Well, in my last post I said that I was hoping to meet some people face to face, and I couldn’t be happier to say that I’ve been able to do just that. This week has actually been full of learning experiences and new people. I learned how to collect hay samples, which turned out to be quiet the accomplishment considering that my first time really using a power tool didn’t end up with me breaking something. I also put a huge fear behind me, or at least took the first step in that direction. Bees have always been my equivalent of snakes and spiders – I’m terrified. But this week, I put on a bee suit and followed a beekeeper as he taught some of the extension staff about his hives. I gritted my teeth for the first several minutes, praying that a bee wouldn’t land on me and beginning to think that the suit may not offer as much protection as what I’d hoped. It was strange for me when I began to realize that I was actually really enjoying myself, even getting close to the frames to get a better look at everything he was showing us. In the end, I was fascinated. And while I still cringe a little to think of one crawling on me, even with the suit on, I actually hope that I get more opportunities to work with the bees.

I also can’t deny the benefits of beekeeping – one of the Grow Appalachia participants was kind enough to give me some honey from his hives when we visited his garden this week, and it is hands down one of my favorite things. But that has been my experience with all of the participants so far – they have all been incredibly welcoming and kind. I have been able to learn so much from simply visiting their gardens, learning their techniques, and hearing them get questions answered. I did not grow up using organic products in a garden, so these opportunities have allowed me to find out more about the many products that can be used in organic gardening, as well as seeing how it is possible to use other plants to help what’s in your garden. There were also a few places that I was able to feel helpful, though. One of the participants asked me for some advice about her chicken coop while I was visiting her garden, and it gave me the opportunity to share some of my animal science background. It was nice to be able to hear someone else’s wisdom, and then to also have the opportunity to share some of my knowledge with others.  I am most definitely still learning, but I have felt welcomed into the community with open arms, and for that I am extremely grateful. It makes me even more excited to see everything that is still to come.