November 2016

Gathering Liquid Starlight from Many Flowers


Melanie Margarita Kirby


In the beginning there was the Zia sun, its light radiating warm, energizing particles upon our enchanted lands. Over millennia, this starlight caused snow to melt and plants to grow and blossom. Floral blooms transferred the radiant energy through perfumed nectars and pollen, instigating the birth of seedseach with its own unique, resilient story. These seed stories form an illuminating collective that also nurtures people, societies, cultures, traditions and cuisines.


Every year, these stories wait silently and discreetly to be told. For this to happen, many six-legged ballerinas must dance among flowers, serving as midwives for the flowering-to-fruit cycle. The seeds face many challenges in braving the rough and rugged topography of our high desert. They awake to blustery springs and manifest foliage through midsummer monsoons. Then they endure the heartbreak of summer’s end and put forth their progeny: more seeds, which endure brisk autumns and alpine winters.


As if this choreographic interplay between plant and planet isn’t enough, they do it all over again. It is the anticipation of this seasonal dance that beckons us to engage by planting and nurturing seeds, harvesting them when time and tradition tell us, storing them appropriately, and then planting when conditions are conducive.


Stewards nurture seed growth for the food that provides nourishment for body and mind. And though the main dancers buzz, flit and hover above each cacophony of bloom, it is this stewardshipof man holding hands with Mother Naturethat adds some fine-tuning to the orchestra. As the bee ballerinas weave the pollen ribbons from the desert mesas and wind it through the world’s largest cottonwood forest, sweeping through the bosque up to brush the alpine meadows and vegas, we stewards watch in fascination and express gratitude to this light- and life-giving choreography. The bees, as beings of light, come together and create greater incandescence by capturing the sweet Zia starlight nectars. And we, as beings of light, gather together and, with awe and reverence, savor the fruits of their efforts and their honeys.


It is the gathering of all this cosmic energy that helps us to recognize that we too are seeds, carrying stories that can be passed on from one generation to another, creating cultural customs and traditions that transcend time over thankful harvests. This gathering runs parallel to the definition of community, and also highlights the gathering of ingredients which chefs take to the next level of aroma and flavor resonance. It takes a community of beesa colonyto forage for liquid starlight.

2016 marks the 10-year anniversary of Zia Queenbees Farm & Field Institute. Mark Spitzig and I, ZQB’s founders, describe ourselves as “nectar nomads,” followers of the bloom. As first-generation landless bee farmers, our process is dependent on what, where and when stewards plant. Providing pollination services to a variety of cultivated and wild landscapes, our bees help grow foodfrom farms to forest lands. This gracious interaction nurtures our enchanted lands to manifest liquid starlight: honey.


ZQB specializes in survivor stock bee propagation, adhering to a treatment-free process through biomimicry. ZQB has made a small but notable niche name locally and globally. Additional services include multidisciplinary research and education, and pure and raw hive products for health and wellness.


Harvest time is a time of reflectiona time to remember the endurance of farming and farmers; a time to recall all the laborious love of helping nurture our diverse and adverse landscapes; a time to remember who and what we are grateful for, and a time that demonstrates the transformative quality of good food and good times.


Farmers are transformers. We transform bare ground into luscious nutrition-rich gardens. We transform empty plates into full bellies. And we help our communities to transform love and light into delicious meals. May we take this time to give thanks and praise to those who feed usboth the land and those who care for the land; to applaud the midwives of agriculturethe bees and diverse pollinators who nurture the cycles of life and help to provide sustenance for all organisms; to pray that our love for the green earth can encourage positive and sustainable living and land stewardship practices.


We would also like to thank the many community members and organizations that have nurtured bees by planting gardens, flowers and by hosting hives. We thank you and our bees thank you. Que Viva Las AbejasLong Live the Bees! Que Viva nuestras AgricultoresLong live our farmers! And long live our Zia sun.



Melanie Margarita Kirby writes about bees and sustainable agriculture for various publications including The American Bee Journal and Bee Culture Magazine. She also serves as the editor of Kelley Beekeeping, a free, online monthly newsletter. She has been keeping bees professionally for 20 years, having learned from bees and farmers in North, South and Central America, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and North Africa. For more info, visit



Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Articles