Our Manifesto-Natural, Simple and Reclaimed

Here at the Farm we are about three things: natural, simple, and reclaimed. These tenets are the overarching guide for all our Farm endeavors. Most of these manifest in food. Growing, preserving, buying, selling, cooking, and of course eating food. But it’s also a lifestyle.

First an explanation of the name. Five Feline Farm is not a cat rescue. The name is an homage to the five charter cats who moved with us to the five and a half acres we call home. It is also a glimpse of our sense of humor. Who names a market farm Five Feline Farm only to explain ourselves over and over? Wait until you find out what we name our products.

I digress. 

Back to our focus on food.

Natural and Simple

Heirloom Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes

So much of our food supply is heavily processed, loaded with ingredients that sound more like a chemistry lesson than a food label. I can only conjecture that the rise of these artificial ingredients is correlated to the rise of disease and lack of well-being in our society.

We strive to use whole ingredients wherever possible. Not only whole but a direct connection to the source. Our vegetables come from our farm or local (within 100 miles) sources. Sometimes this is difficult and exceptions must be made. We can’t grow coffee in Central Illinois but we certainly drink it.

In addition to the gardens, we are beekeepers. Our honeybee colonies provide enough honey for our own use, some to sell and wax for value added products. The more we learn about the benefits of honey, the bigger a proponent we become. Honey is an all natural, non-spoiling food that can also promote healing.

Sweet Honey
Bees At Work

You may call it recycling or repurposing. Whatever the nomenclature, it is a way of life. Even the farm we live on is reclaimed land. The property had been left to it’s own devices. Covered in wild  grape vines and multiflora rose. Smattered with old appliances, rusty fencing and dilapidated buildings. Think ancient outhouse, rodent infested outbuilding, termite and dry rot compromised barn.

In the midst of these horrors we found treasures.

Wild blackberry and raspberry brambles for food. A vacated basement transformed to a goldfish pond. Garden art from a rusty iron drill press. Barn wood graces the fireplace mantel in the house, logs form garden bed edging.

Acres of open land perfect for a house, gardens, orchard and apiary. Orchard Sign

Reclaiming happens in the kitchen too. No, we don’t forage in dumpsters, but we do make every effort not to waste. Leftovers are creatively combined into new dishes and branded “New Leavin’s”. If something can’t be used, into the compost piles it goes. Enriching the soil for next year’s crop.

As we reclaim the land, we reclaim ourselves.

There are outlets to try new things and expand our abilities. We often learn by trial and error. Like the hoop house dismantled by prairie winds rivaling a nor’easter.

Follow along as we share what we learn. You may decide to implement a few things for yourself.

Three Fabulous Reasons to Keep Honeybees

There are some very good reasons to host honeybees on your property. Then there are some FABULOUS reasons. Read on to find out why Five Feline Farm started in the honeybee business.

Honey of course. There is only one way to get real honey. From honeybees.

Whether you want honey just for personal use or to sell surplus, the only place to get honey is from honeybees.The worker bees spend the majority of their short lives gathering nectar and pollen from flowers. The nectar is returned to the hive, passed off to a sister bee and mixed with enzymes. This enriched nectar is placed in a cell, combined with the deposits of many other worker bees then fanned to dehydrate into honey. Once the honey has reached the perfect moisture content, the cell is capped off and the process begins again in the next cell. Naturally this doesn’t happen one cell at a time but hundreds of cells at a time by tens of thousands of bees.

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2. Pollination. As the bees move from flower to flower they transfer pollen.

This is almost a side effect of the nectar gathering process. Honeybees have sticky hairs on their bodies that capture pollen granules when they visit flowers. As they move to the next flower and land, a bit of pollen falls off and pollinates that flower. Some crops such as almonds are totally dependent on the honeybee for pollination.

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Although some of the pollen collection is accidental, there is also some intentional pollen harvesting. Pollen is a protein. It is mixed with honey and enzymes to create the “bee bread” fed to young larvae.

Here on the Farm, we have noticed improved production in the gardens after adding colonies of honeybees.

3. Fun. Honeybees are fascinating to watch.

We placed a bench just a few yards from the hives and off to the side. This creates an excellent place to sit in the evening to watch the bees come in with the fruits of their labor. Close observation reveals varying hues of pollen in the little pollen baskets on the worker’s back legs.

Trying to watch a single bee come out of the hive, take off from the entrance, circle once or twice and head out to the current nectar flow is amazing. I rarely use that word because it is so overused, but sometimes there is simply no other way to describe something. This is one of those times.

Do you agree with these FABULOUS reasons? Do you want to start keeping honeybees? If you do, start here to learn about some of the parts of the hive.

30,000 Bees and Counting

Three new colonies of bees have taken up residence at Five Feline Farm to replace winter losses. Two packages were picked up at Long Lane Honeybee Farm in rural Fairmount, IL. The third package was shipped by U.S. Mail from Gardner Apiary in Georgia. Each package contains about three pounds of bees, a queen in a separate cage and a can of food. The two packages from Long Lane were shipped in a new style of package called a “bee bus”. The package from Georgia arrived in a standard wood and screen box.

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It is always exciting to pick up new honeybees. During shipment or what is essentially an artificial swarm the bees are quite docile. They are not protecting brood or a hive and seem a bit confused. Mostly they just stay together, clinging around the queen cage and waiting to see what happens.

So two packages rode home in the backseat of the car. A few bees clung on the outside of the cages, but none ventured into the front of the car. Someone suggested it is a great anti-theft deterrent to have 20,000 honeybees inside the car.

Bees were really buzzing around at the distribution site. It is amazing how comfortable we each have become around the bees. While standing in line to pick up the packages, bees flew all around and landed on us, but never stung. We still have a healthy caution and utilize protective clothing while working in the hives. It is all about knowing how to interact with honeybees and respect their natural instincts.

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Once home, the packages were sprayed with a bit of sugar water to reduce flying. Once in the bee yard, the bees were quickly installed into their new homes. We will continue to feed sugar syrup for a few weeks until the bees can establish their new home and build comb on the foundation supplied. After this sugary sweet start, the bees will start supporting themselves with the nectar and pollen available on Five Feline Farm.

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Check out the installation video in the previous post.