The Year of Plenty

July 28, 2017

We're thrilled to welcome guest blogger Liz Tilton to our Prairie On Blog! Liz is the Queen Bee of her own TwoHoneys Bee Co, a full-service, treatment-free honeybee operation located wherever the bees fly in Cincinnati, Ohio. She manages approximately 60 beehives and spends a good deal of time collecting bees from unwanted places and re-hiving them where they're more welcomed. Each summer, she hopes for honey.

Tilton holds a bachelor's degree in Sociology from Miami University and a Master's and a Doctorate degree in English literature from the University of Cincinnati.

In addition to helping people work with their bees, Tilton spends a good deal of time transforming turf lawns into native prairies with wildflowers for pollinators, and she coaxes vegetables from a large garden in Central Kentucky.

Her TwoHoneys Bee Co. web address is cincinnatibees.com

Our thanks to Liz for everything she does and this post. We love having her as part of the OPN family!

The wildflowers in my yard are so show-stopping right now that I can hardly remember my original prairie companions: impatience and pessimism. It feels as if this current glory has always bloomed here. But, friends, let me tell you...at the beginning, there was plenty of dull, green, good-for-nothing turf and plenty of doubt.

I came to desire these native wildflowers and grasses because the honeybees I keep in my suburban yard were starving, and about half my colonies died over the winters. When I first began keeping bees, no one had prepared me for my neighborhood's mid-summer dearth of native flowers, and I was shocked that hobby beekeepers resort to feeding their bees sugar water and that so many of them came to expect significant winter losses.

This remains the current state of affairs for many beekeepers, but not for me. I made radical changes, and at the root of those changes is the steady, planned elimination of turf grasses and the re-introduction of native wildflowers. I now refuse to place my hives on any property whose owner doesn't commit to steadily sowing native wildflowers...it is non-negotiable for me. In the process of these negotiations, I get to spread the news about restoring our neighborhoods to ecosystems that provide food and cover for wildlife and uplift our flagging suburban spirits.

My companions in providing my bees with sufficient nectar and pollen and my soul with beauty began with Bob Kehres and Dave Riddell, my friends at Ohio Prairie Nursery. When I begged for shortcuts, my prairie teachers reassured me that patience pays off, that nothing valuable comes overnight. If I heard them repeat "seed to soil contact" one more time I swore I would flip my lid. The long long long year of preparing my ugly turf to accept Ohio Prairie Nursery's wildflower seed seemed interminable.

Yet here we are, in the third season...the season in which my previously nice but quiet wildflowers have simply exploded, the season in which my friends wander among the wildflowers and marvel at this display, in which I drive up to my house and witness birds and butterflies and pollinators of every kind float above and fly out of their wildflowers, and I wonder where the time went.