Of Bees and Tuna Noodle Casseroles

It is an art to welcome the stranger to a new endeavor, to help the neophyte chef make a meringue without communicating some paralyzing worry about salmonella, to give cheer to the new mother without unhinging her from her instincts, or to encourage the uninformed beekeeper without giving her nightmares about American Foulbrood.

Yesterday, I took a moment to sit down in the garden and pick up yet another of my new cache of bee books. This one, which we will call Volume X, was well written by an apparently sympathetic narrator with fifteen years as a professional beekeeper of several hundred hives. As I began to read with my cup of tea at my side, one of my bee friends came over and stung me on the END OF MY NOSE. Since I had been messing around in the hives just moments before without the bees giving me any bother, I considered this a sting of great portent, but not as a message I could quite grasp. What was right at the end of my nose except an swelling red spot? I did not know.

The book got put down as I rubbed my nose and then life swept in with various other tasks calling to me. It was not until this afternoon that I sat down again to read on in Volume X. I didn’t really listen to my restlessness as I read. I didn’t really quite identify the show-offy patriarchal tone of the author until a bit too late. You know those TV shows or movies that you really know it’s best not to watch because they are going to scare the shit out of you? Well Volume X is like that. I don’t think I can in good conscience recycle this book anywhere but with my newspapers and magazines. I don’t want to snuff out the high hopes of another would be beekeeper and sharing Volume X might do this. After my renewed acquaintance with Volume X for a couple hours today, I was deflated, stripped of my usual enthusiasm, and just about ready to throw in the bee gloves. I was filled with existential questions like “Is it arrogant of me to think any bee could survive on my watch?” Things were not good.

Hmmmmm. Could that bee have stung me yesterday to say NO to that book? That sting did get me to drop the book for a few hours. I really don’t no nose know. And now, because of my determined reading of the first half this book, I will have to try and forget all the pessimistic, chilling things I have absorbed about how poorly an amateur can care for bees and the 549 reasons why I don’t deserve to even eat store bought honey because of all the things I have already done wrong and no doubt will do wrong again even when I try to do better.

I love books. I don’t think I could have gotten through my childhood without “The Secret Garden” or “A Little Princess” by Sarah Burnett Hodges. Books have often been my main comfort. But I am sort of a gullible person when it comes to books. If I read it, I have a hard time not believing something to be true. This could be part of the reason why I eventually chose to generally wander in a book free world about so many things in my life like cooking and gardening and talking to Angels, instead of reading what the experts had to say. It seems too often when I read directions, I count myself out.

Bushwhacking without directions has caused me to make some mistakes, like with the first quilt I made when I was fifteen. Having never read anything about sewing, I didn’t know I needed to pre-wash the fabric. The quilt has some problems as a consequence. The materials all shrunk differently when I finally did wash the pieced quilt so the quilt is all puckered, but it’s still much loved. One of the girls has it on her bed right now. She probably thinks the puckering was fashionable back in the seventies when I made the quilt. After all, we liked big hair and bell bottoms back then.

My bushwhacking without the guidance of experts has given me confidence and trust in myself, often a lot more than when I read an expert’s book like Volume X and try to follow directions. Perhaps this is why I try to make “Guide To Green Hope Farm Flower Essences” short on specific directions and long on pep talks. I know you can find an incredibly meaningful and healing relationship with the Flower Essences without any of my ideas. I don’t want you to think you need my directions, because you don’t. I want to get out of the way and let you enjoy the Flowers and their Essences directly. Okay, so I do go on and on about every Flower and its Essence, but that is mostly because I am so grateful to the Flowers. I want to write descriptions of their vibrational gifts that begin to do them justice. Same goes with you all. I am so grateful for your love and wisdom and kindness that I want to share what you have shared with me.

So back to this Saturday afternoon. I sit here with my red nose, knowing that it is already time for me to put down my bee books and start bushwhacking my own path again. Its time to trust the deepening relationship the bees are calling me to. For all the fact that I have made mistakes with them according to all the books, there is love between us. I love those bees and somehow I know they love me too. It’s time to trust that love the same way I trusted that love when I first held one of my babies or started my first garden here or assembled that first unusual tuna noodle casserole for my husband the week after we were married. Learned a lot from the mistakes, had to throw that casserole out, but the love survived.

