Returning Celestial Reflection – The Journey Home – Part 1 – Drama – Connection – Gratitude.

I was expecting the email, and its contents, after waiting several days and constantly contacting the dentist owner. It was a shock, all the same, a defining moment of my present professional journey and job search. This was a signal lesson on how fickle and tenuous the process of finding employment from overseas is, despite the fact that I was UK trained. I had been judicious about where to apply, whom to apply to and a variety of scenarios that might evolve from those applications. We continue to learn life lessons the hard way, but fortunately for us, before too much damage was done. However, the fallout of this toxic legacy still followed us for the next few months.


Long before this, the journey to professional re-registration had had its moments, constantly calculating and recalculating the number of continuing professional development points I had to have to meet the criteria. Moreover, the validation of those courses, completed worldwide, at professional body venues, local peer group meetings, or online, brought its own challenges, let alone sleepless nights. The eventual clearance for my General Dental Council certification was light relief for my eventual journey back from New Zealand to the UK during the Omicron surge in both countries. I had hoped to have had options of multiple practices competing for my experience and skill. I was overly optimistic and way off the mark. This, again, due again to naivety on my account, was to pose more personal and general stress from mid-June to the beginning of September. We had help. This has been a major revelation.


We can only surmise that our guardian angels had been working overtime during last year’s hot summer. They have in testing times gone by. The first instant was my poor wife’s back, damaged before the long flight back from New Zealand, exacerbated by an economy class seat from Singapore to London that saw her in Accident and Emergency in Guildford for 16 hours a couple of days after landing. A visit to a local Chiropractor who had a vacant slot sorted her out almost overnight. A second guardian angel moment occurred after the day I was “officially” let go by the practice mentioned in the introduction on the grounds of a contractual dispute. A practice in fact, their local competitor in the area emailed me about a practice that was looking for a hygienist in the local town. The interview was arranged, and the position was secured.


At around the same time, another position appeared on the Indeed employment website. It was from the first practice that I had had meaningful contact with during my initial online job search. The owner, again a dentist, immediately replied to my email response. They turned out to be best friends of the previous practice I had found work with after the disappointment of rejection. Who would believe it? This came at the same time I had a nightmare two-and-a-half-day clinical journey with a well-known dental corporate, which ended up with me walking out. This was because of poor management, support, equipment, and safety issues. My relief was palpable. I had two practices and work for the week. After nearly three months of trial and error, tribulation and triumph came COVID during a house move. I kid you not. We were still under their protection once again.


The new work move had to get nearer to work for both of us due to losing my initial contract. The sour taste left in our mouths made staying where we first planned untenable. The long distances to work for us both was the clincher, plus finding a rural place where jobs were on our doorsteps and our Spaniel, still abiding in New Zealand, would be welcomed by the village folk and long country walks. Our therapy, his daily exercise, he is a big part of us. The angels once again descended. We were in debt to them up to the hilt at this point and going further into the red. Farriers, our cottage was being viewed by 14 people, and we thought our chances at the time were slim. The owner, who would be our future landlord, must have been impressed by our intention to continue beekeeping. He, too, wanted to revisit it from his childhood days. The connection was forged, and the scene set for our move. The only trouble was getting credit scores, which was difficult with my self-employed status but not insurmountable. The most significant hurdle, however, would be not ending up double renting with us and the previous place being held to ransom by the owner, who wanted us to pay rent until they had an offer of sale on the rental. Stress doesn’t come close, and we were looking down the barrel of costs we couldn’t afford. Enter our angels. The sale went through within a day unbeknownst to us for two weeks, we got over COVID, and our Spaniel Oli, fly over from New Zealand after a human guardian angel, hearing of our plight, found the other half of $12,000 New Zealand Dollars. Overwhelmed by the intensity of events and our newfound good fortune, we found out our landlord was the neighbour of my late Dad and Step Mum when they lived in a nearby village in the nineties. Who would believe it?


We came back for many reasons. Utmost in our headspace was the welfare of ageing and unwell family here in the UK whilst our children, well enough and established, stayed and continue to thrive in New Zealand.  Leaving them behind is a wrench, as are left good jobs and wonderful colleagues. The lessons we have learned and re-learned in many cases, like an odyssey, or an ongoing pilgrimage, is that life is full of challenges and risks. This journey has reaffirmed our belief in our friends in England and those in New Zealand too. They know who they are if they read this. In our family, many have been supportive and loyal. What is family? This seems to be the most significant reflection in my head as I write. The answer to me is clear. Those who believe in you, who support and invest their time and energy in you, irrespective of what you have or don’t. They trust that you have their best intentions at the centre of our hearts too, and we do. Finally, I believe we all need community, a tribe, so to speak. This ultimately is what we’ve discovered to date. They include blood family and distant relatives, quiet guardian angels of the human and celestial kind, and like-minded neighbours who add richness and simple but honest quality and richness to the ether of our lives here in Dorset. Even our landlord. Thank you, all you angels, human and above.


Mr. James Nestor – Breath – Oro Myofunctional Therapy – Kimberley Benkert. A Review and Reflection, Ongoing.

“When we breathe correctly, we have a sufficient amount of carbon dioxide, and our breathing is quiet, controlled, and rhythmic. If we are overbreathing, our breathing is heavy, more intense, and erratic, and we exhale too much carbon dioxide, leaving our body literally gasping for oxygen”. Patrick McKeown, The Oxygen Advantage.

I’ve been in dental health for over three decades, employed in most, if not all of its disciplines and incarnations, in a variety of settings for sure. The thought, arrogant upon reflection, that I was lacking an essential professional skill which needed addressing was an anathema to me to this point. The beginnings of this particular journey were a consequence, as is typical from me, not from established learning structure, our professional bodies interpretation of the needs of a practitioner, but from outside of the mainstream opinion. A particular event that drew my attention to the importance of breathing was when a colleague of mine helped a mutual friend struggling with trigeminal neuralgia. His supportive guidance and instruction brought a rapid change to their condition. Part of this dramatic process involved the position of the tongue to create a seal against the palate, to physically obstruct the mouths breathing passage aimed at enhancing and promoting nasal breathing, aligning the jaw correctly with practical exercises. Thus, lit the burgeoning flame of the importance of oro myofunctional therapy and Buteyko breathing as an addition to my established practice.

“The perfect breath in a minute is 5.5 seconds exhaling and 5.5 seconds inhaling. This entails breathing 5.5 litres of air a minute. This brings balance to releasing oxygen from haemoglobin, especially during exercise”. James Nestor

To date, my journey is ongoing, indeed, aren’t they all. Reading James Nestor’s book Breath and completing Kimberley Benkert’s oro myofunctional therapy course are just two steps on the ladder undertaken to date. James Nestor came on the radar from a colleague at work concerning her role as an oro myofunctional therapist at my current practice in Nelson, New Zealand. I had heard of LipZip, a book written and published by a colleague who helped our friend in France. Still, the connection and interest finally stirred when James was mentioned in podcasts, particularly Joe Rogan’s, who I occasionally viewed.

I suppose, being upfront, I have an ulterior motive for deep diving into breathing and OMT apart from the thought of “catching” up with non-mainstream thinking and practice. Having worked clinically for nigh on thirty-five years, the entrenched assumption of thinking nothing else needed knowing, I felt that something was missing. Coming into the autumn of my career, the vagaries of my practice upon my body are building. The competition within my clinical field for the right kind of employment remains strong. Professional friends have seen a niche in the dental marketplace to move on from traditional medicalised practice, moving into specialised OMT or academia. These personal friends are a constant source of inspiration and support, so this account, no doubt, is a big nod in their direction. Thank you both, Mr Tim Ives and Mrs Lorna Byrne.

In my humble opinion, both OMT and the varying breathing approaches should be part of established dental healthcare professional training. The positioning of the tongue, its tone and behaviour have a significant bearing, especially in infancy and childhood, in the positive development of the dental arches and breathing. In terms, this extends to better general and dental health outcomes. Kimberley’s OMT course, linked to the International Association of Orofacial Myology, focuses on improving tongue posture, tone and strength. It is inextricably linked to arch expansion and breathing. It can help with functional problems like temporomandibular disfunction, bruxing (tooth grinding) and sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing at night due to airway obstruction.

Having completed the course, I presented to my work colleagues about the online learning experience and how I felt about it. It definitely gave me a deeper insight into the function of the tongue and its importance in breathing, expansion and digestion. The multiplicity of exercises and benefits, their frequency and promotion to clients were taught, and online helped my visual learning style. How I adapt this into practice is yet to be determined; however, this new clinical year, I suspect, will reveal this to me with potential personnel changes within its course. OMT holds an excellent foundation for positive breathing improvement and promotion, whatever the future holds. Therefore, additional learning and new knowledge creation are required. Enter Mr James Nestor.

“Carbon dioxide is the chief hormone of the entire body, it’s the only one that is produced by every tissue, and that probably acts on every organ. Carbon dioxide is, in fact, a more fundamental component of living matter than oxygen”. Dr Yandell Henderson, Physiologist.

James writes in a delightful narrative style. His book took me many weeks to complete as I am not a good reader. I must confess, my attention deficiency is substantial. Despite this, I found this book very engaging and understanding how I read. His odyssey into his respiratory distress is courageous, experimental and successful. The people he meets on his journey as a strange assemblage of anthropologists, orthodontists, dentists and “pulmonauts”, free-thinking and open-minded individuals testing new science and techniques for respiratory and general health and well-being improvement. He clearly defines the nature of our faces, revealing many historical and evolutionary truths that are a revelation. “Our mouths have negatively changed from our hunter-gatherer ancestors”, starts Nestor, “Our faces are flatter, mouths shrunk, sinus’s plugged”. Morphological changes have occurred too, our larynx lowered, clogging our throats as our skulls expand to house a bigger brain, lengthening our faces simultaneously.

“Our facial bones don’t stop growing despite our age and can expand and remodel into our 70’s. We can influence the size and shape of our mouths and improve the ability to breathe at any age. By eating rough, rawer and heartier foods requiring an hour or two a day on hard chewing, lips together, teeth slightly touching and tongue sealed to the roof of the mouth”. James Nestor.

This adaptation is seen as a consequence of the “Industrial nature of rapid evolutionary change”, especially regarding a radical change in diet and chewing behaviours, with a few generations to modern humans. The evidence of this physical change has been determined by anthropologists and orthodontists looking at the skulls of ancients and post-modern people, particularly the 6 million bodies buried in the catacombs under Paris. Historically, research was undertaken by Bohr, Buteyko and Price. Their body of work complement modern-day practitioners like Dr Marianna Evans, who researched skulls sizes to Dr John and son Dr Mike Mew in the UK, working on developing arch expansion techniques and tongue posture practice. Both continue to promote their beliefs scientifically in supreme regulatory pushback. These individuals represent a growing, independent body of professional free-thinkers that challenge the establishments wedded ideology and power.

My take-home points pertinent to my everyday practice and future development planning goals are as follows.

1.Look at patient dental arches, tongue posture and lip position, uvula and ties. Apply behavioural change exercises through visual demonstration and supportive instruction.

2.Observe dry mouth and question breathing behaviours related to dry mouth and dental disease risk and malodour. Apply beneficial behavioural change exercises through visual demonstration and supportive instruction.

3.Continue learning about breathing, focusing on combining OMT development, official Buteyko breathing training with Patrick McKeown.

4.Evolve my practice to promote dental and respiratory health and help treat sleep disorders.

5.Promote this practice diversity to future employers as a contractor via my professional website

Beekeeping beginnings – A reflection on new knowledge, aligned to my personal learning goals and values

Dentistry and bees seem unlikely bedfellows. My continuing professional developmental journey has a tangential angle benefitting from new changes to our recertification guidelines. Personal development is now aligned to workplace professional growth without needing to complete a target of verifiable learning. During this period of COVID, finding meaningful education has been a struggle. Apicultural education has usurped dentistry for this period. This account describes that same experience, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Bee on Flower by Naomi James

Brightwater in Tasman, New Zealand, also colloquially known as “Britwater” because of the large proportion of U.K. immigrants living there, is a sleepy backwater on the Nelson to Murchison main road, about 30 minutes west of Nelson. It is the home to two of my three hives forming my first apiary. Another resides with colleagues and friends in Mapua, 30 minutes north of Brightwater, again a sleepy, residential coastal village famous for its quirky shops, cafés and eateries as well as a thriving art scene. It is now late November, and for all three hives and the tens of thousands of worker and drone bees, the business of preparing for the up-and-coming honey flow in mid-December is afoot. Combe building, pollen and nectar gathering abound as the three queens prodigiously lay large numbers of eggs. The growth of larva and pupa, and ultimately hordes of new bees, will emerge to complement the hives burgeoning activities, adding more workers for the cause. As a beekeeper, you have the privilege to see nature go about its business. Like foragers (for I am also one), beekeepers look seasonally at the weather and listen to the “songs” from the hive. This, in turn, guides us to action, promoting the best possible outcomes for all, bees and humans alike, as we all benefit. Where did this journey begin for me, and how have I changed as a consequence?

Johnny Hamer

I can’t honestly remember my first encounter with a honeybee, wasps, yes, but not the humble nectar gatherer. However, I have powerful memories of my next-door neighbour on Limewood Close, Woking, Surrey, UK, where I lived in the ’70s. He was one Johnny Hamer, who would have been termed a “peculiar” character in the day. Johnny was a well-educated man, crafty in practical terms and an outsider to the road community. His garage had a vintage Morgan sports car under a dusty old tarp, often in bits, but occasionally he roared up and down the street in it. When it worked, I was fascinated. The garage, too, housed demijohns for various potions and brews, and the heady scent of fermentation and experimentation pervaded. His three children, Sally, Michael and Richard, were friends to me and my sister Melanie. His wife Ann, a beautiful woman, often with a pained expression, was crucial in my future life when my mother passed away. I can vividly remember a swarm from his hive gathering on our fir tree, a rare garden feature. It was smuggled in from Austria by my parents when it was a sapling. I can recall this suited, spaceman type figure, with smoker in hand, coming to retrieve it. I watched him from the “safety” of my bedroom window, gazing in awe and wonderment at the surreal sceptical.

