Bee a Keeper


What’s on your bucket list?  Ever considered beekeeping?  What if there was a way to try it without buying all the equipment?  And where do you buy bees anyway?  Our new Bee A Keeper Workshops in Pittsboro, NC are the way to live the dream without the commitment.

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Bee a Keeper for a day

Beekeeping is a fascinating pursuit – the more you learn about bees, the more they draw you in.  People are concerned about the plight of honeybees and interested in learning more.  But getting started isn’t simple.  With some neighborhood HOAs, it’s just not an option for many people.  Other folks don’t want the commitment.  A bee hive isn’t a crockpot.  Despite some hive designs, you don’t just dump in bees and turn the tap to dispense honey.  It requires a commitment to learning and year round management.

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Beekeeping workshops for all ages

That’s why I’m offering a one day opportunity to experience the highlights – and skip the headaches.  My Bee A Keeper Workshop allows you to enjoy the beauty of beekeeping without the investment of time or equipment costs.  My small group approach (less than 6 participants) gives a personal experience to learn the amazing secrets of the bees.  Spend a half day with me and you’ll learn how bees communicate in a dark hive, what they look for in a food source, and how they cooperate to keep the colony humming.  Plus you’ll get the once in a lifetime, hands-on opportunity to don the gear and work a real honeybee colony!

Enter for a chance to win!

Or extend your learning with our full day option.  After a locally catered honey-themed lunch, you’ll learn about enjoying pollinators in your garden and learn to make your choice of beeswax candles or honey soap.  Finish the day with a pick-your-own bouquet from our cutting garden.  You’ll take home a handmade hive products to enjoy or gift from your day in the apiary.

Here’s a look at our plans for the 1/2 day and full day workshops:

            1/2 Day OR Full Day Morning                                       Full Day Afternoon

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To learn more, visit our Bee A Keeper Workshop page.  Our workshops are a great gift for the gardener, nature lover, or recent retiree!  We offer discounts for well-mannered youth and encourage family groups.  Event dates are by reservation and are limited to spring & fall with a maximum of 6 participants.  Visit our online shop to purchase or email me to discuss dates or questions.  Live the dream and Bee a Keeper for a day!

 

 

 

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New Online Shop!


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BNF Garden Gifts

Raisin love

Dexter cattle love

We now have a direct, online shop on the website!  You can browse all of our awesome raw honey, artisan jam & NC handmade gift products there.  PLUS – now you can order online and pick up at the farm!  Available for all BNF items plus those not in the Etsy shop, including high-demand BNF free range eggs, seasonal flower bouquets, & Bee A Keeper workshop tickets.  Plus you get the awesome experience of breathing the fresh air and meeting the farm critters.

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Bee A Keeper

What??  You haven’t heard about our workshops?  Buckle in.  For all you dreamers & wishers who are arm-chair beekeepers, here’s your chance to live the dream.  Mark something off your bucket list by joining one of our Bee A Keeper half or full day beekeeper experience workshops.  All the glory with none of the headache.  Full details available on the website and in my next blog post.

The Buzz in my Ear


I confess that I’m not a shopaholic.  But I love unique finds.  Things that speak to you. For me, it often involves bees.  And boy do they show up everywhere. I pin these – either instead of buying them, or to remind me to buy them.  Either way, it’s my curated collection of honeybee love.  Pinterest is always a great source for gift ideas.

I think my favorite are the bee earbuds.  Sadly they show as out of stock every time I’ve  clicked.  Bummer.  I think it would be great fun to stick the little buzzers in my ears to listen to a podcast or some music while prepping dinner.  And speaking of podcasts, these have become my new go-to when driving deliveries, kids, or errands.  Sometimes I  need something more than music but less than politics.  Go podcast.  It’s like an audio magazine for any niche you can dream up.  Cooking, shopping, fashion, sports, business, metal detecting, art, hunting, human interest and yes, there are even beekeeping podcasts.  I’ll spare you the nerdy details.

One of my favorites has to be Mike Rowe’s The Way I Heard It.  He tags it as “The podcast for the curious mind with the short attention span.”  Count me in.  He tells tales of human interest, generally well-known figures you will recognize, but from an obscure angle.  The blissfully brief show weaves a tales of humble beginnings, quirky side hustles, or scandalous news that you’ve probably never heard.  My two favorites are “The Merry Christmas” edition with the ominous red phone that never rings, and “A Potty Mouth with a Secret” about more than concealed recipes.  The stories are well told, interesting, and quick enough to fit between errand stops.  Great fodder for future cookouts and cocktail parties.

