How did that happen?! The year has whizzed by, and summer has passed in a whirl, with family fun as priority. With grandchildren aged 8 and 2, and the beach on our doorstep, there’s been a lot of sun, sea and sand, plentiful ice-cream, and a fair amount of fish ‘n’ chips eaten straight from the box whilst sat on the sand/grass/prom bench: a lot of wet towels, soggy swimsuits and sandy shoes, bags of sea-glass, crabs in buckets and bundles of driftwood, with the highlight for me being my first attempt at SUP boarding – including of course the inevitable fall-off with a grand splash. To top it all, we’ve been back-garden camping in a fabulous VW tent (Simple pleasures and – bonus – no campsite fees!). Inevitably, the allotment has gone neglected, with only the occasional visit, purely for family fun.
And then there are the bees. This has been an unusually difficult bee-year, with a number of factors impacting on bee health and honey production. Starting the year with five hives (of six overwintered) I am now down to two! I’ll be nurturing these through autumn in preparation for winter: this will be the first year I’ve taken no honey off for human use: instead I’ll be leaving it all for the bees, giving them the best chance of surviving through to next spring. As ever, my granddaughter has been keen to help – with her baby brother watching (and learning) from a safe distance.
‘I feel like a rat on a wheel. But the thing is – I built the wheel. This endless cycle of ‘to do’ … I created this … I put myself here … ‘
This realisation hit a couple of weeks back. I’d been feeling it for a while, but it took until now for those feelings to crystalise into thoughts expressed as words.
Living with so-called ‘invisible’ disability places limits on normal daily function. And because none of it is physically obvious – there is no wheelchair, no walking stick, no missing limb or prosthetic aid (hence the term *invisible* disability) the effects can be misconstrued as behavioural trait or personality fault. Lazy, unreliable, flaky (Yes, I’ve been called all of these and more. Mainly not to my face). The no.1 problem in all of is work. How to maintain a *normal* job in a no-longer-normally-functioning body? Hence my return to education in 2017 (embarking on an MA, which should have taken two years but, in reality, stretched out to more than three) – at this same time starting again with beekeeping (fifteen years on from my initial ‘dabble’) …
Skip forward three and a half years. MA completed (final mark pending) with various writing projects in process and the potential to continue on to a PhD this coming autumn. Health struggles are ongoing – exacerbated, of course, by the government-led Covid response (all ‘non essential’ hospital treatments – including my own rehabilitative therapies – were stopped last April/May, only recently restarting, after a year of non-intervention).
Meanwhile, on the beekeeping side, what started out as one hive has grown into several, across three different sites. Plus all of the associated activity (honey production, candle creation, hive maintenance). And then there’s the growing: flowers, herbs, veg … I’ve also, in this last 18 months, instigated and managed a community garden project in the street where I live (more of this another time, in a future blog post). As each new opening has arisen, I’ve gone with it. A fun-filled learning curve, at some point turned ‘rat on a wheel’. But here’s the thing: if it is me who put myself here, then it is me who can free myself back up. Reset the wheel.
This, then, is exactly what I am now doing. First up, the most obvious: reduce the physical work-load and time demands. Editing three apiary sites down into two. The choice (which one to let go?) has been easy: the Bee Garden, my very first apiary site, where I started out, back in 2018. Despite my best efforts, in nearly three years there’s never been a good honey harvest here: whole colonies have died (one of them quite suddenly) and/or struggled to survive overwinter, largely I think due to the adjacent farm fields (on all sides, stretching several miles, meaning insufficient wild forage and potential contamination with agro-chemicals). Add to this the land-owners plans to sell up in the near future, meaning I’ll have to be moving at some point anyway. As the saying goes, a ‘no brainer’. Nevertheless, I felt a considerable pang of sadness as I closed up the two hives, dismantled the hive-stand, loaded everything up and drove away for the last time – very soon overlaid with relief, as I settled them together into their new location at the Bee Field, which will now be my main apiary site.
Life is a constant process of change. We can resist – remain stuck – or go with it. Stagnate or adapt. Survive or thrive. The choice is our own.
Nearly a whole year since my last post. And what a year it’s been, not only globally and nationally but also personally, with for me the main focus being health readjustment and rehabilitation in response to some long-term issues that, I’m now having to be honest with myself, just ain’t going away. And yes, I know, this is supposed to be a blog about beekeeping and garden & allotment growing. Or whatever. And here I am waffling on about health?
But herein lies the point. Health underpins all other aspects of life. Living with so-called ‘invisible’ disability and chronic illness is complicated, exhausting – and not for the fainthearted. Three interconnected conditions – complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic photosensitive migraine – creeping up on me over the course of several years, to collide in a perfect storm; reducing the ‘me’ that I used to be. Not that I’ve simply rolled over and given up. Like a lot of people in similar circumstances, I for a long time floundered in a state of denial, pushing myself to function as ‘normal’ and hiding the reality of my new, far-from-normal ‘normal’. Result? Utter exhaustion. On all levels (physical, psychological and emotional). Thus, up util just a few months ago, I was seriously considering abandoning the allotment that I’d so enjoyed for so many years. It was simply too much. Likewise, I’d begun to wonder how I could realistically continue beekeeping – much as I’ve been loving it. Not that I’m going to waffle on too much about all that here. Because this is, after all, a blog about beekeeping and allotment & garden growing. Or whatever. So it’s enough to say here that this last twelve months have been a process of readjustment and rehabilitation. And here I am now. Moving forward.
So. What’s new? And what’s stayed the same?
Well, in the event I did not give up the allotment, and instead swapped my overly-large plot for a smaller one (about a third of the size) on the same site. And the best bit? I get to keep bees there! Additionally, I still have my two existing out-apiary, making a total three separate sites, all very different. I’m still growing vegetables and fruit, herbs and flowers on the (new, smaller) allotment. I’m still growing pollinator-forage flowers – on all the three sites and also in the garden at home. And that’s about it really. And it’s enough. I am enough. And so on we go. I’m intending to post a bit more regularly from now on (more than once a year, at least?!). So watch this space …