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  1. #1
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    Default John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Since I posted the article from the bee-farmer who lost 2,150 hives I have been under sustained, highly personal and highly co-ordinated attack from the industry shills, both on the UK beekeeping forum, and also to some extent here.

    I am not going to respond to any of the personal attacks which emanate from those we already know are professional industry shills, since they have been doing this for 5 years in the UK and we know who they are.

    By way of some light relief and hopefully inspiration, I hope you might enjoy the following passages from the writings of John Muir, the Scottish emigrant who saved most of what natural beauty still survives in California (Yosemite, the redwoods, Muir beach, Muir woods etc). He was an eye-witness to the bee-paradise which existed in the Central Valley before it was destroyed by industrial agriculture, and by 825,000 acres of almond monoculture. It is a vision worth sharing - and maybe points to what will return when pesticide-based, industrial agriculture finally runs into the buffers; which may happen this year as far as the almonds are concerned.

    The State was an ecological paradise before the advent of industrial scale farming - and it remains the most productive agricultural area on Earth - because of the year-round abundance of sunshine, water and warmth.

    It was also once the most botanically rich and diverse area in the whole of America, but pesticide-based, high input, industrial-scale 'farming' has destroyed 99% of that richness.

    When John Muir - the Scottish conservationist - made his famous walk from San Francisco to Yosemite Valley around 1869 - he had to cross the Central Valley - an area which now contains 825,000 acres of Almond monoculture.

    This is what he wrote:

    http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_...chapter_1.aspx
    - The Yosemite (1912) chapter 1. 'The Range of Light'
    "Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that, after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich-furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light."


    When Muir walked across the Central Valley in 1869 he trod upon a single, uninterrupted bed of wildflowers: 400 miles long by 50 miles wide. It had existed there for thousands and thousands of years. It has now been completely destroyed. Here is another passage from Muir's wonderful essay 'The Bee Pastures':

    http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_...hapter_16.aspx (read the whole chapter here - it is superb)

    "Wherever a bee might fly within the bounds of this virgin wilderness--through the redwood forests, along the banks of the rivers, along the bluffs and headlands fronting the sea, over valley and plain, park and grove, and deep, leafy glen, or far up the piny slopes of the mountains--throughout every belt and section of climate up to the timber line, bee-flowers bloomed in lavish abundance. Here they grew more or less apart in special sheets and patches of no great size, there in broad, flowing folds hundreds of miles in length--zones of polleny forests, zones of flowery chaparral, stream tangles of rubus and wild rose, sheets of golden compositæ, beds of violets, beds of mint, beds of bryanthus and clover, and so on, certain species blooming somewhere all the year round.

    But of late years ploughs and sheep have made sad havoc in these glorious pastures, destroying tens of thousands of the flowery acres like a fire, and banishing many species of the best honey-plants to rocky cliffs and fence-corners, while, on the other hand, cultivation thus far has given no adequate compensation, at least in kind; only acres of alfalfa for miles of the richest wild pasture, ornamental roses and honeysuckles around cottage doors for cascades of wild roses in the dells, and small, square orchards and orange-groves for broad mountain belts of chaparral.

    The Great Central Plain of California, during the months of March, April, and May, was one smooth, continuous bed of honey-bloom, so marvelously rich that, in walking from one end of it to the other, a distance of more than 400 miles, your foot would press about a hundred flowers at every step. Mints, gilias, nemophilas, castilleias, and innumerable compositæ were so crowded together that, had ninety-nine per cent. of them been taken away, the plain would still have seemed to any but Californians extravagantly flowery. The radiant, honey-ful corollas, touching and overlapping, and rising above one another, glowed in the living light like a sunset sky--one sheet of purple and gold, with the bright Sacramento pouring through the midst of it from the north, the San Joaquin from the south, and their many tributaries sweeping in at right angles from the mountains, dividing the plain into sections fringed with trees."



    So, California - was once a bee-paradise (though the honeybee was only introduced in the 1840s) - for native bees and bumblebees. Contrast the above eye-witness description with the pesticide-drenched monoculture of the central valley today.
    [

    Conclusion
    The original article I posted is an honest and truthful eye-witness account of the experience of one bee-farmer; someone with 40 years of experience of running a 5,000 colony migratory operation. This is his 'hypothesis'; his attempt to make sense of the situation, drawing on his lifetime's knowledge and experience of migratory beekeeping. You don't have to agree with him. You are welcome to pose opposing views, preferably within the bounds of reasonable discussion.

    This man knows how to feed and water bees, he knows how to treat for varroa, he knows how to secure and fulfill pollination contracts. I will pass on the various questions about how he feeds, waters, inspects and treats his bees for varroa. I suspect he may be too busy to answer right now, but I will ask him on the off-chance.
    Last edited by borderbeeman; 02-24-2013 at 06:07 AM.