You Bet Your Garden with Ed McGrath (of former Organic Gardening fame) is another favorite.  This call-in style show is wildly entertaining for the garden-inclined.  McGrath has both the knowledge and witty sense of humor to answer backyard gardening questions from around the country.  There is always a question of the week which he delves into more detail.  Topics range from tree mulching, fig protection, and irrigation ideas.  Long form style but broken up with lots of question segments that make it easy to pause and pick up again later.

Theresa Loe hosts Living Homegrown, a podcast about “living farm fresh without the farm”.  Since we have the farm, I thought I’d have graduated from this one.  But Theresa covers a variety of topics on critter keeping, cooking, gardening, and preserving.  I loved her recent show on making true pickles (fermented pickles – not those bootleg quick pickles I’ve been making all these years).  Just when I think I could host the show, she brings on a new topic in bread baking or making hard cider at home.  and I love her forgiving approach that any small step is progress.  Great for the DIY’er with limited or abundant space.

Special Sauce by Serious Eats creator Ed Levine is a solid choice for any foodie.  Although I’m not in the know enough to catch all of the chef name dropping that goes on, I still enjoy the topics.  His recent interview with Rodney Scott about his childhood work ethic and roots in pit barbecue was real and refreshing.  I listened to this one as we were extracting sourwood honey last week.  (Extracting can be a repetitive and arduous task – but rewards the laborer with drippy honeycomb to chew on while working/listening.)  Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ is now on my bucket list.

Hunt, Gather, Talk is a niche podcast for the outdoorsmen in your life.  Author Hank Shaw talks edible foraging, fishing, wild food prep, and outdoor skills.  all neatly sown together and presented on a rustic audio table.  A must for the hunter or chef of the hunter.

My newest indulgence is Potluck.   A duo of Will & Chris discussing all sorts of southern culture.  Most recently was a dive into the regional sodas made in the south.  The NC ones I knew (Cheerwine floats from Cookout are well loved round here).  But there were all sorts of others that I’d never heard of – like Cannonborough Blueberry Vanilla and Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale.  Plus some great reminders of Barq’s, Nehi, and Sundrop.  Glass bottles rule.  Long-form conversational podcast on a variety of interesting stuff – especially if you are into bourbon.

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If podcasts are new to you, click the purple podcast icon on your iPhone to get started.  Then check out the iTunes Store or Stitcher for podcasts.  Search and ye shall find.  If you are already a podcast addict, share your favorites in the comments below.  I’d love to add to my library que!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Native Carpenters, Not Boring Bees


What’s eating my deck??  A neighbor of mine recently started this conversation.  So I thought it might be fitting to make an introduction – meet the Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica.  It’s name actually means ‘wood worker’ in Greek.)  These are the shiny black, thumb-sized buzzers investigating everyone’s deck and house this time of year.  They hover around the house at eye level challenging you to elementary school style staring contests.  What’s up with these guys?

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Image by Philly Honeyfest

Carpenter bees are one of our native superstar pollinators.  These guys are often confused with bumblebees – due to similar size and color.   An easy difference to distinguish is the fuzz.  Bumbles are furry, Carpenters are mostly shiny.   They are most active in spring and fall as they emerge, mate, and prepare nest cavities.  If you like blueberries, tomatoes, melons or peppers these are some of the hardest working bees we have.  Tomatoes in particular are known to set heavier fruit when pollinated by Carpenter bees.  (Greenhouse growers raise these bees specifically for this purpose).

Even if you just like bird or wildlife in your yard, it is these pollinators who are doing the heavy lifting converting flowers into food for the other locals.  The fact that they are natives makes them highly valuable.  They willingly and happily live right in our yards to do their critical pollinating work, requiring nothing of us.  Except maybe patience.

