"The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Knowledge is Power

Doing some cleaning while watching this. I keep finding myself stopping to sit down and really listen. What’s really impacting me is that the stories in this film begin around the time I was born. The stories from yesterday are the roots of the challenges of today. The branches of today are the leaves of tomorrow.

It’s been 50 plus years since my time in this story began and yet somehow the stories of today are still the same. We’re they also the same 50 years prior to me? Will they be the same for my children and grandchildren in 50 years?

I recognize some of the faces in these stories as part of my childhood watching them unfold on the evening news. The narrative that went with them then made me believe that I needed to fear these people. “Here’s what’s going on with these armed and violent thugs in other parts the country,. We are telling you about it because we want to scare you. But don’t worry! We have it all under control. Our government agencies are on full alert and are monitoring the situation. We won’t let them get you.” Seeing the same stories narrated by the voices behind them is quite a liberating experience!

What I’m grateful for is this age of information and the ability to connect to the world in my own way via the Internet. My life and my understanding is no longer controlled by what is chosen by others to be broadcast to me via the black box in the living room. Now, I get to choose my own programming. Now, I get the chance to find the real stories behind the narrative of what “they” want me to believe.

I think the power that the ability to choose awakens within me is the very reason why the powers-that-be want to limit what I can do and what I can know. We, the people, are empowered with knowledge and are connected across the world in seconds. In that connection we learn that we are not alone. Knowledge is power.

How will we use that power? What will we DO with it? Will we speak up or will we stand down? Will we put aside our differences and come together with one voice? Can we put aside our differences and unite peacefully to make a positive difference? I think we can and I think our indigenous brothers and sisters are showing us the way.

In my lifetime, as I’ve become aware of the bigger world around me with each passing year, I’ve come across causes where a group of passionate people unite with the intention of making a difference to what they see as a problem.

As a young child it was Save the Whales and now as an adult, it’s Save the Bees. The 1970s Save the Whales was the yellow on the traffic light. The current day Save the Bees is the red.

And there have so many other causes in between and overlapping. Save the trees, wolves, water, climate, seeds, seals, dolphins, birds … And they all tie back to one thing … Save the Planet!

I came across an article this morning about whaling in Iceland and how it needs to stop. In the comments there were many opinions expressed that said, …”stop picking on Iceland, Japan is the real bad guy. ” and “Whales?! Pah! What about bigger issues such as crime, poverty, economics?”

I think what most are unwilling or not able to see is that all of these causes are symptoms of a debilitating and terminal global disease. In my 50 short years here I’ve watched us go from Save the Whales, the largest creatures on earth, to Save the Bees, one of natures smallest.

Look at what this is saying about the bigger picture. These causes are not about giving people a new group of wrong-doers to hate and pick on. They are pointing out the symptoms of the disease. One is the sniffle, one is the cough, one is the fever, the infection, the abscess, the cancer … That something we ALL share together! Our planet, Mother Earth is sick and is being raped on her death bed.

And here we are, people. Distracted by media, gadgets, stress, consumerism, drama, illness we are being kept too busy living in fear to feel like we have time or energy to devote to a “new” cause. And while the cat is away, the mice will play … and the playground is turning into a mine field.

Leonardo DaVinci, one of the most respected men in history said, “Realize everything is connected to everything else.” Think about that for a moment … Go ahead, I’ll wait …

….

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What that means to me is that saving the whales is no different from saving the bees, wolves, water, trees, birds … we are required to save it ALL for our very survival. It all starts with us, each individually becoming aware that these issues and causes and symptoms are connected to a global disease.

All it will take to start producing medicine to heal the global disease is is each one of us making small changes in the way we go through the world on a daily basis. Really connect to and look at our own lives, beliefs and ways of doing things and making changes as we come across things that do not accurately reflect who we are and what we wish to be contributing to the world.

