Desiree New Potatoes, Fennel & Gold Beets — Full Belly Farm • Curly Kale — Riverdog Farm • Plus everything in the PeckPeck
Asparagus & Sugar Snap Peas — Durst Organic Growers • Broccoli & Joi Choy — Full Belly Farm • Chard & Red Perella Lettuce — Good Humus Produce • Albion Strawberries* — T & Y Strawberry Patch •Bite
Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Broccoli & Joi Choy — Full Belly Farm • Red Perella Lettuce — Good Humus Produce • Albion Strawberries* — T & [...]
I drove home last Wednesday with 15,000 bees in the back of my Prius. For those of you who have been in a Prius before, you will know there is no separation between the trunk and the rest of the car. Lucky for me, only about 20 of them were outside the confines of their boxes. I turned up the radio and sang to them all the way home. This was as much an attempt to drown out the unnerving buzz coming from the rear of the car as it was to calm them (not that my singing voice has ever calmed anyone, ever). Bees actually take up surprisingly little space, and I probably could have doubled the amount and still been able to fit them all. This will be my second year keeping bees here at Full Belly. I started last year with two hives, and added four more this spring. Bees come in packages of 3,000 bees and one queen. Over the course of a good season, each package should get up to about 10,000 bees. If you can over-winter them and have a good queen, you might even see hive numbers get as high as 40,000.
Before getting my first bees, I read up on how to care for them through the seasons, how to install them, what problems to look for, etc. I watched YouTube videos and talked to everyone I knew about how to care for my bees. No amount of reading will prepare you for actually working with bees. Those YouTube videos are especially misleading. Typically there is a guy in a short-sleeve shirt calmly examining frames and pointing out things that are going on, while bees are landing on his face and arms. This has not been my experience. I have gained enough confidence to ditch my gloves, but my bee veil and a long sleeve shirt? Forget it! I still get a little a nervous when I open up the hives and inches away are thousands of buzzing creatures, with their little eyes all looking up at you. Although all the reading up was certainly not a completely useless endeavor, beekeeping is really best learned by doing. The first time I transferred bees to a hive from a package, it was complete and utter pandemonium. I did it at the wrong time of day, with my 8-month old baby looking on from my husband’s arms about 20 feet away. The YouTube videos had made it seem so easy! So orderly! The baby didn’t get stung, but we were all chased by irate bees. Needless to say I will not be winning any mother of year awards over here. I think in the transfer I may have lost one of the two queens, and the hive replaced her, resulting in one of my hives becoming extremely aggressive. This year I did four hives, and it was so much smoother and less chaotic. Nobody was chased, all my equipment was ready to go, and I was much calmer handling the bees.
My husband would tell you that I am obsessed with my bees. The night after a hive check I often wake him to ask him questions about what I saw (which he almost certainly does not know the answer to, but in the middle of the night, asking him still seems like a good idea). I have dreams about them and worry about them. Is there still enough water underneath the hive to stave off the army of black ants that are eager to get in the hive and eat all the brood? Is my queen still laying enough eggs? Should I replace her in the spring? Did I squish her during my last hive check? Did I check each and every bottom frame for swarm cells? Were there too many drone cells? Should I move the frames around? There is so much to know and so much to look for, and ideally a hive check should last only about 10 minutes. Despite all my fumbling around, I did get to harvest some honey last year, for which I felt pretty proud (not that I did any of the work to produce that honey).
