Surviving the 2016 Election Outcome

It’s hard for an environmentalist to not feel despair right now. I’ve been counseling people to wait and watch. When someone has been as much as a liar and changed what he says as often as Trump does, it’s easy to believe that  he won’t move forward with some of the things he has promised to do, right now, I’m not sure if I am  being rationale or in denial. Typically, I counsel action as there are so many things you can do to protect our planet.  

2016-09-24-16-44-34However, first we have to mourn. We have to mourn for what we have lost. I believed that we were on the verge of having leadership that understood what most other world leaders truly understand – that burning fossil fuels has been causing significant and major harm to our planet and that we need to stop burning fossil fuels as quickly as possible, and we need to prepare for our changing climate. I work on these issues every day through my actions, my words, the projects I run for my community and the policies I advocate for at state and federal levels. 

Today, I am not just disappointed that our country didn’t elect the person who I believe could lead the United States in this complicated time of climate change, but also I feel the acute loss of having firmly believed that we would have that leadership which has now been snatched away, as certainly and suddenly as if someone had died. I, and many people I know, have been moving through the past few days as if a very close friend or a family member had died. We all have our own ways of dealing with mourning and death and we have to help each other through that. My way is crying, and then slowly talking with people who understand the depth of my pain and fear. I truly appreciate the people who have been aware and respectful of how profound this loss is for me.

IMG_0052I was starting to accept that the easy road to protecting our planet was gone, yet I had hope that Trump, having recently been liberal, might still realize that he can’t have clean air and clean water unless we stop burning fossil fuels and do the right things in this area. I’ve been seeing rumors about who he might appoint to head the EPA, but I keep telling myself that they are just rumors.  Yesterday I came across his new transition website. I don’t want to legitimize it or him by using his name (really, he’s not magical like Voldemort) or pointing people to his website.  However, I believe in citing my sources.

screenshot-2016-11-11-06-13-43t-energy-independence[I will note here though, that in acknowledgement that the web is easily changed and that since Trump (there I did it again) has changed his words so often, I have felt it necessary to include a screenshot of what I saw tonight in case it changes again.  I’m not crazy and I’m not wrong if this is not what his site says when you go to see for yourself, he just can’t keep his story straight.]

I am heartened to see that he he acknowledges “the country’s most important resources – our clean air, clean water and natural habitats.” However, Donald Trump honestly seems to believe that he can allow coal mining, encourage fossil fuel production on American land and still keep the air and water clean. Burning fossil fuels – gasoline, oil, coal, natural gas – is the leading cause of air pollution in the world. Even China has figured this out and when they wanted the air clean for the Olympics, “The country shut down all nearby factories and ordered half the cars off the road, creating tangible improvements, scientists say.”  – National Geographic, August 2008.  It was tangible.  When they stopped the combustion, it was easier for people to breathe in China. The Chinese people understand this, which is why their country is making a faster transition to renewable energy than anyone thought possible. 

Usually I have advice for what people can do.  Right now there’s a lot of speculation, waiting and watching.  However, the US Senate has to approve all of his nominations to the US Cabinet and many other nominations, including the EPA Administrator. Write to your Senators and ask them, for the sake of your children’s health, to not vote to confirm someone as Energy Secretary or as EPA Administrator, who doesn’t understand that burning fossil fuels pollutes the air and makes it harder to breathe.  Ask them only to confirm someone who believes in climate change being manmade.  Even if you believe your Senator already agrees with  you, write to them anyhow, so that they know their constituents are with them. 

girl overlooking the waves at the beach

Watch with me and be ready to act

And watch this space.  When we know who he has nominated for confirmation, then we will ask you to send specific letters about specific people – and who knows, I still have hope, maybe he won’t pick any of the names being tossed around right now, maybe he’ll choose someone who does believe the science.  

In the meantime, I’m reading email from the Sierra Club  and support in my state Sierra Club chapter to make changes here in my state. I’m following the World Wildlife Fund and the National Resources Defense Council.  I’m watching what Elizabeth Warren  and Bernie Sanders say. I’m ready to support the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

I’m waiting, I’m watching, I’m listening, I’m talking. I’m standing with people who are bullied and talking to my children how important it is to stand up when they witness discrimination, intimidation and bullying.  We have to stand up for our values and support those that are terrified and vulnerable.  Here’s an excellent illustration created by the artist Maeril on how to help someone being harassed in a public space. 

1) Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked! 2) Please make sure to always respect the wishes of the person you’re helping: whether they want you to leave quickly afterwards, or not! If you’re in a hurry escort them to a place where someone else can take over - call one of their friends, or one of yours, of if they want to, the police. It all depends on how they feel!

