Ups and downs of 2018

As Confucius almost certainly once said, “It’s the Yin and Yang, innit?” in answer to questions about why life is so rarely all black or all white, but is both at the same time. I am at peace with this. When the brown stuff hits the fan I am comforted to know that it will pass, and good things are just around the corner. Equally, when I’m feeling like a rock and roll star I know that I must temper my effusiveness with the knowledge that everything balances out in the end.

Here are some snippets from the 2018 of this walrus:

I visited New Zealand in January, which is their Summer, and they were having a heatwave. I was accompanied by my son; a young man terrified of bees but unable to refuse the opportunity to travel to such a beautiful country by Emirates Business Class for free! I was there to meet beekeepers; to him they were a necessary inconvenience.

Lorraine Muldoon

One of the beekeepers I met was Lorriane Muldoon, a farmer in Oxford on the South Island, who keeps bees, sheep and deer. I can just about cope with one of the three but Lorraine seems to take it all in her stride. She specialises in the niche area of producing honeydew honey, and also sells propolis from her bees to the health products industry. The photograph below shows her with antlers from her deer which are sold for the velvet.

Lorraine Muldoon with deer antlers
Lorraine Muldoon with deer antlers

Gangster School and Jiddy Vardy

No sooner was I back in Blighty than I was assigned the task of doing a photo shoot for my wife’s new publishing company. It had been several years since doing “proper” photography but at least I got one or two decent shots that were used to help publicise the new books of Kate Wiseman and Ruth Estevez (pictured below)

Ruth Estevez, author of Jiddy Vardy, in Chorlton
Ruth Estevez, author of Jiddy Vardy, in Chorlton

Shrew Explosions

Mrs Walrus, otherwise known as Elaine, accompanied me on my next adventure to meet Peter Little in Exmoor. He is a fascinating and incredibly interesting fellow who, in keeping with all bee farmers I have met, loves all of wildlife and nature, not just bees. I don’t think it would be wrong to describe Peter as “eccentric” but I mean that in a complimentary way. He told us a funny story about a “shrew explosion” amongst other things, and was keen to show us around his apiaries, workshop and new hydroponics set-up in his greenhouse.

Peter Little over-winters 4 queens in a box above another colony
Peter Little over-winters 4 queens in a box above another colony

Life and Death

Shortly after the Exmoor trip I attended the funeral of my cousin, Helen, which in itself was a happy/sad event. Of course it was sad that she had passed away, but her suffering from cancer had ended, and I was able to meet up with dear family members who I had not seen for many years. In 2018 I also lost my father, Rodney Donohoe, to cancer. I lost my old beagle Harvey too, and my Mum became seriously ill but has since drawn back from the precipice. New life comes into the world as loved ones depart. It all makes sense, in a philosophical sort of way, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting.

Remembering Buckfast

In March I drove across the Pennine hills in my beautiful old Porsche Cayman Sport (now sold) to meet the legendary David Kemp. David was the assistant to Brother Adam at Buckfast Abbey in Devon and had many a tale to tell of times spent with the old monk. He still has Adam’s rifle which he occasionally uses to shoot rats in his garden. As an ex-gamekeeper, shooting is as much a part of his life as beekeeping. We exchanged notes about ocular lens implant surgery and the perils of posterior capsule opacification. He also let me have copies of some of his photographs from when he was at Buckfast Abbey in its heyday.

An old shot of Buckfast abbey by David kemp
An old shot of Buckfast abbey by David kemp

Vive Le Morse

In May we found ourselves in glorious sunshine after a harsh winter which extended too far into Spring. I popped over the English Channel to stay for a few days with Richard Noel in Brittany, France. Mrs Walrus and I had a wonderful time there and were pleased to spend time with Richard and his delightful family in an idyllic home in rural France. I learned from his daughter, Molly, that the French word for Walrus is “Le Morse” which is clearly going to be immensely useful. I was bowled over by Richard’s enthusiasm; he has big plans for expanding his beekeeping operation and seems to be going about it in exactly the right way.

Richard Noel and Me in Dinan, France
Richard Noel and Me in Dinan, France

Back to Keeping Bees

Once we were into the middle of Summer my time was taken up with my bees. I looked after them, and they looked after me. They gave me a bumper honey crop and hours of pleasure spent out in glorious sunshine in the arms of Mother Nature. I started off my second apiary, raised daughter queens and generally had fun.

The year ended with my trip to California to meet Ray Olivarez and Randy Oliver. What an honour and a pleasure it was to interview those two giants of the beekeeping world, and to see their families and places of work. I am still in the process of transcribing the wise words from these gentlemen. I stayed in Sacramento and Chico and Grass Valley, so I wasn’t doing the “tourist” thing, but what a joy it was to be there. It is such a tragedy that shortly after I flew back to the UK the brutal Camp Fire struck Butte County. It’s that Yin and Yang thing again.

Ray Olivarez with one or two mating nucs
Ray Olivarez with one or two mating nucs

Happy Holidays!

Anyway, the days are getting longer and I can’t wait to get back to beekeeping! For now, it’s all about writing, writing and more writing. Happy Holidays to everyone.


Currently writing a book called "Interviews with Beekeepers"

One thought on “Ups and downs of 2018

  1. Very sorry for your losses of loved ones. The ups sound truly wonderful, what fantastic characters you are meeting!

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