Tierra del Sol, 12 miles east of Oaxaca is a permaculture farm, education centre, bed and breakfast and ‘warmshowers’ refuge for cyclists. Ex-pilot and all round awesome guy, Pablo opens the doors to his wonderful straw bale house and enjoys the company of a constant stream of different people visiting for various interesting and interested reasons.
When we arrived we met Sarah and Tom from Australia and good ‘ol Blighty who, like us, had cycled from British Columbia. They had taken the mountain route, through the Rockies and the Sierra Madre rather than the coast, and were fully equipped for life on the back roads. They actually enjoy the dirt tracks, something it took me a while to get my head round! Horses for courses. We hadn’t met any other cyclists since leaving Baja California, now, in the space of three days we’d met three – we were happy as Larry, sharing tales of our adventures and comparing highs and lows.
Our brief visit was spiced up with some drama as Pablo had the beekeepers there extracting the honey comb from his hives. They didn’t seem too pleased about this (the bees, that is) and demonstrated their displeasure by dive-bombing our heads in a frenzy. Several people got stung and one by one we took to galloping around the garden, bucking bronco style in an effort to shake off the bee homing in on our precious bonces.
In an effort to contain panic, Pablo shut us all indoors – so thwarting our plans to tour the farm, though we were thankful to be safe. Later on the beekeepers returned and to our amazement insisted that the bees weren’t angry, just nervous. Hhmmmm – a dive-bombing stinging attack seemed like anger to me. If that was nervousness, I’d hate to see them really angry. Anyway, tasting the honey comb I could understand why they might be a bit pissed off at it being stolen.
Luckily the ‘nervousness’ subsided and we enjoyed the evening listening to the swishing of the water pump, taking a dip in the natural pool, and watching the light fade over the vegetables and the mountains beyond.
Apparently the pre-hispanic Maya cultures produced honey from a native stingless bee (Meliponini) before the Spanish came along and introduced European honey bees. So, we can blame those pesky conquistadors for our dramas in permaculture paradise then!
Some more honey facts:
- Mexico ranks sixth in world honey production.
- Organic beekeeping is pretty successful in Mexico, especially in the south where agriculture has a low industrialisation level – low use of pesticides, and much small-scale farming.
- Around 5% of Mexican honey that is exported is certified organic.
- Mexico has suitable conditions of biodiversity and nectar sources from extensive natural forests and certified organic agriculture land. There is the potential to increase organic honey production considerably, so that many cooperatives of small farmers may benefit by including organic beekeeping in their production.