About a month ago we took Milkwood Permaculture’s two-day course in natural beekeeping with master bee-keeper (warré hive extraordinare) Tim Malfroy. It was a wonderfully inspiring and informative course. We poured over information, facts, myth, statistics, building plans about bee keeping in a world that is so indebted to these mysterious winged creatures.
I came away with a desire not so much to “keep bees” as to learn alongside them. Tim took us on the second day to see a former student’s thriving apiary in inner-city Sydney. We were led around her house to her back garden – to the apiary – nothing fancy or overstated there – behind a wooden screen fence were two stacks of squarish boxes painted in pastel hues. Drawing closer I could heart a faint buzzing and see a flutter of busy wings about their entrance. Tim walked us through the process of lighting a smoker with cypress pine needles. He then opened up the hives to show us the natural comb which the Warré hive system allow bees to build – he didn’t wear any gloves or fancy gear – except a veil over his face. Bees don’t want to string you, Tim explained to us, they are simply trying to protect their hives; their queen, brood and internal heat necessary for their survival. I can only remember being stung by a bee maybe once or twice when I was a child. Knowing why and how and when bees sting has helped me understand their nature – and actually appreciate it more. Since taking the course I have noticed how often bees are categorised as “angry” (ie. wanting to sting you) in children’s books, cartoons, literature etc… How sad to reduce the nuances and wonderful work of bees to an emotion or a discomfort.
I could write more and more on the subject, but for now I will close by saying it was an honour and pleasure to learn about them – watch them at work – taste fresh golden honey from a natural comb… Our plan is to build two Warré hives and attempt to bait or catch a local swarm in this Spring/Summer season or the next. In the meantime we are looking around the farm for possible wood we can use for construction, and also trying to get our hands on Honeybee Democracy to learn more about the mystery and intelligence of the swarm…
are grasses tall and wavering in the breeze. are leaves long, short, serrated, flowers and spikes and seeds. more varieties than I can count on my hands. are the sign of something alive and healthy underground…
ben came into the room where we were busy egg cleaning, you have to see this, come now, bring your camera. we followed hurriedly, babe in alex’s arms, camera round my chest. what would he show us I thought, a new calf born? not yet. something just as good, something better. the release of an electric fence. the opening of a patch of luscious “ice-cream grass” to the dairy cows; three pregnant and one newly nursing her young. as ben reeled back the fence the girls moved in close, snuffing and swaying with excitement at the feast that was within munch. midnight, the beautiful black freesian-guernsey, was first in the grass. soon afterwards the fudge-coloured jerseys dolcey and prawn. then mama swiss-brown, sweetie and her wee silas. chomp. chew. munch and moo. sounds of pure and simple satisfaction. we watched on and were filled with the same sort of fullness, in heart, in mind. reuben tangled himself up in long stalks of grass. this is what I remember as a kid, Ben said. This is what its all about. the harvest. ah yes, cows were meant for this. us too, I think.
We are almost two weeks into life here at taranki farm, and firmly in love with our new outlook of windswept hillside, grassy pasture, bush forest, myriad ponds, garden, and farmyard creatures. It is stretching us too – the cold and windiness; the 6am chores tending to hens, chicks, ducks and pigs; the temporary accommodation in a tiny converted garage; the toddler’s lingering cold and wakeful nights…. stretching and refining us to take hold of the day and enjoy all it has to offer – frost, sunshine, sideways rain, juice from your own orange tree, greens from the garden, farm-raised meat from the freezer, fifth change of clothes for said toddler, mud baths, nose bleeds, blossoming orchard, lively dinner conversation, squawking ducks, calves wriggling in their mama’s bellies, eggs still warm in the hay… Part of me feels so new it all, part of me feels like it has always belonged. More soon…. Emily xx