For over forty years, we have grown certified organic blueberries, but we have also planted acres of alfalfa, pastures, and fields of oats and rye. In order to prepare the soil for a hay field or for grains, John first plants cover crops, rye in the fall and buckwheat in the summer. These cover crops will naturally smother the crabgrass and other weeds, eliminating the need for herbicides and when John disks in the crops, they provide a “green manure” that enriches the soil.
When our sons were in high school they became beekeepers, and, at one time, ran a business with over eighty hives. During dinner conversations, they discussed “nectar valleys” when nature provided only a few flowers and bees hunted for other supplies of nectar.
“We need to plant something to feed our bees,” Carlos said.
“Why don’t you research which flowers will bloom in June and July,” I said.
A few years earlier, I had attempted to seed a small patch of wildflowers. John disked up a plot, and I scattered seeds. Because I hadn’t killed the grass lurking in the soil, it thrived and only a few larkspur spires rose, blue and pink, purple and white. This time, John and the lads prepared the five-acre field by planting cover crops. Then in the fall, using a seed drill as if he were planting grains, John sowed a special blend of wildflower seeds we formulated for bees.
During November, we watched as the red and Shirley poppies, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and cornflowers sprouted. The winter snows protected the seedlings, and in the spring they grew and formed buds. In June, they exploded into an impressionistic landscape blending blue, red, silvery white, and pink, and come August, the black-eyed Susans turned the field into waves of gold. Over the past twenty years, most of our wildflower fields were hidden near the center of our farm, only visible to the bees and folks coming to pick early blueberries. We rotated the meadows each year….yes, we plant them every fall…to spaces which we could take out of hay or grain production. Last year, the available field was near the Fennville Cemetery, so John seeded it, making an extra pass near the west road because our eldest son is buried nearby.
A few friends posted photos of Facebook. Suddenly, the cemetery roads filled with parked cars. Families photographed their children, painters arrived with their oils or watercolors, and some folks took videos and that made their way to Facebook. As long as visitors stayed on the path or the mowed borders, we were thrilled and enjoyed how the flowers spun their magic. One veteran who suffered from PTSD, like our late son, explained how gazing at the wind ruffling the blossoms brought her incredible peace.
This year’s field is blooming near M89 and border the lane into Pleasant Hill Farm. We mowed paths….please walk on them and park so we can utilize the driveway. Cherish the flowers. Remember them when the stresses of life seem overwhelming. Not only do the blossoms feed bees and other pollinators, they refresh our souls.