June 2011 Archives

Calling all beekeepers! We've got an exciting weekend of bee-ness coming up in early July. Kirk Anderson from the Backwards Beekeepers (Los Angeles) is coming to NYC to wax philosophical about treatment-free beekeeping and letting bees be bees. These are two aspects of the method of apiary management that he and his club practice known as Backwards Beekeeping.

Joining us for a lecture at Brooklyn Brainery on Saturday 7/9 will be Sam Comfort from Anarchy Apiaries in the Hudson Valley. After the talk, we'll walk over to Added Value's Red Hook Community Farm for some hive inspections and demos.

On Sunday 7/10 Kirk and I will be over at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm for a 2pm workshop on ways to propagate bees naturally and a Q&A session on Backwards Beekeeping. Eagle St will be hosting an Ice Cream Social Fundraiser after, and then the Honeysuckle Rosies will be hosting another Bees N' Beers in Greenpoint to allow all the beekeepers who attended to talk shop and share ideas.

Best yet, it's all free. Check out the flyer that Martina over at FarmTina made!


A Day of Deeds

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Yesterday was just one of those days where the other side of this sort of lifestyle really gets to you. The part with the unpleasantries, insecurities and uncertainties all become glaringly obvious and almost oppressive. They are truths and, as the adage goes, sometimes they do indeed hurt.

I started off my day checking out bees in the neighborhood, hitting up Brooklyn Kitchen and Eagle St. to get shots of their apiary set ups with the photographer I'm working with for my book. Bees overall were doing well. One of the hives at Eagle St raised their own queen who has been going on on mating flights at around 2 pm each afternoon. Fingers crossed, hopes she mates sufficiently.

When I got to my house, I inspected my first year colony. Loads of brood, generally looking good. My overwintered colony was looking pretty robust, and I found many queen cups along the bottoms of the frames (mostly empty) and a few fully capped queen cells. I took the frames with the queen cells and moved them into a nuc. I knew finding the queen and moving her would be difficult under those circumstances (they are a little more testy than my other bees, though not aggressive per se) so I opted for the easier method of pulling the queen cells, putting them in a nuc with some frames of brood in different stages of development, some food and a few frames worth of worker bees shaken onto it. Put a baggie of sugar syrup in there and now I'm hoping for the best.

As an added precaution, I set up a bait nuc since the overwintered hive could still produce a queen and end up swarming. I went in and broke up the brood nest by putting foundationless frames in between some frames of brood. With luck, the house bees will begin building comb and the bees will stay at home.


If not, they've got a nuc nearby, annointed with lemongrass oil with some nice dirty brood comb in there to entice them. Hopefully I will not have to climb any trees to retrieve my bees. I am admittedly fearful of upsetting my neighbors, but I do not want to suppress swarming if it means the bees will be healthier.

After bee duty, came the job I had been dreading all weekend. The chicken I had taken in had been resting, eating clean food, and getting fresh air and sunshine daily. She seemed contented, but her day had come. We set up a killing cone and bucket, washing/butchering station and a pot of boiling water for de-feathering. My knife was sharpened and my glass and been filled with wine and emptied before I gently picked up the young bird, caressed her into a slumber, inverted her into the cone and cut her throat. It didn't go as fast as I thought, it felt like an eternity but she was fairly quiet. I held her head in my hands until it was over, warm blood rushing over my gloved fingertips.

I expected the tears to come, but they did not. In that moment that no one else in the world existed except for me and the chicken whose life I just took. I touched her supple feet that just moments ago were scratching around in straw looking for bits of food to eat. I removed my hand from her face to reveal an expression identical to peaceful sleep. She was gone and now the time came to honor her sacrifice with careful and loving preparation. I scalded her, removed her feathers and eviscerated her with the same care I gave to her while she was living. Next step will be to make a beautiful meal to share with those who helped participate in what has easily been one of the most profound moments of my life.


RIP Chicken. You were a good bird. I hope that in your next life you get to be the one holding the knife. Godspeed, little friend.


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crosshen.JPG (Photo by Daniel Pippenger)

This Cornish Cross hen was brought into a nearby high school by a student as a joke and subsequently escaped to the garden. They were about to call animal control but at the last minute I went over and got her. She's dirty and missing some feathers but healthy...parasite free. Her poops look normal. I went back to check on her today since it's about 100 degrees out which breeds like her have a hard time tolerating. She was barely moving when I got there but perked up when I put her in the car with the air conditioning. She's currently resting in a large crate with cold water and feed in my basement until she cools off.

Question is, do I eat her or do I send her to a shelter? She's a meat bird. It was her fate to become food. It's what she was meant to be. She would have most certainly met a more cruel end if she had been left where she was taken from. I can at least guarantee her a comfortable few days, a swift death and make from her a meal that honors her sacrifice.

I'm not a vegetarian so this isn't a moral dilemma...I suppose I'm more curious about whether or not she'd be safe to eat.

It's just dawned on me how strange a question that is to ask. More often than not, these sorts of birds live in filthy, dismal conditions but we don't think twice about ordering processed parts of them in a drive-thru, but here I am obsessing over this birds comfort and health and questioning whether or not it would be safe to eat her.

So, got any advice, readers?

My tomatoes have started growing like gangbusters so I've begun pinching off suckers and pruning. I show this video about the topic in some of my classes. Folks from Johnny's Selected Seeds succinctly demonstrate how and when to prune your tomatoes!

Garden Update!

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Considering how hands-off I've been this season, what with me travelling to the farm every week, our garden here at Jewel Street Paradise is faring better than expected. That being said, there is certainly room for improvement. For instance, my garlic from last fall has been a failure, between the chickens shredding them and the lack of adequate sun, they pretty much stopped growing completely. Rainbow Chard has met a similar fate but I'm still rooting for it (get it!) Everything else seems to be chugging along nicely. Few pest infestations to report, as I planted a bunch of Borage for a trap crop near the compost bin which have been attracting snails. Aphids started on the tomatoes but I've brushed most of them off and the plants have begun to rebound. The biggest pests in my veggie garden this year are my own rotten hens.

Here are some of the highlights so far...

taters.jpg (Potatoes sprouting up....will mulch with straw soon!)

steel bed.jpg (Onions, Tomatoes and Marigolds in one of our new raised beds. Looking good!)

collards.jpg (Georgia Collards thriving next to Carrots.)

carrots.jpg (Carrots in serious need of thinning!)

So tell me readers, how do your gardens grow?

Visit the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm webpage for deets!


(Bees looking good. Honey for my CSA members in Mid-July!)


(But for now, we enjoy the Summer!---Photos by Neil Despres)

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This page is an archive of entries from June 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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