Teachers have favorites. I hate to break it to you, but we do. For me, it’s usually the nature-loving, part wild child, book-loving child that finds a space in my heart. Sophie was that child for me eleven years ago. She arrived on the first day of Kindergarten with a whole lot of spirit and spunk. I loved her right away. As I soon found out, Sophie had many passions. Her mother told me that at 4 years old that she announced that she would be a vegetarian. No one else in her family was a vegetarian so there were lots of changes in the household, as you can imagine. But the parents honored her decision and from then on she was a vegetarian.
Children this age often choose to be vegetarians because when they learn where they food comes from (a long lashed soft-eyed cow, a clever chicken that can outfox a fox, a cute pink pig like Wilbur or Babe) they become very upset and decide right then and there they will be stewards of animals. We often chatted about Sophie’s vegetarianism at morning circle because some of the other children in my class didn’t understand what being a vegetarian meant. Sophie was kind and patient when she explained that she didn’t want to eat animals because she loved them. There was no judgement, just a simple and clear explanation. My heart swelled. I found a few picture books on being a vegetarian – I have no control when it comes to an opportunity to acquire more books – and this one was our class favorite.
You may have thought that some of the other children would’ve decided to become vegetarians, but they didn’t. They simply accepted that Sophie’s lunch was just lunch and they ate up the Herb the Vegetarian book.
Sophie came to kindergarten with another passion: Indigo Buntings. Sophie had seen one in North Carolina and that’s when her passion for the Indigo Bunting began. So yes, at four years old, she had a passion for all things Indigo Bunting.
She drew them.
She talked about them.
She asked me at least once a week, usually on a Monday, if I’d seen one that weekend. Sadly, I always said no.
Sophie wanted (aka slightly demanded) to know more about them. Yay! Me too! I brought in my Audubon bird identification book and provided her with books and many Montessori lessons on birds, and since she learned how to read with me that year she began independently reading about them during D.E.A.R (drop everything and read) time. I presented lessons on the external parts of a bird and then she made her own bird book (she colored her bird blue), lessons on the internal parts of birds (and she made a diagram), lessons on geography (we researched North America and where the Indigo Buntings live), lessons on migration (we researched Central America), lessons on how birds reproduce, what they eat, and what their nests look like. I spent the whole year integrating Indigo Buntings into the curriculum areas for her and on every field trip the whole class was on the lookout for them. Everyone grew to love and appreciate the Indigo Bunting, and Sophie sealed her place in my heart.
I had never seen an Indigo Bunting live and in person
Here’s what the Mister and I saw at 6:20 a.m. this morning!
Here’s a little bit about Indigo Buntings.
They have a conical beak that give you an idea of what they eat: small seeds, berries, and insects. They will come to your thistle feeders and will really like your live mealworm feeder.
They are native to North America.
They are roughly the size of sparrows; small and stocky birds.
They frequent areas where the woods meet the fields.
Their nests are made of grasses, sticks, leaves, and wrapped in spider silk.
They lay a clutch of 3-4 eggs and can have up to 3 broods a season. Their eggs are white with some brown spots.
I haven’t been making much time to write up recipes and posts, but I have been cooking up a storm. We’ve had over 100″ (yes, that’s right) of snow here and on snowy days all I want to do is hole up in my house and cook! I’ll be posting some new recipes soon.
Here’s what I’ve been up to …
I’ve been driving. My commute from the burbs to the city is now 2 hours in and 1.5 hours out. After working a full work-week I’m too tired to write long posts. Essentially, I’m “working” 60 hours a week. sigh.
I’ve been shoveling and maintaining paths to our chicken coop and front door. The plow guy can only do so much. The walkways and front porch is our job and for a month it was quite a job. On a positive note, the chickens have been consistently laying eggs all winter! I wasn’t expecting that at all. The eggs are such a gift. My girls turn a year old on April 9th and I plan to give them some special treats from us on that day. They love strawberries, tomatoes, oatmeal, and cabbage. Maybe a special salad?
Shoveling out the beehives hasn’t been fun either. Walking to the hives in four foot deep snow isn’t easy, but the hives are dug out and on a warm day the girls can take some cleansing flights easily enough.
