As a forager you tend to view much of the world with your eyes wired to thoughts of eating it: ‘That one will fruit soon’, ‘the sea is calming down well for fishing’, ‘this rain will germinate my planted seeds or bring on the mushrooms’, that kind of thing. Different things zoom in and out of focus depending on their utility. Once you get a beehive, countless flowering plants join the list, because you are now working with tens of thousands of foraging friends who can use things beyond your reach and tongue size. With a previously reasonable interest in botany, I am now determined to know all my local eucalypts better, right down to the first (by which I mean Latin) names and their season.
I am now slowly working out how to forage alongside them, albeit of no assistance. Sitting quietly by the hive I watch them come and go, moving every so often to improve my angle of view to catch glints of them at as great a distance from the hive as I can, trying to map the direction of their flight. And then I walk, scanning the gum tree tops with binoculars in hope of finding them enjoying a good eucalypt nectar flow. Although any one bee will likely only net me a few drops in her lifetime (a 12th of a teaspoon I have read), whenever I see a bee on a flower, that flower ceases to be just an ordinary blossom and enters my foraging world and the future of my larder.
I have yet to harvest from my bees, but when I do it will be foraged food to me; from beyond my boundaries, beyond the species which I can otherwise eat, beyond many things that I know. And I will take a lesser part, the rent if you will, leaving the majority with my 50,000 foraging friends for their winter’s nights.
UPDATE: The first harvest described here.