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Image by Kansas State Extension

These are solitary bees who lay eggs in wooden tunnels, and stuff them with food for the future larvae.  The females lay eggs in the wood cavities (also known as ‘galleries’ – sounds fancy, right?) and hang around to meet and defend their offspring who grow throughout the summer and emerge in the fall to feed before clustering for the winter. This time of year wooden decks, swing sets, fences and houses make attractive structures for them to investigate.  Often the males will hover around existing nest sites, defending the area to other bees (and hummingbirds, humans, etc.) who might be moving in on their turf.
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I get it.  The wood boring part is annoying, especially when it is in something we value.  Technically they are chewing – not eating or boring.  They toss the resulting shavings outside or pack them like particle board along the cavity walls.  My husband has a love/hate with these insects. So what to do?  Offer alternatives.  Carpenter bees greatly prefer soft, unfinished wood for their galleries.  Where none exists, they will choose stained or treated wood but generally don’t recognize painted wood.  They are looking for raw wood – so let’s give them some!  Here are a few ideas:
  • All natural – Leave a small pile of brush, wood pile in your yard.  Don’t spray any chemicals or insecticides and see if they go the natural route.  In reality this is what they are looking for.
  •  Make a condo – A simple unfinished block of wood with a bunch of holes drilled in it offers them an easier nest site than your deck. But size matters. Hole size should be 1/2” diameter and about 3-4” deep.   If possible mount the block 3+ feet off the ground. Offer multiple size holes 1/8″ – 1/2″ to attract a range of different natives.  Drill on the end grain to make it even more appealing.
  • Give them their own house – Many local garden centers sell solitary bee houses that are quite attractive.  Hang these early in the spring to give the Carpenters an easy choice.
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Store-bought – Image by amazon

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DIY condo – Image by Bugblog

What if they have already moved in to your deck?  Carpenter bees are attracted to existing holes.  These can and should be plugged with cork or dowels and sanded to match.  Do this after the holes have been vacated!  Otherwise, they will chew through your fix.  When a neighbor asks what you are doing, you can casually respond “Oh, I’m just filling my galleries.”  Carpenter bee traps exist but obviously kill the insects and reduce our native bee population.  Use them as a last resort.
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The promise

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Unintended result

Insecticides are a terrible option. They kill all insects (butterflies, ladybugs, bees etc.) and the wildlife which feed on them (birds, toads, salamanders, etc).  I realize many insecticides show the big NO mosquitos logo.  But they fail to disclose that pyrethrins (the common and even organic sprays) are general purpose killers.  These are nerve agents that kill all bugs dead – on contact.  Spraying for insects in our landscapes destroys the food chain of wildlife, including us – especially if you garden, bird watch, or keep chickens.
I’m working on a separate post on mosquitos, as this is the time of year those neighborhood signs start popping up promising a bug-free outdoors.  It might be a chance to save you some money and defend our superheroes.   Keep an eye out for that and this spring, try offering our native bees the natural home they seek and they may just pollinate your garden and skip your deck.

This Old House


img_4755For a year now we’ve been intentionally avoiding the (proverbial) elephant on the farm. With so many projects to tackle, the house was a low priority.  But with the slow winter season and a growing impatience with the derelict accommodations, I got antsy.  So I’m starting a series of posts on our progress with our little Fixer Upper.  What we lack in Joanna Gaines style, we make up for in desperation determination.

The real debate was facelift or forklift.   To doze or not to doze?  A brief overview of the house’s shortcomings:

  • Gaping holes & rampant rot in the siding
  • Chicken-barn quality roofing, leaking no doubt
  • Moldy carpeting
  • Scrabble tile style kitchen flooring
  • Condemnable deck rot
  • 7′ bedroom ceilings
  • No heat or air conditioning
  • Outdoor water heater (really)
  • Live, exposed wiring in walls/crawlspace
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It has good bones.  Really – I found them in the crawlspace.

The usual.  Now this is no condemnation of simple living – no one  grows up disadvantaged because of laminate countertops or faux brick.  But many of these were safety issues.  The most egregious was the power cord for the walk-in tub which was trapped under the metal stabilizer leg – complete with frayed wires and char marks on the floor.  Yikes.

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Welcome mat to critters

Back in November we made the decision to renovate after talking with several contractors who agreed that there were somethings worth keeping.  That, plus the upfront $10k demolition.  Can’t we put that money towards improving instead of removing?  Maybe.