We may be conditioned to think that as an individual be have no power, but that could not be more untrue. Our individual daily choices drive everything that comes after them. If, one by one, we refuse to purchase pesticide laden strawberries and opt for organic instead, before too long the commercial strawberry farms are going to have to adapt to what we want, or die.

One choice by one choice we have the power to make a real difference, for ourselves, our neighbors and our planet.

You in?

The Joy of Creating

10354-fallen-tree-02Here’s an example of what SEEDS from HOME means to me. I’m an artist. It’s not something I choose to be, it’s something I just am. What that means for me is that I’m in a state of perpetual inspiration. There’s a muse constantly dancing through my awareness painting pictures of possibility and “what if’s”. Bringing the pictures from within me to a place outside of me where they can be shared with others takes many artistic forms. One of them is through 3D art.

It was my honor and pleasure to collaborate with very gifted and talented artists to create this beautiful 3D woodland scene. While the creation process was not easy and required me to learn new things, it was done with ease and with the in-JOY-ment of creating.

When I allow myself to be at peace with who I am, to release the judgement of myself and others of what I “should” be doing, and dwell in that place of HOME within me, it’s like adding soil, water and sunshine to the SEEDs that my muse has been scattering within me. The ideas begin to germinate, take shape and grow. The more I relax into the space of HOME and enjoy the process of creating, the more they grow.

The process reminds me of a quote I read somewhere … Something like, “If your soul were a garden and your thoughts were the seeds, would you grow flowers or would you grow weeds?” There certainly were weeds that cropped up here and there that threatened to take over my garden, but once I identified them as weeds I was able to pluck them right out and send them to the compost pile … all part of the Joy of Creating.

Creating “something from nothing” isn’t only about artistic mediums. Creating happens in everything we do from our roles, to our jobs, to our passions, thoughts and dreams. What are YOUR seeds of possibility? What would the Joy of Creating be like for you?

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The Psychology of the Swarm

Understanding the reason that bees swarm requires understanding a bit about bee biology. Bees are what is called eusocial meaning that they do not see themselves as individuals but as the very colony in which they live. An example of this can be seen in how they distribute food throughout the colony. If there is a food shortage, rather than take sides or split into groups to fight over it, they distribute it evenly. If the colony is going to die due to lack of food, then they are going to die together. Honey bees are the very definition of synergy.

Swarms generally occur in the late spring and early summer months. The conditions within the hive will likely be crowded. Cells are filled with capped honey and pollen stores as well as eggs and larvae in various stages of development. As the warm weather hits and flowers begin to blossom, any empty cells are filled with the nectar that will become honey. With as many as 15,000 new bees emerging in a week it doesn’t take long for the bees to run out of room.

working on a queen cellThe life cycle of the honey bee is about six weeks meaning that if there is no place for the queen to lay new eggs, after six weeks the colony will die. The bees know that the survival of the colony depends being able to reproduce the colony as a whole. When they sense that they cannot expand the colony under present conditions they prepare for the move to a new home.

Stored honey is cleaned from the cells with each bee collecting as much food as they can carry. Then, to lighten the load on the egg-heavy queen enabling her to fly, they chase her around the hive encouraging her to lay eggs in the now empty cells. Worker bees create specially constructed queen cells where the current queen will lay eggs that will be tended by the remaining bees, hopefully raising a new queen and a new colony.

Queen CellsThe queen, surrounded by as few as 2,000 or as many as 30,000 to 40,000 workers takes flight, usually to land in a nearby tree not far from the hive. The workers swarm around her, linking arms to form what appears to be an undulating ball hanging from the tree. Scout bees take off looking for a new place to call home. When they return, they communicate their findings (size, distance, location, angle to the sun) to the rest of the swarm through what is called a waggle dance. The more information communicated through the excited dance, the more the colony takes notice and will move en masse to the new home.

