The Bees & The Chickens Outnumber The Humans
No, really. They do where I work. See them plotting to take over?
Almost two months ago I began a year-long apprenticeship at a small dairy farm outside Portland, Oregon, near the town of Sandy. We have dairy cows, pigs (mmm, bacon), beef cows, chickens and baby chicks, ducks, ducklings, and soon-to-be many more baby ducklings once the mama ducks’ eggs hatch, rabbits, a couple of nuisance-y but adorable cats, one dog, and a few thousand bees. Oh, and the garden.
While doing my best not to feel like a poser (after all, this is an apprenticeship — I’m here to learn!), I have successfully set up a beehive which I built myself and put the bees in, have built one more hive and have the pieces cut for another. I have also planted a boat-load of seeds, most of which have sprouted or I’m pretty sure will soon.
(Full disclosure: I have done beekeeping and gardening before.)
We are very quickly running out of room in our little hoophouse (a greenhouse made from plastic stretched over half-hoop pipes). What with all the seedbeds where things are sprouting or growing to the point at which they can be transplanted, and the tomatoes and tomatillos we have already transplanted into larger pots, and the peas all gangly and tall, and the strawberries, we are going to be short on floor capital. Now if only the weather would get a bit warmer.
Solution? Build another hoophouse! Well, maybe. For now we’ll just have to be creative. The tomatoes and tomatillos, peas, and strawbs will be staying inside, except for a few tomatoes I will experiment with hardening off and trying to get them to fruit outside in the garden. (I’m a mad scientist gardener, okay?)
At about 1100 feet elevation on the farm, our season is behind almost everywhere else you look. The lilacs are still blooming, whereas down in the Columbia River Gorge they are already done. When I was researching planting schedules I almost swallowed my tongue in consternation over what seemed to be a big fat “YOU’RE TOO LATE” to plant a lot of things (at the beginning of May). Well, it’s not. We’re that far behind.
Future projects beckon attractively, such as the duck nest boxes we plan to build (so we can find the darn eggs), and the loafing area for the beef cows (literally, a place where they can loaf, out of the sun and rain). I love building things. Partly it’s “Ooh, let’s see what happens if I put that there! Nope, fell over. How about this?” but it’s also “Look what I made! Look how useful it is!” Geeky, I know, right? Luckily, farmer Genevieve and I share this love of hand-crafting. She gets it.
Forthcoming are tales of build-ery, cow-milking, getting stung by bees, chasing pigs (who can, apparently, escape from anything and are much stronger than you and me put together), and my attempts to balance a part-time apprenticeship with Life In General.