What are the Essential Tools Needed to Get Started in Beekeeping?

beekeeping smoker

Potential new beekeepers often ask me what are the essential tools needed to get started in beekeeping? What do I really need? Beekeeping is a big expense up front, and it can be 2 years sometimes before you see a return on that investment. People usually want to know which tools they absolutely have to have, and which ones they could perhaps do without.

choosing apiary location
The Runamuk Apiary at Hyl-Tun Farm in Starks, where miles of pasutre offers superior forage for bees!

#1 Protective Gear

Bees are very sensitive to their beekeeper; they’ll know when you’re nervous or agitated and they’ll respond in kind. New beekeepers are understandably a little fearful of their bees at first─having that protective layer allows you to feel safe while working with the hive. When you feel safe you’ll relax and the bees will too, resulting in fewer stings.

I recommend some kind of veil and gloves at least, to get started in beekeeping. You can get a full suit, or a jacket/veil combos like the one (affiliate link) I recently purchased through Amazon. But you could also make do with a mosquito head-net, a pair of latex gloves, and a long sleeved shirt, which is what I did my first few years as a beekeeper.

Once you become more comfortable with the bees you may not need to use the gear for every trip to the apiary, but you’ll find there will be instances when you will want the added protection of the veil and gloves. Sometimes the bees can be “cranky”─during a nectar dearth for example, or when they suddenly find themselves Queenless, or if a skunk has been pestering them at night. Get some good protective gear and always have it with you when you go to the apiary.

#2 Hive Tool

The hive tool is probably one of my most-used tools─so much so that it fairly lives in my back-pocket during the beekeeping season. I don’t go to the apiary without it, and it’s nearly impossible to work the hives without this tool. Seriously! The bees will put wax and propolis everywhere and you will need some kind of tool to break the seal so that you can manipulate the covers and the frames and the boxes.

I prefer the hive tools with the little hook on one end so that I can get under the lip of the frames to lift them out of the box. The other end has a beveled edge, making it a great scraping tools for clearing away burr-comb or cleaning up boxes after winter losses.

In a pinch you could use a mini pry-bar or a screw driver, but the little hook-thing is such an advantage that I feel it’s worth the $7 investment in this tool. This particular hive tool (affiliate link) is offered by MannLake, and you can get it at an affordable price through Amazon.

#3 Smoker, Smoker-Fuel, and Lighter

Smoke interrupts the chemical pheromone signals that the bees use to communicate with one another. It also distracts the bees, causing an instinctual fear of fire to wash over them and so the bees will go down into the hive to gorge themselves on honey in the event that they should have to abandon the hive to fire. This interruption and distraction is what allows the beekeeper to get into the hive for maintenance.

I prefer the smokers with leather bellows because: a) I’m working to reduce the amount of plastic in my life, and b) the plastic ones have a tendency to crack with use over the span of a few years, and once they can’t hold air the smoker does not function.

The size of the smoker you will need depends upon the number of hives you’re working with. For most backyard beekeepers with 2-4 hives, the smaller smokers are fine. This smoker (affiliate link) is just $12.99 on Amazon and should get you started in your beekeeping adventures.

#4 Frame Grippers

I find I primarily use my frame grippers when I’m first getting into a hive. That first frame can be really difficult to pull up out of the box─fused together with wax and honey and bees, and wedged down between the other frames so that it doesn’t want to give. When used in tandem with the hive tool, the frame grippers make extracting that first frame so much easier on both the beekeeper, and the bees.

There are many different styles of frame grippers available; personally I prefer the straight forward metal ones because they’re durable and easy to clean─these aluminum frame grippers (affiliate link) are available for just under $10 at Amazon.

#5 Bee Brush

You won’t need this tool as frequently as you will the smoker or the hive tool, but when it’s time to harvest honey, or if you want to take a sample to check the mite-pressure in the colony, you’ll want a bee brush.

I have a bee brush like this (affiliate link), which is available on Amazon for $8.60, but my beekeeping mentor liked to use a large turkey feather. Whatever you choose, it should be soft─so that you don’t hurt the bees when you go to brush them off the frame.