If the new home is a hollowed out tree, the bees have a lot work to do drawing new honeycomb to hold precious food, eggs and larvae before they can settle in. Since only the youngest bees can produce the wax needed for comb and it takes three weeks for a egg to mature into an emerging bee, this can take some time and the survival of the colony hangs in a precarious balance.

Busy BeesThe savvy beekeeper can capture the swarm by placing an empty wooden hive on the ground below the cluster. It’s a bonus for the bees if the frames within the hive already contain drawn honeycomb as the colony can get right to work filling the cells, expanding the hive and producing sweet and delicious honey.

I would have preferred the placing the hive under the swarm method to my actual experience of climbing a ladder to capture a swarm by hand. In the early summer of 1981 my father, a beekeeper, had broken his ankle and was unable to do much on crutches. So, under his direction, I was elected to don the bee suit, haul the ladder, place it against the tree, climb up as close as I could get to the branch holding the swarm and then using a hand saw, cut the branch holding the swarm from the tree.

I was terrified. The bees, however, were not the swarming mass of darting, stinging anger I had expected. Instead, they were heavy and slow and almost fluid in how they moved together. As the last few strokes of the saw freed the branch from the tree, I held the full weight of the swarm in one hand. Seeing and hearing the bees was one thing but with the branch held tightly in my hand I could now feel the buzzing fluidity resonating through my arm and into my body.

I carried the swarm to the empty hive my father had prepared and gently shook the bees onto the tops of the frames. Feeling confident that the queen bee was within the mass that fell from the branch I covered the hive and placed the branch, still covered with a significant amount of bees on the ground near the hive opening. I had done it.

Ground SwarmWhat had seemed terrifying in my mind was actually quite a pleasant experience. To do it, I had to get over my fears, one by one, and just keeping following my fathers direction in taking the next step. Before I knew it, the job was finished and I had survived without so much as even one sting.

 

In the world of honey bees and beekeeping there is condition being called Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. Considering that bees of all kinds are responsible for pollinating the very food we eat and that without them, our food supplies are negatively affected, CCD has worldwide attention.

The disorder leaves little evidence, such as a pile of dead bees to study. Hives are simply empty. Entire colonies of honey bees seem to have left for work in the morning and then never found their way back home. Without foraging bees returning with the pollen and nectar that nourishes the hive, the colony collapses and just … disappears.

There are many studies happening all at once to determine the source of honey bee die offs. Conclusions range from cell phone towers to insecticides applied to crops and in the case of genetically altered seeds, to the very plants themselves.

It occured to me that this colony collapse disorder in beekeeping is, for whatever reason, not unlike what has been experienced in our little 3D world – the collapse of community. Artists and 3D enthusiasts that once found a home in the various 3D communities just seem to … disappear.

So, how do we recover from CCD? What can we possibly do to make a difference when we don’t even really know for certain what the true cause of the collapse is? And what if there are many overlapping causes or perhaps the perfect storm of events that is creating this CCD? What do we do? How can we turn it around?

Jeff sweeping beesMy husband Jeff and I are beekeepers. In our experience so far we have not successfully over-wintered even one hive. One year they didn’t have enough food, another was hive beetles and wax moths. Then two years of hurricanes with Irene flooding over two dozen hives and drowning thousands of bees, and most recently, Super-Storm Sandy hitting just a few days after we were forced to move our hives in response to discovering someone trying to steal them.

Our apiary is within a small meadow surrounded by forest. Outside of the forest, our community is dotted with residential areas surrounded by farms growing various food crops. We’ve considered that perhaps our bees are encountering something on their foraging expeditions that is causing them to either die on the spot or forget how to get home.

Our response to this challenge is to provide natural, organic food sources within the apiary. We feel that if we nourish our bees well at home perhaps we can increase their chances of returning and/or surviving when they do choose to venture outside of their own back yard. We’ve started creating what we are calling honeybee sanctuaries; food plots for honey bees.