  2. #2
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    Thumbs Up Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by borderbeeman View Post
    "Wherever a bee might fly within the bounds of this virgin wilderness--through the redwood forests, along the banks of the rivers, along the bluffs and headlands fronting the sea, over valley and plain, park and grove, and deep, leafy glen, or far up the piny slopes of the mountains--
    ...
    So beautiful, I nearly cried when I read this.

    Thanks for posting it, Bbman, every now and again we need a reminder how things used to be.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Denial is a river in Egypt. Ignorance is bliss. Pave paradise put up a parking lot. Concrete jungle. On a road to nowhere.
    I’m really not that serious

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Seems to me hes never been to this region in CA..... there is no water. its all brought in by MAN.... without Mans intervention this place is a desert.... look along the I5 corridor...... the redwoods he refers to are costal, and dont live in the valley.... man its sounds cool when you make stuff up

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    That's right Charlie, there are no rivers in the Central Valley of California. I'm just 'making this stuff up'

    The natural annual discharge of the San Joaquin before agricultural development is believed to have been between 6–7.9 million acre feet (7.4–9.7 million dam3), equalling a flow of roughly 8,300 to 10,900 cu ft/s (240 to 310 m3/s).[5] Some early estimates even range as high as 14 million acre-feet (17.3 million dam3), or more than 19,300 cubic feet per second (550 cubic metres/s). The numerous tributaries of the San Joaquin include: – the Fresno, Chowchilla, Merced, Tuolumne, Mariposa Creek, Calaveras, Mokelumne, and many others – (wikipedia)

    598px-SanJoaquinRiverMap.jpg
    Click to see enlarged Map of California's Central Valley
    double click to see LARGER version


    There's no rivers here . . . oh except maybe these ones between San Francisco and Bakersfield
    The San Joaquin
    The Cosumnes
    Sutter Creek (lotta gold around there!)
    The Stanislaus
    The Mokelumne
    The Calaveras
    The American River
    The Tuolumne
    The Merced
    The Bear
    The Mariposa
    The Chowchilla
    The Fresno
    The Kings River
    The Kaweah
    The St Johns
    The Tule
    The Kern

    So I must have been hallucinating when I fished for trout in the Merced and Tuolumne and the Kings River
    I must have imagined swimming in the Merced in Yosemite

    That's my problem, I just make stuff up Charlie.
    Thanks for pointing out that there's 'no rivers' in the Central Valley. It's really helped me 'get my mind straight' (Cool Hand Luke)

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    http://www.eldoradocountyweather.com...ualprecip.html
    the blue areas north of San Francisco are where the Redwood Forest are at, the blue area to the east is where Yosemite is at. The big light colored area in the middle is the where the agricultural areas are at. They never did contain any Redwood trees. It becomes increasingly drier as you go south. The valleys are almost totally dependent on irrigation, I guarantee you Mr. Muir didn't pitch his tent down there anywhere except along a river for long as much of it is a desert without piping in water. An argument about whether it is a good or realistic long term plan to be farming desert areas is a good one but an argument claiming the magnificent Redwoods were cut down to make way for Almond trees is a silly and uninformed one.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Nobody ever said the redwoods were cut down to make way for the almond groves. The coast redwoods grow along the coast - at Muir Woods, Big Sur and many other places - including the coast ranges; there are plenty around San Frnacisco and up around Napa.The mountain redwoods grow up in the High Sierra - from Mariposa to Sequoia - there were very few mountain redwoods in Yosemite Valley itself. But Muir's description of the Central Valley being filled with compositae flowers for hundreds of square miles is an accurate eye-witness account that nobody has ever questioned before, as far as I am aware. Muir was a profoundly serious Christian and, although he never entered a church after his marriage, he took 'truthfulness' as the foundation of his personal and professional life.
    He was an evidence-based, science based advocate for conservation. The valleys - as you say - are drier these days, but that is largely because almost all the small rivers have been canalized and incorporated into the industrial water system. in Muir's day the entire area flooded with snow melt in Spring and then bloomed extravagantly. Later in the summer, the valley flowers died off - but those in the hills that surround the valley gave a much longer season for the bees. His famous narrative, of walking over the valley from Pacheco Pass specifically says that it was 'The sprintime of the year'; he didn't claim that the flowers lasted for 12 months.

    John Muir's first employment in California was as a migratory shepherd with a flock of a thousand or more sheep. He fed the sheep in the valley, then loved up into the foothills as the year advanced, and ended up in the Hi9gh Sierra Valleys in high summer, where the water never failed. It was because he witnessed the destruction of the alpine meadows of flowers by the sheep that his mind first turned toward 'conservation' - though the actual word was not coined until much later.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Why Mr. Lyon! Are you one of the shadowy shills of BIG ALMOND! Or is it BIG PESTICIDE?