Does anything else matter?

The Essence of Beeing

The bee swarms got me going in several different directions.

First, I went to the beehives. Without so many dirty dishes to greet me after my days in the office, I’ve had more time to sit next to the hives in the late afternoon. Settled just to the side of their flight path, I watch worker bees bomb in with orange balls of pollen on their back legs. Those that arrive without the telltale pollen ball on their back legs are probably carrying nectar back to the hive. This nectar will become honey. The traffic coming and going make the traffic in Star Wars look sleepy. I see no colliding bees though sometimes it takes a couple tries to land with a full load of pollen.

I have learned how to pick out the drones. They are bigger and look aimless. This is because their only job, if they are lucky, is to mate with a virgin queen once and then get killed. While they wait for this possible call to duty, they eat, loll around the hive, and take the occasional afternoon pleasure flight. The other day one pleasure flight ended with a drone spending a good hour or two walking around my fingers. Finally a worker bee got annoyed with my canoodling with a drone and came over and stung me. Worker bees are all female. The drones are all male. This moment was the yin and yang of bees. I found it funny.

I have always talked a bit to the bees, but now we talk more. A lot more. This brings me to my second preoccupation of late. Good bee books. I went to Amazon.com for some conversation pointers. All my bee whispering left me with the feeling that perhaps I have not been asking the bees the right questions. That and the pissed off worker bee who stung me on the chest when I thought the romance was going so well.

Nothing succeeds like excess when it comes to books and so, I got myself quite a little collection of gems.


I really wish I had done this years ago. The only book I had until this cornucopia arrived was a grim little beekeeping book someone foisted on me when she was leaving beekeeping. And no wonder she left beekeeping. With this book as her guide, it must have been a struggle.

I tried to make myself read this book, but something about it put me off pretty much every technicality of beekeeping. Instead of thinking it was the book, I thought it was my inability to focus properly on scientific literature or that despite my love of bees, beekeeping technique was by necessity boring.

In retrospect, I really don’t think it was the science of beekeeping that was the problem or my mind. I think it was the book.

Let me share with you a sample. This is from the first page of the opening chapter. And let me tell you, its downhill from there.

“It is my firmly held opinion that this is a good time to join your local Beekeeping Association. Names and addresses of Secretaries can usually be found in Public Libraries. It has been my ill luck to come across a few, a very few, badly run Associations with lethargic officers, but the vast majority are lively and well organized by enthusiastic Secretaries and you will get much gratuitous help and advice from officers and members alike.”

Okay, probably wonderfully sound advice, but sadly, advice for a different era in which lethargic officers were all the fashion.

Mercifully, this is the Amazon.com era, and no sooner had I ordered a heap of books, but I had them in my hands to read while perched in the shadow of our hives.

The Queen Must Die by William Longgood grabbed me immediately with his opening description of bees doing something “not by the book”. Now that sounded like bees. The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum explained all the reasons why I had been taught by a fellow beekeeper to do this, that, and the other thing. However it was The Shamanic Way of the Bee by Simon Buxton that ripped through my honeycomb of ideas about bees and landed me in a whole new universe.

As I read this book, I remembered a bee shaman I had met many years back. He visited the farm during a trip to North America. Alberto was from the mountains of Ecuador. His family made their living selling propolis from his hives. He slept with his head on one of his hives because of the sound the bees make. He told me how profoundly powerful that sound is. He indicated it was a sound of such pure divinity that it was more than just a healing experience to listen to this noise. I gathered that being with this noise was an integral part of his being a shaman.

Alberto was a beautiful man with an infectious enthusiasm for whatever he was looking at, be it a GameBoy game or a Flower blossom. He dressed in white with his long black hair parted in the center. When he saw our beehives, he made a beeline to them. He asked me for an empty canning jar which he filled with a handful of bees. Then he came back and started to place them on various parts of his interpreter’s body. He arranged the bees to sting her in particular spots. He had the bees sting her several times on her forehead over her third eye. All the while, he continued to have her translate for him.

