Are Urban Bees Immune to Colony Collapse Disorder?

About a month after we moved to our new home, a few of neighbors came by to personally thank us.  They said they hadn’t seen bees in their garden in quite a while and they were happy to see them returning.

They came to thank us, because we are Urban Beekeepers.

My husband and I keep several hives tucked into a corner of our backyard in full sun and out of the way of the neighbors. They zip and buzz over a mammoth hedge and into the blue sky above.

Urban Hives in a Backyard

They roam the parks and gardens of our suburban neighborhood visiting a large variety of plants, trees, weeds and wildflowers which classifies our honey in the Wildflower category and makes for distinctly different flavors from season to season depending on what is currently in bloom.

Color Variations from Harvest to Harvest

We practice Natural, Ethical and Sustainable Beekeeping Principles.  We do not use any treatments or pesticides on bees or in our garden.  We leave the bees alone to do their thing and only intervene as needed.

Taking all those things into account, it is reasonable to think that we should be losing hives to Colony Collapse Disorder left and right, but we’re not.  We could run extensive tests and get down to the genetics of our bees, but even if we did, we can’t know for sure because no one has really been able to pin-point the exact cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. More and more researchers attest that the cause lay in multiple factors and that no one clear cut culprit can be blamed.

I personally hope it has something to do our excellent care but I know that South Florida’s great weather, the reduced number of pesticides in urban areas versus agricultural areas, and our local plant diversity are more than likely helping too.

We are not the only lucky ones.  Sure, South Florida has great weather but Urban Beekeepers everywhere are reporting the same fortune.  Noah Wilson-Rich, a Simmons College’s faculty members in the Department of Biology and Urban Beekeeper estimates that the “survival of bees is greater in urban beekeeping (62.5%) than the more traditional rural beekeeping (40%)”

Could Urban Beekeeping be the solution to the elusive Colony Collapse Disorder?

Scientists still have many more questions to answer here and I think we need to do a lot of thinking about the chemicals we are putting into our foods and the effects they are having on us personally, locally, nationally and globally.  But until that happens, I do believe the salvation of the bees may lay in our cities and the hands of men and women who dare to keep them.

What Grows on Your Balcony? Update 02/05/2014

Yeah! And forget balconies too!  Use them to grow!

We are big proponents of growing food, not lawns.  But we take it one step further!  Balconies could be the only lawn most people have for a large portion of their lives.  City living crams more and more people into tiny spaces leaving less and less outside space for each of us.  Why not use the tiny spaces to grow flowers, herbs, or even some small vegetables.  Sure, the crop won’t be huge but the gain will be incredible!

Sprouting 

Blackberries, Raspberries, Grapes and Grapes

Basil, Basil, Basil

Aji dulces and sabrocitos sprouting

Oregano, Basil, Mint, Dragon Fruit

Ducli berries facing the cold

Basil reviving after a rather vicious pesto pruning

Balcony Garlic sprouting

Rosemary spring sprouting roots

What Grows on Your Balcony? Update 01/25/2014

We have left our Zone 10b home behind to venture off and relocate to Zone 9b adding a myriad of new growing options to our already long wish list.  We are in the process of find a long term home where we can plant in the ground but for now we will go back to balcony gardening as a means to release our primal gardening urges.

Garlic shooting up from our balcony garden
Lemongrass relocated from Miami
Dulci Berry, Magic fruit, seedling

Mint in a tiny pot

Aji Dulce, Aji cachuca sproted in a gallon milk jug

Breakfast Bake, Warm in the Tummy

I woke up with an insatiable urge to bake and with breakfast in my sights I plotted how to make a tummy warming baked breakfast dish.  
I pulled out my available arsenal of ingredients and starting putting together an impromptu Breakfast Bake.
The best part of this recipe is that you can personalize with whatever you may have on hand.  Ham could easily replace the bacon.  Green pepper, spinach and any myriad of  veggies could be added when available. Frozen French Fries,  Sliced Potatoes or any version of hash browns could replace the tater tots.  The variations are endless. 
Right from the oven, baked and tummy warming

… and the result, just as tummy warming as I hoped :)

SUPPLIES

A bowl
A baking dish

INGREDIENTS

10 oz Hash Brown Tater Tots
4 slices of Bacon, cooked to your liking
4 Eggs
3 tbsp Milk
1 small Onion, cubed
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch pepper
Grated Cheese, to your liking, I used about 1/2 cup

METHOD

1. Mix all the ingredients in the bowl except for the Hash Brown Tater Tots

2. Pour mixture into baking dish

3. Top mixture with Hash Brown Tatter Tots and more grated cheese as you like.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes.

I am The Tattooed Homestead

I have an overdeveloped sense of fairness!
I have no idea where I got it.
I believe that the Truth will always win over a lie, that the little guy will always beat the big mean corporation, and that when the story ends everything will be as it should be.But sometimes, things bring darkness into my rose colored world.

So this is how it begins …
In the last month, we have been given three warnings by Miami-Dade Code Enforcement for a laundry list of issues like having cardboard boxes, tarps, tools, and “other junk and trash scattered around” the property.