Bees are amazing and industrious creatures. The more I learn about them, the more amazed I am at how complex they are. For example, if a colony senses that its queen is starting to fail, they will pick several different eggs and feed them a special substance to create new queens. These new queens will emerge at the same time and fight to the death until one of them prevails and becomes the new queen of colony. A queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a single day (roughly equal to her bodyweight). A honeybee can make only about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. Sure makes me think about all of the work that went into that big dollop of honey I put in my tea this morning! Most every bee in a hive is female. There are male bees, and their one purpose is to mate. Once they do that, they die (usually in about a week). The worker bees are busy indeed. After they emerge from their cell, their first job is tending to the queen. After that, they differentiate to accomplish a number of different tasks. They build out the comb in which the honey and pollen is stored, and the eggs are laid. They collect pollen and nectar, and evaporate that nectar until it is in the stable form of honey. They defend the colony from invaders like wax moths, ants, and other intruders. They also make the decision about when to leave the colony for new digs. I just recently heard (not sure if this is true) that new research suggests that when a hive is getting ready to leave its current home, they send out a number of scouts to find a new suitable location for the colony. When the scouts return, they dance. Whichever has the most convincing, most elaborate dance is the one that will lead the bees to their new home. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to interesting facts about bees.
There is always something new to wonder about and puzzle over when I look in my hives. I never would have guessed that I would have become so interested in an insect, but here we are. I am hoping to increase the number of my hives to 20 over the next several years. If all goes well, keep an eye out for honey at our farmer’s markets!
– Jenna Muller
It ‘may’ be time to make your CSA payment!
4 boxes $72 (for Tuesday & Wednesday) – with flowers $102
5 boxes $90 (for Thursday, Friday & Saturday) – with flowers $127.50
4 boxes with home delivery $100 - with flowers $130
5 boxes Montessori $115 (with contribution) – with flowers $152.50
4 boxes Beach – Lake Ave. $92 (with contribution) – with flowers $122
Annual payment amount is $768 (48 weeks @ $16 each). For home delivery on Tuesday & Wednesday the annual payment is $1104 (48 weeks @ $23 each).
No skipping weeks, for annual payers, but donations to the ‘Good Food Community Fund’ are always welcome.
Artichokes & Tokyo Turnips — Full Belly Farm • Red Mustard Greens & Thyme — Riverdog Farm • Plus everything in the PeckPeck
Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Collards, French Breakfast Radishes & White Spring Onions — Full Belly Farm • Red Beets & Snow Peas — Riverdog Farm • Albion Strawberries* — T & Y Strawberry Patch •Bite
Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Tokyo Turnips & White Spring Onions — Full Belly Farm • Snow Peas— Riverdog Farm • Albion Strawberries* — T & Y Strawberry Patch [...]
Springtime at the Farm
Full Belly Farm is bustling with spring activities. We’ve had plenty of warm weather and within a few days after the last rain, the ground was drying out and the fields were busy. This is the time of year when the cottonwood trees along the creek start cottoning – so billows of the white fluff, full of cottonwood seeds, blow in the air and settle in every corner.
The piglets that were born almost two months ago are now old enough and big enough to cause trouble. They have been living close together in their safe, warm pen across from my house, but yesterday they were given access to the big wide world of green pasture below. This means that they had to learn to respect the electric fence. There have been a lot of squeals coming from various fence-to-nose contacts, and at first, every time there was a squeal, there was a stampede of 11 piglets back to the darkest, farthest corner of their straw-filled pen. Afterwards, the piglets invariably lined up at the door of their pen and gazed anxiously towards the mysterious pasture until one of them would again venture slowly out into the danger zone. Today, after countless run-ins with the fence, they are finally all out eating the green grass and tearing up the soil with their strong snouts. They look very happy. They LOVE their greens, and what better way can you think of to make use of the healthy green grass that grows here in the winter after the rains?
The grasses are annuals – and they are all about to go to seed, in fact many have already gone to seed and I am pulling the nasty foxtails out of my dog’s coat. The seeds are a problem because they don’t simply add to the seed bank in the soil, but lodge in the paws and ears of many animals, especially dogs, causing pain and suffering. On an organic farm like Full Belly, the sound of the weed-eater is common at this time of year, as we remove the weedy grasses from around the irrigation risers, buildings and hedgerows of the farm. Noisy, gas-guzzling and tendonitis-causing, I have never liked the weed-eater and love instead, to see the chickens, goats and pigs out cleaning up around our trees and buildings.
