Almonds are Big Beesness

I watched the Oscars this year for the first time in probably 10 years. I’m not sure why, except that for the first time in forever, I had actually seen a fair number of the nominees for best film. I didn’t see the winner — Parasite — and was rooting for Little Women. Oh, well.

But when Joaquin Phoenix won best actor for his portrayal of the joker in The Joker (see how I did that?), I admit that as he began his acceptance speech, I muted the sound before I even know what evil he was trying to condemn. I only knew that he went on for a very long time. It wasn’t until the next morning that I read that his rant was in support of animal rights, particularly, I guess, for the humane treatment of cows.

Cows seem to be the focus of a lot of attention lately. Their passing of gas is being blamed in part for climate change. Good to know that I can still drive my car a block-and-a-half to the grocery store without feeling guilty, and just blame it on cows’ farts.

The latest trend in so-called clean eating is refraining from cows’ milk. You know, the cows’ milk that humans have been drinking for 6,000 to 8,000 years. I guess any milk that comes from cows’ udders should be consumed only by calves. It’s not only inhumane for the little calvies, but bad for our health. Apparently we’ve all had tummy aches for 8,000 years.

As a result, the sale and consumption of almond milk, a dairy-free beverage that looks like cows’ milk but is made from almonds, has skyrocketed. In fact, the sale of almond milk has increased by 250 percent in the past five years. That’s okay. I don’t have any problem with almond milk. I’m sure the American Dairy Association has other feelings, but hey, let them fight their own battles.

Between putting almond milk in our cereal and eating protein bars stuffed with almonds, each American eats about two pounds of almonds per year. And the huge majority of those almonds are grown in California’s Central Valley.

I recently read an article that indicated that not only do almonds take a substantial amount of water to stay healthy, they also require an enormous number of bees to pollinate the crop.

That, my friends, is bad news for the bees. Because at the same time that people are eating more and more almonds that require more and more bees, there are fewer and fewer bees to go around. Hello Colony Collapse Disorder — the phenomenon in which bees are abandoning their hives for reasons that even really, really smart people have not been able to explain. In fact, almond growers require two million bee colonies as compared to apple growers who only require 200,000 colonies.

But thanks to Good Ol’ American capitalism, the problem is being addressed. Almond growers are paying people from other states to haul their hives to California and set up a temporary camp. As you can imagine, however, this puts a lot of stress on the bees. The beekeepers have to wake up the bees a few months early to make their trip to California at the right time.  You know how cranky we all get when we have to get up early to catch a 6:15 a.m. flight.

But perhaps even more detrimental to the bees, California farm country is Pesticide Central. These nice bees that are used to breathing the fresh mountain air of, say, Salida, Colorado, are facing all sorts of diseases contributing to death.

The Almond Board of California, I’m pleased to say, is doing its part to try and solve the Case of the Dying Bees. It makes sense because they have a lot to lose as the bee population dies down. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Managing the changes brought on by our increasingly populated world must feel like that circus game where you hit the gopher on the head and another gopher pops up.

On a happier bee note, I’m pleased to announce that our granddaughter Dagny’s beekeeping efforts will double this next bee season. She has managed to talk her father/co-apiarist into a second hive. Yay on that, because D’s Bees Honey is delicious and more bees mean more honey.

When the time is right, Dagny begins draining the honey from the hive.

She bottles it and sells it.

Dagny is doing her part in saving the bees. I don’t think she even drinks almond milk.

Friday Book Whimsy: Flight Pattern

Karen White is one of the more prolific authors whose books I read. I have found some to be really good and some to be not so good. Flight Patterns was not only really good, I think it might have been the best that I have read to date.

First of all, it incorporates beekeeping into the storyline. And since members of our family have taken up beekeeping (read this post), it is a topic of utmost interest to me. White begins each chapter with a fact about bees, and I found that in and of itself very interesting and fun. Though bees are part of the story, the story itself is not about beekeeping. So if bees aren’t your thing, don’t let that discourage you from reading this very good novel.

Georgia Chambers has been estranged from her family for 10 years. She resides in New Orleans, where she works with china, mostly antique Limoges china. She knows everything there is to know about china patterns, which is what brings her new client James Graf to her. He has found amidst his things a couple of pieces of very unusual china that bears a bumblebee pattern, and he wants to find out the history.

