Sunday, September 27, 2015


Nothing makes a garden happier than the sound of hardworking bees. And that is why Mian and I have wanted a hive for a  long, long time. And just this spring, when I was out travelling, I got a phonecall from G.
"Some people turned up at our house with bees. What should I tell them?"
"Don't let them leave!" I yelped. "Whatever you have to do, just get those bees into our hive."
And he did.

Busy bees
Kumauni beehives are very different from the wooden boxes you see elsewhere. Those are too cold for the bees in winter, and the mountain sense of hospitality necessitates that they live in the house with you. The beehive here is  a small alcove constructed  into the exterior wall. From the outside, it has a small hole for access. The 'back' of the hive, the part that is in the house, has a wooden board that can be removed to access the honey.
The 'front' of the hive,which the bees use.

The 'back' of the hive,opening into our bedroom

For me, the honey is secondary. I get a tremendous amount of pleasure hearing the loud busy buzz over my salvia, my buckwheat, my flowering parsley. Garden planning is now centred around extending the flowering season for the bees.

'Don't worry about them', says Ratanda, bee whisperer and guardian of mountain lore. "They go all the way upto the forests in the Himalayas." In fact, he told me, the Queen refuses to eat till one of  the  drones feed her a bit of ice from the high peaks.

He came by a few days ago to inspect the bees before the winter, purely out of regard for them. We had long discussions about what to do if the hive was  overflowing. As it turns out, we were a little optimistic.

The inside of the bee cabin, with a very modest hive.
"Nobody works these days" Ratanda muttered. Not sure if  he meant the bees or me.
Ratan (in the cap) and G- two hardworking people

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I have been up at five every morning at home for the last six months or so.
The reason? We have a rooster.
His job is to till the garden and take care of his hens. The hens' job is  to lay eggs and till the garden.

Atleast, that's what Mian  and I thought till we realised their entertainment value. Having never had chickens before, I had no idea they have  so much personality.
The rooster for example. I have never seen him eat a grub he finds. Instead, he will call one of the hens (usually his favourite- the dark one- I am afraid) and give it to her. When a dog attacked, he fought it till the  hens got away. He's a good guy.
The hens are affectionate, in a chickeny way. They all (rooster included) come when I call. If they see me with something in my hand, they race over in a chicken waddle. They are supposed to live in a chicken tractor, but  post monsoon I've been letting them forage. There's so much lush  growth all over, it must be chicken heaven.
But no, they will come to where I am. Usually, this means the porch. Which means I either have to continually shoo them away or put up with chicken poop. They steal food from Madhu Bhaloo's porch. When she is sitting there.
But bless her, she's risen to the chicken guarding. When they give the alarm cluck, she's there before I am. She shoos her friends away from the coop. She's got a job, my Madhu.

The questions you might have:
Eggs? Yes indeed! two a day of the orangiest, yummiest eggs you ever saw. And yes, there  IS a difference between fresh farm eggs and battery eggs.
Meat? that was the original plan. And we intend to stick to it. Mian and I have been meat-eaters all our lives. It seems dishonest to say 'not these'.