Monday, August 13, 2007

spilt honey, again

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been...

Well, that might not be strictly true.

Let’s just say instead: It has been worse.

I mean, it has been larger and definitely stickier.

This time it was only 50 pounds all over the Herndon share site. The other time it was six hundred pounds and it covered our sun room floor.

Then it was honey oozing under the door and across the stone floor. This time it was honey dripping out of the van door onto the church asphalt.

But, here's 'The Question'

How long does it take a honey bee scout to find spilt honey and get back to the hive and tell everyone about the bonanza just waiting to be picked up?

How long does it take a scout bee after finding honey to fly back to her hive and return with a thousand of her sisters to come and carry it home?

More about that after the farm news.

Tomatoes? Since the tomato season has finally, slowly, started, here are the tomato guidelines. If you are a first time shareholder with us, you should look at this.


Rain Watch! Only marginal, at best, rain this last week. 1/100th of an inch on Monday and another 1/100th Sunday. The last meaningful rain to hit the farm, an inch, was two weeks ago.

As most of you know (some people, however do seem to be oblivious to this fact), vegetables do not grow without water. I was out on the Eastern Shore last week and the corn there looks like someone attacked it with a flame thrower.

Stunted and burnt looking.

This drought is about the worst I have seen in my lifetime.

(I do, however, remember a stretch of 56 straight days --don’t ask how I remember that number --of being able to play outside without interruption from rain. Since I associate that memory with football it must have been in the fall of the early part of the 1960’s).

Heat alert. And to add insult to injury we are having temperatures in the upper 90’s this week (and much of last week). It looks like its about to go over 100 today.

You probably know, tomatoes stop growing at temperatures above 90. In fact most vegetables stop growing when it gets that hot.

Let’s hope now that the tomatoes are finally growing they don't shrivel up in the heat and drought.

Susannah, the woman who provides most of the eggs in the eggshares, grows her own corn to feed her families hogs and chickens.

Not this year.

This year her corn is shriveled and stunted. She had to borrow money this week to buy some two year old grain her neighbor had stored away when times were better.

Even with the heat, though, we have started planting greens for the fall. Seeds for greens have very poor germination in the heat but we don’t have much choice.

If we don’t plant now we won’t have greens this fall. Oak leaf lettuce, red sails lettuce, black seeded Simpson, arugula, giant red mustard, southern curly, plus half a dozen I can’t recall off the top of my head. We also planted a lot of radishes and plan to start today pac choi in flats. Let’s see if we can get them growing despite the heat.

Honey. For the past two weeks we have been giving out honey. If you still haven’t remembered to bring a jar, we will give out honey one more week. Then, if there is still honey left we will start distributing the remainder.

Which reminds me that the Herndon people didn’t get their honey last week.

Instead of shareholders getting the honey, bees from a Herndon backyard beekeeper's hive collected our honey right off the church parking lot asphalt.

Here’s what happened (no excuses intended).

The road around the back of Dulles airport was backed up last week. While route 606 once was a country road, the fields have quickly turned into the home of offices, warehouses, strip malls and what one of my friends calls 'short sharp stick houses' (houses you can cut through the walls if you have a short stick) that are being advertised as costing in ‘the upper $700 thousand’ range.

My favorite goat pasture. A field for decades supporting a herd of Nubian goats is now a neighborhood of sss houses (do you think the people that moved in know they are living on top of the past home of a lot of stubborn, loud, stinking, obnoxious goats?)

Anyway, I wasn’t in a good mood when I finally got to the pick up site and sharply pulled into the parking space behind the church.

And when I did, the bucket of honey tipped over.

And the top to the bucket popped off.

And when I ran around the side of the van the honey was already dripping under the side door.

Those buckets, those five gallon bucket I store the honey in holds 60 pounds of honey.

And when I opened the door 50 pounds of it had already oozed out.

And was quickly dripping under the door, to the asphalt.

50 pounds of honey making an ever widening circle.

I stood in dismay staring at the mess. That was until the the first honey bee showed up in less than two minutes.

A scout bee.

You probably know that a honeybee hive is a pretty diversified operation.

It's pretty complex.

Real complex for a bunch of insects.

I mean, we can’t smell their language (bee language is mostly pheromone based) but we do know from observation that there are hundreds of different jobs tasked out to different bees.

There are police bees and guard bees, nurse bees and water carrying bees (actually at any time a bee can quit her job and take up another profession), there are nectar gathers, and pollen collectors. Undertakers and air-conditioning (well, maybe we should call it air cooling) technicians. Comb builders, bees that insulate, bees the take care of the babies. Bees that take feed the next to worthless male bees and, my favorite, the job I would want if I was a bee, bees that scout out the world.

Scout bees spend their time flying around the greater world, sort of checking out what’s what.

There are different things that scout bees look for (we don’t know if this is a specialized profession too) and while some scouts look for water and others look for new places to build hives, there is your scout that flies around looking for new sources of food.

Well, that’s what kind of bee found out spilt honey. She flew around for a few moments until, finally, landing. Then, quickly, taking in a sample of the spilt honey before lifting off again. But instead of flying back to her hive, she circled the van several times so she would be sure to give directions to its location and then... zoom.

Off she went, straight as a beeline, back to her hive where, humans once believed she did a dance (there are new studies that say the well-known bee dance actually isn’t how a bee imparts her information, that there is probably a much more complex pheromone based language going on, a language that we, as a species, are biologically ill-equipped to understand).

Anyway, somehow the one scout that found our spilt honey went back home and spread the word and by the time the pick up was over and I was loading the boxes several thousand busy bees had arrived and were hurriedly picking up our spilt honey.

I wonder what sort of process human society would have to undertake to perform some equivalent task?


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