He told me that bees never sting anyone by accident. He explained that the stings were always to bring healing and that the placement of the bee’s sting was always precisely in the right place. Stings could release anger, fear, and other strong emotions as well as bring better health and harmony to a person. This resonated with me and has informed my actions around the bees ever since. When I go out to be with them, I try to get in a meditative state and then stay there no matter what the bees do. If I get worried when they begin to act irritated, I stop and settle myself before proceeding. If I am out amongst them without any protective gear on, I talk to them when they begin to buzz around me in an agitated state and explain why I am messing with their hive. If stung, I try to be grateful for its gift of healing.
Bees will only go as far as they need to go to find Flowers with good pollen and nectar. Worker bees travel about 55,000 miles to gather enough nectar for a pound of honey. But this mileage is most short flights back and forth to the hives. A colony of beehives works a territory not much bigger than six miles in diameter. Beekeeper’s sometimes guard their bee’s territory from new hives. I learned this in an alarming fashion when another beekeeper wheeled into my driveway mid temper tantrum because we had not asked him before getting bees. He stomped around yelling that my bees were going to take food away from HIS bees. Fortunately, when the dust settled, there was enough Red Clover and Goldenrod and other choice food for the bees in all our hives. And the hotheaded beekeeper lost interest in the whole thing anyways. Within a year or so, our bees had no other beehives in the neighborhood.

Alberto told me that bees balance the energies of whatever land they work. I have mentioned this before in my description in the Guide of Honeybees in the White Hawthorn, an Essence that was created after my inservice with Alberto. I have had years to learn what Alberto meant by this remark, but I suspect I still have no idea of all that he meant. Most of what I have learned has come from observing how Honeybees in the White Hawthorn with its imprint of the bee’s vibration has been used as a harmonizer and balancer by people and animals. We have heard tell and born witness to this Essence’s support to smooth out spikes and difficulties on the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual fronts. Sugar management, hormonal management, anger management, and depression are just a few of situations in which this Essence has served people deeply. These days, when I sit by the hive, lulled by the noise of the bees, such a vibration of calm fills me. I am so glad we have done our best to offer this energetic in a vibrational form of this Essence. And I realize how the bees work on this land has informed and improved ALL the Essences we have made here.
The other day a new colleague of Ben’s told him that he was planning to put in an orchard. Ben mentioned he might also consider getting honeybees. The man looked at Ben as if he were a bit cracked. People don’t seem aware of either the gift of pollination let alone the more esoteric gift of energetic balancing. Without honeybees one third of all the foods we eat would disappear. This is because these plants are dependent on honeybees for the pollination. No pollination, no fruit.

Pollination is the meeting of pollen, transported on the bees’ legs, to the receiving structure or stigma at the center of the Flower. The worker bees that collect pollen from the Flowers collect it on pellets on their back legs. As they travel from Flower to Flower, this pollen brushes off on the stigma and a seed pod (fruit or vegetable or nut to us) is begun. No pollination, no fruit

Alberto spoke about this issue as well. There are virtually no wild beehives in North America now. Mites and other new health challenges have wiped out the wild population and discouraged a lot of beekeepers from beekeeping because many years people lose most of their hives to these new predators. This means that agriculture and the harmony of any piece of land is more and more dependent on people choosing to keep bees. Alberto said that this lack of bees was a sign of our spiritual crisis and a major energetic problem for North America. His words have kept me going with beekeeping through the difficulties of losing hives.

As I begin to dive into the words of another Bee Shaman, Simon Buxton, and spend more time at the hives, I begin to dimly grasp a bigger picture of honeybees here at Green Hope Farm. I viscerally understand that they have been an integral part of the Essences right since the very first Flower Essence was made. I feel the connective healing pattern that the bees have created with their movement in the farm’s energy grid. I see a bit more clearly their role in the creation of each garden’s energies, the energetics of the whole of Green Hope Farm, and every Essence created here. I don’t have any words yet for the way an intensified focus on bees is reflected in this year’s yet to be born Venus Garden creation, but I feel it. This Essence combination. which will be made very soon, is a gift of all creation and the bees are among the energy masters making this so.

