About Us

We invite you to follow us on Facebook: Bees and Chicks. We’d love to hear from you. To contact either one of us send an email to: barbara@beesandchicks.com

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.

Bee well,
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”

27 thoughts on “About Us

Add yours

  1. Such an inspiration!
    My husband has read many beginning beekeeping books, and has wanted to try this for years at our home in Vermont, but worried about the weather and potential problems. If you can do it on Block Island, then perhaps there is hope for us. We will be following your blog with interest, and wish you the greatest success!

    1. Thanks, Liz. There have been beekeepers on Block Island for as long as I can remember – a longer time than I’ll confess to. Many years ago there was a house called Red Shutters on the West Side. The preacher who lived there was a beekeeper and sold honey out of his living room.

      1. I walked by the Red Shutters this weekend – was it finally sold? Gene did an amazing job cleaning up all those stone walls on the west side…

  2. I am really going to enjoy this blog and love following the progress of the whole project. The photographs are beautiful…thanks so much for this!!

  3. Mary Beth and Barbara,
    This is a beautiful site and it will be fun to read about and see pictures of your experiences as you venture into this new world. Next fall when my class studies insects, maybe we could have a field trip?
    You’re an inspiration and role model for good health.

    1. Thanks Barby and yes to the field trip, sign me up! The garden will be a great place to watch the bees work their magic along with other pollinators.

  4. I’m a beginning beekeeper myself this year — starting out with two hives in the backyard and a beautfiul garden in the front yard. I’m also blogging about my gardening and beekeeping experience like you. Keep up the great work…I’m going to add you to my links.

    1. Thanks Ido! We’ll be following your posts too. We’re so excited to hear about others who have decided to help save the bees. Best of luck with your bees.

  5. South Carolina beekeeper here, formerly from Warwick!

    Great site, and thanks for helping educate everyone else about honey bees!

  6. Hi, I really love your site, beekeeping is against the law here in brooklyn, but I know some renegades.

    I was wondering if I could add a link to your site from mine?

    Thanks a bunch!


    Kimberly Sevilla

  7. Steps to Sustainable Living in Southern California
    Program offers insight into local issues affecting sustainable living.

    IRVINE – “Sustainable” is a hot word right now, but what does it really mean? In Southern California we face many challenges to creating a sustainable world, and understanding those challenges is the first step toward sustainable living. The Orange County Great Park Natural History Lecture Series offers new insights into our Southern Californian environment and ecosystem, delivered by experts in a relatable format. The free lectures begin April 8th and run through June 10, 2010.

    The lectures will be held at the Great Park Conservancy, as part of their commitment to natural history education and creating a Great Park. Visit the Orange County Great Park web site at http://www.ocgp.org for more information and directions.

    Thursday, April 8, 7:00 p.m.
    The Role of Plants in Urban Ecosystems
    Presented by Professor Diane Pataki, University of California, Irvine
    What are the environmental benefits of urban green space? What species are best to plant? Can we plant trees and save water at the same time? Learn about research that measures plant physiology, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions from backyards, parks, and street trees.

    Thursday, April 22, 7:00 p.m.
    Dangerous Liaisons? When Cultivated Plants Mate with their Wild Relatives
    Presented by Professor Norm Ellstrand, University of California, Riverside
    People have genetically changed the plants we use for food and fiber for thousands of years. New scientific techniques have produced plants whose genetically “engineered” traits are spreading to nearby wild plants. Learn about this topic, so central to the Great Park agricultural and ecological missions.

    Thursday, May 13, 7:00 p.m.
    Citrus Goes Global
    Presented by Dr. Tracy Kahn, University of California, Riverside
    Citrus is so important in California’s agricultural heritage. The University of California, Riverside has one of the most extensive living collections of citrus in the world with over 1,000 different types. The extraordinary diversity includes “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.” Come “taste” the diversity!