Returning to Johnny Hamer, a dear friend of mine, Dave Annette, asked whether I knew of anyone who was a beekeeper. I mentioned Johnny to him, and he affirmed he knew of him from Guildford Agricultural College. Neither of us was aware that he also had an apiculture college on Blackhorse Lane, Brookwood, Woking, Surrey. I visited it and met Johnny many years after that swarm event in my back garden. It was good to reconnect to childhood memories. I hope you have had similar experiences. They are to cherish. My memory of that event was watching another swarm marching up a ramp to a new hive. They were Italian honeybees, normally docile but even more so on this occasion.

Dave, a busy technical expert in his field, needed a diversion and point of focus to create more well-being in his life. This became an obsession and has since turned into a calling and a business, teaching and helping bees. Dave, with his partner Rachel, has set up an evolving enterprise called I recommend that anyone locally pay a visit to their website for courses and events they regularly hold. After seeing Dave and Rachel in 2019, the symbolic seed began to grow. I had found that life in New Zealand hadn’t led me into the traditional natural interests, those of hunting and shooting, fishing and tramping. I had exposure to them from friends and acquaintances, but none had got under my skin in a meaningful way. Until, in a darker moment, during COVID lockdown 1, I read a thread on social media alluding to the fact that a level 3 course, laid on locally in Apiculture, was being held free of charge. Having no plans for the upcoming year, I decided to give it a go-to quote, the New Zealand vernacular.  

Honeybeehappy and the Annettes

One of my heroes is Paul Stamets, a mycologist extraordinaire from the Pacific North West of America. He is an unlikely muse for my transition from fungi foraging to apiculture and bees. Set apart, they appear very different, but the divide narrows in the context of nature and the symbiotic association of both. His passion and enthusiasm for mushrooms have inspired many people to evolve their interests in bees and shrooms. He has done both quite unexpectedly. I suggest you read Merlin Sheldrake’s “Entangled Life” book on fungi, and the connection will become vividly apparent. I’ve been a dental hygienist by trade for over thirty years now. Being with both kingdoms has brought a fresh and somewhat revolutionary perspective to my practice knowing what I know and have seen with oral ecology and their environment, immunity and balance. Stamets noticed this on his professional lifelong learning journey too. He observed honey bees where he lives and works, moving sawdust and leaves apart to expose mycelium, a vast fungal underground network. At which point they accessed and tapped into the nutrients for health and repair. These bees brought to Paul’s attention that it may have a purpose in apicultural disease control, particularly deformed wing virus. Having this prevented their ability to gather nectar and pollen, curtailing their life spans and the colony. Mushroom mycelia and bees symbiotically and therapeutically uniting, amazing. This discovery was recently published in Nature magazine, and further investigations and perhaps natural treatments to help reduce colony collapses in the future may appear.

The Fungal Evangelist Who Would Save the Bees - Issue 90: Something Green -  Nautilus
Paul Stamets

The class began with a dozen or so wannabee apiculturists, mainly women and very much in my midlife age group. Our motivations were similar, curiosity, environmental, possibly entrepreneurial and the like. Some of the class had experience, and most, like myself, had just a passing glance and were, in effect, complete novices. I didn’t feel out of my depth consequently, but the feeling of being back in the “classroom” after so long was daunting. The thought, however, that much of the future learning would be out in the apiary was eagerly anticipated. I was aware that additional costs would be part of the subsidised course, specifically safety gear and the all-important nucleus hive or “nuc”. This was the moment, upon receipt of it, that things got “real”. The nuc was a five frame family of bees, brood, nectar, pollen, maybe honey and the queen. The course providers facilitated the provision of the said nuc and got together a dozen plus nucs for this class, let alone the four or so other courses they ran. Indeed, a considerable undertaking. The first hurdle, and perhaps the riskiest for all concerned, was their delivery to us, the uninitiated. I will begin the most significant learning journey of the course.

Fern Newton and the Author at Brightwater Apiary

It was late October, and the weather had been exceptionally unseasonal. This posed a big problem for the course leaders from the onset, the date of receipt had been pushed back a few weeks as a result. We were asked to gather dried bracken before putting it into the 5-litre feeders in our personally constructed hives. A few frames with foundation were also a prerequisite. Empty hives were placed on either side of the metal road near the apiary, and instructions were given. The nucs would be placed beside and then added to the hives. The drama started after not enough bracken had been found, and the sugar water in the nuc boxes split after debussing from the truck. The sugar water being essential energy for bees became a distraction after removing them precariously by the rank and file, without proper advice. Suffice to say, the bees soon targeted the copious amounts of liquid fuel spread around. The air around us became a huge cloud of lusty bees after a fast food takeaway. The chaos was cut short abruptly with loud instruction from Scott, the alpha course commander who told us to scatter and go away for a few hours whilst the orgy settled down, and nature took its course. Tails between our legs, after a telling off, we hastily departed to return later. The scene was different, and we found our nuc boxes. I was the only one to be told my queen had died whilst in transit from the truck to my hive on transfer. I was distraught and felt guilty I had in some way caused its demise through my incompetence. My bee house returned to my house, put in its designated place, awaiting a substitute queen.

One of three, Queen

The subtext here is essential to clearly define how important healthy queens are to a vital colony. After she leaves her cell sixteen days after laying, where she is tended to and fed copious amounts of Royal Jelly, the long bodied bee emerges and spends several days in the hive before she begins her mating flights. Thus, begins a somewhat perilous toing and froing where all manner of things may prevent her from uniting with a dozen or so male drones and being inseminated with 3 billion plus sperm cells. She may find the drones quickly, nearby and successfully fulfil her primary mission. The perils of the weather, predators and accidents may take her, and a new queen then has to be created from an egg as before. When hatched, the queen has to find her competition, other queens growing in the same hive and crown her dominance by killing them with a sting. The life of a queen is a long one, too, living way beyond those of workers and drones.

After an anxious wait of a fortnight, I was given queen 2 in a plastic cage with its entourage of attending bees. It was shown to the rest of the class before I received it. After a debrief from the tutors about the previous experience, I took it home. I placed it as instructed on a frame to allow its imminent introduction to the awaiting queenless colony. During this time, her pheromones are sensed by the collective and hopefully accepted. I can state I saw it on a frame, freed of the cage once but after then no more. I suspect that my frequent intervention, looking in to check and anxiety driven, may have put pay to its continued existence. Either way, I had the dubious honour of having to tell my tutors I was sans queen once again. It was picked up and commented upon in the class by my teachers, and clumsy handling, I suspect, was the overtone of the verdict.

Johnny Hamer tends to one of his bee colonys at the Blackhorse Apairy Beekeeping Centre

I was devastated, once again, clearly feeling humiliated amongst my peers who had their queens operating effectively, or so it seemed. Recognising the queen is hard for the untrained eye, so I can only imagine others in my class not knowing their whereabouts and hoping, fingers crossed, that eggs laid and the brood forming indicated that. The lesson I learned throughout this process was not to focus too closely on finding her but to rely on observing her eggs and larva as an indicator she was in operation. I also learned to be stronger and less retiring with the tutors when it came to defending myself, and their journey with me continued with many others in the year. I was lucky in one sense that it happened before the active period of nectar gathering, and I had a relatively great deal of experience with the mysteries of queens at an early stage. This journey didn’t stop me from finding alternative ways to combat such dire losses, and I got queens sent to me online from sellers and didn’t bother my teachers much more beyond the honey flow. It made me hardened to the sad fact that poor handling and frequent inspections run a greater risk of such things happening. I learned that lesson the hard way.

Busy at the entrance

The swarm, like a low budget, B-Movie (get it?) title (sigh) is a free nuc. It can also hide disease and a weak queen, but the earnest beekeeper will carefully inspect them and put them aside from other hives. Swarms occur when there is no space for the colony to expand or the real masters, the workers, have advised the queen a new incumbent will soon supersede her. The novice beekeeper has to learn very quickly, in this case, several key things. Primarily, they need to observe and respond to changes in the colony behaviour. The frames inside provide visual cues and present the history of its nature. We must also be aware of the age and productivity of the incumbent queen. Any indication that they are potentially sub-par on egg-laying and brood production will lead to a new queen or supersedure cell. The hive needs splitting, and a new colony is created before swarming. I’ve not been lucky to catch one yet, but I have all the tools at my disposal. This includes a D.I.Y. catcher with a vast water cooler bottle, epoxy resin bonded, to a telescopic poll cleaning pole. It gives me multiple metres of length, if necessary, to get up to the highest nest. From there, when caught, queen included, into a box, bag or nuc with ventilation before being rehomed.


Costs are also worthy of consideration for the would-be beekeeper. I was fortunate enough to have the training at level 3 for free. I would have considered the financial outlay even if it wasn’t so, but we were all informed from the outset that it would entail costs in equipment and the nucleus hive. Prices continue to grow with additions to the hive, boxes and frames, new queens, disease control and association subscriptions. This hobby is about being frugal and practical, being thrifty with what you need to get and maintaining your gear in good order. I have a spare hive, on standby, for a swarm if it comes my way. Costs can be shared with other beekeepers, especially when you have to buy more than you require, especially disease control. I was lucky, too, to be gifted boxes from a friend. However, I was soon to realise this might not be so advantageous if they were carrying disease. In this case, I was confident they were okay.

Having come through the season, I am far wiser now, being more stoic about these matters, less emotional, pragmatic, and interventional. My real fear is A.F.B. – American Foul Brood and Mites. They both draw more energy and focus as they are more significant threats to the health and well-being of the whole colony. The Varroa mite is responsible for many colonies collapsing in the Nelson Marlborough region presently. Clients of mine in Blenheim have witnessed colony collapses in the four hundred plus hives they operate. Nosema, dysentery in effect, has been rife as well. Natural disasters akin to heavy flash flooding have taken many hives this year as well. A.F.B. is a critical and deadly concern. It entails radical elimination of the whole hive, bees and building, all of it when diagnosed. It also needs to be reported to the A.F.B. agency and tests undertaken before the crematorium beckons.

The treatments for the Varroa Destructor mite are varied and can be toxic to mites and humans. Gloves and filtered respirators bring a sci-fi theme to the proceedings when using Formic or Oxalic Acid in heavy mite load cases. I haven’t used them myself yet, but I’m sure it is looming on the horizon. The prophylactic use of mite strips from Bayvarol and Epivar are placed in brood boxes for several weeks before and after mite load checks are done to determine pre and post mite counts. Nosema parasites thrive in the springtime as brood numbers grow, further promoted by unsuitable weather conditions, where bees spend more time in hives and defecate there. Various interventional measures can be employed, using anti-fungal preparations, moving colonies to sunnier locations, and preventing excess moisture inside the hive with ventilation measures. Eradication includes disinfection solutions like acetic acid fumigation or, ultimately, the burning of infected equipment.

Biosecurity looms large here in New Zealand too. One has to just read the litany of clauses on the documents you sign before entering this country. There are genuine reasons for this, affecting many primary industries, including agriculture and environment, jobs and exports. To allude to New Zealand, being clean and green is entirely another matter. Still, we have an advantage here, shared provocatively with Australia next door regarding Manuka and its honey. Exports are enormous, and as are the profits to be made. To regulate the danger of importing infection and disease, protecting the environment, those employed in the industry and ultimately ensure colony and food security, the apiculturist, businessman or hobbyist, has to be registered and regulated with hives annually checked for A.F.B. It is documented and, more importantly, information disseminated to the specific locality upon discovery and outbreaks. A DECA (Disease Elimination Conformity Agreement Certificate) authorisation is given to those who pass a recognition test. They will be certified to check their colonies and report, test, and act upon their findings within a year. The website that mandates this is I find it easy to navigate.

Bringing this new knowledge and experience into my professional landscape has helped me observe the duality of the workings of an oral microbiome. The germs or “plaque” in our mouths and how important it is to plan, act and create balance, very much like the host of tens of thousands of bees do within their living and working space, the hive. They work complementarily as a community, hosting, nurturing, learning, protecting and producing. They can become unbalanced, very much like a mouth can with ecology and environmental pressures negatively changing. They work co-operatively to fix, mend, repair and eliminate that which can prolong and increase the risk of their colony collapsing into disease. The natural healing processes, when ineffective, are supplemented by we beekeepers either organically or chemically to bring about positive change and improvement. I see this as very much akin to my role as a registered dental hygienist. That of environmental, ecological balance and sustainability, focused on awareness of the natural balance of the mouth as opposed to imbalance, and act, intercede where necessary, to the benefit of the host, my client and their established and balanced oral microbiome. Honey itself is a complex nutritional food source having a massive burden of fructose in particular. The multitude of honey types, over three hundred at the last count, is drawn from the pollen and nectar foraged from various plant sources via the salivary secretions and enzymes of bees. The watery nectar with added constituents is dehydrated by fanning wings, becoming stickier and stored in wax cells sealed and capped.

A frame of honey and brood

Honey is either raw, filtered, unheated, processed, or heated. The heating removes potential pathogens similar to pasteurised milk. The composition of the nutrients of honey, after glucose and fructose, simple one chained monosaccharide sugars, includes proteins, minerals, vitamins, enzymes and polyphenols, including flavonoids. The smooth liquid contains imperceptible tiny crystals, but these can solidify depending upon storage temperatures and the degree of glucose within it. The sugar content of honey is problematic for good dental health, eaten frequently. It is a dilemma I face when I consume raw honey sourced locally to me in Nelson. My advice to myself and others is to be mindful whilst consuming wisely. Ideally, avoid frequent intake, having around mealtimes and drinking water to clear its continued oral presence, elevating to balance pH in addition.

A primary hive product produced by bees is a sticky wax-like structure called propolis. A colony can gather between 150 to 200 grams of propolis in one year. The word propolis originates from ancient Greece as well as the Romans and Persians. It might have been used as an embalming product by Egyptians. The Jews considered propolis a medicine way back in Old Testament times, known as The Balm of Gilead. The Greeks also used propolis in perfumes with aromatic herbs and is recorded in their historical literature. Hippocrates is said to have used propolis to cure wounds and ulcers, both externally and internally. The Roman, Pliny the Elder, in his famous “Natural History” writings, describes the practical uses of this substance. According to his findings, he recorded that propolis has the property of extracting stings, allaying pains of the sinews and dispersing tumours, to name but a few.

