July 2012 Archives

We're here in NJ now. We won't be totally settled in until September but in the meantime we've set up a temporary fort for the rabbits and chickens. Check it out!

I'll admit it. I'm having a hard time blogging right now. I can't find the words. It's not that I have nothing to talk about, I do. I'm taking the pot off the burner just when things are just starting to cook. I've got plenty of feelings on the matter, but my mind is a whirling dervish of conflicting emotions that I can't really get a grip on at the moment. Once I am able to stop the spinning I might be better equipped to explain how weird all of this feels.

tom_portrait.jpeg (Portrait by Tom Pavlich)

Neil and I are spending the weekend tackling the not-so-fun task of packing. We've managed to cram quite a bit of stuff into our tiny apartment and I'm embracing this opportunity to edit all of it. The older I get, the more I tend to look upon having for the sake of having with disdain. A big part of me desires a stripped down, minimalist home. A monk's life, even. Only the essential has a place, everything else goes.

One thing at a time, though. I can only handle so many changes at once.

I'm making a big adjustment once we arrive. It is a very necessary one. In the 7 years I've lived here, some aspects of my health have declined significantly and I attribute it to the regular social drinking and too-frequent consumption of rich food that can be found and any number of fantastic eateries in my neighborhood. I've been too indulgent, and I feel unwell as a result. I have a history of food intolerances, auto-immune disorders and cancer in my family so I need to take my wellness more seriously. I could literally be shortening my life by not following my body's lead.

So, at this new home of ours we will be eating sensible home cooked meals made of fresh food and drinking infrequently. The temptation to go out for cocktails and arepas or beer and pizza will be minimal because it just doesn't exist to the same degree in our new town. I'm ok with that. I can better manage my behavior under these circumstances. I cannot farm if I feel like hell on a day to day basis. I need to be at my best, because there is a lot of work to do.

Heck, I might even start doing yoga! I'll be living on a farm with yogis and yoginis passing through on a regular basis. All of my friends would chuckle to see that, after so many years of thumbing my nose. I'll eat my hat. It's fine. I want to live a long life. I want a life filled with good living. If that's what it takes, then that is what it takes.

7 days to go, Brooklyn.

About a dozen of these funny little things will be living at the farm. They have the same hatch date as the chicks we're getting so we figured we'd just brood them together!

Hey folks! Sorry for the silence on my end...I've been taking the opportunity to enjoy a little bit of freedom for the past week and it's been needed. I've got a big move on my hands and I've been using this time to regroup and plan so that the migration from Brooklyn to shorefront New Jersey feels more like a smooth transition than a chaotic upheaval. I'm feeling pretty good about it so far.

It's been strange going through all of my things, thinning them out. I haven't really acquired much in my 7 years in NYC, mostly because of spacial constraints....as I go through boxes I haven't opened in years it's occurred to me that I have a lot of JUNK that I don't need. Most of it is stuff that other people wouldn't really want either, because it's random and I only held onto it because of sentimental reasons..like old beaten up CDs that probably don't even play without skipping (besides, I don't have a cd player!). I've been lucky in that I've lived in the same apartment building for the entire time I've been a New York resident, avoiding the stressful bouncing from apartment to apartment that many of my friends here have experienced. Those frequent moves would have provided the impetus to free myself of some boxes of detritus. This is one of the few side effects of being settled in one place. Lazy accumulation. This sort of forgetful hoarding stops now. I won't have things without purpose clogging up our space in the future. While our new home will be bigger, it's not so big that we can justify needless having. We're trimming the fat this month, for certain!

On a different note, progress with the Homestead at Seven Arrows is running smoothly. A couple days ago I finally got to meet the patriarch of the family, Mr. Knipscher and his gentle, soft spoken wife. They live in a house on the far east side of the property and I was feeling really anxious about moving there and tearing up their land, putting a bunch of noisy animals all within earshot of their home. He has lived there a long time and I couldn't imagine he'd be keen on suffering some punk kids coming down and farming up the place.

