GiGi’s Book Review: A Survival Guide to Urban Beekeeping by Cam and Mr. Combover

It’s been awhile since I have had a chance to update and I can say that I am still starry-eyed about our first beekeeping class. But I won’t gush about it now since you can see all of the awesome pictures my sister took here. Instead I’ll be giving a little book review about one of my more recently acquired apiary information books.

photo courtesy beesomebody.wordpress.com

Madam W. and I first stumbled upon Cam and Mr. Combover’s blog, BeeSomebody.wordpress.com, not too long after creating our own and I have been a follower ever since.  Their writing is to the point with a lot of photos of their process and their videos are both informative and often (although I think unintentionally) hilarious. Not many men would get stung by a bee on camera and then willingly post that video for the entire digital world to see. And, hey, who doesn’t like a blog with a bee pun in its name? I know I sure do… So, I went ahead and got an early release of their book A Survival Guide to Urban Beekeeping.

courtesy of beesomebody.wordpress.com and Suzi Kemp

The first and most striking feature of the book that I noticed was the illustration work. The illustrator, Suzi Kemp’s, hit-it-and-quit-it style is reminiscent of 80’s punk art à la Raymond Pettibon. Just simple heavy line work with pops of color. But I can’t lie that I might be partial to her work since my own style of illustration shares similarities with her style. You can see more of her work here. But I must admit that, although I understand printing in grayscale is more cost effective, I wish the pages of illustration in the book could have been printed in color. I think the lack of color takes away from the aesthetics of Kemp’s work.

The content of the book itself is laid out in five easy to navigate and reader friendly chapters beginning with the basic “Learn About Bees” and ending with the final “Harvesting Your Honey” chapter. The writing is very straightforward and easy to understand, breaking each chapter down into simple steps. I personally enjoy that, every so often, you get little tidbits like “Did You Know” facts on the bottom of certain pages and meta-chapters like “Facts You Didn’t Know About Bees,” “The Fashion of Beekeeping,” and “Why Beekeepers Don’t Eat Bananas,” each little aside with it’s own quirky illustration. If you’ve ever read other books about beekeeping you will understand that it can get rather tedious to read all of the bee information endlessly, so I like that these humorous little side chapters pop up to break up the uniformity. And I really liked reading about their personal trials and tribulations that they experienced while beekeeping, such as the fact that no one explains to you that after you steal the honey from the bees they will be furious and sting you, which gives the book a much more accessible blog-style appeal. Also, considering a previous post of my own, I truly appreciated the aside chapter they wrote “Thoughts About Colony Collapse Disorder.” As stated before, it’s a very real and serious occurrence and something everyone should know is happening.

courtesy of beesomebody.wordpress.com and Suzi Kemp

This is definitely one of the more entertaining beekeeping books I have had the pleasure of reading recently (and I have read quite a few as of late, more book reviews in the future mayhaps?). Although, as the title states, A Survival Guide to Urban Beekeeping is just that- a survival guide. It’s something short and basic that you can turn to in a pinch or if you would like to explore apiculture but not get into the thoroughgoing details. I wouldn’t call it the end-all-be-all of beekeeping books, and even the writers themselves mention several times how they took beekeeping classes and studied about apiaries beforehand. So, I would say this is an easy starting point for the novice beekeeper, such as myself, but I would recommend not bypassing classes or further reading if you want to seriously consider being an apiarist. Besides, I’ve never heard anyone say that knowing too much about something that could very well kill you is a bad thing.

You can purchase your very own amazing copy of A Survival Guide to Urban Beekeeping by Cam and Mr. Combover HERE.

Looking forward to my next beekeeping class tomorrow! Check back soon!

Best wishes,

GiGi

On honey and its abilities to cure what ails you

As the unruly weather in the Midwest dramatically changes seasons it seems I have, once again, become very ill. So while everyone else seems to be out celebrating Cinco de Mayo/The Kentucky Derby/The rise of the “Super Moon,” I find myself lying on the couch with a cat and a pug, watching television premiers of absolutely terrible movies.

I did manage to make it to a clinic though, but they couldn’t come up with a cure and considering my awful history with antibiotics -that once led to a night in the hospital- they were not willing to readily prescribe medications. What they did offer were a few suggestions to help me recover, including drinking lots of tea with a heaping tablespoonful of (all things) honey! You always hear about using honey for sore throats but it was the first time I had a doctor prescribe it to me.

This got me thinking, “I wonder if you can use honey for other home remedies to aid everyday ailments?” and what I found was a surprising list of uses for honey. So, I thought I’d share a few:

Use honey as a moisturizer. Add a tablespoon of liquid honey to a bottle of lotion. Sweet and soft!

