Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Beekeeper's Heart

It's funny, how sometimes your life will turn out absolutely NOT the way you planned, and still be amazingly stellar.

See, right now, I should be winning Oscars for my acting or directing work. This, according to my childhood and teenage aspirations. I mean, for Pete's sake, I've gotten a degree in these things from a fancy college. Then again, I think of how what a practical jokester that Life is, and I wonder if, on some level, I wouldn't be one of those washed up old acting dames, drowning my frustrated sorrows in a bottle while sighing over my faded youth right about now. One never knows how these perilous little stories REALLY turn out, do they?


What really ended up happening, as I mentioned yesterday, was several generations in the making. And in this case, if you go back far enough, I was bound to be entrapped by a Queen. Like the stuff of fairy tales, I was whisked away from the path I was on by royalty--insect royalty.

The Queen Of Bees figures predominantly on my mother's side of the family. And to get to THAT story, you have to traverse an entire World War. My grandfather, known in the Hungarian tongue by as as "Big Daddy," was one of four brothers who went to war in Hungary. And, unfortunately, Hungary's president the time, sided with the Nazis. Which didn't bode well with Big Daddy at all. So he ran away from the army, and was sent to prison. And got out just long enough to be sent back in as a prisoner of war, this time by the Russians.

"Big Daddy." Ferenc Jogg was my grandfather, beekeeper, and all around spitfire.

He came back home to his little family just in time to see MY mother become seven years old. She had seen him previously only when she was 8 months old, and had no memory of him whatsoever; if you are wondering where I get this strange, sometimes sad storytelling lilt from, know that these tales have been carved into my bones before I was born.

Despite this, everything I knew about Big Daddy was that he was an unabashed prankster, card-player, and devout lover-of-Life. Which came in handy AFTER the war, when the Communists felled another blow against him and his brothers when, in taking over Eastern Europe, they decided to seize much of their farm properties and equipment.

And the bees? My grandfather actually got the smart (alec) idea to get bees after this, with the inside joke that the Russian inspectors would be too afraid of getting stung to remove any hives. And that actually turned out to be true. So each of the four brothers ended up getting forty hives apiece, and became masters at watching the behaviors of these amazing animals in order to take care of them. They became their little villages "honey-men," with people coming to them with their empty canning jars to be filled. 

There would be stories of bee swarms and bee stings---the utter irony is that, while my grandfather was impervious to those bee barbs, my mother was so sensitive that a sting on her foot would cause her head to swell up and her eyes to swell shut. There were honey harvesting techniques and the use of bee skeps. There were stories of seasonal flowers, various honey types, and old folklore.

Like old cameo lockets or pocket watches, these wild ramblings were passed down to me. They were leavened, this Summer, by my own journey back to Hungary with my mother, where my family took us to an entire beekeeping museum, and old Village museums where my eyes were lightened by amazing up-close-and-personal examples of those fine beekeeper's before me.

It is funny, to realize you are the living, walking embodiment of centuries of tradition, and I realize my journey, teaching the beekeeping he did, including all the folkloric parts, put forth those same antique footsteps he did. It is the story of The Beekeeper' Heart, this, one in which the drone of bee wings replace the thumping of that big chest muscle. In some ways, it sustains just as importantly.

Skeps in a "beehouse." these woven skeps were used into the 1960's but early Hungarian history, these bee houses were arranged on shelves in large outdoor structures or "sheds." The structure was usually made of wood or clay with small side openings large enough for bees, but which could be locked to keep thieves from stealing the hives, as honey was a huge commodity.

These skeps are also coated with mud, which adds strength and keeps the skep cooler.

A typical honey house, wood with clay added to some sides. The top is open to allow the bees access in and out, but the walls are tall enough that it would be difficult to climb.

From the beekeeping museum in Godollo. These are logs that have been cut down and used as primitive bee houses.

Grandfather's farm, long ago abandoned. The hives were held behind it....

