Category: blogging

2020 is a wrap (whew!)

i’m looking at the end of 2020 and i experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly. in reverse order, i’ll review the negative first (for beekeeping and personal).

the ugly. bees: the coronovirus left my vendor without a farmers market stand. my purchased bees did not contribute to honey production. personal: no weekly potlucks with my kids. virtual church. i went through mourning (i am not kidding one bit about this).

the bad. bees: last year, des moines community ed closed, leaving me with agent-less as a community ed beekeeping instructor. personal: my van needed A LOT of work done. my friend and i weren’t able to continue quarterly get-togethers with our classmates.

the good. bees: johnston community ed took me in. i had a third year of hybrid virtual classes for weather, sickness, and child care and all went reasonably well. my vendor pivoted and found different ways to sell my honey. I also found a potential new market / special event. i attended numerous beekeeper talks that are possible only online. personal: i made the last replace/repair on the van for a long time. *fingers crossed* i renewed and cultivated many friendships. friend development was a goal i set four or five years ago. i have no intent to quit.

overall bees: i didn’t have the beekeeping season i had planned. colonies that survived our iowa winter really helped. to stay humble and relate to my students, i continue to get at least one package per year; this year’s package queen happened to be a flop. i picked up swarms, got a flop of a nuc, but picked up another decent nuc and reared a decent queen. The bees stayed on well-stewarded land and I sold out my specialty lavender honey.

in addition to new beekeeping students, i was able to share beekeeping (and alpacas) with my youngest child, a new friend, and a fellow board member and his friend.

overall personal: once small meetings were allowed in-person at church, i joined a new group and ended up adding a short journal exercise to my morning practice of daily liturgy of the word. this journal has four boxes for a bible verse (which I take from the daily readings), stuff i want to work on, thankfulness, and prayer requests. i also left the group with a weekly mass journal. since the group ended right before thanksgiving and is a weekly practice, not daily, i haven’t a firm opinion on it yet.

it seems like the years of group and individual therapy have put me in a very good mindset to deal with a pandemic and a derecho. when i leave my group calls and networking events, i feel like i’m doing really well compared to others. i also think i have grown a lot through an extremely affordable financial education and investment program designed for women.

Paring down

I’ve written about balance before (see posts from 11/2019, 1/2019, and 12/2018 as well as 12/2015 – managing my time and energy has been an ongoing challenge, perhaps since birth). In trying to carve out time to build and rebuild personal relationships (my last high school reunion really showed me what matters), I had hoped to get some clarity on which activity (or activities) to cut out next, then COVID-19 shifted a lot of the balance for me. I have thought long and hard about what I want to give up — not much. But I know there are 24 hours in a day, so I’m looking at what might be easier to give up. I found that COVID took things away and I didn’t mind some of those things, but really minded the rest.

What I did not miss: larger service group meetings and activities. [I already knew that I would sub out some of my contract work before everything shut down.]

What I did miss: Sunday dinners with family; small fellowship groups — my modern dance workshop, church, and beekeeping; the Eucharist; and the gym (especially group fitness classes).

What does this mean going forward?

  • less commitment to one large group. very low priority to attend meetings, but i’m not ready to opt out.
  • leaving a large group.
  • joining a small group at church (weekly meetings for a couple months) and maintaining another (monthly meetings).
  • decreasing time at bee club. less posting and commenting in group. there are two other moderators/leaders and several super-users. use virtual meetings for bee club but only upon request. i feel good about establishing the online presence all those years ago, i feel good about the people i chose to hold different roles for club, and it lives just fine without me being there very much. i fulfill my small group needs by talking one on one with other beekeepers.
  • hard commitment to participating at church services where and when allowed.
  • hard commitment to my nonprofit work. i might be leaving some of this behind in the future, but would want to spend at least six months preparing for an exit. i’d want to leave things in a good place before departing.
  • slow re-introduction of Sunday dinner at my house. i envision combining family and non-family. i want to blur the lines of family to expand my kids’ personal network and be efficient with my time. i just have to figure out how many people i’m comfortable with.
  • dance. i’m not sure how to do this going forward. i love the physical partner and group work.
  • the gym? there was a big mishmash of instability at all the gyms i frequented pre-covid (as in the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day). i don’t think the gym situation has settled yet as changes to ownership and operations occurred last month. i found a crappy solution until Oct. 1, so i’m still waiting this one out. a trainer suggested i test my by running twice a week for eight weeks in addition to weight lifting. i’m undecided.