Ancient drawings of bees

In Medieval times propolis lost popularity, and its medicinal use disappeared, quoted in only a few remaining texts. Sources from the Twelfth Century mention this bee glue in treating dental caries (tooth decay) and throat infections. In 1486 the Karabadini, a Georgian book of medical treatment, suggested propolis be useful against tooth decay. Beyond this, the knowledge of propolis health benefits survived into traditional folk medicine and herbal medicine, especially in Eastern Europe, termed “Russian Penicillin”.

In modern times, this sticky and enzymatic bee glue is made to protect the hive from infections and bacteria, constructed from their saliva, wax, and botanical resin. It is composed mainly of resin, wax, essential oils, pollen and other organic compounds. It includes twelve different flavonoids, phenolic compounds and acids. It also contains vital vitamins like B1, B2, B6, C and E and minerals like Magnesium, Calcium, Copper and Iron. Propolis is gathered from tree sap and buds. Its purpose is to fill gaps and strengthen or plug parts of the hive for protection or repair. Dental applications appear in toothpaste, tinctures and sprays for desensitising teeth and its potential in anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-microbial and antioxidant dental therapies used by companies like Comvita. See their research and products at

Pollen Pants

Pollen, the protein-rich food source for bees, is gathered and stored in the frame cells as a rich and nutritious superfood. Nectar is the carbohydrate-rich alternative that bee’s return to the hive. They create bee bread through mixing both, tightly packing the blend into the cells as future fed for newly born bees. Pollen is mechanically liberated from the bees as they enter the hive via pollen traps attached to the hive entrance that carefully plucks off the gathered mass on the bee’s legs as they squeeze through the restricted space into the hive. The beekeeper processes carefully by drying, sorting and dehydrating to remove moisture and contaminants. The end product is a tasty cocktail of pollen in a jar, the colours of which belie its origin. The low pH acidity of honey provides an anti-bacterial property that allows honey to stay as it is, safe and stable.

Unlike table sugar, honey contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The amount, however, only meets the recommended daily intake as directed by the World Health Organisation by about 1%, and more significant amounts would exponentially increase the exposure to the fructose and glucose honey naturally contains. Raw honey is better than processed, but there is no daily recommendation, except eat in moderation. I had a teaspoon of local raw honey in the morning and the evening with pollen. My purpose is to use the local fawner and flora, gathered by bees and minimally processed and filtered by beekeepers, to help my year-round hay fever allergy. From a purely emotional and well-being perspective, I also receive comfort and pleasure from the textural and tasty pollen and the rich, silky texture and favour of honey, raw and in particular Manuka and Honey Dew. This is part of a traditional dietary approach I have adopted in the last few weeks as part of a health improvement programme. Having taken vital measurements and blood work, I will be interested to see what has changed at the three-month point, several weeks away still, if anything. I am curious about inflammatory markers and present blood sugar levels, indicating potential prediabetes due to glycated or “sugar-coated” haemoglobin, especially after starting my twice-daily pollen and honey regime. I’m hoping a real food eating policy incorporating these natural raw bee products may deliver long term benefits. January will reveal the metrics and comparable facts.

Honeyland' Review: The Sting and the Sweetness - The New York Times
Honeyland 2019

Interestingly, the cinema world has seen two recent releases that explore the subject of beekeeping. Honeyland, released in 2019, is a film that explores a Macedonian woman who keeps bees and sells her honey at the local market. Clever cinematography makes one wonder whether it is a drama or a documentary, taking the viewer time to determine. It reveals her husbandry and deep connection to her hives situated in traditional stone structures. Her caring and compassionate behaviour toward her bees reflects how she attends her bedridden, dying elderly mother. A gipsy family arrives in her locality, beekeeping in a savage, less harmonious way. It disturbs the fragile balance between her and the success of her beekeeping, and ultimately her livelihood. It allows a critical comparison between an over commercial practice, intent on profit and not the welfare of their colonies and a more gentle and traditional approach. Sadly, there is no happy ending, leaving us to rail against greed and its destructive effects. Hives, a Kosovan film released recently as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival, is just as sobering. Based on a true story, like Honeyland, it tells the story of a lady enduring the loss of her husband, still missing years after the Balkans War ended. She inherits his hives and begins to unite the local widow community to commercial endeavours, despite the simmering rage of the traditional village menfolk. It relies on simple themes and the struggles of bold women in a misogynous society, whereas Honeyland focuses on tradition meeting modernity.

Hive (2021) - IMDb
Hive 2021

So, in summing up, how have I changed and the consequences of this journey to the personal and professional me. At times I have felt frustrated and overwhelmed, especially regarding the death of queens and the unemotionally intelligent responses of tutors. I have to confess they are learning too, and we, the students, are the unwittingly willing victims. Blessed are the bee teachers. I have also found that, akin to foraging, beekeeping is obsessive and addictive, endlessly exposing your lack of knowledge and frustrating your ability to feel in control, which you soon discover you don’t have. We have to choose where you gather your additional and future learning, be it in person at meetings or mentors or the vault of online videos in social media in the canon of literature, a vast assortment of bee orientated books. Depending upon what suits your character, you can be a quiet, solitary but engaged apiarist or an activistic sociable character, alive at gatherings and meetings. Myself, being shy and socially distant to those I’m not close to or trusting of, hence the nature of being open in this first-person, living, reflective publication, feels very comfortable with the intimacy of beekeeping. I extend this to friends who want to experience the life of bees, their environment and their process. For those, I am both generous of my time, and limited knowledge as their glee and surprise when we lift the lid on the hive is magical. It makes every sting, as there have been and will continue to be many, and each high and low toned sigh worthwhile.

Mark lifting the lid

Finally, it has given me hope that in these times of uncertainty, upheaval and excessive mandate, apiculture offers the participant unhindered access to an authentic and holistic pursuit. You have a degree of peripheral influence, the location, additional feeding, disease control and the number of hives, but after that, you are ancillary. To end this thread, I will consider taking this journey to the next level, diving deeper into the sage experiences of those I have followed. More hives perhaps, a venture potentially in a commercial sense, that takes me beyond dental into apiculture practice. But that, as they say, is an endeavour yet to be written.

Mushroom Supernova – Heroic Journeys into Tangential Learning in Temperamental Times and Temperate Places.

A Porcini in its infancy

“The small two-way lane dipped down from the railway station at Woking. It was called White Rose Lane and travels the short journey to the road junction where you turn right to Old Woking or left to West Byfleet. Near that junction, on the left around a gentle bend in the road is a private gated drive up to an established high-end housing estate. Oh, how the wealthy live but unbeknownst to them on a triangular patch about ten to twelve square metres stands a grand Oak Tree, on the roadside opposite shrouded by native trees that arch over the road at that point is a street light. The area is well known as a historic hunting lodge for King Henry VIII, literally across the junction, hence the road name, I presume.

However, on a handful of occasions in the calendar year, in the warmer months and after a decent downpour or two appear, as if by magic, the fruiting bodies of a delicious boletus mushroom, the Porcini, AKA the Cep or Penny Bun. To get there before the squirrels and the seasonal lawnmower is the art form here. Our first experience after the gathering was to create a porcini soup which we shared with our friends David and Rachel. They looked a little bewildered at first until we tucked in first, offering ourselves as taste testers. The others we dried and jarred for future use in risottos, sauces and fillings in meat and other dishes.”

The patch on White Rose Lane, Woking, Surrey, England

My professional and personal journey has taken many a radical turn in the nearly 40 years I’ve been at work. I’m 55 years of age now and many of those who trained around the time I did, in the mid-’80s, have moved on from clinical dental health to other professions or retirement. I must confess there have been more than 1 occasion that I’ve thrown my toys out of the cot and wanted a journey to fresh pasture. I still enjoy my job, the people I work with too but deep down I know I’m on a steady decline and am forever wondering where to go from here. I was once told if you have passion for what you do, you will always succeed. I’ve tried to live by that mantra and continue to do so.

So where to now? I’ve learned, of late, to think “tangentially” about where to go, what road to travel and this began in earnest 2 years ago, literally to the day. I was with my friends Dave and Rachel Annette in Hampshire, in the UK, who were starting a beekeeping business, as well as their day jobs and have since slowly built their passion into something special, ethical, environmental, and sustainable. HoneyBeeHappy is their apicultural baby and has been a constant source of inspiration to me, so much so that in the last year I’ve completed a level 3 certificate in Apiculture and continue, from August, into Diploma territory. That will be for the “ left field” next post, in a few weeks from now, but, ironically the subjects of honey and fungi are very much entwined ap

I parked the car by the lake, the trees and bushes abound in this place and my destination was but a short walk, across the main road and into the woods via a small path, maintained and trodden by many a forager and casual walker. Twenty metres or so from the entrance to the wood, amongst the beech, oak and birch was a little mound, I suspect either as a consequence of an uprooted tree or the Canadians, who exercised here before D-day many moons ago. The now weathered raised earth is surrounded by moss and covered in tree litter but hidden subtly, easily unobserved were the golden honey coloured shapes of Chanterelles, delicate and tasty, apricot and slight peppery gourmet shrooms.

The Chanterelle hump, Puttenham Common, Surrey, England

This learning journey has taken me to many an ancient forest or a copse of trees, whether it be in England, Scotland or France, even in New Zealand where there are indigenous species of trees as well as “exotic” introduced. The numbers of very edible species I’ve encountered are a mere handful, I’m supremely suspicious of white mushrooms as many are toxic or lethal, it was my decision to stay away from those that come into that category unless identification is obvious. The untrained eye needs to be meticulous in their research and confident of their identification. In France fungi are deeply immersed in the National culinary and pharmaceutical culture. Any mushrooms picked without knowledge of their identity can be taken to a pharmacy and be positively identified. Europeans have none of the fear or mystery of the annual gentle hunt, as they are brought up to know their mushrooms and the trees, bushes, seasonality and climates associated with them. From spring through to late autumn the months become of interest to free food foragers as they observe the weather and locations of mossy, fern-covered, ancient forests through to grassy pasture. The active forager is a fountain of mycological knowledge and range finder, a curious, inquisitive explorer of the nature of things fungi and their deeply rooted an associations.

Chanterelles amongst the leaf litter and grass at Puttenham, Surrey, UK.

I have always been interested in mushrooms, but since the mid-noughties, this has spawned a real passion for that which many have fears, that of hunter-gathering/foraging no toxic, tasty edible fungi and learning more about their relationship to man, health and the environment. This is very much the same story for bees and honey. The possibility that this could turn into a part or full-time cash crop and a move away from where I am now professional is a tempting proposition. This post today elaborates on this journey to date, from about September of last year to today, it will tentatively look at what may present itself and arise in the years to come and what I could do to make it work as a noble profession. It also dares to go beyond pure gathering, looking at home cultivation, nootropics, psychotropics and those of the intelligentsia who dare to discover and promote greater awareness of mycelia and fungi for a plethora of reasons.

Red cracked boletus on the Maitai River, associated with Willow trees

The Maitai River runs through the Tasman city of Nelson, flowing out into the Pacific, gently meandering through picturesque countryside and the leafy suburbs. King Fishers, Fantails, Tuis and Swifts dart and play along its length, bees in the spring and summer gather nectar and pollen and mushrooms abound locally amongst mycorrhizal associated native and exotic trees and plants. The exotics are a joy to see, the Willow, Beech and Birch all share a presence with the established fauna and flora, the bees, imports too, compete unfairly with the native bee population for resources. The footpath along the river is well-trodden by dog walkers and those enjoying the ambience of the setting. There are mushrooms, of the Boletus variety along with field mushrooms at the right time of the year and after a good downpour. From February through to late April opportunity knocks for those with an eye for a free superfood.

“Mushrooms were the roses in the garden of that unseen world because the real mushroom plant was underground. The parts you could see – what most people called a mushroom – was just a brief apparition. A cloud flower.”  Margaret Atwood

Red cracked bolete in hand, note the redness in the stem

Xerocomellus chrysenteron, Also known as the Red Cracked Boletus, is a common visitor to these parts, transported, no doubt, over the long distance as innocent inoculated rootstock. It is paradoxically a deceptively inedible looking edible shroom, for it has a degree of redness to it, associated with other toxic boletus. It is, with some experience, easy to identify and can be dried, stored in jars and used in sauces, stocks and risottos. It has a milder, less meaty taste but this improves after drying.

Identifying the Red Cracked Boletus

Leccinum scabrum, also known as Brown Birch Boletus, is also a sneaky migrant from the Northern Hemisphere, hidden, inoculated in the imported rootstock, like the Red Cracked. In my UK foraging experiences these two mushrooms were often overlooked for more choice varieties. However, when in Rome, do what the Romans do, and quite by chance, whilst driving back from my apiculture course this April I looked to my right out of my car window, whilst waiting at a junction and to my huge disbelief stood proudly beneath a few Birch Trees dozens of Birch Boletus. I had to double take, reverse quickly, park up with my four-way flashers on and darted over the quiet road to the scene. Over the next few weeks, multiple return visits, my big glass jars were filled to the rim with these beauties.

Two Birch boletus fresh from the patch

Birch boletes prepared and ready for the plate

Brown birch boletes are prepared and stored in the fridge before space being available to dry

Identifying the Orange and Brown Birch boletus

Brown or Orange birch Boletus, found on these far-flung foreign shores add a great dimension to cooking, their places of discovery become guarded secrets, silent and forlorn for the vast majority of the year, the mere sight of a cluster or individual birch trees becomes memorised for a future visit, at the right time. I’m still hoping to find the ultimate Bolete, the Cep, Porcini or Penny bun, as they have been found here in New Zealand, in Wellington and Christchurch. However, for the time being, I’m satisfied with these for sure.

