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December 2009 News from Spikenard Farm and Friends
Issue No. 6
Dear Friends & Supporters,

Floyd River

Warm holiday greetings to you! We are blessed to have the bees safe in their hives under the glistening new snow.  The bees will now be feeding off their summer labor and the sun's gifts of love with the honey they have stored for the winter.  As they now quiet themselves in this cold season, we humans, instead, feel a quickening of inner activity. Gratitude fills our hearts for all the visible and invisible help we received during the past months as we moved Spikenard to Virginia and the welcoming community in Floyd.

We feel a source of new strength for the impulse we carry in our hearts. Within weeks of moving, we have begun  meeting  with people from different institutions, exploring future collaboration. Workshops in gardening, Biodynamic practices and, of course, beekeeping are already planned in collaboration with other local initiatives. We hope to help strengthen the already existing organic/biodynamic work and collaborate with local beekeeping groups. We want to interconnect, meet many beekeepers in this region, and develop the honeybee sanctuary itself with its educational and research activity into a beautiful and hope-inspiring place with the help of kindred souls. We know that we can't do it by ourselves and we are looking for individuals who are interested in partnering with us, helping to carry this impulse inspired by Anthroposophy in concrete ways. Our sanctuary located on this beautiful piece of land offered to us in the Blue Ridge Mountains really has the potential to become a learning center and point of interest for sustainable beekeeping methods, a place for deepening our spiritual understanding of nature.

We will spend the next months going deep inside to freshen and revise our vision and mission in accordance with the new location and opportunities here. Our priorities lie in establishing the infrastructure and staff necessary for the outreach and educational activities we are beginning to envision.

Several things are clear already for next year:
  • Gunther will be part of some screenings around the country of the new documentary "Queen of the Sun" by Taggart Siegel, whose film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John inspired people to understand that farming can be a way of healing and building community
  • We will be looking at how our "Adopt a Hive" program can be launched for schools, businesses, and individuals
  • This spring and summer, we will plant a five-acre field with perennial   and annual bee forage.
  • If we can build a simple shelter, school classes can be invited for day visits
On a subtle level we can discern that the spiritual honeybee is trying to help us cultivate, in ourselves and our society, more "feminine" qualities: nurturing, cooperation, working for the good of the other.  Strengthening these qualities will help us overcome the negative outcomes resulting from the "male" oriented paradigm of dominance and aggression that has governed society for millennia. We just need to open our hearts and minds to the guidance and example the bees offer us.

We can call the exploitive beekeeping methods the unmentioned elephant in the room when we talk about Colony Collapse Disorder and a wide range of environmental, economic and even social crises.  The honeybee's plight needs to be seriously considered by more than just beekeepers, since our lives, in all aspects of our culture, do depend on the honeybee and other pollinating insects.

We are whole-heartedly committed to helping this endangered being as best as we can. Won't you please consider a donation now to support this work?  

We do need your gifts at this time of what we consider a great opportunity for getting  this impulse to gain strength and firmly establish itself.

Safeguarding the honeybee's existence is the best investment in the future we can make---not only for our children and grandchildren, but also for our own sojourn on this beautiful planet.

We extend our deep gratitude for all you have helped so far and for your gift at this special time of year and history.

With warm wishes for a blessed holiday season,

Gunther and Vivian

Bee String
The Honeybees in Winter
Floyd Winter 1
Spikenard Farm; Floyd, VA.

The honeybee is a creature whose entire life cycle and activity belongs to the sun. Like her heavenly counterpart, her whole being serves life, and her deeds are deeds of love in its highest sense.

After the fall equinox the sun's dominance decreases and parallel to that, the moon's powers of fertility and reproduction grow as we head toward the winter solstice. Just take a look at the full moon during these winter months, traveling majestically high across the winter sky, taking the same arc as the summer sun. Of course these fertility and reproductive forces won't come into physical manifestation until the sun has regained some of her power in February/March.

