Friday, December 14, 2012

Million Flower Honey Company

If you need some high quality raw honey, head out to Fountain Studios at 604 Grand St in Brooklyn on Saturday and Sunday.

I might not be there, but I'll have some honey from my little honey-sale side project, Million Flower Honey Company, available.

All the honeys I sell are from treatment-free hives, harvested ethically, and completely raw.

Also, they're delicious.

I'm sold out of my batches from Ethiopia and Fort Greene, but I still have quite a bit of honey from my friend Sam Comfort, proprietor of He makes some damn fine honey that you should definitely add to your collection!

Sam Comfort making some queens.

Fountain Holiday Craft Sale

A Holiday Market. Filled with goods. For gifts & more.
Sat & Sun December 15 & 16


Ben Duchac
Caitlin Gleason
Hand Knit accessories
Campbell Raw Press
Carda Burke
Claire Boockmeier
Farai Simoyi
Handsome Miss Mock
Ian Hall
Kaelyn Garcia
Kellyn Leveton
Matt Shaw
Rocket Dove
Roots in Rust
South Fifth
Troy Hagenbart

Friday, November 2, 2012

National Museum of Ethiopia, May 20th

After the late night at Fendika drinking honey wine (tej) and listing to Ethiopian beatniks, I crashed hard at the hotel after enjoying (yet another) hot shower. Drinking is hard work, you know, and it was hot in the club, surrounded by drinking, dancing, and flowing creativity.

The next morning, I woke up and, after taking another shower, called up my friends Addis and Azeb, whom who I had met the night before after being e-introduced by Bob Holman of Bowery Poetry Club fame. He had been in Addis a few months prior and made some good friends at Fendika, so when he heard I was in town he connected us immediately.

Morning tea, my favourite tradition of the stay.

I had a serious day of museuming planned, so a little bit of morning tea was in order. After a light breakfast of porridge, cream, and jam, the spiced shai hit the spot and completed my Ethiopian morning routine. We walked to the museum to be greeted by a large cannon, and a larger mosaic.

Cannons, the anthesis of preservation! Better put one in front of the museum!

Museums in Ethiopia are different than those in America or Europe. Unlike our massive museums which tend to offer wide surveys of a subject, many of the museums in Addis are smaller, subject specific, and somewhat shady. I suspect that most tourists who come here don't do it for the museums. Many of the display lights were misdirected, broken, or dirty. It was a shame, considering the quality of some of the pieces.

The National Museum contains artifacts from the many cultures of Ethiopia's past, both ancient and modern. As might be expected, fertility and virility symbols played a large part. Seems to be a common theme, huh?

Venus, rising.

She seemed unusually similar to the Venus of Willendorf in both aesthetics and execution. The similarities between the traditional art of cultures is a constant source of amazement for me.

This throne is even funnier when you consider that Haile Selassies head barely cleared the cushions.
Dude was the size of a child.

The layout of the museum was a bit odd; Haile Selassie's throne is in the room next to the ancient Abyssinian sculptures and is divided from the rest of the museum by a case of European rifles on one hand and imperial hats and crowns on the other.

Ancient bronze oil lamp...

...which featured a hunting dog catching an ibex.

Menelik II's hat.

And his crown.

Haile Selassie's crown. Clearly made with an eye towards subtlety.

As soon as you go downstairs, you run into a bunch of signs for Lucy. This is the one part of the museum that seems to have any thought put into it. The signage is clear, the specimens are well lit, and there were even interactive touchscreen kiosks. It was almost like being in a museum back home, except it was only a single room.

Hello there.

Cousin! It's been so long!

Upstairs is a gallery of modern and contemporary Ethiopian Art. Their sensibilities are a little different, but some of the craftsmanship was beautiful.

Lion of Judah, the national symbol of sovereignty.

Cat eyes.

On my way out, I ran into some ancient stone and clay sculptures that I had missed on my way through the first time. They were poorly lit and hidden in a dusty corner, but I am glad I found them as they turned out to be some of my favourite specimens in the entire collection. I wish I could have taken them home with me, but alas, there was no gift-shop. Apparently the Disney model has not reached Addis Ababa yet.




On my way back to the car, I passed by an outdoors archaeology exhibit. Unfortunately, it was trashed. Quite literally.

Pride of a nation.

It troubled me that a nation and people so connected and proud of their history could treat their own museums with such disrespect. When I asked my driver why there was litter in the museum, he told me that everyone did it.

On his way back from the museum, he threw his empty coffee cup out the window.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I hate to start the blog back up with bad news, but I guess that is just the way things are going to work.

As many of you have heard, 17 hives from the Brooklyn Grange Beekeeping Apprenticeship, which I co-founded with Chase Emmons and the financial/logistical backing of the Brooklyn Grange, were destroyed Monday night/Tuesday morning by Sandy's 14 foot storm surge.

While the hives survived the first high tide, they were not so lucky the second time, and most, if not all, were swept away by the rising water. While some of the woodenware was recovered and may be salvageable, essentially all the comb was contaminated/ruined and the bees were drowned.

