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Bee-friendly Valentine’s card printable in English & French

Bee-friendly Valentine’s card printable in English & French
bee presentation
Getting ready for my presentation about beekeeping to the kindergarteners

 

Every year I try and come up with a non-candy option for the class Valentine’s Day cards. In the past we’ve made bath bombs and red sparkly play dough. This year, as Valentine’s Day is the beginning of the beekeeping year, I have bees (even more) on the brain.

The other week I also did a presentation about beekeeping to my son’s kindergarten class, which was sweetness itself. After hearing about every single time every child has been stung, or nearly been stung, or thought about being stung, by a bee, wasp, or mosquito, they asked great questions about honey extraction, where the dead bees go, what makes honey taste different, and how I make the smoker work.

So, as the time for planting wildflowers comes up in early March here in the temperate, if damp, west coast, I thought we could tape a little glassine envelope of bee-friendly wildflower seeds inside the valentine. If you’d like to do the same, I think the bees would be thrilled. Below you’ll find a printable in both English and French (my son goes to a French immersion school), to make your own. We’re gluing this image to the front of a blank card after my son does the tough work of printing his classmates’ names on them, and taping the little envelopes inside.

valentine's-day-card-2015-EN valentine's-day-card-2015-FR

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The time we planted an orchard on the roof.

The time we planted an orchard on the roof.

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I like telling people about our orchard, the 42 fruit trees in our rooftop garden, and watching their eyes go wide.

Forty-two trees?

Well yes, but they are on dwarf root stock, so they grow in pots.

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We partnered with TreeCity/TreeKeepers to procure our trees, pots and soil. One Saturday morning, a large group of us moved our trees from the basement to the roof, and planted all of them in pots. We have figs, pears, apples and crabapples spread out throughout our garden.

It will be a couple of years before they produce fruit, at the very earliest, but in the meantime the bees will be very pleased with the flowers.

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It’s funny, in the past few weeks, a duck has nested in our garden, and then we waddled down five flights of stairs to the ground and walked a block to the pond in the park. We’ve planted fruit trees, started some of our spring crops, worked with our bees to make sure they’re set up for the spring nectar flows – you would never know we are deep in the city.

The pot with the string running to the roof in the first photo is actually hops, we have some keen microbrewers in our co-op. 

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Opening a beehive with my bare hands

Opening a beehive with my bare hands

bees

If you follow me on twitter and instagram, you will know we have beehives in our roof garden. I talk about them all the time, because I love the bees. This year, I have the amazing opportunity to be one of a pair of proper beekeepers, taking care of our bees in a right-in-there, bee-veiled and everything, kind of way.

I find myself thinking about Margaret Atwood’s [amazon_link id=”030739798X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Year of the Flood[/amazon_link] and[amazon_link id=”0771008465″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Maddaddam[/amazon_link] books quite a bit, standing on our rooftop talking to our bees. Aside from societal breakdown and the quasi-religious organizing principles, my co-op’s roof garden and beehives have a lot in common with Atwood’s God’s Gardeners. So, I find myself telling the bees the news, when there’s a new baby or someone has moved away.

Unfortunately, one of our hives didn’t make it through the winter. Well, they did, but the sickness wasn’t obvious right away and then they started dying in droves. It wasn’t pretty. One beehive can have tens of thousands of bees, so that’s a lot of little deaths. I spent an afternoon sitting in the garden, shivering when the sun went behind clouds, scraping the boxes clean and washing them with diluted bleach.

The other day, I opened the remaining hive with my bare hands for the first time. Our chief beekeeper was right behind me, talking me through it with a calm and quiet voice, but it was my hands on the inner cover. I slipped my hive tool in between the inner cover and the top super, cracking the propolis the bees work so hard to chink the holes in their home with. You can feel a ripple of warning move through the bees when you do that, and an audible spike in their ever-present hum. A few sentry bees flew up to check what was happening, but they didn’t even bang into my head the way they do when I’m weeding too close to the hive entrance in bad weather.

