bees

forageSF

My adventures with Beekeeping 101

Took a beekeeping class yesterday with The Institute For Urban Homesteading. We want to get bees for the roof at Forage Kitchen, and although I hadn’t planned on taking care of them myself, I wanted to learn a little something about how they work.

Really interesting class! Learned a ton (which was easy considering I knew nothing). I was really struck by a few things. One is just the insane organization of the honey bee colony. At the risk of getting a bit airy, it really does seem magical the way they work. The second they’re born they know everything they need to do (the female worker bees first task is to turn around and clean her own hatching cell, HOW DOES SHE KNOW?!. Alternately the lazy male bees first task is to get fed…).

One bee on its own, while not stupid, doesn’t know how the whole functions functions, but they are born knowing exactly what their purpose is, really fascinating.  A queen bee doesn’t rule, but is just a larger bee fed differently. To make a queen the larvae is simply fed royal jelly for its entire incubation period, and put in a larger cell to grow. That’s the only difference, and somehow by being fed differently it knows that the second it’s born its supposed to kill all competing queens, fly out to mate, then lay thousands of eggs for the rest of her life.

It really does bring to mind the idea of the colony as a superorganism; something I’ve become really interested in lately, and that we discussed in the class. A bee is more like a cell in the body than an individual. A white blood cell doesn’t have a brain, and is never taught what to do, it just does it. It is created with all the information it will ever need, and immediately goes to task.  A thought doesn’t live in a neuron, but billions of neurons together create the experience of being human. The part creates the whole, without the need for individual agency. This is one of those things that if we didn’t see it happening in nature, we would say it was impossible.  Amazing.

The other thing I was really struck by was how little tending bees can live with. This was an alternative hive class, so instead of the standard hive (when you think of a commercial beehive, you’re thinking of a standard hive), we looked at several alternatives. The one that I was most enamored with is the Top Bar Hive. At it’s most basic; it’s a box with a series of 1.25 inch removable slats on top, with a .5 inch vertical piece of wood in each slat. Rather than needing to give the bees a frame to build their combs, they naturally create them on each vertical slat. Some for brood (where the babies are born), which are brown, and some for honey storage.

I originally went to the class really just to have a better understanding of what we were getting into at Forage Kitchen, but now I want my own! If anyone has any tips on where to find some healthy bees send ‘em my way!

SF Underground Market

The Kitchen (first steps)

I have a post I'm going to put up soon about The Underground Market (we're working on a way to get it reopened, and I'm confident we'll find a solution), but something else I'm really excited about right now is how this kitchen project is moving along. We found a space! It's still in the beginning stages, so not certain, but it's looking good. The space is 10,000 sq feet of wonderful high ceiling'd bliss (with the possibility of having an acre of rooftop farm up top. I'm thinking chickens, goats, veggies for people to use in the kitchen, rooftop movies, rooftop dinner, bees....). This space won't be just a kitchen rental, but a dynamic space with (and these are first thoughts), kitchen rental for vendors, classes in food business 101, web design, menu creation, pickling, butchery, possible shared beer brewing equipment, a retail space in the front where people using the kitchen can sell their products, farming classes for kids, farming classes for grown ups, and a CSA of the products being produced in the kitchen. There is also a cool crossroads alley/road behind the space that would be perfect for closing down and having markets/dinners/good times of all sorts.

Since I sent that email out I've been getting approached by investors who are interested in being involved, and it looks like its really on its way. So, not a ton of info at the moment, other than I'm excited to finally have a space that can be the center of forageSF. A hub for people who want to be involved, people with some/lots/no experience in cooking to start their businesses/learn about food/ eat food/ take classes/ brew beer/ drink beer....the options are endless. If you have ideas/desires for this space, let me know. Ideas you give could be a reality very soon. Iso