Some of you know what I mean about this old-time love affair: the old smiths, tinners quilters, crafters, story-tellers, lovers of old things, myths, and fairy tales. Maybe we are a strange, dying breed of folk, but we are out there. And like them, I enjoy sharing these bits of knowledge because in a way, it's like I am opening the scrapbook and pointing to those old black and white pictures from another time and place--pointing to those faded faces that looked so stern and determined. I wonder sometimes, if they had an inkling that this strange, unorthodox girl would now be their torch bearer?

For me, it has been a grand pleasure and responsibility, as if dealing with those fragile people themselves, their living voiceboxes, speaking about the things they knew.  And luckily for me, I shall be sharing those stories with you. In May, I will be teaching beekeeping in three separate places in the Northeast. If you can attend these, I would love to meet you!

WALKER HOMESTEAD, 19 Martin Road, Brookfield, MA

May Day (May1) -
9:30AM - 3:30pm
Folk Beekeeping/Folk Way Herbal as part of a whole day of May Day Traditions
(Make May Wine, May Baskets, Folk May Traditions)

*May 3rd -
9:30AM - 3:30pm
LUNCH INCLUDED (dishes from our cooking class)
A Honey Cooking Class: You will learn to make sweet and spicy carrots (using Tupelo honey), Acacia Eggplant (using acacia honey), and creme and crepes (using lavender honey), with recipes you will get to take home. Samples of the honey we are using will  also be available.

Beekeeping 101 with old ways applications
For the folk lover and bee enthusiast--this is a nice, rounded class that covers the historical notions of beekeeping, with old photographs of equipment used, and how bees were kept, alongside practical beekeeping knowledge such as how to keep a hive, basic equipment, old ways techniques still used today, and much more!
 To register, or if you have questions,
please email:

THE NEW ENGLAND GIRL, 445 Limrock Road, Fairfield CT

*Sat May 10th ~
Beekeeping 101
This class will show you the many ways to begin beekeeping using Zan's natural beekeeping techniques, including basic set up, basic bee society and behavior, pest free beekeeping, what to expect your first year in beekeeping, and so much more.

THEN, after lunch, our very own  builder THE NEW ENGLAND girl will show you how to put together your very own unassembled hive in this useful demonstration while Zan describes the components of the hive.

For questions, or to register:


10AM - 4PMBeekeeping 101/ Folk Ways Beekeeping AND a tour of Jenna Wogonrich's working farm!

Organic Ways Beekeeping 101 (Beginning Beekeeping):
Zan Asha is a third generation beekeeping who practices the same chemical free, behavior-based beekeeping as her grandfather in WWII era Hungary. The practice of watching the very specific behaviors and structures of the bees, and caring for them during the seasons will be discussed, along with the basic principles, equipment, disease prevention, and bee society will be discussed. You will leave with a working knowledge of how to set up your bees and what to expect the first year of beekeeping. Old stories on European beekeeping will be touched on.

Folk Ways Beekeeping:
 Old style beekeeping (from ancient history to WWII), equipment, and techniques will be discussed, with old pictures and books dissected. You will learn how the old masters worked their bees and how you can apply it to your beekeeping. This class is more for the antique scholar or beekeeper who is fascinated by old history and focuses more on that than a hands on beekeeping compendium.

$100 for the day!
Email Jenna at to register, or for more info

Many thanks, my friends!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In The Beginning

                                             This was never going to be a normal journey.....

hat a whirlwind! My hands have been busy painting, drawing, typing, and otherwise scheduling this strange rambling trip I will be taking in May, so much so I've nary had time to pay attention to the story-telling part of this journey.

But in between classes to be taught and the art, soap, and beauty items to be made and sold along the way, it occurs to me that many people just joining up on this little adventure do not have the story of how this whole thing came to be.

And so this is a little story within that story.

