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TCL > May 2004 Issue > Bar News Highlight

May 2004       Vol. 33, No. 5       Page  6
Bar News

Bar News Highlight
by Amy Sreenen

The "Highlight" page of Bar News presents brief stories dealing with lawyer activities outside the practice of law. This page also spotlights recent activities and special events around the Bar. If you have an unique talent or avocation outside the daily practice of law or would like to recommend a colleague to be "highlighted"—or if your local or specialty bar or legal organization has marked a notable milestone—please contact Amy Sreenen at

Bees, Baseball, and the Barrister

Ralph Ogden, a partner in the Denver law firm of Wilcox & Ogden, PC, has been practicing law for twenty-six years. But the law is not enough for Ralph. He spends his free time cultivating bees, coaching high school baseball, and playing baseball in an adult league.

Ralph became seriously interested in beekeeping six years ago when he took a beekeeping class at the Botanical Gardens and bought one hive to put on his garage roof. The hive died over the summer when he was working overseas, but the next year, Ralph recruited his daughter, Theavy Sok, to help out. Theavy is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver studying management information technology and accountancy. Together, they’ve become a team of beekeepers.

They bought two more hives in 1999, and have steadily expanded to more than fifty. Next year, they plan to ship the hives to California to help with almond pollination.

The beekeeping season generally starts in March and runs through September, depending on the weather. As soon as the temperature gets above 60 degrees, they check for parasitic mites and bacterial infections, adequate food supplies (honey) to last until early June, the presence of a healthy and actively laying queen, hive population, and mouse damage. Hives that are short on honey must be fed corn syrup. During the peak summer months, Ralph and Theavy spend between ten and fifteen hours a week tending their hives.

Ralph Ogden, in full beekeeping attire,
displays a frame with spring brood and honey.

The original two hives are still on the garage. Most of the remainder are kept at Berry Patch Farms, an organic, pick-your-own vegetable farm in Brighton. [Readers who might be interested in touring Berry Patch Farms should visit http://www.berry for information.]

The honey extraction process is long, hot, and physically demanding. In a good season, honey is extracted on about July 1, August 1, and Labor Day. It is then bottled and sold at the farm, as well as at some retail locations.

Production varies from year to year. In 2002, it totaled more than 5,000 pounds, while last year, it was only half that amount.

Beekeeping is fun, but bees are wild animals and it’s dangerous to forget that. Last June, during a routine check of the hives, some bees found their way under Theavy’s protective clothing and stung her face and head more than seventy-five times. An epinephrine syringe and a good ER team limited her injuries to a lot of discomfort for about five days. She was back working the hives the next week.

Ralph and Theavy also "rent out" some of their hives to farmers in north Denver, who need them to pollinate squash, eggplant, green peppers, and cucumbers. Welby Gardens, producers of Hardy Boy flowers, uses their bees to pollinate flowers for commercial seed production.

About three years ago, Ralph answered an ad for an assistant baseball coach at Denver South High School. He got the job on a volunteer basis—by default, he says, because minor sports in Denver are chronically underfunded and never have enough coaches. He is now one of the two coaches for the freshman and junior varsity baseball teams. Coaching takes up an enormous amount of time—from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday and most Saturday mornings—but he has never regretted his decision to take up the challenge.

At a recent practice, Coach Ogden reviews bunt
coverages with the South High School players.

Ralph says that coaching has become "one of the most satisfying things I do because we have such all-around great kids. They’re eager to learn, they love baseball, and they give 110 percent. I wouldn’t trade it for the world." South has a top-notch head coach and three other first-rate assistants, and working with them makes the job perfect.

To round out his baseball experience, Ralph plays second base and pitches in an adult baseball league! He is convinced that, in spite of the hard work and long hours associated with beekeeping and baseball, they help keep life in perspective and lower the stress that comes from practicing law. He encourages more professionals to get involved in non-law-related activities that help balance the demands of their careers with the other aspects of their lives.

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