Pine boletus and Slippery jack wild fungi cleaned, trimmed and prepared before drying

Notable others found here are Boletus pinophilus, commonly known as the pine bolete, growing predominantly in coniferous forests on sandy soils, and Suillus luteus a common fungus from the British Isles. Commonly referred to as slippery jack or sticky bun in English-speaking countries, its names refer to the brown cap which is characteristically slimy in wet conditions. These too are sliced and dried, like the Birch and Rec Cracked, added to the jars and stored. They need a little more time to prepare, especially the Slippery jack, with its sticky cap surface. I’ve learned to allow them to dry for 24 hours before preparation, making the task easier. They too are for the jar and many an exotic and enticing sauce or meat like filling.

Parkvale Portabello mushrooms ready to harvest

Parkvale Mushrooms in Masterton is a genuinely interesting operation, having been there and picked up a couple of buckets of spore infused medium for us to grow in our shed. We have ordered, online, multiple buckets in the past few years and have been pleased with the quality and quantity of mushrooms, the instructions were easy to follow and the contents can be put onto your veggie patch after the flushes are all blown. The Portobello style mushrooms are meaty, of varying sizes and useful for cooking in many forms. It is a good place to start for any would-be hobbyists and food lovers, no need to identify,  pour sceptical eyes and minds over what is growing in front of you and observe with intrigue and wonder how they come about.

Chanterelles from the Ballater, Scotland

“It was July in the Cairngorms, on the rim of the Highlands of Scotland, very near Balmoral and Ballater, the weather was a dream and the scenic drive between them was slow and deliberate. There was no rush but awareness and curiosity of the forestry and flora that abounds at this time of year. Outside of Ballater runs to the disused railway from there to Aberdeen, shut down in the mid to late sixties. Along its path, now a place of walking and foraging, a cornucopia of wild fruit, nuts and shrooms are free for the taking, as is another less trodden and known track only to a Royal few. This was a place, where we ventured at the right time as it was flush with golden chanterelles, as far as the eye could see. The moment was captured in a video as were many of the prime examples of these mushrooms. “

Shiitaki health benefits

Shiitake mushrooms are one of the most popular mushrooms worldwide. They are prized for their rich, savoury taste and diverse health benefits. Shiitake are edible mushrooms native to East Asia. They’re tan to dark brown, with caps that grow between 2 and 4 inches (5 and 10 cm). While typically eaten like vegetables, shiitake are fungi that grow naturally on decaying hardwood trees. Around 83% of shiitake are grown in Japan, although the United States, Canada, Singapore, and China also produce them. You can find them fresh, dried, or in various dietary supplements. Shiitake are low in calories. They are also loaded with fibre, as well as B vitamins and some minerals.

The nutrients in 4 dried shiitake (15 grams) are:

  • Calories: 44
  • Carbs: 11 grams
  • Fibre: 2 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Riboflavin: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Niacin: 11% of the DV
  • Copper: 39% of the DV
  • Vitamin B5: 33% of the DV
  • Selenium: 10% of the DV
  • Manganese: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 8% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the DV
  • Folate: 6% of the DV
  • Vitamin D: 6% of the D

Studies suggest that some of the bioactive compounds in shiitake may protect against cancer and inflammation. However, many of the studies have been done on animals or test tubes rather than people. Animal studies frequently use doses that far exceed those that people would normally get from food or supplements. In addition, many of the mushroom-based supplements on the market have not been tested for potency.

Shiitaki in the pan

Shiitake as a supplement has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. They are also part of the medical traditions of Japan, Korea, and Eastern Russia. In Chinese medicine, Shiitaki is thought to boost health and longevity, as well as improve circulation. Shiitake mushrooms may boost heart health. For example, they have three compounds that help lower cholesterol

  • Eritadenine. This compound inhibits an enzyme involved in producing cholesterol.
  • Sterols. These molecules help block cholesterol absorption in your gut.
  • Beta glucans. This type of fibre can lower cholesterol.

One study in rats with high blood pressure found that shiitake powder prevented an increase in blood pressure. A study in lab rats fed a high-fat diet demonstrated that those given shiitake developed less fat in their livers, less plaque on their artery walls, and lower cholesterol levels than those that didn’t eat any mushrooms.

Shiitake may also help strengthen your immune system. One study gave people two dried shiitake daily. After one month, their immune markers improved and their inflammatory levels dropped. This immune effect might be partly due to one of the polysaccharides in shiitake mushrooms. While people’s immune systems tend to weaken with age, a mouse study found that a supplement derived from shiitake helped reverse some age-related decline in immune function.

Shiitaki growing out of logs

So, from foraging delicious wild fungi to growing medium to large shop type mushrooms, in medium, to having mycelia covered dowels placed into the wood. This challenge was joined by the James household recently as a consequence of our great neighbours “trimming” their oak and plum trees. The access to young fresh hardwood, especially oak, cut into manageable sizes is mana from heaven. I quickly found online Shiitaki inoculated spores, with a world of mycelium covering them all. My garage became the man cave for the introduction of these dowels into the wood, in 3-4 inch spaces, in a diamond shape, sealed with beeswax, melted and kept liquid in a slow cooker. A gentle tap with a hammer and a covering of sealant, the two ends of the logs wax-covered too. Spare pallet boxes were placed in a shaded space and left to natures tender mercies for several months to a year with occasional soakings either naturally from rain or the ubiquitous garden hose. The results of this endeavour will be eagerly anticipated, and the multiple stumps may indeed continue to bear fruit for some years to come.

The dowels before and after being sealed with beeswax in oak logs

Shiitaki logs on a pallet in shade in the garden

The use of mushrooms in medicine is contentious, the psychotropic varieties are illegal, whether gathering or consuming in New Zealand. It also suffers from a degree of little modern scientific research although their use as a healing agent or in ceremonial “rite of passage” events is well documented and continues in some global ancient cultures to today, much as it did generations before. This implies that without the authority of these being undertaken, the benefits of these natural ingredients, extracts and powders are still seen as fringe and have found it hard to become used legally. Despite this, they can be found at online stores and high street health shops. In the USA some states are now legalising the use of psychoactive mushrooms and the legislation will soon be brought further into the mainstream. This poses many questions and potential problems with dosages regarding effect and toxicity but also the success to date in trials with such shrooms for treating mental health and end of life states. Ongoing observational and empirical experiences appear not to have the critical weight that the randomised and longitudinal studies do and modern medicine demands. This ignores the centuries of medicinal and cultural use, especially in the far east, China and Japan. Having met many people who have taken them casually, and survived, is numerous. I have to admit that looking at anecdotal evidence and being encouraged by the opening of the debate about the efficacy of the magic mushroom type varieties of Psilocybin by the likes of Joe Rogan on his podcast, his guests include Sam Harris, Michael Pollan and Paul Stamets, legends, skeptics and advocates in the social media and authorship field. Many people undergo “guided” trips or journeys with clinically trained guides, alert to and aware of the meaning and purpose of the experience beyond the obvious. Learning from these has proven tremendously beneficial to people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or coping with end of life stress.

Michael Pollan – journalist and author
Thought leader and neuroscientist Sam Harris describes his journey

Next, I feel I must discuss the use of mood-enhancing, immune-boosting and calming nootropic mushrooms and their extracts. These are readily available online in many combinations or as one only, even in traditional New Zealand. Nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are a class of substances that can boost brain performance. They are sometimes called cognition enhancers or memory-enhancing substances. Prescription nootropics are medications that have stimulant effects.

Flow state products


The products are encased within a plant-based capsule. MyComplete is a blend of 6 mushroom extracts including Chaga (Inonotus obliquss), Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris), Lions Mane (Hericium Erinaceus), Maitake (Grifola frondosa), Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), and Turkey Tail (Trametes Versicolor). There is a single ingredient offering, with just Lions Mane as the extract.

Chaga health benefits

Chaga mushrooms are rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including:

  • B-complex vitamins
  • vitamin D
  • potassium
  • rubidium
  • amino acids
  • fibre
  • copper
  • selenium
  • zinc
  • iron
  • manganese
  • magnesium
  • calcium
Chaga bracket fungus

Chaga is also claimed to slow the ageing process through anti-oxidation, lowering cholesterol, helping blood pressure, fighting cancers, supporting the immune system and fighting inflammation.

Cordyceps health benefits

Of the more than 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the focus of health research: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.

In several studies in diabetic mice, Cordyceps has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels. Some evidence suggests that they may also protect against kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes. In a review of 22 studies including 1,746 people with chronic kidney disease, those who took Cordyceps supplements experienced improved kidney function. However, these results aren’t conclusive.

A study found that Cordyceps significantly reduced heart injuries in rats with chronic kidney disease. Injuries to the heart from chronic kidney disease are thought to increase the risk of heart failure, so reducing these injuries may help avoid this outcome. The researchers attributed these findings to the adenosine content of Cordyceps. Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound that has heart-protective effects. Animal research has shown that Cordyceps decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol. Cordyceps have been shown to decrease triglyceride levels in mice. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels are linked to a greater risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether Cordyceps benefit heart health in humans.

Lions Mane health benefits

Lions Mane

Lion’s mane mushrooms, also known as hou tou gu or yamabushitake, are large, white, shaggy mushrooms that resemble a lion’s mane as they grow. These mushrooms and their extracts have been shown to reduce the symptoms of memory loss in mice, as well as prevent neuronal damage caused by amyloid-beta plaque, which accumulates in the brain during Alzheimer’s disease. A study in older adults with mild cognitive impairment found that consuming 3gms of powdered Lion’s mane mushrooms daily for 4 months significantly improved mental functioning, but these benefits disappeared when supplementation stopped. New animal research has found that Lion’s mane extract demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in mice. Other studies show improvement in the functioning of the hippocampus, a region of the brain responsible for processing memories and emotional responses. Spinal and brain injury research in this field also indicates help in the recovery with these mushrooms by stimulating the growth and repair of nerve cells, reducing recovery time by between 23-41%, in rat studies, in one particular study indicated a 44% decrease in inflammation and reduction of stroke-related injury.

Lion’s mane extract may protect against the development of stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from damage. Several studies have found that lion’s mane extract can prevent the growth of H. pylori in a test tube, but no studies have tested whether they have the same effects inside the stomach. Additionally, an animal study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective at preventing alcohol-induced stomach ulcers than traditional acid-lowering drugs — and without any negative side effects.

Lion’s mane extract may protect against the development of stomach ulcers by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori and protecting the stomach lining from damage. Several studies have found that lion’s mane extract can prevent the growth of H. pylori in a test tube, but no studies have tested whether they have the same effects inside the stomach. Additionally, an animal study found that lion’s mane extract was more effective at preventing alcohol-induced stomach ulcers than traditional acid-lowering drugs — and without any negative side effects.

Maitake health benefits

Maitake mushrooms

The polysaccharides in maitake (above) can reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol without affecting your triglyceride or HDL (good) cholesterol levels. Along with supporting heart health, beta-glucan can help improve your immune system. D-fraction in maitake mushrooms has a strong effect on the immune system. “Maitake” means dancing mushroom in Japanese. The mushroom is said to have gotten its name after people danced with happiness upon finding it in the wild, such are its noted healing properties. 

This mushroom is a type of adaptogen. Adaptogens assist the body in fighting against any type of mental or physical difficulty. They also work to regulate systems of the body that have become unbalanced. While this mushroom can be used in recipes for taste alone, it’s considered to be a medicinal mushroom. The mushroom grows wild in parts of Japan, China, and North America. It grows at the bottom of Oak, Elm, and Maple trees. It can be cultivated and even grown at home, though it typically won’t grow as well as it does in the wild. You can usually find the mushroom during the autumn months. 

Maitake mushrooms are rich in:

  • antioxidants
  • beta-glucans 
  • vitamins B and C 
  • copper 
  • potassium
  • fibre
  • minerals
  • amino acids

If you’re using maitake to boost your health, you can add it to any food in which you would normally add mushrooms. It can be added to stir-fry, salad, pasta, pizza, omelettes, or soup. You can also fry the mushrooms in butter or grill them. Maitake has a strong, earthy taste, so be sure you enjoy its flavour before adding it to a large amount of food.

If you’re buying maitake fresh, buy it whole to increase its shelf life. Store it in a paper bag in the refrigerator. You may be able to find it dried at some grocery stores. It freezes well, so you can keep it in stock if you can find it fresh. You can also freeze it raw. Maitake may also be taken as a liquid concentrate or in dry form in capsules. If you decide to take it as a supplement, look for maitake D-Fraction, which is an extract of the mushroom.

The correct dosage depends on your age, weight, and health. It also depends on the actual strength of a particular brand of supplement. Be sure to read the instructions carefully before use.

Reishi health benefits

Reishi mushroom has been used to help enhance the immune system, reduce stress, improve sleep, and lessen fatigue. People also take Reishi mushrooms for health conditions such as High blood pressure. High cholesterol.

Reishi mushrooms

The Reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia. For many years, this fungus has been a staple in Eastern medicine.

Within the mushroom, several molecules, including triterpenoids, polysaccharides, and peptidoglycans, may be responsible for its health effects. Reishi mushrooms can enhance immune function through their effects on white blood cells, which help fight infection and cancer. This may occur primarily in those who are ill, as mixed results have been seen in those who are healthy.

Some preliminary studies have shown that Reishi mushrooms could decrease anxiety and depression as well as improve quality of life in those with certain medical conditions. A small amount of research has shown that Reishi mushrooms could improve good cholesterol or blood sugar. However, the majority of the research indicates that it does not improve cholesterol, blood sugar or antioxidants in the body.

Nevertheless, there are several groups of people who should probably avoid Reishi. These include those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have a blood disorder, will be undergoing surgery or have low blood pressure. Some studies of Reishi mushrooms have not provided safety information, but others have reported that several months of taking it is likely safe. Nonetheless, several cases of severe liver damage have been associated with Reishi extract.