Courtesy of Dade County Planning and Zoning
This is not The Tattooed Homestead
When we called, they informed us it was illegal to have potted plants and potting soil in a residential property.I shared our story ( Potted Plants are Illegal: Why YOU Can’t Grow Your Own Food In Miami-Dade County ) and it got picked up by the New Times ( Potted Garden in Your Yard? Prepare to Pay a Fine! )

Someone pointed out:

But wait. You guys do run a business out of your home selling plants and plant products. At least that’s what it seems like to me all over social media. I don’t see how anyone could think you arw being picked on when this is clear.

The truth is that we don’t.

Are we a nursery? Not by any means.We sell to friends and family and other liked minded souls who believe in growing your own food but may not have the resources or the time.

But this is not The Tattooed Homestead.We’ve been staying here for just over two months, helping out with an ailing Grandmother and planting every edible we can get our hands on.  My mom planned to sell this family home to us one day and let us start the permaculture process now.  But as chance would have it, those plans will more than likely never come to fruition.

This is not The Tattooed Homestead

Our business is run out of a family home in Flagami.

This is not The Tattooed Homestead either.  Not really, anyway.

This is my husband’s childhood home, where his family has allowed us to take over the yard and grow odds and ends here and there.

So then where the heck is it?

The Tattooed Homestead is real.  At least, it is to me and my husband, and I hope it one day will be to our baby boy.

The Tattooed Homestead is:

… the idea of living sustainably and not hurting the planet while you’re doing it.  It is the idea of leaving the earth a better place than when you got here.  It is the idea that I want my child to know how food grows in the garden and not think that it comes from McDonalds.  It is that I want my child to believe that the Truth will always win over a lie, that the little guy will always beat the big mean corporation, and that when the story ends everything will be as it should be.  


… and if he falls victim to having an overdeveloped sense of fairness … then I will know I definitely did something right!

I know I’m not like everybody else.

I think that’s ok.

Right now, The Tattooed Homestead only exists in my mind … and on the internet.  One day, it may be a real place.  It may be here or somewhere far away.  It won’t make much of a difference either way to be honest.Some things will never change:

We will always grow using sustainable practices and ideas.  We will never use pesticides or treatments for our plants or for our bees.  We will always think with our hearts instead of our pocket books and we will always follow our hearts and let it guide us to what is right.

Some people may think I’m crazy.

I think that’s ok, too.

It’s not the first time I have been called different or crazy and I truly hope it won’t be the last.

As for my overdeveloped sense of fairness, I may need to learn to live with the fact that I may never change the world … but no one said I couldn’t try!

Talking to Miami-Dade County about Chickens and Bees

Trying to Get Answers

We have heard a lot of hearsay and rumors about keeping Chickens and Bees in Miami-Dade County and no one seems to know the full story including Miami-Dade County Employees.

Help us, by signing the Petition for Backyard Chickens here

Anyone who has grown up in Miami, has more than once seen chickens and roosters crossing the roads in the middle of the city.  So much so, that Miami had to reinstate the Chicken Busters after they had been “eliminated three years ago in a round of budget cuts”.

Everyone I asked had a different story.

  • You can have up to 15 Hens
  • You can have up to 4 Hens but no Roosters
  • You can’t have them at all 

The stories for keeping bees aren’t much clearer.  Most reactions run the gambit between fear and awe.

Recently, I was advised to call 311 and get to the bottom of the story … and so the odyssey begins.

Calling 311

When the phone was answered, I started with a polite “Good afternoon” as I expect I will get further being nice than by being rude.  I must have unsettled the person on the phone.  I continued and said “I am interested in getting more information on having Backyard Chickens”.  It’s not a usual question so I wasn’t surprised when she asked me to repeat myself. “I am interested in knowing the regulations for keeping chickens in your backyard”

“They’re not allowed” she stated as if she was letting me know the sky was blue and I should have known.

“Well, I am getting contradicting information from different sources,” I began to explain “I have heard that you can have 15 chickens, or 4 hens as long as you don’t have a rooster, or that you can’t have them at all so I just wanted to get to the bottom of the story.”

I think she took offense because she took a tone of exasperation and I assume pulled up the regulation which she read verbatim.

Tenants and homeowners that reside in a residential zoning district cannot raise or breed chickens, livestock or maintain beehives. 

Source http://gisims2.co.miami-dade.fl.us/MyNeighborhood/Help_Code_Violations.asp

I continued to ask if this had changed recently as I had seen documents online that said they were allowed.

Full document available at: http://hensinmia.blogspot.com/2013/09/miami-dade-once-allowed-15-hens-per.html

 She said she didn’t know but did offer that Code Enforcement might know more and to call them at (786) 315-2552.

Before I hung up, I thought to ask if she knew anything about keeping Bees and that if she knew about the recent Florida Law (source: http://news.wgcu.org/post/new-law-removes-local-control-backyard-beekeepers), but again she directed me to Code Enforcement as they would have more information.

