left standing. Ours may not have been a deserted island, but sometimes it felt like it. This second year of our certification program we were on our own in a rigorous and sometimes punishing schedule. It required us to put in at least 40 hours of community service, at least 10 instructional classes and a looong summer of field hours with master beekeepers who were veterans.
As you’ve seen in my blogposts, I’ve tagged along for cutouts of beehives in water cisterns. I’ve helped with 3 foot combs, tucked away in adobe walls. I’ve assessed trapouts in old trees and under the eaves of garages. I voyaged up to Truchas to shadow Melanie Kirby, the Zia Queenbee raiser of resilient, mite resistant, strong New Mexico stock. I learned about hive splits and divides and how to increase pollinator habitat thanks to Plants of the Southwest. And in the midst of all this, I continued my own backyard bee trials and tribulations as well as mentoring new beekeepers, and teaching elementary school children. It was a blur. I’m sure I’m leaving something out. I just can’t remember in this groggy pre-bedtime state. All I know is that I’ve learned plenty. Whether I am a bona fide, certified beekeeper or not, what really matters is that I’ve learned to listen better to my little bee friends, and let them mentor me in a thousand different ways.
I’ve lived through queen supersedures, deaths and misadventures of dropped queens. I’ve had hive die-outs, mites, combining of feral hives and swarms. I’ve learned to recognize queens without magnifying glasses. I’ve had hives come after me—bees in my nose, ears and hair. I’ve been stung endlessly and I still have an affection for the little critters. Go figure. Wendell Berry, the great earth advocate, tobacco farmer and prolific author wrote a speech entitled “It All Turns on Affection” which he gave at the JFK Center, upon receiving the Jefferson Award in 2012. http://www.neh.gov/about/awards/jefferson-lecture/wendell-e-berry-lecture
It’s worth a listen. Wendell, whom I just found out shares the same birthday as myself (what an honor!) reminds me of why we must not just do things out of rote duty. Caring for the earth must come from a deeper place of affection, lest it be unsustainable. It’s about relationship, in the end. Thank you Mr. Berry. You always hit it right on the nail.
It is Saturday night. The glory day of being honored for completing a rigorous, survivalist course is over. The Day’s festivities and final bee presentations are all done. Back to the daily ins and outs of beekeeping. I am glad I did the program. Not only the information, but just the wonderful networking and strengthening of the bee community through our work together. Quoting one of the core committee members…
As a group, you bonded well, helped each other, and challenged the planning committee to give you the most comprehensive program we could. I am comfortable speaking for the 2014–2015 planning committee to say, it was our great honor and joy to get to know you and appreciate your conscientious dedication to becoming competent and resourceful beekeepers. So, wear your well-deserved, Certified Beekeeper lapel pins boldly and often. You made history on August 22, 2015.
So be it. But lest I think that now I am an expert, my bee friends will continue to humble me regularly. One never really keeps the bees. They keep us.
My husband and I pop the cork on my special Mead honey wine and celebrate with our friends who graciously host one of my hives. We sit in the waning light under a long portico, overlooking the backyard with our bees.
Life is good. Long lives the bees!