Ognen Duzlevski bio photo

Ognen Duzlevski

Senior tinkerer.


As I finish my beehive traps for this season, something occurred to me - that there is a huge difference between a food producer (even if they are organic) and a peasant. In fact, if you read my post on the definition of the word “farmer”, you will realize that an essential component of the definition of peasant is probably a village that they are a part of. As times have changed, maybe that defition can be relaxed a bit, I would not mind - as I have come to actually view my current path in life as one of becoming a villageless peasant. However, one component-requirement of the definition of peasant cannot be relaxed - that is one of self-sufficiency.

We have been conditioned in our society to buy things, to the point that even hobbies today require massive investments of money - just to have some fun after work. I frequent a few beekeeping groups online and invariably people post about ordering bees, ordering hive boxes, ordering the tools and all the equipment. They brag about finding a “deal” on a box (only paid $100 instead of $130-$180), they talk about nucs vs packages - before everything is said and done, one is probably a $1000 lighter and the beekeeping season hasn’t even started yet! Of course, everyone needs to start somewhere and I started the same way - I ordered a box and a package - the box wasn’t that great and the package did not survive. But, that was a year ago and when on the path of becoming a peasant, a year is like a lifetime….

Learning to work with horses has taught me many valuable lessons and one of them was that even bad trainers (which make up the majority of professionals working with horses) have something to teach you - even if that something is what NOT to do. One can learn from any human enterprise they undertake and apply things to the rest of their lives. What I learned from starting on my beekeeping journey is that the right start and the right literature and books is what is necessary. In the example of apiculture, at its worst, it is a money-extraction industry that relies on a lot of beginners to cover the expenses of the professionals. Most of apiculture today is driven by large commercial operations, people with thousands of hives that get rented out as pollinators to the agriculture industry. The breeding of bees, the equipment, the medications, the chemicals, decisions down to the size of the bee - it is all a part of a (complex) system where the larger operations make “pocket” money (and sometimes much more than that) from “hit and runs” - people who have a good intention but have no knowledge of the field - people who enter the hobby with money in their pocket and a vision of a symbiotic life with the bees, honey flowing down the extractor, their friends in awe of the awesome, “green” hobby they have. The reality, however, is that a lot of beginners spend the money the first year, lose most of their hives, many double down the second year and then lose all of the hives. Some stick to it but many do not - their equipment ends up on Facebook or Craigslist for 1/2 the price.

There is a lot more to the commercial apiculture industry than meets the eye and the only way to see beyond this enterprise is to read all sorts of books and talk to all sorts of people - mostly about treatment-free beekeeping topics - as this is part of apiculture that a peasant would be able to relate to. In the treatment-free beekeeping world, the main question becomes “are you producing more bees or are you buying bees every year”. I think this question was posited by Solomon Parker and I find that it hits at the core of todays anything-culture (api, agro, whatever-culture) - are you a part of the problem or a part of the complex that just keeps steamrolling, where someone makes money on top and many lose money on the bottom, while still taking the system down an unsustainable path?

So, where does one start in this process of “awakening”? Well, the first thing to realize is that you have to strive to MAKE EVERYTHING YOURSELF (and yes, I do realize there will be a need for tools and yes, one cannot make EVERYTHING but the paradigm change is powerful on its own). For most people with enough money in their pockets, there is a certain, psychologically programmed “itch” to click “Buy now” and move on with a feeling that they have done something good - since after all, they are shopping for a good cause (getting equipment, whatever). But, in the example of apiculture (for one), you can find free online plans for bee swarm traps - the ones I have found here can yield multiple boxes for the cost of the plywood and your time. Once you have the traps, find places to put them up, because, the best bees are local stock that is free! Oh, yes - start with this book - it will be an eye opener.

In this case, the difference between getting into beekeeping the way most do it and just building traps and catching swarms is the difference of multiple hundreds of dollars! Plus, it is much more fun and most important of all, you will not be a drone consumer, someone that is viewed as a cog in the wheel of some industry.

So, how does the above connect to the definition of a peasant? Well, a peasant would have done it all themselves, as I described above. The mindset is different, the peasant does not just “produce food” or “farm”, they do many things themselves. It is a difference between the mindset of a consumer and a mindset of a producer.

Fixing leather items at home

Building a swarm trap

Building a swarm trap

Building a swarm trap