Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ANOTHER SWARM EXPERIENCE...

but this one was far more interesting. I had just finished emailing Jim from Natures Nectar about the divide I was about to do, it was the perfect day for it; sunny and warm. Our bees were in a great mood. I was standing in front of the hive that we knew needed to be divided the most. The pink hive is our oldest but the yellow newer hive had a prolific egg laying queen. At the end of winter it looked as if the hive hadn't lost a single bee, it was insane. Just as hubby and I were standing in front of the hive discussing our plan of attack (we are new to this dividing business), the hive decided to swarm. Um... there they go not following the manual again. Minnesota bees aren't suppose to swarm until late June, early July but apparently these girls didn't get the memo. We watched as they moved around the yard, up into a tree, and then settled on our fence.

Needless to say I was in full panic mode (readers: you do sort of see me as the high anxiety type already don't ya?! - cuz I am). I hate having to tell my neighbors that they can't let their dogs out to potty because my bees are on the move again. I feel like I'm being rude... I am rude. Sorry, but your annoying neighbor purchased a bunch of bees and because they like to swarm all the time you need to keep your dogs stuck inside until the bees move on and who cares if you pooch piddles on the carpet. It's rude, it really is.

When I told the neighbor how I was feeling about the swarm she told me to calm down and stop worrying. Apparently she and her husband think the bees are interesting and a worthy cause. That's a relief! Sadly though, we are getting rid of one hive. There have been waaaaaaay too many bees in the yard. Aside from the swarms making me nervous when it comes to neighbor relations the bees have gotten a bit territorial. The girls in the family (ours, not the queens) have to tie their hair into a bun and wrap a scarf around their heads to keep the bees from getting caught while outside playing (we have that many bees flying around the yard). We are keeping our pink hive though because I've grown attached to that one :)


Onto the swarm.


I called about 5 beekeepers to come and get the swarm and the lucky winner was the man who said he'd be at my house in less than an hour. He came, gathered up our little bunch that attached themselves to the fence and he left.


Funny how smart bees are. Once he boxed up the bees and put them in the van he came over to talk to me, which was 30 feet from where the bees were and the buzzy girls still managed to find him and bop him in the head. I was standing in front of him, no further than 2 feet away, and they didn't mind me at all. They wanted to get the guy who stole their sisters and mother. Smart little suckers.

Monday, April 23, 2012

SAVE OUR WOLVES

Shimek (member of Ojibwe tribe) wants the five year moratorium on hunting back. He says in the American Indian creation story, the wolf is a brother so wolves and humans are spiritually bound. He said, It's our feeling that if we do everything we can to take care of the wolves, and the wolf does well, we will do well. He said through history when the wolf has not done well, neither have American Indians.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

COUNTING THE YEARS...



It is hard to believe that today is the fifth anniversary of my mothers death. I remember when my mom would count the years after her own parents passed and now here I am doing the same. After losing my sister, watching my mother die was the second hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life and can only hope nothing equally as painful ever comes my way again.

The death of a loved one is life altering in so many ways. I remember after my mothers third heart attack and struggle with breast cancer I'd try to imagine what life would be like without her. It was a defense mechanism in a way. If I prepared for the loss then maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be quite so painful. Of course I was wrong. No one is ready to lose someone they are so attached to.

One of the biggest internal struggles I had after my mom died was trying to decide how to honor her life and mourn the loss. We have somewhat of an eccentric family (you may have noticed that already by some of my posts :). My mother was raised 7th Day Adventist but ran screaming from the church when she was 18 (not literally, just figuratively). By my own choice I've had lots of experience with Lutheranism, Catholicism, Judaism and Buddhism. Before my mother died she shared with me what she had settled on as her spiritual beliefs and they didn't involve religion. She wanted to be cremated and didn't want anyone coming to mourn her that wasn't a presence in her life when she died.

While sitting with a Hospice Chaplain it came to me. My mother believed in God but she didn't care for religion. She loved nature in all its forms (she could identify every tree, plant and wild berry by name), she raised her children to value all living things and she cherished all the childhood memories she had of her families experience with the Native Americans.

I decided I wanted someone from the Native American community to help me say goodbye to my mother, someone who understood how our family felt not only about my mother but about the earth, its inhabitants and the feeling of loss; but I had feared finding such a person wouldn't be easy. Of course, in traditional Michelle fashion, I marched over to Franklin Ave. in Minneapolis and started looking for "the" person. It should be of no surprise that I was met with a lot of skepticism. It isn't easy going into the Native American community asking someone to conduct a service for your dead mother and it certainly wasn't easy for the Native people to grasp such an idea. As usual though, everything worked itself out. I was very fortunate to find the person I was looking for in the form of Clyde Bellecourt.

Clyde is one of the original founders of AIM (American Indian Movement), a civil rights organizer and a member of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe here in Minnesota. It is ironic really that he turned out to be what I call my "savior" in the midst of everything I was going through at that time because I had read about Clyde and AIM many times over the years. Clyde, we had discovered, was a friend of my daughters God father. He graciously offered to do a "Wiping of Tears Ceremony" for our family and moms closest friends, all that he required in return was a can of tobacoo (a specific type) used to carry prayers and wishes of our family to the Creator and to cleanse us of any spiritual negativity. Clyde, his niece and great nephew performed the ceremony together.

