Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Urgent Breaking News!!! New Honey Bee Research

I was going to take the time to create a pretty post with photos I took in Peru, but I've decided to save that for later this week.   A friend alerted me to a recently published article that may have cracked the issue of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) wide open.  

The article is published on, PLOS ONE is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal.  This means that if you care about this issue, you should read the article, save it, and share it. Simply use this link to access the original article: Save the Honey Bees!

See below for their freedom of use statement:

This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. 

The long and the short of this study and the authors' conclusions is that the synergistic effects of a variety of pesticides and fungicides (previously thought not to affect honey bees) are weakening the bees' resistance to the parasite Nosema ceranae.   This is bad news for honey bees but also really 
bad news for humanity.   If you don't know why it's truly bad news humans (ie for food production), 
check out the American Beekeeping Federation page on  Pollination Facts   Apples, broccoli, and 
almonds are only a few of the important crops that depend on honey bees for pollination, not to mention
the many crops and natural plants that feed other animals or prey of other animals in the food chain.

See below for the article in a snapshot.   Remember to read the actual article using the link above and 
SHARE it!!   Our lives and our children's lives just might depend on it.

Bee pollinating a cone flower at Shepherd's Flock Farm
Photo by K. A. Payne de Chavez

The article is: 

Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which AltersTheir Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae
Jeffery S. Pettis, Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Michael Andree, Jennie Stitzinger, Robyn Rose,
Dennis vanEngelsdorp

The authors come from a variety of backgrounds and universities:

Jeffery S. Pettis

Bee Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland, United States of America

Elinor M. Lichtenberg, Jennie Stitzinger, Dennis vanEngelsdorp
Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland, United States of America

Michael Andree
Cooperative Extension Butte County, University of California, Oroville, California, United States of America

Robyn Rose
USDA-APHIS, Riverdale, Maryland, United States of America

[Dennis vanEngelsdorp is a PLOS ONE editor. All the other authors
have declared that they have no competing interests.]

Tidbits from the article include:
Recent research suggests that honey bee diets, parasites, diseases and pesticides interact to have stronger negative effects on managed honey bee colonies.

While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load. Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to. 

Camana, Peru, is a pretty interesting place...

I don't have much in the way of a farm update other than to say that Papi is planting some more green beans to replace the plants that weren't terribly successful, so I thought it might be a good moment to take a little time and tell you about Camana.   On this map, you can see where Camana is located along the Peruvian coast.   It's about 3 hours by bus from Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru.

they got the map from

This past June/July we were blessed to have the opportunity to spend five weeks in Peru.   It was Jhan's family's chance to finally meet our son Khalil.   When we're in Peru, we live with Jhan's folks in El Cardo (Jose Maria Quimper) a little town/district just outside of the larger town/district of Camana.   Both Jose Maria Quimper and Camana are districts within the province of Camana, so the naming gets a wee tad bit confusing at times.   I'll post pictures of El Cardo another time, for now you must content yourselves with this mini tour of the larger town of Camana.

Camana has a population somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 people.   

It boasts a tourist hotel

Beautiful paved pedestrian streets with trees, sculptures, and fountains

And it has a bustling central market

One can buy fresh bread, cookies, and empanandas

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Let it Rain

I named this blog last summer when we were praying and praying that it would rain.   This summer (as per normal in Ohio) the weather is completely different.   We had a massive rain storm yesterday.   Despite loads of water and high winds, we had no plant or animal casualties.   I took a short video for my husband to share with his family back home in Camana, Peru, where it generally does not rain like this.

Thankfully it didn't last too very long, and God sent us a special treat afterwards.   So if you've ever wondered what exactly is at the end of a rainbow, it's the Shepherd's Flock Farm entrance, that's what.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shepherd’s Flock Farm Garden – Before and After

Part 1: Creating raised beds and planting
Kate Payne de Chavez

If you look back through the blog posts, you can see some photographs of work we did along the lake in early spring before we could really get out into the garden.   It was too cold and the ground was too tough for us to get out and plant our veggies, so we satisfied ourselves with cleaning up the winter’s debris and waiting for the daffodils to bloom.   It was our way of getting out of the house and back to the farm.  

We have quite a bit of work to do to get this place back to the level of early successes that Mama and Papi had a few years ago, so we’re working together as a team to draw up a plan.

