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.