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From a Hobby to Lifestyle

Permanent Linkby wisconsin_cur on Tue Jun 16, 2009 5:13 am

I really enjoy the company of beekeepers but they are a curious lot. We form a bond of connection with a collection of insects and it is a relationship that changes us. The initial response to one's first hive is often joy and wonder. Before any of the challenges of the hobby arise, there is the amazing building and foraging of these social insects. We see them fly home with legs covered in packed pollen. We see them on our lawn and in our trees going about their work. It is fascinating and sends many a novice beekeeper, the author included, into daydreams of making a livlihood out of working with the bees. Then the obstacles arrive.

Mites, wax moths, a neighbor's pesticide use, bears, skunks, vandalism, the toll of winter, disappointing yields, the dumping of foreign honey on the American market all these and many others contrive together to break the beekeepers heart and temper the initial optimism. Perhaps the beekeeper gives up the hobby or maybe she resigns herself to be content with just a few hives. Either way the optimism of naivity gives way to resignation.

The same can happen, I think, in our relationship with "doom" in its many eventual and potential incarnations. At first we buy a solar battery charger and begin to daydream about bucolic visions of raising organic spinach and free-range goats prancing through the pasture. Then the goat eats the spinach. Then a racoon decimates the poultry. Then it rains too much, too little or too hard or too fast. One must find out what to do with all that goat milk or find time to preserve the tomatoes at the same time that the job that pays for it all begins to demand more or an aging parent needs more care.

Concern about the challenges facing our civilization combined with first hand knowledge of the work and challenges a sustainable lifestyle can entai is a recipe for dispair or at the very least, resignation. But it need not be so.

I can think of two different business models where by a beekeeper could make a living from beekeeping and but both of them require a dedication, skills and a work ethic that is not required of the beginner or hobbyist. Likewise, I can think of numerous strategies for surviving or thriving in an uncertain future, but these too involve a degree of dedication, skill and a work ethic that is not required of the hobby "doomer." I say this not to disparage the hobbyist, any preparation is better than no preparation but unless an individual is deluded there will come a time when the cost of true preparation becomes apparant and any rationale human being is tempted to despair.

Despair need not be the end point even more than resignation need be the endpoint of the beekeper working toward making a busisness of their hobby. Despair merely indicates where one must decide if they are willing to add the skills and even perhaps alter our personality in such a way as to become who we need to be to better care for ourselves, our loved ones and our community in a time of need. There is no free lunch. In beekeeping and in preparation for an uncertian future, if we want to gain those skills that will allow us move beyond being a hobbyist then we must be prepared to work for it.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Sevareid's Law: "The leading cause of problems is solutions."
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Re: From a Hobby to Lifestyle

Permanent Linkby smallpoxgirl on Thu Jun 25, 2009 1:18 pm

I'd love to have bees if my life allows at some point. I can't find it right at the moment, but there is a video on the web of bees establishing a comb on a top bar frame. It's one of the most amazing things I ever saw. The bees basically link arms and make a curtain of bees hanging off the bar. They use their bodies as a plumb bob to find vertical. Then they secrete the wax comb. I almost wept when I saw it. Somehow its very spiritual to watch.
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