While a much more comprehensive (and by more, I mean a Tolstoy-style novel, so grab a serious kettle-full of tea to drink!) "about me" story can be found, well, in the About Me section at the top of this blog, this story is a bit more about the heartbeat of why I do what I do.

See, this tale really isn't mine to tell. To really understand it, you must go to my family tree--the stuff of gypsy lore, Balkan musings, and Tales of exotic, bangled men and women from places where dust flies. Those were my people. My parents were of far-flung ancestry that allowed them to tell tales since I could first remember. At the time, they were both awesome and rebuked; what use does a girl who grew up in New York City have with tales of "poor farmers" whose life was clearly NOT AS FABULOUS as her modern little life. Funny, how the youthful attach themselves to the newer shiny stuff.

I will admit though, there was something curious about those souls. My parents, who lost one parent, each, as children, whose parents were midwives, farmers, soldiers--who struggled through so much poverty, heartache, loss--and seemed unfazed by it. One grandmother was a midwife who stepped on scorpions with her bare hands, my great grandfather was a veterinarian in a country that had little or no value to most creatures. One uncle ran the first leper colony in his country. My other grandfather was a soldier who spent seven years in military prison. My grandmother cooked in the house of German nobles. 

Is there any. damn. wonder. that I'm the person I am today?  I mean, you can't take that and decide it will be okay to take the path of least resistance, or convenience or--heck--even predictability.

For me, those stories just expanded my natural curiosity for old things--and that love would pepper everything about my psyche: besides being a die-hard artist, I loved archeology. I still love antiques. Even the dance troupe I ran touched on themes of mythology and old legend.

Ahh, the troupe. I've been a performing artist, and that thing was my dream. Until it wasn't. By the time the big crash in The States rolled around in 2008 happened, I had officially lost my soul to the strange underbelly of the city performing arts life, and since I'd barely been making a dent with what I was doing, I turned back to these stories I knew so well.

There was farming, there was beekeeping, there was story telling. I sort of jumped on all of these as little totems, and they pushed me forward. First, a motley group of writers and farmers made up  little armada for online farm advice and one of them, a wonderful herbie-artsy friend invited me to teach classes. And this, my friends, would be the start of my little touring life.

In the meantime, I turned those old stories and fairytales I'd heard into folk art, and some old time herbal love became this enchanted little tangible projects, remnants of woods, and flowers and old-time love. You can find those HERE.
And so I stand here, packing satchels and whisking together goods and class lessons, ready to take the road. In about a month, I shall continue that affair of car and pavement, the most reliable relationship I've had to date...
TOMORROW: The Heart Of A Beekeeper

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Traveler's Bones

It is interesting, sometimes, the wonderings that people have about my wandering soul. This life is--and is not--as it appears.

This story is not so extraordinary. It involves the same stuff that you are made up of. It is mostly imagination, lots of fear, a dash of organizing, and mostly making it up as you go along.  Perhaps my little journey--dressed up in far more exotic or fancy trappings and wrapped in idealism or ribaldry and bardic poetry--it is really a working manifestation of an alternate little life I would not have expected to live.

See (and I've said it before), you and I are travelers, Time Travelers. Whether our journeys are large or small, a grand sojourn or just the pathway from house, to work, and back again--we are going places, and our mileage is calculated by birthdays. We have no choice but to travel this time and space allotted to us.

Know, too, that your flesh, bones, breath and heart will calculate your mileage--each journey making your body and soul a verifiable clock of your experiences. What scars and weathering will they leave?

If, long from now, they open my casket and examine my skeleton, what would they see?  Would they see the long bones stretched by so much sojourning, bent by the weight of the grand bitter-sweetness of life? Would my dusty heart show scarring--shriveled by so much silent fear shoved down whilst making everything appearing too perfect? Would they realize it's paltry grey shade hid so much heartbreak, a lonely spinster unable to know love, for who would love such a strange woman, too independent for her own good?

