Maddy Harland

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since Feb 15, 2013
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Recent posts by Maddy Harland

Permaculture is all about mimicking nature - working with it rather than against it. This system is like factory farming. It forces bees to make comb and lay down stores in a small space. Bees like to have room to create comb in natural forms and have a very specific distance between their combs that allows them to create exactly the right temperature and humidity for the hive. Glass jars would be impossible to moderate temperature - like a greenhouse without doors or windows. They are also light and bees need darkness. Their hives are worked by smell not sight. This system would stress them all both counts. Stressed bees are like humans. Their auto-immune systems are weakened and they succumb more easily to disease. Keep bees as naturally as possible. They are sentient creatures, not machines that produce product. Natural beekeeping is a fascinating subject and worthy of study for all permaculturists'.
5 years ago
Bee farming would require constant attention as already said. I know a beekeeper with 40 hives who only opens them at the beginning of April (in the UK) and before winter. He checks the health, the integrity of the hive, removes a few frames if the hive is full of honey, and makes sure there are enough stores to get the bees through the winter. If there are not he will feed them. He says if he loses bees then so be it - they are weak. But in the main his colonies do well. He uses a National hive with a brood box and a super.

Poeple tend to interfere too much with bees - usually because they want lots of honey and wax - but if you take a more gentle approach I am sure they will be fine.

You could also keep them in a Top Bar hive and be very minimalist about management.
5 years ago
First of all I made a nuc from recycled ply and planed wood for free and I will published the plans in the forthcoming Permaculture magazine #99. It is so easy to make and saves you lots of money longer term. I am going to use them (I have 2 and am about to make the 3rd) as bait hives to catch swarms. #99 will reach the USA in March 2019.

I also make my main hives from flatpacks. It is good to do this as you really get to know why hives are designed as they are.

Bee suits: you get what you pay for. There are lots of cheap Chinese made suits around. They are OK but don't last long if you are working hives regularly. I researched the best ones with quality cotton (doesn't get so hot as mixed cotton and synthetics) and good quality mesh for the veil. The best in the UK which is beautifully made is by Sherriff - but at a price. I then found one in my size on eBay for a fraction of the price. Almost new it fits really well unlike my cheaper one which I have now passed on to my bee helper (husband!).
5 years ago
Hi Fredy, If you subscribe to the print or digital version of PM you you can read all 97 back issues searchable by index free of charge - including all our articles by or about Ben Law - plus many other woody subjects. It is an incredibly good deal! See
5 years ago

Brian Rodgers wrote:Good morning
Somewhere in my mind it feels like I'll need to drag myself kicking and screaming into logging. I know I need to start this if I want to be successful in permaculture. Am I alone or are others crappy at logging? I know I have to break my desire to be physically working and doing stuff. I certainly need to chill out and smell the roses, so this is ideal. How do I begin?

Like I said, decide on your focus, spend just a few minutes every day in the same 'sit spot' - treat it like permaculture meditation! Log in one line. No essays. And not even every day. Start simple and small. Build up slowly if you need to. Make the space something that nourishes you rather than yet another job. Open your eyes to the beauty that surrounds you in nature and be grateful. It will become your sanctuary.
5 years ago

Brian Rodgers wrote:Hello Maddy welcome
What a fascinating technique, one which I really need to practice. I have tried to log information in the past for my aquaponics, but after a few months I always seem to drift away. I'm studying in chapter three of Mollison's Designers manual and was a little worried I'd fail again to create and keep a log for my observations.

We keep 2 logs - one for bees and one for nature observations inc weather. The secret is to be brief. Don't try and log everything every day. Just identify what you want to record and just add a sentence as and when you have need. That way it doesn't become yet another big task. I add to my bee log every few days - and a line at a time. The nature one is only for unusual events like a new volunteer species and weather patterns, specifically if they help me with sowing and harvesting in the garden. I do not log daily temperatures, just hard frosts or big snowfall. That way, it is not a chore. I also go outside and sit every day - just for a few minutes - and tune in to what the birds are doing. They are a good way of engaging with what is happening in the garden. It is also good for my nervous system - slows me down!
5 years ago

Nicole Alderman wrote:We have some winners!!!

Blythe Barbo
Pamela Smith
Chris Kott
Gail Gardener

I'll be sending out PMs right now. Please respond within 48 hours to claim your prize!!!

Great news. Congratulations. I hope you find the format for notes useful and enjoy the practice.
5 years ago
Thank you All for your great comments and sharing. What I understand from everything you are saying, each of us has different ways of noting observations and we each have different focuses. This means some use spreadsheets, some docs, some ruled note books, some record in detail daily, and others less frequently. Some use logs for gardens, some for nature observation, others for weather, me specifically for honeybees! Others may note personal cycles and psychologies. We are all different. The most important thing about this is that we keep records. We work to deepen our observations and understanding of cycles and patterns. This is important. It is ongoing education and a lifelong practice and a core part of permaculture design.
5 years ago

Stacy Witscher wrote:I bought a book this year "The Naturalist's Notebook" by Nathaniel Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich, that is a 5-year calendar-journal. It's organized  so that on every page you can see a four day period over 5 years making it easy to compare differences from year to year. It's only for brief notes, although you can reference other journals for more detailed notes. I haven't started it yet, I'm waiting until we move, but I'm hopeful. I've had numerous recording keeping systems over the years, and none of them has stuck. Most of them I find too fussy.

Sounds very similar to the Biotime Log - i.e. the space for notes is brief -  except I do not give years so that you note the years at the beginning of every entry. That way it last as long as there is space.
5 years ago

Blythe Barbo wrote:Thank you, Maddy Harland, for this thoughtful post.  I really like the idea of keeping an individual Biotime log for the bees. I currently do that on a spreadsheet to keep track of which hives swarm and when and where they go, along with notations on weather and other conditions. It also helps me to recognize when a hive might be weakening. A Biotime Logbook would be an easier way of tracking these things.

I also really like the idea of tracking weather and different plants & animals you see. With so many changes we are experiencing in climate and extreme events, the information we take down now could be extremely valuable 10 years from now. It would also help in seeing the changes we might create, for example, by planting a grouping of shrubs and trees. I am seeing so many more birds now after planting some willows that I have sculpted into a structure of sorts.  The microclimates in our garden have definitely changed over the years, readily visible with the first frosts. Making note of the various dynamics would be a good thing to add, I would think.

Thank you for all this inspiration!

The Bee Biotime Log is very useful as a quick reference year on year and it takes no time at all to enter the details. Using another log to identify unusual climate events is also really interesting. We too have developed microclimates  over 25 years as our food forest has grown (the apiary is in a parabolic arc of stacked flints, for example). The meadow we planted brings in all sorts of seed eaters that we never saw before. It is fascinating to record all this - and certainly makes us happy as we know our positive ecological interventions with permaculture have dramatically increased biodiversity and made the garden more resilient to climate shocks.
5 years ago