Monday, April 16, 2012

Welcome, Ladies!

We welcomed several thousand new residents to the Farm on Sunday, nearly all of them female.
I installed two new nucleus colonies ("nucs") of honey bees in their new quarters. It was an exciting event, and probably stressful for the ladies. For one thing, the drive was probably longer than they would have liked (especially after they had already ridden a truck from Louisiana to Missouri over the weekend). A few restless workers escaped from their boxes, and were blown away along the road. But it looked like we still had strong populations when I moved them into the hive boxes at the farm (though I confess I didn't take an exact census).
For another thing, the whole operation was carried out under threat of thunderstorms, and in a strong wind. Not really ideal conditions for beekeeping, but I didn't get any choice in the timing. This spring's unseasonably warm weather meant that the queens were ready several weeks earlier than usual at the breeder in Louisiana, so the delivery of the nucs to the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association was also moved ahead.
The addition of these two colonies brings our total to three, which should still be manageable, even from a distance.
Spring turkey season starts today; I'm planning to be out at the Farm to try to harvest some wild poultry next weekend, and I'll see how the new ladies are settling in.

Monday, April 2, 2012

CRP burn

We're planning to burn a few acres of CRP on April 14. Obviously, the weather has to cooperate, but if it isn't too dry, too wet, or too windy, we'll have a nice big crew. Having enough people makes up for a certain lack of experience on our part. After all, we not only want to burn the thick vegetation on the parts that should be burned, but we also want to avoid setting things on fire that should not be! And it's a nice celebration: we'll plan to take the whole tired, sweaty bunch to dinner at the Santa Fe restaurant in Ethel when we're done.
Anybody have any tips or helpful suggestions about the best (or worst!) ways to proceed when burning CRP?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Awe, Curiosity, and Care

In the last couple of days I've come across several things that caught my attention (in spite of the fact that I don't actually have time to "waste" on such things!) and led me to ponder Big Questions. What are Big Questions? Here's one example: How should we think about the world around us? Yeah, that's a Big Question--too big for a quick & dirty answer. But here are a couple of notes in that direction anyway.
source: New York Times
The New York Times ran an online review of an unusual new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History. (By the way, that museum is one of the best reasons to get away from the farm for a while and visit New York City!) The exhibit looks at bioluminescence, and it looks incredibly cool! In my neck of the woods, about the only living things that give off light are fireflies, of which there were an abundance last summer. Turns out, there are beautiful, amazing creatures all over the place that are built to emit light.
My reaction to that: "Awesome!" Literally. Encountering such "Creatures of Light" (the title of the museum exhibit) triggers a spontaneous response of awe and wonder and amazement. We encounter things all around us in the world that make us drop our jaws in wide-eyed wonder.
And it doesn't stop there. The next step for a human being after sheer awe is curiosity. How does that work? How do jellyfish do that? What makes it tick? The natural move from awe to curiosity is the root of all science, all practical knowledge. And the one doesn't replace the other. We do not cease to be amazed by things, just because our curiosity leads us to understand them better, and even begin to use them.
source: New York Times
And the mind doesn't stop there. When awe leads to curiosity, and curiosity helps us begin to understand, the human being has another responsibility. We need to care for the amazing things we are just beginning to understand. Another NY Times piece reported recent studies that suggest that even small, non-lethal levels of certain pesticides can disorient bees, and contribute to colony collapse disorder. This is something we should care about, and not just if we're beekeepers. Honey bees are enormously important pollinators, and their disappearance would be catastrophic for food production generally. They are awesome, wonderful creatures (even though they don't--or shouldn't!--glow), and our curiosity has made it possible for us to work with them, and to understand what we are (unintentionally) doing to them. Now it's time to make our choices carefully.
Awe, curiosity, and care. That's how we think about the world.