Monday, May 19, 2014

The Cinnamon Challenge

Let me tell you a story about sheep, bees, and cinnamon. Buckle up.

Saturday I had a package of bees and a just-cleaned hive waiting for them. Cleaning out the hive wasn't an arduous task by any stretch, but it did take bit and included a lot of scraping, detoxing, sunshine and wiping things down. When it was done I set the hive in its new location in the garden on the cinder blocks that were holding it up off the ground. And here is where the mistake was made: I didn't clean the cinderblocks. I just moved them.

So after a full day of farm chores, hosting a workshop, and then driving to my friend's house to get the bees she so kindly picked up for me that morning I was finally ready to install the new hive in the clean super and get the gals started on the right path towards colonial life. I opened the lid of the hive to remove the two center frames and I was surprised to see thousands of small ants. This was not good. Ants in few numbers are no problem to bees, but as you can imagine, there is no such thing as a lone wolf ant. I lifted out the frames and they were everywhere. A young hive like mine with no brood or comb wouldn't stick around a hive already occupied by the sweet eaters. So I did what any sensible homesteader does: I checked with Farmer Internet.

And there I was, looking up ant-removal tips while my package hummed. I remembered something about cinnamon and checked a few sites to confirm it. Then I went inside the house, got all the cinnamon I had, and came back outside in full beekeeping apparel while I laid the hive out in the sun on the lawn and sprinkled, shook, cursed, and bitched. I saw the majority of the ants were coming from the cinder blocks and made a mental face palm while I used the rest of the cinnamon on the blocks. I was busy with my spicy endeavor when I heard the sound of clattering wood and wire and hard horn.

SMASH!

One of the blackface ewes (Split Ear) had backed up and hit the gas at full speed. Using pure force smashed the old piece of plywood used to repairing a hole in the old fence. Within moments the flock was loose and on their way up to my neighbors' gorgeous lawn. I call their lawn Narnia. It is a magical place sheep get to by transporting themselves through wooden objects that hold wool.

So there I am. Standing in my white bee keeping pants (okay, my karate pants) and white jacket with white bee keeping gloves in a haze of cinnamon as my sheep trot away. I say adult phrases I will not repeat here, grab some grain, and walk up the road looking like I work at a power plant and smelling like Christmas.

I get the sheep back in minutes (Grain is mightier than Narnia) and in my hassle did not move the bee gear from the lawn. The sheep ignore the cinnamon and the frames and ants and trot through, pushing and breaking a few of the pieces of old hive wood I refused to replace because the older I get the more frugal I get and bees are never on HGTV so who cares if the inner lid has a crack on it? Well, Split Ear and Brick cared enough to comment via hoofmarks and I now have a broken inner hive lid. Everyone is a friggin' critic.

With the sheep back in the paddock. The fence repaired (time 3,2245) and the ants removed from the equipment I knock off the majority of the cinnamon and start reassembling the hive. I don't remove the cinnamon from the cinderblocks or the ground around them. I open the package of bees, insert the released queen box between a few frames, and dump the new bees into the spicy hive. I realize at this point I didn't check to see if bees liked cinnamon and didn't have the heart to check with Farmer internet. I closed the lid and stepped back. Bees were everywhere. I let out a long sigh while sheep complained close by.

Whew.

It's been two nights and the bees are doing great. They have happily settled in the hive. The ants are gone. And the only real challenge was the thing I didn't anticipate: weather. It was 34 degrees here the last two nights and a new hive just here from Georgia wasn't acclimated to the harsh first night in a new hive. I did lose a hundred or so worker bees that didn't get into that hive the first night and found their frozen bodies around the hive, dusted with cinnamon. But the majority were inside around the queen box, warm and humming. So despite the drama all is generally well in BeeTown.

And I'm sharing this story because of something I'll never forget hearing from Joel Salatin. He has said many times to new farmers that anything worth doing right is worth doing wrong first. Mistakes are important. Cinderblocks are important. Fences repair is important. Four years into this place I still make mistakes and am still figuring out how to do things right, but I am doing them. I think this is important. It's important to learn as you go, to accept that mistakes will be made, cinnamon will fly, sheep will travel to Narnia and at the end of the day even the worst of your problems are blessings. Even if I am worried about book critics, the mortgage, and budgeting the farrier and the sheep shearing in the same week I am only able to be worried because I asked to be an author, a home owner, and a farmer. These are wonderful problems to have in my book. And over the years I have learned to ignore the critics and focus on the people who show up with crock pots and rototillers. They are the ones whose advice and critiques I care about.

I am rambling. In few months this farm's sheep escapes will be a silly memory. New fencing built with friends and a dirt hill cultivated and seeded will heal. The pasture will have time to rest, the new electric portable fences will replace the old ones, and one project at at time the joint will become a better farm. It takes time, and the willingness, forgiveness, and a lot of doing things wrong first. But in five years this place will be a happy machine where you will rarely hear about goofy mistakes in the older skills.

P.S. The sheep have only escaped 2 times since. I can't wait till next Sunday when we finally rip out all that old fence, repair it, replace the bad sections, and install the electric wiring. If you want to come to the farm for a potluck/work party come on by. It'll start around 9AM and go to 1PM. I have four folks coming already and that alone makes it a quicker job. Unrelated: Jasper is still for sale but no takers and I don't expect there will be any. He will remain here and I'll figure that out too. 

P.P.S. Sometimes folks write me to say they expect better grammar and spelling on here since I am a published author. I usually tell them that my books have a professional editor. I have a Border Collie. And while he is pretty savvy he still refuses to use Oxford Commas and that alone has made a divide in our relationship. I kid. But seriously, you can pick two of these three options and I will oblige.

