Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hives with a view

L'Opera in Paris

Urban bees are making a comeback.  Everyone, no matter where they lived, used to keep a few animals--chickens, bees, a goat or a cow--in whatever space they had, to feed the family.   I started with chickens  5 years ago. In June I will have bees.  I have always had a garden.  It seems to be genetic.  One grandfather was a farmer and orchard man along the high benches of Alpine, Utah where McMansions grow now.   Oh the apples and peaches!!  My cowboy grandpa, Ike, kept quarter horses and wild mustangs and large flocks of sheep.  All good farmers' wives kept chickens, as did my grandmothers.  Big aside here--my father and his brothers kept a pet coyote out in the barnyard.   It knew exactly how far it could reach on its chain, but the chickens didn't.  Grandma Velma must have been wonderful to allow her boys this bit of country fun. It was a very tame coyote that used to love sitting on my dad's shoulders.  My dad just told me that he remembers his father, Earl, in the photo, catching wild bee swarms in trees, and taking them up to the orchards to pollinate.  I doubt he had a bee veil.  And if he was like my dad, any kind of sissy protection wasn't necessary.  Just country know how.   I remember city chickens at my other grandmother's.  My husband's grandfather, Claude Sutton,  also kept sheep out on the west deserts of Utah, and cows in town.  His grandpa Bezzant  had other orchards that are now the city park in Pleasant Grove, Utah.  Hmmm.  The need for apple trees is genetic. And I guess genetically I should be hankering for a sheep, but I don't.  A sheep dog maybe.  The border collie, Jello,  in the last post is my daughter's dog.
So. . . now millions live in cities, in high rise buildings and they are rediscovering rooftop beekeeping.  Fueled by organic, local and green thinking, I suppose.  In NYC bees were banned until 2010.  The ban included all dangerous animals such as "honeybees, tarantulas, cobras, dingoes" and deemed them "too dangerous for city life."  Dingos?   My Australian Cattle Dogs were bred from dingos.  Who keeps cobras?  Yet people were secretly keeping thier hives, and sometimes paying the fines when caught.  Now the city has a very active and open beekeeping association.  There is a grand diversity of trees and flowers in the city making for lovely honeys.  I will have to look around in Boston next time I am in town, and see if I can find some hives to photograph.  A quest.  I love this blog, it is giving me ideas for fun outings.  I hear that the best way to learn the craft is to join an association.  Will look into it.  The one I have been introduced to is a little too far north for their mentors to be of much hands on help. 

My grandparents-Earl & Velma Devey, and my uncle
Love that truck. 

The rooftop beekeepers of Fortnum and Mason, in London, were inspired by the beekeeper at the Palais Garnier, The Opera, in Paris.  WHAaaaaaaaT?!  Bees on top of L'Opera?  And not only that, I find, but fish in the basement.  The fish may be a myth, but there is a water tank of some sort under the building, built to contain the high ground water levels. The water under L'Opera spawned, haha, the writing of The Phantom of the Opera.  But bees there are.  And their keeper, Jean Paucton, may be the most famous beekeeper of all.  He was supposedly given a hive by a fireman who kept the fish in the basement.  The truth is, Paris firemen practice diving in the underground water tank, to practice dark dives.  But I digress. . .
Jean Paucton leaving L'Opera with a hive and smoker
Jean Paucton tending a rooftop hive--no gloves or parachute
Quasimoto had nothing on this Jean-fearless. Stunning view from L'Opera.

So Monsieur Paucton put the hive on top of the grandest building in Paris, where he is employed,  and there it is and has grown to many more.  What if the wind were to blow on of these off the parapet?  Look at his hive placement--Vertigo, danger and when I read about his bees they seem kind of angry.   Watch out!!  His honey can be purchased as a Paris souvenir.
Poking around Paris (by computer, unfortunately), I also found bees on top of the Grand Palais.  Louis Vuitton has their own hives on their terraces--so so so chic--right near the Pont Neuf.   Personal ancient history--my husband proposed to me on the Isle d'cite, which is in the middle of the Seine at the Pont Neuf.  I have seen Madame Butterfly at the Opera.  Not Madame Bee.
My hive will be on solid ground.  No parapets, no gargoils, no grand view of a city skyline.  Near the blueberries and the pond.  But how nice to know that just because you live in town, up high, you don't have to give up your connection to the food chain--I would, however, discourage you from keeping chickens on the balcony or a horse in the kitchen--Oh that is my next post, for sure---horses in the kitchen.....just you wait, truly, I have TWO horse in the kitchen stories--genetics involved . . .

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