Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bee update

We visited the farm last weekend and as we were getting ready to leave, spoke to the neighbor across the street, the husband of the young women with small children. She was the one who threatened to bring suit in civil court because her child had gotten a couple of bee stings earlier this year.

He was very laid back. He said bees are a part of nature, he realizes they are not under our control, and that the bee hives behind their house belong to another beekeeper anyway. He thinks the ones in his yard might be theirs. He understands their bees might be flying over his house to drink water at our pond. He said that there were a lot of bees earlier in the year but lately it has not been a problem. He said essentially, "don't worry about it."

What a relief!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

More on ducks

The ducks are in the pond right now.

I ate duck tonight at the local Thai restaurant in Romeo, MI. This was symbolic....I did NOT eat my neighbors ducks, however I am considering it...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is growing food for yourself and your neighbors a basic human right?
Apparently we are losing it.

Dollarhite family in Nixa, MO - fined by USDA for unlicensed rabbits

Julie Bass in Oak Park, MI - local city officials charge with misdemeanor for vegetable garden and unlicensed dogs

Dirk Becker and Nicole Shaw in Lantzville, British Columbia - Vancouver officials ordered them to remove their compost pile from their 1-acre farm/farm market, or face six months in jail.

I think the world is going crazy. Where do people think food comes from?

The thing that these people all have in common is that they are growing food on their OWN property, and the government steps in with ridiculously heavy penalties.

Meanwhile I read about urban farms in inner cities springing up on vacant land, whether by individuals like this lady.

or organizations like this one

They don't even own the land!

Am I wrong, or is there something crazy going on here?

Yellow transparents

We timed it right to harvest the Yellow Transparents this year! For some reason we have HUGE apples ( for Yellow Transparents, anyway).

I picked a bushel of the low-hanging fruit. Hope to get some more tomorrow. Standing on back of truck to reach higher branches. I don't trust the orchard ladders around here, or my agility.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More on ducks

Ducks are still laying eggs underwater. I have to wade in, pick them up then go to the field in the "back 4o " to dispose of them

But at least some of the eggs are not laid underwater. I am told by farmgirl friends as long as the "film" covering the egg is not disturbed, the egg probably can be used beause the membrane forms a seal around the egg, protecting it from bacteria.

The ducks still swim away from me when I approach them. Maybe I need some corn.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Apple trees and honeybees

"I'd like to build the world a home, and furnish it with love,
Grow apple trees,
and honeybees,
and snow white turtle doves"

This was a favorite hymn in my hometown church congregation and I often find myself singing it.

I've got the apple trees and honeybees covered, but I'm still working on the turtledoves.

Evidently my neighbors don't have the same loving associations that I do concerning apple trees and honeybees.

We allow a commercial beekeeper to keep his hives in our orchard in the off-season. The neighbors have recently lodged a complaint that their house and car are "covered" in bee "poop". I went over and looked, and while there is some evidence of little yellowish-brown dots on their siding on the southwest corner of their house, it is hardly covered. There are maybe five dots in a six-inch by six-inch area. Being a country girl, if it were on my house, I probably would not even have noticed it!

I explained to them that they are living in the country now, and there is a lot of dirt. I have to wash bird "poop" off my house, and we have bat "poop" in the barn where the bats are hanging in the rafters. They weren't buying it. He wanted to know what kind of pesticide to spray because what he is using now isn't working. I told him that while the country is in the middle of a colony collapse disorder epidemic, he's probably not going to find any company marketing a product to kill honeybees. (He'd never heard of colony collapse disorder!)

The guy mentioned he is going to have to re-side his house. I think he expects us to pay for it! He also mentioned that his new car looks like it is five years old. I hope he doesn't want a new car too!

Another neighbor came out and saw us talking in his yard and jumped in to the conversation. Her back yard is "covered" with bees. Her 4-year old has been stung. She said the township supervisor advised her to pursue a civil action against us, because she has a right to a "better quality of life".

I was flabbergasted. I've never heard of bee "poop" being a problem before. We went back to our house and examined the outbuildings - now that it had been pointed out to us, we were able to find two or three dots on one of the buildings. I've since talked to some bee experts and their take is that the neighbors would be hard-pressed to prove that the bees on our property are the ones that are pooping on the house, given the distance from the road where the bees are located. Also they said that the bee "poop" washes up easily with soap and water if it is cleaned right away, and that the biggest problem is in early spring when the bees take a "cleansing flight" after being cooped up in the hive all winter.

So the neighbors must have left the mess since February or March, and now it is probably baked on in the summer heat.

I think it is their problem, not mine. The lady with the child has white clover in her backyard. If she got rid of the clover, probably the bees would not stop there!

I am also quite shocked that they would go to the township supervisor before talking to us. Is that what neighbors do?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Duck Wars

Other people's pets!

The next door neighbors decided to become poultry farmers this year. They have have a dozen chickens, and half a dozen ducks.

They put in a kiddie pool for the ducks. When the ducks got a little older, they started visiting our pond. My husband and I were concerned that they did not know that our pond is treated to keep the algae down, so we went over and talked to them.

The lady said that "we would NEVER eat our ducks, they are our pets!" and "We'd like to keep them at home, but what can we do?" (with a shrug of her shoulders, evidently a fence is too expensive) so I mentioned that they might become a problem if they leave a mess on our beach. She promised to come over and clean up any mess.

