Monday, April 14, 2008

Petaluma Urban Homestead Tour

Spring sprung and we have been harvesting, prepping beds, sowing seeds, planting fruit trees, and planning for the glory of the Summer garden. So, that's where we've been if you were wondering. It's a busy time around here.

In March we had our first official tour of the ol' homestead. 50 local high school students came through the place on a field trip for their Ecological Economy class. Their day included tours of two urban homesteads and a trip to the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas where they toured Commonweal Garden. All three are permaculture sites on different scales.

The tour here started in the front driveway with the gates to the backyard open to accommodate everyone. The group had brought snails from the previous site for our ducks who upon discovering the gates open walked right out into the crowd and charmed everyone! There was a discussion of the medicinal plants that have replaced the lawn, the communal growing bed we share with our neighbors where there used to be a giant hedge dividing us, the rainwater catchment system that turned a problem into a solution, the cider press and cider making with locally gleaned apples, designing greywater systems, homescale livestock- chickens, ducks, worms, bees, rabbits, compost making, honey tasting, they also got to look at the permaculture design for this site and our neighbors behind us. Then, off they went to Bolinas! Did we even go on field trips in high school? Lucky dogs.

The Gift of Bees

Many folks have been asking about our bees lately. We and many, many other beekeepers in Sonoma County and elsewhere sadly lost our bees this Winter. Their population dwindled by the time it was warm enough for them to forage again. They had plenty of food in the hive for the Winter but they still didn't make it. We will try again. We've ordered new bees from a local beekeeper and we're hoping for another swarm. We've put a swarm attracting pheromone in a nice, new, cozy hive box in the garden. So far, no takers. Our new bees arrive at the end of April. It was bittersweet to open up the hive last month. No bees. A gallon of honey. We filled many a jar with the gift the bees left behind.

With an uncapping knife we sliced open the top layer of each frame. It was very difficult to keep one's fingers out of the honey-soaked cappings! We put the frames in a centrifugal spinner and cranked away. The honey was then poured from the spinner into jars and then poured again through a sieve to filter out the bits of wax, propolis, and pollen. The result was golden glowing jars of homestead honey!