I always I assumed I would keep bees like my Mom, and like my grandfather Dan, but I thought it would have to be in some other part of my life when I lived in the country, or somewhere with a backyard. Recently I started to realize that if I am going to stay in New York, I have to make it my home — and my idea of home has a little bit of country in it. So I decided to just go ahead and keep bees in Brooklyn.
I took a class with the NYC Beekeeping Association, read First Lessons in Beekeeping, asked my mom a lot of questions about supplies and hive sites, and found a wonderful, safe place to keep the hives at GoodYoga in Greenpoint. I ordered my hives through the NYCBA and my supplies from the same place my mom bought hers in 1970s, Walter T Kelley of Kentucky.
The people in my class were all ages and from all parts of New York City, from East New York to the Upper West Side. Their hives were mostly going in community gardens or residential rooftops.
Learning to keep bees has been a little like learning to bake bread. I learn better from others telling me how than reading how, and people teach me anecdotally, through quirky details and metaphors. I like learning something that is an oral tradition as much as a science, especially since my mentor is my mom.
Beekeeping is my first hands-on study of the natural world — and learning about bees means learning about pollination, flowers, geographical blooms, and much more. The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture (1887) is an encyclopedic text on all of that.