Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where are all the bears coming from?

Where are all the bears coming from?

Well, let’s see. On the way in the driveway yesterday I passed one of my neighbors and he stopped me to say, “Your beehives are sure taking a beating. this month.”

Of course he was talking about the beehive that someone took off its stand and threw out into the driveway twice this week.

Then, another neighbor sent me an e-mail about what happened when she went out walking her dog last week.

“We came to the top of a rise and I ducked to go under a fallen tree, and saw a black bear in the middle of the clearing ... It was probably the one John saw going through our trash can a couple of weeks ago.”

Then, this week, as I was in my bee suit picking up that hive in the driveway, the one that had been scattered in several directions, another neighbor stopped her car and rolled down the window. “I saw her do it. You would think she would be out at night but no, it was eleven in the morning. A big momma bear and her three cubs.”

And this isn’t counting the damage being inflicted on the hive up on the hill as you drive in to our farm. This is the location of the several year old picture on the webpage. The picture of the destroyed beehive and the snapshot taken by a hidden wildlife camera of a bear strolling down the road.

I thought I had cured the bears from attacking these hives by erecting an electric fence hooked up to a car battery. At least there hadn’t been any damage for several years.

Unfortunately, though, sometime over the last week some stalwart soul braved the electric fence, reached in through the electrified wire and grabbed a hive. Turned it over and then bravely absconded with the top box. (do you think that's what motherhood will do to you, make you strong willed enough to confront a nasty electric shock in order to feed your babies?)

I say bravely because this hive is loaded down with bees. Tens of thousands of angry workers. Every time I’ve tried to put the hive back together I’ve been assaulted in mass by battalions of bee warriors. Literally, inside the bee suit the sky turns black from the workers that fly out of their overturned hive to anxiously defend their home.

The marauding bear knocked over the entire hive and then stole off with only the top bee box. This one apparently containing few bees but as much as fifty pounds of honey.

She took it off into the woods where she methodically took it apart, gouging out the honey and eating it frame by frame.

After last week's newsletter where I commented on the open ice and pollution up on the north pole I was asked by several people why I didn't come out and state what they said was obvious. 'Global Warming!'

Well, I think a number of our shareholders know much more about just about everything than I do but since I was asked to draw conclusions I think I should make some about the bears.

Why are there more bears in your valley, Leigh, than ever before? And why are they sticking around later in the season? Usually, by now they have decided your valley doesn't provide enough habitat to winter in and they move on so what makes things different this year?

Well, my answer to this is, where are they going to move? You might not have noticed, not living out here, but what habitat there was in this direction is rapidly disappearing.

Our farm and valley is now on the edge of the DC suburbs. Just a couple years back there was a large block of wooded land to the east of us.

But that was then. Now its gone.

Today, it seems like just the day before yesterday when the huge development corporation began moving its equipment into the woods to the east of us. First the pairs of huge bulldozers connected by massive logging chains moving through the forest. The trees being uprooted by the chain as they passed.

Fifteen square miles of trees were leveled in a few short weeks.

The now dead trees were then pushed into huge chippers creating unbelievably large mountains of wood chip mulch.

Next came the survey teams, marking off sewers, roads and house lots. Followed by the landscapers which, with their heavy equipment pushed up hills and rerouted streams. Draining marsh land and putting in place a massive drainage system to keep the bogs and lowlands dry. 

After that, in quick secession came the paving crews, and framers, the roofers, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians, drywallers, finishing carpenters, painters, carpet layers, landscapers, and another dozen or so tradespeople.

And now what was wild critter habitat is a massive development of paved streets, chemicalized lawns and houses built using the same blue prints over and over and over again.

( and yes I know, a lot of us, the shareholders of our CSA, live in those houses, and it sure makes selling shares in our CSA easier with our customer base that much closer, however...)

However, when you ask why do we have bears hanging out in our valley, the answer is because there isn't anywhere else to go. Us humans seem to be trying to redefine habitat as fast as bacteria growing in a petri dish.

(which reminds me of another sad story about being a boy and finding the woods didn't go on forever and ever. However, rather than sticking it in the newsletter, as asked by that other group that wrote, the ones that didn't want to hear about pollution or global warming or anything else not strictly related to the vegetables, 'don't waste my valuable time except with information about the vegetables.' I'll put it on the blog.

Which does, though, brings us around to some other sad news.

We are coming up on our last week of vegetables.

Our last week will be October 12th through the 17th.

So sad.

However, to sweeten it up a little bit how about honey?

1. Next week the share will contain honey. Your share will be about a pound. However, to get your share of honey you need to bring a container. (Preferably a glass container with a top). A pound of honey fills 2/3 of a pint so if you bring a jar about the size of a pint canning jar that would work out fine. Of course you can bring a larger jar but I will still pour about a pound of honey into it.

2. Comb Honey. And speaking of honey if you want honey in the comb? I have a friend, a full time beekeeper who produces and sells comb honey. That’s honey still in the comb. Yummy stuff. If you want to buy some I’ll bring some with me for the last week of vegetable deliveries.

3. Pure beeswax candles. In addition to comb honey, his family also takes the excess bees wax and makes candles. Really high quality pure beeswax candles. A pair of ten inch long candles is $10. That’s a real deal. E-mail me if you want the candles or comb honey and I will pick them up before next week’s share.

4. Beef and pork. I already sent out the fact sheet on this year’s meat prices and dates to those who have expressed interest. The local pigs go to the butcher in November and the cows in January. One cow will be ready by the end of this month. If you are interested in a quarter cow or half hog and haven’t got the information e-mail me and I’ll send it your way.

5. Waiting list. If you are interested in a 2009 share but not in the early sign up I will be contacting you in February when I open up our subscriptions. If you do it that way you will pay next year’s price.

6. Gleanings. At the end of every season we invite shareholders to come out and glean our fields. Shareholders can come out then and search the fields looking for that forgotten pumpkin, or those still growing peppers. A sort of vegetable easter egg hunt.

7. Sweet Potatoes and eggs. I am leaving a couple rows of sweet potatoes in the ground so the more industrious can dig potatoes. And, by then, the egg share will be over so people can come out and collect eggs. Though, unfortunately, each day, with the shortening days, the chickens are laying fewer and fewer eggs. By Christmas the chickens usually stop laying all together (commercial egg operations put lights on their chickens to confuse their biological clock and keep them laying eggs just like it was mid summer).

8. Pumpkin pick. We still have a few large pumpkins out in the field, which I will leave for gleaning. In all fairness, those will go one to a share.

And that’s about this week’s (and this seasons) news.

Except, except just as I was finishing this up a huge hawk came swooping down and made a grab at one of those misbehaving chickens that spend their days pecking and scratching in our front yard rather than in their hen pasture.

He grabbed her, feathers flying, and tried to lift off with her in his talons, only the other hens started making such a racket the Great Pyrenees jumped up from their afternoon nap, started running, barking and the hawk sensing her attempt at an early supper might end in disaster, flew off, right past my office window.

I have to go deliver todays vegetables before anything else happens.



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