I’m about to board another flight to London. I seriously can not wait for scones and tea at No. 9 on the Green in Wimborne. I am visualizing pouring cream into a saucer as I write. Heaven.
This week my inbox has been full of panicked emails from beekeepers loosing their hives. October and November is the time many hives die. This can be for a number of reasons and happens whether you treat your hives for varroa mites not. Honey bees are a threatened species. All of our pollinators are, which means all of life is threatened. It’s a lot to contend with emotionally.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about why Feminist Beekeeping is a thing at all.
First, let’s understand a few things.
1. We are all struggling with language and the meaning behind words.
California is burning. Greece is burning. Norway is burning. England is burning. The land is hot, cracked, brittle. The veins feel feeble, dry. As a child of California, I know fire season, but not like this.
How Male Beekeepers Can Be Allies For The Female Beekeepers In Their Lives:
In *some* beekeeping practices beekeepers are taught to clip the wings of the queen. This is done to prevent queens (mothers) from swarming (reproducing). When you cut off her ability to fly far, you cut off her ability to bee who and what she is. To clarify, she can begin to swarm, but often falls short or gets left behind and the swarm has to return to the hive. When you clip her wings, you take her birthright away from her. And by her, I don’t just mean the queen, I mean Her, the colony. The queen bees needs to be able to fly once a year. Every spring she leaves the colony in a swarm of bees, landing on a nearby tree branch or post and waiting while her daughters scout a new home. In this way, she leaves behind a thriving hive with their virgin queen, and starts a new hive, thus reproducing on a colony level. The superorganism gives birth to itself.
The female body and the body of the earth and her creatures has been seen as an object for thousands of years. There is a direct line of connection in the human psyche between the body of the earth and the body of a woman. Both were/are seen as wild, unsafe, monstrous and necessarily needing to be conquered and tamed by Patriarchy. There is a reason we call the planet Mother Earth. All life comes from woman. This is not man shaming. This is woman claiming her birthright to freedom. Earth and woman have suffered for their existence. Both have been suppressed, oppressed, mutilated, studied, dissected, rejected, obsessed over and violated. Even on this platform we are not permitted to express our nature to its fullest without shame, harassment and censorship.
People get angry at me when I equate feminism with bees. When I draw connection between the body of a queen mother and the body of a woman. I say take your blinders off and look at what we do to our bodies in the name of profit. Clipped wings equals no swarming and better honey yields for humans while the mother and her daughter suffer. Clipped reproductive rights for half the human species mean what?
If my mood were a snake today, I’m pretty sure you’d find me curled under a rock, rattling my tail.
No one did anything. It’s just a combination of hormonal tides being governed by lunar sway. Call it the wild bleeding through.
I was speaking with a friend today about the nature of range management and the restoration of California grasslands. Thinking about what California used to be like when the land was stewarded by its people. Thinking about the effects of non-native grasses or the loss of habitatfor our wild creatures.
I woke up Monday morning to sirens, smoke and a litany of texts from concerned family and friends. The first text I read was from my housemate telling me Santa Rosa, the city where I live, was on fire. The city itself. Within minutes I was dressed and throwing belonging into my car, searching the blackened skyline for flames, and trying to find out if I was in immediate danger.
The dreams were waking me up at night. Black widows inside my home. Black widows all over the ceiling. Black widows building webs closer and closer to me. No way out. I am not particularly afraid of spiders, although I am cautious of black widows, having grown up in an old 1930s home. I tried to reason out why I was having these nightmares. I read about black widow symbolism. I questioned my relationship to spider, web and venom. For two weeks my nights were filled with the dark ladies. Then, one morning, after other terrifying infestation dream, I opened my eyes and said aloud “It’s my bees. There is a black widow inside my hive.”
It’s going to be hot out there. No-option-but-naked kind of hot. Snake weather.
The bees will be gathering water from the banks of the Eel. The water ouzel will be dancing her grey-winged hop up and down the river. The bears wont come near. There are too many of us.
We women of the bee work in cycles of six. Six-sided, six threads, six sisters, six revolutions. Six years. On this day, six year ago, I found out I was pregnant. It’s a old story really, one that’s been told before, in different words by different women, but it’s also my story with the bees, and therefore, it has a place here. I found out I was pregnant because of a dream. Not my own; that of a friend.
This morning I sat in a garden teaming with the birds and the bees. Humming birds noisily darted between creeping vines of nasturtiums, red raspberries hung plump and inviting from semi-orderly thickets, honeybees swooned in the fuzzy clumps of borage, and zucchini’s performed their summer competition for Most Alarmingly Large Vegetable.
So you want to keep bees, but aren’t quite sure where to start? When I decided to become a beekeeper, I had just barely managed to squeeze a weekend class and some dedicated YouTubing under my belt before I received an unexpected swarm call and my new life began. Catching my first swarm was exhilarating, intimidating and required a lot of patients. I made some mistakes, but the bees ended up safely settled into their new top bar hive, and I, beaming, fell utterly in love.
In Northern California there is still snow in the hills and rain on the weather forecast. However, despite the winter chill, it’s time to start thinking about getting bees. Regardless of where you live, late winter is the time most local bee breeders start selling bee packages and nuc. You wont receive your bees until the spring, but if you want to ensure you’re going to get bees this season, it’s best to buy them now.
My dream of the apiary exist at the Natural Beekeeping Trust. A place of serenity and joy, filled with the life-affirming site of flowers, colorful hives and humming bees. On an brilliant autumn day in September, the sky is clear and the sunshine awakens hives to a prosperous day of foraging.
Melissa bends low and plucks a small herb growing out of the cobble stones in front of her house. She holds it up to the light and shows me the tiny perforated holes in the leaves.
“That’s how you can tell it’s the medicinal St. John’s Wort.”
England is full of natural springs. Every time I come here, I seek them out. There is nothing like drinking pure water, straight from the depths of hte earth. Almost all of the springs and wells in England are dedicated in one for or another to the sacred.
Sometimes it's important to take a moment to simply appreciate beauty. Physical beauty. Beauty of nature. Beauty of place. Beauty of soul. I've been thinking a lot about beauty lately. Beauty as a power that evokes a sense of peace, wonder and love.
Angharad has just returned from a walk with a handful of blackberries, elderflowers, nettle and apple. She is going to make a fruit crisp and some tea. Three things about this:
1) Angharad wildcrafts like some people (me) frequent cafes; It’s a nonchalant, every-day sort of thing.