A. A heartfelt, personal blog.
B. An often-updated blog.
C. A well-edited blog.

P.P.P.S. Also, Look Up.

17 Comments:

Blogger Wendy said...

Omigod! You made me laugh so hard - not at you, not at all, but totally with you and in commiseration, because even though my "farm" is only a quarter of an acre, I have those same kinds of days - all of the time. And then, I hurt my back - right when it's time to plant the corn, and I've been gifted a bunch of onion starts, and the potato towers are ready for the seed potatoes ... and ... and ... and :).

In spite of it all, though, life is so good, and I wouldn't give it up - not for anything.

Keep doing what you're doing. Blogs aren't like books, and a few grammar SNAFUs should be allowed.

May 19, 2014 at 9:48 AM  
Blogger barbsbirds13 said...

Bloggers like you with great real life stories and well honed talent of telling those tales need not trifle with grammar. Beside entertaining and informing, you offer the rest of us license to blunder on and learn and laugh and grow - no matter our age or stage. Thanks, Jenna.

May 19, 2014 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

If you could get it all perfect in a year or two, then what would you have left to do...or to write about, lol?

May 19, 2014 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Mary Wilson said...

My goodness. Silly to worry about grammar and proofreading in what feels like a letter to a friend. This kind of criticism reminds me of my late mother-in-law. Many years ago, my sister-in-law wrote her a letter. Dear MIL marked it all up in red pen and sent it back. If you're guessing she never received another letter from my SIL, you would be correct.

Sorry about the hive lid! Animals have a sense about these things, don't they! (My alpacas just ate the strawberries again.)

May 19, 2014 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

THANKKS GUYS

(See what I did there?)

May 19, 2014 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

I love the image of an aplaca eating a strawberry :) Though I am sorry for lack of preserves...

May 19, 2014 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

I often find myself imagining you typing out your lengthy (in a good way!)posts with the lamb running around and the dogs being dogs, and just general farmery going on around you and I smile! It is REAL. It is your LIFE. And you paused to write for us amidst the chaos and just let it flow! I love that and perfect grammar is not going to determine whether or not I still read or whether or not I enjoy it. :)

May 19, 2014 at 5:19 PM  
Blogger Gramma Phyl said...

My mom's favorite response when I complained about making mistakes was, "Young lady remember the only mistake is not learning from your actions and their results." So as far as I have seen in your blog, you have made very few mistakes but have survived quite a few "learning experiences."

And as for the "editing" of the blog, well having been raised by an English teacher, I just do it mentally. And even the best of editors don't catch all the typos.

May 19, 2014 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger 3 Dogs Barking Farms said...

this is my 3rd growing vegetables for make so many mistakes its not funny. the other day i transplanted 2 whole rows of broccoli gorgeous transplants I noticed the chickens were interested but managed to beat them back made the mistake of making a quick trip to the grocery store came home to find the broccoli pretty much de-leafed. The chickens are no on lock down in their coop/run. damn chickens.

May 19, 2014 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Mary Wilson said...

The strawberries are ever-bearing, and they're sprouting again now, so with any luck Los Hombres (3 fibre boys) won't get them again. Then again luck might really mean with a better gate... and there's always more to do than fix a gate, right?

May 19, 2014 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Maria Manemann said...

I like -no, love - your typos, Jenna. Took me a minute to realize why. It's like you're talking to your readers, like you can't wait to tell us what the sheep were up to this time, grammar and punctuation just get in the way. Keep it up.

May 19, 2014 at 11:21 PM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Epic! I love your attitude about it though. Live and learn and love it along the way!

On the farrier note, are your horses barefoot? Have you ever considered trying to do it yourself? I know, scary right? I have a wonderful farrier who is all about empowering the horse owners to do their own trims. It has cut my farrier bill by 75%. ( She only comes out 2- 3 times a year now ). She wrote a book and has a DVD as well as a very informative website with lots of videos up there. http://www.barefoottrimming.com/ if you are interested in checking it out in between all the happenings you have going on.

Cheers!

May 20, 2014 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger The Kelly's Adventures in KY said...

Epic! I love your attitude about it though. Live and learn and love it along the way!

On the farrier note, are your horses barefoot? Have you ever considered trying to do it yourself? I know, scary right? I have a wonderful farrier who is all about empowering the horse owners to do their own trims. It has cut my farrier bill by 75%. ( She only comes out 2- 3 times a year now ). She wrote a book and has a DVD as well as a very informative website with lots of videos up there. http://www.barefoottrimming.com/ if you are interested in checking it out in between all the happenings you have going on.

Cheers!

May 20, 2014 at 9:53 AM  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

I think I've told 3 people about cinnamon being the anti-ant cure since reading this. The whole post is just what I love so much about this blog. We get the ups, the downs and the "what the ^&$%$# was I thinking?" moments. Thanks for sharing

May 20, 2014 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

That is the second blog post i've read this morning that had bees and cinnamon in it! Ants must be terrible this year... good luck hope you have lots of golden honey for harvest. I chose heartfelt blog fyi!

May 21, 2014 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Tanya T said...

Funny because I often think of how well written your posts are compared to mine. Hmm I've been spelling farrier the wrong way - oops!
I loved the pps and this: I say adult phrases I will not repeat here, grab some grain, and walk up the road looking like I work at a power plant and smelling like Christmas. Keep on keepin on Jenna.

May 22, 2014 at 12:48 PM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

I can spell but I sure can't write as nicely as you do. I know which skill I'd rather have!

May 22, 2014 at 2:27 PM  

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