By Maeril 1) Do not, in any way, interact with the attacker. You must absolutely ignore them and focus entirely on the person being attacked!
2) Please make sure to always respect the wishes of the person you’re helping: whether they want you to leave quickly afterwards, or not! If you’re in a hurry escort them to a place where someone else can take over – call one of their friends, or one of yours, of if they want to, the police. It all depends on how they feel!

Watch with me.


P.S.  Watch Leonard DiCaprio’s Before the Flood.  You won’t be disappointed. 

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The Day the Bees Ran Away

Saturday, three days after we installed our new bees, I went into the kitchen and heard a significant buzzing in our backyard.  I looked out the back window and saw what looked like 10,000 bees flying around our backyard. I realized immediately, this was NOT GOOD. 


Our queen in her box

We had installed our bees on a Wednesday. When you install bees in a new hive, the queen goes in a separate box with a sugar plug in the end. The bees take about three days to chew out this sugar plug which gives them time to get used to the smell of the queen. We had scheduled time on Saturday around noon for our co-op to open up the beehive and make sure the bees were settling in properly to their new home. I got home just before noon that day with Timmy and his best friend in tow, ready to show them the beehive and teach them about bees, when I saw the scary scene in our backyard.

Luckily, we had gone through the house, not around, so I was forewarned of the problem before the kids went into the yard. From my kitchen, which overlooks the backyard, I heard the loud buzzing and saw the scene before opening the door.  I was so startled by the scene that I didn’t think to stop and take a picture to share with you-all on the blog.

Instead, I immediately called Randi, my co-op partner and the only one in the three families with previous bee experience.  She picked up the phone with the words: “I’m on my way.” I replied: “Good because something is definitely wrong.” I went out my front door, and around the house cautiously. I peered out from behind the carport and saw 10,000 bees in my backyard, mostly along the hedge between my yard and the neighbors. And the neighbor was out front and yelling.

Randi arrived, and peered around the carport with me. She agreed that what we saw was was not OK. We grabbed our book about beekeeping, and she started putting on the bee suit. We watched as the bees settled onto hedges between our house and the neighbor’s house.

“OK, I’m pretty sure they’re swarming” said Randy “they must not like the beehive, or maybe something disturbed it.”

“What do we do?”

“I’m going to make some quick phone calls, to see if we can get help, why don’t you read in the book under swarming. Usually when they swarm, you can cut the branch off that they land on and shake them back into the beehive.”

“Isn’t that dangerous? Won’t they sting you?” I replied

“Bees are at their least dangerous when they’re swarming. If a honeybee stings you, it dies. When they’re swarming they don’t have a home, or a supply of honey, so they don’t want to sting you. It’s an instinctive response.”


Bees swarming in Hawaii

We watch the bees settle and form a huge clump on one of the branches of the hedges. The kids went in the (other) neighbor’s yard where they could sit, like an audience, and watch the show. For some reason, the chain link fence between the two yards felt like an impenetrable barrier between them and the bees. Jonathan joined us as we started our next move.

Wearing protective gear, Randi opened up the beehive so we could see inside. She pulled out the frames and much to our dismay, we saw that nothing was built on any of them. The bees over the past three days, hadn’t done any thing to make this beehive their home. We realized then that we had a real problem. We knew that if we put the bees back in the beehive, they were unlikely to stay. We had to try anyhow, we couldn’t leave the bees in the bush next to the house, the neighbor on the other side of those bushes was quite upset, and we were waiting to hear back from some of our local experts.

We set up a step ladder next to the bushes where the bees had set up their swarm, Randy climbed up there and cut the branch out of the bush. She carried it over to the beehive (in a new location on the other side of the yard away from the upset neighbor) and shook (banged the branch on the edge of the beehive) all the bees back into the beehive. We waited a few minutes, making nervous small talk and watching the hive, and about five minutes later the bees started pouring out of the beehive. Sigh. Randi put the cut off branch back in the bush where it had come from, just leaning on other branches. We hoped the bees would relocate themselves back to the same branch, and we wouldn’t have to keep cutting branches out of the bush.  


Randi with our absconding bees

We repeated this process two more times, each time the bees refusing to stay in the beehive.

In the meantime I started looking for places to call. I knew there was a Middlesex Beekeepers Association, because we had someone from there come to the energy festival I organize each year. I looked up the phone number from my festival notes and called it to find out it was a store. They were unable to help, but told me that the Beekeepers Association had a “swarm coordinator.” They gave me her name and phone number, and I called.

I explained that I was a new beekeeper in Medford and I had been given her phone number as the Swarm Coordinator for the Middlesex Beekeepers Association. I explained what was happening, and she said,  “Oh, they didn’t build anything? They absconded.”


“Yes, that’s when the whole hive swarms without ever building anything. It means they deserted the hive. It’s pretty rare, but it sometimes happens with new hives.”