#6 Books!

There’s a lot to learn about bees and beekeeping and I strongly advise anyone interested in getting started with bees to first do their homework. You’ll find many, many great books on the subject.

I really like Richard E. Bonney’s books: Beekeeping, A Practical Guide and Hive Management, A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers.

You can’t beat Storey Publishing for good reference manuals, and their Storey’s Guide to Keeping Honey Bees is typically the book I include when I offer bee-schools. The Backyard Beekeeper, is another good reference book, with the added bonus of a chapter at the end about using beeswax; it includes some really nice recipes for salves and skin creams.

Once you’ve become acquainted with beekeeping, you’ll naturally start looking for next-level books and Brother Adam’s Beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey is one of the most illuminating manuscripts out there. Brother Adam was in charge of all beekeeping at Buckfast Abbey in England between 1919 and 1992. This is not a how-to book; it’s more of a general account of the beekeeping as it was carried out at Buckfast and passed down through the ages. The book offers insight on techniques for rearing and breeding Queens, bee care, seasonal hive management, honey production and even mead-making.

#7 Woodenware

assembling equipment for beehives
Buying unassembled pieces and assembling them yourself can help save money when making that initial investment into beekeeping.

What you require for you hive will depend on the style and methods you decide to go with. The traditional Langstroth hive is still the most common type of hive used in beekeeping, but many new beekeepers are having good luck with the Top Bar hives, which have the added benefit of being easy to construct from repurposed materials.

If you go with the Langstroth you will need the following for each hive:

  • Telescoping Cover
  • Inner Cover
  • Bottom Board
  • Boxes for Hive Bodies*
  • Boxes for Honey Supers*
  • Entrance Reducer
  • Mouseguard
  • Hive Stand

*The number of boxes you’ll need to invest in will be contingent upon how you choose to set up your hives. Standard set up for a Langstroth hive is 2 deeps, and I usually recommend having 4 honey supers on hand. However, more and more beekeepers are choosing to use medium boxes exclusively on their hives because they’re easier to lift. 3 medium boxes are essentially the equivalent of 2 deeps if you decide to go with mediums, but it might be a good idea to keep at least 1 deep box on hand in case you should ever need to buy replacement nucleus colonies, as those tend to come in a deep nuc box. Generally it costs about $200 on average for the hive pieces.

Humble Abodes in Windsor, Maine.

I’m fortunate to live within driving range of Humble Abodes in Windsor, Maine, which allows me to save on shipping. This is a Maine-based company manufacturing woodenware─the hive boxes, tops and bottoms, and frames. They supply large beekeeping operations as well as hobbyists across New England and the East Coast, using Maine’s own Eastern White Pine, which grows in abundance in our state to produce easy to assemble equipment.

I’d recommend searching locally for quality woodenware first, but if you don’t have a good source within driving range, check out Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.

Be wary of buying used equipment. Used equipment may be carrying diseases that killed it’s previous occupants. Residues that are left behind can live for years and you could be slowly or quickly killing your honeybee investment by putting them in dangerous equipment. Unless you know why the equipment is available and how it was used, I would avoid used hive equipment.

#8 Feeders

feeding beehives syrup in the fall
Mason-jar sugar-syrup feeder.

Bees, like any other livestock, sometimes need supplemental feed in order to survive. You’ll need a way to be able to offer sugar-syrup to the bees. There are many feeders available commercially, but for the small-scale or backyard beekeeper, I recommend the mason-jar.

Simply take a quart-sized mason jar, which most homesteaders and farmers have around the house anyway, perforate the lid and then fill with sugar-syrup. Place the feeder directly on the inner cover, inside another box and under the telescoping cover.

Voila! A bee-feeder!

#9 Sugar

Beekeepers should always have extra sugar on-hand for feeding their bees. New packages and nucleus colonies need to be fed in order to grow strong enough to fill their hives and survive the winter. Even after a colony is fully established there are times when they require supplemental feeding, like when there’s a dearth in the nectar flow, or during a poor season.