Use honey as a face wash. Honey is a natural antimicrobial which makes it great for fighting breakouts and is gentler on your skin than hard chemical facewashes. Just take a glob of honey and add it to warm water, then scrub it on your face. It can also help relieve psoriasis and fungal skin infections like ring worm.

Use honey as a natural Neosporin. Honey is a natural antiseptic and good for your skin too.

Use honey to embalm a loved one. Ancient Egyptians used honey as an embalming agent before mummifying the dead.

Use honey to relieve allergies. The thought on how this works is that honey contains small remnants of pollen- every time you ingest local honey, you expose you body to the local allergens that cause you to suffer. It’s like a flu shot, but less painful!

Use honey to recover after a workout/a hard night of drinking. Honey has natural electrolytes in it so any time you are feeling a little low on energy, have some honey and it can give you a boost.

Use honey to prepare for 2012. Honey is the only food that won’t “go bad”  (well, honey and maybe Twinkies). It might crystallize over time but running the bottle under hot water will make it liquify again. This makes it a perfect food for that upcoming society-eradicating apocalypse.

Use honey to make your everyday life more awesome. Just eat it. And if you buy it from a local farmer I promise your life will be even more awesome.

Wonderful!

I hope you enjoy your holiday, whatever it might be that you celebrate today. As for me, I’ll be on the couch with a Hot Toddy.

R.I.P. MCA,

GiGi

(Special note: I would like to state that I (1.) am not an expert and (2.) would not recommend using any of these treatments on children without research)

When it comes to bees- why their stings are the least of my worries

About a week ago I got a text message at work:

“Have you ever been stung by a bee?”

It was from my older sister, Madame W. I tell her that, no, I haven’t been stung by a bee, per se, but I’ve been stung plenty of times by Yellow Jackets and Wasps.

“Ok. Just wanted to see if you were allergic.”

These were those fateful first words that catapult her and I into our grand experiment of reading books about beekeeping, signing up for classes, and trying to get everything we need to start our own apiary. And just yesterday she finally revealed our grand scheme to all of her friends.

“Great. Don’t get stung!” Seemed to be the sensible reaction. But when I thought about bees, their stingers became the least of my worries.

In early 2007, news outlets around the world began reporting the drastic decline of the bee population. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), it is when a beehive mysteriously falls apart despite the fact that nearly the entire order of the hive was as it should be.

If this is not even slightly alarming to you, it should be.

According to the US Department of Agriculture,  of the human diet is made up of crops from insect-pollinated plants, of those crops nearly 80% of that pollination is done by the honeybee. That means that about 2 out of 3 produce products you have in your fridge/tossed into your lunch bag/shoved into your mouth is the result of bees.

What caused this disease amongst our winged insect friends? Quite honestly, a few things, including possible fungi and maybe even cellphone reception. But a large contributing factor has been linked to pesticides and insecticides that can transfer to the flowers and nectar of plants. The EPA has approved the motion to use mass quantities of chemicals on our produce supply because the amount in the pollen was not enough to actually kill the bees but, unforeseen by capitalism, it has resulted in some dire events. A leading bee research firm, Beeologics (we love the “bee” pun… who knows why…), recently pointed the finger to the company Monsanto and their pesticides and genetically modified crops (GMOs) for being the culprit.

Don’t know Monsanto?

This is the company that has become famous for taking the potato, decimating the boundaries of evolution, spitting  in the eye of a higher power (if that’s your thing), and creating an unholy union between the potato and a bacteria so that the potato can produce its own pesticide to ward off insects. And you then get to ingest that pesticide. Don’t worry it’s safe... Or how about when thousands of farmers in India committed suicide after using Monsanto’s failed genetically modified crops. In light of these facts, it becomes little wonder that Monsanto won Natural Society’s Worst Company of 2011 Award.

So, when Beeologics pointed the finger at Monsanto, Monsanto did the most sensible and responsible action for a large corporation to do. It bought them out.

If you are not totally freaked out right now, you should be.

The result of this complete control over the top honeybee research should be obvious given this company’s recent history- Monsanto will either profit off of some sort of new and most likely just as awful chemical solution or just dig a hole, drop this mess in, and then turn around and bury it. Bees be damned.

So, what does this tirade of mine boil down to? That when I think about bees, I’m not afraid of being stung, I’m afraid that there will be no more bees around to sting me.

My own personal goal from this experiment and this blog isn’t just being able to start a new fun hobby with my sister, or capture a great picture of her running and squealing as a bee chases her (this is very likely), or even document the possible probably bee stings we’ll suffer. I hope with this new hobby and this new blog to interest, excite, and spark readers to take on their own beehive, or even plant their own organic garden. To learn that you don’t have to be an unwashed hippy (or hipster) to take control over what you eat and how it is grown.

And maybe we’ll help save the bees too.

Best wishes,
GiGi