Honey Buzz

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

— Winnie the Pooh

I went looking for a quote about honey and found all these wise words about love and life instead. And I think it applies to the bees, so let’s just go with it. Because …

Shake it like a Polaroid picture. #bees #urbanfarming #honey

You guys have a lot of great questions about bees. It’s adorable, though, because I do not know. I’m reading books and listening and paying attention but I just don’t know what you should do if you’re allergic to bees but want to keep them.

I can say that we field that question above any other when friends or neighbors ask us about our bees. “What do you do if you’re allergic” “Aren’t you worried about getting stung?” “You have kids! And Bees???”

It’s simple really – we fear what we don’t know. And for some reason we fear bees. Because they sting.

It’s a barbed wire sting and it hurts. A whole lot. We haven’t been stung yet from our hive. When the bees are out collecting nectar they don’t sting – when they perceive a threat to their hive, they do.

Oliver's holding a colony of honey bees. Like a boss.

Oliver doesn’t know what it’s like to be stung by a bee, he sees each and every bug as his personal friend.

“Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”

— Winnie the Pooh

Sugar water for the bees. Oliver has no fear: he has 10,000 new friends. All named "Bud". #urbanfarming #bees #localbees #honey #OllieFarms

I’m pretty excited about the honey. But I’ve been completely surprised by how taken Oliver is by this hive. We were told that each hive has a personality … I haven’t been around a lot of bees, but I like ours. There’s a mutual respect, it seems. We love them. Oliver checks on them every day – like he’s one of them, he makes sure they’re happy, active, and have enough room in their hive. He gets in their business like a mad scientist trying to solve his thesis. He just wants to know about them, he’s curious.

But more than the honey, I wanted bees because I garden. Because the flowers and trees and air quality are very important to me. We have an extra lot so we have the space and there’s a charm to it that I couldn’t resist. Urban bee farming. I wanted to be a part of that.

If you’re local to Holland, Mi; here’s the link to the forms and information on permits.

A great resource (and where we ordered our bees this year) is Don Lam. Also our neighbors from a previous house … they came to help us set up our hive and let us borrow their suit and gloves. (Thanks Andy!) One more great link is the Holland Bee Association. (Which I haven’t been to yet, but hope to catch a meeting soon.)

Now … fun facts about bees:

They do dance! – I watched a documentary on it once and went to a demonstration at the DeGraaf Nature center years ago – it’s one of the ways they communicate … their dance points out where the good pollen spots are and how to get to the flowers or fields. They warn each other, give each other updates, and pass along routes and tips through dancing. WILD!

I’m not sure of the actual process of how they turn pollen into honey – but summarizing it … it’s like a mama bird feeding her babies – they regurgitate it into the cones of the hive to store it away.

Honey is the only natural food that never goes bad.

Honey can be used in place of face wash and is good for moisturizing and cleansing all in one. (I use honey as my face wash … it’s amazing!)

We started with 10,000 bees and the queen … by the end of the summer we’ll have about 60,000 bees and the same queen. She goes on one mating trip and mates with 10 to 12 drones then comes back to the hive and never has to mate again.

Bees are very particular about their space and centimeters matter in their hives.

Nature is cool.

Bee’s cannot see the color red and you shouldn’t eat a banana before working with a hive (something about the smell alerts them to a threat or enemy).

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”

— Winnie the Pooh

They sound like a wave in the ocean, all those wings humming. A quiet thunder of complete wonder.

This is why we have bees.


I keep thinking the flowers on the trees will disappear over night. For the past 9 nine days I’ve been mentally making plans to go down town with my camera JUST to capture this time. The essence of spring, of something new. Like the ribbon on a well wrapped gift … once it’s taken off, you can never really get it back. Not the way it was.

But I drive past our main road every day and those trees with their white flowers are still bursting with surprise.

Frederik Meijer Gardens

It catches me off guard, every single time I see it.

I drive the roads flanked with tulips, still on display. And I notice the flowering trees in full bloom. I see the carpet of green on every lawn, not yet have I seen spotty brown grass. Everything is lush. It’s just full. Everything is reeling in the aftermath of this really harsh winter and maybe I never really paid attention before, but this year it just gets me.

Spring Break 2012

Like a beauty that I had forgotten. Something I wondered if I’d ever experience again is finally here. It’s renewal, but it’s lasting.

That’s what keeps surprising me. It hasn’t gone away yet. It hasn’t melted into the melody of greens and garden boxes. It’s holding on, as if to tell me …

Volksparade 2014

… she was worth the wait.

A studio

One of the things I kept dreaming about before we found this house was an extra space, not attached to the house, for a studio. A shed? An old barn? A chicken coop?

I couldn’t even really tell you why other than my entire being yearned for external space to create. Write, paint, hang out and drink tea, listen to loud music, meet with friends, read poetry, write poetry etc etc etc. A space, just something small, to call my own – but not my own at all. Ours, because I believe that small voices with big hope are more powerful than loud voices who just make a lot of noise.

From the upstairs bedrooms of this house – I could see this in the backyard:

first showing

The neighbors tell me they used to keep pigeons. This shed was a pigeon loft.

we have a home

outdoor shed: my dream office

outdoor shed: my dream office

this is my house

outdoor shed: my dream office

I was enchanted immediately. It smelled and was incredibly gross on the inside. It was a heap of forgotten wood with cages and clapboard cottage shingles. Mice were living in it, as well as an entire colony of honey bees. For all intents and purposes, this shed was a place to keep the lawn mower to the untrained eye.

