Owner / Apitherapist / Head Brewer / Beekeeper
I consider myself a spiritual person even though I don’t follow any one religion. When I was in third and fourth grade, I had decided that when I grow up I wanted to become a nun. Well that’s quite a far cry considering the Irish clan I grew up with and the fun I like to have, but none the less, I feel a deep connection with mystical law, greater purpose, and being grateful. I tend to lead with my heart and rely strongly on my intuition.
That said, my training is as a scientist. My undergraduate degrees were in Biochemistry and Bioresource Research. I studied with a man named William Gerwick at Oregon State University who researched Marine plant extracts, namely algae from around the world. I was very interested in Natural Medicine, but I felt a little confined by working inside at a laboratory, so I branched into growing plants and organic agriculture. I loved it and felt like I found my calling. I worked for the Corvallis Environmental Center as the co-program manager for the Youth Garden Project and worked on many organic farms. I received a Masters of Science in Environmental Science at Oregon State University. My focus of study was Farm to School in Benton County and Garry Stephenson was my major professor. Soon thereafter, we moved to Southern Oregon in hopes of someday having our own farm. Life was difficult for awhile. We moved with 20 beehives, 20 sheep, a school bus, and a 30 ft yurt. We didn’t have electricity, water, or phone for 2.5 years, but we did have 23 acres adjacent to Sucker Creek, the largest tributary to the Illinois River. That was about 15 years ago. Since then, we have grown our beekeeping business to over 650 hives, got rid of the sheep, and dove into ‘all things bees’.
Beekeeping as a spiritual practice. It is, of course, totally in the moment. The buzz is loud and you feel fully in. Rehearsing love not fear, and faith that your beesuit is tightly closed. It’s easy to get pulled into bee medicine as a beekeeper. You experience it all and the smell of the hive comes home with you. For me, I was most inspired by the writing of Wendell Berry and Rudolf Steiner. The passion and dedication for country living mixed with astrology and some magic lead me down a path to making honeybee medicines and practicing apitherapy.
Now I feel like I’ve combined all my passions into one path. This is not to say, that this defines me. I am also foremost a mother to three beautiful daughters. It is for my daughters that I carry the feeling of agrarianism, hope for a strong rural economy, love for adventure, and bravery as a female with education and confidence.
Master Beekeeper / Botanist / Naturalist / Mycologist
I traveled my way to the west coast as a 19 year old more sure of what I was fleeing from than what exactly I was looking for. Traveling with The Grateful Dead taught me enough to know that I wished to learn to do for myself, thank you. I found myself in Olympia, WA loitering on the campus of Evergreen State College. There I mined the library and read all it had to offer of sustainable farming, botany, and diy country living books. I ate them for breakfast. Soon after, I took my intensive PDC permaculture course in Eugene, OR and the rest all flowed from there. Permaculture taught me that to understand my environment I needed to speak the languages of chemistry and botany. I went on to study botany and mycology at Oregon State University. I have worked for various governmental agencies over the years, first as an employee of The Army Corps of Engineers as Biological Technician in the field of botany. Later, I went on to be employed as a botanical contractor for agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service throughout the state. I spent several years conducting surveys for rare fungi, lichens, and mosses under the direction of our National Forest Plan mandating a need for new levels of understanding with regards to rare and endangered organisms associated with old-growth forests.
Botany led me to be an observer. To succeed in finding a rare moss difficult to see with the naked eye, you learn to observe natural patterns in the landscape that point you to your goals. I observed the flowers and their communities. I observed where they grew. I observed the insects. And the moisture in the soil. I observed plant communities that are rare and stable, and communities in flux with disturbance. I observed the role that fire plays in our landscape, and I observed parasites consuming the viable seed in a plant population in distress. Amongst all this I fell in love with the art of apiculture. Keeping bees is akin to farming crossed with botany. As it is tied to the natural patterns of the landscape, beekeeping became an outlet for my love of both the agrarian and the wild. I was first shown the inside of a beehive in 1994. I was lucky enough to take the last offering of Apiculture at Oregon State University from the esteemed Dr. Michael Burgett.
But it was 1998 before we were finally living in a rural setting and able to keep our first bees. We were lucky enough to live near some wonderful mentor beekeepers Kenny and Heika Williams of Williams Honeybees in Blodgett OR. They were kind enough to share freely their experience, and to be a source of package bees for years to come as we grew our operation. Joy and I have always been firmly committed to organic practices and from the beginning we followed any standards we could find in writing for beekeeping, including those published by The Oregon Tilth. For years we struggled with parasite problems and ineffectual organic mite treatments while struggling to sell our products for a premium in the face of stagnating wages and soaring Chinese honey imports. We started doing pollination to help pay the bills while simultaneously launching our new non-migratory organic side of the operation. Our non-migratory operation consisted of 200 foundationless hives on super jumbo frames, which we managed consistent with biodynamic standards. While we still run some of these hives, our experience with them led to the development of Natural Nest hives with all their superior attributes. My experience as a beekeeper has led me to mentoring for the Oregon State Master Beekeepers Program and teaching as an officer of our local association, Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association. I have also taught classes in mycology for Siskiyou Field Institute, and continue to teach and speak for naturalist and beekeepers organizations in the region.