These bee-browsing areas consist of a spectrum of native flowering plants that provide a natural abundance of the pollen and nectar required for honey bees to produce thriving colonies, as well as the sweet rewards of their efforts – sweet, golden, delicious honey.

This is the first year in the last six years that we do not have honey bees in our hives. In the fall we will be ordering a few ‘nuc’ (short for nucleus) packages that will be delivered early next spring. These nuc’s are small, starter hives that consist of five frames, a queen with nurse bees and a large handful of worker bees in various stages of growth and development. Within the nuc, the workers do their best to support the queen so she will lay eggs and expand the colony.

nuc boxesThis expansion requires sharing of the load across the worker bees. Honey bees have different roles throughout their lives. Young, newly emerged bees are the only ones who can produce wax so they stay at home and build comb. When they get a bit older their roles begin to shift. Some attend the queen, some forage for food, some clean and fan the hive to keep the temperature even and some do a little bit of everything. Considering the life span of a honey bee is six weeks on average there’s also the task of rearing of new bees to ensure the hive keeps going.

It seems to me that a thriving bee colony is not unlike a thriving community. Everyone has a certain unique thing they do that is seemingly effortless for them – a thing that is their gift and is essential to the nourishment of the hive as a whole. When these small, unique gifts are combined, each supporting and collaborating with the other, the possibilities for a thriving colony and an abundance of sweet, delicious honey become endless.

Flight DeckRight now, the Hive over at HiveWire 3D can be likened to the nuc, with all who contribute here being the nurse bees, worker bees and drones who are each an individual part of a collective movement from the energy of starving artist to thriving artist. We are grateful for all who are contributing to the buzz.

imageThere was a time in my life where I bought into the idea that dandelions have no place in the yard. I think part of it was psychological in that I would watch TV commercials or see magazine ads showing what appeared to be perfect, happy, fulfilled people lounging and playing in perfect and blissfully weed-free yards, suggesting to me that the key to my own happiness was to accept nothing less than a perfectly lush and green weed-free yard.

So, that’s what I did. In pursuit of green perfection and the perfect happy family, I purchased and applied weed killers to eradicate dandelions and other broadleaf weeds from my lawn. I celebrated my success as the chemicals did what they were designed to do and the dandelions disappeared.

Several autumns ago my father-in-law offered me some of the dandelion wine he had made in the spring of that year. I was a bit hesitant to try it but when the liquid hit my tongue I was pleasantly surprised. Not only did it taste good but it just felt good to drink it.

He explained that it took a large volume of dandelion flowers to make just one gallon of wine and that it had been a challenge to find them. My mind flashed with images of how many dandelions had perished under my diligent applications of weed killers. I wished I could rewind time and take it all back. That was when I stopped using weed killers and started welcoming the dandelion to grow in my lawn.

Since that time I’ve learned that the dandelion carries powerful and healthy medicine in all of its parts – from flower to root. It’s high in vitamins and minerals and is said to assist with issues of the liver, kidneys and gallbladder. Perhaps that’s why it felt so good to drink a wine made from the flowers.

Dandelion Wine Recipe from the book Healing Wise by Susun Weed with notes on variations and adjustments I made. One of the most important things in wine making is cleanliness. Make sure your tools and vessels are clean and sterilized. This will help prevent spoilage and nasty “science experiment” types of surprises.

2 gal/8 liter crock
3-5 quarts/ 5 liters blossoms
5 quarts/ 5 liters water
3 pounds/1.5 kg sugar
1 organic orange
1 organic lemon
1 pkg/ 8 grams live yeast
wholewheat bread toast

DIRECTIONS:
1) Find a field of dandelions in bloom on a glorious shining day. Follow the honeybees to the finest flowers. Pick them with a sweeping motion of your parted fingers, like a comb. Leave the green sepals on, but get rid of all stalks.