Drowned brood. The bees probably drowned trying to protect it, but were swept away when the hive broke apart.

scha·den·freu·de - noun, \ˈshä-dən-ˌfrȯi-də\:
enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others
see: yellow-jackets

Drowned bees just don't have the same charm as the living ones.

A survivor.

Trying to keep warm and protect the hive to the very end.

All my favourite hives were swept away. If anyone finds a very nicely built top-bar hive, or a piece of wood with a Shaolin-style Winnie-the-Pooh, please drop me a line.

On a higher note, the hives my girlfriend and I maintain in Fort Greene seem to have survived with nary a scratch. The survivor I found at the Navy Yard came with me into the car where I warmed her up and fed her some fresh honey that hadn't been contaminated with polluted salt water. When I was checking on the hives that survived, I popped her right in. With a full belly of honey, she'll be welcomed into the hive, and maybe even be of some use.


Verizon product placement. Ignore the last one. That's Sprint.

So where do we go from here?

I don't know, or at least I'm not sure yet.

A lot of time, a lot of work, and a lot of love went into maintaing those hives over the last several months, both on my part and those of my amazing beekeeping apprentices. They grew in experience and knowledge just as the hives grew in population and production; watching them do so was a humbling experience for me. Seeing their hard work washed away overnight is incredibly sad and incredibly frustrating.

There were as many bees in those hives as there are people in Staten Island; almost half a million (down from an estimated 1 million in the summer, when hive populations are larger.) Obviously bees as individuals have nowhere near the intrinsic value of even the meanest human (debatable?), but the loss of so much life (and potential for life) so senselessly is a horridly heavy burden and I cannot help but wonder if it might have been avoided.

P.S. I posted the video to the Apprenticeship page on Facebook already, but it still makes me laugh.

Apropos, no?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Brooklyn Grange Beekeeping Apprenticeship: Weeks 4,5,6

The arrival of May saw a return to the Brooklyn Navy Yards and our fledgling hives. Our sojourn in Queens has proved to be good experience, though. The Brooklyn Grange’s overwintered hives were incredibly healthy, allowing us to observe proper laying patterns and to learn how to distinguish between brood and honey cells. At the Navy Yards, the package hives are still quite small and on a whole weaker than what we’ve become used to dealing with. However, now that we know how to look and what to look for, the process is much easier.

c2012, Slavalava Wisey

That said, the bees are still quite mysterious to me. We installed four nearly identical packages our first day (and two more have been added since), but what has made some hives strong and others not seems completely random. We’ve tried a variety of measures to improve our weaker hives, including adding queens and combining colonies where a queen was missing in order to bolster the number of workers.

Coming back to the hives this weekend, it appears that these measures have led to some improvements. Population numbers seem to be up. Several hives have already been given a second super to fill with brood and honey. While there are still some struggling queens, it appears that the hives can at least take care of themselves, producing queen cups in order to raise their very own queen.

As for us apprentices, we’re learning to take care of ourselves too. For hive checks this week we split into teams of two and three to take apart the hives independently. That’s not to say we don’t still have room for improvement. There’s definitely a finesse to the hive check that only time and practice can bring, but that’s the point of this apprenticeship, no? Till then, we’ll have to remember to pull the frames out a bit slower, making sure the queen isn’t dislodged and discarded in the process (don’t think this actually happened, but it is a situation our current technique could create). 

 c2012, Slavalava Wisey

Finally, we paid a brief visit out to the hives still living on the pier. They seem to have calmed down after a few weeks in a stable location. We opened up one super and found them overflowing out of their frames, filling all extra space with comb. After going through a handful of frames, we carefully packed them away. These bees are much more protective of their hive and therefore aggressive. Changing out the wooden ware and moving them over to the roofs is an adventure we have to look forward to.  

 c2012, Slavalava Wisey

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Return to Addis, May 19th

Morning in Nekemte, the sound of morning prayers from the local Ethiopian Orthodox Church filling the air.

200 km of dirt, 100 km of road.

We stopped for roasted maize from the same family as before.

I took pictures this time.

There were also goats.

And the corn was tasty.

Morning shai.

And good morning to you too.

Mangoes, 3 cents each.

Into the valley.

Fresh eggs, 11 cents each.

Buying the eggs.



Greenhouses for the flowers that give Addis Ababa (New Flower) its name.

Hills and pastures.

Cows and horses.

Leaving Desalegn at his home.

With an awesome view of Addis.

Dinner.  Brain Delight, Lamb brain sauteed in a spicy tomato sauce with beans on a bed of couscous.

+ Italian style cheesecake.

+ Saffron ice cream.  + Roast veal (for my driver) + Middle Eastern mezze platter = $28.
Quite literally one of the most expensive restaurants in Addis.

A recommendation from Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club.  The Ethiopian equivalent of a poetry and music house.  Not a black beret in sight, but an abundance of good music, improvised songs, and tej, or honey wine.
A late night.