Yesterday was a ‘Blueberries For Sal’ kind of day. It is one of our favorite children’s books. We didn’t get mixed up with any bears but we did eat some Tremendous Mouthfuls of the sweetest blueberries around and had plenty more for the winter. I feel like we’ve stumbled upon incredible riches in the most unassuming plot of a 2 acre parcel of blueberry bushes.
The bushes were still loaded down even after they’d been picked over for weeks and with 3 families and a brood of magnificent kids, we picked over 50 pounds of berries. I am thankful for good friends to grow alongside and share awesome memories with. Here’s to many more years of filling our cups and harvesting excellent fruit.
A few nights ago, Andy and I transferred the beehives from our bee yard on the Ogeechee River to our back yard on Sesame Street. It was done just in time because the sesame is blooming.
This will be our first time working with sesame and we are eager to see how things unfold for the bee’s sake and ours. We need to expand our tiny apiary and having the bee hives closer to home will make that work much easier.
We learned that the concentration of Chinese Tallow trees was not as dense as we originally thought at our bee yard in the swamp, but with our neighbor’s sesame crop and a bit of sweat equity, we may be in for a pleasant surprise.
Sesame honey, here we come!
I know that I’ve shared my love of lemon balm numerous times but that love story just hasn’t faded. Lemon balm is still one of my all time favorite plants. This morning I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the garden trimming up the ‘tea time plants’ and I decided to go ahead and make some more lemon balm babies…
They are one of the easiest things in the world to root and I don’t think you can ever have enough. Even if it is just planted somewhere for you to brush your hand through and smell the incredible aroma every now and then, it’s worth it. I’m really looking forward to having more of these precious plants around.
Keeping bees was always a dream. Marrying a beekeeper was a special bonus. These last couple of years, our honey hobby has created quite a special little following. We’d usually have honey available throughout the year to sell, but lately it’s been selling out within weeks after harvest. I can’t say that I’m not surprised because I am. I’ve always known that we had some really great honey (thanks to an awesome bee yard on the Ogeechee River located at the northernmost tip of where you’ll find Tupelo that produce the best honey in the world!) and that the supply was very limited, but I just never imagined that we’d ever have a waitlist for our honey and yet here we are. Our little hobby of a honey farm has been a sweet little facet of our lives and it’s evolved and changed over the last few years. We got a new logo and moved away from mason jars to another style. We even started using buckets with gates to pour off the honey rather than ladling every jar by hand. Go figure we’d start using the right tools for the right job.
We are still a very very small operation. I don’t know if we will ever produce an actual barrel of honey in a single harvest. I can count the gallons and it’s never been remotely close to 50 at once. Still, we know that we need to either increase our prices or increase our supply so we are adding more beehives. We love beekeeping and we love encouraging other people to become keepers of the bees. The fact that our local community (no matter where we’ve lived) has supported our beekeeping efforts is not lost on us. We are a family that is firmly planted to the ground we live on and work. We do our best to invest in the people around us and the fact that the people around us are investing in us gives us pause for gratitude. It’s good to live locally.
Our farm has evolved and changed over the years… possibly caused a bit of confusion since we’ve changed names from ‘Urbanna Farm’ to ‘Ox and Broadfork’ and since we’ve separated the beekeeping side of the business into ‘The Honey Bee Queen’. Now I’m preparing to change my name from ‘Melissa Anne Williams’ to ‘Gypsy Honey Child’ on instagram.
The name change began when I signed up for an Etsy shop. The Etsy shop still doesn’t have a name but ‘The Honey Bee Queen’ and ‘Honey Child’ (my siblings recommended Honey Child and I love it) are both taken on Etsy.
It seems that ‘Gypsy Honey Child’ is an easy change on IG. It’s sort of non commital. It’s for fun. It’s a lot of crazy ideas wrapped up in one social media platform where the glimpses of our days full of farming and honeybees and gardening and treasure hunting and homeschooling and child rearing are all rolled up into one account where I say ‘hi. this is me. the good and bad and beautiful.’ Besides, I can always change the name down the road. That’s what keeps this fun. Sort of like rearranging furniture or finding an old dresser and painting it a fresh coat of another color… here’s to something new.
When Andy and I moved recently, I was disappointed to leave a lot of the plants and garden work behind. That’s always been the story though. We do a bit of landscaping, build up the soil, clean out some space to utilize, plant gardens and then move. It’s part of the fact that we’ve rented or been caretakers/stewards of every spot of land that we’ve lived on or farmed together and we didn’t own any of it.
The fact is that we may not ever own any real estate. That’s okay. As much as I would love to have a place where I can see my children grow and perhaps even my own precious grandchildren, that may not ever be part of our story. Thankfully, this world isn’t our home and I can cling to that no matter what.
Although I have very strong desires to see the trees we plant grow and mature and to have my own garden that has evolved over the years and grown as we have, the root of those desires is to have stability and a sense of place and belonging. Those desires aren’t wrong or bad. But, if I fail to remember that the only constant in our lives is Christ and his unfailing love, then my desires are misplaced. The bottom line for me is that even if the whole earth fades (and it will) that God’s sovereignty and righteousness and Word will never change or fade. God is the only true, unchanging, always and forever in my life.
So, even though we’ve moved dirt and planted and replanted and rooted and uprooted and rerooted and relocated numerous times over the last few years and since the beginning of our marriage (and my entire upbringing), we are going to continue to plant and plan and grow.
