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Attorneys find a sweet life with bees

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People are often unashamedly partial to their pets, even if many outsiders find those pets less than lovable. At Indianapolis law firm Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, a small knot of attorneys share a common affection for a creature generally unwelcome in most circles – the honeybee.

John Ketcham, managing partner at PSRB, professes to have had a lifelong love of the honeybee and has been beekeeping for years.

apb-il-beekeeping02-15col.jpg Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP attorneys (from left) John Ketcham, Chris Plews and George Plews enjoy beekeeping. The three are pictured in the yard of the Plewses, who recently harvested honey to give to friends and family. (IL Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

“I’ve always been fascinated by insects,” he said, “and they seem to be one of the most fascinating of all.”

Ketcham cites the bees’ tightly structured communities, in which each bee has a specific job; their hexagonal wax cells, designed for maximum efficiency; and their ability to communicate via dance. “Plus,” he added, “You get this great stuff they make for free.”

When circumstances required Ketcham to suddenly rehome his honeybees, he turned to George “Corky” Plews, a partner and co-founder of PSRB, and Christine Plews, of counsel with the firm. “He came to our house,” Chris recalled, “and said, ‘My bees would be happy here.’”

It’s few people’s dream to be the adoptive parents of a colony of bees, but the Plewses didn’t take much convincing. For them, beekeeping was just one more step in trying to preserve the land. Situated on the White River, their yard is populated by native Indiana plants and is both a certified Monarch waystation and a certified national wildlife habitat.

bees boxThe couple was well aware that bees across the globe are dying mysteriously and that this could have very serious consequences for humans, plants and animals. Bees, Chris explained, are essential to the whole ecosystem. There are a number of food crops – almonds, for example – that depend on bees for pollination, and if the bees die out, those fruits and vegetables will be lost. In fact, many beekeepers actually have a business in which they bring hives to farmers during pollination because the number of wild bees has declined so dramatically.

“Bees are a dying commodity, and if you can give them a place to flourish, you’re helping protect life on Earth,” she said.

Neither Ketcham nor the Plewses wear beekeeper suits when they’re around the bees, insisting that they’re really relatively passive. They’ve each been stung a handful of times, they remark casually, but none of them seem concerned. “They’re not like wasps or hornets,” Chris said. “They’re not very aggressive at all.”

Though Corky and Chris loved the idea of adding a bee colony to their homestead, not every member of their family shared their enthusiasm. Corky recalled, “When Chris came home and said, ‘We’re going to put 6,000 bees right off the end of the basketball court,’ our third son looked at us with big eyes and said, ‘That’s the stupidest thing you guys have ever done.’”

Fortunately, there were other, more willing, beneficiaries of the Plewses’ enthusiasm for bees – specifically, the employees of the National Public Radio Foundation. Corky, who serves on NPR’s board of trustees, and Chris had been looking for a way to contribute to the organization’s brand new headquarters in Washington, D.C. When it occurred to them that they could endow two beehives, the gift seemed like a natural fit. Not only is NPR’s new headquarters the ultimate in environmental friendliness, complete with a sprawling green roof, but bees also felt like a uniquely appropriate symbol for the organization.

“I like the metaphor of bees for public radio, sort of industrious, and going around and gathering information and making something sweet out of it, if you will,” Corky said.

NPR couldn’t agree more. The bees have been warmly embraced (not literally) by everyone. “One of the most fascinating things about it,” he continued, “is how popular the bees are and how interested people are in the bees. They’re actually selling binocular sets in the gift shop so that the kids can go in and get their binoculars and they can watch the bees.” The NPR bees even have their own Twitter account, @NPRBees, with 1,648 followers and counting.

But the Plewses aren’t done yet. Looking for a way to connect the local to the national, Corky and Chris have also planned a gift of beehives to their local radio station WFYI, an NPR member station. WFYI’s building also includes a green roof, which will provide the perfect setting in which the bees can thrive. The Plewses couldn’t say whether Indy’s bees will have a Twitter presence. One can only hope.

Happily, back at the house, everyone eventually adjusted to life with the bees – even their formerly skeptical son. One time, upon coming into the house and seeing a stray bee, he casually picked it up and put it out the back door, saying, “Back to work!”

Though both Ketcham and the Plewses note that there is definitely work involved in beekeeping, the benefits are well worth it. “I just like having them around, watching them, and having them pollinate up and down the river,” Chris said.

The Plewses successfully harvested their honey in October, much to the delight of their friends and family, who claim that their honey is the best they’ve ever tasted. Ketcham and the Plewses explained that honey takes its flavor from the nectar of the plants that the bees use, so honey will taste different depending on where it’s made.

After their plentiful honey crop, Corky and Chris are taking a short break from beekeeping over the winter and hope to pick it up again in the spring. Judging from their fondness for the honeybees, their dedication to the natural ecosystem, and their taste for fine honey, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll “bee” free for long.•

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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