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The simple life?

Newsflash – the simple life is not necessarily the easy
 Of course, I figured that
out the first year we lived here, but somehow, I kept thinking it would get
easier with more experience. Actually, the opposite is true. The longer we live
here, the more the attitudes and behavior of our former fast paced life slip
away (i.e. the treadmill of working to support endless consuming and waste in
search of relief from the endless work required to support the lifestyle).
  I miss the energy and convenience of our
former world, but not enough to lose myself in that lifestyle again and turn
away again from my new habit of savoring life, seeking meaning and feeling
present and connected. But still, the simple life is not easy. It takes effort,
sacrifice and a big ego wallop.

 This week’s fun . . .

My bees are dead. Not all of them, just the two new hives
that I set up last spring. My old hive is growing stronger every year and it’s
filled with bustling, energetic bees. I’ll be taking honey off them twice this
year, probably getting ten pounds or more. But the other two beehives are
empty, save a few dead bugs on the floor and empty wax comb.
  It’s not uncommon for new beehives to
have trouble in the early stages. A hive can die off due to disease or
starvation. They can be robbed of the vital honey required to survive by other,
stronger beehives. Sometimes they simply decide their home is not secure so
they swarm, just packing up their members and moving someplace else.

 A few weeks ago we had a killer cold front come in. I
happened to be visiting Florida, so Kent had to deal with lugging water to the
llamas and cracking frozen ice for the chickens. When I came home, I was making
the rounds checking my animals and I noticed the top of two beehives had blown
off during the wind. One was from a new hive, and the other was from my
established hive. I don’t think the lids were off more than a night, and there
is still a wooden top with center hole in it covering the boxes anyway, but I
was concerned about exposure. So when we had a lovely 65 degree day a few days
later, I decided to check the bees and perhaps feed them as a treat since I kept
seeing bees around my animal cages trying to scrounge for something sweet and
there is nothing blooming outside. I mixed up five pounds of sugar with water
in a gallon jug and took it to the hives. As I approached, I was delighted to
see hundreds of bees swarming, but on closer look they were all from my
established hive. No action around my two newer hives. Uh Oh.

 I opened the lid. The hive that had lost the top was
completely empty. Drat. I went to the other new hive, hoping that one fared
better. Inside was a clump of dead bees and a box full of wax comb, but the
hive had long since died out. I wasn’t all that surprised. Both of these new
hives were hobbling along last fall, with erratic and disorganized honeycomb. I
knew something wasn’t right but still, the bees were multiplying.
 I guess they died in the last two months
or so.

 Now, I have to figure out what went wrong so I learn from
the mistake. That is the part of this new lifestyle that gets frustrating. The
mistakes are endless, and sometimes, just plain sad. Both of the new hives are
made of polyurethane foam,
 a new
fangled beehive product that is supposed to be easier to lift. As a woman
handling these heavy supers alone, I thought that sounded great. But these
hives didn’t get off to a good start from the get go, and all along I’ve been
blaming it on the one different element – in this case, the product. I’ve been
bothered that I didn’t set up another traditional wooden beehive since I at
least know what to expect from that. Of course, I don’t know for sure it is the
hive material. It could just be that the bees I bought were inferior, or that
they didn’t get a good start because the neighboring hive was robbing them.
Perhaps it is because the darn hives are leaning forward a bit (I’m still
waiting for my husband to make me a sturdy table to hold my hives, and they are
sitting on concrete blocks at a bad angle.

 The new hives and the two, three pound packages of bees that
I invested in to set up this new system cost me about 250 dollars, so I don’t
want to just toss the valuable supplies away if I don’t have to – but I also
don’t want to pay 100.00 or more for more bees and spend another whole year
working on them if the dang hives are going to die next winter too, before I
ever get a dab of honey. Thus, my dilemma.

