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Poem: "Sweetening the Pot" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Sweetening the Pot"

This poem came out of the January 21, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from rhodielady_47.  It also fills the "waxplay" square in my 10-6-13 card for the Origfic Bingo fest.  This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.  It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.


Sweetening the Pot


When Pamela wanted to take up beekeeping,
it caused quite a stir in the neighborhood.
There were already a few other beekeepers
in Jamaica Plain and elsewhere in Boston,
but this hive would be closer to home.

People made the usual noises
about not wanting to get stung,
and shouldn't we think of the children,
and oh my god what if they swarm?

There was no actual law against
keeping bees in Jamaica Plain,
but there were nuisance laws
that might be applied to the same purpose.

Dale and Kelly didn't really see
what all the fuss was about.
Bees would be around one way or another,
and it didn't seem to matter much
whether they were wild bees or tame ones.
What Dale and Kelly cared about
was the how the argument over the bees
made their neighborhood more hostile.

"You might want to think of a way
to calm people down," Dale said to Pamela,
"or they're going to quash this whole project
before it ever gets off the ground."

People have legitimate concerns,
Kelly pointed out, and Dale translated.
If you can address those, then
it might not seem so threatening.

"I'll try to think of something,"
Pamela assured them.

At the end of February, colorful flyers appeared
on bulletin boards around the neighborhood.
Curious about backyard beekeeping?
Come to the meeting!
  they read,
followed by the time and place.

Dale and Kelly went,
because they really were curious,
but mainly in hopes of helping
keep tempers from boiling over.

Pamela had recruited another local beekeeper,
Joshua, who brought along informative pamphlets,
honeybee-related products, and other supplies,
including a tiny portable display of live bees
that already had a dozen children crowded around it.

"I don't want to cause a problem in the neighborhood,
so if people really hate this idea, I won't do it,"
Pamela explained, "but I want you all
to make an informed  decision about the bees."

Chrysta was there too,
tucked away in a corner,
and she looked terrified.
Dale and Kelly went over to her.

I don't want to get bees in my hair,
Chrysta signed furtively, her hands
hidden between her chest and the table.
That happened to me once and it was awful.

Dale put her hand up.  "Pamela,
what measures do you plan to take
for making sure the bees don't bother anyone?"

"First, I intend to put up a tall fence,"
Pamela said.  "That will give the girls some privacy
and encourage them to fly above head height.
I also want to install a water garden, if I can afford it,
so they'll have somewhere to drink
other than everybody's dripping faucets."

"Oh, me, me!" said Mr. Foster, waving his hand.
He was the most exuberant senior citizen
that Dale and Kelly had ever met.
"My place already has a pond that I put in
so I could qualify as a backyard habitat.
I'd love to have more honeybees there."

Pamela opened a map.  "It looks like you're
between us and the nearest park," she said.
"If we can give the bees a path to follow,
that will help keep them from straying
where they aren't welcome."

"These pamphlets list flowers that attract bees,"
said Joshua.  "Those of you with gardens
or fruit trees might be interested in extra pollination."
Several people held out their hands for a copy.

"I made a list of plants that don't  attract bees,"
said Devorah as she spread out a stack of pages.
"Fragrant, night-blooming flowers are for moths.
Red flowers and tube shapes are for hummingbirds.
If you want to grow flowers without getting bees,
try planting some of those instead this spring."

Chrysta headed over to get
one of the non-bee lists.
Kelly collected both references.
Dale wasn't picky.

"What about the children?"
asked a harried young man
with a toddler on each hip
and no mother in sight.

"I'm offering to visit the local schools
and do a presentation about bees,
including the importance of not pestering them,"
Joshua said, indicating his display hive.

"Likewise, I'm willing to do a talk
about gardening for wildlife, so people know
how to encourage or discourage bees,"
said Pamela.  "I'd like to start my first hive
in early spring, so we've got a little time."

"I still don't understand why anyone
would want to encourage  bees,"
grumbled the father of twins.

"Remember, bees pollinate about a third of our food,"
Joshua said, holding up yet another pamphlet.
"A lot of wild hives are dying out, which is worrisome."

"I did not know that," the young man said,
looking a bit alarmed at the prospect.

"Let me sweeten the pot a little more,"
said Pamela.  "I want to keep bees mainly
for a hobby and a bit of honey in the kitchen. 
I won't need all the honey, or the beeswax,
so I'm willing to give away a lot of that stuff
to anyone who's a supporter of backyard beekeeping."

Suddenly quite a lot of hands went up,
including Kelly's.  Dale grinned.
Kelly was a big supporter of honey.

"Joshua and I brought some samples,"
Pamela said as she opened a large box.
"We have honey cookies, beeswax candles,
beeswax craft sheets, and a bunch of other stuff
that's made from beeswax or honey."

Dale ambled over to investigate,
leaning over a bulwark of small bodies
as the children swarmed the table.
The solid candles were tawny yellow
and smelled invitingly of summer.

Kelly had already gotten into the cookies,
with a hesitant Chrysta firmly in tow.
They helped pass out the sweets
to everyone else who wanted some.

Half of the beeswax sheets
were the natural yellow,
and the rest were dyed
in assorted vivid colors.
Joshua showed the children how
to roll them into two-toned candles.

"When I was little," Dale said,
"we used to stamp out wax shapes
with cookie-cutters and then
stick them onto white pillar candles."

Kelly and Chrysta signed something
in a rapid-fire flurry, and then
Kelly explained more slowly,
We used to make dip tapers at the fair,
along with wax casts of our hands
.
Dale translated again.