On the contrary, Mr. Knipscher put my mind at ease when he told me that he had always envisioned a farm on the property once again. He told story of an old dairy barn that used to be attached to his home where some milking cows once lived and the sadness he felt when he returned after a stint upstate to find it torn down. When I told him that a kind farmer was setting us up with livestock guardian dogs to look after the chickens, goats and rabbits (there are lots of foxes and very "friendly" raccoons), he said that it sounded like a good idea. That was my biggest fear, and it was met with no resistance, only openness. What a wonderful quality for a person to have, openness. It makes the world seem like a bigger place, full of possibility!

frogs.jpeg (Frogs in the fountain at Seven Arrows, photo courtesy of Domestic Construction's Instagram)

Up until that point, this move did not feel very real. I couldn't quite picture myself there yet. Now I can say that I know someone there. I have a neighbor and I know them. This was all the situation required to make it feel like something I could hold onto. It's clicked into place now. On mild days I'll have my coffee outside amongst the brackish air after all the animals are fed. We can cook outside on the old hearth and perhaps have Mr. Knipsher and his wife over for a beer and supper. Who knows what will happen, but for now I know someone kind in Locust, NJ and that means that plenty of good things are possible.

Lookit that hunny!

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Photos from yesterday's honey harvest (by Eryn Stutts and yours truly.)

The source:

The bees that maketh the honey:

Eryn cutting the comb from frames:

Chunks of honey comb:

Lauren crushing the comb to release the honey from the cells:

The finished product, after straining and suspending pieces of cut comb in the jar. It's creamy looking because of air bubbles, which disappear after a day or so:

Any minute now my two apprentices, Lauren and Eryn will ring my doorbell. They are assisting me in the honey harvesting and bottling process today. My CSA members have been patiently waiting for their first shares and I intend to get them to them post-haste.

As an aside, this will be the first honey extraction I've done in some time where I've not had someone there documenting or spectating. I needed this process to be intimate again. I needed it to feel like it still belonged to me. It's always been a very personal experience but I've allowed myself to get swept up in the circus surrounding the NYC beekeeping scene and while it's been awesome to share with others the joys of being an urban beekeeper, I've learned that it's important to set up boundaries so that I have time to enjoy the hobby I love. Anyway, onto the point of this post...the liquid gold!

We'll be using a crush and strain method of honey extraction, as I always have. Small NYC apartments rarely have the space to spare for a clunky centrifuge that only gets used twice a year, so I don't have one. An added benefit is that you get more wax with this method for making candles, too. This method makes the most sense for a hobbyist beekeeper that is fine with harvesting more sparingly. Bees need to eat a lot of honey to rebuild the wax that gets cut out during hand extraction, so you don't want to get carried away and take too much. Instead of harvesting entire supers, I harvest half of the fully capped frames and drop foundationless ones staggered in between drawn out combs. This way the bees can use these combs as a guide to build straight and still have honey stores to move around until winter. I don't feed sugar syrup in the fall, I let the bees keep much of the food that they labored to put away.

(Here's a video of that method in action, performed by my good friend Kirk at the Backwards Beekeepers in Los Angeles!)

Making wax candles tomorrow, so I'll post some pictures of that soon!

Watching this makes me so overjoyed to know that I'll soon have some critters like this looking after the farm.

This weekend I managed to run into an old beekeeping acquaintance named Deb Romano who is based further south from me in Brooklyn. She and her son Mike offered me two 4 week old chickens to add to my flock, which I happily accepted. When I went by to pick them up I got the grand tour of their wonderful Park Slope home. I was most impressed by their beautiful garden, lush and brimming over with sweet blooms and tender greens ready to be harvested. Deb has quite a gift with growing things...I shrunk a little when I thought of my own home garden and how neglected it has become.

Anyway, as we were talking bees, Deb led me indoors out of the heat to offer me a gift of something she had been making for some time, milk bottle cap earrings. They are just too fantastic for me not to share. I love that these are so distinctive and farmy but really lightweight and versatile. I wore them all day in my overalls and a ratty old t-shirt but managed to feel surprisingly cute in spite of the film of funk clinging to me.


You can view more styles on her Etsy page. She's got an amazing collection so all you dairy enthusiasts and antique collector-types out there have look and support!



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This page is an archive of entries from July 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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