Beekeeping summer school to give many a buzz

By Hamish MacLean

Backyard Beekeeping is proving a popular class at this year's Sustainable Skills Summer School in Oamaru, tutor Marian Shore says. Photo / Hamish MacLean
Backyard Beekeeping is proving a popular class at this year's Sustainable Skills Summer School in Oamaru, tutor Marian Shore says. Photo / Hamish MacLean

This year's warm weather has made for a honey of a season for apiarists.

And the popularity of the Backyard Beekeeping course at Transition Oamaru's Sustainable Skills Summer School means the North Otago town could be set to get a lot sweeter.

Backyard Beekeeping tutor Marian Shore, a restorative justice facilitator and mediator by day, said she would probably add another course after the first one she offered quickly filled beyond capacity.

Ms Shore, who has kept bees for about 20 years, said she was always learning.

''You never stop learning, and everyone does it differently,'' she said.

The bees themselves were ''unbelievably smart'' and the communication between bees through body language or ''dance'' was fascinating.

The Waitaki District Council planned to loosen the rules for keeping bees at home in its proposed general bylaw: under the proposed bylaw, expected to pass this year, people in urban areas would be allowed to keep up to two hives on their property.

Summer school co-ordinator Melissa Pronk, in her second year as an organiser, said with more than 40 subjects offered over 16 days she was heartened that Oamaru was keeping ''community education alive in this way''.

The course range was diverse, ''so there's something for everybody''.

She had encouraged tutors to keep the prices as low as possible so it was assessable to everybody. All the tutors were local and the summer school was ''bringing people together'' in the community through learning from one another.

''You never knew that your neighbour could teach you this thing, whatever [it might be]. It's just a great way to meet people as well...it's got that nice social element.''

Classes on eating or using what you find in your backyard to online lending, or baby massage to tool sharpening, even bike repair, would run from January 20 to February 4 in the eighth annual Sustainable Skills Summer School - and classes were expected to be busy.

This week, Ms Pronk had run out of school calendars, which now were only available online at the Transition Oamaru website.

Nathalie Brown, a founding organiser, said the ''enormously popular'' summer school, in which up to 300 people took part in programmed courses, was evolving. Each year there were new courses on offer, and people who had attended in the past could find something new. But the ''impetus'' for the summer school that taught self-reliance remained the same.

''The thing is, the issues haven't gone away,'' she said.

''The stimulus for all of this was the likely impact of climate change on small communities - climate change and peak oil. Those issues have not gone away.''

- Otago Daily Times

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