Turkey Tail health benefits

Turkey tail is a medicinal mushroom with an impressive range of benefits. It contains a variety of powerful antioxidants and other compounds that may help boost your immune system and even help fight certain cancers. Plus, turkey tail may improve gut bacteria balance, which can positively impact your immunity

Turkey tail contains a wide variety of phenol and flavonoid antioxidants which help promote your immune system health by reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of protective compounds. Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharide Peptide (PSP) are two types of polysaccharopeptides found in Turkey tails. Both PSK and PSP possess powerful immune-boosting properties. They promote immune response by both activating and inhibiting specific types of immune cells and by suppressing inflammation. For instance, test-tube studies have demonstrated that PSP increases monocytes, which are types of white blood cells that fight infection and boost immunity.

PSK stimulates dendritic cells that promote immunity to toxins and regulate the immune response. In addition, PSK activates specialized white blood cells called macrophages, which protect your body against harmful substances like certain bacteria. Due to their ability to naturally strengthen the immune system, PSP and PSK are commonly used as anticancer agents in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation in countries like Japan and China.

 Your gut bacteria interact with immune cells and directly impact your immune response and the Turkey tail contains prebiotics, which helps nourish these helpful bacteria. An 8-week study in 24 healthy people found that consuming 3,600 mg of PSP extracted from turkey tail mushrooms per day led to beneficial changes in gut bacteria and suppressed the growth of the possibly problematic E. coli and Shigella bacteria.

A test-tube study found that turkey tail extracts modified gut bacteria composition by increasing populations of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus while reducing potentially harmful bacteria, such as Clostridium and Staphylococcus.

Turkey tail

My limited experiences with these products are ongoing, there appear to be detractors regarding the quality and safety of some of the ingredients, in particular from China, where there are concerns over heavy metals within them, especially Chaga. My cautiousness would guide me to American based products from the likes of fungi perfecti, at The effect of taking them feels like a gentle boost, an enhancement of clarity, perhaps like taking a double shot of espresso but without the need to be near a loo for the inevitable, in me, need to evacuate. I’ll leave the rest of the detail to your imagination. I’m interested in growing more of these species, but the bio security implications in New Zealand of importation are tricky.

Freethinkers in the media space and mushrooms

Michael Pollan @

Paul Stamets @

Paul talks with Joe Rogan

Terence McKenna @

Dennis McKenna @

“All Fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once.” ― Terry Pratchett

I am an advocate of growing my knowledge base in the things which abide around and within us. The last decade or so has seen me venture into evolving that journey, its progress has been documented in a separate blog, where the burgeoning roots of that are documented. The fact that yeasts and fungi abide in our oral microbiota continued my interest in the link to dental research, application and their possible promotion of dental health. This can be read at just scroll down to “Honey, Propolis, Fungi and Mushrooms, Uncommon Allies in Dental Healthcare and Humanity? A Reflective Personal and Professional Journey.” In this post, as I discuss and explore the dental health/fungal interface and find the literature not so decisive using modern scientific methods. However, I firmly believe that traditionally and empirically we have a lot at stake with our symbiotic relationship with mushrooms and I find our association with them intriguing enough to learn about their behaviour regarding our dental health, general health, their nutritional, medicinal, nootropic and psychotropic (sense and setting, guided and professionally delivered) values. Their benefits have been culturally maligned as were the historical proponents and exponents of them. The failed Nixon inspired “War on Drugs” has stigmatised research on the benefits and value of all sorts of mushrooms, beyond the edible. This is changing, thankfully, as medical curiosity broadens on this subject matter. I hope the future is one where we develop a new scientific and cultural acceptance of the kingdom of fungi and its huge potential.

Calvatia gigantea – Giant Puffball in Nelson, New Zealand

Reflections – Robert Lustig’s Metabolical Chapter 5 and O’Hehir University’s recent interview with me.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the opportunity to put finger to key pad, a combination of employment changes and a hip operation ( not mine I hasten to add ) has seen little to no time to reflect, until now. Many things have happened of late, most inconsequential, but reading Robert Lustig’s new book, Metabolical, and being interviewed by O’Hehir University’s Tim Ives are both events that have prompted professional thought. I am continuing to dwell on my mycological and apicultural (shrooms and bees) journeys as well, intending to put them into the next post, both are related directed to the original odyssey, as it this, learning undertaken way back in 2019. That will have wait for another day.

Dr. Robert Lustig has always been on my radar as a free thinker, a man of great conviction, an exemplar of new knowledge, honestly correcting himself late in his career, from face value and establishment thinking. His championing of the dark horse that continues to challenge the all-pervading destructive metabolic dietary dogma and holding extreme scepticism regarding the party line of the carbohydrate verse fat argument. The messages woven into his many YouTube presentations and best-selling books barely flinch as he puts his proverbial head over the parapet to face and provoke his entrenched mainstream detractors.

This his latest offering comes with the threat of professional misconduct removed, having recently retired, removing the constraints born of late by the likes of Tim Noakes and Gary Fettke, both restrained and framed for their so-called “fringe” but evidence-based beliefs, both noble lambs to the establishment slaughter, Tim after a long drawn out legal battle was admonished, Gary, sadly not so fortunate. He continues his fight against those in power, he believes influenced by darker forces than just the medical regulatory body. His fight is worth investigation, cancellation of his opinions and beliefs haven’t been successful despite their best efforts. I urge you to follow Gary and appraise yourself of his genuine and ethical ongoing struggle.

As a Dental Hygienist and, I hope a critical free thinker, I’m now acutely aware of the lack of training I received back in the late 80’s. The times I do a simple scale and polish nowadays, similar to those early days are a rare event and when I do I feel strangely nostalgic, not for some golden time but my naivety and ideological conditioning. It wasn’t until recently that I began to think less reductively about dental health and metabolic and systemic health, beyond what was beginning to be revealed by research and wider, more joined up thinking, for example the link and inverse/reverse assocition between Diabetes, a metabolic disease and periodontal (gum) diseases, beie/ng now considered an auto-immune disease.

The internet has played an important role in this curiosity, especially YouTube, the residence of many a maverick podcast downloaded by a cluster of expert proponents of an alternative narrative to the established line. One of these brave souls is Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, MSL. An author of several books, an expert orator on the subject of endocrinology and metabolic health. However, it was not until the release of his latest book, Metabolical, a few months ago, had he attempted to speak truth to authority regarding dental health, a key component of metabolic health, still unbeknownst to many practising clinicians.

Chapter 5, page 77, is the place where Lustig vents his spleen regarding the myths and the established dogma of contemporary dental health. He begins at what he believes is the beginning, way back in 1947, when the science of nutrition was taken off the academic syllabus for dental students, becoming an “inconvenient truth”, “getting in the way” of modern dentistry. This blotted out to inconvient truth of our ancestral dental heritage where dental diseases weren’t common place and, in fact, relatively rare. Our forefathers and mothers didn’t brush their teeth the way we know of today, if at all, and consequentially didn’t have appreciable decay, unlike the modern world where decay rates with intervention are still high.

What Are Hunter-Gatherers? - WorldAtlas
Hunter Gatherer Cave Art

Fossil records, dating back to the paleolithic era demonstrate some sub-par tooth mineralisation and infrequent poor tooth alignment, and the start of recorded history demonstrating tooth disease in 1-5% of the then population. This stayed that way until the mid-industrial revolution seeing a huge jump up to 25% in a short space of time. The culprits, unknown to hunter gatherers, being refined floor and sugar. The controversy appears to have become more evident after the 1920’s when dentists like Weston A. Price endeavoured to find answers to these alarming, growing and continuing trends. Price began an expedition visiting primitive and industrial countries. He wrote of his investigations and findings associating modern foods with this denigration of arch size and dental decay, traditional diets being a natural antidote to it. In March 1934 a meeting in New York tried to determine the cause of disease increase, in one corner where those who determined that clean teeth don’t decay, AKA Team Bacteria, and those who asserted that countries with traditional diets with unclean teeth had little or no disease, AKA Team Nutrition.

The flaw appears in the Team Bacterial position, who had no idea of the evolution of oral bacteria, being mediated by lifestyle and dietary changes, from ancestral to modern day microbiomes. Bacterial migration, determined from investigation of fossilised calculus has seen a shift in those bacteria from the mouth to the upper gut. The changes indicate a reduction in diversity, introducing bacteria that thrive in modern oral environments nowadays.

The irony is that “Our  foraging/gathering ancestors ate tons of carbohydrates and didn’t develop caries” and that traditional flora weren’t dominated by modern bacteria species, specifically the Streptococcus Mutan strains, being acidogenic, aciduric, with potential to produce lactic acid and demineralise. This bacterium is uniquely designed, possessing an enzyme called Fructanase, able to cleave the glucose/fructose bond of sucrose in a nanosecond. It is highly efficient in oral environments where sucrose is frequently available, not only in acid production but dominating the local and regional bacterial flora.

“Would people prefer some decay rather than the elimination of sweets (sucrose)?” William Davis, then researcher and dentist, continues “Let us hope our research workers discover more practical means of controlling or preventing dental decay.” Dr. McCollum, a co-worker of Weston A. Price, conversely proposed “It seems that were we to turn to a low sugar, high fat type diet, such as prescribed for diabetic patients, we might expect a prompt and marked reduction in caries susceptibility. This type of diet is practicable in many countries, but fats are in many countries considerably more expensive to produce than starches or sugars”. This is the devil in the detail it seems, “food” that is cheaper to produce, and in greater quantities, far more readily available, irrespective of its potential negative attributes wins the day.

Was there a modern day solution to this dental health dilemma? Step forward 1945 and the discovery that Sodium Fluoride, at 1 part per million (PPM) that could inhibit dental caries formation. It had the ability to bound into the Calcium Hydroxyapatite crystals of the tooth, hardening the tooths external crystalline structure. It was noted that that decay rates dropped by more than 60% in children when added to the water in that specific concentration. Up to this point fluoride was considered to be toxic, a waste product of the aluminium and phosphate mining industries and a chief contributor to environmental pollution. Between 1971 and 1988 caries rates began to level off, from 25% to 19% in toddlers, 55% to 24% in 6-9 year old’s but never got lower than that. Toothpastes with 1500 PPM saw a reduction in adult dental decay by up to 30%. Increased amounts, up to 5000 PPM saw that rise to 40% never breaking beyond that figure.

The reduction in these disease rates led to dentists having less active disease to treat, fluoride it seemed had become an arbiter for the sugar lobby to encourage people to consume more sugar without getting cavities, dentists became less inclined to offer nutritional advice, and officials afraid to stop fluoridation. Evidence of fluorides negative effects, initially isolated to developmental discolouration of teeth soon moved onto small but significant correlations between fluoride exposure and reduction in child IQ, exacerbated when mixed into infant milk formula. How is this risk seen in New Zealand?

“Typical fluoride intakes from formula feeding using fluoridated water at the levels of fluoridation used in New Zealand are safe, and there is no evidence of any adverse effects on infant health or child development.” NZ Ministry of Health

“The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code also specifies that powdered or concentrated infant formulae containing naturally higher levels of fluoride must indicate on the label that consumption may cause dental fluorosis and should be discussed with a medical practitioner or other health professionals. That is, those containing more than 17μg of fluoride per 100 kilojoules (prior to reconstitution), or ‘ready to drink’ formulae containing more than 0.15mg fluoride per 100mL.” That’s about 1.5 PPM, higher than water fluoridation recommendations (Author). NZ Ministry of Health

1 ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of something per litre of water (mg/l) or 1 milligram of something per kilogram soil (mg/kg).

The NZ Ministry of health continues “The workshop concluded that, while there had historically been some infant formula powders with high fluoride content, infant formula products now have very low levels of fluoride, and that infant formula is safe for consumption by infants whether reconstituted with fluoridated or non-fluoridated water.”

It is interesting how they deem low levels of fluoride in formula being higher than population water fluoridation recommendations. Are they assuming that no infant toothpaste formula is being used, remembering first teeth erupt after 6 months of age? Or, are they factoring this into the calculation? Is there a risk of fluorosis to the developing secondary dentition? Are the water fluoridation detractors right?

This has left me feeling slightly uneasy. I was unaware that fluoride was put into some formula, as did my Practising Midwife partner. I don’t see usually see many babies or very young children as clients but I am asked frequently my opinions and position on fluoride. I will reflect more on this particular part of Lustig’s revelations and consider my position more fully. First of all I will look in the local shops and see for myself what is on the shelves and at what strength. Some more calculations will follow.

A final word on this contentious subject comes from the late Aubrey Sheiham, an Emeritus Professor in Dental Public Health. This UK epidemiologist recommended the reduction of dietary sugar to less than 5% of calorific intake, reducing the risk of dental decay to their lowest possible levels with minimal sugar consumption continuing. In this case, I wonder, would fluoride still be needed? Fluoride has not been a magic bullet, hasn’t seen the end of dental caries, has subtly enabled us to take our eyes of the prime driver of cavities, frequent exposure to fermentable carbohydrates, and frequent oral pH imbalance, over time. The dental profession hasn’t, in my opinion, followed the evidence, and has relied on these toothpastes and water fluoridation for the answer, and still does to this day.

Dental Hygienists and Therapists see the evidence of decades of poor advice, reliance on this interpretation of the science and continue to hope those sitting in their dental chair, despite brushing their teeth as they were told too, using the toothpastes recommended, still need the Dental Plan, the need for radiographs and intervention. Why are they not asking the real question, why in the hell am I sitting here despite this? The answer would be, in my opinion, simple and direct, read Chapter 5 of Metabolical, by Dr. Robert Lustig.

Moving swiftly on, I had a peculiar experience recently too, not of the book reading variety but of the online interview kind. This is a novel and fairly contemporary occasion, potentiated by the presence and everyday use of social media. I myself watch many a podcast in the week, preferring it to reading nowadays. I’m guessing COVID lockdowns and time on our hands has led to the growth and acceptance of such platforms and presentations, however, those involved are normally famous people. That leads me to the amusing thought of just who is famous in the dental world nowadays? My guess is those who challenge authority and established doctrine, Dr. Steve Lin, in Australia being the most notable presently. I say World purely because we are all now connected globally and O’Hehir University must be one of the pioneers and forbearers of this communication revolution in learning for dental healthcare professionals today.

Tim, O’Hehir tutor and co-creator, has a good knowledge of my professional journey, the theme of transiting from working in the UK to New Zealand, the cultural differences and how my practice has evolved and where I see it going. Having viewed some of the other interviews there is a rich vein of nuance, making every cast interesting and personal, humanistic in a sense. I liked the flow of the interview, it always appears strange viewing what you say at the time, in the moment. I would have liked, in hindsight, to have given consideration before the event, to the questions Tim posed. I would have liked to have put more meat to some of the responses, they lacked depth I feel. I liked the idea that the conversation could take an unlikely turn but kept loosely to the script. In a future scenario it would be good to focus on one particular aspect of personal and professional development, I’ve seen this in other interviews, and for example, how go about learning in an alternative context, in New Zealand, where courses are limited and sometimes not relevant to your particular workplace would be pertinent in the current climate.

Tim and Trish, the minds and drivers of O’Hehir University find themselves at a peculiar juncture in the evolution of the learning “child” and as it grows how to nurture it. Thankfully, both a keen advocates of alternative styles of professional, and indeed, personal development. I’m intrigued as to the direction they take, the many opportunities that will subsequently arise and the folk that lean on them to make their professional journey as wholesome as mine has been and continues to be so.

Finally, my head is telling me to consider a modern hunter gatherer dietary challenge, consider eliminating breakfast, a modern construct, and this I will give some thought to, along with a bit of bio-hacking to draw metabolic context. Watch this space.

2020, the year that wasn’t and was. a personal reflection. Never gonna give you up!

Toni, Rick and Clare in March at Christchurch Horncastle Arena

We meet him, in Christchurch, the man responsible for one of the greatest Eighties hits, a hand shake, a smile of delight and the presentation to him of a bottle of Pinot Noir. It had been a long journey from my cousin Sally in Somerset to the drive from Nelson to the venue. Along with us that day was Clare, my colleague’s wife. She had no idea of what was to happen, she was only aware that we were meeting up to see him play. The look on her face when we were escorted back stage before the gig was priceless and greatly enhanced when he appeared with his agent. This was the week before lockdown came into force. Rick Astley was the perfect antidote the coming storm at the time as was the MarchFest in Nelson a few days later, the last time I’d see any of my family for several weeks.

It is New Year’s Eve in New Zealand as I write and the weather is surprising mild with cloud cover masking the blue sky and sun. This is unusual for the time of year but was predicted as a consequence of global climate change. It happened several years ago when our close friends from the UK came over the same time of the year in search of clear skies and warmth. Sadly, I listened to the BBC radio this morning to hear the news of yet another leap in the COVID body count, this time 981. The radio presenter was discussing this tragic milestone, the worst daily total since April and the grimly predicted a similar picture in the coming weeks, despite the development and introduction, at astounding speed, of a variety of vaccines. Their uptake has just begun but it appears weeks will be required to build immunity and additional boosters necessary to increase their immunological effect.

Knee jerk signage but not at the time!

Who would have considered the word “lockdown” in 2019 to be so contentious and emotive? It seems to me, so far flung from the present UK epidemic of restrictions and curtailments of normal life hard to comprehend. Those living there I’ve communicated with or have heard off appear to be struggling with the immensity of this. It’s long term effects, of isolation from friends and family, to businesses dependent upon those locked down and the greater economy as a whole will be difficult to calculate. What seems to be remarkable though is that the UK health service continues to manage in the way it does. Surely the message of this pandemic is that for the national economy to thrive, even survive, in unique and unprecedented events demands a robust and resilient health service. This aligned with the leadership of the country carefully listening to and appropriately reacting in accordance with their scientific advisers has been the success story of those, including me, living in New Zealand. This is born out by the resulting repatriation of tens of thousands of Kiwis back to their home land when the borders here were reopened in June. This in itself has created many new and unforeseen problems including the unaffordability of housing increasing on an already struggling marketplace.

“What has socialism ever done for us?”

Despite this the country is prospering, comparatively, to other western nations affected by COVID 19. I still go to work, can plan holidays and weekend breaks, am free to travel within New Zealand unrestricted and see friends and family without restriction. This was not the case back in late March. The tumultuous nature of the government’s decision to do a hard lockdown came as a surprise with many doubters and push back. Several weeks later with alert states returning to relative normality and only a handful of fatalities life began to resemble its pre March picture. Contact tracing and testing continued and the pulse of life led to the occasional local outbreak which was dealt with remarkable effectiveness. This I confess has its own problem, that of complacency, and many not conforming to the ritual of scanning QR codes when entering premises and shops anymore.

This reflection on those heady events will now turn to how we, Toni and myself, have adapted to this new normal which really began in January of this year, 2020. It was then that events became more news worthy. Our daughter and her partner were planning a trip to Europe and the UK and I was becoming increasingly concerned about their welfare and ability to return in the event of this news becoming more serious. It seemed that any cold or flu like symptom was an indicator of a COVID infection. An old school friend of Toni’s, living in Canada lost her young Son to COVID in March, or so we thought. The anxiety of this and the rapid onset of measures to combat and control this, its immediacy and the somewhat draconian response was breathtaking. A workplace presentation on sustainability in dental practice was soon changed to become the forum to discuss what we do if or when the inevitable decision to lock down occurred. Toni, as a core midwife at Nelson Hospital, had no choice but to continue regardless of the pandemic but we soon both adopting the strip off at the back door to go directly into the shower, unceremoniously throwing our work clothes into the washing machine. This became the norm until lockdown and continued for Toni through the early weeks of the crisis. I became head chef and gardener and was kept very busy on various projects that were in the long grass. It wasn’t long, however, before New Zealand returned to work and in particular for me stood some obstacles before my headspace and mental health accepted this new reality. I had made this decision based upon the notion the dental hygiene profession would suffer as a fear of COVID, this was reinforced by the fact that we as clinicians deal with all manner of oral flora and our mechanical processes, our instrumentation of biofilms can create bacterial fields potentially harmful to us and others. This concern was reiterated by the governing and regulatory bodies decision to ban the use of ultrasonic and sonic scaling equipment in higher alert levels. I’ll return to this shortly.

Banksy at his best extolling the virtues of essential workers during COVID

At this point I must allude to the role that social and main stream media played during this time. I was glued, like many others at the time I suspect, to the only real form of immediate communication, the internet. I must have spent many hours listening to podcasts and media broadcasts to either understand the nature and response to COVID nationally and globally but also as a distraction. My mother, at the tender age of 81 years, and myself began a Zoom thread that continues weekly to this day. Respect to her, adapting to the new technology scene and adopting this a form of real communication with us. At one point I was organising meetings from here between her, her sister and nephew, all in the UK! Strange times indeed. The media I believe will take some responsibility for its reporting of events during COVID when all the facts are known and lessons learned from it. Social media in particular will be more cautiously approached by those of a more discerning persuasion. Feverish and hungry consumption of any news be it verified or wholly misleading will change I hope after infections and vaccines bring an effective degree of heard immunity and normality return.

A menacing dark cloud taken from our balcony summing up the moment of lockdown

In May, whilst stationed in my home I decided to apply for a new profession, the fear that dental hygiene as I knew it would cease or irreparably change drove my application to train as a nurse at Nelson College. I was surprised that my application was immediately accepted and my headspace began to accept the inevitable move from dentistry, after 38 years. I kept this quiet from my colleagues initially and uncertainty with this decision began to appear when I considered the income I’d lose and debt I’d incur after 3 years of training. I was also perturbed by the fears and anxiety shown by my daughter-in-law who was into her final year of training locally. The idea that you were in a lottery after graduation as to where you ended up working appeared totally Dickensian to me. This affected me and a few counselling sessions and medication helped me traverse the stormy seas of my emotions. Life felt tough to me and affected my workspace as well as my headspace.

Herman our German Toyota Mini Campervan

I am very thankful that we did our odyssey back in 2019. We learned much from it especially the decision to make it our last for quite some time. We decided to buy a tent and all the finery that goes with the camping scene, a tow bar for the Volvo and a decent bike rack to transport the Ebikes around this country. The purpose of this was to save the expense of long haul travel, it’s environmental footprint and impact as well as the time in transit, jet lag and organising headaches. We were also fortunate to meet Cedric in August. He was a traveller from Northern Germany, like many thousands of young folk making a pilgrimage to these shores, supporting the economy with their presence and being witnesses and ambassadors to future tourists wanting to travel to our country. Annoyingly to me they get a bad press in this country, free campers for which Cedric was one, have been bad mouthed for poor toilet behaviour. A few have been responsible for this feverish media assassination but most are abiding and responsible, furthermore they add to the economy in multiple ways and buying Cedric’s converted Toyota Estima was acknowledgement of that and support of him. Herman, the aforesaid Toyota is now a firm family favourite and we thank Cedric for his attention to detail in converting this MPV to a mini mobile home. This is an addition to the travel inventory and Oli, our Spaniel, can now be part of our journey too.

Social Distancing during vintage at Neudorf Winery – Germans and French playing their part

Another positive from 2020, from a completely unforeseen angle was the provision of free training for primary industries. Apiculture being one of these. Now bees have been off my radar of interest until the last few years. Dear friends of ours have been drawn to the beauty and necessity of beekeeping and have inspired me to consider it as a hobby, if not a job in the future. I wasn’t really aware of this opportunity provided as a COVID response to aiding the economy but thanks to Facebook and the Nelson Beekeeping page I fortuitously stumbled upon it. The class of 18 features more females than males, they are really passionate about their learning and contribute much to this journey. I’ve now 2 hives, in the 2 corners of the garden, have endured many ups and downs with Queen bee dramas that many an expert hasn’t had to endure, several stings and a curious obsession with watching them landing on the hive laden with pollen. Anyone who thinks that a foray into keeping bees is an easy ride be warned it is far from that. There is a need for regular inspections, checking for a variety of infestations and diseases and a need to conform to a responsible yearly management plan to protect the bee colonies of New Zealand and their welfare throughout the year.

Bees in a brood box and feeder with bracken as a gym

To sum up 2020 has been a rough ride, an emotional and physical rollercoaster to me and I would reliably assume many others. I’m not in the super COVID risk age group unlike my mum and the in – laws. I have learned much about myself, faced a few demons and changes along the way. I am lucky, as part of the team of 5 million New Zealanders, that we had decisive leadership who took the right advice from the right advisers and the right time. The damage was minimal and the social consequences I hope less than predicted. I will continue as a dentalcare professional, as a gardener, a writer, and now as a budding hobbyist beekeeper. Where this coming year will take me I’m not certain, Toni will hopefully get her new hip and our friends from the States, returning to Aotearoa will find a place and settle back into this great country. I wish all who read this and friends and family the very best, health, happiness and a greater degree of certainty for your future. Kia Ora.

An eternal memory where nature felt more powerful than manned flight – Air New Zealand paralysed and on the deck

Final thoughts and reflections on a new world country gone mad. The end of the whole dental health project and the beginning of another.


There is only one way to get good at anything. You surround yourself with the bad motherfuckers who are doing exactly what you do and force yourself to keep up and inspire each other. Joe Rogan

Today is Waitangi Day, a national Public Holiday here in New Zealand. On the main road through Canterbury a 17 kilometre convoy of protestors, some may call them dissidents, head north, similar processions are occuring around the country as I write. They are supported by many as they pass under bridges, this is, it appears, is in support of the “Canadian Trucker” convoy many miles and an ocean away. It is also a protest against the current COVID management policies of the government in New Zealand. Life here in New Zealand appears to lag behind the progress of the countries COVID 19 deeply affected nearly two years ago. When I say “progress” I mean the current approach they are charting now rather than the success ( or apparent lack of it ) in reducing its initial impact back then. Ironically it seems that New Zealand is now doing the inverse of that. The clarion call of Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, is still one of the creeping frequencies of vaccines, predominantly of the Pfizer variety, to which this country appears dominated by and wedded too. The mandated vaccinations policies for the healthcare sector have seen some medical and dental professionals leave or be made redundant for not abiding with these authoritarian policies. Much of the population, I believe, are unwilling participants, unable to be as uncompliant for a variety of reasons, mainly financial, I suspect, including me presently. HOWEVER, what I can do is vote with my feet and get out of Dodge to coin a phrase. Since my last post, whilst reflecting on the present professional journey I am undertaking, it has become clear to me that this is the right thing to do through the experiences of the last two years. I will focus on the record in this essay, the reasons for this decision to depart. New Zealanders are obsessed with “stuff” and their properties. The acquisition of wealth runs deep here. There is innate racism, which I’ve experienced personally on occasion and bigotry that divides this country. “Woke” justice warriors and petty post-modernism are as endemic as Omicron will soon be I suspect.

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. George Washington.

Despite this, I’d like to look at what I think I have achieved since my return to New Zealand in September 2019, a few months before the official arrival of the pandemic to these shores. The messages I gleamed for that odyssey was of tangential and specific relevance. Mycology and mushroom cultivation were fruit-bearing destinations. Travelling into territories around apiculture, community gardening, and therapeutic uses of CBD and THC were also productive. These connections were researched, tested, evaluated, reflected upon, and applied into my personal and, in part, practice life. They still belong there. Some of these explorative journeys are still ongoing, being tested, new knowledge and understanding attained. The purpose of was to highlight these.

One of the most fascinating lessons I’ve absorbed about life is that the struggle is good. Joe Rogan

In a nutshell, how have I changed in these sub three years professionally? Firstly, due to my ageing frame, I am a little slower in my process, with the idea of beginning slightly later and finishing earlier being utilised. This ultimately means I work for four and half days a week, but I hope to make myself more productive. The thirty-minute standard appointment of the UK has only a partial, personally directed presence. Forty-five minutes is the standard. I wonder if it will remain in the UK? Perhaps this will be the norm with post patient fallow time ? I am now far more client-centric, meaning being interested in the whole person, their concerns, expectations and hopes regarding their present oral health status and where they want the appointment(s) to take them. This robust process sets the scene and theme(s) of the moment(s). It reveals how their previous experiences have altered their perception of what to expect. Pain and discomfort are the obvious primary concerns. Reassurance is critical, adapting treatment techniques essential. Most of my clients have a left-field attitude to the dental mainstream narrative. It manifests in the contentious fluoride debate, greater knowledge of their health and well-being, be it breathing, nutrition or cleaning aids and methods. They also bear witness to the growing understanding of self-directed citizen scientist research. The best appointments appear to have more meaningful discourse and the physically ( not chemically ) managed healthy mouth.

