me and the bees


This has been such an unexpected year for me.  Not that I have been planning this journey out very much the whole way, but it has been surprising to me in many ways.  I feel different now.  Older, maybe.  I feel different about farming and about myself.  About my role in farming and the place of young organic farmers. 

I have moved again.  And I have moved the bees with me.  Every time I move I leave so much behind and much, almost all, of what I take with me is ephemeral.  I suppose what I do as a farmer is ephemeral, and with the end of the season I can’t help but feel lonely, empty, and lost without the life and abundance surrounding me.  Without that tired urging in my brain to get up and check on the chicks before dawn, or to make sure the sheep still have enough grass, or to see if the last rain washed away those dahlias I planted unknowingly right in the way of the runoff from the entire hill-a mistake that happens when you plant in a field you are unfamiliar with.

Time to reflect and time to look back.  Time to relax.  Time to evaluate, and look at those parts of yourself you have been putting off.

The bees have moved with me.  Two hives, they have done quite well.  I decided to leave all the honey of the hive this winter, let the bees keep what they have worked so hard for all summer.  Perhaps I didn’t want them to feel the way I feel this time of year.  With the move, from a lovely spot on the edge of the woods, onto a dolly, into the back of my truck, 20 miles east, and here at this farm in Fredonia, back on the dolly and resting on another tree line.  This time at the edge of a field.  I could hear them buzzing away after I sealed them up and loaded them on the truck.  I know they were not pleased, but it was reassuring to hear them.  Despite the season they were still there, in their boxes, on that grey day in the fading light.  Protecting themselves and their queen, and their honey. 

The next morning was clear and crisp and after I got back from the am milking I checked on them and it seemed business as usual.  Some in, some out, but not too much activity is as to be expected this time of year.

About two weeks later I found a different scene.  Not totally shocking.  This time of year many bees are dying, they are only keeping as many bees as they feel they need to survive the winter.  They don’t need more mouths to feed then they have too.  But I couldn’t help but worry that I wasn’t gentle enough when I moved them, or even as gentle as I was, just the moved itself could’ve bumped, and killed, many of these small creatures. 

Slowly the bees moved the dead bees from the entrance.  A good sign it is in fact the bees cleaning house and not just a catastrophe caused by me.

See, the bees, they can handle some loss.  They lose a lot of bees each year.  Naturally.  It is part of the process of making the hive stronger and surviving.  They will clean up the dead bees, repair the beeswax, and huddle up together for the winter.  As long as the queen survives and they have enough enough to make it to the next nectar flow they will be alright. 

And so I guess I must take a lesson from the bees.  Repair from the move.  Keep my center, eat my honey, and wait until the next nectar flow.

against monsanto


in a vocal way: in milwaukee.  i’m so proud of my state, my nearest big city, for the over one thousand people who came, peacefully and passionately, so many families and children dressed as bees!  to protect the land, our food, our future, and to preserve our agricultural history.

and in a quiet way: in west bend.  my friends and i turn an old gmo cornfield into organic, diversified farmland.  we’re tilling it up, to break up some of the compaction of years and years of tractors tires.  but first we had to chop up all the cornstalks-stiff and strange, like styrofoam on the inside.  a sign of hope-we saw earth worms under the surface, and we sprayed some biodynamic preparations to begin the healing process. 

and this, in my opinion, the strongest act against monsanto.

i am my investment

i am my investment.  so sometimes, it’s hard not to take things personally.  i have chosen a life, which i have been living by my own means for the last five years now, working on farms, learning, sweating, loving, for few dollars, or in some cases, no dollars.  i am my investment, and so everything i do has just been…an education, an experience, a practice for when ‘i become a farmer’, ‘when i have my own farm’…or what?

i think i am a farmer.  but when do i get BE the farmer.  i’ve always been tired of the complaints of people who can’t find or afford land, mostly because i usually think, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’, and mostly in my life, that seems to be true.

but what about ownership?  when do i get to stop ‘learning lessons’ for later, and when do i start my failures and mistakes on my own.  i need ownership.  i need to call the shots.  i need something that is mine.  i have the tools now, i have been carefully, frugally, been putting tools into my toolbox for years now.  but i have no money.  what does my sweat equity get me?

i can feel my body getting older.  my hands ache at night and in the morning i struggle to straighten them.  i’ve started doing sit ups in the morning in hopes to help with the ache in my back-it hasn’t helped yet.  i have been flexible all my life and i’m finding it harder and harder to touch my toes.

and it scares me.  because i wonder where it has gotten me?  have i just given away my body to all these other farms?  other dreams?  what happens when, or if, i ever do get my own farm?  my own project? my own land?  will i even able to work it?  what if my body gives out before than and i have to find another line of work.  will this lifestyle be a distant memory and some nice photographs?

i need to get my farm established now so i don’t have to pull as many weeds when i’m older, but have established beds that hardly grow weeds.  or to have gotten far enough to be able to purchase implements to weed my rows, or hire employees to do the weeding.

i have shown mostly the good in farming here, and the good in this life i have chosen to lead.  and i don’t mean this to be discouraging, but this is my space, and this is what i’m feeling.

now do i ask you for land?  do i ask if you know a farm i can farm?  would you be willing to invest financially in me so i can purchase land?  can this blog be my credit score?  proof that i know what i’m doing-or at least try to figure things out, that i work hard, and that this world we live in needs more of this, needs…me?!

i did not expect to write about this, today or any other day.  i prefer pictures to words, usually.  but i just can’t shake some words from yesterday, the way my judgement is questioned, making my efforts seem belittled.

i think farming is good.  this life is good.  i don’t see why we can’t all work together.  i want to be a farmer.  i also need it, in some way, to be my own.