Bee in Spring Flowers

The Hum of the Honeybee

Welcoming Spring

With Spring just around the corner, I can hardly wait to hear the songs of birds and the hum of the bees, both distant memories, yet sweet melodies to my ears. Living in Southern Ontario, even with the Spring Equinox only a couple of weeks away, it’s hard to imagine the sight of green, replacing the three feet of snow that still surrounds us. However, it’s during these colder months that I sit back and reflect on the early days of Spring where I can watch the world awaken yet again.

I often consider myself grateful to be a beekeeper, getting the chance to bear witness to the intimate life of a honeybee and a hive so full of life. That is, of course, only if we’re lucky enough to have them survive the winter. It is not uncommon for me to lose time in front of our hive, and I often think being around them on a busy midsummer’s day takes the busyness out of my mind.

If you sit with them long enough, they can become your teachers, as they have been for me. They have taught me how interconnected everything is, how far hard work can take you, and that a helping hand can go a longer way than the eye can see. One could argue they are selfless creatures, always putting the welfare of others before that of their own.

Bee in Spring Flowers

Becoming a Beekeeper

It happened by chance, as my partner and I inherited our colony with our first home. Though unplanned, this opportunity took me down a path of understanding on a deeper level where our food comes from, and how much different our world would look without our honeybees. They are a vital part of every ecosystem, among the many other invaluable pollinators that often go unnoticed.

It is said that one third of the food we know wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for our honeybees. Though it’s hard to miss something before it’s gone, I urge you to imagine a life without the delicious crunch of an almond, or the sweet pop of a fresh blueberry on a hot summer day – two of the many foods that surely we’d miss long after they’re gone.

Bumble Bee in Flowers

Paying it Forward

With that, I encourage you to pay it forward, as the bees so humbly do for us, working hard all season long to bring us so many of the foods we love, medicine that we rely on, and a habitable and colourful landscape to live in.

In the end, supporting the livelihood of our bees supports that of our own, and there are so many ways to make a difference. Here are a number of ways that you can give back to the bees, keeping in mind that small actions have big impacts – just as the bees teach us:

1. Let your lawn go.

I always like to start by suggesting this one, as it requires no work but goes a long way. Letting any amount of land return to the wild encourages biodiversity and increases the likelihood of wildflowers to blow in and bloom, thus giving your bees more food for their post-hibernation hungry bellies. Trust me, the bees will thank you (and in my opinion, it’s far more beautiful).

2. Plant native wildflowers.

It’s hard to argue the beauty of a meadow abundant with blooming wildflowers, so find out which are local to you, and spread those seeds! This can also be a great opportunity to plant endangered natives species and support those at risk.

3. Avoid spraying.

Keeping things pesticide-free is a great way to avoid harmful chemicals, like glyphosate which wreaks havoc on the bees. Instead opt for more organic and natural solutions!

4. Support your local beekeepers.

Smaller scale beekeepers often have less demands to meet, thus more room to prioritize the health of their honeybees. This is a great way to support your local food systems and can go a long way for those suffering from seasonal allergies.

5. Giving bees trees.

Trees often get overlooked when we think about providing for the bees, but they’re a great source of nectar and provide them habitats, especially in the midst of continuous deforestation and development. Some trees, like Willows and Maples, make up some of the first food sources for them in the early days of Spring.

6. Choose wisely.

I like to say, if it comes in a squeeze bottle, it’s not the honey you want. This kind of honey is often pasteurized (a sterilization process that heats up the honey, thereby losing medicinal value) and contains fillers like corn syrup. Instead you can look for raw, unpasteurized honey – which is both better for you, and the environment.

Photos provided by Serena Mor

Turkey Tail

Lets Talk About Turkey Tail

Amongst all the mushrooms making an appearance in the wellness world these days, Turkey Tail often isn’t one of them. Though it is one of the most studied mushrooms in the world and has a wide range of benefits – both for the ecosystems in which it is found and for human consumption.

If you’ve ever found yourself in the woods on a fall afternoon, you’re likely to have seen these magnificent mushrooms on fallen hardwood stumps or logs. Their colour, though it can vary – hence their name “Versicolor” or various colours – is often in shades of blue and brown.

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Like most mushrooms, they help connect the living world, by way of using their mycelium (or as Paul Stamets would say, the “earth’s natural internet”) to exchange communication, nutrients, and much else beneath the surface, and the same happens when we consume it.

Thousands of years ago, Turkey Tail was first used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a way to replenish chi (vital life energy), clear dampness and stagnation, and strengthen the respiratory system.

Nowadays, it is often used in a similar fashion – to promote and support a healthy liver, digestive system, and immune function, but it is due to its actions as an immuno-modulator and cancer medicine that has made it the most widely researched medicinal mushroom.

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Now, I could talk about the benefits for days – but I’ll let the research speak for itself. Instead, I’d love to share with you how I most often use my foraged Turkey Tail!

If you’re in Southern Ontario like I am, picking at the end of November is often a great time to collect some fresh Turkey Tail. Though keep in mind, like foraging for anything, a careful hand goes a long way in maintaining the integrity of the medicine itself, and the community around it – in this case, moving mindfully so as not to disrupt the bark layer underneath it. Before getting carried away with the excitement that often comes along with mushroom foraging, make sure to always leave some behind (I like to keep the ancient Iroquois’ Seven Generations Philosophy in mind, whereby the decisions we make today should result in a sustainable world seven generations into the future).

Once you have some, it’s about as versatile as it is impactful. Though, I like to predominantly use mine in one of two ways; either in long-simmering broths or as dual-extract tinctures. Oftentimes when I collect Turkey Tail, the days have gotten cold enough for our woodstove to be on, in which case I would keep a stewing pot on the stove, and let the sweet nectars of the earth brew all day long (combining with other veggies too, of course!).

Turkey Tail Mushroom

Though, another way fun way to use Turkey Tail is in mulled wines + ciders – which are exceptionally delicious this time of year! Similarly, I like to let mine sit on the woodstove overnight or all day if I’m home. Mixing in allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and any fresh fruit I have on hand.

But, at the end of the day, it’s more than just the medicine by way of taking it that can bring healing, but in the relationship you can build with the natural world and the start-to-finish process of getting out in nature, touching the mushrooms themselves, and getting to experience the rhythm of the world that was here long before us.

Photos by Chelsea Lise