What of these strange hands, that wrote and wrote so much, and painted and made things and held friends, and kittens, and stroked horses

It has been a crutch, and a heartbreak, and a Fourth Of July picnic, and a burden, and a Mid-Summer celebration. It has filled me with as much awe as anxiety.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Four Women

                                  The Things That Happen When Women Get Together...
Funny, how these things happen.

You know what I mean--those moments in life that seem like some sort of crazy dare, an endless sweaty race, that never-ending climb up a gargantuan wall...

It's been that way for several weeks, a strange and sobering reality behind a very light-hearted statement: "I'm going on tour." 

Sure, that seems like gypsy ribaldry, complete with fun-time images of riding into the sunset: carefree and kicking up of heels. But in the back wings, there is always a different sort of drama that rarely comes to mind when you think of a road trip and teaching classes on the road: the organization of such a thing is a monster of a show, contacting hosts, hoping for news,  scheduling, and rescheduling, and hoping to drive neither the host--or yourself-- mad in the process.

And then just like that--*POOF*--all the puzzle pieces sort of neatly click into place.  And when the smoke clears and I really observe this specimen, I have to laugh and shake my head. There are four women who are my hosts on the leg of this trip--and in many ways, it's been women all along who have supported all my endeavors.

I don't know what it is, but women figure in so much of my good fortune, it's ridiculous. My last full time job was staffed by all women (literally TWO men worked there in the seven years I did), and my actual calling-- an ethnic dance troupe I ran for five years--was exclusively made up of women.

My LAST tour--doing those same shenanigans I'm doing NOW--was also hosted by women: beautiful, strong, courageous women in Iowa and Illinois, and this whole fine mess was actually started by one beautiful herbal gal in Iowa, and perpetuated by another in Florida.

Yeah, us gals gotta stick together and while I bare no ill-will to the gents, you gotta love the resourcefulness of the "fairer sex."

So this is a schedule update, it is also the story of four women, and the various bright hues that make up this funny little Northeast Tour of Mine....

Kris Casucci is the heart of Walker Homestead. Her place, in lovely Brookfield, Massachusetts is a beacon of old style, colonial charm. Stepping onto the property is like stepping back into the annals of simple beauty and charm. She boasts an amazing antique store and farm with Jacob sheep and a bevvy of chickens. The antiques and prims she sells are top quality, and she hosts so many lovely classes that show insight into bygone times. You will know that she is a busy soul--running shows, sales, tours, and open houses but always carries a kindness about her and a fun laugh that makes you feel welcome, no matter what she is doing. There is something about the whole kit-and-kaboodle with Kris that makes you feel like there is quality and earnestness in everything she--and Walker Homestead is about.

I'll be teaching for two days:
May 1st, as part of a May Day extravagaza: I'll be teaching folk herbalism AND folk beekeeping, but the day starts at 9:30 with the making of May Wine, May Baskets, and the telling of May Day Traditions. It's a big day you won't want to miss.

Then on May 3rd from 9:30-3:30
I will be doing a big honey cooking class
(making sweet and spicy carrots in Tupelo honey, Acacia eggplant, and Crepes using Lavender honey!)
Your lunch is included in the days activities (the food we made in class!)
And then I will do a beekeeping 101 class which will include some of the old world, pesticide free keeping that my grandfather used in Europe, old traditions used today, and general basic beekeeping techniques.

From there I will be going to CT to my amazing friend Nicole Goncalves, known in those parts as The New England Girl. You'd be impressed if you knew her--owner of not only her own business, but a business that BUILDS and restores furniture...and she's maybe 25 years old. For such a young lass to take on the responsibility and hard work of such an endeavor is something I think some fellas would be envious of!

*May 6th ~
Make Your Own Cloth Ornament
6pm - 9pm
I will show you how to make your own cloth ornament! We will onstruct, and paint amazing cloth ornaments using paints, buttons, and other embellishments. You will learn various sewing and painting skills in this fun and educational experience, and take home your own ornament. $45

*May 10th ~
Beekeeping 101
This class will show you the many ways to begin beekeeping using  natural beekeeping techniques, including basic set up, basic bee society and behavior, pest free beekeeping, what to expect your first year in beekeeping, and so much more.