Last weekend we observed her husband actually MOWING A PATH to our property. Quite the opposite of "trying to keep them at home". However, there may be some benefits or possibly additional drawbacks. The ducks have started laying eggs. Some of the eggs are laid in our pond. I mean what I say - they are actually laying their eggs IN our pond. (Is this natural duck behavior or what?) If the eggs are any good after sitting in the sun, under water, for several hours, there could be some benefit to this arrangement -- but if the eggs are spoiled due to the high temperatures they are exposed to while we are at work, it is a chore to go out and wade into the pond and pick up the eggs and walk to the neighbors back acreage and throw the eggs into it...

I have never been a poultry-keeper before so it is a confusing situation to me. Whose ducks are they if they stay at our house? Who gets to keep or clean up the eggs and feathers, etc. (and by etc, I mean the droppings) Do I call her every day to come over and clean up the poop? I am disinclined to call in the authorities due to the Biblical injunction not to take your neighbor to court. I am considering the possibility of claiming ownership and butchering out her ducks -- since she's not protecting them from predators like coyotes, hawks, or foxes that are prevalent in our environment, why can't I become a "predator" too. In fact, during our conversation with her, we mentioned the possibility that her ducks could become victims to natural predators and she said "we're not planning to replace them if we lose any of them"... What in the heck does that mean?

Monday, July 18, 2011


With the move of our household and new job, I have definitely been neglecting my blog. Last year I didn't even have a successful garden, I planted zucchini and only harvested about 3, so you know I didn't put much effort into it. The existing thistles multiplied instead of divided and I was really discouraged. Moving to an area where there are so many farm markets (NOT farmer's markets, there is a slight difference) makes the situation VERY competitive.

Because I realized I have become too obsessed with Julie Bass and not paying enough attention to my own business, I have been thinking I need to reassess and update MY OWN blog.

There are a number of things on my mind about that I could, and should, be blogging about:

1. Farm markets vs. Farmer's markets!
2. Duck wars
3. Bee poop (this is a hilarious/sad situation)
4. This year's vegetable garden
5. Flowers - nasty old daisies
6. Robins dive-bombing my front porch
7. Front porch furnishings
8. Hummingbird feeder styles and replacement parts
9. Antique Bean Cleaners
10. antique tractors
11. Fencing
12. best way to clear poison ivy and grapevine
13. Deer
14. Marketing
15. Kildeer nests
16. Neighbors and being a neighbor
17. Fall cool-weather crops
18. Climate change?
19. Michigan environmentally verified status
20. Tax assessor

I will try to cover these topics soon (not necessarily in order!)

Julie Bass - Dirk Becker

Lately I have found myself fascinated, no really, obsessed, with the story of Julie Bass of Oak Park, Michigan. After having to tear up her yard for a plumbing issue caused by a tree on the city's side of the sidewalk (at her own expense), she decided it would be a nice plan to put a raised bed garden in instead of the lawn. She called the city offices to see if it would be all right. They read her the ordinance, which said the unpaved areas of the front lawn must be planted with suitable live plant material. (It said nothing about grass) The planner says he advised her against vegetables, but she decided since it wasn't actually illegal, she would go ahead. She put in a very nice, neat garden with lots of mulch to keep the weeds away.

The city took offense that she ignored their advice. A series of escalations occurred, ending with Julie being ticketed for her puppy being too old to be without a license, and finally, a misdemeanor arrest for the vegetable garden.

Julie is a migraine-suffering, homeschooling mother of six children with an independent streak. The Oak Park city officials seem to be typical well-intentioned bureaucrats, afraid that the blight of neighboring Detroit will be contagious. They police their city's code enforcement rigorously. Both sides dug in to their positions. Julie started a blog and a Facebook site that quickly went viral (over 30,000 people have "liked" the site) after a Fox News report on local Detroit TV stations.

Subsequent TV coverage made the Oak Park city officials look silly. They are evidently are not skilled at dealing with mass media and the internet, or familiar with the urban farming movement. It appeared as if they were pursuing vindictive actions against her after the case was dismissed without prejudice (meaning charges could be filed again for the same offense) but asked her to appear in court anyway on the dog license issue (which she had previously resolved, paid a late fee, and appeared in court to have dismissed.)

As I said, I've been obsessed with this story, posting comments on Julie's blog and Facebook page, watching the TV show, and so on, at all hours of the day and night! Other than Oak Park being less than an hour from here, I wondered why I cared so much, since I have a backyard garden, not a front yard one. As I was told on another issue recently, it's not my fight!

Yesterday I watched Fox's Let it Rip show segment about Julie and the news commentator, Alexis Smith, made a statement that so many people around the world feel like they have a dog in this fight. The issue is larger than Julie's garden - for some it is the right to farm or urban garden, some feel there is too much government intrusion in their lives, some, including Julie's lawyer, think it is about due process of law and city officials abusing too much power. One Facebook fan is periodically posting her own personal diatribe against her own "evil "homeowner's association, taking advantage of the interest in Julie's page.

Yesterday I learned there is a British Columbia man facing similar charges, only he is facing six months in jail for comtempt of court if he does not remove a compost pile (or maybe manure pile) because a neighbor complained. He is doing this on his 2 1/2 acre property in an rural area and he -gasp- SELLS his produce at a farmer's market!!! Now, there's a fight I could possibly make into my own!

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