On Saturday, I finally bought my first bees. I am over-the-moon excited, as I have been actively researching bee keeping for at least the last six years, and now, I Finally have my own hive to play with. My interest in bee keeping actually began 23 years ago, when a swarm decided to make itself at home in my laundry roof, and I had to ask a bee keeping friend if he could re-home them. His hive box lived beside my kitchen stairs for about 4 months, and I loved sitting there, watching the girls fly out, only to return with pollen laden legs, rushing into the hive, presumably to lay it down as honey.
I have named my queen “Joy”, because it just seemed appropriate, and I painted my brand new bee boxes in bright colours – jade green, orange and yellow, because apparently, bee’s remember where home is according to the colour patterns of their boxes. I feel a little self-conscious about this, as I haven’t seen anyone else with bee boxes as eye catching as mine, but to me, they are absolutely beautiful!
Joy and the Girls came in a corflute box, which is a box made out of the same material they make ‘for sale’ or ‘vote for me’ signs from. It has a little round door, which the bees can go in and out through, and which can be turned around so that they are trapped inside.
I was disappointed when I got home at 11.30pm, after picking the girls up at 7pm (ok, so I May have spent a little time gossiping about bees), to discover that I had no where to put them. Scouting around, I did a quick ‘Bear Grills’ and made do with what was available. A pile of milk crates, a piece of ply wood, and 8 ocky straps later, my bees were semi secure in the chook yard.
Even though I haven’t touched or even looked at my new bees, close up, I am already finding my bee keeping books so much more relatable. I have learned how to wet down the broom, to help persuade the girls away from the frames, so they can be viewed. I have gathered bark and leaves for my brand-new smoker. And I have also watched numerous You Tube videos on how to put frames together (top bar requires good fixing, so the honey filled frames don’t fall off at inopportune moments), a ‘jig’ makes frames Much easier to put together, and that 12V does indeed embed foundation. When I put my next super on, I intend to try some ‘fishing line’ foundation, in place of wiring the frames – just to see how it works! Fishing line is a Lot cheaper than nickel wire, and also easier to assemble.
Today being Monday, the other half found the time to make me a stand for my new boxes, and we intend to transfer The Girls into their new home. The hole he dug for the frame is about 2.5m from where they are now, and they are about 6 feet up in the air. I have visions of sprinting down to the dam, being chased by a huge swarm of angry bees, intent on revenge after I destroyed their home… fingers crossed that doesn't happen - stay tuned!
“But don’t pigs destroy the landscape and spread dirty diseases”, I hear you ask? Well, no. Pigs are actually very clean creatures, and even when kept in small enclosures will defecate in one corner, and then try to stay out of it.
It is only when large numbers of pigs are kept in confined areas, where they cannot move freely and get away from their own waste, that they become susceptible to boredom and disease. They are also unable to put on muscle bulk without the help of hormones. Intensively raised pigs routinely have their teeth clipped, and tails docked, so that they can not bite other pigs, or chew off their tails, causing infection. Sows are artificially inseminated, and farrow in pens so small they can’t even roll over, so that as many piglets as possible can live. There is no way for them to socialise, they don’t have any fun, they’re fed a diet of chemicals and antibiotics so they grow quickly, and don’t get sick, they're loaded into a large, loud, scary truck, and then… people eat them. I don’t want to feed something like that to my family, which is why we grow our own 'happy' meat.
But back to the point, which was pigs. Improving the soil. Yep, that’s right. Our animals, including the pigs are moved regularly from paddock to paddock, and once they move on, that pasture is planted with a variety of seeds, mulched and watered with compost tea. This introduces or improves the soil microbiota, the resulting pasture grows back bigger and better, soil starts to ‘grow’, moisture retention improves, and when you grow food on those pastures, the nutrient quality of the food abounds. To sum it up: it is the interaction between animals, plants, and their microbiome that builds and improves the soil and increases nutrients. And improved nutrient content means better health through food, but also.. amazing taste!
Unfortunately, at this stage, my vision for a Utopia of lush green pastures growing in the shade of the trees while being munched by roving bands of fat ruminants, pigs and fowl; exists only in my imagination, but every product that we sell, brings those pastures closer to reality, and I want to say: Thank you to all who support our farm! Because without You; Shady Patches Farm would still be ‘naked, hungry, thirsty, and running a fever’! (Ray Archuleta, 2018)
I have always had an interest in gardening, self sufficiency, the environment and health promotion. When I started farming, those interests coalesced into a way of life that, for me; holds true meaning.