July 13th. The day consisted mostly of fevergrass harvesting and distilling. In the morning, Danny, Kyra, Sarah, and I walked around the yard and down the road searching for patches to cut down. We came back with 31 pounds of grass, enough for two batches. The distillations carried on throughout the day and meanwhile I went swimming and read. In the afternoon the bees began to swarm the distillery because of the fevergrass smell, so Danny and I had to load the second batch while being bombarded by bees. All told fevergrass produced around 60 mls of oil, enough for each of us to take some home.
July 14th. First activity of the day was visiting the bees in Robin’s Bay with Kwao, Sarah, and Kyra. Most of the hive inspections went smoothly, except for one where the bees built comb in all different directions. Kwao had to surgically cut out the honey filled comb without disturbing the bees too much. Afterwards, we moved some hives down to the newest apiary.
Later that night, we stayed up cutting pineapple skins to test if they had any oil. After an hour of cutting and then the two hour wait for oil, it yielded no results. Although it sucks to not get any oil, experimentation must come with some failure and that’s ok because we learned something. If nothing else, we got a lot of pineapple to eat. Around 11, Kwao was ready to drive Sarah, Kyra, Danny, Emmanuel and I to a party in Robin’s Bay with loud music. However, due to the rain earlier in the day, the speakers were broken and the music did not start until 1 am! It was a late night but eventually we headed home.
July 15th. Tukula, the yoga teacher and friend of Agape, invited Kyra, Sarah, Danny, and I to her humble abode down the road. She is a really talented artist and makes collages, fabric, and necklaces, which are all spread out across her one room house. Every surface was covered in materials or shells or cloth (“junk” Tukula called it, but I know it is much more than that) for future projects. I really appreciate Tukula for showing us her beautiful artwork and allowing us to see into her life.
The rest of the day we made sugar feed for the bees by mixing sugar and water. Meanwhile a “wood” co-distillation—Cedarwood and Sweetwood—produced a 7 mls of oil. In the evening I sat around the dinner table with Joshua, Enoch, and Kofi getting their favorite song recommendations.
July 16th. Pancakes for breakfast! Then all the interns stripped pimento leaves off of a felled branch. I was beginning to have a stomach ache/bug, so I laid down in my hammock for the rest of the morning. Later in the day we distilled pimento, getting 70mls of oil, and inspected the beehive in the distillery. After dinner, Sarah, Kyra, and I walked with Danny to a fish restaurant two miles down the road. It was a dark walk underneath the stars, and by the end we were sufficiently tuckered out.
July 17th. Rose at 6 am for bees, feeding and inspecting the new apiary. After quick work in the cool morning, we placed the remaining two hive stands into the ground. We also performed another pimento leaf distillation that yielded 70mls. Kwao had to go to Annotto Bay, so I squeezed in the van with the boys and Danny. We ended up getting some materials for hive building, so we will do that before I leave on Wednesday. In the heat of the sun, Kyra, Sarah, Danny, and I picked mary goules flower while trying to keep the dogs away from the goats. Unfortunately, we ran out of daylight to pick all the flowers we needed for a distillation, so we returned home for a quiet evening.
July 18th. While Kwao was off getting supplies from Annotto Bay, I raked the yard and appreciated the tropical weather for one final time. Danny then took Sarah, Kyra, and I out snorkeling along the reef near the beach. It was rough weather and a sea urchin stung me, but there were lots of cool fish. That afternoon we made hives out of cello board(?), a cheaper alternative to wood that still insulates the hive properly. We finished the day with feeding and inspecting the Robin’s Bay bees. One final day with them was fun, and afterwards we lit piles of chopped down grass on fire to clear the apiary. No bees were harmed. Once back at the farm, I packed and got ready for the day of travel that ended my trip.
July 19th. I departed Yerba Buena Farms at 8:15 am and drove 2 hours to Kingston International Airport. Entrance back in civilization and reality was weird. The obsession with technology and manicured presentation of everyone and everything in the Miami airport was such a culture shock. But by the time I got home I had woken up to my surroundings.
Overall, I had an amazing experience in Jamaica and I could not thank Kwao and Agape enough for letting me stay with them. I now have a wealth of knowledge about beekeeping, essential oils, and making value added products that I can utilize at home and teach others. Thank you to everyone who made my trip an amazing experience, including the interns, Jessica, Lion, and Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment for making this all happen. Peace and Love!