Thursday, July 23, 2015

I Love Farmers But...

Last year I asked my sister if I could put a hive of honeybees on her property, as she lives out in the country. She agreed, so I started a small colony in preparation for the installation. I am not sure how it happened, but it wasn't long before the bees became her bees. I painted up the boxes a nice shade of peach, loaded up the Jeep, and made the drive to Three Rivers. Diann was a bit sheepish around the bees, but curious and eager at the same time.  For the next several weeks she would give me reports on "her girls".

Diann's bees made it through the winter and are strong and healthy. If you talk to her about her bees, her voice changes. She becomes a young girl again, deeply and passionately in love. It happens to everyone who starts being kept by bees.

Every once in awhile I go to her home and help her check on the girls to see how they are doing. Her hive is the strongest and largest I have ever seen in my 8 years of beekeeping. Our Father designed a nifty water container that sits prominantly on top of the hive. These girls want for nothing.

Last night, my phone rang. It was Diann, sobbing so hard I could not understand a word she was saying. It didn't help we had a bad connection. I asked her to call me right back. Finally, I could make out something about an airplane, spraying, cornfield, bees.

Diann's property sits adjacent to an ag field currently planted in corn. She has spoken with the farmer about her bees and asked him to let her know if and when he was going to spray his fields. He agreed. Apparently something happened because he did not notify her of the aerial spraying that occurred last night.

When I heard her voice, I thought one of our parent's or her dog was killed, it was that frantic. She was devastated. So was I. And angry. Even though the spraying happened in the evening hours, the honeybees were still on the wing, flying back to their home.

There are no laws that prevent herbicide, fungicide, or pesticide drift. Farmers can spray five feet away from your property on a windy day and that poison can drift into your kitchen window and there is nothing you can do about it. They can spray from an airplane and if the drift of the spray happens to land on top of your apiary (bee yard), too bad for you and the bees.  There is a serious lack of regulation and you can bet Monsanto and their agribusiness friends will fight to keep it that way. Farmers can voluntarily tell the beekeepers he or she is going to spray so the beekeeper can keep their bees in their hives until it dries. Of course there are still effects on the bees through bringing treated pollen into the hive amoung other things. But what do you do if the farmer won't work with you? The fact is there is absolutely nothing you can do.

My friend Sylvia has bees at her home and an ag field adjacent to her property. One day the farmer was out spraying Roundup. She went out and asked him if he would move his sprayer over just two feet (he was spraying directly on the property line). He got angry and called her a very derogatory name. He continued his spraying and all she could do was watch. This was maybe thirty feet from her hives.

There was a little grassy patch on the corner of that field, which by the way is owned by the Township and leased by the farmer, that Sylvia and her husband had cleared of brush and mowed. The farmer came back later that day and doused it with Roundup.

Many of my ancestors were farmers. My maternal Grandparents were farmers. I love farmers. But the antiquated laws that govern their activities need to be revisited and revised in this day of dramatically escalated chemical use. Since the invention of Roundup ready crops, "weeds" have started to become resistant. This has resulted in an increase of herbicide use, not a decrease. To the tune of 383 million pounds! What kind of world are we leaving to the child yet born?

Diann tried calling the farmer last night only to get a busy signal each time she rang him. She will visit him today and find out what he sprayed and why he did not let her know. Only time will tell now how this will affect her beloved honeybees.

Please support organic farmers by purchasing organic meats, fruits, vegetables and grains. Educate yourself about natural alternatives to the harsh chemicals you have in your home and use in your yards and gardens. Remember that all life is a Circle, and everything we do, whether it is spraying a dandelion with RoundUP or salting our sidewalks, affects many species and is absorbed into the ecosystem. If we don't change our ways, we will lose our honeybees and alot more. And I don't want to hear my sister cry.

Monday, July 6, 2015

What Happened to the Want Ads?

Once upon a time when I wanted to buy a car I would pick up the weekly newspaper and scour the Want Ads to see what fine vehicles were for sale. If one looked promising, I would pick up the telephone and call, and then if all went well I would go see the car and give her a test drive.

In today's world, no longer do people put their cars in the Want Ads. In fact, newspapers themselves are endanger of going extinct, replaced instead by the invisible and mysterious world of the internet.

Lately I have been shopping around for a used pick up truck for travelling to my beehives on the organic farms where they are placed. Nothing fancy, just something reliable, clean, and under $3000. The closest thing to a Want Ad in today's world is Craigslist so I began my search there. After reviewing what seemed like dozens of ads, I found the perfect truck, a red Ford Ranger, low mileage, mint condition. And the price was low. Incredibly low. I emailed the seller and soon received a reply. The seller was an officer in the Air Force and had been transferred to Alaska from a base in Ohio. She told me she was having the truck shipped to the nearest base then she would pay for a tow truck to deliver it right to my door. I couldn't understand why the truck was so inexpensive and felt like I should offer a bit more as surely she must have been selling it so cheaply due to some hardship she was facing. I was excited over the find and felt the bee goddesses had smiled upon me. I imagined it in the driveway, all shiny and red, full of beekeeping equipment.

