Raising Sheep for Nectar

Clyde. My father’s name was Clyde and he loved bees. In the 60s and 70s, WAY before it was cool, he and I had three beehives in our suburban backyard in Nashville, TN. Those were some great times, and the honey flowed freely.

Beekeeping the Old-Fashioned Way

Fast forward 40 years, and I bought a real farm of my own. Of course I had to have bees, so I enthusiastically purchased hives and bees, took classes, and found a mentor. The problem is that what my father and I had experienced was more like ‘bee-having’ than ‘bee-keepng’. You see, in those interim 40 years evil fungi, mites, diseases and insidious pesticides made their way to the US to make beekeeping less of a casual foraging activity and more of an intense management activity.

Bees Dying

Beautiful thank you card made from Junior Beekeeper thumbprints

Ever the optimist, I was sure that I would be able to devote the time needed to the bees.  To my chagrine, I just did not have the time and they eventually died. Around the same time that the last hive succumbed, my father also passed away. It seemed fitting in a way, and I didn’t have the heart to start with new bees again.

I packed up all of my equipment, hundreds of dollars worth, and gave it to the local Junior Beekeeper 4H club.  They gave me this beautiful thank you card on canvas, which made it all worthwhile

Beekeeping the REALLY Old-Fashioned Way (like pre-historic!)

Shortly thereafter, I started Regenerative Grazing my goats and sheep, rotating them to different spots daily and giving each pasture more than a month’s rest between grazings. Lo and behold, the pastures rewarded me with dozens of new wildflowers that I had never seen before. These flower seeds had been sleeping in the soil seedbank for over 30 years, waiting for me to get my act together to manage the land in a manner that was more in tune with a native grass prairie. In mimicking nature by rotating the animals, just as bison moved across the prairie, the native wildflowers thrived. Best of all, the native flowers brought native pollinating insects in every size and color. The crazy-looking insects made my heart sing because my father didn’t just love honey bees; he loved all pollinators. This was vividly evidenced by his planting wildflower meadows in his 70s, oxygen tank in tow.

The truth is that native bee populations are plummeting, just like the European honey bee populations.

So in a weird irony, I am honoring my father’s love of bees by grazing my sheep and goats, not by managing beehives as I had always envisioned.

Thanks for the legacy, Dad! I think you understood it all along; it took me a little longer to catch on. I hope I am making you proud.

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