Thursday, April 23, 2009

A second look at the garden

Part I

Back at the beginning of April we had a major work party at the community garden because we were able to plug into a local civic work day called "The Big Event." We had kids from the junior master gardener program out there with us.

We had guys from fraternities helping out.

We had geezers with whiskers.

We had generous people from the town and from local churches.

An Ag Science professor showed up and broke in his brand new tractor with us.

Working together, we got a lot done. That morning we moved 130 cubic yards of donated mulch (a cubic yard is 27 cubic feet -- you do the math) and mostly filled 36 raised beds with amended soil.

Part II

Then there was the saga of the bees. My wife and I have lived with a hive of bees for about two years. They've colonized the north wall of our house. I've sporadically tried to get them removed, but the sort of expertise one needs to open a house's wall and capture a hive living inside is rare. I think I have finally found somebody to take care of the hive for me, but he's working long shifts at present and can't do the job for another week or more. I can't bring myself to kill them in this time of Colony Collapse Disorder. Whatever is happening to bees in this country, the bees in my house are definitely healthy.

So healthy that a couple of weeks ago our hive produced two small swarms. Here's a picture of one of them:

The county extension service put me in touch with a beekeeper by the name of Don who brought a hive box for one swarm and a "catch box" for the other. He left the hive with me and took the other swarm in payment. So a day or so later, I lost my bee hauling virginity when I loaded the hive onto the bed of a borrowed pickup and schlepped them out to the garden site. I waited till they'd gone to bed for the evening and stuffed a dish towel into the entrance, but it was nervous making all the same.

The next day, I hauled them again because we determined they were too close to the garden plots. Now they're about 200 feet away, which seems about the right distance. And they've settled into their new digs quite well.

I took that photo this afternoon, as well as the one below.

That's one of our bees foraging about 200 yards from the hive.

Part III

So the garden is beginning to take off. Green stuff is poking out of the soil here and there. A few things are even blooming. The bees are pollinating. I've met and worked with scores of people I wouldn't have otherwise--church folks, politicians, educators, master gardeners, anti-poverty volunteers, plumbers, farmers, and the local feed store proprietors. I've learned a lot about irrigation, mulch, soil amendments, compost, charitable donations, local government, legal matters, insurance, human relations, and bees.

Would Joseph Beuys have called what I've done art? And if he did, would he be right to do so?

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