Welcome to the Z + Bee co. blog!
Hi Friends! Welcome!
I've wanted to start blogging for our business for quite sometime. It's taken me this long because, honestly, I'm really bad at sticking with a blog. After our son's birth in 2017 (more on that later), I really let my personal blog go, and truthfully, I enjoyed the freedom.
But here we are, almost 2 years later, and we're undertaking a new project as part of our business goal: an urban backyard eco-culture.
As beekeepers, we are very hyper-aware of climate change, dying eco-systems, and it's impact on our pollinator friends. For a very long time, we've wanted to experiment with finding a way to create a sustainable, pollinator-friendly, and productive (meaning food productive) space within our small suburban home - not to say we wouldn't love to own a farm, but it just isn't in the cards - or pocketbook - right now.
We aren't commercial beekeepers, meaning we're not in it for the money: in fact, keeping bees was never really on our radar as something we thought heavily about keeping. To be honest, most of our critters (chickens, bees, one of our dogs) just sort of fell into our care when other family members realized they couldn't take care of them. The bees, for instance, belonged to Nick's grandpa - or Opa - who realized after one season of beekeeping that his eyes were just not strong enough anymore to see the bees. So Nick took a course, learned the basics of how to care for a hive, and off we went.
Fast-forward to 2017, and the birth of our son, Joseph. If you follow us on social media, you know a little about our story. For those who don't, here's the sparknotes version:
Joseph was born premature at 33 weeks. Soon after birth, we discovered he has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 13, or Patau Syndrome. His prognosis was not good. After several months in hospital, we were finally released, and Joseph has since been thriving at home. His genetic disorder means he has a whole host of medical complications: he's on nighttime biPAP for his weak and floppy airway (malacia) and suffers from epilepsy. He has weak muscle tone, and developmental delays. We see almost every type of medical specialty. His complications mean that we spend a lot of time at appointments, and that really weighs down on our own schedules, abilities, and thus our mental wellness.
Our business has become the way we need to support ourselves - it's not simply a long-term goal anymore. Joseph's care necessitates flexibility, and an innovative way of looking at experiencing the world around him.
At the same time, we had our worst beekeeping season ever. The winter after Joseph was born, we lost nearly 90% of our hives (we went into the winter with nearly 30, and came out with only 4 living in the spring). Those hive checks were devastating for us. Besides the lost income, and the financial burden of having to rebuild 4 years worth of work and supplies, it felt like losing members of our family.
So what happened?
Well, the bees died for multiple reasons - but most obvious was the dreaded Colony Collapse Disorder. The bees just weren't in the hive. There was honey, dead brood, and some dead bees, but the colony was just gone. This happened over and over - almost every hive.
No one really knows for sure what causes colony collapse disorder, but can point to several factors: poisoned food sources, pesticides, disease, poor genetics, etc. My personal opinion is that it is a combination of all of those factors - and while I'm not going to get into the details right now, I will do a post about it in the future.
These experiences have made us rethink our own lives: how are we contributing to the problem. How can we help? How can we change? How can we create an environment that is safe for our special-needs son to explore and learn and grow while also maintaining sustainability, productivity, and pollinator friendly?
I have a hunch that the success of - and answers to - these will be turn out to be inter-connected. I also want to hypothesize that our urban backyard eco-culture can be replicated to serve the needs of your families, too.
See, we not only have a responsibility to our environment, but a renewed mandate to care for it, nurture it, and make sure it's around for the next generations. We have the opportunity to re-educate ourselves on how ecology works - how beautifully interconnected it is - and why, when you remove one piece of nature's web, everything else suffers. We're at a crux now, culturally, where we can either choose to do something about it, or hope that in the next 100 years, scientists figure out how to make life in space possible.
Because if the bees go, we go too.
And if the bees are sick, if the bees are already dying at rates we've never before seen, we are also sick.
So let's figure this out together.