First Day of Spring

Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.”                                                                                              – E. O. Wilson

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

Welcome Spring!

It is the season of crocuses, bee swarms, longer days and the return of the migrating birds.

Even as we are quarantined and more and more isolated from our daily human connections and habits, earth still awaits us. There is solace in green spaces and with the wild ones.

I visited my bee hives this past week. I determined that 5 of 7 were indeed gone. I harvested the honey and cleaned the hives and celebrated the bursting bees in the south valley. They are my hope.

So, even as all of our worlds have shrunk, driving us to become relentlessly local, I’m also finding it has expanded with new ideas and creative imaginings for how to live in these times. With colleagues, friends and family, I am finding hope as we birth new strategies for this Great Turning…a shift from an Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization.

I want to close with the words from Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).

A doctor of the church, she wrote about something called Veriditas or “greening power“. Also known as Saint Hildegard and the Sibyl of the Rhine, she was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mysticvisionary, and polymath.[1][2] She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most-recorded in modern history.[3] She has been considered by many in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.[4] (Wikipedia) 

Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly. 

The earth is at the same time mother, She is mother of all that is natural

Mother of all that is human.

She is the mother of all, for contained in her are the seeds of all.

Glance at the sun, see the moon and the stars.Gaze at the beauty of Earth’s greenings.

Now think, what delight God gives to humankind with all these things

All nature is at the disposal of humankind

we are to work with her

For without her we cannot survive.

Bee well and keep your eyes and heart open to the miracles of “greening power”.

Springtime bee friendly tips

Reducing Pesticide Use & Impacts

Thank you Bee City USA/Xerces Society, for this invaluable and timely article.

A small lady beetle climbs amidst flower stems, with a blurred yellow blossom in the background.

(Photo: Xerces Society / Jennifer Hopwood)

The vast majority of invertebrates serve vitally important roles in a healthy environment, including controlling pests, pollinating flowering plants, and providing food for other wildlife. Only a very small number of invertebrates are pests. Yet, the pesticides designed to control unwanted plants and animals rarely distinguish between beneficial invertebrates and those which cause harm. All too often pesticides cause unintended consequences and disrupt the natural systems that sustain us. But, because pesticides are valued for their toxicity to pests, the risks they pose are often accepted⁠—even when healthier, more sustainable options are available.

As part of the Xerces Society’s conservation efforts we strive to reduce reliance on pesticides by supporting the diverse systems that reduce pest problems. Xerces’ staff is sought after to translate complex science so that farmers, backyard gardeners, agency staff, and policy makers can make informed decisions about pesticide use and regulation. And by providing on-the-ground technical support we are increasing the adoption of ecologically sound pest management practices everywhere.
 

Introduction to Pesticides & Alternatives

Understanding Pesticides & Their Risks

Ecological Pest Management

Reducing Pesticide Impacts in Your Landscape

Balance pest management with protecting pollinators, beneficial insects, and other important invertebrates and their habitat.

Working Lands

Working Lands

Yards & Gardens

Yards & Gardens

Roadsides & Rights-of-Way

Roadsides & Rights-Of-Way

Cities & Towns

Cities & Towns

Natural Lands

Natural Lands

Waters

Waters

A little New Year Bee love

Think Like a Bee, a bee education and advocacy non-profit (501(c)3 based in Albuquerque, will host a fun(d) raiser at the Flying Star restaurant on Rio Grande, in Albuquerque, NM this Thursday, 4-8pm!

Come on down with your family and enjoy a meal and a little Bee Love! 10% of all proceeds will come to support the work we are doing.

There will be a Raffle, face painting, ways to help bees and fun stuff for families!

Here’s the invite…pass it on!

Here’s some of the good stuff we’ve been up to…


2015-2017 we secured grants to offer youth summer organic farming interns and mentoring on growing good food and the importance of pollinators.


In 2016 we successfully petitioned the City of Albuquerque and unanimously passed a pollinator protection resolution, Burque Bee City, working with CABQ,  neighborhoods, schools and the public on best ways to support healthy pollinators

2018-2019 we worked with UNM Taos Digital Media Arts program and students to create a Rio Grande Documentary with local farmers and Indigenous leaders, on best practices to conserve pollinator habitat for a healthy food future


Today we are taking our documentary on the road! We continuing to educate and advocate about habitat conservation and best bee practices, ways everyone can help keep our air, water, soil and food healthy for all pollinators and seven generations.

