Monday, July 5, 2021

July Celebration

As many people in the United States celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, beer tents, softball tournaments, visits to parks, and grilling burgers and brats, I find myself celebrating in a different way.

First, I celebrate the potential the United States still has to truly be a place where everyone is free from oppression and free to live a good life without having to push someone else down in order to do just that.  We certainly aren't there yet, but these things require work.  If you want something really good, you have to put some investment into it.

Second, I am not a big fan of fireworks, beer tents or crowds.  I am not on a softball team and but I did have some tasty brats.  We celebrated our independence by appreciating some things we are able to do differently from many people - either because they don't want to do these thing or they are unable to do them. 

I tried to capture an audio file that could illustrate for you the hum we hear as we walk by our bee hives at almost any time of day (or night) this time of year.  That didn't work out, so you'll have to settle for a picture.

Tammy and I are still relative newbies at this bee game.  In the past, we often had someone else place and maintain a hive at the farm.  This year, we have three of our own.  And, like so many things where you are new at it and a bit uncertain, some of the tasks get delayed because they seem bigger than they often turn out to be.  Yet, we're still holding our own - which is a good thing.

At this point, I would say at least a couple of the hives are doing pretty well.  And we do still enjoy seeing the workers out and about at the farm.  While the clover is struggling a bit in the dry weather, there are still enough flowers that the bees are often checking out.  This is still a constant joy for me because I remember growing up and it was normal to see bees in your yard checking out the clover that most yards had.  

Well, I am fortunate to have a big "yard" now with lots of clover.  But, I have to have my own hives now to see bees on the clover.  I celebrate the fact that Tammy and I can do this.

Sometimes a growing plot works out pretty well.  Middle Earth this year has sunflowers, sweet corn, pumpkins, watermelon, winter squash and borage.  The plot is nearly completely covered with the canopy of these crops now.  For the most part, there aren't many weeds because we got cultivation and weeding done in a timely fashion.  

In short, this field is probably at its peak as far as visual appeal goes.  Once we add sunflower blooms to the mix, it will certainly be there.

This plot comes partly courtesy of our shift away from the CSA program that had been a part of our farm for many years.  Our reduced planting complexity and the removal of the early season harvest, clean, pack and deliver cycle allowed us to add sweet corn back into the mix AND we could hit the optimal planting periods more easily.

Plus, it's always nice when field looks good.  I like to be around it (we can't get into it much anymore), so it's a successful field on our farm.

Some row crop farmers have decided that milkweed is worthy of foul language, but we welcome it (most of the time) on the farm.  I admit that we don't always like where it tries to pop up.  But, when it chooses the wrong spot, we remove it with little to no remorse.

Why so little remorse?  Well, we are providing and encouraging it to appear and grow many places on the farm.  If they decide to compete where we are growing a certain crop, we feel they breached the contract - so to speak.

Ok, ok.  We don't make the milkweed sign a contract.  But, we do like seeing more monarchs on the farm and so far, we've had a few more visitors this year than we did last year.

This is a good thing that we are celebrating after very disturbing news about the very small numbers of Monarch butterflies that over-wintered in Mexico this past year.

While I am not sounding any sort of "all-clear" bell for the Monarchs, I am relieved that last year was not the last year I would see them.  I am pleased that we are doing what we can on our farm to try and make this year NOT be the last time I see them as well.


We had a Black Swallowtail hatch in Eden and enjoy the clover flowers nearby in the morning and we had our first Tiger Swallowtail of the year show us one of the routes he will probably fly twice a day for the next couple of weeks.

And, lest you think I only appreciate the big and bold butterflies, I like the little Blues and Hairstreaks too.  (see above).  I will, however, draw the line at the large number of Cabbage Butterflies we have seen this year.  It is making us a little frustrated for our broccoli crop this season.

Then, there are the things I visualized for the 2021 growing season that might actually become reality.  

I wanted to have clover blooming in the driving path between Valhalla (the high tunnel) and Freyr Field.  I also wanted to have a hedge of sunflowers on the north edge of Freyr field so it might feel a little bit like you are walking through a tunnel or a lane of some sort.

Sure enough, clover blooming on the path (even if it isn't as robust as it would be with some rain) and a hedge of sunflowers on the right.  Maybe in a future blog I'll show you the zinnias, borage and butternut squash on the other side in Freyr Field.  It looks pretty good too!

Already, there are many smaller birds that are flitting around in the sunflower and zinnias.  The Goldfinches are probably anxiously awaiting the production of sunflower seeds that they will feast on through the Fall and Winter.  I caught Mr. Bunting sitting on the tallest sunflower as he sang his song.  He was a bit surprised to see me walking down the lane, so he departed rapidly.

I'd say having a good vision of what you'd like to see and then executing that vision with good results is a reason to celebrate.  But, again, I had the freedom to try to make this vision come to fruition.  More reason to celebrate!

Maybe the odd thing about this July celebration is that while we celebrate our freedom to do some of the things we are doing, you might notice that many of these things are not just about us.  We are hopeful that some of the things we do will be good for other creatures and other people on this earth.

Because freedom is not about being able to do what you want, no matter what.  It is about having some choices about how you meet your obligations to the world around you.

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