Our biggest stroke of luck came through the woods.  We discovered a nearby neighbor with the woodworking skill of Norm Abrams.  “Gary”, as we’ll call him (no real names here to hoard protect the gift), is our leader.  We = hapless manual labor.  Did I mention we are doing the demo ourselves?  All of it.  Paul does the power tools.  I wield the pry bar and wheelbarrow.  The kids stay absent to avoid work.  (Actually Spaghetti likes to get all HGTV and obliterate drywall into dust.  Fun clean up.)

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Master bath (also the kids & guest bath)

Our goal is to have the bulk of the work finished before the business of spring planting/ bee swarm season rolls around.  I optimistically asked Gary “February?”  🙂  “March?”  🙂  I finally resorted to bribery, promising a venison tenderloin dinner for him and his wife once the job was complete.  A flicker of interest but no guarantees.   Bear in mind that our portion of = work is being done at night by floodlight or on weekends.  Paul still has a responsible job to fund this venture.  Thank you baby.

So stay tuned to follow our adventure and see where this train takes us.  With any luck, we’ll be in by next November!

 

 

 

See Your Food in Action!


Recently I wrote about the cool new toy Spaghetti built for me, the wax melter.   Despite its heft, we are using the melter as one of our demonstration pieces for educational use.  Luckily Spaghetti added wheels.  Your first chance to see the behemoth in action will be on this weekend’s CFSA Eastern Farm Tour.

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“You’re on the farm tour?!?!”  No.  But Ninja Cow Farm is.  They are part of the “Orange” route south of Raleigh.  85 acres of happy cows, pigs, chickens, and bees.  You can visit the animals, tour the farm & buy local ice cream, meat, cheese, wine, baked goods, and of course, honey.  They have this amazing on-farm retail store packed with NC goodies.  Bring a bag, cooler, or sherpa to tote home your goods.  The tour is a fun way to see how where good food is produced.  There are 25 farms to see – pick & choose the ones that interest you (or are nearby).  You can even ditch the car and take a bus!  Some are small, community gardens inside the city and some, like Ninja Cow, are a step outside the rat race where you can take a deep breath.    $30/car (fit as many friends as the law will allow) to visit as many farms as you can.  1-5pm Saturday & Sunday (ticket is good for both days!)

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One day when I grow up, I hope we can join the tour.  But for now you can visit our hives at Dan’s place in Garner.  Maybe even meet Miguel who does the heavy farm lifting and secretly hopes to see me get stung.  (Mostly its those who stop to chat with me who get it.  Sorry Spork & Lucy).  So while I won’t be opening any hives this weekend, we will have lots of interesting stuff on display: the observation hive, wax melter, and lots of great info on bees & honey.  Stop by to say hi to the bees & stock up on wildly tasty local goods!

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Mommy Dearest


The new developments are happening furiously lately.  The fowl are producing in all

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Lily’s growing brood

directions!  A few weeks ago, Lily hatched out our first brood of Taquitos.  But we also had a Buff Orpington setting on a nest.  From Mother of the Year to Mommy Dearest… Lily is a mommy star, the buff not so much.  After losing several of her clutch eggs to a snake (maybe her fault, maybe not), she actually hatched out one super cute little black fuzzball.  And promptly tried to kill it.  Bad mama!  The lucky little chick fell or was pushed out of the cage the hen was setting in.  A fall that likely saved its life.  We discovered the shaky little peeper and tried to reunite it with mama.  But no go.  I even tried to see if Lily would accept it.  Nope.  Where to find a mama now?

Chickens are flock creatures.  They enjoy the comfort of other chickens, even if they don’t

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Find Peanut in the photo

like each other personally (which they usually don’t).  I frantically searched Craigslist and our usual sources for other day old comrades.  Nope.  So what to do with 1 chick?  I was back to being the broody mama.  And this little one was high maintenance.  Every afternoon it screamed until picked up.  I know it just wanted the comfort of mama but one cannot be productive with a chick in hand, or underfoot for Spaghetti.

Luckily, after several days of this, we located some similar aged chicks at Pittsboro Feed.  What a godsend!  Little Peanut was initially skeptical of the strange fuzzy things, but quickly turned joyful at their play.  Playgroup!  Now all are happily peeping along in the brooder, warmed by each other’s fuzz and doing all the usual endearing baby chick things.  One more Taquito and a few amigos to add to the fold.  Any girls in the group should start laying right around Christmas.  A gift to look forward to.