One thing that we did bring with us on our last move was a few sprigs of peppermint and Moroccan mint. Those have since grown and I’ve been able to harvest multiple little bunches and dry them for tea. I’ve even bagged a few. Herbal tea is something we enjoy and I’m looking forward to my first cup from this most recent season of transplanting and growing.
Jacob sheep and Nubian goats and a whole lot of fence tweaking and adjustments and evaluating are going on. Dreamboat and Daisy Rose came to the farm last week and have been sticking close to each other. We quarantine our animals in a holding pen when they first arrive. This gives them time to adjust to the new sights, sounds, smells and routine and gives us a chance to evaluate, handle, observe, check for health issues and practice biosecurity for the farm. The measures we take aren’t fool proof, but so far they’ve helped us contain a lot of issues before releasing animals into the greater groups. We administer meds as needed rather than routinely and strive to raise animals with strong, healthy genetics and resistance to diseases and parasites. Keeping new animals quarantined for a while also helps us give an initial health evaluation so that we can recognize health improvements or declines and take notes of their original condition upon arrival. Everyone’s fields, pastures, forests, woods and yards are different. There isn’t a one size fits all. What worked well on someone else’s land might be a recipe for death on another. A mineral deficiency down the road might make an animal sick if they are overdosed when they move because the soil samples have different ratios, etc and the free choice loose mineral they’re given didn’t change. Also, an animal with a major parasite load or disease that isn’t treated can quickly contaminate your flock and land and you’ll have a bigger problem if you don’t intervene immediately… you may even be running all over the countryside trying to catch your brand new completely rogue animal if they’re not introduced slowly to their new surroundings… that is definitely what happened last week when Daisy Rose headed straight to California as soon as she hit the ground. It also happened 5 years ago when we brought our first blackbelly lambs home, but let’s pretend like it didn’t and that we learned our lesson the first time…
Anyway, that was a big and brief answer to a question that you didn’t ask, but it’s good information and if we can help anyone get a jump start on the lessons we’ve learned over the years then we want to do just that. After all, the Master’s of Agricultural Arts didn’t come from the books. It came from the blood, sweat and tears of this good, hard work. It came from the toil and turmoil and tests that we passed and failed with some very serious repercussions over the years. We are still learning. The best teachers always are.
If dumpster diving is wrong then we don’t need to know. Andy came home last week with a case of canning jars that were kindly left beside the dumpster (we take our trash to the dumpster in the sticks) and today he found this gem of a giant jar. I’ve done my fair share of dumpster diving. I’ve practically furnished my old apartments and houses with cast off goods. Driving around Savannah the night before the trash was picked up was a serious treasure hunt back before I moved to the sticks to raise my brood and follow this crazy farming calling that we’re doing. Bookshelves, lamps, chairs, antique trunks (I think my friend Christa still has that one that we found on E Gwinnett & Abercorn) and all kinds of other junk. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Y’all may not agree, but we love it.
One of my favorite cast iron casserole pans was left in a ditch to die when our friend Annie’s friend salvaged it and gave it to her. Thirty years later or something, Annie then gave it to us. She also gave us an incredible old butter crock and some other great stuff, but I’m getting off topic because that’s not quite the same as dumpster diving. That’s ditch diving. There is a ditch near the dumpster, I’m sure. We better keep our eyes open for some more old cast iron just in case! It’s not easy but when you see a giant gem of a jar like this one then you just accept the fact that it was left there just for you! Trashy never looked so good.
One of my most frequent prayers for these precious children is that they will always know how much they are loved and that they will never know a day apart from our Heavenly Father. My desire for them is rooted in the fact that I knew many days of emotional and physical abuse as a child and that I completely abandoned any trust in God’s good and perfect love for me for many many years of total ignorance and rebellion. As I was cutting some mints and lemon balm to dry for tea and had my amazing brood following me close and watching my every move, I was reminded of this incredible weight of responsibility that I have. I don’t always get it right. In fact, more often that not, I fail miserably. But, that doesn’t stop me from asking for more encouragement and more grace and more humility and more patience and more strength.
My faith in Jesus as my Savior isn’t blind. It’s not always steady or confident but it is true and deep and grounded in His perfect love. He saved my soul. I can’t deny all of the ways that He has intervened in my life including the night that I knelt down beside a big old pine tree in the middle of nowhere GA and begged him to spare me from death. Literally and spiritually. He did and my life has never been the same. Hallelujah. Praise The Lord
They were headed to the beach when the rain came on. Andy got the call around 8am asking if they could take us to lunch. They bypassed their house on the way to ours and came just as they were with swimsuits, exercise clothes, some mismatched attire and no extra gear. Usually she has all of her gear. Usually she has bags of changes of clothes, extra food, and her make up and earrings in perfect array, but not today. Today it was just them without the preparation. It was just them just as they were, coming to us just as we were. We were tired. We’d had guests over the day and night before and there were popcorn kernels and dirty dishes that needed to be cleaned up. We cleaned them up. We cleaned them up and waited for our friends to arrive. They did. We drove through town to get a bite to eat at a local place. We’d never gone to town with them before. They’d never tasted Swainsboro or seen Stillmore before, but they came and they tasted and they saw and they loved it as much as we do, but not as much as we love them.