In late April and early May the ground was finally soft and dry enough to work, so Jhan and I talked with Mama and Papi about what they wanted in terms of garden beds.   We decided on beds that were approximately 4’ x 10’ and 4’ x 12’ (with a few oddly shaped beds here and there; the garden isn't exactly rectangular due to a little stream bed/drainage ditch along one side).   The walkways are generally 3’ or 4’ wide to allow for a wheel barrow to make the journey from the beds to the gate and all the way down to the compost bin.   Jhan and I laid out a grid using butcher’s twine and garden flags, and Jhan and Papi went to work creating the permanent raised beds.   I emphasize the word permanent here, because my poor mother and father have laid out and created theoretically permanent raised beds several times in the past.   Life has a way of running off with our well-made plans, and weeds invade.   That is perhaps a story for another post.   In any event, here you can see the grid lines and Jhan working away on digging out walkways and piling the soil onto the raised beds  (Mama, aka Avis, aka Nana, is in the background tidying up the asparagus bed).

Once the beds were ready, we were more than ready to plant.   We planted lettuces, peas, and beans from seed.   We then went to Skipper’s Greenhouse (here in Carroll County at 2044 Canyon Rd SW) and bought a TON of plants: tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, basil, dill, thyme, peppers, and marigolds.   The raised beds are mulched with pine needles from the pine woods on the farm, and as much of the walkways as possible are mulched with wood chips from a local tree-trimming business.   Waste not, want not.         

Around May 25th we had a very late frost, so in these images you can see tarpaulins, crates, bits of pipe, and other random materials that Papi and Jhan used to quickly cover the plants when the frost warning was announced.    Of our 48 tomato plants, I believe we lost only about 6.   We were blessed to lose so few; many of the folks around us (including commercial farmers) had a significant amount of crop damage.   

Stay tuned for Part 2 to see some After pics with the current state of the garden.  
Take care, and God bless!   

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Alfajores de maizena

Just a little something I made for the fam this weekend. A delicious Argentine cookie.  :o)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

We are officially going to the Carrollton Farmers' Market on a regular basis.   As of this past Saturday, Mom (aka Nana) and I were manning the booth with delicious veggies for all.   We took bunches of basil, thyme, and mint, broccoli heads and florets, Hungarian wax and jalapeƱo peppers, Elephant garlic, and green beans.   Though it wasn't as much as we'll be offering later on in the season, we were happy to see all our friends at the market!
We cut our herbs fresh the morning of market.   
This is our lakeside patch of wild Spearmint.

Papi dug the Elephant garlic about a week and a half ago. 
The bright green stems are a few stragglers we dug on Tuesday.

Here is our humble little stand at the market, 
complete with a scrapbook of images of the farm compliments of our friends Jim and Brenda

This was our view of the market from the booth.   
The positions are first come, first served.

Back at Shepherd's Flock Farm, Papi and Jhan have been catching up on mowing after two weeks of rain (Khalil "helps" drive the tractor).   We're also trying to clean out old canning jars to prepare for the MANY tomatoes to come!   
Papi and Khalil on the tractor mowing. 

Canning jars waiting for a final rinse in the sink.
We're hoping for LOTS of veggies to can come fall.

Mostly we're just trying to make progress and keep cool with this heatwave. 

Thanks for visiting us here at Shepherd's Flock Farm.   Next up will be pictures of the garden in full swing.   And next week stay tuned for more pics of our trip down to Peru.   Thanks, and God bless!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Excuses, excuses...

I realize that I really have NO excuse for neglecting this blog so terribly, but I will posit that it is hard to chase around your nearly two-year-old while in Peru AND post to the blog.   In lieu of a better explanation, I will try to placate you with a few picture of our trip to Camana, Peru.   We were away for five weeks, and Nana and Papi held down the fort at Shepherd's Flock Farm while we were away.  

Thanks for your patience, and we'll try to get this blog back up and running soon here!!!   Sorry!

Kate and Khalil in the desert north of Camana

A papaya tree in the huerta (garden) of Don Francisco

Vegetable stands in the open air mercado in Camana

Potatoes, onions, ajis, sweet peppers, tomatoes, lemons, and 
green beans in our favorite veggie stand

All righty, more soon in the form of photos and an update on Shepherd's Flock Farm.   We were at the Carrollton Farmer's Market this past Saturday, so I'll post pics and share a bit about our experience thus far this season.   Thanks for your patience!!!   Gracias!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Square foot gardening...what a concept

As we're approaching the time for planting at Shepherd's Flock Farm (some would say, as we've allowed the time for planting peas to pass us by...), I've been reading just about everything I can get my hands on.   The year before last when we were still in Massachusetts, and I tried a method I'd read about online - Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening (SFG).

