Melissa’s Blog

Well guys and gals… I started blogging a little bit over at:

The honey bee queen blog

It’s sort of just a personal journal/blog at this point, because I really wanted to have a place to share more family/home/whatever I want that doesn’t necessarily have to do with farming although we are still farming over here.

Well, Andy is operating an amazing organic farm for a wonderful family that we’ve grown to love and respect more and more as the time goes on. Check their Website out too if you’re so inclined. And order your pastured, fresh Thanksgiving turkey while you’re at it, because we are raising some… And some grass fed beef… Without the hormones and mess… And some eggs!!! Oh the eggs!!! SO MANY EGGS!!! We are looking into a pet food license for that delicious pet milk too, from Delilah the Dairy Queen over here at Family Tree Farm, because fresh milk is delicious and raw milk is illegal in GA, but raw milk for your pets is totally legal…

There is actually a lot of cool stuff happening on the farm. Our honey bees are still going strong, which is fantastic, since ‘Urbanna Farm’ is focusing on honey and herbs. It’s been quite an interesting conversation between Andy and I as we navigate the waters of keeping our personal business (Urbanna Farm) that we started a few years ago, but changing the nature of it. For example, we are no longer CSA farming. But, we are actually farming more successfully than ever before, because of the resources and partnership we have now. We absolutely love it here at Family Tree Farm and love growing food. In fact, today Andy and the guys are establishing the shiitake mushroom forest with about 600 mushroom logs soon to be in production. Crazy stuff. But, Andy knows more about it than I even pretend to. He’s the farmer.

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To Move?

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Evicted!? Now moving?! What in the world are the Williams’ doing? Was 5 moves in the last 5 years not enough for them?!
Oh friends, 5 moves in our short marriage is way more than enough. We don’t have a clue when our next move will be, for now, we are truly enjoying this little spot of earth and all the perks of the job that we enjoy: raw milk, fresh organic vegetables, the smell of chicken litter, oh no I mean, fresh eggs and meat… not chicken litter and flies. the river, the sound of cows mooing constantly, clean water… all the good stuff!

I’m thinking about moving my little writing habit or what may actually be a habit if 3 children, 4 years and under keep dominating their naptime like champs, over to another site. You see, we recently bartered for a fantastic logo for, um ‘The Honey Bee Queen,’ which seemed so very fitting, because Melissa Anne (that’s my name) means Honey Bee Queen. I also thought that I really wanted to share more than the microbiology of the soil and the germination time for terra cotta tomatoes on my blog. I thought maybe Urbanna Farm should be about things like farming… not necessarily what the farm kids are doing while the farmer is farming. Make sense? I also know that our favorite farmer is hilarious and smart and enjoys sharing things like ‘how many ways to butcher a chicken’ and ‘where to find the best work boots.’ We still haven’t figured that one out, but I think he could be a spokesperson for carhartt or military gear…. because those seem to make the list. Man, he’s hard on clothes…
But back to the matter at hand: the move…

I don’t have a site set up yet, but when I do, I’m giving the Urbanna Farm reigns to my amazing red bearded
husband to take over and share and I’ll settle into another spot. Because, well it seems like a good idea.

XO,
Melissa

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Evicted

Okay, so we are still living the dream over here on this neat property where Andy is working diligently to manage the farm and all things that come with it… But, our honey bees were recently evicted from their favorite yard. Sad, but true. We’ve had our hives on the Savannah River for the last several years and they’ve made the best honey. The BEST! But, the power plant closed and the site is being demolished and our sweet bees had to move. So, Andy, Harold and a couple of awesome friends drove over and kicked them out.

Thankfully, we have another bee yard on the Ogeechee River and it was nearing time to catch the Tupelo flow, so for now, our ladies will be happy. In the meantime, we are on the hunt for another bee yard on the Savannah River, because Chinese Tallow is our main honey flow and the bees love it! LOVE IT! I asked Andy to take some photos, with the idea of sharing the experience here… So, he took 3 photos… 1 of the hives before they were loaded onto the trailer and 2 of some decrepit bee boxes that should have probably been replaced years ago. If I was an antiques dealer selling some seriously ‘patinad’ <-- (not a word) wooden junk, then our bee hives would make a fortune. But, I'm not an antiques dealer and our bees are still living in their shacks. Speaking of selling bee things: We sold our first nuc!!! A nuc is basically a starter colony of bees. Nuc=nucleus. I'll spare you all of the technical jargon for now, but I'm absolutely thrilled, because we are kind of in the official world of beekeeping now. I suppose we have been for years though... XO, Melissa IMG_0829

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brainstorming

I was talking with a friend the other day about her writing hiatus and how she wanted her writing to have purpose, depth, and meaning. I agree with her. It should, no? Do we really need another person writing about how to butcher chickens or make homemade laundry detergent or dry their own mint for honey-sweetened herbal tea? Those were some of her thoughts, but with different subject matter. The subject matter here is from my life. We’ve had a natural writing break here with the website being down and now that we are easing back into it, I wonder some of those things. Does the world need another writer? Even if the world doesn’t, I think I need to write. At least I want to and that’s good enough for me. So, here we go. Armed with Linda’s computer (‘Goma’ because the boys couldn’t say ‘Grandma’ and their other grandma is ‘Oma’) and some inspiration up my sleeve, I’m ready to get started and to share what we’ve had in the works in our little spot of earth.

XO,
Melissa

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Testing.