    I have sympathy for the loss of wild places and old ways, but possibly the resident of a foggy island that cannot feed itself, should not dertermine what porportion of the world would starve without American agricultural production and science. We need balance in all things, Choices are sometimes hard and long term results unknown. But resourses are made to be used by those who posess them.

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    I'm not questioning Mr. Muir's account at all. I would agree it no doubt had its own unique beauty. It's an unfortunate reality and a much deeper non-bee related discussion about the changes mankind brings to the planet. It is, as you correctly point out, perhaps the most productive agricultural area on earth though I think your characterization of the farming as having destroyed 99% of its richnes is an unfair one though . In any case clearly mankind in its effort to feed its own makes dramatic changes in the process. I think the southern portion may well return to some form of what it once was years ago since it may well turn out that there simply isn't enough water available to consistently grow crops down there. It should be pointed out, though, that the almond has dramatically grown in popularity because it is a pretty nutritious food, is its wide scale cultivation necessarily a bad thing?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  10. #10
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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Well last time I looked the UK was feeding itself just fine. As Aneurin Bevan once remarked - "an island of solid coal surrounded by a sea full of fish will never be too cold or too hungry". Secondly the reason why the Roman Army of Emperor Claudius invaded Britain circa AD 43 was because Britain was so abundant in wheat and barley that it was known as 'the bread basket of Europe' - so we have 2000 years experience of feeding ourselves. But leaving your nationalist and chauvinist digs aside - I do like your last comment:

    "Resources are made to be used by those who possess them"

    An interesting theological slant on 'Manifest Destiny', originally used to dispossess the original 'possessors'. isn't that the rationale for the invasion of every country that's every been invaded? Lets go take their oil - and bring them 'democracy'?

    You might find this link to the original 330,000 'possessors' of California's Central Valley interesting:

    http://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/anth6_central.html

    'Mankind' is an abstraction and 'the good of Mankind' has been used to start just about every war from Napoleon's invasion of every European country, to the German invasion of Russia - it's always being done 'for the good of Mankind'.

    Industrial farming corporations aren't using neonics on 243 million acres of American crops 'for the good of Mankind' or 'to feed the world' - they are doing it to maximise profit.

    The line they are selling is that: "you can't grow crops without universal, prophylactic, use of pesticide seed treatments'" - which is a lie. There are thousands of organic farmers across America growing crops of every kind without pesticides - and last time I looked, many of them were making a good profit.

    The 2001 census of India recorded 760m million farmers in that country:

    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_f...there_in_India

    So India has about twice as many farmers as the USA has people. the vast majority of them are small, village farmers and the vast majority of them are 'organic' for the simple reason that they have never farmed any other way. They still farm the way American farmers did before WWII and the coming of pesticides on a large scale (derived from WWII chemical weapons).
    Indian farmers have been self sufficient in most food crops for around 7,000 years - that's roughly 20 times longer than the United States has existed. So, the idea that we cannot 'feed the world' without drenching it in pesticides, is a false idea. Most of the rest of the world has never had any other choice than to feed itself by traditional farming - and today - industrially farmed commodity crops account for less than 33% of global food production.
    Last edited by borderbeeman; 02-24-2013 at 10:34 AM.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by borderbeeman View Post
    Well last time I looked the UK was feeding itself just fine. As Aneurin Bevan once remarked - "an island of solid coal surrounded by a sea full of fish will never be too cold or too hungry". ."
    apparently borderbeeman doesn't even know the facts about his own country, not sure I would take his recommendation for our continent too

    seriously.





    http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/issue/uk.html




    – Britain is not self-sufficient in food production; it imports 40% of the total food consumed and the proportion is rising
    mike syracuse ny
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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by borderbeeman View Post
    Sutter Creek (lotta gold around there!)
    Hey, I live in Sutter Creek, where's that stuff at anyway. You can feel free to PM me if you would like.
    NUTRA-BEE feed supplements

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Perhaps the valley wasn't so natrual? 100,000 Indians burning woodfires, raw sewage and stripping the land of its resources? Maybe they intentionally burnt large tracts? Maybe there actions altered the landscape?

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett View Post
    Hey, I live in Sutter Creek, where's that stuff at anyway. You can feel free to PM me if you would like.
    Could it be that we have discovered Keith's ingredient? Could it be his sub actually contains an antidote to neonicitinoids?
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by wildbranch2007 View Post
    apparently borderbeeman doesn't even know the facts about his own country, not sure I would take his recommendation for our continent tooseriously. – Britain is not self-sufficient in food production; it imports 40% of the total food consumed and the proportion is rising
    I didn't say that Britain is not a trading nation - Britain has made its living as a trading nation for centuries.
    But - as I said - I have not seen any people starving in the streets recently; quite the opposite in fact, obesity in the UK is rapidly catching up with the levels seen in America - but then the same corporations that sell junk over there, sell the same stuff over here now; coca cola, burger king, macdonalds, pepsico, oreos, general foods, nabisco, starbucks, google, amazon; its all over here - and we are fast acquiring the same diseases as you guys: adult onset type II diabetes, childhood diabetes, childhood obesity. The BIZ is global, owes no allegiance, pays hardly any tax locally.

