on beegums and stinkbait…
The Foxfire series is an unmatched collection of Appalachian stories and legends, and I have been collecting the books as potential presents for my godson. I have a lot to learn from these books before he learns how to read and I send them his way. Then we can forage for mushrooms and spring wild plant foods together.
The series started in the late 1960s as a magazine published by students who wanted to record the wisdom and idiosyncrasies of their local elders. It is based on interviews with Appalachian men and women about “affairs of plain living,” like snake lore, moonshining and midwifing, and in Foxfire 2 (1972), traditional forms of beekeeping. You can download the eight-page beekeeping chapter as a pdf here.
It details a few older beekeepers’ tactics for building beegums, which are primitive DIY hives, baiting wild bees (don’t drink the stinkbait), robbing honey, and some general thoughts on beekeeping like Elb McClure’s generous reflection:
“Most interestin’ thing you ever seen t’fool with.”
I like how these stories teach low-tech, cheap, scrappy beekeeping practices. They are personal stories that pass on a know-how and a tradition that otherwise might not have been put to paper.
Foxfire publishes many unique books, cds, and has a museum in Mountain City, Georgia.