Four Corners Beekeepers & Minna Jain’s Twin Buttes Apiary
Originally posted at Top-Bar-Beehives.com:
After spending four full days in New Mexico talking to beekeepers, I headed back into southern Colorado to meet with more people in Durango. On Monday morning, I went over to see Tina Sebestyen, President of the Four Corners Beekeepers (Buzz Club). At her hillside home, she showed me her gardens, chickens, ducks and pigs which we’re all conveniently located next to her bee-yard. With veils and gloves on, we opened one of her Langstroth hives and one top bar hives, doing a quick check-up on the Queen and her laying patterns. With things looking ok inside the colonies, we stood outside of the electric fence and Tina explained how she got involved in beekeeping. Starting off as her father’s idea, they began to purchase equipment and acquire honeybees, sparking her passion for the tiny, magical creatures. As the years have past, she continues to work with and learn from the bees, and is now one of the lead organizers of the local beekeeping association. Beyond mentoring, hosting workshops and bringing in speakers, Tina helps remove honeybee hives in southern Colorado and hopes to continue incorporating bees and other animals into her life amongst the oak and pine trees.
My next stop in town was with Jennifer Wrenn, another member of the Buzz Club and local honeybee mentor. At her house, we sat and talked on her beautifully landscaped patio, overlooking her top bar beehive. Surrounded by blooming sage, roses, plumes, skullcap, and cat mint plants, Jennifer explained that she had long been involved in the Durango food movement but it wasn’t until a few years ago that she began beekeeping. During a local garden tour, she and her husband came across a yard with a top bar hive and were inspired to create one for their home, an experience both of them have greatly enjoyed. As a mentor, Jenny now works alongside new beekeepers, helping them establish their own hives and she continues to learn, through the process of mentoring people, about honeybees and their complex world.
As the day continued, I took a short break at the local food co-op, taking a moment to check my emails and make a few notes for the blog. At five pm, I headed over to Minna Jain’s house, another top bar beekeeper who I had been put in touch with via our facebook page. Walking up to her home, it was clear that Minna and her husband were creating a safe space for bees, evidenced by the blooming herbs, trees and shrubs that filled both the front and back yards. Above the permaculture gardens, Minna’s top bar hive sat stacked ontop of a hale bale with a beard of bees hanging to the side of it, looking out over the garden. After meeting Minna, we headed out to her larger bee-yard located at Twin Buttes, a new community that is being built based on sustainable community design principles. Incorporating open space areas, wild life corridors, renewable energy sources, and local agricultural zones, Twin Buttes has also recently established a ten hive bee-yard that is cared for by Minna.
Adjacent to fields of vegetable crops and dozens of clucking chickens, Minna and I opened up one of the top bar hives and checked in on them. Using smoke from Juniper bark, Minna explained that her bees have never suffered from mites, a trick that she learned when she was living in New Mexico. As a community organizer, Minna had moved to Albuquerque in the mid 2000’s to pursue an education in permaculture design when she was also introduced to top bar beekeeping. After attending a season long class with Les Crowder, Minna began to take care of her own bees and host local workshops, which have contributed to her taking care of the hives at Twin Buttes.
Wrapping up at Twin Buttes, we went back into town and I interviewed Minna in her backyard, permaculture garden. We talked about her past experiences, her hopes for raising locally adapted Queens and her perspective on top bar beehives. After awhile, we all had to move onto our next stop, so I headed down the road to Cortez, to spend the final night with my aunt, uncle and cousins.
After spending two and a half weeks on the road, I was ready for a few days where I didn’t have to drive around and am excited to continue and increase my honeybee related work in Sedona. I plan on working more with my bees, working with others with their hives and will be busy building top bar beehives so we can help establish more bee yards and help new people get involved in top bar beekeeping. I am very grateful to everyone who has welcomed me into their homes, gardens and bee-yards and feel privileged to have had the opportunity to travel across the Midwest and Southwest connecting with so many (almost a million!) honeybees.
THANK YOU to all the beekeepers and bees, including everyone who let me stay overnight at their homes! I hope to stay in touch and I wish you all (especially the bees) the best!
For those of you out there that I haven’t met or been able to interview/connect with, I hope that our paths will cross somewhere along the Honey Trail.