Honey in the Hive, and Hope in the Spring

| 5/1/2012 8:21:45 AM

Tags: Ric Bohy, Shuddering Squirrel Acres, baby greens, breakfast radishes, fried eggs sandwiches, self sufficient, dust bath, compost bins, potato tower, black mission fig, Montmorency cherry, dwarf peach, small hive beetles, honeycomb, queen cells, beeswax, spring harvest, Russian honeybees, varroa mites, Africanized, Ric Bohy,

Tonight there will be fresh baby greens and sweet little French breakfast radishes with our supper, because even fried egg sandwiches call for some dressing up on the side. The sandwiches, of course, will be way past ordinary courtesy of the chickens I’m watching now through the screened walls of our back room.

Except for the bread, which I could have baked but didn’t, the fixings for our meal – even the butter for the skillet – were produced onBohyGreensEggs Shuddering Squirrel Acres. We’re a long way from self-sufficient, but even a longer way from Detroit.

Vicki works hard most of the day, every day, nurturing new plants in her greenhouse, planting those that are ready for our gardens, prettying up unsightly areas out front and behind the house, arguing with the chickens over their choices for taking dust baths – almost invariably on a freshly seeded patch of lawn or in a newly planted flower bed – researching and reading in the ongoing battle with garden pests and blights, keeping our birdfeeders filled, watering, moving kitchen scraps to the compost bins, keeping an eye out for Larry the rooster who has turned completely bad to the bone and attacks us both without provocation, and much more, lovely through it all. The last doesn’t take work on her part, at least not much that I can see. She just is.

I have nearly as many chores generally related to upkeep of our property; tending the chickens and my honeybee hives; using the tractor in a wide variety of tasks like digging new garden space in ground that is more rock than soil, bringing in the topsoil and compost to fill it, clearing fallen limbs or dead tree trunks from the path in our woods and grinding the smaller stuff into chips for a number of uses, spreading and grading gravel on our always eroding driveway; pounding fence posts and hanging wire to keep critters out of Vicki’s gardens; tending the compost bins; building things that need to be built; fixing the odd broken toilet; this and that.

We both constantly search for materially gainful employment because we’re neither independently wealthy – or any kind of wealthy – nor entirely self-sufficient. I’ve found some work as a substitute teacher, all grades, which allows us to buy minimal health insurance for most of what I earn doing it. After a long dry stretch, I was hired last week to do some writing. The paid kind. I’ve written quite a bit lately, but all without gelt. I’m told there are benefits to this, but they don’t put pork in the pot and this, you see, is how I’ve always made my living.

So it’s good to find promise in the coming season that was almost entirely unrealized in the last. We’re already eating from the same BohySpudPlantsgardens that, due to drought and pestilence, gave us almost nothing at all last spring, summer, and fall. The potato tower I recently built and seeded is now nearly covered with strong, healthy plants. Our two dwarf peach trees are loaded with nascent fruit, and I’ve already spent hours thinning it out to encourage a healthy crop. Both the black mission fig and Montmorency cherry trees are stronger and healthier than before, as is our small magnolia, planted for its singular beauty and perfume.

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