Editor’s Note: This column from summer 2012 is reposted here for your pleasure. To hear Sharon Litwin interview Claudia Garofalo on WWNO public radio, click here. The radio piece is being rebroadcast this week as well.
Most people have a dog or two, a couple of cats, even a parakeet. But chickens? Claudia Garofalo, longtime Carrollton resident, has two, one named Sophie and the other named Lucy.
“One is a Rhode Island Red and the other is a New Hampshire Red,” Claudia says, adding that they give her one egg a day and nothing tastes fresher or better than those newly-laid eggs.
Claudia swears her chickens are not only lovable, but are also easy to care for and will eat anything you throw at them, except citrus scraps, “unless they are soaked in vodka.” Apparently these hens are acculturated in the ways of New Orleans; I’ll bet there’s no vodka soaked citrus in the chicken feed up North.
But that’s not all that’s in this Carrolltonites garden. The other loves of Claudia’s life are her bees. Watching them forage for pollen and observing the hierarchical order of their society in her beehive is something Claudia never tires of. The bees came before the chickens, Claudia explains, because at the time she needed them in order to initiate some self-administered apitherapy — the science of using bee products for medicinal purposes.
Living with the results of a case of spinal chord cancer when she was 14 means that Claudia has permanent partial paralysis of her left leg and intermittent ongoing chronic pain. When she lived in California, she was introduced to apitherapy – the stinging of oneself in order to receive bee venom — and, in a controlled environment, learned how to do it to herself.
“Apitherapy dates back to the days of Hippocrates,” she says, explaining that bee venom therapy is described in many of this ancient medical scholar’s writings. “It is known as an anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and antibiotic substance. Some studies have shown it also breaks down scar tissue.”
Claudia doesn’t sting herself often any more; it’s not much fun, she admits wryly. But she declares it really does help control pain.
Apitherapy is not something to initiate carelessly, Claudia emphasizes. And those allergic to bee stings should never attempt it. Knowing where to apply bee stings is a skill that must be learned; her knowledge came from a well-trained and experienced acupuncturist.
These days she is happy just collecting honey from her bees. Every now and then she thinks about adding to her menagerie. She’d like to have a goat. But seeing as her backyard lot is a rather typically sized Carrollton one, she might have to give up on that idea.
Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie.