This is the month for the bees – the heavy, sweet month – with much of the promise and the failure of the crop year in it. (The Old Farmers Almanac, 1944)
It is the outgoing month of June. In the bee world, it is Pollinator month. Summer Solstice. The month of honey harvesting (if you are lucky). The peak of fertility.
Now, into July, the queen will taper off her laying of eggs. Food will become less abundant. Here in the Southwest, temperatures will soar into the triple digits. Plants will turn brown. Rain is scarce. Nectar and pollen flow dries up. I imagine the bees lolling around in their hive, drinking Meade, fanning themselves with their collective 4 million gossamer wings. They’ve worked their patuttis off since February and now they can just live off the fruits of their labor. Relax a little. Until the Fall bloom…
I left a few of my early Spring swarms languish too long in their hives without checking them. Now they are overpopulated and honey is oozing out of them. Blackberry honey and wildflower honey.
If the Old Farmers Almanac is correct, the harvested honey is a bellwether of promise for a very, very good year.
Recently my husband and I saw “The Biggest Little Farm”. It is a hilarious, heartwarming and gripping 7 year saga of a young enthusiastic couple from Los Angeles choosing to commit and dedicate their energy and life to growing healthy food. She is a chef. He is a documentary filmmaker.
It’s all about the soil. Healthy fungi. Biodiversity of plant life and creatures. And above all—Water is life.
These wanna be farmers became bona fide as they turned dead, inert dirt into a cornucopia of living soil and food.
They managed to also raise a stunning army of beneficial bugs to fight the pestilence that descended upon Paradise at some point. As they began to see every single life form as having a purpose, they became creative.
Even those coyotes hovering on the horizon had a role to play. Those very same coyotes saved the farm when the gophers overran the orchard. The coyotes moved in, feasting upon those unfortunate critters night after night.
The ducks saved the day upon the snail invasion.
The story, in the end, is about the hard years and the triumphant years. As life goes, sorrow and joy are usually two sides of the same coin. Eventually all the blood, sweat and tears of building a wholistic web of life, with the full spectrum of microrganisms to predators, pays off—in dividends. Their eggs and produce are snatched up at the local farmers market for taste and delicacy. Crowds descend to see this biggest, little farm.
After 10 years of my own wonder lusting after the mysterious honeybee, the spectacular joy of being in the presence of the hive mind — as well as slogging through some of my own horrendous years of bee death, mutiny, pestilence, robbing and my own ignorance—Molly and John feel like old friends. I want to sit down over a glass of California Chardonnay and swap stories.
This year, I sit back and watch my girls soar, almost without my meddling or doing anything. Like a parent of my 10th child, I am less over-anxious. I have less need to control or know everything. I feel more permissive.
For years, I have worked to build up colonies of healthy, local queens, low mite counts, strong immune systems and always, ALWAYS, organic farms or chemical free habitats. It’s paying off this year.
And you will bee too when you taste my honey.
Summer’s in the sound of June, Summer and a deepened tune, Of the bees and of the birds, And the loitering of lover’s words.James Henry Leigh Hunt, English poet (1784-1859)