From September on, the size of the honeybee colony wanes, from approximately 50,000 workers at the height of summer, down to 15-20,000 in midwinter. The individual workers now live longer, up to 4-5 months, since they don't work as hard as the spring and summer workers, whose lifespan is only about 6 weeks. The last forage crops---fall asters, sedums, golden rod and all the annuals---give a bit more nectar and pollen, but more time is spent on sealing up the hives with propolis and capping the cells filled with honey for good storage.  The colony forms an ever tighter cluster as the temperatures drop and, in our temperate climate, the queen stops laying eggs somewhere around beginning to mid-November. Thus the last worker bees of the year emerge from their cells three weeks later.

At the winter solstice, if the day temperatures are below 50 F, the colony sits tight in a cluster, with body processes reduced and in deep sleep. Now they dream the dream of the midnight sun, as the Celts called the spiritual Sun, perceived in physical darkness.

The outer sun-forces of light and warmth have been internalized by the bees and the sublime substances produced by these forces, nectar and pollen, give nourishment, give warmth to the hive, as they keep the queen warm at the core of the cluster.
From my experience I can say that a steady cold is better for a colony than constantly fluctuating temperatures, or even a longer period of warmer weather with bees leaving the hive but finding no nourishment. A warm day or two, above 50 F, is great in winter so that the bees can fly out and empty their bladder. Don't hang your washed sheets out on such days, as they will quickly collect yellowish-brown spots!

The question often comes whether to wrap a hive in winter or not. As mentioned, the cold, if not extreme as experienced in northern Minnesota, doesn't hurt the bees, but wrapping them does have the advantage of equalizing the temperature and the greatest benefit comes from keeping the hive from warming up too quickly in January/February, the time when the colony should 'sit tight'.

Our colonies have 40-60 lbs of their very own honey to feed on during these months and I know that they appreciate and reward with good health that they are not given substitutes such as sugar or corn syrup. They generously give us their surplus, the real thing---and medicine in the truest sense---and they deserve nothing less.

Whichever holiday you celebrate around the winter solstice, go to your bees and sing them a song. And if your hearing is of a special kind, you will hear them humming along with great joy.

- Gunther

Floyd Links
...From Our Hearts

Beekeeping interns of the past years will remember Gunther saying once in a while "if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger", when a difficult or almost impossible task lay at hand. Well, this last year was not easy for us. Much enthusiasm, effort, work and hope was planted in the land in Illinois; how many plants, bushes and trees we watched establishing roots and permeating the place with radiant presence. It was hard work carried out of love and service for the earth and all her beings. It certainly will take time to heal the wounds.

But as we all know, difficult moments are always accompanied by events of goodness and light. Gratitude fills our hearts for all the visible and invisible help we received during the past months, as we moved Spikenard Farm to Virginia and the welcoming community in Floyd, which makes us feel stronger and confident. We are deeply grateful for Terry and Pat for the beautiful piece of land that was offered us to establish the honeybee sanctuary. We are working on the logistics and possibilities of partnering with Terry's vision, Little River Organics, a biodynamic CSA, and the planned Floyd co-housing community.

We want to use this opportunity of communicating our sincere and heartfelt gratitude to parents and teachers from the Climbing Rose Kindergarten and Shining Rivers School in St. Louis. Parents and children enjoyed the garden and bee work, as well as helped plant bee forage and prepare veggies for the market during the summer months. For the hard work needed to dissemble structures, pack boxes, and get machines ready for the move, teams of parents and children came out to the farm, bringing tools, understanding, joy, and even food. Their presence brought light and love to all of us, so deeply appreciated at this moment of transition. May this friendship and working together bear fruits and continue into the future. We wish both initiatives much inspiration and strength in their work for the children and building community.

Spikenard Family 2

Our new hometown has welcomed us with much support and interest. Several activities ---workshops and lectures--- are already planned in collaboration with "Sustain Floyd" and the Josephine Porter Institute. Since the educational work always needs the support of gift money, you can help by sending your check to Spikenard Farm, 445 Floyd Highway North, Floyd, VA 24091. Every contribution is valued and fully tax deductible, as we are a 501(3) not-for-profit organization.

In This Issue

Dear Friends & Supporters

The Honeybees in Winter

Floyd Links

...From Our Hearts
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