Often, at farmers markets, or in response to an article in this Beet newsletter, when we mention animals on the farm, we hear from some people who think that it is wrong to keep domesticated animals. On the other end of the spectrum, the industrialized agricultural model requires that animals should be strictly separated from vegetable crops and crowded into production units. Here at Full Belly, our production animals are the sheep and the chickens (the pigs are mostly for home consumption). But really, the sheep and chickens aren’t here just to produce eggs, wool and meat for you and me. They are also here to return plant materials back to the soil in a form that will be made available for future crop growth. Less tractor driving, a better fertility cycle… It’s a cycle that makes sense to us, even if the macro economic trends cannot bend themselves to its wisdom.
Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Lambsquarters — Full Belly Farm • Sage & Scarlet Queen Turnips — Riverdog Farm • Plus everything in the PeckPeck
Baby Bok Choy, Carrots, Green Butter Lettuce & Green Garlic — Full Belly Farm • Dino Kale & Snap Peas — Riverdog Farm • Albion Strawberries* — T & Y Strawberry Patch •Bite
Asparagus — Durst Organic Growers • Carrots & Green Butter Lettuce — Full Belly Farm • Snap Peas— Riverdog Farm • Albion Strawberries* — T & Y Strawberry Patch •
Bushel contains [...]
The Third Graders Are Coming!
Spring has always been my favorite time here on the farm. Most people enjoy the beautiful flowers popping up, the green rolling hills, and the birth of the myriad baby animals. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of the aforementioned changes that happen during this time of year, but it’s the arrival of the third graders here at our farm that brings me the most joy. Springtime for me means school group season, and it is my job to teach groups of rambunctious Waldorf third graders about farming.
I began working at Full Belly eight summers ago, when I was asked to be a camp counselor for the farm’s summer camp program. During the first summer I was simply a camp counselor. I loved being a camp counselor so much that the next summer I found myself back at the farm. Over the years I began to pick up more leadership roles during summer camp. I began teaching lessons, which meant others depended on my knowledge of the farm. Eventually, I could not be torn away from the farm. I would arrive weeks before camp started and would remain weeks after camp had ended working in the fields or the shop, helping with anything that needed doing. Half way through college, I decided that I wanted to return to Full Belly Farm after graduation.
I graduated from the University of Wyoming in the spring of 2012, and shortly thereafter I moved to the farm to become a full time employee. For the first six months I spent much of my time doing everything and anything that needed to get done. Spring of 2013 was when the real fun began. This is when I started working closely with Hallie for school group season. We worked hard together, teaching children and providing an excellent on the farm experience. This year, now that Hallie is spending more time in the office, I am in charge of leading all of the school groups and I couldn’t be happier about this new role.
I get immense joy from working with the third graders that arrive almost every weekday from the beginning of April to the end of May. I have found that third graders are at a very special age. They are eager to learn, not afraid of a little hard work, and are still filled with the innocent curiosity of a younger child. During their stay, they do everything from milking the cow to harvesting hundreds of vegetables to packing the CSA boxes that are sent to your very own home. They sleep in the walnut orchard under a beautiful canopy of green spring leaves and brightly shining stars. They play in the refreshing cool water of the creek when the weather heats up and they enjoy fresh produce picked with their own two hands.
The education program at Full Belly Farm is almost older than I am and already have we seen people return to the farm. Last summer we had two different women get married on the farm both of whom had visited the farm as third graders. It’s our hope that we can continue to have people come back to the farm, whether its to get married, be an intern, or become a dedicated CSA member. Over the years we’ve established roots in other communities to foster the growth of agricultural knowledge around us.
Agriculture illiteracy is a huge problem here in the United States and it’s important that farms play their role in being a part of the solution. Our answer, or at least one of them, is teaching children about farming when they are young. Having them experience the joys and trials of farming brings them closer to the land now and hopefully forever. It’s our hope that the third graders return home after spending a night or two here on the farm and take with them the many lessons they have learned. In doing so, they themselves become teachers of these lessons to those in their community, encouraging others to forge a connection with land, farming and real food.
This spring, take time to enjoy the blooming flowers, the babies being born, and the knowledge that kids are getting their hands dirty in our rich soil.