"Beeswax makes excellent dip candles,
but it's no good for waxplay," Joshua said.
"If you want to put your hands in the wax,
you need paraffin for that. 
Beeswax gets too hot."

The young father looked like
he needed to take notes,
but he didn't have a hand free.
Dale stepped up to help.

"Hi, I'm Dale," she said.
"I'll hang onto the kids for a while
if you want to write something down."

"Tad," he said with a grateful smile
as he passed her the squirming bundles.
Dale bounced the twins on her hips
while Tad collected pamphlets
and scribbled notes in the blank spaces.

Meanwhile Kelly and Christa had
figured out how to do waxplay
with the beeswax sheets.
One of them held her hand on the wax
while the other traced around it
with the point of a pencil,
the soft stuff cutting easily.

It wasn't hard to convince the toddlers
to take part in the activity, and soon
Dale had two tiny hands --
purple for the girl and blue for the boy --
to hand over when their father reclaimed them.

"Stick those on a big pillar, and
you'll have a permanent birthday candle,"
Dale suggested, and Tad nodded.

"What about swarms?"
somebody asked.
"Those are scary."

"If you see a swarm, call me,"
said Joshua.  "I'll be happy
to come catch the free bees!
Please don't call an exterminator --
there are too few honeybees left already."

Dale had seen the rather ominous brochure
about Colony Collapse Disorder and pesticides.
She picked up a business card and resolved
to call Joshua if she spotted any swarms.

By the time all the honey cookies
had been devoured,
and the beeswax sheets
rolled into candles or cut into shapes,
and email lists made of people who
wanted free goodies from the beekeepers,

backyard beekeeping in Jamaica Plain
had quite a lot more support than before.

Dale looked around at the room full of people,
with pamphlets all over everywhere,
Pamela talking with a carpenter about the fence,
Mr. Foster debating the finer points of pond care
with some woman who evidently kept koi,
and Kelly holding Chrysta's hand
while she peered at the bees behind their glass.

It reminded Dale about vital piece of advice:
The best way to destroy your enemy
is to make him your friend
.

* * *

Notes:

Backyard beekeeping is gaining momentum, including in Jamaica Plain.

The best time to start a new hive is in early spring.  Read some tips on starting a beehive.

Creating backyard habitat is an activity with many benefits.

Learn how to attract honeybees with various bee-friendly plants.

Conversely, some gardeners prefer plants that don't attract bees.  Consider a night garden or hummingbird garden instead.  And yes, there are three species of hummingbirds in Massachusetts.

Beeswax candles may be made from solid beeswax or wax sheets.  The sheets come in natural or colored versions.

Compare beeswax vs. paraffin, as they suit different projects.  Waxplay is a form of sensual play, which some people like to mix with sex, but the nonsexual version of making wax hands is really popular at fairs.

Learn about swarming bees and bee swarm removal.  Call an exterminator only as a last resort, because we really are losing honeybees at an alarming rate, and if you eat food, this is a problem you should care about.  Explore honeybee deaths and Colony Collapse Disorder.

"The best way to destroy your enemy is to make him your friend."
-- Abraham Lincoln

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6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
siege From: siege Date: February 24th, 2014 04:06 am (UTC) (Link)
As I understand it, the primary group of pesticides killing bees are called "neonicotinoids", poisons based on nicotine. I've been told that a drop of pure nicotine about the size of a small pinhead can kill a full-grown man. Even dilute, I'm sure that's not good for bees, despite any actual pests that would be killed off by these poisons. Heck, it's probably not good for anyone else who eats the stuff, either.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 24th, 2014 04:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Well...

>> As I understand it, the primary group of pesticides killing bees are called "neonicotinoids", poisons based on nicotine. I've been told that a drop of pure nicotine about the size of a small pinhead can kill a full-grown man. <<

That is one group. There are a lot of others. Recent studies also implicate fungicides, previously considered safe for bees. Current theory is that the combination is doing damage, because bees are living in a stew of chemicals. And of course, so are we. :(

>> Even dilute, I'm sure that's not good for bees, despite any actual pests that would be killed off by these poisons. Heck, it's probably not good for anyone else who eats the stuff, either. <<

It's not good for humans either.
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: February 24th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
If anyone is interested in learning more about bee behavior and biology, I can't recommend the comic Clan Apis enough. Very educational, very entertaining, and you can either read for free or buy a print copy!

--Rogan
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 24th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC) (Link)

Wow!

That looks pretty cool. Thanks for sharing.
From: technoshaman Date: February 24th, 2014 02:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
That last line.... Hmmmmmmm...

I have a co-worker who is a beekeeper .... bzzzzz. :)

Looks like Dale's new job isn't culling bad people, but creating unlikely friendships? :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 25th, 2014 10:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>> That last line.... Hmmmmmmm... <<

I'm glad you liked it.

>> I have a co-worker who is a beekeeper .... bzzzzz. :) <<

Lucky you!

>> Looks like Dale's new job isn't culling bad people, but creating unlikely friendships? :) <<

That's one aspect. Really it has switched from pushing down bad people to pushing up good people. It's about cultivating a healthy society. You know how, in well-kept online venue, somebody starts trolling and the nearest five people jump on them to indicate that kind of behavior is unacceptable? Same thing works in meatspace. You need a thriving community to make it work. That means establishing connections between people, teaching them to respect each other, using collective problem-solving methods, etc.
6 comments or Leave a comment