 I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with the empty
hives and all that wax comb. Can I put a new package of bees in there this
spring, giving them a head start, or would this confuse them, or cause a
further disorganized hive? Perhaps I should scrape it all out and give the wax
to Mark for woodworking, or make some beeswax candles so my project isn’t a total
loss. Then, do I try using the lightweight hive again, or cut my losses and
stick with the one product that worked for me? Shall I attempt to split my
strong hive and make a new hive for free, or will that cause me to weaken the
one good hive I have? And why bother if I’m going to put them in the hive that couldn’t support bees last season anyway? Besides which, I barely know what I’m doing when it comes
to splitting hives….

 At this point, I guess I’ll just wait till spring to take it
all apart and make a decision.
sure was excited to have three hives going. Makes the effort seem more
worthwhile. Dang. 

We’ve had a particularly wet, yet mild winter. I let my
angora rabbits go too long without pulling wool, which was evident because the
cage was getting big clumps of angora fur caught in the bars, and the animals
were looking horrible. When you don’t groom and remove the fur, it clumps and
felts, turning into one solid mass. So, I decided to spend some time on the
rabbits. I had intentions to just cut a few inches of hair so they would be
more comfortable, but once I started I discovered a solid clump of fur next to
their skin. Dang. I cut off what I could. I didn’t want to cut it too short
because I knew we could get a cold front any day, but I also didn’t want to
leave all this clumped mass of fur on my rabbits or the new hair would grow out
and be tangled and I wouldn’t be able to use it later, when I had the time and
interest to do so. In the end, I really only worked on two of the rabbits, but
I cut away more than I probably should, wanting to start fresh and being
consumed with trying to get rid of all that matted hair. Of course, a week
later, we had the worst cold front we’ve experienced in six years. The weather
went down to 2 degrees at night. I was awash in guilt, imagining my rabbits
shivering and miserable because I removed their protective coats.
  Is it not enough that these poor
rabbits suffer all summer because it’s too hot, now I have to make them cold
too???? When I went to feed them, I saw they had crawled under the hay for
extra warmth. Gee, that made me feel bad.
And I still had two rabbits that needed some kind of grooming, so the
next nice day, I gave them a hair cut too, only this time I didn’t cut the
fiber so low. I figured I had to leave the felted mass on their bodies even if
it did ruin the fiber for me come spring.
Then (and here is another example of the endless learning curve) the
next day I went to visit the rabbits, and damn if they don’t look like I didn’t
cut them at all. They must have scratched away at that felted mess until it was
a soft and loose as freshly grown wool. They had big, round fury bodies and
they looked warm, happy and much more comfortable. I’ve had angoras for three
years, but never knew they would do that with matted hair. Chalk up another new
lesson on working the farm.
  It is
endless. Will I ever be so experienced that I’ll live one day without an “Uh oh”,
or “Oh my” moment?

  Of course, I
love learning new things. I love the discovery, the challenge, the sense of
accomplishment that comes with amassing new skills. But some days, I really
miss being an authority in my field – any field.

 I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been focused on
more formal writing – steadily working on the books I may never sell. How’s
that for productivity? I was also was introduced to facebook by a friend and I’ve
been linking up with “friends” as they find me, enjoying perusing their sites,
looking at pictures and catching up. Remarkable, this plugged in generation and
the erratic way everyone communicates now.
  I hobble along, fascinated with this medium even though it feels
harried and incomplete to me.

