Good Book Lady

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The grapes have ripened and over ripened. The kids made all sorts of concoctions and I got to be the taste tester. The summer is still going strong. The goldenrod is blooming.

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I’m reminded of John Steibeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ because of how many of these beauties didn’t get processed and sort of just wasted and fermented on the vine and the ground. I’m also reminded of the Cynthia Rylant’s ‘The Relatives Came’ and I’m also reminded that I’m a book nerd.

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I told Andy that I was going to join the ranks of these awesome book sellers that I’ve come to know and enjoy online and he laughed and said something about me being a librarian now… yes.

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That’s me. A wife, mother, homesteader, gardener, writer, dreamer, junk collector, beekeeper and librarian. I even have a name for my library all picked out and ready to go.

XO,

Melissa

Alys and Buttercup

50496626-2613-43AB-9B0D-596485BC4005.jpegOur girl got a lamb for her birthday from Auntie Olive and Uncle Johnny. Alys (the lamb) and Buttercup (our girl) have been getting to know each other and I must say Buttercup’s method of making sure that Alys has her own bowl of alfalfa pellets is helping their bond tremendously.

XO,

Melissa

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The Flowers Will Come Back

 

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A few years ago I was invited to speak at a local MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group about gardening with children. For some reason, someone decided that I was qualified to teach on the subject. Andy and I had 2 kids at the time. Our boys were just a toddler and a baby. We were renting 26 acres right outside of the city limits of Savannah and we had a small CSA that consisted of 35 families that came to the farm to pick up our organically grown veggies every Saturday.

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The most charming part of that place was the herb and flower garden mural that was painted by one of our friends/CSA members onto a pile of free pallets that we used to surround the herb garden. The rest of it is a vague and distant memory that I’ve tried to block from my mind, because it was one of the most challenging and stressful times in our marriage. We questioned everything that we were doing and whether it was worth it and whether we had the determination to keep going. We are still going, but our farming model has shifted from the vegetable CSA to a honeybee and premium craft meat business.

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Anyway, I don’t remember much of what I shared that day to those ladies, but I do remember reading a little story aloud about the flowers coming back. I don’t remember the title of the story or the author or all of the details  but essentially it’s about a mother of young children who are always tramping and playing near the neighbor’s yard and garden. In fact, the entire gang of neighborhood kids does so and even the dog seems to find its way into the old woman’s flower beds.

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The old woman tells the frazzled and impatient mother, ‘don’t worry, the flowers will come back’ time and time again. The old woman enjoys the neighborhood children and doesn’t seem to notice the flowers being trampled as they run and play or when the football accidentally lands in the roses or the kid’s dog lays on the daisies. Many years later, the old woman is in the hospital, very ill and the mother of those once young children goes to visit her and say goodbye and notices the hospital is bursting with flowers. There are bouquets and plants and vases of flowers crowding every corner of that room. The mother notices many of the names on the cards because they belonged to that once scraggly bunch of kids that grew up and played in the neighborhood and lived near the old woman. The children had all grown up and they remembered the old woman.  The old woman looked at the mother with a knowing smile on face and said ‘I told you the flowers would come back.’

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I think about it often. While I know that there are very practical ways that we can and should work with our children in the garden the more important issue is that we are gentle with their hearts. We need to remember that the flowers will come back but crushing their spirits is much harder to overcome. We can give them age appropriate jobs, set boundaries, designate children’s areas, teach them how to plant, cultivate and harvest and let them work alongside us. Ultimately though, if they mess up a garden because they stumbled and fell or they picked a flower that they didn’t have permission to pick or they unknowingly walked through a row of freshly transplanted seedlings, our reaction will help shape the rest of their lives for better or worse.

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We should plant more flowers, let them get dirty, smile, thank them for the beautiful bouquet they just brought us with roots still attached (even if we were saving it for a special occasion) before we yell at them or lecture them or become overwhelmed or disgruntled or frazzled. Remember they are young. They are impressionable. They are worth our love, patience and kindness. We will reap what we sow and if we sow good seeds then the flowers will come back. 

XO,

melissa

“The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14

‘Blueberries For Sal’

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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.

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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.

XO,

Melissa

Sesame Honey

38768BC1-E967-4D6C-8618-35299A998FD5.jpegA 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.

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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.

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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.

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Sesame honey, here we come!

XO,

Melissa

Lemon Balm Love

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…

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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.

XO,

melissa

Local Honey Love

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.

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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.

What’s in a name?

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.

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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.

XO,

Melissa

Transplanting Tea (and Me)

4966767E-D043-42C6-AD5A-77C9AC5C997A.jpegWhen 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

XO,

Melissa

Dreamboat & Daisy Rose

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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…

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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. 

XO,

Melissa