Needless to say, after much investigation I discovered that it was a scam.

A few hours later I found another truck on Craigslist, a nice Toyota Tacoma, again at a low price. Suspicious, I emailed the seller. Lo and behold it was a military officer who had just been transferred...this time I recognized the deception and replied "SCAMMER!"

Not to be deterred, I contacted another seller later in the day about an ad that stated they were from a town just south of here. It was a very sweet elderly man selling a 1990 Ford Ranger. He was so excited about his truck he was gushing over it. I scheduled a visit for later in the day. While waiting for the appointed time to arrive, my father looked at he ad and told me the truck was way over priced. I checked online and of course, like always, he was right. It wasn't long before the gentleman called and I had to tell him I wouldn't pay what he was asking. I could tell he was crushed. After all, this was his baby. To him, it was worth thousands and thousands of dollars. I get that. I deal with those same feelings every time I have a garage sale. Most of the items on my table are way overpriced, at least in the buyers' eyes. Of course not in mine.

In the end I told him to give me a call if he doesn't find a buyer and we can talk about lowering the price to something more reasonable. He thanked me for my honesty, but swore if I only came and took it for a ride I would fall in love, too. I smiled and wished him a good evening. And I was sure he was right.

So here we have three types of humans. First, the Scammer, who disrespects those who serve in our military and attempts to con other trusting humans into sending them money for something that doesn't exist. Second, the Innocent, who trusts everyone and cares about strangers so much she would have given a scammer an extra $500 thinking she was helping out a fellow human in need. Last, the Lover, whose old white truck is the apple of his eye and in his mind is priceless. And I wonder if this process is more about learning a little something about people rather than finding the perfect truck. It is a reminder that the world is a much bigger place than the one I grew u[ in and while there are still many kind people, it is hard to know who to believe anymore.

I miss the Want Ads.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Hatchet in the Night

It is mosquito season, so to avoid the clouds that surround my head the second I step outside, I thought I would take my dog on a walk early. I stepped outside and walked to my car and low and behold there in the grass, right next to my car, was a hatchet.

Of course my mind immediately went to all the horrible crime drama television shows I have ever watched. Was the ax murderer on his way to my back door, to break in and chop me into pieces? Was he foiled by some passerby just in the nick of time, and dropped his weapon and fled?

I picked up the hatchet, then quickly switched my grip to the blade. After all, this could have been used to commit a crime and may need to be fingerprinted. I placed it on the table in my garage, loaded up my dog, and drove downtown to the Capital area, where I am pretty sure I won't run into any loose dogs.

On our way down the sidewalk, just in front of the Michigan Supreme Court Building, I ran into a State Police officer. "Good morning," I said. "Good morning," he replied. "I have a strange question to ask you," I said, knowing he is already staring at my left eye, swollen from a bee sting yesterday. I proceeded to tell him about the hatchet and asked if he thought I should contact the police, just in case. He said yes, so I called the Lansing Police Department and they said they would send an officer over.

We hoofed it as fast as we could go back to my car and sped off to the house, hoping to get there before the police showed up. My neighbor told me as I pulled in the driveway that the officer just left.  Of course. "Did you find a hatchet in your yard?" the neighbor asked. "Yes," I said, suspicious...was HE the ax murderer?  "We saw a group of twelve-year olds last night at two in the morning, using a hatchet on trees, telephone poles, anything they could chop on, just a bunch of kids. They threw it at your tree but missed and it landed in your front yard and they just kept on walking. No big deal, just some kids."

No big deal.

What kind of kids, twelve-year olds to boot, are out walking around at two in the morning with a hatchet? I don't know about you but where I come from that is something to be concerned about. Where are their parents? What are they doing out that late? And what is there intention carrying around a hatchet? And why do they think it OK to destroy public and private property?

I had to call the police back and they sent the officer over again. He didn't want to take the hatchet, two hours of paperwork he said and they would just throw it in the trash. Just some kids, he said. Just some kids??? I hate to think what those kids will be doing in five more years.

He asked if there was still an issue with speeders on my street. "Yes," I replied, "and gun shots in the park weekly. And there are also numerous mini bikes, go carts, and four wheelers travelling at high speeds up and down my street."  "Not much we can do about that, I mean really how would it look to the public if we gave a kid a ticket for riding a go cart in the park" (which is prohibited by law, I might add).  I am wondering if this is the same officer who told the ex con down the street that he was pretty sure the ex con wasn't supposed to be in possession of the shotgun he had just used to kill a raccoon in a tree, which incidentally landed on the police car hood (I am not kidding). He told the ex con that he didn't want to know and gave him a ticket for discharging a firearm in the city limits.

Anyway, the officer said they are so short staffed they have to focus on more serious issues (my hatchet obviously wasn't one of them). I thanked him and off he went.

Now I know some of you are saying, why don't I just move out of the city?

Over the years I have learned that I am much safer as a lesbian living a city than I ever would be in small town USA. And that makes me angry and very sad. I don't have the freedom to live where I want to. Forget the whole "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" thing. It is an illusion for people like me. Yes, we won the right to marry but there is still so far to go. I would much rather have a cabin in the northwoods and go to sleep listening to the sounds of frogs or crickets instead of gunfire and sirens. My soul yearns to look up into the night sky and see the Milky Way, the Aurora Borealis, a shooting star. I want to breathe in the scent of pine trees and rivers, hear the rushing of water over rapids or the waves lapping the shore. I grieve over this.

But at least I can eat in a restaurant and not have to hear the bigoted comments of the locals. I can go to celebrations for people like me if I choose. I am surrounded by the beautiful diversity of different races and cultures of people. I have a park in my backyard and am friends with the snakes and toads, skunks and raccoons, and even the sparrows that are living inside my wall right now raising a family. I can tap the trees and make syrup, and grow my apples and grapes, and have illegal campfires and parch corn and wild rice, and raise my honeybees without the fear of someone driving by yelling a derogatory name at me.

So I try to feel grateful that I have a safe harbor somewhere in the world. But it is a very high price to pay for someone like me, who is as much a child of the woods as she is a lesbian.

As long as there is such hatred and bigotry in small town America, I will always have to live in the city. Hatchets and all.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Religious Freedom and Imposition

Like many across the nation I celebrated the Supreme Court's decision upholding marriage equality. In fact, I am still in a state of shock. Much like the morning I found a guitar under the Christmas tree.

But I am also becoming increasingly alarmed and concerned by the attitude of some Americans who believe their religious beliefs should be the law of the land (American Taliban?) and are willing to ignore rulings by the Supreme Court. Even the State of Texas told its clerk they don't have to issue marriage licenses if it goes against their religious beliefs. Do we really want anarchy over two people who love each other being able to be in a legally recognized relationship that HAS NOTHING TO YOU WITH YOU?

Ok, so let's go with the religious freedom argument. Here are some other things that might happen....

1. You are having a heart attack and are rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The ambulance driver, who's religious beliefs are against eating animal flesh, finds out you are a meat eater. He/she refuses to drive you to the hospital because eating meat is against their religion.

2.  You are refused service at a restaurant because the owner's religion believes all men should wear a head covering and no shoes. You are hatless and wearing loafers.

3.  Your children are not allowed to attend school because you are Catholic and the school only allows those of Protestant faith.

4.  Your mechanic won't fix your car because her religious beliefs say that women are head of household and yours is run by a man.

I think you get my drift. Most all of us have religious beliefs of some kind. Some are the same, some are very different. Some we don't agree with. And I mean really don't agree with. And that has to be OK, because we live together here in this land. I don't expect you to follow my religious beliefs (although I wish more would love the Earth and feel the connection I do) and you should not expect me to follow yours. For if you do subscribe to that expectation, then you should expect others to act in the same way - I have the same right to force you to live your life according to my beliefs.

There is an easy answer here. It is called honoring Freedom and Equality, which I believe is guaranteed under our Constitution for ALL people. I have a copy of this document on my piano. You should read it if you haven't. God is not mentioned in this document at all. Intentionally. How about we help each other live in happiness, to enjoy this small amount of time we each have on this old Earth?  If you don't agree with what someone does with their own life and it has no direct impact on you, I would think you would be much happier to mind your own business. If you don't want to marry someone of the same sex, fine. Don't. If you don't want to have an abortion, fine. Don't. If you don't want to own a gun, then fine. Don't. If you don't want to eat yogurt on Wednesdays, then fine. Don't. Although it is especially tasty on Wednesdays.

If an individual behaved this way in a relationship with their spouse, we would call it domestic violence. One person making rules for another, controlling them, shaming them, ridiculing them, punishing them for simply being themselves. Why then as a society do we not stand up a bit more and say "ENOUGH"? If it isn't acceptable in relationships with each other, why is it acceptable in the larger context of society? I say it isn't.

I guess part of this story is that these folks honestly believe theirs is the only way and everyone should follow their way. So what they are doing should be expected. Yet, it doesn't make for good neighbors. What baffles me even more is how anyone can wish for another person to suffer. From what I know about Christianity, I don't think that was the intention Jesus had in mind.

It is apparent that the religious right (I pray it is still only the religious right) feel their religious beliefs should be the law of the land. Some of the most horrendous acts of murder and torture in human history have come from this religious zealousness and it continues across the big pond. How's that working for ya? Wouldn't you rather live in a loving, happy world rather than in your tortured angry hell worrying about what everyone else is doing? I know I would. It must be exhausting being the behavior police.

My Grandmother Aldrich was a devout Christian. She had a very difficult time with accepting my sexual orientation. Yet she flew to Pennsylvania and attended my commitment ceremony. Because she loved me and knew how important it was to me. She did not turn into a turnip or a lesbian, nor burst into flames over the matter. Instead, she filled the heart of her Granddaughter with love.

I think the religious right could learn alot from Grandma.