But I have dreams and I was stuck in them for a while, wanting to learn but afraid I’d fail … until I couldn’t take it any more and I just started.

See ya later pigeon cage. #homeimprovement

I tore one of the fly cages out … and one weekend while I was away Aaron and the kids completely gutted the insides of the shed – getting rid of all the gross paneling …

My first studio. It begins.

Then we started work on our pea gravel patio.

And I planted the beginnings of my mini orchard, apple trees!

Planted my apple trees in front of my studio. Anyone know of a guy who does side jobs for extra cash? Need some rotted wood replaced and a few other things on the studio.

Which left us with this as our shed last summer:

You can take me as far away from here as you want: I'll go. But you have to bring me back, always. #home

I hope this summer we can finally finish it and make it that space I’ve been dreaming of, but I’m stuck again.

We tore the roof with the help of my brother and dad last summer but then it got cold and stayed cold for way.too.long and now my shed looks like this:

Literally, we tore the roof off. #studio #girlsinthegarage

Total progress from yesterday. Got so much done. I can see the finished studio :)

Home stretch and at least cover-able for the elements. #studio

I spy with my little eye: something peeking at me.

We took the roof off to add height and windows to the entire perimeter of the building. I got inspiration from this pin.

I want to create a welcoming, cozy space to work, but also relax. I love the look of this pin – an industrial/primitive work space. I like the plywood (or planking wood) on the top half of the walls and I’d do tile on the bottom. I imagine I’ll be doing some painting in this space, so white that can get painted and messy appeals to me.

What do you think about a tin roof?? Currently obsessed.

I love this and this too.

Some wild light fixture, a few new outlets and some weather proofing. Ideally I’d like to leave my supplies out there year round, so a small electric furnace might be in order as well.

So there you have it, our outdoor space is forever changing and growing. I love our house but I don’t think I could move because of our yard. We have all kinds of plans for it.

What are you guys currently working on? Now that the snow is finally melted and the weather is trying to warm up, I feel like I want to live outside for June, July, and August and I’m trying to plan every weekend as a back yard party of sorts. I got my starter plants for the garden this weekend and some perennials to plant in my “pick garden” and we’re planning a tree house for the kids this year or next.

But first … FIRST, I have to finish my studio. Resourcefulness over resources, how am I going to get this done?

Pssssst: Also! Two years ago today we bought the house; Happy Birthday, House!

Back to basics: Gardening 2013

Part of my Life List is to grow a successful garden every year. I wrote that the season before we moved. So, 2010. Maybe even 2009. We spent the gardening season of 2010/2011/2012 living in rental units, rental homes and finally settling in to this house. I had my concrete planters full of herbs but no other vegetables or plants since our last garden on Ardmore.

produce loot

growing, growing, growing

(And my baby was still a baby)

But twenty-thirteen is going to be a good year. My fingers can feel it.


I don’t have pretty photos (yet) but it’s planted! And we have …

Squash/cuc's/sugar snap peas

Summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, sugar snap peas.

Basil! Tomatoes! Lettuce! Swiss Chard!

Basil, tomatoes, lettuce, swiss chard, celery (and just planed some green onions).

Kale, Brussels, cabbage, herbs, spinach ... cantelope? I think.

Melon, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, different herbs, and spinach.

In a smaller box not pictured yet we have raspberries and strawberries for the kids. I need to transplant my blueberries (I have two bushes) and at some point I’ll find a place for our 6-tree orchard. Pear, Cherry, Apple.

I might even get some bees.

On the flower front we have peonies, ranunculus, poppies, mums, a few things I don’t know how to spell, hostas, lily of the valley, lilac trees, some surprises, and tulips. I’ve started wisteria and hops for spreading vines and I can’t wait to throw dinner parties in the garden.

Gardening is church for me.

You’re invited.


I’m craving a house that fits us, not one we fit in to. A messy kitchen and laughter at my table, friends and cards and wine and fires. I’m craving spontaneous road trips and no-reason-at-all late night conversations over dark chocolate, TED video marathons. I crave God as my coffee in the morning, my wine at night. A fulfilling practice. A quiet in my mind. I crave curtains that I didn’t have to pick out or coordinate, the garden we’ll plant as a family, this yard we’ll transform in a few months. I crave the flowers and the birds and the spring air.

Riding our bikes to the farmers market. Bringing May-day baskets to our neighbors. I crave the new traditions of this house, these little wood floor planks and our water spots. I crave knowing each and every one intimately. I crave learning: in a class, in an independent study, over coffee or tea. I crave community. Conversations held offline. Everything less public, but open. And always free. I crave relationships, not status updates. Not status.


I crave knowing a purpose beyond myself. An extension of my heart. A farmhouse table and a bench for seats. Peonies, poppies, ranunculi’s. In bright pinks! Sherbet oranges! Soft whites. Baby blues … I crave, every day, moments of quiet wonder. Splendor. Painting this life beautiful, especially when it’s messy. Dirty. When I can’t find my socks and I haven’t seen our bedroom floor in a week. I crave laying it down and looking forward.

I crave an orchard of cherry trees, pears and apples. Blueberries, and yellow tomatoes. Fresh eggs, baby bunnies and baskets to carry around. I crave a night under the stars, a tee-pee in our backyard.

Lets grow an economy of
trades. Where worth isn’t
a wallet. Where a meal
is a vacation and the
projects are opportunities.

Let’s build a life worth
more than counting numbers.
Let’s love in the weight of
our arms and tally kisses.

Let’s hold hands,

Holding hands, last day of school