I look forward to creating this Essence and bringing through as best I can the words to describe the healing pattern of this new remedy. One thing I think about as I get ready to be the hands making this Essence mix is something Simon Buxton mentions in his book. Beekeepers are known to be very healthy and live very long lives. This is something so well known that a number of medical studies have been done about this phenomena. What was discovered in the three medical studies mentioned in Simon’s book is that there is only one known or recorded instance of a beekeeper getting cancer. This was a beekeeper in Hawaii who got skin cancer. The medical researchers traveling the globe were unable to find a single other beekeeper that had cancer or died of cancer. While some might think it was the beautiful gifts of the honey, pollen or propolis that made this so, I think it is the vibration of the bees. The very humming that fills the ethers where they are and the very vibration I will continue to imprint into our Flower Essences with the help of all things divine and most specially the honeybees here in our gardens.


Red Shiso Watch

We had a frost last night. I went to bed to toss and turn and get up for seventy rechecks of weather.com’s hour to hour forecast for our zip code and at least twice as many pep talks from the Angels during which they said, patiently I might add, that the Red Shiso would be FINE.


They were right. The Red Shiso was fine. But there was crunchy white grass underneath the Red Shiso this morning and that is sort of a close call for a person with a vivid imagination. You can probably imagine it too, MY meltdown were the Red Shiso to melt down in a frost.

Sadly, the possibility of frost comes every night this time of year. The Angels have suggested that for tonight I run the sprinkler on the Red Shiso for an hour or so before covering it in the lightweight season extender cloth. Then they suggest I get up at 3 am to turn on the sprinkler to keep the crop wet through those early morning hours when it is the coldest and frost rolls through the farm, banging into gardens on its way downhill.

All these directions suggest an even closer call tonight.

I wonder when this life on the razor’s edge of frost will get to me and I will start the harvest, even if the Angels AND weather.com forecasts a stretch of balmy 50 degrees nights. These late season nights tend to be restless and not just for me. Jim doesn’t sleep much better than I do this time of year. The reason being? He doesn’t even have to imagine a Molly meltdown. He has seen one!

So why don’t I just go out there for everyone’s sake and chop, chop, chop? This is certainly the question I ask myself. But there is a good reason to lose sleep, visit weather.com more times than a budding meterologist, and keep the Angels on speaker phone.

Every extra day the Red Shiso gets of brilliant fall sunshine before it is harvested might make all the difference in terms of its color. Last year, I harvested the Red Shiso extremely early. I freaked in the face of frost warnings. It was August when I caved. We had a mild frost the night after I harvested the crop, probably the kind of frost I could have managed with the sprinkler and then, we did not have another frost until mid- October. It was unprecedented, to go this late without a frost. The August harvest proved to be too early for a really purple crop. Every day until the middle of October, I got to reflect on this, as I saw how much more time and sunshine the Red Shiso could have had to get more deeply pigmented.

Virtually the whole harvest dried with almost none of the purple leaves we use to make our tincture. The staff will attest to this. They will also offer sworn testimonials that it is absolutely NO FUN to pluck dried Shiso without the Red.

This week the staff will finish plucking the meager couple of purple leaves from bundle after bundle after bundle which has constituted the main activity associated with this past year’s harvest. I think they may break out the champagne to celebrate the last bundle’s composting. It’s been a long year without the thrill of brimming baskets of purple leaves.

I will be ready to celebrate too. Maybe out in the gardens with my sprinkler at 3 am. I will celebrate because even with this pale crop, we still managed to eek out our year’s Red Shiso tincture from what we had. And that was no small miracle. The amount of Red Shiso we have left before we will need to use this new crop is negligible, whereas sometimes we go well into the winter before using the new season’s leaves.

I have to smile. The Angels hold my learning curve with so much compassion AND foresight. After all, they had me plant enough to get sufficient tincture from a half baked crop!

I stopped writing yesterday afternoon to haul out the season extender cloth and spread it on the Red Shiso.

