Justin Dunham prepares California Woods Nature Preserve for bees

The Wild Is Far, Far, Far More Beautiful

The new bees arrive next Saturday, Reader. And, boy oh boy, am I ready.

I spent some time at the farm this weekend—where the dandelions are a little bit ahead of the dandelions at home…and bees were visiting most of the low, yellow flowers there.

So, Reader, if you’re still into plucking each pretty dandelion from your yard, let’s revisit that idea, okay? I feel sooo much better not fighting it…I love my yard so much more now that what I think of as “beautiful” has shifted.

The lawn company visited my neighbors’ rather dull yards this past week in a misguided effort to eradicate everything but green grass—no dandelions, no clover, no pretty blue or white or purple weeds. Sad, sad, sad. Their sickly yards are so boring when compared to mine.

To me, a yard is beautiful only if it welcomes sweet honeybees and butterflies and frogs and snakes and bats. And all the other wildlife that makes our lives so textured.

One place that has remained wonderfully and mindfully wild is California Woods Nature Preserve, future home to four or five honeybee hives.

And this is Justin Dunham whose Eagle Scout project reintroduces honeybees to the California Woods bee yard (Justin has grown about a foot taller since I first met him).

Last week, Justin oversaw the clearing of the path to the bee yard so it will accommodate my bee truck. He and his troop and their leaders also cleared the overgrown space around the hive site. And yesterday they placed the hive bodies. Next week, BEES return to California Woods Nature Preserve. So when you’re hiking through the woods there, Reader, hike over to the bee yard in the meadow and applaud Justin’s work.

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Justin Dunham at the entrance to the beeyard

 

An Eagle Scout project in the making

Reintroducing Honeybees to California Woods Nature Preserve

Once you start a good thing in motion, it sort of takes off, doesn’t it? I’m thinking of Justin Dunham’s drive for Eagle Scout and his project to reintroduce honeybees to the California Woods Nature Preserve.

To my mind, Justin has shown a great deal of maturity as he’s corralled the resources and coordinated the various entities involved. You know, Reader, it’s not easy to work the red tape…particularly red tape involving state or county or city or other government systems. And especially particularly when coordinating government and private businesses…which is exactly what Justin’s doing in this Eagle Scout project.

Yesterday, Justin coordinated and chaired a meeting of Gia Giammarino, Manager of California Woods Nature Preserve (one of Cincinnati’s City Parks), Justin Dunham (future Eagle Scout and all-around successful person), Justin’s dad (the future beekeeper Jeff Dunham), and me (Queen Bee at TwoHoneys Bee Co). We all sat together at a picnic table in the shade of California Woods and planned the honeybee reintroduction. There’s a lot to consider…I won’t list all of the details of our discussions here…I’ll let Justin’s work simply unfold. But let me say that he’s getting it done. He’s keeping us on track.

Let me also simply say that soon Justin and his scout buddies will be clearing some trails and an overgrown bee yard. He will be making some room…you know these things don’t simply happen. Preparation is involved. And there are literal thorns to battle. And probably poison ivy. There are definitely mosquitos.

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Gia Giammarino and Justin Dunham discuss honeybees
Justin Dunham in the Meadow at California Woods Nature Preserve

You Gotta Love a Future Eagle Scout

Justin Dunham in the Meadow at California Woods Nature Preserve

Reader, it’s time for you to meet Justin Dunham. Justin is a young man determined to reintroduce honeybees to California Woods Nature Preserve. But to get started, he’s had to sort of corral me…in a season that’s made me almost uncorralable (yes, I may be inventing words here, but it works). And Justin has very politely and diplomatically and doggedly pursued me, pinned me down, won me over.

Justin is a boy scout who is plotting to reintroduce honeybees to the nature preserve as a part of his Eagle-Scout project. I mean seriously, I love Eagle Scouts. I know a few, and I like each of them a whole lot.

Apparently, California Woods Nature Preserve once had a small beeyard, but because of budget cuts, the staff could no longer afford to manage the bees there, and the beeyard fell away with the money. When Justin visited with the nature-preserve staff and explained his idea to them, they explained back that although he was welcome to put bees in the old beeyard, there would be no one available to manage them…the staff probably thought this would be a real obstacle for Justin, but, as I told you earlier, he’s a determined young man. I think Justin spells “obstacle” C-H-A-L-L-E-N-G-E.

Justin discovered this TwoHoneys website, where he learned that I manage honeybees placed in various properties around Cincinnati and Kentucky. A little light bulb lit in him. Justin figured this was part of his solution…he would orchestrate the various players—the bees, the staff at the nature preserve, and me. So he contacted me. I hate to say that I didn’t respond to his first email. I wanted to, but things were flying apart around me at the time, and I put it off. Justin was not deterred. He contacted me again. He got my phone number and he called me. He called me again. Justin has a steady and even voice. He knows what he wants to say when he says it. You can hear him thinking before he speaks. And I like that a lot in a young man. He very respectfully and yet persistently contacted me until I responded to him. Then, he then kept me on track with our conversations and with setting dates for our meeting at the nature preserve.

We met for the first time amid a fury of mosquitos yesterday. Justin wore one of his scout uniforms, and I like that. A lot. Justin’s dad, Jeff, drove him to the nature preserve and walked the trail to the beeyard with us, where we all discussed the promises and the challenges of Justin’s project. Justin carried a notebook with him. He took notes.

Reader, this is your introduction-to-Justin post. I have a feeling you’ll be getting to know Justin pretty well over the next years. He has four years to complete this project…which, I’ll have you know, involves more than simply putting a few beehives in an open field and turning them over to my care. But I’ll let you wonder more about it…I’m not gonna spill all the beans right here.