After spending the last 10 years fixated on bees, I am finally shifting focus! From this day forward, Runamuk will no longer be all about bees and pollinator conservation! Gasp!
I became enthralled with bees quite unexpectedly. Though I’d been the proverbial tomboy as a child, I’d never been much of a “bug-person”. It wasn’t until my ex-husband introduced me to insects because he found them interesting, that I began to gain some appreciation for those creatures. My journey into homesteading and self-sufficiency progressed, and I brought home that first nucleus colony back in 2010…by the end of that summer I was consumed by “bee-fever”.
My ex-husband once told me that he half hoped I would get tired of it eventually. I really was hyper-focused on bees and indeed, they have consumed my entire life for the last decade. I can’t blame the guy for wanting that fanaticism to abate a little.
Over the course of these last 10 years that zeal has faded some… My focus has gradually shifted from bees to encompass all pollinators, and I got into pollinator conservation because I thought I could do the greatest good for the world by promoting those keystone creatures.
Excited About Soil
Now that Runamuk has it’s own forever-farm, I’ve become uber-excited about soil. I’ve learned that soil is habitat. This habitat isn’t just physical support to hold plants in place, it’s a whole world of lifeforms who’ve evolved together with plants over billions of years. They are all reliant upon one another for their continued existence. So even more critical to life on Earth than pollinators, is the life that lives within the soil.
Working the land here these last 2 seasons has inspired me to include soil’s microbial life in my definition of “beneficial insects”. Rather than promoting only pollinators, I am now keen to work with soil to also encourage life below ground in order to better propagate life above it.
No Longer Selling Bees
On that note, I’ve decided that it is no longer my ambition to sell bees. The investment in equipment to be able to raise mated-Queens is ridiculous, and I don’t have the time or skill to make my own. What’s more, that kind of operation requires copious amounts of time and energy. If I gave up everything else that is Runamuk to focus exclusively on bees, I could succeed (if the financial investment were not also an issue). However, “everything else” is too important to me to give up: the garden, egg-production, and my lovely new sheep…not to mention my kids…. I see a lot of men doing this kind of work (especially men in their retirement), and it works for them because they either don’t have kids at home anymore, or they’re not the ones responsible for childcare.
There’s also the fact that bees are highly unreliable. Every winter there are colony-losses; it’s just a matter of how many. I’ve had winters where my apiary has been entirely wiped out, or very nearly. Now that I am responsible for the longevity of a property of my own, I’m wanting to invest in less-risky ventures.
That’s not to say that I’m giving up bees entirely! Let’s not be silly here lol; of course I’m still going to raise bees! I’m just going to focus on producing honey and beeswax products, rather than also trying to raise bees to sell to other beekeepers. Runamuk will continue to grow with vegetables, chickens and sheep, and the apiary may or may not reach the 50 hives I had once envisioned. That’s OK by me.
Invertebrates and microbial-life are small─sometimes teeny-tiny. They are easily overlooked or disregarded by man, whose ego has rather surpassed the reality of his station upon the Earth. Yet, these creatures are vital to life on this planet. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but to me these 3 things are clear:
- Without soil-life (invertbrate and microbial life-forms who reside in the soil) plants cannot thrive.
- Without insects to pollinate plants cannot reproduce.
- Plant-life feeds our planet: human, animal, and even the atmosphere.
It doesn’t get any more basic than that.
Furthermore, when you look at systems in nature─the relationships that other species have formed with one another are all about the mutual survival of either partner. To ensure the survival of our own species, we need to ensure the survival of insects and plant-life. I truly believe it is Man’s responsibility to look after the Earth.
Does anybody else remember that Saturday morning cartoon, “The Littles”? Or perhaps you’ve read “The Borrowers”, or seen “Arrietty” the Studio Ghibli anime? Little people living under the floor boards is not what I mean in this instance lol, although it might be a good analogy… I’ve decided to to shift my focus just a teeny bit to dedicate Runamuk to “the Littles”, as I like to call them: bees, pollinators, beneficial insects─basically invertebrates in general─but also soil-microbes, fungi and essential bacteria.
For years I’ve been using bee-friendly methods of farming that benefit invertebrates on the whole. Now I also have strategies for working the land here in such a way that will improve the quality of the soil, boosting populations of Littles living within the soil, which will help plant-life here to flourish and in turn promote the Littles living above the soil. Having strong populations of Littles both above and below the ground will benefit the entire ecosystem here at Runamuk, which benefits both farmer and the community this farm serves. It’s a win-win situation.
Giddy Over Soil
There’s just something about soil that makes me giddy with excitement. I’ve always loved working with soil─it’s one of the biggest reasons I enjoy gardening and growing food. It smells good. Soil seriously makes me happy. I feel more connected when I’m working with soil. Dedicating myself to working the soil and promoting the Littles above and within the soil feels like a natural next step for this farmer, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this new focus will take me─and Runamuk! Stay tuned folks!
Thanks for following along with the story of this female farmer! Be sure to subscribe by email to receive the latest from Runamuk directly to your inbox. OR follow @RunamukAcres on Instagram for a glimpse at life on this bee-friendly Maine farm!