A good season

spring honey 2017

It’s been a good season for Runamuk, all things considered. The weather has been good this year, with a good amount of rain and an equally good amount of sun. There have been a few scorchers and a few chilly nights, but all around it’s just been a decent season and farmers all over Maine have reveled in a year where they can simply farm and grow. A welcome change after last year’s drought.

In the Apiary

Beehives apiary august 2017
The apiary in August!

With adequate rain, the flowers have offered up plenty of nectar this season, and the bees at the apiary in the Hyl-Tun pastures have produced a crop of spring honey. After 2 years without honey to sell I now have available both a fall honey (from the 2016 season) and this new spring honey.  Yaaaaaaay!

spring honey 2017
If you haven’t tried honey on your Saturday morning pancakes, you don’t know what you’re missing!!!

I’ve put out both varieties in sampling at market and at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, so that folks can taste and learn about the different types of honey. Most people have no idea that there’s more than one type of honey, so accustomed to the standard “Clover Honey” found in the mainstream grocery store is the general population.

It all comes down to the flowers the bees are foraging on. Different types of flowers will produce varying flavors─even varying consistencies of honey. Honey will differ from one region to the next, as the floral sources are a little different from landscape to landscape. Here in Maine the spring honey is typically lighter in color, sweeter and thinner; whereas the fall crop will be darker and has a more robust flavor, and tends to crystallize quite a lot fast because it has a lower moisture content.

Having honey has meant a huge boost to Runamuk’s income, and after having none these last couple years due to harsh weather and the fall-out from my divorce in 2015─it feels really good to have been able to make a come back.

In the Garden

squash neighborhood and sunflowers
The squash neighborhood has turned out to be very productive this year!

The sandy patch of soil at 26 Goodine’s Way where Runamuk has parked itself during the interim has produced a respectable amount of food to feed this farmer. It’s a small garden, so I’m not taking many vegetables to the farmers’ market, but I am able to feed my family with it.

Our strategy to house the chickens for the winter on the garden site has paid off. Through the winter and early this spring the chickens worked the soil for us, cleaning up weeds and adding manure. In early May we moved them out of the garden into a movable hoop-coop and have allowed them to free range all summer. The fence that had protected the birds throughout the winter, now kept them out of the garden so we could grow our crops.

Read about the “Hoop-Coop” I built in the face of our impending farm-move to house the Runamuk laying flock!

amaranth 2017
Paul grew a hedgerow of Amaranth, which I had never tried before. Now I am smitten with it!

We’ve had lots of greens, radishes and turnips, beets, fresh onions and potatoes, zucchini and summer squash galore, and I’m just beginning to get cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers. My winter squashes have done fabulous, and I even did a crop of dry beans for winter soups and stews. When a couple of wayward pumpkin seeds sprouted in the manure pile left after cleaning out the former hoop-coop, I poked a few more pumpkin seeds into the pile for my Thanksgiving pies and those have grown to sprawl all over too, with several pumpkins getting big and fat under the broad-leafed foliage.

It’s been a new experience for me, dealing with such sandy soil. The stuff is literally classified as “Dune sand”. The kind you want at the beach or in your toddler’s sandbox─NOT in your garden. At the start of the season as I planted my seedlings into the sand I felt despair, feeling it was surely an act of futility to ask anything the grow in that “soil”. This garden has enforced for me the idea that you can absolutely grow your own food just about anywhere with dedication and a lot of hard work.

Check out this post to learn more about my real food challenge!

The key to growing in sand, we’ve found, has been the addition of well-composted manure to the beds─lots and lots of it─and we mulched everything to help retain moisture. Paul set up an irrigation system  for the garden that drew from an unused well here; he’s watered the garden religiously every morning and evening, and then even 2 or 3 or 4 times during the day when the sun burns hot. With a passion for soil-building and growing food, Paul has more or less taken over the garden aspect of the Runamuk venture, freeing me up to focus on the bees, while still allowing me to keep my hands in the dirt.

The Runamuk FarmRaiser

farmraiser launch countdown
The Runamuk FarmRaiser launch countdown on my phone! Gasp!

There are just 11 days left before the Runamuk FarmRaiser campaign launches on September 1st. Preparations for the campaign have consumed my spare time─as if I had any to begin with lol! The whole thing is pretty scary and there have been several mornings I’ve woken up at 3am with my heart pounding and anxiety coursing hotly through my veins.

I remind myself during these moments of panic that it really doesn’t matter how much or how little the gofundme campaign raises, the FSA offers financing on the down-payment as well, but I can’t help feeling that the more I am able to raise the better it’s going to look to the land-owner, or the more doors the down-payment fund might open for Runamuk. It’s a huge deal and I feel as though much of what Runamuk is─or can be─hinges upon the success of this crowdfunding campaign.

balfour farm with maine farmland trust
I attended a dinner at Balfour Farm recently, that was sponsored by the Maine Farmland Trust! Connected with some kindred spirits and made some new connections; what a great group of people!

So what do I do at 3 in the morning when fear prevents me from sleeping? I work! I’ve put together an entire Media Kit containing flyers, press release, full-length article, HD pictures, social media graphics and more. Friends have volunteered to post flyers and help spread the word too, so feel free to check out the resources in this file on my Google Drive. If you’re inspired, go ahead and share my story with your friends, print out some fliers and paper the town!

billys belly bluegrass festival
My friend Sonia Acevedo with her offspring Eden, on stage at Billy’s Belly Bluegrass Festival in Anson.

I’ll be visiting local events over the next few weeks to tell the community about the Runamuk FarmRraiser and to invite folks to the upcoming party on October 1st. It’s been fun getting out there in the broader community to connect with people; I’ve run into old friends, finally met friends whom I’d only ever known online, and made a lot of new friends too. I’ve invited every one of them to my party lol.

The press release went out to local papers last week, and I contacted a few journalists that I have connections with─hoping to increase exposure of the Runamuk FarmRaiser. I also have a long list of organizations I want to reach out to to share my mission for a pollinator conservation farm. Now I just need to make a few videos: an explainer video to go along with my campaign, a teaser video, and a couple of “behind-the-scenes” videos. Stay tuned to see my attempt at video-making coming soon!

As anxious as I am about the gofundme campaign, I’m equally as excited to share the upcoming FarmRaiser party with friends, not just as a fundraiser, but as a celebration of farming and friendship─and bees! My talented and beautiful friend Sonia Acevedo from Hide & Go Peep Farm is going to play for us, and I’m working on recruiting some other musicians but I can’t give out the details on that til it’s nailed down, so check in with me later! Otherwise there will be lots of great food to share (it’s pot-luck!), local brew to imbibe, hay bales to sit upon under barn rafters lit with twinkling white holiday lights, and many many good friends to catch up with. It’s going to be a really fun time and I hope you’ll come spend the evening with us on Sunday October 1st!

Shifting focus

kale beet seedlings
Kale and beet seedlings we sowed for harvesting later this fall and winter.

Summer seems to have passed in the blink of an eye and now back-to-school season and the impending cooler weather of fall are approaching at break-neck speed. Our focus is shifting from growing and producing, to self-preservation for the coming winter: Paul has begun cutting up logs that will become our winter heating, we’re talking about how to protect the laying hens from the minks this winter, and about how we will store the potatoes. Even now that it’s almost late-August we’re still poking seeds in the ground to grow crops that we will harvest later in December and January when there is snow on the ground. I love the seasonality of this farming life of mine; each season brings it’s own ups and downs but it’s always part of the turning wheel of the year.

Thanks so much for following along and stay tuned for more updates coming soon from Runamuk!

FarmRaiser Party! Beekeeping, dinner & music!

barn party

Come to the Runamuk apiary on October 1st for a crash course in beekeeping and stay for dinner and live music at the historic Hilton barn in Starks! As part of the Runamuk FarmRaiser: a Bee-Friendly Farm gofundme campaign, I’ve organized this 2-part event that I’m really excited to share.

Beekeeping 101

beekeeping 101Sign up early to participate in my Beekeeping 101 workshop which begins at 9am on Sunday, October 1st. The course will cover the basics of getting started with bees in Maine, including where to get bees, apiary location, how to set up your equipment, installing the bees, pests & diseases, and overwintering your bees─among other things. Weather and temperatures permitting we may crack open a hive for some hands-on experience.

I have permission to use the Hilton’s barn for this event, so the workshop will take place rain or shine. Coffee, tea, and refreshments will be provided, but participants should bring a bag lunch of their own.  This is a 5 or 6 hour course and participants will take a beekeeping guide book home with them and numerous handouts.

The course is one of the perks I’m offering in the upcoming Runamuk FarmRaiser campaign with a $150 donation, however I’m offering a 11% discount on Early Bird registration RIGHT NOW. Sign up to participate for just $75!!! You may have two adult members from the same household for this price, requires confirmation of address and a book is shared.




FarmRaiser Party!

Runamuk’s supporters, friends and family are all invited to come to the Hyl-Tun Farm on route 43 in Starks for a pot-luck dinner and live music! From 5-8 join us in the historic Hilton barn for the Runamuk FarmRaiser Party and celebrate with me all that Runamuk has achieved thus far, and all that we will attain in the future. A celebration of life, love, and community that you won’t want to miss.

farmraiser flyerI’m hoping to have a contradance, but I’m still working to nail that down. At the very least I know we will have some great live music, plenty good food, adult beverages (as well as family-friendly drinks of course), good company and a great setting. It’s sure to be a good time for the whole family.

VIP Passes: Here’s another great campaign perk I’m revealing early: VIP Passes to the Runamuk FarmRaiser Party! Except in this case, VIP stand for Very Important Pollinator. VIP guests will be seated at an exclusive table and served by yours truly, plied with wine or beer or whatever your beverage of choice is, and honored as revered supporters to the Runamuk cause. Receive a tour of the apiary, the Hilton’s conservation pasture, and gain exclusive “backstage access” to the evening’s musicians. These VIP Passes won’t be available until the campaign goes live, but a pair of passes can be yours with a $250 donation. Come be my guest, let me shower you with love and appreciation!!!

On-Going Campaign Prep

As you can see, I’ve been busy preparing for the upcoming crowdfunding campaign. I’ve put together what I think are some great gifts to give in exchange for donations, I’ve got a list of online promotion and another of offline promotion to work through, a video still to make, and the actual campaign launching on September 1st. And all this in addition to my regularly scheduled duties. Yes it’s hectic, but I’m confident it will all be worth it in the end.

I’ve put together a jam-packed campaign Media Kit that includes the official press release for the campaign, a full-length article, campaign highlights, social media images, flyers, and high res images. Anyone interested in helping to promote the Runamuk FarmRaiser can access the Media Kit by emailing me directly. Aslo feel free to email me for collaboration; I welcome any and all support!

Already I’ve been passing out flyers at the farmers’ market, posting them about the local community, and sharing the news of the Runamuk FarmRaiser campaign─and our upcoming party! I’m really excited; however much we raise is going to be a help when we finally go to the FSA next March to begin the long process for financing our forever-farm home. I’m just glad I get to share the journey with so many wonderful friends.

Thanks for following along! Stay tuned for more from Runamuk!

Save bees! Help Runamuk go home!

Sometimes I joke that my status as a landless farmer and the on-going search for Runamuk’s forever-farm has given new meaning to the name “Runamuk”. Originally I named the farm after the chaos homeschooling 2 rowdy boys inspired in my life, but we’ve had 6 moves in Runamuk’s lifetime (7 years). Lack of capital and land-access are the number one challenges beginning farmers are facing, so I know at least that I’m in good company. With so many moves it’s been hard to get ahead in the business; each move is a financial set-back and only serves to delay the good work that I could be doing.

A farm is built up through the farmers’ efforts at building soil, crops and livestock year after year; that can’t happen unless there is a long-term situation for the farmer. I feel almost as though I am in suspended animation. There are plants I want to grow, agricultural and conservation methods I want to try, animals I’d like to raise, and the kind of production that can only come through years and years of dedication to the same piece of Earth.

But Runamuk is meant to be so much more than just a farm. Runamuk is a conservation and demonstration farm.

runamuk farmraiser infographic

bee-friendly farmingWe’re practicing regenerative agriculture and bee-friendly farming to lead by example, teaching others how they too can live in coexistence with pollinators and the natural world around us. Agritourism is meant to be part of my business with on-farm workshops, bee-schools and tours. In our current situation the apiary is located on someone else’s farm, while we live and homestead in a situation that is not conducive to having the public stop by.

Farming isn’t always picture-perfect, but to sell a product or idea, to influence folks to your way of thinking (as in to persuade the public that bee-friendly living and farming is a good idea)─you have to meet folks halfway. The reality is that people have preconceived perceptions of what a farm looks like and in order to change someone’s way of thinking you have to meet them half-way in order to gain any traction with them.

That’s why I’m still searching for a forever-farm home that fulfills the vision I have for Runamuk. It’s also the motivation behind my 2-part campaign I’ve dubbed rhe: “Runamuk FarmRaiser: a Bee-Friendly Farm”

The Vision for Runamuk (the short version)

Set in the heart of the western Maine mountains, this 100-acre conservation farm will be ideal for raising superior honeybee stock adapted to Maine’s challenging conditions. Perennial food forests and gardens will be laid out to feed both the farmer and the bees, along with wildflower meadows and pastures which are rotationally grazed or mowed to conserve wildlife and local populations of beneficial insects like pollinators, while still allowing income and management of the fields.

Well-defined walking paths will lead the way throughout the conservation farm, with plaques identifying the habitat and the wildlife supported by it. Nesting boxes for birds, bats, bees and butterflies will be scattered about the conservation farm attracting wildlife and educating the public─with a grand “bee hotel” providing habitat for a spectrum of native bees.

Visitors will find benches about the farm for sitting, allowing them to absorbing nature and take in the extensive demonstration gardens. A picnic area and a fire pit for community gatherings and celebrations will attract school field trips or families on vacation. The Runamuk Conservation Farm will be a welcoming stop for tourists passing through the area, and a destination for anyone looking to learn about beekeeping, pollinator conservation, bee-friendly farming, regenerative agriculture or sustainable living.

Read the Vision for the Runamuk Conservation Farm in it’s entirety.

Going for it

This is the vision that I have for Runamuk and whether it is I that cannot let go the dream, or the dream that refuses to let go of me, I cannot say. I only know that it burns inside me and I have neither the strength nor the will to deny it any longer. I’m going for it.

The Campaign

In 2 parts, friends and followers can help Runamuk find it’s forever-farm home and raise funds for the down payment on that property.

Part A: Utilizing social media to spread the word about what we are looking for to connect with a land-owner who might potentially be willing to work with us to preserve their property for future generations. I’ve listed below the kind of things I’m looking for in Runamuk’s forever-farm and created a sharable graphic to make it easy to circulate the information. Begin: NOW!

Part B: Crowdfunding for the down-payment on that forever-farm property. I’m shooting for  $20K─that would give us a 20% down-payment on a property with a $100K price tag, but any amount raised will help in the purchase. If we should raise more than that it would mean a lower mortgage or a better property (maybe even one with housing?), and if we don’t raise that much that’s ok too─at least we’ll have a chunk of change to offer.

I’m brainstorming a list of perks to offer in exchange for a pledge of support for my cause. Some of the ideas I have include: pollinator-themed refrigerator magnets, a Soap CSA─3 bars a month for 12 months, gift certificates for pollinator plants, Beekeeping 101 with me (either at my apiary or via Skype). Those are just a few ideas; I’m open to suggestions, and if you’re interested in being a part of the team to help organize this campaign and finally take Runamuk home to begin the work of promoting pollinators in earnest, please let me know.

“Runamuk FarmRaiser: a Bee-Friendly Farm” Campaign Launches: September 1st, 2017.

What we’re looking for

help runamuk find forever farm

Acreage:

You can grow a surprising amount of food on a smaller parcel of land and increasingly farmers are doing just that. I’m helping Paul to establish a perennial food-forest garden right here so that his Norridgewock property will support itself. For the scope of the Runamuk project however, we’re looking for at least a hundred acres to farm on.

Price: I’d prefer to keep my debt as low as possible, so I’m shooting for a price tag of about $100K. The bigger the number the more queasy I get. After scouring the market for the last 5 years I know that the beautiful old farmhouses with acreage still in-tact can be anywhere from $150-$360 or even more. So unless a golden opportunity comes along, we’ll probably be looking for land without existing infrastructure.

A View: Such an view on the horizon lends much beauty to the setting, and Runamuk will surely inspire it’s guests to make big changes in their lives.

Secluded: My strategy is to develop a hygienic honeybee strain that is adapted to the mountainous region of western Maine, tapping into potential feral colonies that might still reside in the reserved public conservation lands in that part of the state. A location apart from the state’s other commercial apiaries offers more control over genetics.

Phillips-Area: After spending so much time pouring over realty listings, I’ve only recently come to realize that the area around Phillips, Maine seems to best meet both my vision and my needs. It’s not too terribly far from Madison-Anson to Phillips, and Route 4 is a main avenue for tourists traveling to our Rangeley Lakes region. Set right in the heart of the mountainous Maine wilderness with some great farmlands along the Sandy River, this area really speaks to me.

Those are my must-haves, but I have some other things that I’m looking for when exploring property. Here they are in order of importance:

Pasture: This is actually very high on my list and I warred with myself on whether it should have been listed with the must-haves. 5 acres of open pasture would allow for quick set up of the Runamuk farm, offering open ground for gardening, bee-forage and a source for the medicinal herbs and flowers I use to make our value-added beeswax products. I would only be willing to sacrifice the pasture for “the Right” property.

Gnarly trees: I have a thing for old gnarly trees and would love to have some on my property. And I have a thing for mature-growth forests─forests that have not been cut for a long, long time. I am the proverbial tree-hugger.

Water-source: Having some kind of water source available would be a big boon to the operation, be it a stream, farm pond, or old dug farm-well.

History: There’s so much to be learned from those who came before us, and a sense of richness that comes from that kind of depth in a property. I would love to have one of the old 1800’s farmhouses with the fields all bisected by rockwalls and gnarly old trees lining the drive. Or even just a chunk of land that had once been a working farm, but has since been reclaimed by the Maine wilderness─with rock walls dividing the forest, an old stone-lined well or the crumbling stone foundation of the farmhouse that once lived there hidden amid the growth of the forest-floor like ghostly whispers from the past lingering to tell the story of that land.

Housing: I have very mixed feelings about our current housing situation, but because Paul has this remodeled trailer I have quite a lot of flexibility in this department. Even a run-down house will drive up the price of my forever-farm; by looking at land-only we can afford the larger acreage that we really want. These factors have moved existing housing lower and lower on my list of priorities for my forever-farm property.

How you can help

Lack of capital and land access are the two largest obstacles facing new farmers today and they have certainly played a role in Runamuk’s journey. Investment in the right property would enable us to establish a permanent location, allowing for Runamuk’s expansion into agritourism as a conservation farm.

Share our Story! You can help Runamuk right now just by sharing our search for our forever-farm property! This can help just by connecting us with land-owners who might be able to help us, or it might inspire friends in your network to share our story too. Sharing also helps us to grow our blog and reach new people who have not heard of Runamuk or our mission to save the world by saving bees. Share our forever-farm graphic, share my articles, share the link to our website or our facebook fanpage; share share share!

Make the Connection! Sometimes land-owners and new farmers work out arrangements that allow the beginning farmer to purchase land when traditional financing is not an option. If─by chance─you or someone you know has property in the Phillips, Maine area that they are committed to preserving for future generations, and if that someone has the means to offer a beginning farmer like me an owner-financed option, by all means─please share our search for Runamuk’s forever-farm home with them!

Join the Team! Crowdfunding is a big deal and not to be taken lightly. It’s a lot of work to run a successful fundraising campaign. If you’d like to be a part of bringing the Runamuk Conservation Farm to life, feel free to drop me a line. We could use all the help we can get!

Donate! If you are able to donate and want to give to our project we are humbled and grateful. Every dollar pledged will be used to secure a forever-farm home for Runamuk so that we can build this pollinator conservation farm, allowing us to teach bee-friendly coexistence and make those lessons accessible to the public. You can wait until the official start of the crowdfunding campaign on October 1st, or feel free to donate now using the “Buy me a coffee” widget in the lower left-hand corner of our site (powered by PayPal). Local friends and supporters who wish to help can pledge their support in person too, which actually means we’ll get to keep the entire donation as opposed to online transactions which accrue a processing fee.

For the good of us all

Runamuk’s income is growing─I’m projecting Runamuk will gross over $12K this year; that might be enough to go for a loan with the FSA or Farm Credit East. Regardless of which path I take to farm-ownership I know I’m going to need a down payment. Currently I’m working at Johnny’s Selected Seeds part-time to be able to bring my dream to life. I have $1200 saved and I’m working hard to keep expenses down so that we can continue to save for our forever-farm property.

I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to attempt a crowdfunding campaign for Runamuk. It’s not easy to ask people for money─hell! I have a hard time sometimes just charging friends for eggs! The idea of exposing myself online in such a big way is terrifying and I hesitate even as I am continuing to work on this infernal campaign. Yet, sometimes strangers actually do donate to Runamuk─see the “Buy me a coffee!” graphic at the bottom of the sidebar along the left here? Sometimes total strangers actually donate significant chunks of change because they found the info on this site useful, or because they were inspired by our mission. That was the deciding factor in the “Runamuk FarmRaiser: a Bee-Friendly Farm” campaign. People are noticing that our pollinator populations are significantly reduced and they want to help.

runamuk beekeeperIn a bizarre twist of fate, the girl who was once fearful of “bugs” has found her calling in life working with bees and for bees and other pollinators. Whatever the reason, this dream that I have for the Runamuk Conservation Farm won’t leave me be and so I must try however I can to see it brought to life. For the good of us all, people need to know how they can help pollinators; much in our world depends on these tiny creatures and the job they perform. If I can help through my work with the Runamuk Conservation Farm, then I feel I will have served the Earth and society in the best way I could.

You can help Runamuk find it’s forever-farm just by sharing our story with friends and family! Be sure to check back soon for more updates! Things are getting interesting! [paypal-donation]