Again, another odd coicidence, I chose the Minnesota River Valley as the location for the ceremony and it turned out that the Native Americans lived along the river valley prior to Euro-American settlers arriving. We love that particular area because my mother would take our children there for long walks and to teach them how to identify medicinal plants and wild berries. Did she know it's history? Probably.

During the ceremony it was the first time I really felt at peace with all that had occurred. Clydes niece had prepared a bag full of juniper for me to burn in the days after the ceremony to clear my heart and my home of any sadness. We concluded the ceremony with every individual present releasing a single monarch butterfly into the sky. It was a good ending to what had been my mothers life. When I was little my mother told my sister and I the story of how a Native American woman saved my great grandfathers eye sight when he was just a boy and then there we were with Clyde and his family, them helping us heal and move foreward.

I am eternally grateful for what Clyde and his family did for me and my family five years go. There isn't a day that goes by when I think of my mother that I don't think of Clyde, his niece and nephew too. It is the kindness of others that have helped me live with my mothers death to this day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: REZ LIFE by DAVID TREUER


I just finished reading Rez Life by David Treuer and wanted to share my thoughts on it.

David Treuer is a member of the Ojibwe tribe from the Leech Lake Reservation here in Minnesota. As I understand, this is the authors first full length work of nonfiction. Out of all the books I've read either written by or about Native Americans I found this one to be the most thorough when it came to describing not only the Native experience on the reservation but the historical perspective as well. Treuer does an excellent job educating the reader on Treaty rights, Tribal government, Sovereignty and the Gaming industry. He doesn't hold back on any front; shares the good and bad about his own people, exposes the numerous injustices against tribes not only by the American Government in history but by government and individual people today. I definitely came away from this book with a better understanding of what it must be like to grow up on a reservation and why so many Native Americans have an innate distrust of white people.

The only issue I had with the book is the author using the word "greed" to describe members of the Mdewakanton tribe. Now of course I'm not Native American. I don't have an insiders perspective when it comes to the gaming industry or "blood quantum" but I do know tribal members and I have to say this.

In the book David Treuer talks about Mdewakanton Sioux having 250 enrolled members and states that the tribe excludes 20,000 eligible enrollees (according to blood quantum rules in the books). He said that the 20,000 have appealed to the tribe and been rejected so many of them have now brought lawsuits against the Mdewakanton Sioux. He goes on to mention that the Mdewakanton members each make $80,000/month from casino profits and if they were to allow the additional members into the tribe it would cut their share of revenue to $1,000 each/month. He concludes with "they are as greedy as any other Americans."

I won't debate that Native Americans can be greedy because some most certainly are, as are European Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, African Americans, so on and so forth; greed exists within all groups of people. I will take issue though with the impression the authors statement leaves on the reader.

There is more to the limited member allowance than David Treuer would like to acknowledge or maybe is aware of. Without going into too much detail I will give an example of what I'm referring to:

You are a family of 10, with 2 parents and 8 children. There are 4 boys and 4 girls. Your family is extremely poor. You live on 10 acres of land. Mom and dad ask all of their children to help with the land by planting, harvesting, tending to the animals, etc... but only 2 boys and 2 girls stick around to help out. The other 4 children leave the family to pursue other interests and don't return, even though they are well aware that the rest of the family is working hard to survive on those 10 acres and is in desperate need of their help. One day the family living on 10 acres discovers gold on their property and becomes filthy rich; they can have anything they've ever dreamed of. When the 2 boys and 2 girls that left the family hear of the great news they rush back home looking to cash in along with their parents and siblings that spent years taking care of each other. Do you think the kids that returned home deserve a cut of the profits just because they are related? I personally don't.

I think that David Treuer was focussing on legalities and facts, which a good journalist will do. His book is definitely the best I've read on Native issues and he certainly did his research but unfortunately there are people that reach for these books as a way to understand the Native experience and referring to people as "greedy" doesn't help matters especially when describing a tribe like the Mdewakanton. Last year the Mdewakanton donated $30 million to various groups throughout the United States. $12 million went to "the University of minnesota to help build its football stadium and fund scholarships" and "in a move to address the gross imbalance that exists in casino prosperity between metro-fringe tribes and those in more remote spots $1 million grants were given to tribes in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Montana and North Dakota." (Star Trib. 4/15/12) So I think we need to be careful when putting "greed" and Mdewakanton in the same sentence.

