Birds & Bees

Paula Frumusa SWQ Summer 2016

A farm girl from Bethany, NY and an Iraqi Freedom veteran weren’t looking for a house when they came across the 1879 Victorian for sale. Their plan was to buy a small farmstead, but ironically they ended up right back where Derek Baca first moved when he came back from his military tour, right here in the South Wedge. The trees, the property and the enormous potential spoke to them and within 24 hours of seeing it with their realtor it was their new home. Jenna and Derek Baca are taking a permaculture approach to their property, working with the existing ecosystem and land features with the goal of creating a low input, highly sustainable mini urban homestead. Included in this approach is raising a micro flock of chickens, including their well-behaved, handsome rooster named Mr. Beau, and “hosting” honeybees, as Jenna calls it. Jenna’s passion for honeybees started as a shared interest with her late father, Ken. The honeybees quickly became a gateway to learning about the rest of the pollinator world. Many people keep bees for their honey, but Jenna’s focus is on hosting bees and providing them with a habitat to thrive in. The honey is a delicious bonus. Jenna and her father built the Warre hives that now proudly host 3 colonies of Carniolan honey bees. Warre hives are an old French style hive that allows the beekeeper to take a more hands-on approach, allowing the colony to develop more naturally than in Langstroth hives, which are typically used in commercial honey production.

The honeybee is merely the tip of the pollinator iceberg. There are more than 4,000 described species of bees in North America, many of which are threatened by habitat loss and the indiscriminate use of pesticides and fertilizers. She is a strong advocate for cities to stop using pesticides, especially neonicotinoids, which are a major threat to pollinator health. Jenna is always encouraging everyone to think before they spray or use commercially produced pesticides.

In addition to their apiary, they keep a micro flock of heritage breed chickens. Sara, Tegan, Audrey, and Midge produce, on average, one egg per hen a day. Their chicken family started to grow with summer chicks hatched naturally in June. The flock also provides “tilling” duties for the compost and garden, while the rooster, Mr. Beau, watches over everyone’s safety and brings tasty tidbits to the hens’ attention. The chickens eat vegetable scraps, homemade organic feed, and forage in a large fenced area for protein rich bugs and worms. The Bacas feel strongly that chickens are a commitment, not just a hobby.

Future plans for their South Wedge property include a small orchard, solar power, and a greywater system. They are also laying the foundation for a huge vegetable garden.

You can follow the journey of their urban homestead via Jenna’s blog: http://dancingharehollow.com