PUTTING UP YOUR OWN BEEHIVESTHEN, after lunch, our very own  builder THE NEW ENGLAND girl will show you how to put together your very own unassembled hive in this useful demonstration while Zan describes the components of the hive.


May 11th
Learn about plants used in historical times, their properties, and the practical uses they still have today. We will describe how to make tinctures, decoctions, salves, and more and you will receive basic recipes for herbal items you can make at home, with a short demonstration in class.

EMAIL to register, or for info!

Holly Doyle from Jersey Made is a complete dynamo. Her store carries items made from artisans and farmers in New Jersey, and is a testament of her love and support for small businesses. She also hosts a slew of classes from her shop, and is the sort of energetic cheerleader and adviser any artist would be lucky to know. The gal just loves art!

May 16th
 Folk Herbs for Everyday Use  1pm to 3pm
Learn about the old-fashioned use herbs as used in everyday household, beauty, and medicinal ways, and how these herbs still work today. You will be provided with some herb samples during class, and will go home with information on how to make your own herbal concoctions.

Living Outside the Box   7pm to 8:30pm
An outside presentation in front of a gypsy wagon! A fun, informal atmosphere, with an important message! Learn the many tips, tricks, and strategy to living the life YOU want,
Living on little or no money, outside-the-box careers, living the traveling life, unconventional house life, and other tips on attaining your dreams from Zan Asha, who has lived a traveler’s life for three years.

Saturday, May 17th
 Cloth Ornament Workshop   10am to 3pm
This workshop will teach you how to make a soft cloth ornament from your own original pattern! Make an enchanted cloth ornament of your imagination! Everything from sewing, painting, accenting, and embellishing your ornament (with buttons, ribbons, etc) will be covered here! We’ll have sewing machines on hand, instructions demonstrated, and more techniques explained. Take home your own ornament! Materials provided!

*Bring a lunch and beverages with you.   Light snacks will be available.

Beginner’s Bellydance 5pm - 6pm
Zan Asha’s roots began with theater and dance, and she spent almost a decade as troupe leader of ChoveXani ( creating ethnic dances of North Africa, India, and the Middle East. Tonight, she will be teaching beginning belly dance. This class is a fun and informative intro to beginning belly dance. Bring clothes you can stretch in. We will cover a warm up and basic movements of the arms, hips, and stomach, with a short choreography learned at the end.

Sunday May 18th 
Wood burning Workshop 1-3pm
Learn the beautiful and challenging art of woodburning to create wonderful works of art. We will go over various techniques to create shade, patterns, and design as it affects your wood piece.  You will go home with an original and unique wood-burned work of art.
*Note: Wood will be provided. However, you are requested to bring your own woodburning tool to this class. Reasonably priced wood burning implements can be found at local craft shops. 


REGISTRATION: Email Host Holly Doyle directly to register at or call
609 914 1536

My last stop is a doozy. Jenna Wogonrich, mistress of Cold Antler Farm, is a farming and writing lass of the highest order. You may have read a few of her books, including Made From Scratch or One Woman Farm. Or you may admire the fact that she rides horses while shooting bows--and she is training a falcon, too. She was kind enough to host me in my beekeeping shenanigans...

10AM - 4PM
Beekeeping 101/ Folk Ways Beekeeping
AND a tour of Jenna Wogonrich's working farm!

Organic Ways Beekeeping 101 (Beginning Beekeeping):
Behavior-based beekeeping will be taught as her grandfather did in WWII era Hungary. The practice of watching the very specific behaviors and structures of the bees, and caring for them during the seasons will be discussed, along with the basic principles, equipment, disease prevention, and more will be discussed. You'll leave with a working knowledge of what to expect the first year of beekeeping.