Love Life in all its Myriad Forms

Sandia Crest, New Mexico, January 2, 2020

When you fall in love with being alive,
life loves you back. What doesn’t love
to be loved? What doesn’t feel humbled
and ecstatic with the luck of not being left
unrequited? Love the sun and it lets you see
its green and growing edge moving through
the darkest human history like a forest moves
renewed across an ashen void. Falling in love
smooths flaws, sees genius in oddity, morphs
blemishes and bulges into sweet slopes and curves,
restores trust and withers grudges with just
the fascination, the single focus of adoring curiosity. And life itself
always knows it, and gives you back all it’s got.

V. B. Price, Christmas Poem 2019 Mercury Messenger

We face a new year and a new decade. 2020 is apt. We need new vision—clear sight and updated eyeglasses for times such as this. As we head into 2020, I wish you a love affair with all the non-human, created world. Learn about earth’s mind blowing mysteries. Revel in creaturely wisdom. Behold beauty in everything. Teach your children and beloveds.

“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.”

(Baba Dioum, Senegalese Forestry Engineer, 1968.)
Image result for images bee on rose

I’ve found that poetry and image are the forms that can cut quickly to the chase— what is most essential. Here is Life in all its Myriad Forms in the carefully distilled words of the poets heart…and the eyes of the photographer.

What is this dark hum among the roses?

        The bees have gone simple, sipping,

that’s all. What did you expect? Sophistication?

        They’re small creatures and they are

filling their bodies with sweetness, how could they not

        moan in happiness? The little

worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.

        Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand

that life is a blessing. I have found them-haven’t you?

        stopped in the very cups of the flowers, their wings

a little tattered—so much flying about, to the hive,

        then out into the world, then back, and perhaps dancing,

should the task be to be a scout –sweet, dancing bee.

        I think there isn’t anything in this world I don’t

admire. If there is, I don’t know what it is. I

        haven’t met it yet. Nor expect to. The bee is small,

and since I wear glasses, so I can see the traffic and

        read books, I have to

take them off and bend close to study and

        understand what is happening. It’s not hard, it’s in fact

as instructive as anything I have ever studied. Plus, too,

        it’s love almost too fierce to endure, the bee

nuzzling like that into the blouse

        of the rose. And the fragrance, and the honey, and of course

the sun, the purely pure sun, shining, all the while, over

        all of us.

Hum, by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,

but with stars in their black feathers,

they spring from the telephone wire

and instantly

they are acrobats

in the freezing wind.

And now, in the theater of air,

they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;

they float like one stippled star

that opens,

becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;

and you watch

and you try

but you simply can’t imagine

how they do it

with no articulated instruction, no pause,

only the silent confirmation

that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin

over and over again,

full of gorgeous life.

Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,

even in the ashy city.

I am thinking now

of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots

trying to leave the ground,

I feel my heart

pumping hard. I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.

I want to be light and frolicsome.

I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,

as though I had wings.

Starlings in Winter – Mary Oliver (from: Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays)
Image result for images starlings
a murmuration of starlings

I look out into my front yard and see dead bees mounting up on the ground around one hive. I fear they haven’t survived the frigid 20 degree temps. I see the Roadrunner as a shadow in the distance, patiently waiting for me to exit so he can swoop in for a feast of bee protein.

If my bees have survived, the queen is already laying eggs deep in the dark, dank hive —preparing a new brood of baby female worker bees who emerge when the temps release their iron grip and the spring flowers beckon.

Here’s to a new year, filled with the peace of wild things, and the ability to see with new sight, to carry out our work in community, dismantling the old and creating anew.

Nada Retreat Center, Crestone, CO

To Die or Reset

Before the end of this bee season, I found a laying worker hive. Any beekeeper will know that this is the worst possible situation. The queen’s demise has left the hive without any clear direction—or brood for future generations. They will surely die.

To fix a laying worker hive you have to suppress worker ovaries.

Eggs of laying workers. To fix a laying worker hive you have to suppress worker ovaries.

