A Bear and Miguel get the Last Laugh

September means different things to different creatures.

As mentioned previously, for Ben, Jim and Emily, September brings a return to school as teachers or teachers in training. Not so for Will who remains a student with no choice but to read what his teachers slap in front of him. He showed me his pile of books for English yesterday. It is an understatement to say this is about the most dire, depressing pile of English books ever assembled on the planet.

The stretch when he gets to read Waiting for Godot, The Stranger and Heart of Darkness should be particularly fun. Maybe it will be during mud season when we’ve had eight months of bad weather and it already takes true grit to get out of bed in the morning.

For our wonderful new son-in-law, Miguel, September means finishing his job with Americorps doing work to help victims of Hurricane Irene and joining the team at Green Hope Farm.

Today was Miguel’s first day at Green Hope Farm. It started at 4 am when a bear tried to destroy our four beehives.

Jim and I heard the bear ripping off the lid of a hive, leapt from our bed and yelled our heads off to try and scare the bear away. Apparently our imitation of Maori warriors worked because the bear ran off after knocking over only one hive.

By the time Miguel arrived a little after seven, we had put the hive back together, drunk a lot of coffee (Jim) and tea (me), and made a big batch of chills rellenos for Miguel to give him a taste of home on his first day in the saddle here.

The garden landscape was also meant to comfort Miguel as it is flooded with a marvelous Mexican Flower right now, Mexican Torchflowers and a zillion pepper, tomatillo and tomato plants that I planted in a section of the garden I have called Calle Miguel ( and not without controversy as my own children want to know why I never named a part of the garden after them- boo hoo.

In any case, it was wonderful to welcome Miguel aboard.
We also welcomed new staffer Alli Howe last week, so we now have three of our new people with us: Tom Cardew, Alli Howe and Miguel. They are doing a great job learning all the different jobs. I have finally written a training manual for new staff, and all of us are editing this document to try and improve it before next week when another new person, Lilly Callahan, arrives.

In the meantime, getting the hives through the night is the next goal.

In just a few hours we will know if it was just September 5th that was all about honey for the bear or if September is going to be a month of honey maneuvers.

Ironically, Miguel was very focused on bears when he moved here. Would he run into them in the woods or in any way be in danger from a bear? We laughed him off, explaining that he would be lucky if he EVER saw a bear around here. Since moving here last September, he has had a bear at his and Lizzy’s back door, a bear in his and Lizzy’s garbage and now today a bear almost greeting him on his first day of work here.

Who is getting the last laugh now?

This afternoon, Jim and I tied a string of bells in a ring around the hives and cinched three out of four hives together with canvas strapping. The bees in the fourth hive that got knocked apart are so mad they wouldn’t let Jim protect them with the strapping. He gave up after he had a couple dozen stings through his suit. The idea behind the strapping is that by tying the hive boxes and top and bottom together, the bears can knock the hives over but they won’t fall apart as the one did last night.

I really hope we don’t have to find out tonight how this protection method works. Like a fireman, Jim has taped the boots to his bee suit so he can don the garment extra fast, but I would be happy to have this suit molder on the vine and everyone get a good night’s sleep- except maybe Will who will be up reading one of his happy books.