Other than that one little tid bit, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, March 30, 2012

THIS IS WHAT THE PURCHASE OF PALM OIL LEADS TO

Documentary on the Indonesian rainforest, deforestation and orangutan extinction.It is a silent film (without narration, but with music) which addresses itself both to the Indonesians and the consumers of wood/paper/palm oil around the world.This important documentary was filmed in the fast disappearing Indonesian rainforest and is not narrated, however, its message is clear and frightening. The home of the Orangutan and many other wildlife species in Indonesia is being decimated at an alarming rate by consumer need and greed.The film features the widespread practice of 'slash and burn' to clear the lush rainforest to make way for extensive palm oil plantations which we, the consumer, support in our demand for our favourite foods, magazines, cosmetics, and, increasingly, biofuel. The practice has also seen Indonesia move into third place behind the US and China with regard to carbon emissions due to the uncovering of peat soil which has lain, undisturbed, below the tropical rainforest for centuries. The film exposes the illegal pet trade that thrives in Indonesia and the sick, despairing lives of those Orangutan who spend years, often all their lives, locked in small cages, suffering, alone.The story thread follows the fate of a female Orangutan who has been captured and brought in because her forest home has been decimated. She is one of the lucky ones -- most are slaughtered without mercy when caught. Her fate though, is not a happy one, as her trauma at the hands of man is too great. Your heart will break with resounding pity, but it is even more sobering to know that she is only one of hundreds every week who will suffer a similar fate.Make sure everyone you know watches this documentary. We owe it to our friends, the gentle Orangutan, we owe it to our planet, and we owe it to ourselves so that we can learn from it.

There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil: Palm oil: the hidden ingredient causing an ecological disaster

Less than 7% of total palm production is currently certified as sustainable. Furthermore manufacturers are proving reluctant to pay the premium associated with this product.

Manufacturers may claim to be using sustainable palm oil because they are members of, or supplied by members of, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. However, this in itself is no guarantee as members only need commit to "working towards" producing a sustainable product.


www.orangutans.com.au

Sunday, March 11, 2012

HIVES ALIVE!



My third spring without treating my bees for ANYTHING and they are still going strong. I've read where other beekeepers have gone 7-10 years without mite treatment and their bees did just fine so I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best.

Since both hives survived the winter I have to decide what I'm going to do about the splits. I cannot have four hives. My neighbors were really patient with me when the hives swarmed last year but I fear that patience runs thin. I know that if a swarm of bees attached itself to our home back when I knew nothing about bees I wouldn't have been a very nice neighbor so... I have to "do unto others...."

Since splitting hives in two is a swarm management system and I don't want four hives I decided to split both hives and give the bees away. The good thing is, there is no shortage of those who want bees. After posting that I wanted to give the bees away on beesource I received a bunch of private messages from people who wanted them. Problem is, most of the requests came from people who do not have an established presence on the forum, therefore it made me a little nervous. My nervousness comes from my wanting the one retrieving the bees to do the split for me. I figure if I'm giving them away and not selling them, the least they can do is the split. But... I'm nervous about letting someone dig into my hives when I have no idea how much they know about beekeeping. Luckily, one of the very experienced beekeepers on the beesource contacted me. He happens to live one state over and is willing to take the bees if no one else will. He suggested I look locally first so I contacted Natures Nectar (my bee supplier), and Jim (the owner) said he'd take them if they are still going strong at the end of April. I haven't heard back yet on whether he'll do the split though.

I've been told I should do the split, create nucs and just sell the bees myself but honestly, I have no idea how much to sell them for or how I even go about marketing that. I've never even seen a nuc before other than in a supply catalog. How do they work exactly? Can they be transported once the bees are inside?

Well... I have at least a month to sort it all out. Right now the bees are doing great! These warm days should make them happy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ALL I NEED NOW IS AN ALPACA


Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to learn how to spin. When I was about 7 my school took a class trip to this pioneer camp, possibly Murphy's Landing, and it was the first time I experienced the world of spinners. I knew instantly that I wanted to be one of those ladies dressed in period garb completely engrossed in their fiber. It looked relaxing and fun at the same time. It wasn't until years later that I learned what those women were actually doing.

So as the story goes, I had big dreams of spinning but no dream of learning to knit or crochet. Mom taught me the basics of crochet when I was around 8 more as a way to keep me from bugging her while she was knitting or crocheting and not because of my desire to learn. As for knitting, that came much later. I broke down and took a class last year; still haven't finished a complete project. Knitting is NOT for perfectionists. It is quite painful to find flaws that can't be corrected without a complete tear out :(

Anyhow, now that I've learned the basics of knitting I decided it was time to spin. I chose the drop spindle as my introduction into the world of fiber and spinning. I wanted to jump right into the wheel but they are expensive and I needed to be sure I enjoyed spinning first. Well, it turns out that I love love love it! It wasn't easy and I'm still fine tuning my skills but I enjoy how relaxing it is. I'm also finding I have a new appreciation for all the fibers I can work with. The only negative is and always will be is the product I waste learning. I've not been happy with my first bunches of yarn and therefore tore it all apart. I keep hoping the perfectionist side of me creates something fantastic and hopefully I'll even knit it into something awesome :) for now it is all practice, practice, practice.

For anyone contemplating learning to spin I say go for it. The spindle is great cuz it can be taken anywhere and I only paid $19 for mine. I like spinning when I go to my sisters house or when I'm waiting in the car to pick up my kids at school; couldn't do any of that with a wheel.

All I need to learn now is how to set the yarn and how in heck I go about incorporating my rabbits fur. Who knows, maybe I'll buy a herd of alpaca some day. So much to experience and so little time. *sigh NOTE: Teresa, we're still going to have that alpaca farm ;)