Monthly Reflections

Dear friends,

It’s been a month since I arrived here at Spikenard Farm Honeybee Sanctuary! So much has happened over the last month…where shall I start?

I’d first like to share with you my newfound appreciation and reverence for those who have devoted their lives to insuring that the rest of us have clean and vibrant food to eat every day. The amount of physical, emotional, and mental work it takes to keep a farm, of any size, running smoothly is astounding. Even with only a few acres to tend, every day here brings a whole new set of needs, challenges, decisions, gifts, and opportunities for growth, and yet everything gets done and with presence, care, and deep gratitude.

I am learning how a farm is truly a living, breathing organism that depends on the proper functioning and health of all its separate parts. It really is a beautiful dance, each day to the next, as we give attention to one part of the farm and then another, as we keep everything in communication, in movement, in balance. We grow a lot of the food we eat here, and also food for the classes and workshops we offer, so much of my time has been spent in the compost piles, greenhouse, nursery, gardens and orchard, giving whatever care that’s needed and seeing that everything is maturing as vibrantly as possible. The farm is steadily transitioning out of it’s winter hibernation, and every day new seeds are being sown and new garden beds are being prepared.

Spikenard is a biodynamic farm and honeybee sanctuary, which is a method and philosophy of farming that seeks to enliven the processes of life at every level. While conventional farming is often about getting as much as possible out of the land, biodynamics seeks to work in harmony with nature and it’s rhythms, and to insure that every single action that’s taken is a healing and restorative one. Biodynamics is a very deep, beautiful, and challenging topic of study, and I have only barely scratched the surface. Gunther and Vivian Hauk, the founders of Spikenard, have been studying and practicing biodynamic farming for over 40 years. It is deeply humbling and rewarding to work with the land in such a loving and healing way, and to receive this wisdom from such caring and patient teachers. I also often feel as if my ancestors are standing near, offering their support and guidance as I take part in one of the most ancient and important traditions we have has human beings.

And at the center of this farm and all it’s activity are the honeybees! We care for about 35 hives here, and offer a whole year’s worth of classes, workshops, lectures, and volunteer work days to educate people about the honeybees and what’s needed to help them survive and thrive in this time of crisis. In addition to our vegetable gardens, we also have several gardens filled with medicinal herbs and flowers for the bees, flowering trees, fruit trees, water stations, and other carefully selected plantings that contribute to the health and wealth of each colony, as well as native pollinators, throughout the year.

Before every workday begins, we spend about 30 minutes with the bees, sharing our gratitude with them, in one way or another. Some days we are working in the hives, checking in and addressing any issues we find, but for the most part we help the bees by enriching the farm and it’s diversity of pollinator forage. In addition to our regular farm work, we are also constantly planning, planting, pruning, weeding, and landscaping new pollinator gardens for the coming seasons and years; Spikenard is still very much in it’s infancy, and much of our time has been given to renovating it’s foundation and asking ourselves what we’d like to see happen over the 10-20 years. Also, Spikenard is a non-profit organization, and almost all of it’s funding comes from classes and donations. The amount of generosity this endeavor requires and constantly receives is no less than miraculous.

And this is only the beginning of what’s been going on here. Every day is truly a whole new experience. My body is finally starting to adjust to being up before sunrise every day and the physical demands of farm work; I am no longer completely exhausted by 5pm or ravenously hungry every 3 hours! The sunrise and sunsets are absolutely magical, and the stars here are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The farm is about 20 minutes away from the nearest town, Floyd, which is a lovely, close-knit, and very artistic little town with only 1 stoplight. Everyone I’ve met has been warm, inviting and supportive, and I feel very welcomed and comfortable here. I haven’t had much time to explore or hike yet, as the weather is just now starting to be consistently above 50 degrees. I’ve heard there are some amazing hikes and beautiful waterfalls nearby, which I am excited to discover.

And, oh, the flowers are just starting to wake up from their winter sleep and the bees are getting excited! We’ve seen the bees carrying bright red, purple, and golden pollen back to the hive, fresh nectar is pouring in, and most colonies are increasing their numbers and preparing for swarming season! Spring is definitely in the air.

There is so much more going on here, and so much more in store for this year. I’m hoping to have at least one full entry each month, but also feel free to contact me with any questions or curiosities.

With love,

~Ryan

The first pollen of the year Alex inspecting our hexagonal top-bar hive Getting schooled in the fine art of pruning Intro to Beekeeping workshop Intro to Beekeeping workshop Our new sanctuary helper, Gypsy Sweet dreams The first crocuses of the year Good morning bees! Prepping the bed with fresh horse manure! The local watering hole Gunther sharing some wisdom about the varroa mite