Into this void steps regular female worker bees, whose eggs haven’t been fertilized. But she is determined to take the title of “queen bee” by laying, basically, empty bullets. She fills up the hive with unfertilized haploid eggs. They become drones. The hive fills up with boys and food. Without the diploid worker bee eggs from the Queen bee, the hive will surely die.

Drone

So, for the less bee- inclined among you, already you are saying, “please, what happened? Stop this bee-ease talk”.

Wisdom among many beekeepers is to dump the whole hive out in the yard and disorient the hive, hopefully dissuading the virgin bee that is dead set on a royal title.

Then, switch the hive to one that has fresh brood from another well endowed sister hive and put a few queen-right bars of brood, along with a mated queen in there. When the disoriented bees finally find their way back to the hive, it has been “reset”. The laying worker will be “balled” and thrown out, if the new queen has the blessing of the other workers.

Easier said than done.

Come to find out, this is NOT best practice. Beekeeping for dummies.

The youtube videos I watched were neat and easy. Bees were always cooperative and friendly. Clearly it had been rehearsed. Multiple times.

I obtained my queen on a late Sunday afternoon, the heat was a severe 97 degrees Fahrenheit. I needed to put her in before nightfall. Unfortunately, the storm clouds began to gather as we drove home. Big fat drops fell.

Bees hate rain.

I hate rain. Especially when I’m trying to work with the bees—mainly because they hate rain.

Nevertheless I recruited my husband. We valiantly suited up and I began to shake the bees out far from their hive, bar by bar. As the storm clouds receded, another kind of storm took over. Bees rose up in a tornado of indignation, no happy queen pheromones to mute their fury. First they found my bare feet inside my purple crocs. Then they found their way into my hood.

My husband stood aside and watched in fascination. I danced around the yard, until finally taking refuge in our screened in porch. I returned.

We shook those bees out, rearranged their reality, and stirred them up. big time. Some robber bees in the neighborhood came to join the melee. Honey dripping everywhere as the heat melted the Topbars of honeycomb like butter.

I raced to get all the brood, Topbars and the queen in her little cage arranged inside before the enraged and confused bees began their trek back to their hive.

All this to say, I think it worked. Before I closed them up for the winter, I checked. The girls are accepting the new queen.

Queen Bee

I am left to think about this thing of “re-setting” a hive…I am paying attention to the fact that I am in process of re-setting some things in my own life.

And then there is our culture. Seems like we are going through the same shake down. Especially around global climate chaos. We are in the midst of a big shuffle. A messy, gnarly shake down to reset our lifestyles and our body politic. Perhaps, pretty please, along with my girls, this re-set will take us all in a positive and life-giving direction.

I love what Greta Thunberg, the wonder girl for climate action, said:

When we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope—look for action. Then the hope will come

Greta Thunberg

If we don’t find the courage to “shake it all out”, If we continue in the same trajectory, death will be a sure route. It should give us the courage to re-set.

Youth Global climate summits are coming up in cities across the country on Fridays.

Check out one near you! Join them. The youth are leading this time.

Hear the Hum

Recently I was climbing Raven’s Ridge in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, which surround Santa Fe.

As my husband and I walked along in silence, leaves crackling under our feet and the crisp smell of Autumn in our nostrils, I heard a hum. Barely audible unless I stopped stock still. But, yes, it was there.

It sounded familiar. We stopped. I listened. I noticed bees. The death knell had not yet tolled for their short summer lives. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Honey bee caught in flight in the garden at La Quinetire, Buais, Normandy, France

I felt comforted by this sound, as I always do when I enter the inner sanctum of the honeybee hive or sit at the feet of the hive.

It is the sound of life.

This past weekend, I led a women’s Soul Tending retreat in Indianapolis, thanks to the gracious invitation and hosting of my sister in law. This is my other life, based on the book I wrote, “Soul Tending, Journey into the Heart of Sabbath”

As we came to the final ceremony to close our time together, we remembered All Souls day, bringing our sacred objects to the altar and, often tearfully saying the names of our beloveds who had flown across that great river to the other side. After each naming, we said, “May their memory be a blessing”.

I remembered the bees. They are only one of millions of species estimated to be driven into extinction in this time of increasing climate chaos from fossil fuel activity and carbon dioxide released into the air. Our planet is warming, disrupting weather patterns, our natural greenhouse, and causing ecological catastrophes.

