Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bees, Trees, and Salve Please!

The Green LIONS Garden Group welcomed Tidewater Beekeepers Guild member and beekeeper Barbara Hickey to our meeting two weeks ago. Ms. Hickey engaged students with tales of her beekeeping hobby and a vast collection of gear, photos, and teaching aids to observe.

Ms. Hickey is not the only beekeeper in her family. Her husband and two sons also work with their hives. She brought a beekeeper’s mask and suit that belongs to her nine year-old son. And she told of how her older son used a bee’s perspective to complete a report on a chicken sandwich! He connected the food that is fed to the chickens to plants that are pollinated by bees and even the pickle you may find on a chicken sandwich. Now that is creativity at work.

This connection reminded the students of how one of out of every three items on the average plate would not exist without bees and their pollination. Ms. Hickey spoke with the students about what we can do to help protect the bees in the ongoing and unsolved battle against colony collapse disorder; like not using chemicals on our lawns or vegetable gardens and supporting food growers who also do not use chemicals. She was pleased to hear how many students knew ways to help protect the bees in their daily environmentally-friendly choices.

Ms. Hickey even brought a display of live bees at work in a screen from a hive. It was amazing to see the bees up close and hard at work. After enjoying a thorough and very interesting explanation of how bees produce honey and how humans extract it from the hives, students enjoyed a sampling of honey-sweetened lemonade. We have included the recipe here.

Honey-Sweetened Lemonade

4 cups water
1 cup honey
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (hopefully from organic lemons!)

Mix 1 cup water and honey together in a pot on the stove-top until melted. Mix with the remaining water and lemon juice in a pitcher or jar and refrigerate until cool.

Students then went outside to tend to their newly planted seedlings by watering and weeding the garden beds. Now when they see bees peacefully buzzing through the garden they can smile at their fellow garden workers.

Last week’s meeting brought horticulturalist Michael Bender of McDonald Garden Center to speak of trees and bushes we can enjoy in our own yards or communities. He introduced the students to many different varieties of berry bushes and fruit trees. He spoke of such varieties as the Urban Apple Tree that while growing to be 8 feet tall only grows 2 feet wide, making it perfect for small urban yards. He showed varieties of raspberry, blueberry and juneberry bushes that only grow 2-3 feet tall and equally as wide, fitting into small spaces. He spoke of how the native PawPaw tree, one of which we just recently planted, tastes like Banana Custard Pie. We’re excited to try that one!

All of the bush and tree varieties made the students excited to begin growing some of their own fruit in their own yards, the beginnings of their own permaculture at home.

After Mr. Bender finished his presentation we completed our bee study with a craft using beeswax. We melted down beeswax, coconut oil and olive oil and then the students added Vitamin E oil and essential oils of rosemary, tea tree, and lavender to create a homemade garden hand salve. Gardening, while great for our bodies, can be rough on our hands so this salve helps replenish lost oils and smooths out roughness. Students can keep the salve for themselves or gift it to an adored woman in their life this coming weekend on her special day, wink wink.

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