Having two friendly, snuffly dogs come wagging up to greet me as I step out of a van feels like home, and that’s precisely how our visit to Brad and Amy Robinson’s home and farm continued feeling. Keep in mind, I have absolutely no experience with farming, besides our trip to Glen’s and the occasional local fruit picking. I did grow up in this kind of land, though; of skyscraper trees and seral growth that scrapes at your shins, of routine tick checks and squatting on the edge of ponds to watch anything that moves (and swat at Mosquitos). Between Amy’s expert knowledge of bees, her attitude that balanced bee health and honey sales, Brad’s planning of which trees turn into firewood, and the almost solitary- yet still connected- current running throughout the farm, I felt increasingly comfortable and at home even knowing the work performed was not easy. It was their hard work; their little community that they had started, which they were graciously bringing us into.
I saw this reflected in the Robinsons’ thoughts on beehives: that like organisms, they are made of many individual working parts that make up the whole. Bees and blood and honeycombs and cells and bones and queens and brains, all interconnected and similar in their necessity to keep it- the beehive or the organism- alive. Bees don’t have an immune system, but they clean each other and create a substance called propolis, effectively becoming the immune system of the whole hive so that sicknesses don’t catch and spread. Bees have made the Robinsons rethink community, especially communities of people, in how people look after one another and work for something big. I will definitely be thinking about this on my own during my travels this summer, when I get to experience communities and creatures of all kinds.
I didn’t want Amy to stop talking. Between her charisma, humble approach of knowledge, dedication to healthy bees, and use of visuals and “hands on” experience, even going so far as to share some honey that she collected, I felt that I could listen to her far longer than any lecturer. Perhaps it was her passion leaking into speech, or it was the sky full of Baltimore Oriole flutesong and the meadow of grasses which held patches of wild flowers– either way, I wanted to learn about bees all day.
One image sticks to my thoughts: the mossy, stubbed trunk of a white oak, a ledge cutting across the center of its surface cut where jagged fingers spike toward the sky. It was only a few meters into the woods, a location slightly far away from the water.
“It was a beautiful tree”
“Beavers’ selections are random”
“I like to think we have an agreement, the beavers and I”
So there are little parts working for a whole. Brad got to claim the tree he had admired, because the Beavers ate away at it until it died. It became firewood, it became heat for a house, for a stove, for Brad and Amy and their bees. Little parts working together. The bee, an organism. The beehive, an organism. The farm, an organism.