10 October 2013

Oil and Honey: Like Bees in Autumn

Beeyard Report & Book Review
The bees know when fall arrives. On the 20th of September the bee yard was full of buzz – a photo can’t capture the smell of honey, the flight of thousands of pairs of golden wings, the need to bring in food before winter comes.
Now at mid-day the workers go foraging and return loaded with bright yellow pollen that winks in the dark as the bees enter the hives. Pulling a feeder in garden gloves I took a sting to my finger -- the bees are irritable and protective in this chill.

Bill McKibben’s new book Oil and Honey captures a different urgency; to create a movement that can stop the Keystone XL pipeline, protect our atmosphere and climate, and force politicians and corporations to consider more than their own short-term interest. 
It’s a memoir of recent events, from the creation of 350.org in 2006 to last year’s national bus tour that kicked off in Seattle the night after President Obama was re-elected. The excitement of movement-building creates tension in counterpoint to the peace of a neighbor’s honey-house. Hurricanes flood Vermont Valleys and the New York subway system, even as the Occupy movement and the 350 demonstrators find their strength.

Now that the entire nation has a front in the Extreme Energy wars, we struggle to block coal ports on the west coast, mines in Montana, tar sands oil pipelines through Texas, and fracking in Pennsylvania. Beekeepers do what they can to keep hives going despite parasites, pesticides, poisons in GE pollen, and violent weather. 
The urgency of bees in autumn brings in the food before the cold and dark descend. Our urgency is to protect what’s left, to stop dumping carbon into the atmosphere before we precipitate climate changes that will make civilization (maybe human life) impossible to maintain. 
Of course, we may have already passed the point of no return. With six hives to watch over, I’m hoping that some will make it to spring.

25 August 2013

Beloved Relics from Before the Age of the Net

Big black vinyl platters of music, depth of analog sound, the hearts of those young guys pouring out of old stereo speakers to fill the living room and the valley beyond.

Letters scrawled by hand on lined paper, on the porch, hot summer afternoon, scratch of pen and the crickets fast, faint drone of tractor down the road.

Group poem, typed line by line, old black Royal, fluent tap-tap, sticky O, hard-hit e and f.

Hand-embroidered dresser scarf, blue and purple thread lilacs on white linen, delicate lace of simple crochet stitched around the hem, carefully washed, ironed, laid on wooden dresser for protection and beauty.

Blue and white telephone booth, privacy on city corner, heavy handset, surprise of a dime in the change-return, crud on plastic walls, phone book dangling, PIZZA section torn out.

Plastic coin purses full of pennies and nickels. Wooden cigar boxes full of photos.           

The fat pages of Want Ads, jobs, apartments, cars, pets, garage sales, prayers to Holy St. Jude, all you need to set yourself up in a new city, slick black ink on the fingers.

Eight-year-old girls playing jacks on a bare floor: the ball bounce, the hand grabs one jack, 2, 3, 4, and ever-more-complicated demands of dexterity the girls make neatly.

Fat paperback, yellow pages come apart as they turn, reading Sometimes a Great Notion on a park bench in Wenatchee, penniless.

“I’m just going to run in for a newspaper.”

The big wooden drawers of card catalog where I searched for witches in 1970 and found Salem, English Witch Trials, Psychic Phenomena, African Witch Doctors, Witches in Fiction, and Dr. Faustus.

14 July 2013

The Elwha River is Free!

A short road trip to pick up queen bees gave us an excuse to spend the night in Port Angeles and to visit the Elwha River.

Dammed in 1910, the Elwha is now the site of the largest dam removal project on earth. The lower dam has been removed and the upper dam, Glines Canyon, will be removed in 2014. 

We walked around the barriers and took a walk above the river, where Lake Aldwell covered the slope for 100 years. The massive stumps of trees cut before the lake rose seem almost calcified from a century of gray sediments –
but life is bursting through the soil.

The salmon are expected to re-colonize the upper river in the years to come.

Mother salmon, father salmon
Brother salmon, sister salmon
Come back salmon, help us salmon
feed us salmon, leaping salmon!
heya heya heya heya

(Tom Heidelbaugh)

04 July 2013

Rehiving the feral Bees. and a duck or 2.

Once upon a time a beekeeper had a big hive at Island Meadow Farm. Time passed, and the colony failed, and the beekeeper had other things to do. The bee boxes stood in an old nut orchard. Once a swarm found them, and for three years the hive flourished, and then the colony died.

The next winter there was a huge storm, and the stack of boxes fell over. They were stuck together with wax and propolis. In the spring, another swarm found them, and since they were dry inside, and smelled of honey and wax and other good things, the swarm moved in.  When the people in the neighborhood saw the huge hive lying on the ground with bees going in and out, they started talking about it. "Isn't it great that the magic hive has bees again?"  

"Yeah, it's great to see them. but what will happen to them in the winter?"
 So the people decided that it was time to open the hive and move the bees.
They cut the comb out of the hive and wired it into new frames.

One of the old boxes was still intact, and full of bees, and it seemed the queen might be in there, so they put it in the middle of the stack.

Gradually the bees got used to the new upright situation and settled in.

 This is an ongoing project -- consolidating the big hive and removing the extra equipment. Next step will be to divide the big hive, and requeen with a Russian/Hygenic queen from OlympicWilderness Apiary next week. More pictures soon.

 On another note, we are thinking about adding ducks to our place. Here's an especially cute, 10-year-old-duck, who lives in the Poultry Palace on Maury Island.   How could you resist?

22 May 2013

Ramona really wants that bird

It's right out there, so close...

29 April 2013

Honeybees Come Build...

We brought two new packages of bees home -- they're Carniolians, just up from the almond pollination in California, so now we have three hives on the Bee Pavilion.
The quotations are from a bee book that Dierdre gave me (the origin of bees is from Paradise), Emily Dickenson, and W.B. Yeats. The bees are happily exploring their new world. Bees are such a responsibility -- it's exciting to have them and one worries about them too. Worry about the bees serves as a proxy for the big worries (the earth, climate change, the Pacific Garbage gyre, and the whole nightmare of western civ). But the bees are industrious, productive, single-minded, and determined, setting a good example of perseverance. That's why I love the Yeats poem so much -- the bees continuing, bringing sweetness even during a civil war...

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother bird brings grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

04 April 2013

Bee Pavilion

Spring is coming! We lost our big purple hive over the winter. Now the pink/blue hive, which seemed less impressive last summer, is getting into gear, bringing in alder and dandelion pollen for the young bees.
Bob designed, and Alistair built, this amazing bee pavilion.
At left, the hive with the old roofshed -- the little roof helps keep the entrance dry and reduces moisture inside the hive, which seems to help keep the hive healthy in our wet winter climate. At right, the new bee pavilion, with room for 6 or more hives on the low stand, and a roof over all.

Here's a detail of the construction. The base of both stand and roof is concrete blocks; there's no foundation.
It's since been painted, and bee-friendly plants will be added around the stand. More pictures when the rain quits.

18 February 2013

Daniel Thomas Snyder, 1961 - 2013

Daniel died February 4, two months short of his 52nd birthday, at home after a long illness. I found this scrap or draft of a poem in a packet of letters he wrote from Berlin in the mid-90s.

A Song for Central Europe

29 January 2013

Darwin, God, Chance

"...what Darwin had done was to relieve God of the awful burden of making the world: of shaping every leaf and snail shell, squeezing out every litter of kittens and every pupating butterfly, building every snowstorm; relieved him both of the labor and the guilt. He had chosen an assistant to do that work, and the assistant was Chance."
John Crowley, Endless Things