It’s always a surprise to me, when the hive is opened, how many bees there are in there. I mean, I know intellectually how many bees there are, but faced with a teeming box when I lift the cover, it can still send a wave of panic to my brain. So. Many. Bees. Once I’m in there for a minute, though, and realize they are not angry, I relax a bit.

The whole process is actually quite calming. You must move slowly, smoothly, and without jarring things or dropping or banging. Vibrations are very important to bees. Step slowly. I talk quietly and constantly. Whether talking to them makes any difference is up for debate, but it calms me down, so maybe that’s worth sounding like a bonkers bee lady.

That night I had to go in again, without the coaching. Thankfully, a fellow trainee beekeeper from our co-op came with me. For a couple of hours beforehand it was all I could think about. I have to open that box, by myself. They will know I am afraid. They will feel my inexperience.

In the end, it went quickly and smoothly. The bees were even less interested in me than they were in the morning, and hardly any flew up to check me out. Despite dropping nine things while making dinner beforehand, I didn’t even jar the heavy outer cover when I was out there.

I might be able to pull off this beekeeping thing after all.

 

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Win tickets for the BC Home + Garden Show 2014

Win tickets for the BC Home + Garden Show 2014

bhgs garden

It’s that time of year again – time to wander around planning the most incredible kitchen or how you’d completely re-do your back garden. One of my favourite thing about the BC Home + Garden Show is wandering around a large indoor space while warm and dry, sitting in garden space mock-ups. This winter hasn’t been as bad as some, but by late February we’re all a bit waterlogged and sick of rain and cold. Looking at all the garden examples reminds me that one day, it will be warm again. I will actually go outside without a coat. And a hat. And wellies.

This year, the Urban Fare Cooking stage looks interesting – lots of local chefs will be up there. Re-Up BBQ on Southern cooking, Jackie Ellis from Beaucoup Bakery on dinner party desserts, Vikram Vij on modern Indian cooking, Cam McGowan from CRAFT Beer Market on cooking with beer… the full schedule is on the event site. The Vancouver Sun Gardener’s School has some good sessions too, even for apartment dwellers like us: ‘Incredible Edibles for Small Gardens’, ‘Herbs at Your Fingertips’, ‘Success for the Urban Fruit and Vegetable Gardener’.

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The BC Home + Garden Show is at BC Place, Wed 19 Feb until Sun 23 Feb. Wednesday-Saturday they’re open until 9pm.

Feel like going along to check it out? You’re in luck, I have a pair of tickets to give away.

Go forth and enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Our garden, our bees and knowing where your food comes from

Our garden, our bees and knowing where your food comes from

gardening

Elliot as beekeeper // one of our bees collecting pollen // our salad greens // chief beekeeper taking out the frames

 

“I want more spinach,” he said to me, squinting in the sun.

A little part of my heart thrilled to hear a nearly four year old say those words. I reached over and plucked another leaf from the plant, and handed it over.

“Yum,” he said as he wandered off. “Is that more spinach?”

“No, that’s arugula.”

“Argooola.”

“You know, they call it rocket in London, I think that’s a cooler name,” I tell him.

“Yes,” he looks relieved not to have to try and say arugula again. “Rocket!”

That was yesterday morning, standing on the roof of our building. We have a communal vegetable garden up there, along with our two beehives. Every morning it’s not raining, Elliot and I go up to fill the bees’ water dishes (plant saucers full of small rocks for perching) and turn on the soaker hose winding through the tomato bed. Often we have a wander through the beds and discuss how it’s all coming along.

Together with some of the other children in the co-op, Elliot planted some snap peas from seed, which are currently working their energetic way up a teepee. He heard all about the bees when they arrived and came up with me that first morning to fill their dishes and watch as the sun hit the hives for the first time. He points to every plant, asking me ‘what’s that?’ and will try most of it at least once.

It’s the first step in understanding where his food comes from, and what it looks like when it grows. This may seem like not a big deal, but he’s grown up in the middle of cities. I think he’s seen a field or an actual farm twice in his short life. I know we’re lucky to have this rooftop garden and these fascinating hives, right here at home.

Next I’ll have to start lobbying the city to have goats on our common green space…

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