My brain is full. I spent two days at a wonderful Introduction to Beekeeping course put on by the biodynamic apiarists of Bello Uccello, outside of Digby. I feel tired with all the information, but also grateful, because workshops are not always so intense or packed full of knowledge.
-PHILOSOPHICAL TANGENT BEGINS- My favourite thing I learned is that bees like to work my favourite way to work. They move around the hive, and do whatever comes to hand (antenna?) within their ability at that stage of their development (as they grow bees have distinct tasks that they capable of performing at a given age). I get that! The days that I’m able to work like that are the best. Do what’s right in front of you, and keep slowly moving forward and doing what’s there, and then as you’re carrying something you run into something else to pick up and end up roaming back and forth all over, and not a thing gets done that you “planned” to do, but so very many things get done that needed to be done, and the experience of doing all that work, and usually working quite hard, is quite relaxing to the mind, and blissfully satisfying.
I have a private theory that there is a great and costly expenditure of energy that happens when you direct yourself to do something that “needs” to get done, that you’ve “decided” to do – to meet a deadline, or an appointment, because it is moving against what you feel like doing. Again and again, experience bears out that moving with the feeling-like-doing produces better results. Like this morning, for instance. I popped up to run the dog earlier than I’d “planned” to, because I felt like it then and had the freedom to be flexible, and the moment we got back from our run the sky opened on us. I hadn’t known if it was expected to rain. Alas, there are so many deadlines, and appointments, and plans, to cope with. We keep on making them. It is very difficult to cooperate with even one other person (partner), let alone business hours, when following the feeling-like-doing can get you into zealously emptying the back shed instead of doing firewood together, as planned, or vacuuming out the truck at midnight when you have to go to town first thing in the morning. However, the feeling of the work, which is supposed to be the important part, is so dramatically better when you work one thing to another until it’s time to sleep, and then if you’re lucky, get up again with energy and without an alarm to do it all over again.
My theory continues, to say that if you could continue in this mode A: everything would get done, including the things you have “planned” B: everything truly not important would fall away C: the rhythm of work to be done would come to match and balance the energy you have for it D: the pattern of work would become more consistent and come into alignment with natural patterns, like daylight, and sleep, and E: eventually you would come to harmony and knowledge of much larger and more subtle rhythms, like time to plant the potatoes, and it’s going to be a long winter. To do this, I opine, would require making no commitments, ever, to anyone, including yourself, to ever show up to anything at a given time; accepting the consequences of all that (essentially not participating in society at all); and to have an extremely patient and accepting partner. Until then, compromise. I will revel in the lone days I am able to work like a bee, moving from one task to the next without the tyranny of a to-do list, and maybe in valuing those times, I can create more of them. -TANGENT ENDS-BACK TO THE BEES!-
Also literally tired, because after the second day of class I drove to pick up my bees in the late evening and then drove another two hours home. I’d requested a nucleus (mated queen, couple hundred bees, and four frames of brood and honey) from Kevin Spicer, and he’d said he’d have one packed up for me (too late in the day to put them straight into my box). I got to his place a little early, and saw a nucleus box, obviously mine, waiting on the porch.
During the workshop we’d spent a lot of time interacting with the bees: observing their behaviour, inspecting the hive, standing in the apiary. Klaus was notably affectionate with his bees, as a whole and as individuals, calling them “girls”, “sweetie”, touching them gently, and obviously always concerned about them. “See this bee?” he would point out to us instructively. “She’s [fanning/guarding/cleaning/transferring pollen]. Isn’t she cute?”
I was usually feeling anxious around his bees, impatient to get them put back in the box, concerned for all the jostling and noise that the great lumbering group of us crowded around the hive were causing.
When I saw that box of bees on the porch, though, my bees, I felt an overwhelming rush of love that I really was not expecting. My bees, that were going to come home and be a part of our family, and I would have to take care of as best I could.
I went to sit by the box of bees and immediately bent over it for a deep inhale, to smell them. Instantly, the bees just on the other side of the screen from my face buzzed angrily. Hey! Cut it out with the wind! At the round entrance hole, where the tap would be if this was a box of wine, not bees, the bees there were desperately trying to push themselves through the wire screen stapled over the hole. The whole box had a sound and attitude of frustration and panic. I sat there with it, watching them, and noticed that some bees at the screened entrance were trying to push out clumps of garbage but were frustrated by the screen. There was a pile of small crumbs they’d already pushed out, but they had bundles of fuzz, fibres and dirt larger than them that would not pass through the mesh and were starting to clog up their hole.
I made a tiny wire hook and slowly teased out some of the garbage through the screen, while the sanitation bees pushed from the other side, and the more I pulled out, the more they brought to the door. They’d only been in there for a few hours, but were already “This place needs sprucing up!” like a no-nonsense pioneer wife. The bee box calmed down a lot while I sat there, happily bonding with them and helping with garbage extrication, New Caledonia crow style.
Two bees were on the outside of the box, crawling around on the screen on top. They obviously believed they belonged inside, and I hoped they would stick it out until getting home when they could be reunited.
I drove off, then remembered I had to give them water. Drove some more, remembered the bee on the outside had no access to fuel, so stopped to feed her. I made it home before midnight, exhausted, wearily singing Tori Amos and K.D. Lang to stay awake. I figured at least the bees’d get used to my voice.
At home HW unloaded the truck and I slowly carried the nuc box to the house.
Me: There’s a bee on the outside of the box, careful don’t squish her. HW: There’s a loose bee?
Inside, the frames were loose and swinging, so even though I tried to carry them like a glass of water, they were getting jostled and they weren’t happy about it. Bump, bump. Buzz, buzz. They stayed in the house for the night because it was kind of a cool night.
In the morning I had to go out and place them in their new location and release them. It was a cold rainy day, so it would not be transfer day. I set the nuc box out on a milk crate and started pulling out the staples. One staple, and it bent the wire mesh just enough for one bee to pop through the screen.
About this time I noticed the “loose bee” was missing. I went and found her in the house, sitting on one of HW’s shoes, and took her to the door and she slipped right into the box. She made it!