Great.  Rare.  At least it’s a known thing and I knew I was going to get a great blog post out of this, even if my neighbor was threatening to call the City and we might lose all our bees. I took the phone out to Randi and she spoke to the Swarm Coordinator from the top of the step ladder. Finally Randi came down and told us that she was going to go to Lexington to get a fully built out honeycomb. In the meantime we were just going to hope that the bees didn’t leave.

Jon and I had no experience with swarming, so we discussed what might happen if the bees were to leave.  Randi explained that scout bees were out looking for a new home. We live right near the woods, so at best we hoped that they would go build a new hive in the woods, at worst they might set up a hive in our neighbor’s yard. Then he’d REALLY be mad.


Bees swarming in Newton

Our next-door neighbors were very, very upset by this entire goings-on. They had been quite scared by the swarming, and were completely unconvinced that it was proper to have a beehive in a suburban yard. I realized that this was perhaps not the time to tell him that many people had beehives in the city, and that in fact there’s a Boston Beekeepers Club and that there are specific rules allowing these hives in some of our neighboring communities. I also knew that there was no local ordinance preventing bees in our town, I had discussed it with our Code Enforcement Officer long before getting the bees. I understood that they were scared of bee stings, but they also did not understand my desire to support the bee population.  They were convinced that my motivation was simply for fresh honey.

After an hour or two, Randi returned with a honeycomb with lots of honey on it and replaced one of our empty frames with it. She also wiped down the hive with queen bee essence that she got with the honeycomb.  She made another attempt to put all the bees back in the hive, banging the branch on the beehive to knock the bees off of it and into the hive, as well as putting the hive under the bush and brushing the bees off of the bush into the hive.  This time we also put the queen excluder on the bottom of the hive instead of on the top.

This is where we learned that – obviously- you don’t want your queen in your “honey super” because you want that to be all honey and the eggs to be in your “brood boxes”.  Therefore, we had a plastic mesh piece that would go between the brood box and the honey super once we put it on that would allow most of the bees to go back and forth, but the queens would be too big to get through the mesh.   You can also put the queen excluder to block the entrance to the hive because when the bees swarm, they are following the queen, who is unhappy with her hive for some reason.  If the queen can’t leave, there’s a good chance the rest of the bees won’t leave either.

Once the bees were in there was really nothing more that we could do, but leave them alone for about a week.  Luckily, the next week was pretty cold and drizzly, not the kind of weather that the bees like to go out in.  Every day I’d look out the window and hope that I didn’t see any swarming, or anything that looked like bees leaving, and so far, so good.

Happy Greening,

Alicia & Jon

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Building Our Beehive

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We were very excited when our beehive finally arrived - about a year after we had decided to go in jointly on a beehive. We were very excited to build it and decided to work on it together as a group. Amazingly, it wasn't long before we found a time … [Continue reading]

Dogs and Doughboys

Roasting Doughboy

This year on our annual camping trip I was sitting with my young friend by the fire making doughboys and discussing why some people like dogs and some don’t.  She’s a huge fan of dogs and told me she likes them so much because they are soft and … [Continue reading]

The Best Bees in Massachusetts

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It turns out, if you want to buy 10,000 bees and a queen bee in New England, you have to plan early. In February we received confirmation that our Flow Hive would ship in late March and realized we needed to get the bees to go with it. As we … [Continue reading]

Your Perfect Lawn Makes Me Sick

Pesticides on lawn

Every day I drive the carpool to school and we drive past lots of yards.  Some have gardens, some have bushes, some have scraggly grass, some have grass with brown spots, but a couple are absolutely, perfectly green. They don't have any weeds, … [Continue reading]

Creating a Beehive Co-op

bee hive

We have bees.  Not an infestation, but an actual honey beehive that we have setup in our backyard.  Luckily, it's legal here, because we've had some problems. Last year, I spotted the Flow Hive Indiegogo crowd funding campaign … [Continue reading]

Earth Day UN Climate Agreement Signing


A great agreement is being signed today, April 22, 2016, but even if all countries do what they are agreeing to, we will still have catastrophic climate change. Encourage your government to do more. Setting personal examples, showing a willingness … [Continue reading]

Open Space, Climate Vulnerabilities and Making


We haven't been blogging much over the past year and I suspect some people wonder why - other than we both work full time and have three kids! There's always a lot going on in our lives, but this year I think these three phrases encapsulate the … [Continue reading]

Solar Charging Super Bowl 50


The one team that I care about playing in  Super Bowl 50 NFL Championship game is team Solar!  Levi's Stadium in San Francisco has 375 kW of solar panels that generate enough electricity each year to power all of the 49ers home games. … [Continue reading]