Avoid raw sugar, which can cause dysentery in the hive. This is one case where the refined granulated sugar is the better option for the health of the colony.

#10 Bees!

nucs arriving
Nucs arriving!

Naturally you’re going to need bees to put in your beehive, lol. Certainly you can save on the cost of the bees if you can catch a swarm to install in your hive, but swarms are not as common today as they were 30 years ago. And with so many new beekeepers all vying for free bees, you might have a hard time filling your hive that way.

I strongly encourage new beekeepers to seek out a local apiary offering nucleus colonies from hardy stock adapted to your specific region. Check with your state’s beekeepers’ association for a list of suppliers near you, and be prepared to order well in advance of the season. Here in Maine, if you haven’t ordered your nucs by the end of February, you’ll have a hard time finding any at all; pricing can range anywhere between $125 to $180 for 4 or 5 frame overwintered nucleus colonies.

Bee Proactive!

It’s a wise idea to prepare in advance of the beekeeping season so that all of your equipment is assembled, painted and ready to go when you need it. Get a tool box for your beekeeping tools. Stow your veil and gloves beside the smoker along with extra fuel, and keep everything at the ready in case of emergency.

Beekeeping (unless you’re managing larger numbers of hives) doesn’t take a whole lot of time, but it is time sensitive. Typically, when you need something you need it immediately and delaying hive manipulations because you need to put a box together or because you have to run to the store for sugar before you can make more syrup, can cause a chain of events which could result in the eventual demise of the colony. Beekeepers should always bee proactive (had to go there lol, sorry-not sorry!) to ensure the survival of their colonies, such is the nature of beekeeping today.

Do you have a beekeeping tool you just couldn’t do without? Share it with us by leaving a comment below!

Thinking of getting bees? Wondering what are the essential tools needed to get started in beekeeping? Check out Runamuk Acres in Maine for the answer!

Introducing GreenStalk Vertical Gardens! Our New Affiliate Partner!

greenstalk affiliate

I’m excited to introduce Runamuk’s new affiliate partner: GreenStalk Vertical Gardens and you should be too because they’ve given Runamuk a coupon code worth $10 off their stackable garden planters. Check out the new button in my sidebar on the left-hand side of the Runamuk website─pretty sharp right?

greenstalk affiliate
GreenStalk Vertical Garden Planters─pretty nifty right?

Honestly, I don’t make much money off my writing, but then─that’s not really the purpose of this blog. The purpose is to express myself through the telling of my story as a farmer, and to share what I’ve learned in the hopes of helping others live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle as well.

Yet this blog and website, along with the resources offered here, are a service provided by Runamuk that make up part of my business model. The funds generated here through sponsorships and affiliate partnerships go directly to Runamuk, helping me to continue farming─helping me to pay for things like chicken feed, supplies for the apiary, or even the farm’s liability insurance.

I’m humble enough and realistic enough to know that most writers never make it big. I’ll never be the next JK Rowling, but it’s a skill I possess and I can use it to generate at least part of my income. And I do make some money writing. You can be sure I included those figures in my financials when I approached the FSA with my loan request. Runamuk is a diverse operation; this blog and my talent as a writer are part of my business model. I hope to expand this aspect of my operation once Runamuk is settled at our new forever-farm home. Stay tuned for more on that in upcoming posts.

greenstalk_zucchini
Use them to grow flowers or herbs, or even as a means of small-scale food production!

The GreenStalk affiliate program is by invitation only, so I was lucky that Ashley Skeen stumbled upon my website. She’s the marketing manager at GreenStalk and she reached out to me to invite me to partner with them, and offered to send me a GreenStalk and the Mover to try for myself and review for them! How cool is that!?

greenstalk_herbs
BPA Free and UV Resistant!

I told her she’d better wait to send the GreenStalk til after the move lol, but I wanted to introduce them to you now. I think they’re offering an innovative approach to food-production in small spaces; with another growing season upon us I believe there are folks out there who will be able to put the GreenStalk to good use.

