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May 26th, 2014

Ambrosia

Nothing on the farm seems to work as hard–or with as much purposeful industry–as our honeybees. Sometimes I’ll just sit back on my elbows near the hives and watch the daily, wandering bustle of their lives: their black-banded bodies freighted with nectar from thousands of obliging flowers, their legs dusted in motes of pollen; so determined and ambitious, so organized. It’s hard not to feel like an idle slacker around them.


Being there:  All magical bustle and industry


We’ve been keeping bees (or they’ve been busily keeping us) for almost five years now and they’ve become so essential to the macro organism of the farm that it’s hard to imagine growing without them. Beyond their remarkable, ambrosial honey, they are the planet’s primary pollinators, responsible for thirty percent of the food we humans eat.

What they draw from the floral landscape, the raw honey we harvest, is one of nature’s miracles. Honey is the only food that never spoils (they’ve found edible honey in the tombs of the pharaohs), and, in its raw form, is an excellent anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal (it can even be used topically to treat infection). It’s rich in anti-oxidants,  a boost to your immune system, and local, raw honey (not the pasteurized yellow stuff at the supermarket) even helps with allergies: A tablespoon a day of raw honey from within a 100 miles radius of your home acts as an allergy immune booster, since the bees are processing the same pollen that’s making you seasonably miserable.


Deep, Rich, Raw: honey ready for CSA members


The world would be bleak without bees, of course, so deciding to keep them–despite their unpredictable wildness–is an act of stewardship and conservation(oh yeah, there’s the reward of all that honey too). But I learned the hard way that becoming and apiarist isn’t just about setting up a few hives and letting the bees work their magic untended; like anything on the farm, there’s a fair amount thoughtful management and care involved.


Sweet, pleated quince blossoms in the orchard are delicious spring forage for bees


We’ve had our colonies collapse, or swarm out of their sticky, comfortable digs for no apparent reason, or perish in the brutality of a polar vortex, but we’ve persisted each year. Besides pollination and honey, keeping bees makes you something of an activist. Since bee populations have declined precipitously and mysteriously in the last decade (most likely due to the overuse of systemic pesticides), caring for a few of your own hives not only keeps you in delicious raw honey, but makes a small but meaningful contribution to the survival of this remarkable species.  –Mb

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April 1st, 2012

Buzzed

How sweet they’ve been, the first days of Spring. Though March played with our sense of seasonal order, growling out like a temperamental lion, we harvested twenty pounds of honey this week; a sap of sweet, slow, amber translucence.

Our old school honey harvest meant using the slow drip method; letting gravity do its thing as open combs were warmed in front of the fire.


Our bees buzzed off sometime late in the season, so we feared the worst: That the honey stores had been plundered. But it seems our three Russian colonies swarmed like Cossacks, leaving empty hives and all of their hard-won honey.  So we’ve ordered Italian bees and queens this year. After all, a hive of matriarchal Italians is surely going to center around the making of food. Buon appetito for us!
It turns out beekeeping is as fraught with loss as anything else on the farm, the only constants seem to be the hives themselves. You don’t imagine a lot of neurotic bee keepers out there – one just can’t be type-A anxious and high-strung when working with all the unknowable quirks of the natural world. Hopeful resignation tends to reign. Bees have ideas of their own.

Newly-jarred honey, almost a gallon of it, glows on the window sill.


Because bees will travel far to find pollen, often beyond an organic oasis and up to seven miles from the hive, pesticides used on neighboring farms are a concern. For more than a decade, as bee populations around the globe have declined dramatically, pesticides have been thought to play a part in what’s become know as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  Just last week, the New York Times reported on the increasing scientific consensus that neonicotinoids, or systemic pesticides that move through plant tissue and into their nectar and pollen, make bees more vulnerable to disease. These pesticides, rubber stamped by the influence-pedaled E.P.A, weaken the immune system of bees, mess with their sense of navigation, and stunt juvenile development.

A planet without bees is not just a planet without the miracle of honey: bees pollinate 30% of our fruit and vegetable crops. The imbalance will lead to increased consumption of petro-chemical grains and feed lot protein – already a scourge in our fast food nation.

If the vanishing bees are a warning, their decline may be prophetic. Monocultures made possible by corporate profiteers such as Monsanto, ADM, and Cargill will be all that’s left; acres of GMO produce dripping with lethal chemicals  It’s no wonder we’ve been kicked out of the garden by higher powers.

Einstein wisely said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” and small organic farms are on a mission to change consciousness, one bee at a time.  –Mb


Oeuffington Post

Free range eggs from our flock of hardworking hens are available for pick up!  They’re in the create by the front door.  $3/Doz.

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