Neither of us fit our particular mould. I am a gardener, but I am quite the laziest, rule-breaking sort: if I can get away with letting nature get on with it so I can go dancing, then I do. I’ve given up digging, straight lines, lawns, weeds (I think of them more as compost ingredients), spraying and squishing. The thing I like about my garden most is eating it.
It’s true Steve is a commercial bee farmer, but his financial gains amount to a leaky roof, a tent so he can sleep next to his bees and the keys to many of London’s rooftops.
So yes, this is a book about gardening and it’s true that the honeybee crawls over every page, but this story is about more than beekeeping or how we fell in love with the bees’ sweet, sticky world.
It’s about the bigger picture, about all our forgotten insects, whether they are predator or prey, pollinator or pest. Of how they not only make our world run, but why you should care to take a closer look.
Over the seasons, our letters, emails, texts, recipes, notes and photos (Steve, in a former life was a travel photographer) explore each other’s world. We hope you’ll be swept along on our journey, with us helping out the pollinators and along the way picking up a wealth of advice, tips and ideas for growing food and keeping the pollinators well fed.
It’s about celebrating the great outdoors, even if that outdoors starts on a windowsill or rooftop.
It’s also a story about friendship and a passion for work that has meaning and respect for the world around it.Why fund the book this way?
OK, so it’s not the obvious publishing route, we could have gone the traditional way, but it would have meant writing a book about garden craft, or a book about bees, but not midges, or a book about rules but as neither of us are particularly good at sticking to those, that didn’t seem like a good idea either. It all felt like a bit of a compromise and some ideas just don’t want to be boxed up like that. This is one of them.
We think it has wings and this seemed like the best way to see if that can happen. Why not let you, our community, decide? If you don’t like the idea, we’ll go back to garden craft and rule creating. But if you think otherwise, we’ll do everything we can to make it the best rule-breaking, wildlife, guerilla, urban gardening (with a little craft), insect-identifying, honey-tasting, wax-dripping, bee-keeping, recipe-including, beautifully photographed, epistolary how-to book you've ever seen. In short, we promise to try and make the world a sweeter, richer place to be.
It is hard to imagine that a poppy flower just recently unfurled with its delicate wrinkled petals swaying in the sun is not there to please us, nor that a rose so heady in scent has not opened just to entice us, but someone much, much smaller.
Any flower that takes your breath away with beauty and complexity has done so to entice an insect, not you to take a closer look. The floral structures, those pretty petals in pleasing colours, the lures of sweet scent, are an evolutionary response to attract a pollinator to cross-fertilise and set seed.
Plants have evolved to lure and attract anyone and everyone who could do this job for them, so some flowers choose hummingbirds, a few choose rats or mice but most have done a deal with insects, preferably flying ones, who can take pollen from one plant and deposit it on another miles away if necessary.
To lure in these pollinators they have created ever more complex and extraordinary floral architecture: flowers with flags, triggers and tubes to attract specific pollinators, with lures such as heady perfume (some males bees use this to create their own unique aftershave) or certain enticing colours and patterns. And finally, to keep the pollinator coming back again and again, a reward: delicate nectars rich in complex sugars or protein-fuelled pollen.
A wildflower meadow is no longer a pretty picture but a market full of stallholders shouting their wares, ‘come here, try this’. The pollinator drops in, drinks up the nectar, steals some pollen and then is off onto the next stall. The plant has done its job satisfactorily only if the pollinator visits another of its kin and directly transfers the pollen. If this happens then the plant has out-crossed increasing its genetic pool and ensuring its future.
Or put another way, only if another party is involved can they get it on. Otherwise they are left self-pollinating, which has its place, but sure isn’t as much fun as sharing.Read more...
This book is now in production. You can still pledge, but you won't get listed as a supporter in the back.
1st edition cloth-bound illustrated hardback, ebook edition, a packet of seeds and your name in the back of the book.
Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc.
1st edition hardback, ebook edition, etc. + 2 tickets to the launch party with homebrew (we might make some mead or elderflower or blackberry champagne.)
1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a day gardening with Alys at your garden/community garden/allotment/guerilla patch/ school garden.
1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a visit to see Steve's bees on his rooftop or visit BEE HQ and taste honey, a seasonal forage around a bit of London and some lunch.
1st edition hardback, ebook edition etc + a day gardening and beekeeping with both of us: learn how to site your bees, what to plant where, composting or solve any other gardening problems.