These are stackable planters with a unique watering system that allows the gardener to grow a lot in just 2 square feet of space. You could use it to grow flowers, herbs, and even vegetables. They’re BPA free and UV-resistant too, so they’ll last for years. I really like the fact that GreenStalk is a small family owned business out of Tennessee, and I love that their products are made 100% in the USA. Go to their website to see how the GreenStalk works!

greenstalk_mover
This Mover makes relocating the GreenStalk easy-peasy!

Without a doubt I’m looking forward to trying the GreenStalk. Initially I was thinking I would use it to produce a tower of herbs that I could position just outside the front door to keep them handy to the kitchen for cooking; then at the end of the season I could simply use the Mover to wheel the tower inside for the winter and still have fresh herbs. However, as I poured over the photo album on their website I came up with an even better idea, which I’m really excited about.

My son BraeTek had expressed some interest in growing blackberries and raspberries at the new farm and was disappointed when I told him we’d have to wait til next year to really start putting in perennials like that. BraeTek has been involved in the farmers’ market with me off and on over these last 5 years; he’s quite the entrepreneur actually─selling lemonade, iced tea and dog biscuits. Now he wants to grow berries so that he can make frozen smoothie pops to sell to kids at the farmers’ market. Naturally I want to encourage him, but the realities of moving a farm and family and getting everyone settled again makes me reluctant to get too carried away with planting much in the way of perennials this first year. This will be a transition year.

greenstalk_kale
Look at all the kale you can grow with the GreenStalk Vertical Garden!

It occurred to me though, as I looked through the photos shared by the GreenStalk community, that we could use the GreenStalk to raise strawberries. Johnny’s has some varieties that perform very well in containers and I knew I still had time to order bare-root plants for this season. When I showed BraeTek the pictures of what I had in mind he gave me an enthusiastic “Okay!”

Later that same day I placed my order for 25 of the Seascape strawberry variety offered by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. There are 30 planting pockets on the GreenStalk, so I thought we could fill in the remaining 5 pockets with a few herbs or flowers and the tower will look great standing in the front yard at the Hive House!

greenstalk_zucchiniIt’s going to be fantastic having our own fresh strawberries. I admit I am strongly biased against buying strawberries. Strawberries are #1 on the list of “Dirty Dozen”, with the highest concentrations of pesticides. Even when washed and rinsed they are still likely to be contaminated─they’re like a sponge─they just soak up the chemicals. If I do buy strawberries I always buy Organic, but as a farmer I know that even some approved organic pesticides can be harmful. Growing your own is really the safest way to get strawberries.

Note: Check out this report from the Environmental Working Group to learn more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.

I’m especially looking forward to working on this project with my son. I want my children to be producers in this world. I want them to know how to make things, grow food, and do things for themselves. Some day they might need those skills, and also, I feel a certain level of production is essential for a full and satisfying life. Check back soon to see updates on BraeTek’s strawberry production project using the GreenStalk planter.

Be sure to click on the new GreenStalk button in the sidebar to check out our new affiliate partner! Use promo code RUNAMUK to get $10 off yours!

FSA Loan Request Approved!

Yesterday I received word from my FSA agent that my loan request has been approved. It shouldn’t have been in question, but until I had that Approval letter in my hand I just couldn’t breathe easy. I was approved the first time around─when I applied for financing to purchase the Swinging Bridge Farm; but what if I didn’t get it the second time around? What if that was my one and only shot?

I am so relieved to be able to say that my numbers and business plan are solid enough to qualify again─this time for the purchase of the Hive House.

Nathan Persinger, my FSA agent, has been really great throughout this entire ordeal. When I first spoke with him back in October he told me he was there to act as my liaison to the Farm Service Agency, to guide me through their monumental loan process, and that he wanted to see my dream of farm-ownership come true.

I’m sure it was as hard for him to give me the news on the fate of the Swinging Bridge Farm as it was for me to hear it; we’d both worked hard on it. When I told him I was going to go after another property instead, he promised to do everything in his power to speed this second round along for me and he meant it! Compared to the length of time it took the first time around, my loan request is fairly flying through the FSA this second time─check it out!

It’s not over yet though. The FSA requires an appraisal to ensure the value of the property, and I’ve already been informed that appraisors are booked into May. Then my lawyer will perform a title search, and finally they’ll schedule a date for Closing. If the Swinging Bridge Farm has taught me anything, it’s that nothing is certain until you’ve signed that contract at Closing.

Once the appraisal is done everything happens pretty quickly, so I expect we’ll be moving late May or early June─in the middle of both planting season and swarm season lol. Go big or go home, right?

These last few weeks of uncertainty have left this farmer feeling somewhat suspended in animation. All around me my farming comrades have started their seasons─sowing seeds and nurturing tender little seedlings in their homes or heated high tunnels. With a potential move on the horizon and currently cramped living quarters, I’ve decided not to start seeds this year and without those bright green plant-babies I feel much less the farmer.

It’s difficult to plan for a farm season if you’re not sure whether or not you have a place to farm, and continuing as a landless farmer is no longer an option: I need a home─for my kids, for me, and for Runamuk to continue to grow.

At the same time, in the event that this actually happens I want the transition to the new farm to go as smoothly as possible. I need to ensure that Runamuk hits the ground running─I’ll have a mortgage to pay afterall. So I’ve been making soap and ordering equipment for the apiary─Queen-rearing supplies mostly, though I invested in a number of candle molds; I’ve decided it’s time to add handmade beeswax candles to my product line.

Next week I have a meeting with the members of the Gardiner Farmers’ Market where I’m applying as a honey-vendor. This will be our second market and it’s a pretty big deal for Runamuk. I have to admit I’m a little nervous about it; I’ve never actually applied with a market before, since Runamuk was a founding member of the Madison market. Gardiner was eager to have me though, and I work with 2 of their vendors at Johnny’s, so I expect it will go smoothly.

At this point there’s no reason to think this sale won’t go through. I’ve covered my bases, had the house inspected before we got too far along this time, and my realtor, Leah Watkins, believes that these Sellers are not asking too much for what I’m getting so the Hive House should appraise at or above the $179.9K I’ve offered for it. Hooray for being approved! (again!)

Check back soon for more updates from this Maine farm and apiary! Subscribe by email to receive the latest from Runamuk directly in your in-box! Or follow us on Facebook or Instagram!

Farmer Talent Show to Benefit the Madison Farmers’ Market

I’m donning my hat as Director of the Madison Farmers’ Market for this post, to unabashedly promote the market and our upcoming “Farmer Talent Show”.

madison farmers market
The Madison Farmers’ Market is held Saturdays May through October, 9 to1 at the Main Street Park in Madison, Maine.

It was a selfish endeavor, really─when I undertook to organize a farmers’ market in my rural hometown of Madison, Maine. I was a beginning farmer looking for a market close-to-home where I could sell my products to the community. The Madison Farmers’ Market is going into it’s 6th year now and it has become one of the most positive things in my life: a community of fellow farmers and caring patrons committed to fresh, nutritious food and to supporting their local economy.

Twenty-Mile Market

In a part of Maine where the loss of manufacturing mills and the waning timber industry has left 12% or more of all households living below the poverty line, I see a return to our agricultural roots as a huge opportunity for the people who live here. We can use agriculture as a means to boost our rural economies. Agriculture can enhance food security, reduce poverty through rural development, and we can even reduce the environmental impact of agricultural production. Pastoral economies need to take responsibility for themselves, promote creative new businesses that can sell to customers from outside the community and the new local food movement opens a lot of doors for those who are willing to think outside the box.

alice loves maine markets
This is Alice! She has a garden of her own, but makes it a point to stop in and visit regularly with our local farmers!

