“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26, 2009

It is a very quiet Sunday morning – not a whole lot stirring. It’s the way I think Sundays should be. I think that we do not get enough down time. We’ve created a social lifestyle that does not allow for much rest or reflection. I don’t think that it’s good for us at all. Sometimes we need to stop long enough to just listen to our own breathing. Just long enough to pull us back to the reality that we are a living being, and that we don’t always need to let ourselves be chased by time, that we can live in the wholeness of a moment – moment after moment.

In a bit I will be getting shares together to distribute to the CSA members, and then leave for Connecticut to see my daughter who is doing a summer internship at a theatre along the Connecticut River.

My horse, Louie, and our boarder horse, Zippy, got themselves into a nest of chiggers while grazing and have had an awful time of it this week. Both broke out with itching, allergic sores on their cheeks, chins and noses. Zippy also broke out on his legs. We’ve been keeping the sores clean, and applying anti – itch sprays to these guys two to three times a day, and hosing them down with cool water in the evening. It all seems to be working as the sores are starting to heal, and the itching subsiding. I feel so bad for these guys…if you ever have had chiggers you can feel the pain just thinking of it!

Snoops had a good week – she’s my “garden disposal”. Snoops gets all the food that is still good, but might have blemishes that I don’t feel comfortable giving to my members. This week she has enjoyed radishes, a huge squash, some chard, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, bolted arugula, bolted lettuce, and even a jalapeƱo pepper! With a goat, nothing much goes to waste around here!

Speaking of jalapeno peppers…I had picked some and thinking that they were not too hot, I snapped one in half and gave it to Snoopy, who thought it was the best tasting thing since the tin can. So I shoved the other half in my mouth and…ran to the hose and shoved that down my throat! That damn jalapeno was so hot - I was not expecting it to be hot at all after watching Snoopy gobble it down and beg for more! I should know better than to trust a goat to tell me what’s ok to eat!

My corn has been having a time of it too. I did not plant very much –maybe thirty seeds. It’s about waist high now, and doing ok. But I don’t think its going to make it to the dinner table, because I am not the only one who likes corn around here! First, Patrick, my wife’s horse, was grazing nearby, reached over and pruned down about five plants! A week later, Louie, who usually is a good horse, slowly creeped over to the corn plot, and “Chomp”! Louie doesn’t prune like Patrick – Louie pulls the whole plant out by the roots and runs, chomping away! I think he was proud of himself that he was clever enough to get away with it. Then Snoopy, who I had on her leash, pulled me over and got a stalk too! I don’t really get too mad – I kinda like it that the animals like what I grow.

Interestingly enough, the horses have all been getting beans lately. The ones that have gotten too big on the bush have become great “treats”!

I did get stung this week, but it was my own stupid fault. I have a very bad habit of just opening up a hive to peek in – without smoke, veil, or gloves. Sorta dumb! I lifted the top of my friendly hive and started pulling frames, and they came out like popcorn from an uncovered pan! When it was over, I was as bad as Louie with chiggers! I deserved it – I should know better than that, but I don’t seem to learn!

That’s about all for now. I am going to get shares together and hit the road…

Monday, July 20, 2009

July 19, 2009

In last weeks edition (7/17/09) of the Ocean City Sandpaper newspaper, Bill wrote an article about beans and quoted me several times, and included a picture he took of one of our yellow wax bean plants, which I have posted here. I’d like to thank Bill for taking the time to talk “beans” with me, and for mentioning the farm in his article. Bill writes a column which he calls the “Edible Shore” and features local food and the local farms and farmers who produce it. Some of his other articles featured greens, strawberries and blueberries. He is the only local writer that I know of who is doing this. Thanks Bill!

I recently found that “No More Trenches”, a poem that I had written and published in the August 2003 edition of “Friends Journal” was included in the book “Answering Terror – Responses to War and Peace after 9/11/01”. The book is an anthology of articles, poems, letters, etc that were published in “Friends Journal” from three years after the 9/11 attack. I am very humbled to be one among so many Quaker authors…

Sunday, July 12, 2009

July 12, 2009

The state apiarist came by last week to inspect my hives and with him was Bill, who is the area’s best known beekeeper and is referred to as the “sage of bees”. Bill has gotten countless people into bees, including myself. He began the local bee association, runs educational programs, helps everyyone with their hives…I' m not sure how he does it all, but he does, and the beekeepers in this area are grateful to him for his help.

