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Life on the farm...what's the buzz? Days 17-20! PART ONE

Home for four whole, glorious nights: Hearth and Hive, Rebekah and Johnathan's farm

Distance: unknown glorious wanderings on foot or off to the bee fields IN A CAR!!!

Weather: cool, breezy, sunny, hot, rain on my first night, blustery gray days, cool enough for socks and coats!

Bs: homemade muffins, scones, TOASTED BREAD!!!!!, scrambled eggs with garden herbs, coffee with CREAM

Ls: garden vegetable soup, foraged forest mushroom soup, homemade burgers, leftover salads, tea

Ds: rice, beans, fish, burgers, many combinations of cucumber/tomato/cheese salads, tea, beer

 

loving friends to hug

home is where the hearth is found

busy, little bees

 

Once again, I am reminded of how a change is as good as a rest. Sitting still after so much movement for the past many days for me is a bit of a challenge to adjust to. What better way to let my body recoup than to also be useful around a busy, fledgling farm! Rebekah and Johnathan have been working their hearts out to realize their dreams.


Johnathan grew up in Riverside-Albert and had purchased the property, sight unseen a three years ago and had been working towards an independent life on the property ever since. Rebekah and I lived together a few years ago, right at pivotal moments in both of our lives, offering support and essentially holding onto the same life ring together. It was one of the greatest gifts for both of us...and a beautiful, deep friendship has remained ever since. We had both lost our partners for very different reasons and despite the differing circumstances there was solidarity and understanding that other people in both of our lives couldn't offer.


Needless to say, I was beyond excited to route my trip through their neck of the woods, which was conveniently exactly in line to get to Fundy National Park! They had officially, moved full time to the Riverside-Albert just this past May and I couldn't wait to see what they'd gotten up to in their first season on the land.


After breakfast on my first morning I was a bit housebound with all of my filthy clothing in the washing machine. Johnathan lent me his house coat and I scuffed around sorting through my stuff, cleaning up the leaves, sticks and dead bugs that fell out of my panniers as I emptied them onto the floor. I had showered the night before and slept in borrowed clothes and suddenly all my cycling gear felt very disgusting. It all becomes relative and it's pretty wild what standards seem very acceptable while underway...and are suddenly atrocious upon reentry to a more "normal" life.

Putting on shoes for a walk around, with homemade chocolate coconut popsicles with BAILEYS!!!!

It was SUCH a treat to not have to pack up my gear!! Black Beauty stayed right on the porch, resting her tires employed once again as a drying rack after I had filled the entire clothesline with gear and such. Eventually, with a clean sundress and a good lunch Rebekah and Johnathan took me on a tour of the farm...painting their vision for me with exquisite detail.


I had known bits and pieces of their hopes for the future through conversations both before and after they left Wolfville...but it is far easier to envision when on the ground, seeing their progress and the physical locations of their projects. From beehives to a roadside farmstand, to scaffolded non-invasive treehouses and a wood fired pizza oven, the ideas and dreams just poured out of their hearts and into the 4 acres around me. Two glamping tents are on the list for next season, each with their own style and personality. Community gatherings, group events, education and mushroom cultivation too! In just their first 4 months they had established 7 beehives in three locations, put in a BOMBER first season garden, started envisioning the space for the pizza oven and were preparing to re-shingle the barn/workshop. Not to mention all the learning that comes with each and every one of those projects.

Witnessing two very impassioned people become animated and excited as they tell their story of their vision is one of the biggest honours in life. It is a sharing of what has only existed in dreamland and brainstorming sessions....but is suddenly on the cusp of being actualized. It is a massive, scary, exciting, incredible place to be as a business owner forging ahead into uncharted territory. I was reminded over and over again of the story of my own parents and their journey of stepping into a greenhouse/landscaping/floral arranging business not having a sweet clue how to do any of it. But, just like Rebekah and Johnathan, they knew they had the intelligence, drive and perseverance to figure it out.

Two hours of scheming and dreaming went by and I was easily as excited as the two of them by the time the need for sweaters sent us inside. The forecast was calling for potential very low overnight temperatures and there was much to do before and after supper. I scurried about collecting pounds (and pounds and pounds) of tomatoes out of the garden which would be later turned into salsa, sauces and soups. Much of the fruit was yet to ripen, so I covered as many plants as I could with old sheets as possible. It felt amazing to be in a garden again. This trip has taken me away from the gardens and humans I nurture and tend back in my working life and to be disconnected from them has been interesting. While cycling along seeing other people's gardens I wonder how the tomatoes, flowers and of course, weeds are doing back home. Walking through the rows of incredible bounty felt good for my soul! Rebekah and Johnathan had started all sorts of medicinal plants from seed, ordering others as live material and despite the hot, dry season they had established VERY healthy and happy plants. The state of plants in a garden is directly an indicator of the health of the soil, and how much attention they have received. I was very, very impressed for a first season garden that had just been built out of an old, tired lawn that spring.

