Another week down, another month speeding by at the speed of light. Where has the fall gone? This week was lightning fast. Between art dates, clubs, soccer playoffs, Classical Conversations, and our day-to-day school, we didn’t sit still for long. Friday afternoon marked our field trip to an apiary in Mandarin. We signed up for it last month. Had we not, we would have passed. I fractured part of my foot last weekend and am hobbling around in an orthopedic boot. Not exactly conducive to walking about a farm. Still, we paid for the trip and we weren’t going to waste money. So, I loaded the kids and my broken self into the Armada and drove them 45 minutes away to the bee farm. Craziness, right? Sometimes I think motherhood brings out the craziness in us all.
KW Apiary sits not far from NAS Jacksonville, where we lived a while back. It was a trek from home and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Beekeeping is interesting and different and we’re always up for learning new things. Honeybees are complex and fascinating organisms, so vital to agriculture that honey bee deaths adversely affect our food supply. Honey and beeswax are used extensively in so many areas of our lives too. Even bee venom is useful, proving highly beneficial in medicine and the treatment of arthritis and auto-immune diseases. We learned a bit about bees at AgVentures last week. I was curious what new things this farmer would teach us and interested to hear her testimony as to how honeybees (and God) saved her life.
We learned about the bee life cycle and their role as pollinator, toured the garden and learned about which types of plants bees prefer, and got close to the bee hives (not too close to be in danger, but close enough for a good view). Honeybees pollinate more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops. Without the bees, the plants would not flourish. They have to get their pollen from somewhere; they’re most attracted to plants such as hellenium, blue holly, roses, ivy, sage, willow, huckleberry, aster, and sunflowers. You can find a pretty comprehensive list of plants bees like here: http://gardening.about.com/od/attractingwildlife/a/Bee_Plants_2.htm.
We learned all about the different equipment a beekeeper uses and how it’s used, learned what it takes to maintain a bee colony, and dangers like disease and ants that can devastate a hive. It was interesting to see the bees busily at work in their natural habitat! I hope the kids learned a thing or two.
Our guide led us through her gardens and taught the kids about planting too. There are so many plants that thrive during the winter here in Florida. Fruit trees were heavy with oranges and grapefruit. The broccoli grew strongly, raising their large green leaves toward the fleeting sun. We tried several varieties of lettuces and spinachs and visited with the chickens too. The farmer taught us lots of facts throughout our visit. Did you know that you can make banana leaf soup from banana flowers and that the scent of banana on your skin attracts bees? There was one spiny looking plant which the farmer milked for a liquid she uses to make her hair soft. We saw the leaves she picks to make hibiscus tea too. Who knew, right?
The only things we really, really did not like was the extreme amount of mosquitoes and fire ants. The mosquitoes were so thick, we were covered in them. Poor A and D got it the worst. No matter how much we swatted them away, they were relentless. A has more than 30 bites on her legs alone. D has them badly on his arms. The fire ants were aggressive and there were mounds everywhere. Also, parking was exceedingly tight with our behemoth of a car. I’m not sure what can be done about the aggressive pests without harming the bees, but they really detracted from the visit.
The kids seemed to have fun. We bought some fresh honey and they were excited to crack open the mason jar and dig in for some bread and honey at home. My sore foot probably added to my lack of patience, but the mosquitoes really but put the field trip over the top for me. Was it worth the drive? Perhaps. It was a new experience. Would we do it again? Not with the bug issues. We did go to see bugs, yes, but not be eaten alive by mosquitoes. We had some organic bug repellent, but it did nothing against these vicious bloodsuckers. The poor kids have welts all over their legs today and are so itchy!
On the plus side, we began, listened to, and finished Sarah Plain and Tall, which has been on our must-read list for ages, on the drive to and from the farm. There has got to be some silver lining in it, right?