The population is made up of four types of people. A small number hunt witches. A large number go along with the hunt. A large number are silent. A tiny number oppose it. The final group, as if by magic, become witches. Bret Weinstein

The main thread of discussion is always about the mouth’s environment, its constituent parts, the hard and soft structures, the ecology that thrives or struggles within it, and the pressures exerted upon it, both positive and negative. Adaptation is the centrepiece of knowledge creation for the motivated client to listen. Some aren’t, which is fair enough. I always take the simple route to evolve the environment into enhanced oral health. Sustaining it follows, with the theme always being a trilogy of care and support. Being from diverse supportive or benign bacterial flora influences the mouth ECOLOGICALLY. Whatever works, the CLIENT plays a crucial role in ENVIRONMENTAL protection. Their breathing, dietary and hygiene behaviours are the key to switching off unnecessary IMMUNOLOGICAL responses, inflammation and pathology. Seeing things in a more whole ( naturally mediated ) perspective and less industrial ( mouthwashes and rinses ) interventions aligns totally with my ecological approach to practice. When I compare how I operate clinically, I am surprised that others see this as fringe, left field even, in nature ( ironically ). This I celebrate, as I see it in my empirical research and observational experiences with mycology and apiculture. Again, the irony is not lost here. I feel we have lost a deep and essential connection, naturally reflected intraorally, something very explicit, intimate even, and connected to us.

The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunlight. Thoreau

The beekeeping sojourn is already documented in this publication, but here are a few thoughts resulting from that ongoing process. The apiculturist is at the tender mercies of the weather, the seasons and the bees themselves. The health and well-being of the colonies they tend is paramount. There are many different approaches to this form of husbandry, some based on past historical practice, organic or a contemporary modern process. Our training and initial experiences touched on all canons. Rather like my primary training in dentistry, both as a dental assistant and hygienist, were a mere taster on what you expected would be a baptism of fire after qualification. Beekeeping is similar to that: the sting’s fear soon goes and mistakes and lessons learned until the next one comes into view. It is a constant learning journey. The comparisons between the hive and the mouth are uncanny. A culture, an environment, an evolving real-time theatre of activity, balance, imbalance, interactions and behaviours that determine them. The beekeeper plays a quasi omnipotent role in all these proceedings, always a step behind the action, occasionally interceding to help out to productivity or health of the bee collective.

You can be technically free but not really free. If you’re concerned about being wiped out by a healthcare crisis ( so you are not free to move freely through the world ) or you’re concerned that you may lose your job, you’re not really free. Real liberty, realized liberty, is liberty you can act on. Bret Weinstein

The mycological angle is still about the seasons, the weather and the specific sites where they spread the mycelial tendrils. Knowledge born of my experience gained plays the critical cornerstone of the “gentle hunt”. Awareness of certain trees and the association between them and the vast, intricate fungal root systems beneath our very feet. The lack of knowledge brings about prejudice to the fruiting bodies, some of it well earned. Fear is a powerful force, only research, detailed research, and a degree of courage will win the day and fill your belly with delicious notes and powerful nutritional benefits.  I found the French at one with this dynamic. The chemists were all able to identify edible, sickening or fatal varietals. In its smaller microcosm, the mouth relies on diversity and balance to bear fruit. Yeast and fungi are part of the oral microbiome, vital to ensure and promote a balance favouring health. When out of balance, they play a different game that negatively affects the habitat in which they dwell. Mushrooms will always be a passion for me, like bees, and the ongoing quest for knowledge and experiences will always amaze, surprise, delight and confound me til my dying day.

Gardeners, scholars say, are the first sign of commitment to a community. Anne Rover

Community gardening has a personal history stretching back to the early noughties when the last exodus from New Zealand, post-family trauma, saw us needing to grow our own food. This is documented in a separate publication at The journey to Boulder, Colorado and Portland, Oregon, provided the contrast between a community-supported agricultural model, where the growers interact with the general public to get an audience for their produce. The strong bond of the community link provides a powerful message to the “big food” industry. These bold, environmentally driven farmers believe in their organic and sustainable approach and positively welcome public engagement as a source of income and, moreover, aligns with their values, principles and purpose. The Portland city farm incorporated the organic and sustainable model with alternative health and well-being improvement therapies, led by complementary and alternative thinking professionals in those disciplines. Both are inextricably mindful of the mantra that food is medicine. Both promote their practices to the public for scrutiny and engagement.

I do smoke, but I don’t go through all this trouble just because I want to make my drug of choice legal. It’s about personal freedom. We should have the right in this country to do what we want. If we don’t hurt anybody. Bob Marley

THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol, and CBD, or Cannabidiol, are by far a more contentious subject matter than shrooms or honey. In this respect, I will be honest and tread wisely, I hope, around this touchy subject. To say I enjoy these naturally occurring chemical substances isn’t strictly correct. I have been, until now, extremely cautious of them. What changed my mind was listening to Sam Harris, Michael Pollen, Paul Stamets and Joe Rogan. All are learned proponents of this contentious product’s medicinal and recreational applications. Chronic pain and poor sleep hygiene have dogged my life and  partner Toni more so. A past journey to Oregon and Washington State where it is legal and for sale over the counter in a well-controlled and regulated environment set the scene for more reseacrh in the therapeutic context. Indeed, our good friend Dan, from the USA, was allowed by prescription from a doctor to grow his own, being allowed a certain amount to not make it a nefarious business on the side. This was a prescription born of trauma and well-being issues resulting from military combat in the Gulf and Afghanistan. In certain more liberal States, the Americans had a whole approach to treating their veterans who suffer from post-traumatic disorders with a menu of choice. With the troubles that prevail regarding drug abuse and overuse, this appears to be a step forward as an alternative therapeutic, more natural drug of choice.

Upon my return to New Zealand, I found the experience compelling and was encouraged to see the incumbent government encourage the populous to vote in a referendum on this matter. I hoped that positive engagement would be substantial, considering the amount of cannabis grown illegally here. Its widespread use, perceived criminality, endless petty prosecutions and pursuit of those supplying or using it is a dividing subject. If it were to be legalised, in the context of the Canadian or US State model, it may more than likely bring a reduction in the policing of a plant, profit gained from its production and supply, with quality overcoming the dangerous synthetic varietals causing concern.

Your beliefs become your thoughts, your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your values, your values become your destiny. Ghandi

Step in politicians, the church and the medical establishment to divert the attention from its legalised benefits to scare the population into seeking assisted suicide above chronic pain relief and sleep support after the vote was counted. This country and its lame-ass politicians never cease to surprise me, even today with COVID. When it comes to mandating a population for experimental vaccines with little or no long term research in efficacy or potential side effects, the opportunity to ease the housing crisis with a capital gains tax that generates income for social housing, taking the homeless off the streets and helping those in pain beyond “pill-popping” convention medicine, they, in my humble opinion, have failed miserably.

Quin Dental was founded on the philosophy of providing the very best natural dental care for the whole family. We believe in preventative care with a minimal intervention approach. We call this our “natural care philosophy”. Gerry Quin, Nelson.

Working in a mixed general and orthodontic/orthotropic practice has seen the last part of the clinical jigsaw puzzle found and correctly placed into the cannon of my professional life. I’m glad I found it. Being a Dental Hygienist in the workplace environment has allowed me, with the grace of my clinical lead and amazing colleagues, the scope and breadth to explore a more accurate, more personal evolution in my approach to dental health promotion and disease prevention. The research undertaken in adventure enhanced working at Quin Dental and my clinical collaborators and exemplars. Their professional, cultural and social ideologies have resonated with me, and I feel I am a better individual, team player, clinician and person for it.

The greatness of community is most accurately measured by the compassionate action of its members. Coretta Scott King

What I have found hard to assimilate of late is the draconian vaccination mandating dentistry with coercion, intimidation and what I believe to be a one size fits all policy. I am not anti-vax, far from it. I am pro-choice and pro personal responsibility. It has to be said that when one has a co-morbidity or more, chronic health conditions that align with increased risk or of a certain age even, that “tough” governmental love needs to be applied, with a degree of choice, to those. Many, I am sure, would be willing to oblige and seek protection, albeit to what extent I would be able to comment further. Individuals must be accountable for their actions and choices, this is the point of our forefathers and mothers struggle to improve their and the future quality of life for their progeny. In this regard, I am flabbergasted by the lack of personal responsibility advocated by those in power. Why are they not listening to more progressively-minded health experts regarding well-being, exercise, decent nutrition, supplementation where appropriate, reducing co-morbidity risk, and encouraging or endorsing behaviours that promote a less enhanced response to COVID infection? The one size ( or jab ) fits all policy cannot apply now. What are the costs, both financially and socially, of this?

I am appalled how ill-prepared we were for this, but more so that moderate and deeply concerned experts in medical and biological sciences, well-intentioned, advocating for alternative approaches, have been cancelled into silence as a consequence. Are we, who live in a free society, too damn lazy to understand alternative perspectives and knowledge? Are we confident that those wielding the vaccines at and into us know of their actual long term outcomes and efficacy? It appears that as the next vaccine boosters are delivered with three-month intervals, what next? I am highly suspicious now that a recipe based upon the initial Wuhan strain hasn’t evolved as quickly as nature. We appear to be behind the curve, which seems now to be running away from us. Choice and innovative new vaccines must now follow, especially those deemed at risk.


I am returning, consequently, to the UK in June. The decision is made, and I regret nothing. I will hold dear those experiences and memories, the people I value and their part in my improvement and growth. All that is to do now is to register, which is underway, gain what I can from the last four months here and depart amicably. New Zealand isn’t all bad, far from it, but I feel it has a hollow centre. The beating heart that once resounded is weaker than ever as those who plunder its reputation of fairness and equality for profit, and personal gain continue regardless of the long term cost. A so-called Labour government continue to reside over the out-of-control housing and rental costs, so poorly planned affordable housing. They continue to instigate further social engineering to divide this country on racial lines and expect its population to disregard their freedom of personal agency for want of a decently funded and prepared health system. Its phoney leadership found its muse with the “team of 5 million” and “kindness” slogans, but they are nowhere to be seen now. Their grim determination to see through their plans to continue with the vaccine at all costs and exclude those who don’t comply is a place I will not tread any further.

If you want others to be happy practice compassion, if you want to be happy practice compassion. Dalai Lama

As a modern civilised society, we need to know we can trust those who command our obedience. Where I am going to, it appears, has learned hard-won lessons, but in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, these are yet to be heeded. Maybe the relative hardship of Britain’s COVID experiences has taught its majority leadership not to go where the new world is now treading carelessly. That’s where I will be, live, grow old, and prosper.

Ultimately, well-intended and meaningful words frame this project’s journey. They are hard-won and easily lost. The most precious gem is freedom. Freedom combined with expression of one’s personal truth and values, whatever that may be and finally, community, the emotional and/or physical structure where you find and give support to those in your tribe is epitomised within Where are the ripe, brightly lit uplands of my learning future? It belongs where those crazy words abide. I want to continue freely expressing my opinions and thoughts that link my professional learning to my personal values. I desire community, the home of those who seek similar truths and have experiences to share. This I will pursue in the UK, and in particular, born of an uncanny expectation of a need to understand the benefits of nasal breathing and the importance of tongue tone and behaviour in those who mouth breath and need arch expansion to correct an orthodontic malalignment. I am toying with the idea of video blogging, a future project that combines all my interests, both personal and professional. Not just in words, capturing the essence of a subject is hard for me, but visually which will add a new dimension, appealing to my inner creative and curious self. This will be how I promote my professional value system in the form of an unconventional but unique efolio, expressed in words in a resume and cover letter to prospective employers. The future is whole, whole dental health.

Success is completion. Success is being able to complete what we set out to do. Each individual action, each specific step, each desired experience whether a big project or a very small errand. Susan Collins

to bee or not to bee? is that the question? off the plot with Mark Part 1

If you’d have asked me when I embarked on my learning odyssey back in 2019 (boy that seems such a long time ago now) whether I’d be on a Level 3 Certificate Course in Apiculture, having two hives ready to host colonies of bees and a growing concern and understanding of the nature of bees, their protection and importance to humans I’d have chortled, very loudly. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to me really, given my tendency to explore and deep dive into many non mainstream subjects ranging from craft beer brewing to foraging for nuts, fruit, mushrooms and plants to allotmenteering for exchange and barter or pure home food production. These less than mainstream pursuits meet my innate requirement to tax and satiate my curiosity and left field nature, and, moreover, engage my visual and kinaesthetic learning styles.

Before COVID announced its menacing presence back in March I had spent the previous months being focused on sustainable professional and personal practise development. In my workplace I had undertaken prolonged research into its significance, meaning and application towards my dental health practice and was on the point of presentation and action, hopefully persuading my colleagues. My intention was to make changes along the lines of improving the perception and belief to our cliental that we were taking the looming climate and environment crisis very seriously and were changing our behaviours to meet this existential threat. Extracts of Polypore Mushroom Mycelia Reduces Viruses in Honey Bees. Paul E. Stamets et al. 2018

Image of the Day: All in a Day's Work | The Scientist Magazine®

My dealings with mushrooms and research related to and had brought me to greater awareness of the association between birch polypore mushrooms and the bee population that use them to aid the natural disease prevention of bee deformed wing virus. Discovering this fact and the work undertaken by Prof. Paul Stamets, an global expert in Mycology, including his energy behind the creation of 3D bee feeders for the promotion of bee colonies in back gardens, inspired me to take the next few steps towards a greater journey. This was additionally aided and abetted by dear friends Dave and Rachel Annette at, in Alresford, Hampshire, whilst staying with them in the UK last year. They have both undertaken a fundamental lifestyle and value changing venture into keeping bees, educating the public about their benefits and training those inclined to go beyond knowledge into practical application in apicultural practice. I owe Dave and Rachel both directly and Paul, very indirectly, a debt of gratitude in providing not only a substitute for the COVID postponed clinical sustainability project but also to a meaningfully related cause for bee sustainability, aligned to my social values and personal intent.