 Mark works all the time now. He’s a natural at real estate
and I’m proud of him, but I’m wicked lonely and I crave meaningful work. I’m actually
seriously thinking about opening a dance studio next year (My friend George in
middle America doing the “I told ya so” laugh right now – he told me I wouldn’t
last a year, but in my own defense, I’ve held out for FOUR years. Remarkable
considering my personality.) So, I’m writing business plans, checking out
locations and doing plenty of soul searching. There are elements of the dance
school business I refuse to invite back into my life, but there are wonderful,
enriching elements of sharing dance with young people that I miss and after a four-year
sabbatical I’m ready to put up with SOME of the crap attached to the joy. The
challenge will be in structuring a positive, creative, artistic environment
where dance is what counts -keeping dance parents and egotistical students from
turning the beautiful process into a drama fest.
  But I honestly believe that my umpteen years of experience
have left me with the wisdom to do it right. I certainly know where to draw the
line so I won’t crack up and walk ever again. Anyway, you can laugh at my naïveté
and idealism later when I am pulling out my hair at yet another recital. One
thing is for sure; the children of this community NEED a decent school. The
young women around here need a role model – they need a positive relationship
with a woman who is down to earth and straight-laced, educated, creative, and
community oriented, and as ambitious as she is family oriented. They need to be
shown that a woman can become more than someone who just gets married at
sixteen and has kids…. Or obsessively works at the cost of inner growth
(forgive me, that sounds like I’m judging – but really, the kids here need
positive role models and they need a positive place to put their energies. They
also need a way out of this community and dance scholarships might be one way.)

 Anyway, this whole thing began when Neva started begging me
to dance and I realized I couldn’t write a check to the crappy little school
available here. If my kid is going to dance, it has to be in a way that teaches
her the true beauty of the art – and her training has to such that it will
provide self awareness, self esteem and artistic growth. Some sound dance
technique wouldn’t hurt either.

 So I’m toying with the idea of another studio. The other
day, Mark came into the bedroom and did a little pirouette. I laughed and said,
“What is that?”

He flopped on the bed and said, “I am so ready to teach
again … and so NOT ready at the same time. I have mixed feelings about all this.”

I know what he means. Me too.

 The new studio would be my gig, but Mark offered to be my
ballet teacher if I promised I’d never let another person teach his subject and
undo his hard work. Ha. When it comes to dance we will never change – we have a
certain standard for quality and we’d rather quit than be involved with
training that does not uphold our vision. But hey, if I can get the best ballet
teacher ever to work at my school part time even with strings attached, I’m
willing. The rest will unfold, as it should. One thing is for sure – I want to
keep it small so I never lose control of quality or the general attitude of the

 So that is the update. Dead bees, bald rabbits and a dance
school glimmer in my eye.

Not much news on the writing front. The weather is drab and
it puts me in a funk. This is the only month I ever miss Florida. I’m holding
out for spring where a girl’s fancy turns to her new garden, baby chicks and
bottling the wine that has been sitting in a carboy for ten months. Yes, there’s
always a lot to look forward to if you remember it’s the little things that count… 

About Ginny East Shaddock

Ginny is the owner of Heartwood Yoga Institute. She is an ERYT-500 Yoga teacher, C-IAYT Yoga therapist, RCYT & Ayurveda Counselor who loves nature, gardening, and creative arts. She has an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University, and a BA in Business Administration from Eckerd College. She teaches writing and is the creator of the memoir writing program, "Yoga on the Page" combining the teaching of yoga to writing personal stories with integrity, intention, and heart.

6 responses »

  1. I finally got a mention in your blog! I’m flattered! I definitely see a dance school in your future. I also predict a move to a lower maintenance location…


  2. I might as well mention you. You’re probably my last remaining reader…..Two people are coming to see my house this weekend. Wish us luck.We need to catch up one of these days.  


  3. I take offense to that!! I still read your blogs! Have to be in the know when I come up in April. Oh…by the way, 10 lbs lighter than when I saw you guys in December!! I’ll be svelt when your dance studio OPENS!! Yeah!


  4. Hi Ginny, Nearly 30 years later your dance class remains a highlight of my art training. I was your student in Toronto – in the same class as Sam if you remember. My name was Zvia then – and I’ve thought of you over the years. I’m so happy to rediscover your gracious love of the art via your writings. I’m currently in L.A. though not sure for how long – and I would love to say hello in person. Wishing you beauty in all things.Lila


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