It’s been difficult to attract new farmers to the Madison Farmers’ Market because it is not a big money market like the Portland Farmers’ Market or the Lewiston-Auburn Farmers’ Market. Farmers who are making their weekly paychecks in a single farmers’ market want to join established markets where the customer base is reliable. In Madison, we’ve been faced with educating the community about the benefits and realities of food production as we grow our market in this traditionally conservative rural Maine community. This role is also not something that every farmer wants to take responsibility for.

As a result, the farmers I’ve managed to recruit for our rural farmers’ market are all located within a 20-mile radius of Madison, Maine. They are dedicated to this region because it’s their home, and they’re devoted to the community we’ve cultivated, committed to the support of each other, and together as a group we make up the Madison Farmers’ Market─one of the friendliest markets you’ll ever visit. We just enjoy each other’s company, and we enjoy the time spent outdoors selling our wares, doing what farmers are born to do: feed the people and nurture the Earth.

Accepting SNAP/EBT at the Madison Farmers’ Market has been instrumental in the growth of our community of faithful market-shoppers. Once we began participating in the Maine Harvest Bucks program, the Madison Farmers’ Market really saw a dramatic increase in attendance as low-income families came to take advantage of the “Bonus Bucks”.

Here’s how it Maine Harvest Bucks works:

The program is geared toward increasing the nutritional value of the federal nutrition assistance dollars─SNAP/EBT. It allows those shoppers to buy more healthy food, supports local farmers, and keeps food dollars within the local economy.

Since we serve a part of the state that is economically depressed, the members of the Madison Farmers’ Market are all in consensus that it’s important to be able to offer this program at our market. None of us are getting rich doing this, but we’re serving our community and working in direct support of ourselves and in direct support of the people around us. It all brings a sense of intrinsic reward that lends meaning and value to the farmer.

harvest bucks
The Maine Harvest Bucks program allows SNAP shoppers increased access to fresh, locally produced fruits and vegetables!

Each year, well before the start of the market season, the market applies with the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets to participate in the Maine Harvest Bucks nutrition incentive program. MFFM secures federal funding and various grants for the program, and then redistributes funds to participating markets accordingly. This year however, there is a funding gap and participating markets like Madison’s have had to decide whether or not to temporarily suspend their MHB programs, or to take on the responsibility of raising the funds themselves to cover the costs of the incentive-program.

Members of the Madison Farmers’ Market were adamant that we should do everything we can to keep this program running, and to that end I’ve devised a fundraising strategy to help us raise the $800 dollars the market needs to support the Maine Harvest Bucks incentives─including a really exciting Farmer Talent Show!

talent show
TALENT WANTED: You should do it! You’re pretty cool!

In return for a donation we’re offering a fun-filled show for the whole family, with free popcorn. There will be a raffle and a bake sale, too. I’m working on lining up special Guest Judges, and prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place performances. Already Johnny’s Selected Seeds has donated a tub-trug of garden supplies in response to the flyers I put up about the office, and the emails I sent to the entire company announcing my search for farmers with talent.

Sonia Acevedo from Hide & Go Peep Farm of East Madison, Maine.

We’re looking for farmers and gardeners from across the state of Maine, and especially those who are local to central Maine, to perform in our Farmer Talent Show. Open to any special talent: musicians, singers, dancers, rappers, actors, comedians, magicians and more─and, while we’re putting farmers in the spotlight, the members of the Madison Farmers’ Market are an inclusive group and we would never turn away anyone who wanted to perform.

So far we’ve got 3 acts─including myself with my friend and banjo instructor Ken Hahn. When I told Ken about the upcoming show he offered to play alongside me, and we’ve already picked out 3 songs to polish up before the big event. It’s going to be a really great time, so if you’re reading this and you’re a Maine-resident─and especially if you’re local to Madison and the Somerset County area─be sure to help us spread the word!

Find the Madison Farmers’ Market on Facebook and share our Farmer Talent Show event with friends. OR: share our Talent Wanted graphic (available on our Facebook page) on your timeline to let friends and family in your network know that we’re looking for talented people to perform. Stay tuned for more updates coming soon from Runamuk!