    Thursday, June 10, 7:00 p.m.
    Amphibians and Reptiles of Southern California
    Presented by Bradford Hollingsworth, Ph.D., San Diego Natural History Museum
    Frogs, salamanders, lizards, snakes, and turtles… How did geological forces affect the development of these incredible animals? Learn about their amazing biodiversity and forces that shape their lives. In addition, our region’s diverse topography and numerous ecosystems allow for the evolution of new species.

  8. Hello Mary Beth and Barbara,
    “Bees and Chicks”, I hope I’m at the right place to get an answer to my question. I am a beekeeper in Vancouver, B.C., Canada but will soon be moving to the interior of our province to a smaller town where I will have a bit of land. The place has a well established garden which I’m really looking forward to working and getting food and relaxation from. The area however has bears and the previous owners equipped the garden with an electric fence to keep them, and probably deer as well, out of the produce.
    I would, of course, like to set up beehives but they particularly will have to have bear protection! I’m planning a sturdy chain-link cage for the hives that will keep the bears out. There is also a small empty storage shed on the property which I’d like to turn into a chicken coop. I could attach the chain-link cage to the shed to act as a chicken run. My question is…….can I have chickens in with the bee hives? I have visions of the chickens standing in front of the hives picking off the bees as they come flying in and out. Do you know, or have you heard, how bees and chickens get along?
    Would really appreciate any info you or your readers could direct me to. My own search of the internet so far has been unsuccessful. Thanks for any help,

  9. I have three acres in a rural part of New Jersey ( by the old George Washington encampment outside of Morristown) at any rate, I’ve always wanted to keep bees! I’ve been captivated by the idea since visiting the Newark Museum’s glass beehive so many years ago now.

    I have wooded propery and in the back there is a fallen tree with what looks like honey bees flying in and out like a mini airport. landings and departures all summer long.

    My question, are these honey bees and can they be domesticated? Best Regards, Jim Reilly ( a long ago friend or Barbara and Bo!) 🙂

    1. Hi Jim!! How nice to hear from you! It definitely sounds like you have a wild hive in your tree. As for whether or not they can be domesticated, I think it’s possible, but you could just a easily wipe out the hive in trying. The better choice would be to buy a package of bees from a trusted source. That way you can get a calmer, more productive hive. We’d recommend a Top Bar Hive and some Russian bees with a VHS queen. Email me and we can give you more info: barbara@beesandchicks.com

  10. Wow, I’ve been on here for 5 minutes and am reeling from the rich content. I imagine I’ll learn things if I stick around too long, lol.
    We moved to Durango in 2005 (south east of Durango), from Southern California. I would love to bump into Mary Beth and pick her brain so to speak, but I work from home such long hours… don’t get out much!
    I am having a hard time with gardening. We have a micro-climate of 6b here on the southside, I THINK… the main problem aside from the short growing season has been grasshoppers, although the deer are certainly proliferous here too. ( tried garlic/cayenne and soap spray to little effect). Deck gardening is the next plan, LOL!
    I also have dreams of keeping bees and have rehabbed some old hives and painted them pink, but they stand empty, even though I’ve baited them with lemongrass essential oil, and raw honey with beeswax. I don’t have a bee mentor yet, so I’m not in a big hurry, but as I’m finding true with many things in Durango- letting things unfold naturally isn’t really a good plan. I hope to follow Mary’s journey with her bees and look forward to perusing your multi-faceted blog, seeing your delightful photos, and learning!

    1. Laureli
      Thanks for stopping by. So nice to hear from someone in Durango! Feel free to email me if you ever have questions on bees or gardening, loved to help out. My bees are doing well here so far in Colorado and have stored lots of honey.

      I was able to control grasshoppers with the product Nolo Bait and it’s safe to use. I only had to apply it once since we moved here. Noticed a few grasshoppers this year so will apply it again this coming year.

      Hope your enjoying the snow!

  11. I was looking up something horrible (rose leaf slugs, yuk) and stumbled across something beautiful – your lovely blog and the wonderful plants and bees in your lives. Thanks for the organic gardening tips and I look forward to reading more!

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