Folk Ways Beekeeping:
 Old style beekeeping (from ancient history to WWII), equipment, and techniques will be discussed, with old pictures and books dissected. You will learn how the old masters worked their bees and how you can apply it to your beekeeping. This class is more for the antique scholar or beekeeper who is fascinated by old history and focuses more on that than a hands on beekeeping compendium.

$100 for the day!

Email Jenna at to register, or for info

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Whole Shebang

                                               Teaching Beekeeping ~ Iowa 2011

"Opportunity doesn't knock, and you answer it. YOU knock, and opportunity answer" ~ American Proverb

rom time to time, I have people--some far more accredited and accomplished than I--ask HOW I am doing this?  How on Earth have I managed to have this funny touring life, this life of art and teaching and unusual jobs?

The answer is not complicated: I just ask. I ask people to be part of my projects, and I ask to be part of theirs. When I have interviewed people, when I have been interviewed, when I teach classes--these usually start with a straightforward inquiry.  To me this sounds simple, but it floors ME that people are floored by it. Really? That's all you do? Aren't you afraid of rejection? I remember even my landlady's husband, a cynical veteran of the t.v. commercial production world, asked me that question, bug-eyed with disbelief.

The answer is both YES, and no. See, I suppose I'm afraid of rejection, but I'm also afraid--MORE afraid--of missed opportunities. So if I think there is a sliver of hope to do something that lights my little grey soul on fire, I'll make the attempt. As my stubbornly brave father used to say: "Sure, you'll get a 'no' from some people some of the time. But if you NEVER ask, you're going to a get a 100% NO answer!"
The man had a point.

Right now, I'm in the middle of creating a little adventure again! It's happening, Folks!  So the news is that I will be traveling to the Northeast this Spring--starting in May, to be exact. The Northeast is sort of a homecoming, of sorts, since the whole shebang started from New York City. However, this time around, I'll be in places I've never been before--parts of Massachusetts and New Jersey--and who knows where?

That's where you come in. See, I've never considered this a loner's journey. The whole thing is wrapped up in YOUR participation, no matter how small. Indeed, any advice, thoughts, and even your eyes skimming this post is appreciated in ways that you could not know.

So, here's the LATEST NEWS...and ways you can participate!

* May 1st and 3rd-- I will be teaching folk beekeeping and herbalism and doing a huge honey cooking class as part of a whole May Day fest at Walker Homestead in Massachusetts. More details to come!

* Also on May 3rd and 4th ~ MY ART is traveling more than I am! My clocks, and enchanted paintings will most likely be at the SpookyTime Jingles booth at the National Halloween Convention in Philadelphia! Stay tuned for more!

*May 16th-18th! A Ton of dance, art, and herbal classes are happening at Jersey Made! You can click  for registration details!  CLICK ON MY NEW CLASS SCHEDULE LIST TO SEE MORE DETAILS.

~~ I am looking for classes to host in Connecticut or Pennsylvania during the weekend of May 10th, or any day around that.  Know of a place that likes classes?  Here's a whole CLASS LIST. The hosts also get an opportunity to be in my little film about outside of the box thinkers, and maybe my little book!

~~Speaking of which, I'm in the middle of self-publishing a book about all of these adventures, and how you, too, can live life the way YOU want it. I am hoping to post a little fundraiser for publishing costs, and can only hope that some of you might be interested in throwing a few pennies my way? I'll have more updates in a few days!

~~ Finally, if you'd like to support this crazy idea and travel happening in a couple of months (yikes!), then feel free to visit my brand NEW SHOPPE HERE! I have finally revamped and housed BOTH my little herbal soapy business AND the art creations in ONE PLACE! So get your organic goods and old world folk art goods in one place! All proceeds go directly to funding my trip--and you get some really lovely quality products while you are at it!

Thank you so very much in advance! And that's the Whole Shebang (for now)!