TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE By Sarah Jones, Beekeeper and Temple Beth Shalom Member (announcement of year round honey sales to follow later in the year)
Submitted by Laraine Lasdon, Fund Raising Chair and Eden Myers, Honey project Leader Sisterhood
“I like pulling on a baggy bee suit, forgetting myself and getting as close to the bees' lives as they will let me, remembering in the process that there is more to life than the merely human.” ― Sue Hubbell, A Book of Bees: And How to Keep Them
Hi! I’m Sarah Jones, former science teacher at the Austin Jewish Academy and staff member at Greene Family Camp, TBS congregant, mother of two fun and feisty little girls, and apiarist and gardener at SHAMBA: Sustainable Homestead and Microclimate Based Agriculture.
My evolution into an apiarist (that's fancy for beekeeper) began with the study of permaculture. Permaculture is a design process to create sustainable living systems. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I were preparing to start our ten acre homestead, we took a permaculture design course. This helped us brainstorm a list of all of the elements we wanted- and keeping bees was right at the top of the list. In order to have our fruit trees and garden flourish, bees would be a necessity. At the time I was still one of those folks that waved my hands frantically in the air when a bee even flew by me! Once we moved out onto our land, we took a beekeeping introduction course with Round Rock Honey, and I was instantly enamored. Their complicated society, their means of communication, the magic of turning nectar into honey. The next year I got my own hive, and bumbled my way into beekeeping. Since then, our apiary has grown to 6 hives and counting. I've started a beekeeping group in my small town, and I work with other beekeepers to improve and support local beekeeping.
The more apiarists the better, as bees are facing a myriad of challenges these days. According to the EPA, starting in 2007 beekeepers were losing between 30 - 90% of their hives over the winter. While hives have recovered somewhat since then, the overall health of bees is being threatened from all directions. Earlier this month, the US FIsh and Wildlife Service had to place seven species of bees on the Endangered Species List for the first time. Bee extinction would be a devastating event. These tiny yet complex creatures are essential to human life as we depend on the crops that they pollinate for food. As an apiarist, they also bring joy. There is a zen-like quality to beekeeping that requires you to focus only on what is in front of you, to make yourself be totally in the present. Then there is the glorious honey. Let me tell you, there is nothing like tasting the first flow of honey from your hive. And the second. And the third...
The honey that my bees produce is full of microscopic pollen remnants local to Austin, and has the flavor of the Central Texas flowers the bees visit. Many processors ultra-filter and pasteurize their honey, which removes pollen and the accompanying health benefits as well as the character and flavor. Each harvest of honey I get is completely different. In the spring of this year it was light in color and flavor and had a smokey flavor; the fall flow has been deep, dark, reminiscent of molasses. Local honey captures the taste of the place that it was made- not the case when you purchase honey that has been mixed together from different parts of the country or the world to create a uniform product.