Sunday, February 7, 2010

Rally for the Bees!!!

February 6th, 2010

Gardening Friends,

From my vantage here in the Northeast, as well as for a large swath of the South, this morning, the idea of “Spring” may seem far off. Yet, despite the arctic weather conditions we are experiencing, take heart! Warmer, brighter days are coming, sooner than one might imagine! If you haven’t done so already, get your seed orders in soon, so you will be ready!
Meanwhile, other, related activities are underway, that will contribute to a sort of “infrastructure” for the coming gardening season. On Wednesday, February 3, 2010, I had the honor of addressing the New York City Board of Health, speaking on behalf of proposal 161, approval of which will overturn the current ban on honey beekeeping in New York City. Here is the text of my speech:

To the New York City Department of Health, re: Legalizing beekeeping:

I would like to begin by thanking Councilman Yassky and the Board of the New York City Department of Health for giving me the opportunity to speak for the record in support of Article 161, legalizing honey bee-keeping in New York City.
Who can say what it is that first attracts one to honey bees? Is it the subtle complexity of their honey, the sweetest natural substance known to humans? Or, is it the social organization of their hives, ruled over by a queen who devotes herself to laying generations of bee eggs? Whatever it may be, the more one learns about Apis Melifera, the honeybee, more one wants to learn. The more one craves to know.
Today, around the globe, and across the United States, people are increasingly aware of the benefits and necessity of living in closer harmony with the natural world. Likewise, I believe that New York, the embodiment of a modern, urban metropolis, wants to do all it can to nurture a greener, more healthful environment for the millions of families who call it home. I come before you today, as a resident of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, who for more than twenty-five years wanted to keep bees, but because of the existing ban on bee-keeping, could not. I can think of few measures the City can take, that would be easier to enact, yet do so much to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers, as lifting the existing ban on honey beekeeping in New York.
Man’s relationship with the honeybee, represents the oldest sustained collaboration between humans and the animal kingdom. That relationship got a big boost 200 years ago this year, with the birth of Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth, whose innovation of the “movable frame” hive, in the 1850’s made beekeeping possible for both home and commercial apiarists. That is why the 200th anniversary of Langstroth’s birth this year is an event being celebrated around the world!
There are other reasons to honor the bees. It is well established that bees play an invaluable roll in the production of our food crops. It is because of the pollinating that bees do, that many of the foods we enjoy are available when we go to the market. We are often reminded of the benefits of eating locally grown foods, although for we New Yorkers, virtually all of the foods we eat are imported from well beyond the city limits. Meantime, for reasons we don’t entirely understand, in recent years, honeybee numbers have declined, putting our food supply at risk. People everywhere need to do all they can to promote a healthy bee population.
There are many examples of successful bee keeping in urban environments. In England, the London Beekeeping Association boasts over 2,000 members. In Paris, the city sponsors a bee keeping school at the Luxembourg Gardens, an idea that New York might well adapt for local use. Perhaps some day, each of New York’s parks will have community hives and “Bee Rangers,” examples of the green jobs and economy we hope to develop. And let us not overlook Mrs. Obama’s White House apiary, which this year produced a bumper crop of organic honey.
I also come to you today as someone who, for two years, has had the challenges and satisfactions of keeping honeybees – legally – in nearby Pennsylvania. I can testify firsthand to the unexpected lessons learned, as well as to the complex sweetness of wild, natural honey. No wonder, in ancient times, honey was considered the food of the gods! All of this, and it is shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of allergic symptoms as well! The demand for bees wax, a valuable substance in its own right, far outweighs the supply. But more than just the value of the commodities it produces, honeybee keeping, licensed and monitored, offers many intangible benefits. I have observed how honey beekeeping is a catalyst for community building, bringing together a diverse group of people united by their fascination for the bees. For apartment bound New Yorkers, who may not have access to the country, urban beekeeping offers a wonderful way to engage in a dynamic relationship with Nature, that is part science education, part art, and part spiritual quest. The individuals and families who share this passion take their cues from the hive, sharing experiences and making the world a little sweeter in the process.

Copyright 2010 Everett H. Scott

I am thrilled to report that the speech was very well received, (followed by enthusiastic applause), and led to my meeting the president of, a honeybee advocacy group in New York City. It was exciting to connect with the local “hive” of people who share my enthusiasm for the honeybees and appreciate how essential they are for pollinating a healthy eco-system. Stay “Tooned” to learn if the proposal to legalize honeybee keeping is approved.
Take note! Another sign that Spring is on the march, is the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, from February 12th through 15th.
One of our ongoing projects involves restoring/preserving the cast iron urn that, in season, sits at the center of the potager. For decades, the urn has been painted over, so that now, after countless layers of paint, the details of the casting are harder to discern. So far, we are using sandpaper and steel wool to reveal the designs underneath. At times, it seems even brushing with a wire brush won’t be enough to get through the many strata of oil paint. Chemical strippers, while effective, are messy, caustic and require special handling to dispose of properly. Our ultimate goal is too paint it white – again. “Toon” in to watch our progress.
Keep gardening!

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