The Proctor Household was built in 1788. A second dwelling, lovingly referred to as the “Other Side of the House,” served as a Civil War uniform factory for Union soldiers and was added to the original structure around the 1830s. (We were never able to confirm the actual date the house was wheeled on logs, pulled by oxen, and connected to the structure other than dates marked on the attic ceiling.) Underground Railroad tunnels were pocketed in the living room, Alexe’s bedroom, and the attic, and a woodstove and coal stove were used as the main source of heat.
This house is old, and thanks to those old, deteriorating 12-over-12-pane windows and the horse hair plaster, a cold draft was felt all year long. It was great in the summer time, but not so great when you left for school and it was only 47 degrees in the kitchen.
Because this house is so old, a lot of our time living in Weare, New Hampshire, (1998-2010) was spent renovating it, adding up-to-code electricity, heating, and plumbing, switching out the old, lackluster and crumbling plaster with modern-day insulation, and clearing several overgrown acres for agricultural use.
There was also a kitchen renovation.
For two years, our ceramic farmhouse sink sat on two sawhorses in our dining room, where we cooked on a stove with a haphazard propane connection and ate in the living room. There was no main heat source so the room was frigid; to be avoided at all costs, in my opinion. But the entire family chipped in with the renovations, helping with demolition, painting, you name it. It was a bear of a project — and one that would later exhaust us and traumatize us.
It was an overcast day, which always made our 232-year-old house even spookier than it was. Aside from the flock of chickens in the yard, it was quiet. My mom, sister, and I were the only ones home, and a lot of our day was spent in the kitchen, working on ripping out some upper cabinets that we no longer needed.
Little did we know that a massive bee colony was residing in between the wall and the horse hair plaster, and ripping out those cabinets opened up a black hole — the Bermuda Triangle; the stuff of nightmares. Picture any swarm scene from the 2002 movie “Killer Bees” and you’ll get the idea. There was a lot of screaming, failed attempts to secure a perimeter while flailing about, a lot of bee stings, and a quick evacuation of the house.
We regrouped. We counted our battle wounds (14 stings for my sister, and a handful for both my mom and I). We had a pity party. I must have repressed the rest of the day, though, because I don’t remember how we got rid of them.
That many bees in a kitchen are not good. But that many bees in the wild are good — and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the importance of sustaining these creatures. They have such an understated importance in the development of our ecosystem, and their population has steadily declined thanks to the ongoing and strengthening effects of climate change.
This month’s issue explores the environment in all its various shapes and forms, and the beating it’s taken in more recent decades. Chris Gigley explores the ongoing plight of the honeybee this month, and I’ll let him tell you about it on page 44.
Plant more flowers. Recycle. Bee well,
Katlyn Proctor, Editor