Friday, April 24, 2009

2 Days Until Bees Arrive

Apparently, the only thing bees need to start a hive is a home and a bit of sugar water for good measure. If humans provide these, the bees will know exactly what to do when released into the apiary. But does the Bee Team stop at the bare essentials? Of course not.

We want to welcome these Italian bees from Georgia to the greatest city in the world. We've already provided shrubbery and trees for wind protection. We've painted their hive a calming shade of pale yellow and stuck them atop a huge, clean roof with stunning views. But the Bee Team is doting. We want to feed our bees a sweet concoction of nutritious herbs and dried flowers. We want to plant irresistible blossoms filled with delectable nectar only (human) steps away from the hive.
We've been waiting for this day all winter long.

We must prepare.

We met at the Greenmarket at an impressive 9:45 in the morning, (go Team!) hoping to talk to David Graves, an urban beekeeper with a great youtube clip.

We didn't let his absence slow us down. Instead of relying on expert advice for our bee potion,
we'd simply have to use our powers of imagination.

If I were a bee...

..I'd really love this store. However, all the flowers are dried, so it might drive a bee insane searching for fresh nectar.

Some of the ingredients in our Secret Bee Potion:

-Chamomile because the bees like it. Just like us!

-Dandelion because its one of the first blossoms of the spring, and a bee favorite.

-Thyme because it deters mites.

-Stinging Nettle because it contains the same neurotransmitters that are in bee stings.

Upon leaving, Jon’s southern ears picked up a familiar accent and soon we were drowning in an old woman’s rambling tales. She was returning home to New Orleans the following day and couldn’t be more excited. She provided us with a detailed description of the first foods she would taste when she arrived. She talked about waking in the middle of the night to the sight of a bald seamstress with tiny hands manipulating thread so thin it was invisible to the human eye. Her excitement was so intoxicatingly palpable that it was easy to be drawn in, despite the rocky transitions from one tale to the next. Each time we thought she was winding down, we’d wish her bon voyage and turn to the door but she’d spout out some unrelated factoid, as if her ability to retrieve her memories warranted an audience: “I rescued someone’s flip flop that day! She wore a pink gingham frock, and it would’ve been washed out to sea!” We hung on to each word. Maybe she’d concocted some sort of listening potion from the store and was testing it out on us. It worked. Eventually, her stories seemed tinged with wistful nostalgia rather than nostalgic anticipation, and it soon became apparent that she might not be making the trip home at all. Would she really jump on the morning train to New Orleans? Did she have the same conversation with different compassionate strangers yesterday? Would she have the same one tomorrow?

We decided to believe she was bound for the Big Easy in the morning. This was no day for skepticism.

We didn't find any nettle, even after calling various farms. But we found everything else that we wanted, and Potion Master Jon whipped up a delicious herbal bee tea medley.

With a skip in our step, we headed back to Union Square. Our journey, however, was far from over. In a single day, we created a recipe and collected the requisite ingredients for a nourishing bee juice, talked to at least 3 engrossing people, crossed state lines not once but twice, and bought lots of beautiful flowering plants for our bee garden.

It was one of those rare days that really feels like spring, and not at all like it's neighbors: it is warm enough for colorful things to grow, but cold enough to limit them. The trees are prepubescent, with bright, nubile leaves. Some of them look embarrassed. Repeating tuplips, daffodils, pansies. Pointed, pink, phallic Magnolia buds. Pink, white, and pink-and-white cherry trees. These are the early spring warriors. Their blooms will wither once the heat comes, just as the rest start coming alive. I appreciate their bravery; by bountiful July they'll be a distant memory, like Po Boy sandwiches and riverboats to the woman in the store. But they'll come back again, the first signals that seasons do, in fact, exist in New York. And everyone will start saying, "I think I need the winter to appreciate the spring," when back in February they were the ones planning a move to New Orleans. Anyway, I hope the bees like NYC. Who wouldn't? The city is certainly their orchard:


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