Enter the real world. How and where to do and achieve this? New Zealand is an agricultural country, especially in the north of the south island where a healthy bee population is essential in pollenating the vast areas of cultivated fruit and plant food production. Native Manuka honey is also a huge export industry, it’s Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) being sited by ongoing research as very beneficial for health. I’m in the right place to be for certain. However, apiculture courses are expensive, running into several thousand dollars NZ, or more, and such course providers not marketing them especially well, perhaps for that very reason. Enter COVID once again and the New Zealand Governments immediate investment in primary industry training programmes, some of which are being fully funded. Also, interestingly, enter stage door left social media, and in my case, FaceBook. The Regional Bee Keepers Association in Nelson had a thread on their page casually promoting this very thing. I immediately latched on and asked the question, where do I sign up? To my amazement it was as simple as that, two great instructors and experts in the industry, Scott and Jezebel Williamson, began the course in Brightwater, Nelson in August through Land Based Training, a commercial organisation promoting primary industry education. Fifteen very rookie and novice students of all ages and sizes turned up for the first day of term not fully knowing quite what to expect.

Image may contain: indoor

So, I’m now three months into a nine month course. I’ve two hives, one provided free as part of the training, this we had to construct, treat and paint. It sits on my deck at home presently awaiting a journey to Brightwater this weekend and its temporary future home for its first colony to reside in it. The other was donated to me by my former Marlborough dental boss Ed Durrheim, also a hobbyist beekeeper, which has also been treated, painted and set up for a home based hive here in Nelson. A big thank you to Ed. The neighbours have given consent and I’m priming a spot for its location, sheltered, north facing and exposed to plenty of sunlight. It awaits a Queen nucleus and will be my home learning hive, a fortnight behind the course hive. I’ve two suits and all the equipment required at present, including Adrenaline for bee sting hypersensitivity. Fortunately I’ve recently undertaken a work based first aid course where this was practiced. It appears all my ducks are stars are aligned and the active part of the beekeeping learning journey, post three month theory, begins in earnest this coming Sunday.

There is still so much more to learn, to experience and achieve but my goal is to focus on the health and well-being of bees in my charge, to be fully cognisant of the ways to achieve this, not to be concerned about asking questions, no matter how daft they may seem and to encourage all those I know to be mindful of the importance of the role that bees play in our everyday lives. The honey will be a bonus but not essential if needed by the bees themselves.

In the next thrilling episode of “Too Bee or Not too Bee” I will be more reflective and explicit about managing a hive on two sites, the routines, disease and pest risks and the highs and lows of this adventure. I will, no doubt, have many new experiences to reveal and new knowledge of lessons learned.

Reflection – workplace learning – Professional Development Day 9/11/20

The day went very well. My presentation went off without a hitch and we all retired to the bar afterwards to relax and reflect“. Mark

The Days Events

The day started at 08.30am and the whole team arrived in eager anticipation, a degree of anxiety and earnestness. We knew what to expect in terms of the activities of the day, we had been briefed. We did our 2 yearly CPR catch up, about 5 hour’s worth of theory and practical and I presented on protocols in my dental hygiene practice and an investigation into the oral health products we recommend and their application. I could tell there was a tad of tension in the air, there always is when you venture outside of your clinical comfort zone, ironically to learn about events that can happen inside of one’s clinical comfort zone. I think that this is the consequence of a fear, not of the need to learn, but due to the concern that you might have in making an error in front of your colleagues or failing an on the spot exam. I had also asked my team in an earlier meeting as to what they wanted to learn about my proposed presentation but had not had too much feedback so I kind of went into it blind. I hoped it would be interesting, engaging and a learning experience for everyone.

Preparing my presentation was a timely affair. It must have consumed about  30 hours of reading and writing, slide after slide created for power point and quite a few withdrawn because of time restrictions. However, at 10pm the evening before the day I completed it with animations and slide transitions and was satisfied that, without going through it into much detail before the event, I’d be fine. I had a minor concern regarding technical problems with linking it to the flat screen monitor in the conference room, a previous occasion had uncovered glitches and faults and it couldn’t be screened. Fortunately, I’d had the forethought to check it the week before. I was scheduled for the afternoon so I made the conscious effort to forget about it completely and focus on the main event, CPR.

The two instructors were professional emergency department nurses and had an incredible presence. They were both extremely proficient and gauged the mood precisely. The education was practical and visual, just my style, and for once, after all these years and previous CPR training had no concern or fear, like I had before. Maybe I was distracted by the thought of getting my afternoon session right but I really enjoyed the occasion and learnt some really relevant knowledge especially regarding anaphylaxis. We had a simulation in my chair about this exact same emergency. The irony was not lost on me as some of the oral hygiene products in the market place have the potential to create such as extreme physical reaction. It was also enlightening as it is important in my new hobby of bee keeping and the potential for bee stings to do the same. The need for adrenaline, in my case the need to draw up 0.5 mgs and the opportunity to give an additional dose 5 minutes after if required was new knowledge. I was also mindful of the 2:15 breaths to compression for children and 30: 2 for adults. The technology that helps us get a realistic  physical sense of the breathing and compression rates has come a long way since my late teens when I began my professional journey.

The afternoon soon arrived and my turn came to add to the learning day. I had no technicals and the flow was good, I enjoy the moments when the subject can be discussed and was aware that there were some quiet voices in the room but moments arose to bring everyone into the debate. A particular subject, fluoride, demonstrated this perfectly. Some of the team aren’t aligned to the argument there is a problem with it whereas some were interested to question its relevance and validity. This is supported by previous feedback surveys we have undertaken at the practice that had determined that 75% of clients were opposed to it in the water supply and another 50% weren’t happy to use it in toothpaste. It seems to me we need to open to both camps and the many who site in varying positions between the two. Some even need to know the pros and cons with a balance and information to make a self-determined decision. What is important is that we know the noted benefits and the perceived negatives to not only fluoride but additional products, fair and fowl, which cause so much controversy.

Some contemporary oral health products, toothpastes included, have now within them, pre and probiotics. The science in this regard is still in its infancy but is growing exponentially, some are well established like xylitol. The addition to the inventory of products will include these as well as toothpastes that have specific applications to the needs of disease risk reduction in our practice. It was a great moment to explain the appropriate use of these and to whom, in what amount and for how long. It was also important to demonstrate and discuss the contra indications of them too. It was opportune to shed light on calcium phosphate in relation to tooth strengthening, desensitisation, pH balance and elevation as well as our oral biofilm benefiting from its directed use. My mind was changed from recommending no spitting out of fluoridated toothpaste to them clients to deciding for themselves after being given information about it.

What would I do differently and what feedback did I get? I think I’d adjust the presentation slightly, add the slides I edited and extend the length of it from 90 minutes to 2 hours with a break to sample some of the products. The content is sound but I’d like to add a slide or two to add more context. The feedback came back from the receptionist and she was perfectly correct in her request. I was awaiting it as a consequence of self-reflection and will act upon it immediately. I’m going to write a crib sheet for her about the products and their component parts, their benefits, how best to use them and who needs to avoid certain ingredients. I am also going to focus on toothpaste contents and write a briefing sheet for clients, colleagues and myself as they seem to be of great interest to many I see. My learning journey needs to encompass ALL the ingredients of the items we sell. I will also get myself an anaphylaxis syringe, needle and adrenaline vile kit too. All in all, it was a day well spent.

Ongoing Conclusion


A year to the day 02 September 2020, a reflection on a radical year. September 2019 – August 2020.

March the 23rd, is a day I will never forget. I thought, initially, it would be the last day I practised dental hygiene and strangely, it felt strangely easy on me. After nearly 32 years I was prepared and almost willing to lay down my scalers and hang up my latex free gloves for good. I had been destined to travel to Melbourne, the following week, to do a four day introductory course in myofacial function therapy. This was in jeopardy due to a rapidly unfolding global drama and the spread of COVID 19. This culminated on that Monday, the aforementioned 23rd, when the whole of dentistry, less emergency care, was stood down by the Ministry of Health. That afternoon a final meeting was held at the practice, distances between and masks provided, for each and every one of us, all uncertain of the future and more besides. That very day too, I witnessed something I’d never have considering seeing since my days in East Berlin and Moscow in the heady days of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The beginning of the queue outside food stores had begun. A fit elderly lady on a bike, horrified at the very sight of it, perhaps with memories of her past experiences in leaner times, stopped and hurled abuse at those in the queue. Her ardour was embarrassingly silenced when she fell off her bike, at which point I, observing from a distance, decided enough was enough and cycled home, supplies in hand.

A mere six months before I had returned to New Zealand from a long learning break and started a new adventure in dental health. I have worked in virtually every conceivable dental health scenario except orthodontics. This was about to change with my introduction to orthotropics and orthodontics with Quin Dental in Nelson. My ignorance was blinding, I had hoped to spend a few days observing the practice but the immense jetlag and seasonal adjustment had the better of me as I slowly embarked on the journey of getting to know the intricacies of a new professional landscape, a new uniform, matching clinical footwear and a peculiar personal learning environment to navigate.

The previous weeks had deeply affected me and had shed light upon my less than ideal sustainable approach, and carbon footprint from the previous 9 weeks travel. We decided to stay with one vehicle as we lived near to our places, purchased Ebikes to make future journeys less reliant on the remaining car and began to dig the garden for our vegetable futures. Loaf making, with sourdough yeast from a friend, and continually nurtured by us, became a weekly event. The experiences and experimentation with CBD in the States drew my partner to its legal prescription and use to help her chronic pain.  I had also decided that at some point I would reduce my working week to 4 days, so as to be able to focus on completing this project.

My annoyance and regular triggering by the inconsistent and arrogant responses and attitudes of my governing council to the needs of the profession grew stronger as the COVID days went by. This was enhanced by their unwillingness to recognise the fear and uncertainty that registered professionals felt at that telling moment, the significant reduction in income and the demand to pay registration or be deregistered. This was further inflamed by what I suspected would happen with the professional association being inept and unsupportive to their members. Me not being one (thankfully) but I was witness to the enraged voices and rants of those who were via social media. A pathetically drafted and grammatically piss poor effort of a letter to the regulatory establishment was the last straw and I decided that was it, and my time was officially now “up’ so to speak.

To be honest I can imagine this being the case for many people in a similar state of mind to me. My headspace was somewhat fragile, a consequence of post-traumatic stress disorder, from past events. I had spent many years trying to suppress and manage it without professional help, regular journeys with numbing effects to dull the emotional pain which is thankfully being properly addressed now as I write. My decision making had been somewhat reactive and primed I immediately went about considering my options beyond dentistry. I found a degree nursing course locally and applied, surprisingly being rapidly accepted. This was a relief and allowed me the time to contemplate where the future would go and where it would take me, or I take it. It was put to the back of my head and when the alert levels allowed I returned to clinical practice, unsure of what the PPE requirements were despite advice that seemed logical, for once. Everyone had a different interpretation of it, some wore masks everywhere in the clinic, others only in the surgeries and so on.

I was also uncertain how many clients would attend, still numbed and fearful of the risk of COVID but for 102 days New Zealand registered no community spread despite returning citizens and residents, and Trumps apoplectic rantings about this diminutive country’s record on controlling COVID. I continue to treat clients in a as near as normal environment as before. This has been reassuring but the threat of the looming recession and further community spread is upmost in my rear view mirror. I continue as before clinically and will continue to do so, with an addition of another clinical day elsewhere in Nelson to make the total to 4 days a week.

I have also made a decision to withdraw my interest in general nursing, a decision based upon not wanting to accumulate addition debt from study as well as incur a lack of income through not working. Being 55 years of age, a decade or so way from retirement refocused my priorities and changed my decision. Feeling better mentally and emotionally contributed to this move too.

Possibly the biggest decisions I’ve made within this year has come from two sources. Experiences with bee keeping and study of the benefits of honey and being asked to observe a mentor an online learning portal of friends have reframed my thought processes. The learning hub has made me realise I’m not alone with tough decisions, as over half the course have decided to change their present employment in dentistry and go in different directions, being affected as was I, by the COVID crisis. It also taught me to be more lateral in my future career thinking within dentistry, something that is still ongoing but has got the grey matter stoked. Watch this space with novel and enterprising ideas and action in the months and years to come.  The other has me immediately engaged, and I begin my Certificate in Apiculture tomorrow. It directly links to my other passion, which I’m less engaged with in this country, that of mycology and free food gathering. Apiculture and foraging are great inquiring hobbies which may also lead to income generation, potential teaching and well-being in the future , so I’m very excited.

Finally, professionally where do I go from here? As I have discussed previously I had intended to do a myofacial therapy course abroad. This is impossible now but a virtual learning programme is being constructed soon and at my annual review I will ask to be put on it. Virtual learning is no stranger to me and the thought of using my skills and experience as a dental hygienist align with this perfectly. It also makes me think that perhaps the future of the dental hygienist, long considered redundant with the advent of the multi-disciplined hygiene therapist, isn’t quite an endangered a species as once I thought. The additional knowledge can be used with orthotropics, sleep disorders, mouth breathing issues and perhaps too, myofacial pain. The thought of getting wise counsel and guidance within the workplace from experts is a golden opportunity to be grasped. This may also bear future fruit with consultancy and mentoring too.

The future still appears to be uncertain, once essential international airline pilots, once criss crossing the skies above us are now filling food store shelves. The trick appears to be to make yourself professional self relevant and essential, consider where the opportunities may lie, deal with one’s demons, as in my case, and not consider yourself past it beyond the age of 55. Continue to plan for and be aware and mindful of the opportunities that still may prevail. I wish you all good luck and the best for your clinical and professional futures as I sign off from this year of discovery, thank you all so much for sharing my journey. Stay well and smile.

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