Surgery for Scratch


Recently Spaghetti noticed one of our Welsummer hens limping on a swollen foot.  She had recently earned the nickname Weather Chicken for her accurate and vocal forecasting skills.  She walks about chanting “hot, hot, hot”.  (I’ll post video of this soon).  In addition to her vocal talents, she is one laying those fabulous speckled dark brown eggs.  Broadcast talent & egg laying = keeper.  The swelling in her foot was the result of a staph infection from some innocent scratch on the foot, called bumblefoot.  She likely scratched on a sharp stick or fluttered from the roost bar onto a rock.  Now her foot was swollen, warm to the touch, and clearly ouchy.   Aside from being painful, bumblefoot can ultimately be fatal if untreated.

Enter Drs. Howard.  Paul is the only one of us with any

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Mostly cooperative patient

street cred in veterinary medicine, having worked with a vet for a few years.  The whole family joined in the procedure which required careful incisions and a strong stomach for the result.  I was the chicken-holder-in-chief and paper towel manager while Paul did the dirty work. Sauce helped with the fancy bandaging and donated his snazzy duck tape to waterproof the bandage.  Fast forwarding past the gory details, I think we did just fine.

The Weather Chicken was pretty cooperative.  She seemed to know that we were trying to help.  Within minutes of the procedure she was pecking around and studying her bizarre looking feet.  She stayed in the recovery ward for a few days where we changed bandages and kept an eye on her.  But I’m glad to report that she is back in with the flock (still sporting a small bandage) and doing great.   Strangely, we noticed her counterpart (other Welsummer) seems to have the same problem.  So the OR will be open again soon.  And according to the Weather Chicken today was ‘hot’.  Nailed it.

 

Pittsboro Fits


Our farm is just south of Pittsboro, but we claim it as our own.  It is a folksy combination of Apex’s downtown, Chapel Hill’s art, Raleigh/Durham’s food, Hillsboro’s rural farms, Boone’s free spirit, & Asheville’s plain weird.  I love it.  And Buck Naked is proud to support it.  Last week we joined the Chatham County Beekeepers at the Pittsboro’s Farmer’s Market for the first time.  What a neat group of loan shoppers and unique vendors!  This weekday afternoon market was a treat despite the heat, as an added bonus I got to set up next to the entertainment.  An afternoon of talking bees, selling honey & listening to bluegrass. Bliss.  We plan to be at the market once a month and also appear at the fun & quirky Pittsboro First Sunday events.  Stop by to say hi!

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We are excited to also welcome Pittsboro Feed as a new retailer of our honey, jam & soap.  They are a fixture on 64 Business, offering everything for the serious or backyard farm.  They offer an amazing variety of seed, feed, wild bird supplies & CHICKS!  (Sauce purchased the Duckingham Palace residents here.)  They also pittsb feedoperate Pittsboro Pet Supply just across the street with anything you could ever need for man’s best friend.

As if you needed more raison to visit, the downtown Pittsboro shops are the cutest.  They offer the best clothing, books, toys, music, and baked goods anywhere.  Plus there’s restaurants, good o
nes too, fancy ones – down home ones – old fashioned ones.  Stop in if you are local or plan a road trip if you aren’t, Pittsboro is the small town we idealize.  And we at Buck Naked Farm are glad to claim it!

Now at Little Hen!


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Need a break from the kitchen and need a fresh fix?  Eat fresh, eat local, eat at Little Hen in Holly Springs.  We are excited to have made our first delivery of Buck Naked Farm produce, eggs, & honey to Little Hen’s chic kitchen.  (chic not chick).  Chef Regan Stachler creates some amazing good eats from local flavors. He & his wife started the restuarant to devote their culinary talents to highlight local farms.

I could work just from the salad menu – Local Greens & Peaches w/ chèvre .  Melon salad with basil and peach vinaigrette.  Chard beets with blackberry gastrique…  But then you get to order entrees & dessert!  The menu is dominated by unique pairings with fresh ingredients from farms across the Triangle.  And while I’m no aficionado, the wine list is immense and the beer & cocktail menu reads like a candy store for adults.  Little Hen is an epicurean gem tucked into the suburbs (corner of Holly Springs & Optimist Farm Rd.).

We echo their mission to connect farms & families.  So we are excited to contribute to their menu and offer another way to enjoy Buck Naked.  If you have somehow overlooked Little Hen, make haste to enjoy beautifully prepared local food right in your neighborhood.