I rather liked the results, and even though we may not use exactly this method in the main garden, Papi has agreed to build us some sun boxes based on Mr. Bartholomew's plans.   Basically the boxes will be squared off without the normal angle one would cut in a regular cold frame.   We'll use the land itself to create the necessary ~45 degree angle.   Some old windows that Papi has squirreled away will serve as cover to warm the earth below and should give us a jump start on our seeds, especially salad greens.

For more information on Square Foot Gardening, you should check out Mr. Mel Bartholomew's blog for SFG beginners.     

Which garden philosophy do you follow?   What are your favorite tricks for arranging your plants?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring is in the air

A few pictures to warm you up on 
a cold, snowy day...

On Saturday, the weather was just perfect to finally be out in the yard starting to clean up the dead brush and debris from last fall, so we bundled up and all went to work.   The project for the day was the wild flower bed just below the promontory that Jhan made last summer (more on that later - I'm hoping it'll become my first masonry project).   

These "Ditch" Lilies, as Mama calls them, have just begun to pop up on the front bank by the lake.    I transplanted a couple of clumps of these lovely flowers to enable Jhan to reshape a portion of the bank.   We're hoping that with it a bit more level, it'll be easier to maintain this year.   
Let the war on the locust trees begin!

Here's Mama posing for a glamour shot, aka cutting weeds out of the wild flower beds by the lake.   In the background you can see a diaper box doubling as a waste bin, the little green fishing boat, and Jhan cleaning the bank just beyond it.

Jhan did not approve of this photograph, but I had to show him hard at work 
cleaning out the wild flower beds

Speaking of hard at work...   I'm not sure that it was ideal to allow little man to dig in the ashes, 
but he really did enjoy himself. 

Here are a couple of parting shots: 
A mama goose hard at work protecting her clutch of eggs, 
and little man's discarded mitten stuck up in the tree...   

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cabin Fever

After an unfortunately long hiatus, I’m finally having a chance to sit down and write a bit.   Technically I don’t really have time to write at the moment; I should be grading papers, working on my own educational coursework, and/or finishing my lesson plans.   However, at the moment, I just needed to sit down and write a bit about what’s been going on here at the farm.   We’re not quite ready to gear up for summer just yet, but that doesn’t keep us from dreaming and scheming about what the upcoming warm season will bring.  

Mom and I have drawn a rough sketch of the layout of the garden, so as soon as the soil is warm enough to work, we’ll get Papi and Jhan to help move the fence and layout the permanent beds.   We’re planning to create a grid layout, leave walkways wide enough to maneuver a wheelbarrow, and to stave off weed growth using cardboard and mulch.   Here’s hoping we’ll be able to find the materials and have the time to create raised beds.   If not, we can always plan and save up for a year from now.   In any event, we’ve got a great many beds planned out, so I am praying that we’ll have just the right amount of rain and sun and the Lord’s blessings to be successful at the local farmers’ market this season.  

In addition to taking fresh vegetables and maybe raising some broilers to sell, I’m planning to take fresh baked bread and possibly some cookies (Alfajores, anyone?).   I’ve been perfecting an artisan, white-wheat bread these past few weekends, and I think I may have just about got it.   Starting next weekend it’s all French baguette all the time.   Who would’ve guessed that some flour, water, salt, and yeast could yield such delicious results?    

Possible crops for the garden: peas, leeks, asparagus, garlic, tomatoes, green beans, acorn and butternut squash, zucchini, radishes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, jalapeño and yellow wax peppers (maybe some red and green sweet peppers too), lettuce, oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil, cilantro, dill (maybe various and sundry other herbs, and big maybe quinoa!

Possible additional products for market: morels, raspberries, black berries, zucchini bread, artisan bread, French baguettes, jams, and maybe wooden spatulas/spoons

I’ll keep the brainstorm ideas coming, and I hope that you (whoever you might be reading this) will chime in with some suggestions and ideas of your own.   What are you planning on planting in your garden this spring?