In mid March I started my seeds with some grow lights in my basement. In late March I went out-of-town for a week and my husband was in charge of the seedlings. He has many talents, but taking care of seeds isn’t one of them. When I returned I took a deep breath, dumped out the trays, and started over. I knew it was still early in the season so I didn’t let it bother me too much.
A few weeks ago I went to check my hive that made it through the winter to see how they were getting on. They had completely filled the hive with brood and honey already. I was prepared with an extra hive body, so I set everything up to get to work to rotate the boxes. Things were going well and then for some crazy reason the bees in the bottom box whooshed out at me and in normal human response I stood up quickly, and when I turned to move away I tripped and fell hard onto some of my equipment.
My 6-inch-wide bruise is healing up well, but it’s a decent reminder that I am dealing with animals I can’t fully communicate with. I also need to keep in mind that when I am working with the bees I need to move slow and remain constantly calm. This is not always so easy for me, but I’m going to work on it.
In the moment I was incredibly frustrated though. Part of me wanted to just simply walk away and not deal with it, but that would’ve left the hive completely open, and the bees exposed. I took a deep breath and put everything back together. I wondered if it was worth it to get the three new packages of bees that are coming this week. But then I remembered that I’m stubborn and in the end I really do love those bees a heck of a lot and I just don’t give up that easily.
This week I’ll paint my new hive bodies and make one last trip to Betterbee for supplies. I’m also going to plant out my sunflowers and wildflowers right where they will be. It’s such a great area, I’m sure they will love it.
Right now we are back into a cold snap. After some really pleasant weather and a really long winter, this seems cruel. Everything is tarped and my fingers are crossed. I hope that my little greens do well, but I’m more worried for other local farms who have CSA members waiting on veggies and fruit that may not make it.
I’m not making this sound very appealing, am I? The reality is, for all the frustration I don’t regret any of it. Each day when I wake up and see that the little plants have grown, it’s exciting. Each time a little seedling pops up from the soil, I feel a bit amazed. I realize that sounds silly, but it’s true. It always seems so shocking that such a large plant can come from something so small.
I’m also constantly amazed by the support I’ve been given. Really the farmers and folks who have helped me so far are busy enough, but they have already helped me so much and we aren’t even in the height of the season. My boss, Michael Kilpatrick of Kilpatrick Family Farm, has given me old supplies, sold me compost, and answered hundreds of questions.
Missy of Fortsville Creek Farm, Ejay and Kim of R’Eisen Shine Farm, Elizabeth of Three Dogs Barking Farm, and Luke and Cara of Quincy Farm are always great people I can count on when an issue arises that I’m not sure how to deal with. These folks are seriously so busy and could easily just focus on their own farms, but they don’t. They are always willing to help. Missy even picked up supplies for me in Pennsylvania! And Aaren of Wing Road Farm was and still is my bee mentor and a terrific source of support and inspiration.
When I posted on Facebook that my seedlings had died, within hours my friend Rachel, who works for NOFA-NY called to see if I had the contact info for various farmers who might be able to give me some suggestions. There’s literally a list of farmers through NOFA-NY that you can get in touch with if you need technical advice. Isn’t that amazing?!
A few months ago Becky even helped me set up a micro loan through Kiva Zip. It was a way to help me pay for supplies upfront without paying any interest. Their loans are all crowdsourced and in less than 3 days friends and total strangers had given a total of $2000. Seriously, for a one-woman startup farm. I can hardly believe it even as I type it.
Yes, these last few weeks have been stressful, and it will continue through the summer, but I’m in good company. Even farmers like Michael are constantly learning and trying new things, and getting frustrated and messing up. It happens, it’s life. But I would prefer this life, one where I never stop learning, one with sunshine instead of fluorescent lights, one where the sounds I hear are birds and bees instead of photocopiers.
I’m going into my fourth season of working with local agriculture and the people I’ve met and friends I’ve made are just incredible. Add to that the privilege of growing food, and I feel incredibly lucky. When everything hurts and I’m very tired and just want to cry a bit I know I’m part of a truly kick ass community of people and I hope kids my son’s age grow up realizing that farming can be a great career.
Please know, if you support local producers in any way, it really helps. I’ll keep updating on my progress as the season continues! Thanks for your support!