This leads to that, and Georgia finds the need to go back to her home of origin in Apalachicola, Florida – a real town located in the panhandle of the state, on the Gulf of Mexico. She has not seen her sister Maisy, her mother Birdie, or her grandfather (who is an apiarist) since something devastating happened 10 years earlier. Just what that event was is kept a secret throughout the book, with just bits and pieces of clues provided the reader. All we know is that Birdie hasn’t spoken  a word since then, and Maisy won’t have anything to do with Georgia.

The character of Georgia was one of the most interesting characters of any Karen White novel I’ve read. She was private, cold, and yet likable. The pain she feels by being separated from the family she loves so much is spelled out so clearly, I could feel her pain myself. Maisy’s anguish and Birdie’s – well – craziness, are handled in such a way as to not make them disagreeable characters, only troubled.

As all of the pieces fall into place, the reader begins to understand what created such a divided family. The ending was satisfying and not schmaltzy.

Flight Patterns might be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

Here is a link to the book.

 

It’s Not My Beesness

I’ve been hoarding this particular blog story like a survivalist hoards bottled water and cases of beef jerkey. It’s just such a good story. I wanted the time to be right.

The time, my friends, is right. The story must be told. Here’s why…..

Dave fought the bees, and the bees won. This round, at least.

Here’s the thing. My stepson David and his brood have become apiarists. Beekeepers.

Their adventure with bees officially started in late April, though the plans have been in the works for considerably longer than that. And let me be clear. The adventure really is Dave’s and Dagny’s. After all of these years, Jll is not surprised by anything Dave does, so beekeeping didn’t raise an eyebrow. The rest of the kids are marginally interested, but have other things grabbing their attention far more than the bees that have taken residence in the southwest corner of their urban back yard…..

We all know the plight of bees in the world today. For a variety of reasons, including increased use of pesticides, loss of habitat, and disease, honeybees are disappearing. And if bees disappear, the planet loses more than simply honey. Bees pollinate trees and vines that grow almonds, pears, avocados, grapes. What? No wine?

Remember The Bee Movie? Jerry Seinfeld freaked us all out with his animated movie that demonstrated what would happen if there were no more bees. Shortly after that movie was released, Jen, BJ, and Maggie were all eating lunch al fresco, when a bee started buzzing by their table. Jen is allergic to bees, so without giving it a second thought, Maggie swatted the bee with her shoe when it landed on the table, swiftly bringing about its demise. BJ nearly had a heart attack. Do you understand what is happening to the bees?  he asked. Do you understand what would happen to Mom should the bee sting her? was Maggie’s reply.

I don’t dislike bees. I actively dislike wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets, all of which are aggressive and live in my backyard. I kill them every chance I get, despite Dagny’s horror each time she witnesses the murder. For heaven’s sake, I tell her. You guys are running around without shoes on! But bees don’t give me angst because they generally aren’t interested in stinging me. In fact, Alastair told me that despite the fact that he has a bee colony living in his back yard, he has only been stung once, and the bee that did the dirty deed was dead. It was simply lying on its back with its stinger in the air and Alastair stepped on it with the above-mentioned bare feet.

Dagny has been stung on at least one occasion, and the guilty bee was alive when it struck. I was with Dagny shortly after, and I will tell you that besides the pain from the sting, the fact that the bee bit the hands that feed it (it was actually her butt, and she doesn’t feed them) really hurt her feelings. Why, Nana, why?…..

 

To date, Dave’s and Dagny’s bees are increasing in number. Recently, they have been observed bearding, which is when they accumulate roughly in the shape of a beard for a couple of reasons: 1) It’s hot outside and they are trying to cool down the inside of the hive so that Her Majesty the Queen is comfortable; or 2) They are getting ready to swarm, meaning take off for another hive. Apparently Dave and Dagny’s bees were just hot because they’re still there……

The bees have also begun the process of filling in the honeycomb with wax, which, if I understand it, means they will begin producing honey soon.

It won’t be long now before we will be seeing our first batches of D’s Honey, so get your order in early.

Unless, of course, Dave dumps the whole hive in the river in disgust once he can again see out of his left eye.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.