The day before Hurricane Maria, a large swarm of honeybees took up residence underneath a storage box in our tool shed. During the storm, the large wood crate was tipped up at a 45° angle, but the swarm of bees has remained there. They had built new comb, which fell to the ground during the storm, but they are continuing to build comb and invest in this rather exposed spot. This morning I went to check on them and I could smell honey! We are hoping to move them into a dry, protected and comfortable hive box this week.
While there is very little for pollinators to feed on at this point, every time we eat a papaya or sugar apple, or discover a cache of some leftover or windfall fruit, we are leaving the peels or cracked open fruit outside in a tray, and hordes of bees come to collect the sugary juices. You can help bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators survive the aftermath of Hurricane Maria by consistently placing a tray of fruit peels, downed fruit (cracked open) or even a dish of sugar water in a shady spot outside and change it every day or two.
Our farm kid has been excited about nature photography and after the storm spent a good bit of time observing and photographing dazed hummingbirds who were coming to feed on the aloe flowers that were bedraggled but still surviving on the west facing side of our home. She observed at least three kinds of hummingbirds. We also noted that within one day of the storm, a new flower spire had emerged from the aloe plant and was getting ready to bloom.
Our ram who was attacked by feral dogs almost a month ago survived the attack. He still has some visible holes in him but they are pink and healing. We released him from his solitary holding pen and delivered him back to the pasture and his flock social life on Monday afternoon. After enjoying one last hand-fed papaya by the gate, he perked his ears up and quickly made his way back to the ram group like a kid late for recess. His buddies sniffed him thoroughly and welcomed him back with characteristic grunting noises. His gait is miraculously unaffected despite his left shank looking like a cheese grater, and he should make a full recovery.
While we were out in the ram pasture, we saw that manjack and tantan trees are already putting out new buds with tiny leaflets on them.
We were able to enclose our turkeys and shift them on day three and they are gregariously, raucously enjoying a fresh piece of pasture. They have even been laying a few eggs which we are grateful for. We have yet to restore their coop, but they are making do with a pipe between two trees to sleep on.
We are still extremely limited in terms of our ability to use the Internet, and even the phone. We are only able to check and download things once a day at best. Email is spotty. We cannot receive or look at any website links, attachments or photos. We cannot pull up a browser window or “look anything up.” We have to get in a vehicle and drive off the farm to get any kind of phone signal or Internet. Even in a spot where we are getting several bars of signal, Facebook does not load at all and text messages are unreliable, so it’s best to try and text us using the farm phone number on the WhatsApp phone app. (ETA: Photos in this post were added on November 18th, when wireless internet was restored.)
We will be needing layer feed for our poultry ASAP. If anyone on St. Croix knows if S&D Feed (north of Kingshill Post Office) or JayC Feed (near Williams Delight traffic light) are re-opened after Hurricane Maria and stocking vegetarian layer feed, please let us know. You may be able to reach us directly by phone during curfew lift hours, or can reach us every other day or so using the farm cell phone number on the WhatsApp app on a smart phone. Or, if you can possibly just pick up one or two 50 lb. bags of layer feed if you find it available, and drop it to us at the farm, we would be overjoyed! We will leave a large plastic contractor bag by the entrance to the farmstand (where the gate would be for customers to come in), feed bags can be placed in there to stay dry. If by some miracle we receive more feed then we can use, we will be sharing it with Heather at Yellow Door Farm and other poultry farmers in the area. Please leave a note so we know who to thank and repay. A 50 pound bag of layer feed is generally between $18 – $22.
Another simple thing we could use help with is finding out how to do a hard reset on our iPhones. We have heard that this can help the phones to recognize the new cell phone towers that are being installed. Some of our family have Sprint service and others, AT&T. Unfortunately we do not have access to look up how to do the iPhone settings hard reset. We tried what we thought would work (holding down the home and power buttons simultaneously for a long time) and it didn’t do anything. If anyone could send us a WhatsApp message to our number with advice, step-by-step text (no photos please!) instructions of how to hard reset iPhones models 5, 6 and 7 or otherwise get the phones to search for new cel towers, that would be greatly appreciated.
We have a lot of bundles of drip tape and black plastic mulch fabric that were scattered and blown around the farm during the storm. If anyone has some time to stop by and volunteer, even for an hour during curfew lift, we could use some help with cleanup and repair on the farm. Because of biosecurity/plant virus issues, only non-smokers can help with handling farm equipment. Rubber boots or old shoes are helpful. Some of our farm roads are still pretty muddy. Please send a text or call us during curfew lift hours if you think you can come by so we will know to expect you. Thanks.
We have had some kind people off-island offer to help us with shipping in care packages, tools and supplies that we need. It is currently a little complicated getting things to St. Croix. We are not sure when the post office will open again (although we think soon, as the USPS buildings here did not suffer the kind of damage that the post offices in St. Thomas and St. John did). As for ocean freight, while the port is now open for daytime commerce, it’s not clear how soon shipping containers can be distributed to destination warehouses for local pickup, or whether our freight forwarder will be able to set up a pick up point at the shipping pier itself, since containers on semi rig chassis are too tall for most of the low hanging powerlines that are garlanding all of our roadways on the island. As soon as we can get a definitive answer, we will let everyone know where to send stuff.
Curfew hours are only lifted from 12–4 p.m. on St. Croix at this point and the roads are packed during those hours with long lines at all stores. We have been trying to stay off the roads as much as possible. It is also a bit emotionally difficult to drive around, not only because of the congestion and hazards but to see some of the destruction of homes, businesses, stately old trees, and other familiar landmarks where tornadoes ripped through a neighborhood.
Want to give a shout out to the wonderful McPherson Samuel family. Christina, Shawn and their son have been a wonderful support to us, both after Hurricane Irma and Maria, stopping by and bringing us back to their house to have a home-cooked meal, do some laundry, take a shower, play some serious Lego and enjoy a few hours away from all of the work we have to do. They even temporarily loaned us a small generator to run a cistern pump. You guys are awesome and amazing! Many, many thanks!!!