Calling Code Enforcement

I called Code Enforcement and was briefly kept on hold before an exhausted Miami-Dade County Employee answered the phone.  Her voice exuded a lack of patience and interest that called forth pity rather than dismay.

I made a point of being as pleasant as possible as it sounded like she had suffered some terrible calamity as I began, “Hello, I am interested in knowing the regulations for Backyard Chickens?”

“Chickens are not allowed in a Residential Area” the technician stated dryly.

I continued, “Could you tell me when this changed because I found that …”

Click.  

I will assume we had phone issues and not that the technician from Miami-Dade County Code Enforcement, who is paid by my tax dollars to be available to answer questions and assist county residents, hung up blatantly in face.

Calling Code Enforcement, again

So I called again.

This time, I started by introducing my self and getting the persons name.  She said that in the 20 years she had worked at Code Enforcement Chickens had never been allowed but to check on municode.com to confirm.

I continued to ask if she knew if homeowners could keep Beehives.

“If there is a beehive the homeowner has to have it removed” she replied.

“No, I mean like a beekeeper.”  I clarified.

“Like a business? Not if it’s a residential area” she asked and answered.

“Not even under Cottage Law?” I pressed.

She had not heard about Cottage Law so I explained that Florida Law allowed Food Sales out of the home as long as those sales did not surpass $15,000 in income.  (source: http://cottagefoods.org/laws/usa/florida/)

I think I confused her because her story changed a little.  “Like a home office, yes, that’s allowed”

I asked her if we didn’t find anything on municode.com if we should assume it wasn’t allowed.

… zoning ordinances in Miami-Dade are exclusionary codes, meaning if something is not permitted, as in this case of the single-family residential district zoning ordinance (Chapter 33, Article XIV of Miami-Dade ordinances), it is not allowed. 

Source http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shortorder/2013/09/no_potted_gardens_on_residenti.php

She said she had never heard of that, so I read her the above excerpt.

“Well there you go” she responded.

I thanked her for her time and let her go as I knew she would not be able to provide me the answers I am looking for.

Now what?

I am no less confused and don’t feel that anyone I have spoken to as of yet has held enough of an understanding or interest in my question to answer me fully.

I am now reaching out to our Commissioners about our Illegal Potted Plants and trying to get answers about Chickens in Miami and Backyard Beekeeping.

Shark Diving: Four Important Tips to Keep In Mind for Your Own Personal Safety and Enjoyment

Shark diving is possible one of the most amazing experiences that anyone can have since the intense opportunity to be able to observe the ocean’s most well-known apex predators in their own habitat is truly exhilarating and petrifying. If you happen to be someone who would like to go through such a breath-taking experience, you should continue reading about the four important tips that you ought to keep in mind for your own personal safety and enjoyment.

1. Make Sure To Dive with Experts

One of the first and foremost tips is to dive with experts since they are highly knowledgeable when it comes to diving and dealing with sharks. They can easily elaborate on the actual risks involved in any shark diving experience and can teach you what you need to know to make sure that you do not run into any problems during the dive. It should be relatively easy to find experts in areas that offer shark dives so make it a point to seek their expertise so that you can eliminate the risk of running into potential harm as you explore the captivating depths of the ocean.

2. Avoid Unnecessary Attention

If you want to make sure that you do not become the subject of a shark’s interest, it is best to avoid unnecessary attention by removing all shiny items to prevent looking like their next meal and remaining as motionless as possible to avoid seeming like a potential threat which can cause them to launch into a defensive attack that could lead to serious injury. Also, make sure to never taunt a shark because doing is guaranteed to be considered an invitation for them to strike a lethal attack which can be devastating to say the least.

3. Refrain from Making Eye Contact

Eye contact is one of the best ways to get a shark to approach you on your dive which is exactly why people who go shark diving are strongly advised to refrain from making any kind of eye contact whenever possible. While the idea of looking them straight in the eye may seem to be the most exciting way to observe sharks, it is most recommended to use your peripheral vision instead.If you have poor peripheral vision, simply use a camera but make sure that you do not have any flashing attachments that will grab their attention. Always remember never to provoke a shark in any way!

4. Never Dive With an Open Wound

One of the most fascinating things about sharks is the fact that they are such efficient hunters – a skill that could very well be the result of millions of years of evolution. Part of their being so efficient lies in their ability to detect even the slightest amount of blood from miles away which is precisely why people who are planning to go shark diving should be absolutely certain that they have no wounds whatsoever.The last thing that you would like to do is give sharks the impression that you are a fresh delicious meal waiting to be eaten so make sure that you are completely wound-free.

If you would like to learn more about shark diving and how you can make it a safe and enjoyable dive, you should definitely take the time to talk to a shark expert located in your area so that you can find out all about the important things that you will need to know before you go and embark on a one-of-a-kind experience of a lifetime.

About the Author

Shark Angels is the next generation of shark conservationist, independently working and a network of angels to bring out the change. Visit their website and Go Shark Diving with SharkAngels.org..