Archive | January, 2012

Answers from Mr. Lu

31 Jan

The other night I couldn’t face the kitchen – the mess, the planning, the cooking, the cleanup – so Mr. Lu’s it was. A quart of Veggie Lo Mein, an order of Veggie Egg Foo Young and a few Crab Rangoons later, we made it to the fortune cookies. Mr. Lu always gives extra, so I had two fortunes (lucky me) and I couldn’t have asked for better fortunes.

Fortunate fortunes

I DO appreciate the caring people who surround me, although I may not call or write or visit as often as I would like.  And I really miss some of you terribly.  And the surprise, well, who doesn’t love surprises?  Maybe the surprise will be a card or a thoughtful phone call, or Kickstarter funding…They’re all great options.  If you don’t know about the Kickstarter project, click the link to the right and check it out.  As my husband says, I just need 5,000 people to pledge a dollar apiece.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  Tell your friends!

This also brings me to something I have been pondering.   Endless hours of weeding strawberries and stripping trellising off t-posts gives you lots of time to think.  Often I hear people speak of curmudgeonly farmers and imply that if farmers wanted to work with other people they would be in a different business.  It’s true that there can be a lot of isolation on a farm, but I have to say the farmers, gardeners and horticulturists I have worked with have been some of the kindest, most open and most generous people I have known.  When you are invited to a farm, usually you are invited to a home.  That seems like such an extension of trust.  You are being invited to a place where people live AND work, where almost all of the day to day things happen, and that seems so intimate.  But that’s not all.  Farmers share work, ideas, struggles, successes and seeds (physical and metaphysical).  It seems like the exact opposite of the grumpus farmer, alone except for a scarecrow and happier for it.  I’m sure those people are out there, but I guess they haven’t had me out for a visit…

And now that I have rambled on, I planted English peas and snow peas on my new trellis.  I’ll be sure to write about it when they are up.

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Nothing like a warm afternoon in January

29 Jan

This morning during Bea’s first nap I went to the Tractor Supply in Rural Hall. I finally purchased the long-coveted cattle panels (16 feet x 50 inches), some t-posts, and a surprise goody — a 20 lb bag of diatomaceous earth. Then I had to come home and be Mom and Chef, made lunch for all of us, read books and played and waited for the fussy crankies to set in. It didn’t take long and Bea was back down for her afternoon nap.

I rushed outside, unloaded the cattle panels (quite the sight for the neighbors, I’m sure), and began to set up the trellis. I’ll add more details about the construction later, but the basic concept is to place t-posts so that they will support the arched cattle panel from the outside. 12 posts, three panels, and a bunch of zip ties later, voila! In about an hour, singlehanded, I had built a trellis tunnel that was over 12 feet long, 6 feet high and four feet wide. Soon I will be planting English peas and snow peas on the trellis and veggies on the inside. A farm I visited late last Spring had a similar setup, only about three times as long, with two kinds of peas on the outside, and on the inside a row of broccoli flanked by two rows of potatoes. It seemed like a very efficient use of space and produced a large amount of food. Being an urban farm, any compatible intercropping and multi-level growing that we can do will help us be more efficient and productive.

oh, I hear noises from the nursery… Now it’s time to be a mom and chef again. I’ll be sure to add pictures of the trellis once it has things growing on it. It’s kind of hard to see the gray metal against the winter tree backdrop.

This afternoon on the farm

26 Jan

Cabbages, Chickens and carrots, oh my!

Nothing much to say, really, just some scenes from the backyard on a surprisingly quiet afternoon.

Everything starts with a seed

25 Jan

I have carefully outlined my planting calendar for the spring and summer growing seasons, detailing when to start what in flats, when to direct seed, and when to transplant into the garden. This past weekend I began planting things in flats, so I guess the 2012 garden season has officially begun!

The task for the week was green onions, cauliflower and Alpine strawberries. I started 72 cells of onions, White Lisbon and He Shi Ko, 72 cells of cauliflower, Purple of Sicily, and 50 cells each of 4 different varieties of Alpine strawberries. They are all neatly tucked away in my cellar grow space under bright lights and close to the leaky furnace. It’s actually warmer in the cellar than in the rest of the house during winter. Not really useful for root cellaring, but I’ll figure out another solution for that.

This week I get to start seeds for storage onions, but more on that later.

HoneyBea Farm, The Beginning

24 Jan

HoneyBea taste-testing the garlic

Welcome to HoneyBea Farm. We are a small urban farmstead with just over an acre, a couple of gardens, a much neglected orchard, 10 chickens, two cats, a dog and a beehive. Follow us here as we grow our little plot into a functional urban oasis that will provide not only us, but others in the community, with fresh and nutritious produce.

Our goal in moving to this home, an 1877 brick farmhouse, was to provide some spreading out room for our growing family, and be able to grow more than just a couple of tomatoes on the teeny plot we were on before. With a daughter on the way I knew that she needed to grow up outdoors as I had, understanding where food came from and the importance of community. A few days before giving birth I quit my dream job and committed myself to being a full time mother and farmer. What I did not realize, was that being a full time parent almost totally eclipses everything else, especially in that first year. The gardens I had carefully laid in before giving birth were sadly neglected and I wandered out there during Bea’s naps, dumbfounded that all that work was going to waste. We harvested and ate or preserved as much of the bounty as possible, but the next round of planting happened in fits and starts, and my ability to care for it all was not what was needed. Weeds grew up through the asparagus, the pole beans were consumed by morning glories, something ate the turnips off under the ground. Sigh.

Then I accepted a part time job, and then another part time job, both agricultural and both positions where I could take Bea along. I began working for a hunger relief non-profit, coordinating the gathering and transport of excess and waste produce to people who really needed it. Then I began working on one of the organic farms I visited in the first job. Suddenly I was a full time mom AND a full time activist and farm worker. But I still wasn’t getting things done at home the way I needed to. But we still managed to eat some our own fresh produce through the summer.

Now it’s time to turn things around. I want to view my little farm as a priority, and as a way to help out others in our community. Now that I have worked for nearly a year helping to feed others, I understand better how much one person can accomplish. And how important it is to me that our daughter grows up knowing this as well. I am applying for kickstarter funding to help cover some of the expenses of expanding the farm and turning this hobby into a real job. Getting the farm up and running is only Phase 1 of the project however. A good growing year in Phase 1 will help enable Phase 2, which is our outreach phase. I would like to contribute as much excess produce as possible to local hunger relief organizations. My family lives in Winston-Salem, the #1 city in America for childhood food insecurity. I can help with that. With the implementation of the Phase 2 CSA project, I will also be creating CSA shares to donate to families and food pantries. This part is called “Will Work for Food” and will allow people to work off their own costs or to work off the costs of donated shares. This way, families that are able, can help themselves or help others in the community who are in need.

So watch our progress here. Root us on or offer us advice from your own experience. Bea and I will be out in the garden, planting peas and tending bees, and hopefully feeding and inspiring others.