I’ve been making bone broth every weekend to sip during the week. Bone broth is easy, rich in protein, minerals, soothing to the gut, and great for the skin. We sip it in place of tea. If you have GERD, Leaky Gut, or an upset tummy drink bone broth every day. You can make it from slow cooking or using a pressure cooker. I roast a chicken or brown some beef bones and then put them in the pot with water, an onion, a few carrots, celery, and a garlic clove or two. If you use a slow cooker or stove-top you can plan to let it simmer for 12-24 hours. In a pressure cooker it will be ready in 1-2 hours. The longer you cook the bones the more minerals you will pull from the bones. Adding a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals quicker, too.
I’ve been creating new tinctures for my GingerSage Botanicals herbal business. I have a new Rose Elixir, Damiana-Rose Tincture, and a Hawaiian Awa (kava kava) Tincture. I have more items for sale so pop over and check it out. I sell a lot out of my home, but I do ship. Click on the link to shop: www.etsy.com/shop/GingerSageBotanicals
I’ve been planning out a French potager garden. I want to expand our perennial beds to include more vegetables, interspersing them with the perennial flowering plants is a great way to create an edible garden. It will be beautiful and practical.
I’ve been reading and studying nature religions, specifically the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft. I am honored to have studied under Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem and I look forward to deepening my studies in the future. You can learn more about it here: www. lauriecabot.com.
See Laurie on YouTube.
Well, that’s all for now! The bone broth needs straining and containing. The banana bread must come out of the oven, and the fire stoked. I know spring is coming, but for now it’s still winter.
Until next time …
Make your own tea. I mix equal parts organic chamomile flowers, organic rose petals, and organic lemon balm. This blend is fragrant and helps ease stress and anxiety. Sip during the day and before bed to help you sleep well. Combine the herbs in equal parts in a sealed jar and store out of sunlight. To make a cup, use one rounded teaspoon for 8 ounces of water. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain and add sweetener of choice, preferably raw, local honey.
From 2011 when I first became a beekeeper, reposted here and taken from my previous blog on iWeb. BEFORE I LOST MY TWO HIVES FROM MOSQUITO SPRAYING IN MY TOWN. See addendum at bottom.
I had been thinking about keeping honey bees for some time now, and this winter I decided to go for it. What was I waiting for? (I’m not good at waiting anyway) Because of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, mosquito spraying, and increased consumer pesticide use the honey bees need our help. Since 2006, honey bees have been mysteriously disappearing. There are many theories out there, mostly related to heavy pesticide use on big, monoculture farms but no one is completely sure what the cause is. However, scientists agree that something has to be done to save the honey bee. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by the honey bee. One-third! It’s very alarming to think what would happen to our food supply if we didn’t have the honey bee. I also learned that almond growers in California utilize migratory beekeepers to pollinate, using 1.3 million colonies of bees (HALF of all honey bees in the US) that are shipped there every year.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” ~ Albert Einstein
I recently watched a new documentary, narrated by Ellen Page, titled Vanishing of The Bees. I highly recommend you get your hands on this or find a local screening and see what is happening all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. And scary! One hopeful part of the movie is learning that Germany and France banned the use of the pesticide Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) and within a year the honeybee colonies began to come back. Not so in the United States.
I always thought I needed acreage and farmland to keep bees, but I was wrong. There are many backyard and city beekeepers. Most are self-proclaimed “closet” beekeepers. And since lifting the ban on beekeeping, New York now has a high, and growing, number of roof-top beehives. At a recent Essex County Beekeepers Association (ECBA for short) meeting I was told that there were 1,000 new beekeepers last year in Massachusetts. Impressive and hopeful numbers for sure. You probably have beekeepers in your neighborhood and don’t know it. Beekeepers usually don’t advertise their hives because neighbors are misinformed and can get anxious. But there’s no need to be anxious. Be thankful. We need the bees. Your trees, flowers, and vegetable garden need them. They selflessly work themselves to death tending to the needs of the colony. And aren’t we lucky to get our plants and trees pollinated and receive health-giving honey and beeswax in return?
Honey bees are often lumped into the same category as wasps and hornets. Yellowjackets, Bald-faced hornets, and other species of bees do not have barbs on their stingers and can, and will, sting you repeatedly if you get too close to them or their nest. My husband was a target of nasty Bald-face hornets last year when he accidentally disturbed their basketball-sized paper nest in one of our bushes. Wasps and hornets are more aggressive than honey bees and they are omnivores, too. Wasps and hornets are the unwanted visitors that join your backyard barbecue and eat your grilled food and sip your sweet tea. A honey bee will NOT do that. They’re too busy finding nectar.
“That which we experience within ourselves only at a time when our hearts develop love is actually the very same thing that is present as a substance in the entire beehive. The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love. In many ways the bees renounce love, and thereby this love develops within the entire beehive.” ~ Rudolph Steiner
Some interesting and little-known facts about honeybees:
A honey bee will only sting to defend the hive or itself.
A honey bee will die after stinging because their stinger has barbs. Their insides will come out as they try to fly away because the barbed stinger is stuck in your skin.
Only the worker bee (a daughter of the queen) will sting. Queens don’t leave the hive to defend it. Drones don’t have stingers.
A hive consists of a Queen, female worker bees, and a few drones.
Drones don’t work, they have to be fed by the worker bees, and their only job in life is to mate with a Queen (if they’re lucky enough to find one). If a drone does mates he quickly dies because his mating parts get stuck in the Queen.
A swarm of honey bees is docile. They are surrounding and protecting the queen while the scout bees look for a good home.
The temperature inside a hive, around the cluster, is a constant 93°.
On a hot day, worker bees will position themselves just inside and right outside the entrance and fan their wings to create airflow, much like a fan.
Honey bees come out of the hive about 8-10′ and then they fly up, up, up over an area of up to 5 miles to find the best nectar and pollen sources.
Honey bees return home in the evening.
Honey bees have species fidelity – they find one type of flower and will stick with it. Other types of wasps and bumblebees will fly from flower to flower no matter what the source.
A worker honey bee produced a few droplets of honey in her short six-week lifetime.
A Queen honey bee can live up to 5 years and lays about 1,500 eggs a day during the warmer months.
People have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. Cave paintings from Spain depict ancient beekeepers climbing to get to the hive.
The word “honeymoon” comes from medieval Europe when a traditional gift of honey mead, enough to last one moon cycle (a month), was given as a gift to newly married couples. It literally was a moon of honey.
Honey was once used as currency.
Honey is used on burns for its healing qualities.
Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and full of antioxidants. Honey contains enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
Diabetics can enjoy honey.
Honey is hygroscopic. It attracts moisture, making it great for your skin.
The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, by Kim Flottum
The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook, by Kim Flottum
Honey Bee Hobbyist, by Norman Gary, Ph.D.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook, by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
Beekeeping for Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Howland Blackiston
Bees, by Rudolph Steiner
Wisdom of the Bees, by Erik Berrevoets (biodynamic beekeeping)
Addendum – 2014
** Watch Harvard Professor Dr. Lu discuss CCD and pesticide use in MA with Essex County Beekeepers HERE, courtesy of Marty Jessel, Essex County beekeeper. PS: Essex County has the highest level of neonicotinoids, the systemic and cumulative pesticides that are known to kill honey bees and other pollinators.
** Hear Dr. Lu on The Neonicotinoid View: Harvard’s Dr Lu Discusses Pesticide Exposure & Health Risk HERE.
** GARDENER’S BEWARE! Friends of the Earth sampled plants from box stores. Your bee-friendly garden may not be so friendly after all. Please watch HERE!
** HERE is a list from the Center For Food Safety of common products that consumers can purchase that contain bee-killing neonicotinoids. You may not even be aware that what you’re putting on your trees, roses, lawn or garden is creating a toxic wasteland for pollinators.
There is growing group of beekeepers and concerned citizens working for change at the city, state, and country level. Things will change if we work together. If you are interested and willing to join in efforts to protect pollinators, please contact me.