Colony Collapse

I love raising honey bees.  In the warmer months, I can sit for hours just watching their rhythmic flight back and forth, tiny legs laden with bright yellow pollen.  The amount of pollen they can carry is the most amazing part of it.  Compared to the size of their legs, it would be the equivalent of strapping a huge tractor tire around my own leg.  It’s a wonder they can walk, never mind fly.  But I have not had a hive survive beyond their first winter, despite now three attempts.

We were doing so well.  We have had a record warmth winter this year in Northeast Connecticut.  Temperatures have been mild, dipping only into the 40’s and snowfall has been minor–until a couple of weeks ago when temps decided to dip below zero with wind chills making it -25 outside.  Just before this cold front moved in (one of the few benefits of the boob tube moving in is that I do get breaking weather advisories…), I went out to the one surviving hive from last year’s re-queening to inspect and also to feed a new jar of sugar water.  It was a warm day when I opened the hive and several scouts immediately swarmed around me, checking me out.  Though there were quite a few dead bees on the top board, there were far more buzzing happily in the hive.  Everyone appeared healthy; there even appeared to be a good supply of honey still in the hive.  I placed the jar on top.  A few bees flew up and immediately started eating.  I closed everything up again.

And then the cold weather hit.

Earlier this week I noticed that there was suddenly zero activity around the hive, despite the return of balmier temperatures.  Concerned, I opened the hive and found all of them dead.  I can only surmise that it was the sudden, drastic change of temps as the jar of sugar water was only half-empty.  It now sits on the top shelf of my refrigerator, a painful reminder of this loss.

Of course, I am my own worst enemy.  I have been wracking my brain–i.e. beating up on myself, wondering what I might have done differently, what did I do wrong?  However, Colony Collapse has been a scourge for the beekeeping community for years.  The Netherlands and Scandinavia have documented proof that it is the chemical fertilizers and pesticides that are causing this disorder (Cunningham; Butters) but, when the US decided to run their own tests, it was pesticide and fertilizer giant, Monsanto, who helped fund it.  It isn’t any wonder that they found the Netherlands’ and Scandinavia’s findings false.  If I do nothing else as a writer, I hope to bring awareness to the problem of chemicals in our environment–and our bodies.  Fertilizers, pesticides and even antibiotics are destroying our health, our food, our soil, our water supply, our animals, all of nature–in short, our planet.

It’s depressing.

However, I am not giving up.  Tuesday I contacted the CT Beekeepers’ Association to find out if I could still order a new queen and 3 lb. box of workers for this season.  I can.  So new bees will be arriving here at the Herbal Hare Homestead this spring.  Pointing the finger back at myself, next winter I will invest in a few straw bales to place around the hive to insulate it a bit, leaving only a small opening for ventilation and flight.  I will also begin feeding sugar water a little earlier, too–just in case.  But I will also continue to campaign against Colony Collapse Disorder and the big bucks agribusiness that feed it.

God bless you & keep you!


Butters, Mary Jane.  Mary Jane’s Farm magazine.  Moscow, Idaho.  Print & Web.

Cunningham, William P & Mary Ann.  Environmental Science: A Global Concern, Thirteenth Edition.  2015.  McGraw-Hill: New York.



The Boob Tube Moves In

I had cable TV yanked about the same time CBS decided they weren’t going to air anymore family-oriented programs. “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” was still in the top 20 for ratings and yet she was cancelled. “Christy” never got a fair chance. A year later, PAX TV pulled “Little Men” because they weren’t getting the ratings–though there were many cities that didn’t even have access to PAX yet. “Survivor” was the new buzz and then all the wannabee copy-cats followed. Quality TV was no more. So I cancelled cable TV. And I never regretted it. As a homesteader, I really don’t have the time to sit and watch all the mind candy; I have work to do. And quality leisure time. I have hobbies that I want to indulge, cookies to bake, condiments to make, scarves to knit, animals to care for and play with, a guitar to play, books to write.

What changed?

Mom moved in. And Mom is the eternal couch potato.