I also went to Willy’s first soccer game. The sky was clear, the sun was bright, but the air was chilled. On the sidelines, folks were bundled in winter coats. The talk was about frost warnings. The local newspaper, affectionately known as the Valley Snooze, forecast 21 degrees for some places in our area. This caused quite a stir. 21 degrees is not a mild brush with frost. It’s a killing frost and no amount of season extender cloth is going to work in the face of that temperature. I tried to concentrate on the game at hand. Poorly, I might add.

Then I came home and let go. That seems to be the theme of my life right now. JUST LET GO. The Angels had said my preparations were enough. They knew what was to be better than the Valley Snooze. I had done all they had asked and needed to lay down my worries. No matter what happened, I needed to remember the Angels would have a plan. I needed to stop holding onto worry to bolster an illusionary sense of control. I needed to let it go.

I slept fine under a pile of blankets and so did Shiso. Despite the forecast of a deadly cold, fog rolled in after midnight and blanketed the Red Shiso and all the gardens in a lovely warm cover of fog.

The last few weeks, the Angels have asked me to drink a quart jar of water with Flow Free in it each day. What with kids going, fall coming, bees swarming, I have needed a lot of support to go with the flow. As I woke up this morning and saw with a rush of gratitude that in letting go, there had been other more capable hands picking up the burden of keeping the Red Shiso warm, I felt hopeful and at peace.

Somewhere down the road, maybe after quart six hundred and thirty seven of Flow Free water, I may actually get the hang of this letting go thing and in the meantime, I will be well hydrated!

Angel Math

Rumor has it that Emily may be home for supper today. At lunch time I went out to raid the vegetable garden for her favorite vegetable, potatoes. So far this season I have been digging up fingerling potatoes from down in the green tomato patch. The Angels have me plant the potatoes in a different place each year. However, much as I try, I never seem to find all the potatoes, so there are always some lingering ones to be harvested from the last location where they were grown.

Today, for the first time, I harvested potatoes from the official planting location this year, the brassica & potato spiral. With May May and Riley’s noses right in the thick of things,


I uncovered the hay from the first three inches of the potato spiral to find, in less than a minute, these enormous Caribe potatoes. Nine pounds of them. Hardly had to get my hands dirty. They were just under the hay mulch, bursting out of the soil, just waiting to be picked up. The one on the right with the funny attached knob is one potato, weighing two pounds. It’s going home to be dinner for Vicki, her husband Kevin, and the babe to be.


Let’s compare this to this ENTIRE week’s tomato harvest (Wildly optimistic hoarding has begun for a second batch of sauce).

Total weight of tomatoes harvested this week from 30 plus plants? Two pounds. You do the math. Not too much head scratching necessary to conclude yet again that those Angels sure know what they are talking about.

An Empty Sink

I knew my four children would move out one day. I just didn’t know it would feel like they all moved out on the SAME day. I had a fleeting sense of these impending departures during the summer, a passing thought that the dishes in the sink would be something me and the rhino would miss.


Now, it’s not only an empty sink here at Green Hope Farm, but an empty nest too.
I’ve mentioned Ben and Elizabeth’s departure to their own apartments. What I didn’t expect was that high school senior Emily also would completely vanish in front of my eyes. She has so many soccer practices, so many after school meetings, so much socializing to do. I think I saw her yesterday, but I am not sure. I may see her today, but I am not sure.

William and Jim are also busy. Last night, I was goofed up. I expected people, yes, a new sized group of people, but still some people, to come home eventually for dinner. It was so far after my idea of worry time when Jim and Will finally surfaced. And of course, my well crisped dinner was too much even though I tried to rein in my cooking volume.

After my meltdown, we tried to coordinate schedules for the week so I would be more prepared for my empty sink. Doesn’t look like even a low population dinner is in the offing soon.

So rhino and I are home alone thinking about how we can occupy ourselves.


We could dive into one of three four seven fourteen countless piles of paperwork. Sounds almost as much fun as a festive family dinner!

Nature truly abhors a vacuum. I kid you not. As I was writing this blog, the driver of a tractor trailer truck arrived at the door to say that he couldn’t make our hill with his load of glass bottles for us. He had to leave them at the bottom of the hill for me to bring up to the barn myself in our little truck.

Well, I am off to haul bottles.

And I have company. Rhino is willing to ride shotgun.