There is a story circulated from medieval times in the old country of Europe. Upon the death of the Beekeeper, loved ones would first go out to the beehive and in hushed tones, tell the girls that their keeper was dead. Gone. Traveling now to another country.

Putting bees into mourning

Not so strange. Throughout time and mythologically, Bees have always been associated with resurrection, a symbol of life and fertility, and evidently, upon death, new life!

But more than this, in this strange and endearing practice of “Telling the Bees“, it bespeaks the inclusion of the girls as part of the family circle. Bees shared generously of the gifts from their hive, not only honey, but the gift of pollination and the health of our food system. A trusting relationship was forged . The love and respect of bees with the old, beloved beekeeper and his/her family was real.

Image result for telling the bees image

I celebrate the fact that humans are awakening to the preciousness of “the other”, our wild non-human relations and the importance of insects.

I am grateful for the young ones among us who are sending strong, clear messages that “time is up” and we must change our ways and bring about the transition to a fossil free future.

I am also very often, sitting and weeping, lamenting the loss of so much that we have not understood as our relations. Family. The wild ones. planet earth and all her inhabitants. It is time for us to hear the Bees “telling the humans” about our own death, if we are not willing to change our ways.

Getting back to the hum.

We are moving towards winter solstice. Winter. And the bees are still flying. After a few cold snaps, the weather returns to 50, 60, 70 degrees F where I live in New Mexico. While I love to hear the hum of the hive, it brings me great joy, I am also aware that if they stay active, honeybees will eat up their winter honey and pollen stores too quickly. They must go dormant soon.

I am listening to the hum. It keeps me awake. I am praying. I am acting on behalf of the bees.

In the name of the Bee -And of the Butterfly -And of the Breeze – Amen! (Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886)

Honeytime

Harvest time.

It’s been a lush Spring, with flowers galore from the rains. I’ve begun to harvest some of my girl’s honey.

Emily Dickinson celebrates bees, clover and honey…often.

I wonder why I never knew about her connection to the bees?

The pedigree of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him (ahem, Emily, all the field bees are girls!!!)
Is aristocracy.

(Emily Dickinson, 1884)

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

(Emily Dickinson, 1896)

If you would like a pint of local, raw and artisanal, organic honey ($12), send me a message. Limited availability.

Here’s to a pint of the amber elixir…Celebrate pollinators~!

The domination of bees and everything

Nothing new. It’s the economic system we have proudly built in the West. Anything that is gift, given freely by Mother Earth, is quickly snatched up by hungry profit seekers. It is codified, standardized, chemicalized and dominated. A system that has industrialized almost every part of our food system, destroyed and pillaged the natural world and spread a religion of “not enough”, scarcity. Abundance is only for the few who can afford it.

Recently, my brother sent me the trailer for Honeyland, the most awarded film at the Sundance Film Festival this year. It was an epic 3 year project in the making.

I watched it and wrote back to him:

I think this will break my heart…it’s the colonization story all over again. A woman’s way of protecting and caring for the community (of bees and humans) “half for us and half for the bees” is stomped into the ground by this profiteering, domination system. It is the sorrow of losing a way of life. 



What began as a beautiful reflection on a woman’s relationship with the honeybees in a far and distant land, is trampled. Here’s the story line…

Hatidze lives with her ailing mother in the mountains of Macedonia, making a living cultivating honey using ancient beekeeping traditions. When an unruly family moves in next door, what at first seems like a balm for her solitude becomes a source of tension as they, too, want to practice beekeeping, while disregarding her advice…HONEYLAND is an epic, visually stunning portrait of the delicate balance between nature and humanity that has something sweet for everyone.

For me, movies like this are wake up calls. May they come thick and fast from this new generation of movie makers.

I pray it will give those who see this film a will to speak and see and hear, as Jane Fonda says, “a reverence humming” all around us.

It’s the only hope we have for our food web. For humanity sake itself.

I hope you’ll see it.

Farewell June

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.

Image result for Biggest little farm images

It’s all about the soil. Healthy fungi. Biodiversity of plant life and creatures. And above all—Water is life.

Image result for Biggest little farm images

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.

Image result for Image of ducks eating snails

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.

I’m delighted.

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)