The Over-the-Rhine Fire-Escape Bees


Catherine was NOT to be discouraged from keeping bees. The fact that she lives downtown in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and lacks anything resembling a yard didn’t discourage her. The fact that she made her decision late in the season and then had to cobble together her hive and her bees from Nicola and me didn’t discourage her. She pursued us and would not be deterred.

That she had to drive her car with this box full of bees and then haul the hive and the bees up the stairs and out the window and then anchor it to the fire escape to keep the wind from toppling it didn’t seem to faze her.

And I like that about a person. A lot.

Nice work, Catherine. Your bees got a good keeper.

Poetry Sunday: My Grandmother’s Ghost

My Grandmother’s Ghost


She skimmed the yellow water like a moth,
Trailing her feet across the shallow stream;
She saw the berries, paused and sampled them
Where a slight spider cleaned his narrow tooth.
Light in the air, she fluttered up the path,
So delicate to shun the leaves and damp,
Like some young wife, holding a slender lamp
To find her stray child, or the moon, or both.
Even before she reached the empty house,
She beat her wings ever so lightly, rose,
Followed a bee where apples blew like snow;
And then, forgetting what she wanted there,
Too full of blossom and green light to care,
She hurried to the ground, and slipped below.

Like a Pro, Amy Captures Her First Swarm

I’m bursting with pride for Amy.

When I first met Amy, she had sort of an inferiority complex about her beekeeping skills. I tried to convince her that she could learn to be a good beekeeper…it’s just that no one had taken the time to teach her what to do.

So, I placed a few hives in her yard and we began working with the bees together.

Before I added my bees to her yard, Amy already had a single hive that had survived the winter, and we nurtured it along…perhaps we didn’t anticipate the strength of the flow this spring, because yesterday, when I was out of town at Deb’s mom’s burial, Amy text me with this image and said rather matter-of-factly, “There’s a swarm in my pear tree.”

Swarm in Amy's pear tree

Holy Smokes! I about fell off my chair when I saw this attached image. There sure as hell is a swarm in the tree. I text Amy back to tell her I was out of town but that I’d be back in the afternoon and could help her collect her swarm then. Or, I told her, she could call me, and I could talk her through how to do it on her own.

But before I knew it, Amy had sent me the following images. Without any suggestion from me, she had already climbed on a ladder, cut the swarm-containing branch from the tree, dropped the branch into a bucket, and then dumped the bees from the bucket into an empty hive we’d set in her yard for this very occasion. AMY DID ALL OF THIS ON HER OWN WITH NO INSTRUCTION FROM ANYONE. She operated solely on instinct. I love that. Love it love it love it love it.

(By the way, Amy’s life is not limited to bees. She has a helluva lot going on over at her place, and you can keep up with her over at her blog).

Amy's swarm on the ladder and in its hive


Amy's bees in their new hive

Poetry Sunday: Honey at the Table

Honey at the Table


It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle soft as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees — a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything
lost is found.

Exhilarated and Exhausted

Reader, let these images speak for my day yesterday. Nicola Mason and I spent all day with our heads in beehives removing two hives from a home.

I wish wish wish I could send other glorious senses—like sound and smell—to you through these posts. You cannot imagine.

And while we were up to our necks in bees, my phone was ringing off the wall with reports of swarms entering churches and houses and neighborhoods. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting time of the year.

When I got home and was unloading my car and washing HONEY FROM EVERY SINGLE THING, my friends Kim and Bob stopped over for a visit. Bob set about diagnosing and solving the problems with my table saw, and Kim discovered a swarm in my tree. I was too tired to deal with it, so she lit the smoker, suited up in my bee suit, collected the swarm all on her own, and hived it in a spare top-bar hive.

I’m not kidding when I say this: MY FRIENDS ROCK!

Also let me say that I am too old for all this.

It looks like a big fish!
Nicola Mason...covered in bees
Our first glimpse of comb
New comb filled with bees and honey


Poetry Sunday: Wild Peavines

Wild Peavines


I have never understood how
the mountains when first seen by hunters
and traders and settlers were covered
with peavines. How could every cove
and clearing, old field, every
opening in the woods and even
understories of deep woods
be laced with vines and blossoms in
June? They say the flowers were so thick
the fumes were smothering. They tell
of shining fogs of bees above
the sprawling mess and every bush
and sapling tangled with tender
curls and tresses. I don’t see how
it was possible for wild peas
to take the woods in shade and deep
hollows and spread over cliffs in
hanging gardens and choke out other
flowers. It’s hard to believe the creek
banks and high ledges were that bright.
But hardest of all is to see
how such profusion, such overwhelming
lushness and lavish could vanish,
so completely disappear that
you must look through several valleys
to find a sprig or strand of wild
peavine curling on a weedstalk
like some word from a lost language
once flourishing on every tongue.

You Gotta Envision Beauty, and then It Happens

Don’t you think I’d look awesome driving this truck, Reader? And can’t you already envision the words “TwoHoneys Bee Co” nicely hand painted on the door? And maybe “Call Lizzzzzzzz!”

Ford E3
Ford E3, side view

Right now, I’d rather dream about this truck than all the wet bees we installed in a downpour yesterday. Seriously…bees do not love rain and thunderstorms. And although my installation schedule is tight, I have to wonder if I shouldn’t have waited to introduce the bees…both for the bees’ sake and for the sake of those new beekeepers who may be starting off their adventures on a sour note. Then again, if they can handle yesterday’s adventures with a positive attitude—and they did—then they’ve already proven they’re cut out for the worst of it.

I’ll check on the wettest of yesterday’s group today to see that they’re flying and getting to know their new neighborhoods. This morning’s forecast is better, and I’ll be introducing 5 more hives to their new homes through early afternoon.

I’ll write more about all the installations once they’re complete. But right away, I have to thank Nicola Mason for being such a Godsend and for sticking with me and the bees under the worst possible circumstances yesterday. I mean to tell you, she was terrific and composed.

Oh. And this is what the interior of that truck looks like right now. If it becomes the future beemobile, we’re gonna have to do a little more work. I ain’t sitting on that seat. (But I’d love to shift that thing, and I can already sort of feel my feet working the clutch.)

Ford E3 interior