Small Creatures

Waking to the ice storm this morning makes me humble. Winter has won. Three major storms in three weeks have left the vines sealed in ice, the earth securely blanketed in snow and drifts as high as the fruiting wire. Yesterday, the pelting ice began at noon and by 3:00 my vineyard crew had to call it quits; they were covered in a crackling layer of frozen sleet. Now, 20 hours later, the vineyard is crystalline, beautiful in its ephemeral icy gloss. I can’t imagine how a March thaw could be in store just 6 weeks away. While the white snow is beautiful, I am dreaming of the flowering vineyard floor in the spring.

This past fall we made special preparations in the vineyard for our cover crop to prosper. We planted new clover and chamomile seed in the rows in anticipation of the arrival of 50,000 honey bees. David and I will begin to keep bees this May hoping to make a good home for two hives. It is pretty daunting to think that I have the know-how to take care of such a complex “nation” as a honeybee hive, but with the wise guidance of two beekeepers in New Paltz New York, Chris Harp and Grai St. Clair Rice, the bees will hopefully forgive us our lack of experience.

Last weekend David and I drove up to the Hudson River region to attend a class that Chris and Grai taught centering on their quiet gentle approach that they have towards living with their bees. Chris was careful to let us know that at times the bees will exhibit their superior knowledge of all things great and small here on the earth and beyond. He taught us so much about these gentle creatures, their incredible stamina and their importance to the nature spirits.

Looking out the window now I wonder how I will feel this time next year with my first season of beekeeping completed, the earth dormant above the soil and the bees deep in their winter cluster of warmth.

Categorized as Features

By Barbara Shinn

Barbara Shinn owns and operates Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, NY with her husband David Page. Barbara is the viticulturalist and agronomist at the estate.