I don't know why, but somehow I think of myself as a lazy farmer. Perhaps it is because I know that I am not a real farmer. Sure, we ate out of the garden all summer and I sold our excess produce at the farmer's market, but gardening is hardly farming. And the crops that I love the most, I do not even need to plant! My maple trees grow all by themselves. All that I need to do is drill a hole, hammer in a tap, collect the sap and boil it down into delicious maple syrup. And my bees really take care of themselves. They fly miles to gather all of the nectar that they work so hard to transform into honey. What do I do? I simply collect the honey filled frames from the hives, turn them a few spins in our hand cranked extractor, and bottle up liquid gold. The bees do all the real work.
I am so lazy that I even have a friend who delivers compost material in five gallon buckets right to my barn door. When I used to commute to and from the city five days a week, I would stop by two downtown coffee shops each morning and exchange an empty five gallon bucket for one they had filled the day before with used coffee grounds. I was sad to retire from that city job, not because I would miss my place of employment, but because I would no longer have daily access to two five gallon buckets filled with coffee grounds that I could feed to my compost pile. I mentioned this sadness to a friend who replied that he was downtown twice a week and would happily pick up and deliver the buckets!
But my friend drops off the buckets in the evening, and by winter's morning, when I head down to the barn to feed the nitrogen rich coffee grounds to my compost pile, the damp grounds are frozen fast to the inside of the buckets. I jump and stomp and throw the buckets as hard as I can at the cold ground, and after an amazingly long work out, the cylindrical form of five gallons worth of rock hard coffee grounds falls solidly onto my compost pile. An hour later I realize that I have finally emptied five buckets.
Then the maple trees need their gallon milk jugs emptied. This should be easy. I park the pickup truck on the road and head down to my sugar bush. Each bucket hangs on a tap that I have gently hammered into a hole drilled into the tree. Well, the sap has flowed, and filled up each jug, and then it has frozen as solid as the coffee grounds, frozen solid around the taps! I check out each tapped tree, fifteen in all. Fifteen rock hard gallon jugs firmly attached to each tree. I guess that I'll just have to hope for a bit of a thaw tomorrow to get the buckets off of the trees.
Well, what about the bees? I head up to the apiary. It has warmed up to about fourteen degrees by now. The wind bites into my face and threatens to cut off my ears. The hives stand all in a row at the top edge of the upper field. I kneel down and put my frozen ear up against the first frozen hive. I hear a low, gentle hum. The bees are alive. I brush off the snow from their entrance to allow air circulation, condensation inside a hive is not a good thing, and also to allow the bees to get out if the weather warms up enough for them to fly. I kneel by all ten hives and brush off each entrance. All is thankfully well in the bee yard.
By now I have been outside in the mostly single digit weather for over three hours. My toes are as frozen as the coffee grounds. My ears must have fallen off because I can't feel a thing and I know that it is time for this lazy farmer to head inside and brew a hot cup of late morning coffee.
Christine Tailer presented a workshop at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR.