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About the authors:
Mary Beth: I’m a Colorado Master Gardener: Gardening and all things related have been my defining passion for many years. If I’m not working in someone else’s garden, you’ll find me in mine. I am forever in pursuit of garden bliss. I’ve found it in my garden just outside of Durango, Colorado and in my family’s garden on Block Island, Rhode Island. When I’m not in Garden Nirvana (unimaginable!), I’m supporting my husband Ray’s sugar addiction by baking some sweet treats or entertaining my two dogs.
Barbara: I’m a University of California Master Gardener: I learned my first gardening lessons as a small child in my grandfather’s garden and my education continued as I worked alongside my father in our Block Island garden. My latest teacher is my youngest sister Mary Beth, who has taken the Block Island garden to a whole new level of beauty. Having been spoiled by the fertile soil of past gardens in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, my Southern California garden has challenged me with its dry climate and dense clay soil. Yet through it all working in the garden with the sun on my face and the smell of freshly turned earth never fails to make me feel that all is right with the world.
About this blog:
April 2017: We’ve been busy with life for a long time, but Barbara is itching to get back into the garden writing business. Barbara will be blogging from time time and is looking forward to connecting with her fellow gardeners wherever they may be. Stay tuned.
July 2010: It’s time for an update to our “About Us” page. Mary Beth’s first year as a beekeeper had it successes and failures, all of which are chronicled in our blog posts. Our dedication to all things gardening continues unabated — if anything, it’s more intense than ever. But the big change is that Mary Beth has moved to Colorado from Block Island. She and her husband have had a house in the Durango area for many years, but had left to live on Block Island. Now, after five years on the East Coast, they’re back in the West.
So how does that affect our blog? For one thing, we’ll be focused on Western gardening — Barbara in Southern California and Mary Beth in Durango, Sunset gardening zones 22 and 5 respectively. And while gardening in Mediterranean and High Mountain climates have their particular challenges, gardening is gardening. What works for us (or doesn’t work) at any given time of the year is likely to be useful in your climate too.
As for the beekeeping, it’s still not happening in Irvine, CA. For one thing, it’s against the HOA rules where Barbara lives (as are many, many things), not to mention the city laws. But those restrictions aside, Barbara is still too afraid of being stung to take the plunge. But not Mary Beth! She’s a true pioneer woman, made of sterner stuff than her big sister, and she loves her bees.
However, the bears that live in her mountains love honey, so she can’t just plop a hive in the back of the garden like she did on Block Island. Measures will need to be taken to protect all parties involved — humans, bees, bears, the dogs, Sage and Kea, and wild cat Joker. But Mary Beth has more than a few tricks up her bee suit.
Soon year two of beekeeping will commence in the mountain gardens. And we’ll keep you posted as always.
P.S. The Block Island hive continues to do well. Mary Beth has been able to keep it tended with the help of beekeeper friends and a few well-timed trips to the Island. As for long-term plans for the hive, she’s working on it.
March 2009: When I heard that my sister Mary Beth was going to become a beekeeper, I knew that it was the perfect subject for a blog. The bees will be a great addition to her beyond-beautiful garden on Block Island, boosting pollination of the plants and providing us with delicious honey. And she will be doing something good for the bees (and the planet) by helping to ensure their survival.
Bees all over the world are being affected by Colony Collapse Disorder, a scary phenomenon that results in entire hives of bees simply disappearing without a trace. There are lots of theories about why this is happening, but right now the truth is that no one knows why. In the U.S. alone more than one-third of bees have disappeared over the past couple of years.
In the worst-case scenario, there won’t be any bees left to pollinate the 100 most important crops in our country, or about one-third of U.S. crop species such as apples, pears, peaches, berries, melons, and almonds. Without bees to pollinate their flowers, there will be no fruits, no vegetables, no nuts.
The stakes are very high and this makes every beehive precious and important. The more backyard beekeepers there are, the less likely it will be that CCD will wipe out all the bees.
Beekeeping is an exciting endeavor, but for a newbie it can be confusing and, sometimes overwhelming. So we thought that this was the perfect opportunity to report what it’s like to start beekeeping from scratch — to give you a ringside seat to the process from the very beginning. As we talked about it, we decided that we wouldn’t pull any punches. Whether we succeed or fail, we’ll tell you the unvarnished truth.
But what about the rest of us who for one reason or another can’t have a beehive in our yards? What could we do to ensure the health of the local bee population? That’s where Barbara with her zero-lot-line, suburban-California garden comes into the picture. We’re going to report on her experiences as she transforms her yard into a bee-friendly habitat.
So we are now part of the solution. We’ll be doing all of this in the most earth-friendly, creature-friendly, organic, and sustainable manner possible. And we invite you to follow along.
Barbara & Mary Beth
“If you’re after getting the honey then you don’t go killing all the bees.”
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, “Johnny Appleseed”