A story in The New York Times paints a picture of the changing landscape of Appalachia. Not only are the communities gradually disappearing, the silhouettes of the mountains themselves are. The descriptive Times piece, “As the Mountains Fall, a Coal Town Vanishes,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/us/13lindytown.html?) reveals how coal mining is shifting from underground work in mines to mountain top removal. The process involves removing the trees, soil, and rock, what the coal companies call “overburden,” to expose coal. The coal is heavily relied upon to provide energy to power our industrial world. In accessing the coal, large volumes of removed soil and rock are dumped and dozed into ravines to form a shape called an “approximate original contour.” This reclamation process often turns the thin mountainous topsoil under the removed rock and gravel leaving a surface unsuitable for vegetative growth. Even when the rubble is fertilized, mulched, and seeded, plants and trees do not thrive. Valleys and creeks are often filled with rubble as well. Our eastern Kentucky beekeeping friend, Tammy Horn, received the Pollinator Advocate award from the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign for her efforts to encourage and guide the coal companies in changing mountain top removal practices to be more environmentally favorable. New approaches to reclamation include reduced compaction of soils and plantings of bee plants like American chestnut, sourwood, and understory herbs. Tammy is working to establish a cottage industry of beekeeping in the economically depressed coal mining region of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. Tammy has been a true advocate for both the pollinators and the people of Appalachia.
Click on today’s photo of a honey bee heavily laden with pollen from apple blossoms. Apples, members of the important family of bee plants, the roses, rely upon bees for pollination. Without the bees, no fruit is produced. Apples, which contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, are known as a healthy food. Apples are blooming in the Mid-South. The apple bloom is another landmark on the beekeeper’s calendar.--Richard