Y’all!!!! Our website was recovered!!! This is huge news!!! HUGE!!! Our brilliant P.O.T.B.O.D. (president of the board of directors) here at Urbanna Farm worked forever and ever and ever and then some to find the deep black hole where our website had gone… And he found it and he brought back from the abyss and he sent me the log in info, so here I am. Thanks Rad. For doing that for us. Really. And Eric. Thank you too. And Mom.

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A boy and his duckling

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We picked up 15 Pekin ducklings a couple of days ago and our oldest farm boy is just crazy about them. The ducklings are in a brooder in the barn/shed/workshop next to our house and he asks to see them and hold them quite a few times a day.

There is a little barricade in front of them to keep the cats from eating any duck jerky and the barricade is boy proof too, otherwise we might have a duckling or 5 in the house. They are messy little things, but absolutely adorable.

We’ve been getting 2 duck eggs a day here and are hopeful for more although these ducks were straight run and we didn’t bother to research how to differentiate the males from females when we picked them out at the local feed and seed. No problem though, because roasted duck for dinner sounds good to us.

Melissa

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Bursting with life

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I was sharing some photos on our Facebook and Instagram and had this awesome realization that this place is really bursting at the seams with new life. The fields are all green and quite a few acres are soon to be sprigged with grasses for more pastures. The brooder in the barn has 200 soon to be laying hens in it. The field that will soon be used to grow our animal feed currently has about 70 laying hens on it and we are getting around 50 eggs a day! 5 new beef calves were born recently and all the other mamas are bred and due to deliver and our sweet sheep is due to lamb any minute. We picked up 15 ducklings today (the males will be dinner and the females will provide us with rich eggs) and we are getting 20 turkeys on Thursday. Two of our rabbits had litters within the last couple of days and we just made a new split (beehive) from our backyard nuc box. The greenhouse is full of seedlings and the cows are out of the woods (winter home) and in the pasture. We are getting fresh, raw milk every morning from
Delilah our beautiful Jersey cow and the goats. This has been a remarkable season. We’ve been here for almost 6 months now and are daily overwhelmed with God’s love and mercy to us. This season is full to say the least. On top of the animals, plants, and everything else- our little girl is due anytime now. We are eager to meet the newest farm baby and glad she’ll get to witness some of God’s glory here with us.

Melissa

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Starting from scratch

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We’ve been at our current location for a little over 5 months now. It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by, because it almost feels like we just moved here. We decided to renew our business license another year and to start remodeling our business since we are no longer CSA farmers. We are planning to focus on honey and herbs because well, let’s face it: we love honey bees and herbs are awesome! In addition to Andy’s main duties of managing the property here in Swainsboro, he’s been doing a bit here and there to keep our small honey business going and to get started in the herb growing business. I’m talking culinary and medicinal herbs… But nothing illegal in most of the US though we’ve had some inquiries.

One of the huge blessings about our new gig here is that we are still able to grow much of our own food without the added pressure of growing it for any reason other than our personal satisfaction and desire. The pressures of growing food for 20 something families is gone and we can actually enjoy time in the garden, which became quite a stressor the last few years as the garden didn’t cooperate with us and our needs to grow food for other families. We have much more infrastructure here than we did at any of our other places and are thrilled to be able to use them all… A hoop house and irrigation are quite handy for starters. Not to mention the last few years of trial and error knowledge that we’ve accumulated to go along with the other perfect tools for the job.

Although we are changing our business model, we are still doing what we love and have dreamt of for years. It never hurts to start over… And over… And over. You have to start somewhere even from scratch sometimes.

melissa

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where we’ve been

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Seems like blogging these days has taken a backseat to living. The daily ins and outs of maintaining the place are easier shared in teeny glimpses on facebook and instagram, but we think about blogging. We really do. The hoophouse is going up and we are VERY excited to utilize every inch of it. We have a small hoophouse that’s working fine but as we plan to propagate fruit trees and bushes and get a head start with annuals every year, we know the larger hoop house is an awesome investment. We received the actual hoops for free from our friends at Little Creek Plantation which saved us about $1500. Everything else was purchased form from FarmTek, including hardware, plastic and all the odds and ends needed to make it right…

ducks

hens

We ordered 225 new laying hens to help build up the pastures and keep up with the free range egg demand for some Savannah restaurants and we butchered our first beef cow this week. A ton of work! We are looking into a couple of Livestock Guardian Dogs for the chickens and other critters on the farm and hope they’ll manage to protect the flocks from any predators via land or sky. We have duck eggs in the incubator and we’ll soon be moving our bees back to the Tupelo bee yard and then starts this year’s honey harvest.

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Our current intern, “Mr. David,” will be leaving us for TX soon and we are sad to see him go. He has been a great fit here and an incredible help to us. There will definitely be a void when he leaves- in the camper for one thing, but we are hopeful that some new willing interns/apprentices will come along to help us herd cattle, butcher animals, repair fences, milk cows and goats, feed animals, gather eggs, dig holes, plant trees, make fires, direct traffic, make pad thai, and so much more! Oh time to skim some cream from the milk in the fridge.

Sincerely,
Melissa

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Hugel Hill

So I’ve been working on designing and building what hip people call a food forest. In this case it will be the side of a terraced hill covered with fruit and nut trees, shrubs, and vines. The terraces are filled with buried wood. This provides long term moisture and fertility to the food crops and is called ‘hugelkulture’
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After spending lots of time using a shovel and wheelbarrow, watching what a skilled excavator operator can get done is pretty exciting.

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