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Holland–Our First Day

Oh, goodness, where to begin, and how to share it all with you! Well, how about I let some pictures paint the image of our day? If there is a better way to spend your day than with bees and gardens—well, is there any such thing? Just let me sit among straw, bees, and skeps, and leave me here until I become a very happy fossil! This is a corner in Ferry’s sweet bee apiary, “Smart Beeing.” It is on the grounds of–oh please help me spell this right—the Vrij Waterland Biodynamisch Onderwijstuin, a huge garden installation next to one of Haarlem’s five Waldorf schools. A children’s garden is part of the project, and the Waldorf students are deeply bedded in nature there. Here, I rest after much walking, looking, exclaiming, and marveling.

Our day began with a lovely tour of the downtown center of Haarlem, an ancient city of meandering canals and the most lovely architecture I believe I’ve ever seen. Ferry shuttled us about in his great old VW camper, telling Haarlem tales all along the way.

The sign in the car says “bee transport.” Ferry says with that sign in the window, no one will ever steal his vehicle. I concur! Here are some images of the town, which is beautiful, clean, and seems to have more bikes than cars. Wonderful!


Bikes, boats, water, brickwork, and weather like our own beloved Northwest. All this and universal healthcare and retirement. The photo below is of a lovely little courtyard of gardens and small homes that have been established for widows and older single women, where they can live comfortably and affordably. I’m moving here if I become widowed someday…

Okay, on to the gardens and bees! First, the gardens—biodynamic, organic, incredibly well-tended and lush. It feeds over a hundred families. Berries are just coming on right now, and I filled my hands and my mouth with these lovely, thornless blackberries. On this blustery day, not a lot of bees where foraging, but we managed to visit with a few bumble bees along the way. None of them looked familiar to me…

Ah, but the Sun Hives looked very familiar! All are exquisitely crafted, and bursting at the seams with bees. The one on the left is cloamed with clay.

Ferry poses among the suspended tomatoes in the large and toasty warm greenhouses. I will do this with ours next year. What a great way to harvest! In the photo below, wooden stakes outline a narrow bed around much of the garden, and branches and twigs are stacked between the posts, making a sort of critter-friendly hedgerow of small wood. Eventually, you get compost…

When you put Jacqueline in a garden, she shines. She can’t help it. It was lovely walking through all these familiar plants, veggies, and fruits. Some were new to us. The garden was also full of Hemp Agrimony, which loves wet ground. Haarlem has a lot of land that is below sea level, and the water table is so high that all buildings must be placed on thick and deep concrete pillars to keep them from sinking into the deep peat deposits below.


Oh, yes…the bees! Once we’d completed our garden tour, Ferry took us to Smart Beeing, tucked away deep in the garden. Seeing the skeps all lined up, buzzing with happy European black honeybees, I was almost brought to tears. I joke at home about my bee shed, referring to it as my “bee-thedral,” but it is really not all that funny: In a deep way, bees ARE my church. But Ferry’s place…oh my…the sense of the sacred is palpable there, all soaked up in the beautiful propolis-drenched skeps that Ferry has been making for his bees for years now. These are the first skeps I’ve ever seen besides my own and watching Ferry handle them and talk about them was a delight, an education, and a blessing…

The short boxes beneath most of the skeps are feeding boxes, much like our ecofloors. Ferry figured out sooner than I did that you must keep a fairly small hole open between the skep and the feeding box, or the bees will move down into it and begin filling it with comb, as my bees have done with their ecofloors. When I make my new skeps this year, I’ll fix that problem! The hives painted green are Nationals—Europe’s answer to the Langstroth.

I like the vertical straw on this skep, secured with wire. And that top knot is a real work of art! Below, Ferry pulls down on of his skeps housing a spring swarm.

As usual, the bees don’t mind us peeking in from the bottom, and continue to go about their good work. Do I look entranced?

My log hives are very simple affairs. Ferry goes all out! The wooden hat on the big log face is a wonderful piece of wood craft. See that top bar hive on the right? Well, the bees have access into the pitched roof, and Ferry has placed a feeder box up under there. The bees access the feeder box through a hole Ferry drilled into the first bar…

Here’s the feeder box “at work” in the top bar hive…

Here is a VERY old skep. Just look at the propolis coating the bees have made over the years!

…and to the inside of the hive, as well… And the smell is out of this world!

Here is the inside of Ferry’s bee-thedral, and a closeup of the log hive hat.

We all could have spent the whole day there, talking about how Ferry brings in children to meet the bees, and how gentle these bees are. But remember, Ferry promised to show me some weaving tips, so after lunch in Haarlem city center, we headed home and up to Ferry’s weaving studio. But first, we can’t come to Holland and not see a windmill!

Jacqueline says, “Wow, they are much bigger than I thought!” Susan says, “Let’s weave!” Ferry says “Okay!”

And so the next adventure begins…

Tomorrow, I’ll be doing more weaving, and Jacqueline and Joseph will be seeing more of the sights in and around the City. It is a beautiful place to bee.

Please forgive any typos. It’s Waaaaaaay past my bedtime!