Basket of dandelion flowers

3.5 quarts of dandelions picked from my front yard in about 20 minutes

Note: The sepals will impart a bitterness to the wine. My preference is the leave the sepals on as the bitters are part of the medicine of dandelion. When the wine is finished it doesn’t really taste bitter at all to me. For a sweeter wine you can choose to remove the sepals and just use the petals but you’ll need to gather more flowers to make 3 to 5 quarts of just petals. In the example photo below two quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only.

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2 quarts of dandelion flowers with sepals removed became less than one quart of petals only

2) Back home, put blossoms immediately into a large ceramic, glass, or plastic vessel. Boil water; pour over flowers. Cover your crock with cheesecloth. Stir daily for three days.

Dandelion flowers covered with boiling water

add 5 quarts of boiling water

Note: I don’t like putting hot liquids in plastic whether they are deemed food-safe or not simply due to the chemicals from the plastic that can leach out and into the wine. I used the ceramic crock from my crock pot however, it only held 4 quarts of water. I added the extra quart in the next step.

3) On the fourth day, strain blossoms from liquid.

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Strained into a large stock pot.

Note: I strained directly into a stainless steel stock pot, added the extra quart of water and the sugar. The blossoms can go directly into the compost pile.

5) Cook liquid with sugar and rind of citrus (omit rind if not organic) for 30-60 minutes.

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After coming to a boil. I simmered for 60 minutes with the lid on to keep the essence of the dandelions in the mix.

Note: I didn’t have organic citrus so I omitted adding the rind and squeezed out the juice of the orange and lemon to add later.

6) Return to crock. Add citrus juice. When liquid has cooled to blood temperature, soften yeast, spread on toast, and float toast in crock.

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Dissolve yeast in a small amount of the liquid and add yeast nutrient.

Note: Since my ceramic crock would not hold the entire batch I removed the pot from the heat, stirred in the citrus juices and set it aside to cool before pouring into a food grade plastic bucket. I scooped a bit out into a measuring cup and added 1/5 packet of wine making yeast (one packet is enough yeast for 5 gallons) and 1 tsp of yeast nutrient. In Susun’s recipe I think the wheat toast acts as the yeast nutrient. The wine yeast and the yeast nutrient can be purchased online or at your brew and wine making store.

7) Cover and let work two days.

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working, working, working …

Note: This is where the most violent fermentation takes place. After a few hours the yeast will begin to transform the sugar into alcohol. You want to cover the bucket but not seal it completely as the gasses created by the fermentation process will need to be able to be released.

8) Strain. Return liquid to crock for one more day to settle. Filter into very clean bottles and cork lightly.

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Secondary fermentation in a gallon jug fitted with an airlock.

Note: I strained the liquid through a fine mesh screen directly into a clean stock pot to remove as much non-liquid as possible and then using a funnel added the liquid into a 1 gallon glass jug fitted with an airlock. If you don’t have an airlock you can fit a balloon over the top of the jug. The purpose of this step is to keep the wine from becoming contaminated and to allow the gasses created by fermentation to escape. If the bottle were sealed at this point, it would explode.

Here’s a short video I made showing what happens during secondary fermentation. Over time the bubbling will slow down and the wine will begin to clear and become ready for bottling.


9) Don’t drink until winter solstice.

Note: This wine needs a good six months to age and is even better if you can stop yourself from drinking it and waiting two years or more.

Resources: http://www.ashtreepublishing.com/Book_Healing_Wise_Recipe_Dandywine.htm

The Two Wolves Within

An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice…

“Let me tell you a story. I too, at times, have felt great hate for those who have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It’s like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die.”

“I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me; one is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

Jeffrey Dwaine Buckalew, Jr12.22.82 - 04.23.00art by Johanna Pieterman

Jeffrey Dwaine Buckalew, Jr
12.22.82 – 04.23.00
art by Johanna Pieterman

But…the other wolf… ah! The littlest thing will send him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all of the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.”

“Sometimes it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his Grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

— — A Native American tale told many times around the Sacred Fire

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