Parting Ways

After 2 years working together, Paul and I are parting ways. It’s always difficult when you care about someone to admit that you’re on different paths in life, but we’ve both come to terms with it and this will be an amicable parting of ways. Upon closing, Runamuk and I will move to the Hive House, while Paul will continue building his own farm at his location.

We’ve known for quite some time that the purchase of my own property for farming would inevitably bring about a change in our relationship status, but I’ve hesitated to share that information on the blog for the whole world to read. This story has never been about the men in my life, or my relationships with them─I’m the farmer and this is my story of trials and successes in agriculture. However, the men in my life have had a significant impact on my farming journey that cannot be denied.

I’ve faced all the same challenges male farmers face: access to credit and land, as well as the sharp learning curve that comes with being a first-generation farmer. Yet I’ve also faced challenges specific to women: a hegemonic, patriarchal society steeped in an invisibilizing mythologic perception of agriculture and the disproportionate burden of domestic responsibilities that still pervades global culture even in this modern age with it’s growing Female Revolution.

THAT─is a big can of worms to be explored in an upcoming article I’ve been working on about women in agriculture, and I’m not prepared to delve too deeply into such a controversial topic in this post. Check back soon for more about the challenges facing women who farm.

I do not regret the time spent with Paul, and living at his remodeled trailer has provided me the leg up I needed to be able to invest in the farm-property I’ve been dreaming of. In turn, I’ve inspired him to take up market-farming and Paul has joined the Madison Farmers’ Market under the name of “Oakenshire Farm”; he will be selling gourmet mushrooms and farm-fresh eggs, working his land to earn his living.

But what does that mean for Runamuk? How can I farm without a man by my side? Will I be able to keep up with the workload? And won’t I get lonely?

For better or worse, I’ve more or less farmed alone since I first aspired to make an income from my agricultural pursuits. Over the years I’ve developed the Runamuk operation in such a way as to allow me to manage the majority of the work on my own─without expensive machinery and without help. And for the most part, I intend to continue to do so.

This new property is going to provide the infrastructure I need to really grow Runamuk. I’ll be able to establish the systems that will allow Runamuk to shine in it’s own right: annual and perennial gardens that produce food for the farmer, and medicinal herbs for the apiary, an apothecary where I can dry the herbs for infusing into oils that will later be mixed with beeswax to make my herbal salves, and a kitchen that will qualify Runamuk for a Home Processing license─opening the door to new markets and wholesale distribution.

My boys are now 15 and 11─old enough to be contributing to the home and to their own subsistence, skills which I devoutly believe will prove beneficial to them in their adulthood. I’ll recruit their help these next few years as I cultivate the pollinator conservation farm I have long envisioned for Runamuk. And my darling sister will be moving in with me, we’ll lean on each other for a while, til she and Runamuk each find their footing.

Really, I don’t have any concerns about keeping up with the workload. I can work long and hard; I know how to manage my time and how to strategize a plan to get things done. I have the support of friends and family around me if there comes a project that requires more hands─or should I want some company.

As a creative type, I’ve never been one to mind a little quiet solitude. I find those periods of isolation are perfect time for artistic exploration, self-reflection, and an opportunity to focus on the things that are truly important to ones’ self.

What’s more, as I get another year closer to my 40th birthday (2020), taking care of myself first and foremost has become paramount. This is my story─I’m the one with this fire that burns within my soul─compelling me to build Runamuk, to grow this pollinator conservation farm, to work with bees, grow my own food, and to propagate a sense of community through my work for my local farmers’ market. I don’t expect anyone else to have the same level of passion, and I don’t want anyone else to do the work for me─that would cheapen the journey and rob me of the experiences of my own life.

Paul and I had some good times together, and I think we each learned a lot from one another. We’ll continue to be friends, for one can never have too many, and I wish for him a happy and self-sustaining life.

Check back soon for more news on the progress of my loan request with the FSA.  Be sure to subscribe by email to receive the latest posts from Runamuk directly to your in-box!