One part of the haul!! With gallons more to come

We had a delicious dinner of burgers around the table after the garden work was done and FINALLY I was able to check something off my bike trip list that had been plaguing me since starting. One of the hardest things is if I'm still riding my bike and it's getting on towards supper time, the wafts of kitchen creations can be torture. ESPECIALLY when it is in the form of a barbeque. The drool factor is at an all time high when burgers are on the grill....and one evening in particular, extra hungry I slowed right down, honestly contemplating inviting myself to dinner. Retaining my dignity I rode on, eventually enjoying my miso soup, ramen noodles and trail mix in the bushes. Stupid burger, who eats burgers anyway. I don't even like burgers.


But now it was MY turn to be the burger eater and a heaped up pile of spiced, juicy meat from a friend's farm with homemade lactofermented pickles, home baked buns AND heirloom tomatoes from the garden sat on my plate like the Holy Grail itself. Slathered in real mayonnaise and whole seed dijon mustard too!!!!! It was heavenly and exactly what we all needed for the task that lay ahead of us after dark: moving 5 satellite beehives from two locations back to the farm in preparation for winter.


I've never moved beehives....I've never even had the opportunity to see inside a living, active colony. But there I was, tucking my pants into my socks, donning a bee suit and headlamp at 9 PM at night. Two hives had been placed on a property I would have biked past in Hillsborough, about a twenty minute drive away and three were in the opposite direction in blueberry fields on top of a hill. This was to be the first autumn transfer home that Rebekah and Johnathan would do on their own as keepers of their hives. We had a truck and trailer and there was certainly a touch of anxiousness in the air. I started learning very quickly firsthand that bees have as much complexity to them as we do as humans. Their social structure and development is astonishing and so much is still not understood. Even experienced beekeepers are constantly learning and there is an impossible amount of knowledge to acquire.


We approached the hives, ready with tape to close off the entrances and exits to the hives in preparation of carrying them back to the waiting trailer. Bees do not appreciate intruders, no matter how well-intentioned they are and by the time we had the two hives on the trailer there had been a few stings, some choice words and a whole lot of buzzing. Everyone was safe and sound, but the hum from the hives was wild. The vibration of thousands (literally tens of thousands of bees inhabit each colony!!) is a very intimidating sound. My little primitive lizard brain told me to run away, the noise being physically felt in my chest as audibly in my ears. The modern human can override the instinct to get away as fast as possible from the seething mass and instead happily help carry the hives to a trailer in the dark. Even if they have no clue what they're doing.


We had one hour from when we taped up the hives to when they would need to release them into the enclosure back at the farm. These two hives would be combined with other hives that had lost their queens for varying reasons to help them be as strong as possible going into the winter. We made it home, unloaded the hives, untaped them and walked briskly (aka ran swiftly!) away.


A breather, a pee break, some tea and off to the second location to collect the other three hives. These bees were not quite so docile. They were the queenless hives and a colony without a queen is a stressed and anxious group of bees, intruders or not. They don't have the scent of the queen to provide purpose or rhythm and they ultimately are lost. Rebekah had warned me that they would likely sound different than the other hives, with a higher pitched buzz and would be on edge the second they sensed our presence. Were they ever...guard bees swarmed the entrance of each hive as we began the process of trying to tape them off and it quickly turned into a punctuated game of swift, calm movements followed by backing off and waiting out on the road for things to quiet enough for transport. Eventually, everyone was on the trailer, lashed in and ready to go home. Stings are inevitable and somehow I had managed to be sting free until halfway back to the farm I got hit right on the neck. Johnathan pulled over and we pulled the little bee away, flicking it off into the bushes. Bees that had not been sealed inside of their respective hives, but had managed to stay with their colony on the truck started appearing as we stood in the road, bombing our bee veils. We zipped ourselves back up and did our best to make sure that none followed us into the truck cab. Driving along the bumpy, dark roads with our full suits on felt pretty ridiculous, and we howled with laughter, but it was absolutely mandatory at this point. The bees were pissed and I didn't blame them in the slightest. We got home and painstakingly/patiently unloaded everyone, un-taped them and went into the house, utterly exhausted as we realized it was two in the morning.


A soothing cup of tea, a debrief of the intensity that the experience was and eventually we all drifted off to bed with more planning and figuring for the next days work with the hives to come in the morning. I was amazed by Johnathan and Rebekah's ability to communicate through the whole process, not an easy thing when stress, the lives of the little creatures you have chosen to protect are on the line and you constantly confront the steepest part of your learning curve. I felt deeply honoured to be welcomed into such an intimate and educational moment in their story of becoming the incredible beekeepers and earth stewards they are destined to be.


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Loved seeing their place! Give my love to them and hope to see them and their ponderosa someday. Love your adventure, honey, and reading and riding along with you everyday. XOXOX

J'aime
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