It feels like a home invasion. First my pantry gets an overhaul as Mom offers to take over kitchen detail. Suddenly, I am inundated with packaged, processed, junk food. Goodbye homemade pantry with your short lists of organic ingredients. Today it’s time to clog those arteries and feed the addictions these junk foods are laced with. Every attempt on my part to take back ownership results in her trailing me along like a puppy-dog chanting, “Let me help you, let me help you!” Burnt eggs, under-cooked beans and over-cooked broccoli are the result of that “help”. And any meals that I cook, she will “doctor up” the next day to “stretch them” by adding something that just totally ruins it. The last time it was the 13 bean soup that she added dried beans to the next day’s leftovers.

The chickens ate well.

We did not.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother dearly. We’re simply polar opposites. She’s the junk food junkie/couch potato/pack rat while I am the organic/OCD/minimalist. After a year and a half of living together, we’re finding just how ill-suited we are for co-habitation but there’s naught to do about it now. Neither of us is in a position financially to fly solo. So we re-learn how to co-exist under the same roof. For me, that means learning to assert myself more by simply going ahead and living my life the way I’ve always done. Mom will complain about me and bad mouth me to my aunts as she always does but so be it. I cannot let her destroy me or the life that I am trying to build here. But, I admit, there have to be compromises.

Today it’s the electronic babysitter.

And that really is a fair assessment. Mom is simply no good at being by herself. And I am the polar opposite, craving solitude like flowers crave rain and sun. She just isn’t a self-starter. I am guessing it is because she was raised in such a large family. She’s one of 11 children and so solitude was unheard of. She shared a bed with one sister and another full-sized bed was just a few feet away in the same room with two more sisters. As more sisters were born, she was moved in with an older sister who had little time for her and Mom is ultra-sensitive. It shows up time and again when I’m spending what she considers too much time here in my home office. The guilt trips would do any Catholic Mama proud. She actually pouts. So the re-introduction to paid TV is a mixed blessing.
The positive side is that Mom isn’t so much the nervous Nellie now that she has TV to occupy her. She loves watching HGTV–obsessively. It’s almost scary. She can watch this mind candy as rabidly as she polishes away boxes of chocolates and bags of potato chips. Of course, it’s nice to dream. And all of these HGTV shows provide plenty of visual for the McMansion “dream” homes/nightmares on Elm St (for this homesteading minimalist). But, constantly watching them provides her with a lot of discontent. She’ll come out with comments about how we could do something like this or that without any grasp of reality that financially, at least, it would be next to impossible. And, from an ecological standpoint, this 3000 square foot monstrosity is definitely NOT good for the environment nor does it fall in line with the homesteading mentality. Nobody needs that much room…unless you’re a Duggar with 19 kids. I prefer the tiny houses. They aren’t for everyone but they can provide just what you need: some creature comforts alongside the bare necessities…unlike “Flip or Flop” or “Love It or List It” where everyone has to have that 3000 square footage complete with in-ground pool and home movie theatre (what ever happened to actually going to the movies??)

And then there is the negative side of it. Besides Mom’s drooling over these McMansions, it’s all the negativity that comes swirling into the living room each day. All I see are a bunch of spoiled rotten brats who have to have everything handed to them, everything picture perfect, everything the latest style and ultra-modern without any thought to what all that renovation is doing to the environment after all the old stuff gets thrown into the local landfill and off-gases into our ground water and soil. As for made-for-TV movies? Sitcoms? TV dramas? Well, if you like soft-core porn and characters you would never want to bring home to your mother, I guess modern television programming is for you. Don’t mention God though. Or faith in Jesus. That only happens with a sneer, as though Christianity is a joke. Moral values? I haven’t seen hide nor hair of them except in the old re-runs of “Little House on the Prairie” that air each day on the Hallmark channel.

Eh, well, Mom’s happy–almost. She was quick to inform me last night that HGTV is airing something about tiny houses on Monday nights at 9 p.m. starting in March. If she had her guilt-tripping manipulative way, I’d be right there on the couch beside her–and not just on Monday nights. However, my rabbits still need their playtime each night so I don’t think this will be happening. But maybe, just maybe, as Mom and HGTV become one with each other, I might get my kitchen back again.

God bless you & keep you!