What has changed for you due to covid-19?

Telling the Bees

julia telling the bees

My paternal grandmother married into a culturally Dutch family with a Scottish name (Campbell). There seems to be a Celtic (the shared language of Scots) tradition called “Telling the Bees,” in which every hive is informed of a keeper’s major life event (deaths and marriages). I have found paintings and poems, and I must say that telling my children was easier than telling the bees and definitely easier than writing my own poem!

Telling the Bees

To keep tradition, to tell the bees,

With reluctance, I suit up and walk down the hill

Because withholding the truth could be disastrously unhealthy according to tradition.

Toward the hives, standing like tombstones,

I approach with smoke and intention.

With tears and a soft rap, I lean down and whisper, “Grandma is gone.”

Hive by hive, the honey bees hear me, laboring in the darkness of their boxes.

Young foragers approach the entrance, orient, and leave toward heaven.

They see floral arrangements from the heights, meet as a group to gather sustenance for their sisters,

And return older and learned.

Enough with the skinny talk

A couple times this last week, my participation in a wellness program was questioned. It appeared that the thought was, “If you are thin, you have no need to participate in activities that further your education, support, and morale to stay thin.”

My response to one of the criticizers: “That is a shit thing to say.”

Life is made of practices. If I am a certified teacher, do I quit learning about being a good teacher? No, in fact, the state requires that I keep learning and have to submit proof that I am still practicing. If I have been baptized, do I get a free pass for attending church for the rest of my life? Not in my world. Practicing – practicing yoga, martial arts, or any chosen activity – regardless of past achievements, is made of habits and continuous learning to deepen and widen my appreciation and knowledge of a subject.

If I engage in a dangerous or criminal or morally wrong practice, go ahead and question me. But for healthy, safe, and morally right activities, keep your judging thoughts to yourself. Just because I may look like I’m done with my journey, that doesn’t mean that I should, can, and will quit my practice.

(If you have a different thought behind your comment and question go ahead and ask it. I might respond positively if you say, “I’m interested in your motivation to participate,” or “What is your goal?” or anything more appropriate than, “Clearly you don’t need to lose weight.”)

Passion job :: IFU

julia at the policy debate

I am frequently asked what I do when I mention my passion jobs. I work quite hard (have a passion) for them. One of those jobs is being the (volunteer) Vice-President of the Iowa Farmers Union (IFU). I used to belong to a state producer group that, among other things, quit its advocacy efforts. IFU is a general farming group rather than a focused (insert commodity or market) group, and it maintains a steady presence at the statehouse and takes positions on all sorts of issues, which makes sense since agriculture touches all sorts of things including food, energy, trade, conservation, etc. It is strongly allied under a secure national umbrella for advocacy at the federal level. Most of all, it is as grassroots as it gets through education, cooperation, and legislation — IFU is truly driven by its members’ voices. All of that attracted me and felt very right, so I became a member.

The 2020 Iowa delegation in national convention in Georgia

People following my Instagram saw that I recently went to Savannah, GA, for the National Farmers Union (NFU) convention. Just as IFU holds a state convention and members decide on state policy priorities, NFU holds a national convention and each state/regional Farmers Union sends a delegation to drive federal policy priorities. This year, everyone adopted Iowa’s proposals for things like expanding CSP, having user-friendly systems for pesticide drift reporting, incentives for community food systems, and 196 pages of other issues.

Our policy book has over 200 spiral bound pages, including this one that calls for a honey standard.

We engaged in -very- civil debate which is absolutely lovely and refreshing. This year, I was appointed to the Credentials, Elections and Rules Committee, which has the responsibility of setting rules like Points of Order; Recognition by Chair; Speaking, Number of Times, Duration, Yield; certifying the number of delegates present and permitted to participate (199, to be exact), etc. We also had a parliamentarian present (I always explain this role as “the rules whisperer.”)

Pretty darn official

We had one proposal from the floor that called for NMR testing on imported honey:

When asked what I do, I frequently joke and say, “Absolutely nothing,” which is an absolute lie. What I do is I act on my passion.