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Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Urban Oasis Project is sponsoring two weekend beekeeping workshops on February 1-2, 2014, taught by world-traveling beekeeper Debra Roberts. No experience necessary for the beginner’s class.

Natural Beekeeping for BEEginners:
Come explore honeybee basics, hive equipment and tools, good stewardship practices, how to go through a hive (without bees), and treatment-free (“natural”) beekeeping. Session tailored for BEEginners with no experience (those who think they might like to have bees in the future or just want to learn more about them).

$85 – Full day, Saturday Feb 1 only, at the Kampong in Coconut Grove.
$125 – Full intensive includes Saturday at Kampong in Coconut Grove, and half day on Sunday morning at Verde Farm in Homestead (includes hands-on with bees).

Natural Beekeeping for Beekeepers with Experience:

This session is for beekeepers who have a little to a lot of beekeeping experience, who want to explore treatment-free beekeeping options. Please bring your questions. This afternoon will be tailor-made for what best serves you.

$50 – Half day on Sunday afternoon at Verde Farm.

Note: BEEginners who have taken the intensive are welcome to join the Sunday afternoon session for an additional fee. Please inquire.

Details and Registration: on the Urban Oasis Project web site.
No refunds after January 20th.
Email questions to admin@urbanoasisproject.org .

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bali-kids

Kids at Gleaning Day offer freshly-pulled carrots to inquisitive Bali the horse.

He was the unofficial good will ambassador of Bee Heaven Farm. He was tall and white, quiet and gentle, spirited and playful, and at the very sight of him, kids of all ages lit up and cried out, “A horse!” His name was Bali, short for Balbriggan, and he was the darling of the farm.

Visitors and friends alike would walk over to his yard and call to him, or make ch-ch-ch sounds, or hold out treats. Kids especially were excited to see him. They’d offer anything they could lay their hands on for Bali to eat, and watch in equal parts of glee and squeamishness as his soft lips gently took a freshly-pulled carrot out of someone’s brave hand.

bali-chickens

Roosters Malone and Crazy Chicken were some of Bali’s friends at Bee Heaven Farm.

What a good life Bali had, to hang out and look handsome, and have people bring him tasty things to eat! (Interesting how people have this desire to feed those with whom they fall in love.) In the first year I visited the farm, I’d bring apples for the horse. Thinking I’d be polite, I quartered the fruit, which only led to his impatient head tossing, asking for more. I was amazed to see him chomp down on a whole apple, and chew it up without effort.

Rachel gives Bali a bath.

Rachel gives Bali a bath.

As the years passed, we became so familiar with each other, that he would ignore me unless I had a treat. Sometimes I’d remember to bring one, and sometimes he’d come for a pat and a gentle rub. Rachel, farmer Margie’s daughter, would care for him and ride him every so often, as he was a retired horse. He was her bubblebutt, her boogerboy, her baliberry, her pride and joy. But when she went away to college, that special daily interaction stopped. Margie would care for him and take him outside to graze, and a farm hand would feed him. Only a few farm interns knew anything about horses and could offer to work with him. Bali became the gentle white icon of the farm, standing off to one side of the back yard, his face usually covered with a fly mask, flicking his tail. (And sometimes he was not so white, more like clay red from a mudbath after a summer rain.)

Bali passed away a few days ago at the ripe old age of 22. He had been fighting complications from sores caused by biting flies. They attacked him mercilessly, and he developed sores on his legs, and his right eye, which he scratched and got infected. The vet performed surgery on the eye, but it lost sight and Bali couldn’t seem to adjust to loss of vision. His spirits declined, and after a few months, he passed on quietly in his sleep.

Bali, sweet angel of the farm, I know you are feasting on apples and carrots in heaven, where there are no flies, and always people to love you and feed you. You live on in our hearts.

bali-head

Balbriggan aka Bali 1991-2013

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Little green guest

What kind of frog is this?

What kind of frog is this?

You never know what you’ll find in your CSA box. Got mine home and started unpacking it. As I lifted up the bunch of yukina savoy, something flew out of the leaves and landed back in the box. I spotted a small green frog, looking very bewildered. My camera was handy, so I grabbed a few shots while the little guy wasn’t doing much. It seemed dazed by bright kitchen lights, and after this picture, stuck its head under some broccoli, trying to get out of the light.

I couldn’t leave it in the box — there were vegetables to put away. I couldn’t let it hang out with veggies in the frig — it was too cold. And running loose in my apartment wouldn’t be good for either of us.

What to do? Lucky for froggie, I have plants on the balcony. I picked up the frog gently. It was cool and clammy to the touch, and squirmed a bit in my hand. Put it in a big jar to transport it carefully to the plants, and looked it over. It was quite pretty — chartreuse green and creamy white underneath. Anybody know what kind of frog this is? Am assuming that it came from Worden Farm.