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith Jarrett View Post
    Hey, I live in Sutter Creek, where's that stuff at anyway. You can feel free to PM me if you would like.
    well I did the 'gold trail' there about 8 years ago and had a go at panning for gold. They swore to me that there was still plenty of gold buried in the rocks - though not enough to be commercially viable; yet. I just kept panning and thinking of Gabby Hayes, but that didn't help either.

    I did meet the sister of a guy who was organising the 2013 World Gold Panning Championships and she gave me two tiny flakes of gold in a vial of water, but I didn't pan them.

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Quote Originally Posted by borderbeeman View Post
    So India has about twice as many farmers as the USA has people. the vast majority of them are small, village farmers and the vast majority of them are 'organic' for the simple reason that they have never farmed any other way. They still farm the way American farmers did before WWII and the coming of pesticides on a large scale
    Fact check



    Impact of Pesticide Use in Indian Agriculture - Their Benefits and Hazards

    http://www.shamskm.com/env/impact-of...riculture.html



    The pattern of pesticide usage in India is different from that for the world in general. As can be seen from Figure 1, in India 76% of
    the pesticide used is insecticide, as against 44% globally9. The use of herbicides and fungicides is correspondingly less heavy.
    The main use of pesticides in India is for cotton crops (45%), followed by paddy and wheat.

    Tremendous benefits have been derived from the use of pesticides in forestry, public health and the domestic sphere – and, of course, in agriculture, a sector upon which the Indian economy is largely dependent. Food grain production, which stood at a mere 50 million tons in 1948–49, had increased almost fourfold to 198 million tons by the end of 1996–97 from an estimated 169 million hectares of permanently cropped land. This result has been achieved by the use of high-yield varieties of seeds, advanced irrigation technologies and agricultural chemicals (Employment Information: Indian Labour Statistics, 1994)

    Other major input for Indian agriculture is use of various pesticides, like insecticides, weedicides, fungicides, rodenticides etc. As the cropping pattern is becoming more intensive use of these pesticides is also increasing. Consumption of insecticide in agriculture has been increased more than 100% from 1971 to 1994-95. For instance, insecticide consumption in India, which was to the tune of 22013 tonnes has increased to 51755 tonnes by 1994-95 (www.indiastat.com). Consumption of all of these pesticides in same duration has increased more than two times, that is from 24305 tonnes to 61357 tonnes.

    Fig: 4 Consumption of Pesticides in India
    Last edited by wildbranch2007; 02-24-2013 at 11:16 AM.
    mike syracuse ny
    I went to bed mean, and woke up meaner. Marshal Dillon

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    I have a near neighbor who has been a beekeeper for about thirty years now, and who buys bulk honey to re-bottle. He commented the other month that one of his suppliers dropped by to visit on a trip and said "I can't believe you can actually keep bees here, this is a bee desert". He's right, anything that looks like something other than wheat, corn, grass, or soybeans is immediately sprayed with herbicide. No hedgerows, no fencerows, no thickets, no trees, just asphalt, empty farm fields, and close mown lawns. Only one cattle farm up the way, used toe be dozens of people raising dairy cattle on clover, now it's just mono-culture Monsanto GMO crops...

    And somehow my bees make honey!

    Peter

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    Regardless of your 'facts' I spent three months in Kerala last year and met hundreds of small farmers who were virtually all 'organic'. india is a country of 1,241,491,960 people - and in 2001, 760 MILLION of them were farmers. I guess what that probably means is that that about 750 million of those people are one-family farms with less than 10 acres of land - subsistence farming, organic farming. I am fully aware that the large-scale farming of India - post the 'green revolution' has been under a western-imposed industrial farming model.
    They were sold the whole package: tractors, pesticides and GM seeds in return for signing mortgages; millions lost their land to the multinationals and their local Indian agents; there have been over 200,000 suicides by Indian farmers as a result:
    c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farmers'_suicides_in_India#Causes

    The reason is that a farmer's debt dies with him - and for over 200,000 of these small farmers - this was the only solution - other than handing over the land, the house and the animals to the corporations. Some dilemma eh? Live and your family starves; kill yourself and they starve because you are not there to do the work of the farm.

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    Default Re: John muir among the bee pastures; different than the almonds today

    borderbeeman, what do you think we can do to remedy the harm done?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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