Tim, the apiarist, tore into my hives- he took the hive tool and separated the supers, pulled frame after frame checking for mites, afb, and a host of pests that mess with bees. He checked the brood, the workers, looked for drone and queen cells, burr comb, capped honey and assessed the general vigor of the hives. All my hives were in good shape and very strong, which, as a novice, made me proud, and his positive remarks helped me to forget all the bee stings I had gotten during the past year!

I have one hive that goes after me all the time and the plan was to re queen the hive. Tim and Bill ripped into it without the benefit of veils or gloves and found the queen without getting stung once. Meanwhile I had my veil on and was being attacked. Tim hesitated. He changed his mind. He asked if it would be ok not to re-queen, because the hive was very strong and healthy, and one of the better colonies he had seen lately. He pointed out that he wasn’t being stung, nor was Bill. The sight of bees coming through my veil at the time did not seem to be an issue. For some reason, I conceded, and we left the queen, put the hive together, and walked away…bees all over ME and none on them. “Why don’t they like me?” They had no answer, but seemed amused at the show of bees circling me as if I was the center of a bee solar system.

So I let the queen live. Last night I stopped by the hive to give them their daily feed of sugar water. I had already fed my two other hives without any incident as usual. But this hive! Well, I put the jar in the feeder, and Wham! I got stung, then another and another and another. I fast stepped to the barn with bees all over me, stinging me anywhere they could. I got to the barn, turned the water hose on myself and showered them off me. Eleven stings on my fingers, body, and face. Soaking wet… swelling up…in pain….thinking to myself “why didn’t I re queen????”

I could not have even done it then. I can't kill a bee, no matter what. Even in the pain of eleven stings, there is a voice deep in my consciousness repeating “Long live the queen!” It had reminded me that that is why I am a beekeeper in the first place...

Monday, July 6, 2009

July 6, 2009

This morning I took the field mower off the tractor and reattached the roto-tiller, and drove out to the strawberry patch to till between the rows. Spring a year ago I had planted 500 June bearing strawberry plants in five neat rows of a hundred, spaced apart by the width of my tractor. I did this so that I could easily add compost and till between the rows, so that when it was time to replant I’d plant the new rows where I had been tilling, and till where the old rows were, thus keeping the bed sustainable. It’s working pretty well so far.

It gave me an odd kind of feeling today to be back in the strawberry patch, weeks after the first harvest was over. It seemed an abandoned and lonely place all the sudden.

Scattered around between rows were the white buckets that those who came to help with the picking turned upside down and sat on as they moved down the rows. Today they looked more like discarded plastic than serviceable stools…

The plants looked different too. No white flowers. No bent branches of strawberries. No honey bees and no bumble bees zigging and zagging around. Even the small rabbit that lived under the plants was no where to be found today.

I could not help to remember how only a few weeks ago this small patch was a center of all kinds of activity.

My wife and I spent a lot of “down” time picking each night, talking like we don’t get an often enough chance.

Some evenings a neighbor would show up…one was unemployed at the time and it made me feel a bit more useful as a human being that I could offer something to help.

We also picked strawberries to be given to a homeless family through a program called Family Promise. And we shared some more with my wife’s family, and my son took buckets to school to share with his class.

Karen and Bill, members of my CSA and fellow Quakers, came over once a week to help weed rows and pick the CSA shares. They’d bring Hunter, their dog, who would try to spar with my goat, Snoopy. Jessica and Mark would also stop by, and bring their young son Griffin to pick, and one afternoon, they stayed around to watch as I climbed up a ladder to catch a swarm of honey bees in the fir tree in my front yard.

Snoopy was always happy to be near the patch, as everyone who picked would toss strawberries to her the whole time- I think she got the most strawberries of anyone. Even the horses would lean over the pasture fence and “snicker” for a strawberry handout!

It just seems now in reflection that this was not just a patch of strawberry plants, but became a place of community for a time, where we got to know each other a bit better, shared conversations and ideas, enjoyed the animals, and watched the bees. People and beings came together who would not have reason to intersect otherwise…

Maybe this is the way it used to be, long ago before farms became industrial and giant businesses. Long ago, farms also grew community. And as I look back on those few weeks, I can see that this little strawberry patch did just that.