The first week in February dozens of people filed into the Hillsboro Library and plunked baggies of dirt down on the counter. Luckily our librarians are very tolerant of such behavior, as long as it is done quietly. These were our diligent new participants, giving us their soil samples for testing. We met at the library with all of our participants for a course in Grow Appalachia 101 and garden planning in teams. We organized the planning teams around our community gardens needing volunteers. Armed with graph paper and seed catalogues, our participants helped each other choose varieties and plan bed widths and layouts.
Nine Grow Appalachia households will start keeping bees this year and we are fortunate to have a knowledgeable retired beekeeper among them. These participants are enthusiastic about learning about hive management and working as a group to help each other assemble hives and maintain healthy honey bee colonies throughout the year. Several are interested in selling honey and other products made from honey and wax. We partnered with the Hillsboro Library Friends to bring retired WVU entomologist, Dr. James Amrine to give a lecture about beekeeping. Dr. Amrine developed the product, Honey B Healthy, a fragrant concoction of lemongrass and spearmint essential oils that helps keep mites and viruses at bay. His talk was open to the public and very well attended. He held the audience captivated (but not captive) until long past the scheduled ending time.
I am actually blogging during a break from the Better Process Control School that is taking place at the WV Small Farms conference. I am getting trained on safe, legal practices for producing value-added products so that our participants and can make and sell sauces, canned veggies, and other delicious foods from their produce in the new certified commercial kitchen at High Rocks.
Soil samples are at the lab, seeds, bees and some tools are ordered, and certifications are imminent (if I pass the test). Meanwhile, our sugar maples are silently pumping last year’s sugars up through trunks and out to the tips of branches—just waiting for the right conditions to explode into new green.