Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pick-Your-Own in Pickaway County

I'm not exactly sure why our county is called "Pickaway" County, but I think it suits us well, because we have a great assortment of "Pick-Your-Own" farms.  Yesterday the kids and I were out and about, picking strawberries and flower bouquets, and I wanted to share our finds here.  For those of you that don't live in Pickaway County, this would be a great way to spend your next day off or weekend get-a-way.  The money saved on your "pickings" will greatly pay for the extra gas required to get you here.  
Mason and Maizy, with our pickings from yesterday's adventure

Pictured below is "Blossoms at the Bend" U-Pick flower farm.  For just $3.00, thats right... not a typo... you can pick your own flower bouquet, enough to fill a red solo cup as pictured above.  Right now they have a plethora of peonies in assorted colors, delphiniums, snapdragons, coreopsis, poppies, salvia, blue flax, love in a mist, baptisia (false indigo), blanket flower, and many more available for picking.  Everything was so gorgeous, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  The little house you see in the distance holds the cups, scissors, and a guestbook.  There is a hose off to the side of the house where you can fill your cup with water, and pick to your heart's content.  They even have vases available for purchase for $1-$3.  It was so much fun!  This is clearly the best deal in Central Ohio, as a similar sized bouquet at the farmer's market in Columbus will run you at least $12.00, if not more.  You can find the farm at:  5564 Williamsport Pike, Williamsport, OH  43164.  Open dawn to dusk.
Pick Your Own Flowers at Blossoms at the Bend, south of Williamsport 
We picked the strawberries at Wright's Pickaway Farm, located at 7884 Darby Rd, Circleville, OH  43113.  Their website has a phone number you can call to get the most up to date info on availability and times.  He was charging just $1.35 a pound, and we picked about 9 lbs. in under an hour.  It sure beats the $6.00 a quart price at the farmer's market right now!  
And finally, why not come on by our farmstand (pictured below).  We use the honor system, and are open dawn to dusk.  We also offer price discounts (a dollar off our farm market prices) when you come to the farmstand and use the honor system.  We keep it stocked with honey and soap at all times.  

What else is new?  We've been planting flowers around the house.  I can't think of anything cuter than a chubby little hand placing a flower in a carefully dug hole, filled with dark brown earth:
Pictured below is the 2012 Barnes Family Planting Crew:

 New Labels!  As much as we loved our old labels, it was time for a change.  If you purchase our honey online or at the market, you'll notice a new look (same great taste!).  This project has been 2 years in the making (I'm not even joking).  The wheels of change move slowly when you're raising a family and running a family business.  But now you'll be able to tell which season of honey you have, in case you forget when you come home from market.  We also added the state of Ohio outline to accentuate the locality of the honey.  What do you think?  Leave us a comment!

The Runnin' Beekeeper

-posted by Jayne

Did you know your local honey man Isaac is a marathon runner?  And not just a marathon runner, but a good marathon runner... as in... he's even won marathons before.  I think as his wife I have a right to brag a bit, because if you've met Isaac you know he is a pretty modest person and won't admit it himself.  Sunday, May 5th, Isaac took 5th in the Cincinnati marathon, with a time of 2:43:04.  Because I was stuck in the crowd with a baby strapped to my chest, I didn't get any great pictures, so I must leave you with a few older pictures:   

Isaac at the 2007 Cincinnati Marathon, when he took 1st place.
Isaac has run a total of 27 marathons and placed first in Cincinnati in 2007 with a time of 2:33:36 and also placed first in the God's Country marathon in Pennsylvania.  His fastest time is 2:25.

Here he is at the Saint George Marathon (Utah) from some years ago.  He tried several years at an attempt to make an Olympic Trial Time, but never quite made it.  It was definitely a good excuse for me to take a vacation to the Southwest, though!

I know I know... many of you don't know or care much about marathon running.  I know I didn't before I married a runner.  So what is Isaac's secret?   Well, honey and pollen of course!  At least this is what we like to believe.

We have had customers who marvel at the health benefits of pollen, then say things like, "You guys must be the healthiest people around!"  Isaac was talking to a customer on the phone last week who claimed "I can feel the energy from you, man.  This pollen is good stuff."  We always chuckle at this, but I think if there ever was to be a poster boy for bee pollen, it would be Isaac.  

Thanks for letting me take up a blog post to brag on my husband.  Next time you see Isaac make sure you congratulate him!  

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Pleasures of Eating

-posted by Jayne

What is new on the farm?  We've been tending to our chickens; there's the new batch of laying hens, still in their "teenage years" as I like to think of it.

And then there are the broilers...

