Monday, February 22, 2016

Join the Movement! Plant a Victory Gardens for Bees


Ladybird Johnson was fond of saying “Where flower bloom, so does hope.” I say “Where there are flowers, there is hope for bees. And where there is hope for bees, there is hope for humanity.” And that is why I wrote a book on which flowers feed bees and how you can make your back yard, balcony, farm, and garden hospitable for our most important and most pollinators, which happen to be the most endangered creatures on the earth.
I wrote Victory Gardens for Bees for the people who hold the fate our planet in their hands: the children and youth of today who are the gardeners, scientists, farmers, and policy-makers of the future. I also wrote the book for anyone who likes to eat, (because eaters should really become bee huggers if they want to keep eating). I wrote the book for people who love gardens and nature. Reading the book is meant to be like walking in a garden, immersing oneself in the bright colors and textures of flowers and bees. (You’ll have to supply the sound effects with your imagination.)
Bees are one of the most important creatures to ensuring the biodiversity and volume of our food supply and they are perhaps the most vulnerable creatures on the planet. We need to make the care and stewardship of bees a top priority right now. We need to pull together to create and implement a bee-centered vision of all our green spaces: gardens, farms wild sites rooftop gardens, brown sites, ditches, and more.  We need to protect, restore and expand green spaces and use them to grow food and create nesting habitat for bees.
I wrote this book for the bees. But since they can’t read, I wrote it for humans who can work to help the bees by growing food, creating nesting sites, and making bee-wise choices when they shop for food, clothes and more. This book is especially for elementary school age children who can develop an affinity for bees that will affect the choices they make for the rest of their lives. I wrote the book for nature clubs, garden clubs, scouts, guides, beavers, summer camp leaders, teachers, horticulturalists, farmers, homesteaders, and life-long learners. This book for nature lovers, naturalists, nature mentors, plant nerds, bee nerds, foodies, locavores, urban farmers, and beekeepers. It is meant to be accessible, but also challenges the reader with the real complexity of the issues that affect bees, raising issues that are often glossed over or over-simplified when they are brought to the public’s attention.
 I love to talk about bees and take people on bee safari walks, and I’m looking forward to traveling to promote the book and visiting bees and humans along the way. Let's get those gardens blooming for bees!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Richmond Children's Art Festival Rocks!

This week I taught 200 elementary students how to weave at the Richmond Children's Arts Festival. It was very satisfying work and I left feeling very inspired by the experience. My station was outside in a tent. Monday was a gorgeous dry, sunny day, but of course the rest of the week it poured with rain.  Two heat lamps took the edge of the wet, chilly air.

I try to choose as many natural biodegradable materials as possible, and use the opportunity to use up odds and ends of materials and recycle old sweaters and one old moth-eaten feather boa.

 I love seeing the evolving  sense of design and the creative choices the students make.

The balloon art in the atrium is exceptional.

It's very satisfying to see the students use the natural materials I've spent days collecting. As he students work with the materials they inevitable break apart some of the seed pods, which is such a human querk. It's good because it gives them a tactile experience with seeds. "This is my first messy art piece," one girl remarks. My job here is done.

Most of the students had never woven anything before.

I explained how the weaving can be taken apart, cut into small pieces and stuffed into a wire whisk to hang in a tree to provide nesting materials for birds. The alar shape of the weaving is my own twist on paper plate weaving, giving the students a challenge. (With the grade ones we just made a straight perpendicular paper plate loom.) I like using the paper plates because it gives the students lots of room to move their hands inside the weaving and makes room for bulky materials.

There were some interesting comments about the scent of the herbs on the table: lavender, oregano, and fennel. "Smells like Mother Nature," one boy exclaimed. "It stinks!" said another. "That's just how nature smells and it's not gonna change," advised a third student. Another boy loved the scent of the oregano. "That's because it's the herb in your pizza sauce," I explained. He was so excited to make that connection he stuffed his weaving full of oregano.

I explained how we had lots of time for this activity and we were living life in the slow lane. One girl agrees: "No hurries, no worries, as I like to say." Of course, some students tried weaving for about ten minutes and then gave up because it wasn't their thing. Others just didn't want to stop after an hour and a half and I gave them some materials to take home. Weaving is very good for brain development and I would love to see looms in classrooms and seniors centres.

Many thanks to the staff and volunteers for such a well-organized and inspiring children's art festival.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year and Happy New Honeybee Year!

 It's 11 degrees Celsius right now and I just snapped these photos of a neighbor's crocus patch busy with honeybees collecting neon orange pollen.

Warm days like this allow honeybees to go outside, relieve themselves, and bring in some fresh pollen and nectar. Beekeepers will be opening the hives soon to see if there is enough food to get the bees through the early spring months.

Gung hay fat choy!