The lime green salad tomato plant is very leafy and can offer my little guest lots of cover from the sun, and plenty of white flies to munch on. After a bit of coaxing, the frog left the jar. It was dark and I couldn’t see where he went. Hope he’ll be ok. There’s a small gecko that hangs out on the balcony, so he’ll have company.

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A little help from my friends

merlot-eggsOver the years, I’ve become good friends with the cats at Bee Heaven Farm. Friday two cats decided I needed help with photos of the shares.

merlot-macMerlot the barn cat likes to help fold newsletters at the end of a long packing day. This week he also played art director as I took pictures of eggs from the different farmers, and later when I prepped photos for the newsletter.

greyling-lapLater, Greyling settled into my lap when I was uploading pictures to the blog. This is the first time he’s sat in my lap in all the years I’ve known him. I am honored!

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Hidden in fennel

While packing shares last Friday, farm hand Victor spotted this beauty.

While packing shares last Friday, farm hand Victor spotted this beauty.

CSA members, did you look carefully at the fronds of fennel that was in your share box last week? You might have been lucky enough to get a caterpillar!

Look carefully, there’s a thin line holding it in place on the branch of fennel. The caterpillar is starting its transformation into a chrysalis, and from there, will emerge as a butterfly. Anybody got any ideas what what kind of butterfly this might become?

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Malone

Malone the giant rooster struts through grass.

Meet Malone, the free-range young rooster who has been hanging around at Bee Heaven. He is huge, and has big feet, a big appetite, and big poops. Originally his name was a slang word in Spanish that sounds like Malone, that means big — never mind.

Malone on a mission to seek out dry cat food, while Flash the cat drowses nearby.

Malone showed up several months ago, a refugee from South Miami, where roosters are not wanted. You can have fowl, but not foul mouth fowl. He hails from a farm in Jasper, Georgia, where he was bought as a tiny golden yellow fluffball chick an year ago. Surprise surprise, he quickly grew to ginormous proportions. Nobody knows what kind of breed he is.

Greyling the cat having a few words about Malone’s greedy ways.

Malone started hanging out near the farmhouse carport. He quickly discovered the gourmet delicacy of dried cat food meant for outdoor cats, and also learned the sound of pellets hitting metal bowls means yummy nom noms are served. He comes racing out of the bushes, making a dash for the dish. The cats step aside. After all, he outweighs them by a kilo or two. The only way the cats can eat is if their food is put out after dark, when Malone goes to sleep.

Nobody knows where he roosts. Malone roams around the farm, free as a bird. He started hanging out with Crazy Chicken, another free-range rooster, and they saunter around the farm, scratching for bugs and chatting up hens in the chicken tractors.

Malone and Crazy Chicken.

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A hen lays an egg every day.
True. Hens generally lay around the same time of day, usually in the morning. To get more technical, it takes about 25 hours for an egg to form and travel through the oviduct, causing the hen to lay her egg a little later each day. As the cycle progresses, she will skip a day (hens don’t lay eggs in the evening) and start a new cycle. A group of eggs laid during one cycle is called a “clutch.”

A hen will lay eggs all its life.
Maybe. A young hen, called a pullet, will start laying eggs at 6 months until its first moult. It will then resume laying eggs in the second year at 80% of its previous rate, then 60% of that year’s rate in the year after that. After 3 years, laying drops off. But a hen can keep laying eggs for several years after, just not every day. Older hens usually stop laying eggs, but some might keep laying an occasional egg.

A very big hen lays the big double yolk eggs.
False. A pullet, or young hen, that doesn’t have a regular laying cycle can occasionally lay double yolk eggs. That happens when ovulation happens inconsistently, and one yolk joins the next as the egg develops. (Some breeds will regularly lay double yolk eggs.) Of course, a double yolk egg is much larger than a normal sized egg. Sound painful? Not really. The egg comes out soft and its shell hardens in contact with air.

An old egg will float in water, but a fresh egg will sink.
True! A fresh egg will sink in a bowl of water, but as it gets older, it will start to stand up. A very old egg will float. Don’t eat that one! Inside the egg is a small air pocket at the blunt end. Eggshell is porous to air, and as the egg ages, more air will slowly seep in, and make the air pocket bigger.

The best place to store eggs in the refrigerator is on the door.
False! Keeping eggs in the refrigerator door is bad, because every time you open the door it changes temperature — hot, cold, hot, cold. Always store eggs in the carton with the pointy end down. To keep eggs fresh longer, find a spot for them on the shelf where the temperature is cool and consistent.

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