Not so cute.  White Mountain Broilers - bred to eat and grow large breasts... and not very smart.  We started with 35 and are now down to 22.  Possums, fox, weasels, mink... who knows what else, have gotten into the pen and steadily decreased our number.  Pretty sad, and my own fault for not doing a better job at securing the fences.  But these birds are pretty easy targets.  They grow very rapidly, producing large breasts which make them sort of front and top heavy.  This makes it hard for them to walk up and down the little ramp leading in and out of the chicken coop.  Even a slow, lumbering possum can snatch up one of these chickens in a matter of minutes.  As much as I love raising good quality meat for our familiy, I am tempted to give up on raising broilers.  I'm not very good at shooting possum (yuck), and it isn't really fair of me to ask Isaac to do this for me everytime one gets into the chicken house.  Okay, I admit, I've never tried to shoot a possum, so I don't know if I'm good at it or not.  But I don't want to try.  If I could only convince Isaac to build me a chicken tractor...

Some of you readers may be wondering how and why we raise our own meat birds.  I'm often asked, "Isn't it so hard to raise something you will eventually slaughter and eat?"  My answer has always been that I'd rather eat an animal that was humanely raised and had a good life, than one that lived in confinement and was treated poorly, not to mention washed in a bleach bath during butchering.  We do our best to eat responsibly.  I love the Wendell Berry essay "The Pleasures of Eating" where he explains how eating is an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines how the world is used.  He says on the topic of eating animals one has raised, "Some, I know, will think of it as bloodthirsty or worse to eat a fellow creature you have known all its life. On the contrary, I think it means that you eat with understanding and with gratitude.  A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes."  

It is important to me that my kids fully know and understand where their food comes from, and how it is grown/raised.  I imagine many of you reading this feel the same way about your food, since you are reading a blog from a small family farm.  You want to know a little more about how and why a family would choose to make a living raising honey bees, and how that honey was produced.  We are glad there are others out there like us who see the important connection between the land, the food we eat, and the importance of how the animals and plants are raised.  If you have a few minutes, you should visit the link above and take the time to read Wendell Berry's essay.  Not only will you be inspired to do even more to take part in your own food production, but you will also learn a little more about the philosophy that guides our own beliefs; who we are and why we do what we do.  

I leave you with a few more sentences from Berry's essay:

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blooms and Bait Hives

-Posted by Isaac

The bees are back!
 Four late nights got them all out of the apples and back home to make some spring honey. I increased the size of the 'good' locations this year, putting upwards of twenty hives in some.

Here's "Johnny's Yard", about three miles away.   

A few of the bee yards which were surrounded by nothing but corn fields, I took out altogether. No more 'honey rent' for those folks. Sorry.

Here's "Ann's Yard." 
These girls get the royal treatment: an old hog barn.

A good location is one with plenty of forage. Meaning somewhere away from the hundreds of acres of row crops, preferably set-aside land where the bees can find a diverse diet of whatever is blooming. When I brought them out of the orchards 10 days ago, the russian olive was in full bloom. 

Most people around here hate this bush because it's so invasive. I love it for obvious reasons: bee food. After the small bit of nectar the bees can gather on dandelions and apples, this is the first real honey flow. Plus you can smell it a mile away. Walk through a pasture filled with it, and it's like you're walking through cotton candy.

Next came my favorite- the black locust trees.

Not a great picture of this grove, but you can see the large white blooms on these somewhat young trees. I've planted some 700 black locust over the last five years. Why? Future honey, of course! This nectar makes the most delicate and beautiful honey. A distinct floral taste.

Shortly after the black locust bloomed, the bush honeysuckle came on strong.

People share the same dislike for this as they do the russian olive. Very invasive plant covering our forest floors. But again, I can find it in my heart to love it at least a couple weeks a year.

With the bees back home and supered up, I found a little time to try something new this year-- bait hives. These are old busted out-of-commission boxes with a couple old frames and a lemongrass 'swarm lure'.

After a good solid afternoon I had 23 swarm catchers ready to go. This is a little like fishing for bees.

Actually, I've fooled around with this a little in the past, but I didn't know what I was doing.  Dan Williams, our bee club president gave a talk about catching swarms at the last meeting. I gained several useful pointers. The size of box and internal cavity is important, and so is the height of placement. Oh, and a little something called "queen juice." This is a jar of rubbing alcohol and the bits and pieces of old dead queens. You put a little of the 'juice' on the bait hive frames and as the alcohol evaporates, the scent of queen pheromone remains. What a great idea.

 Success! This morning, only two days after putting the bait hives out, I was able to check about ten of them. Four had swarms! Four! And not only that, every trap had plenty of bee interest... foragers pecking around the entrance hole, hopefully telling everyone about the sweet new pad with vacancy signs flashing.

 I wouldn't have believed it. Either this is the biggest swarming week of the year, or Dan Williams is simply a genius. I'm inclined to think it's a little of both.