The birds and the bees have come to Harvest Land, the Osage Nation’s agricultural hotspot on the banks of Bird Creek in Pawhuska.
Puhleeze! Not those birds and bees, but real ones that lay eggs and make honey – and offer a lot of other benefits including fertilizing planting beds and pollinating corn and other grains and veggies.
Dawn Wormington, the supervisor at Harvest Land, said that the chickens arrived in November and started laying eggs on Valentine’s Day despite the fact that no roosters wooed the hens. While their numbers are small – 30 chickens right now – they are producing enough eggs that Harvest Land has an excess of them. (You can buy them for $4 a dozen for regular eggs or $6.50 a dozen for some truly gargantuan jumbo eggs that look like they might have emerged from a goose.)
“We need people to buy them,” Wormington said. Please help her: You can order up eggs right here: https://harvest-land-osage-nation.myshopify.com/collections/all
The hens (no boys allowed!) inhabit a chicken tractor that can be moved around a field where corn and okra is to be planted; their droppings fertilize the soil and they chow down on insects and greenery as they move around. The girls also enjoy trimmings from the herbs and vegetables that grow in the nearby greenhouses.
Up the hill, on a secluded piece of land the Nation owns, Cameron Chesbro is tending five beehives each of which is starting to produce what promises to turn into 120 to 240 pounds of honey per year. Harvest Land likely will start selling the honey in the fall and those who live in Pawhuska will soon start seeing the “Honey Hauler,” aka 𐒼𐓣𐓧𐓪͘𐓸𐓘𐓨𐓚 𐒰𐓵𐓣͘𐓘𐓵𐓣, around town.
The pickup, a beat-up 1996 Chevy Cheyenne that Harrison Shackelford once piloted, had been rotting behind the Harvest Land food processing facility, but has been revived as a sort of funky hippie-mobile bee-decked with bee-autiful apian motifs painted by volunteer Hillary Ashmore. Her husband, Tom, Chesbro and others got the truck mechanically in order and paid for shabby-chic seat covers from Goodwill (“I’ve got $7 in those,” says Chesbro), spray paint for the body, yellow duct tape for the dashboard, and other high-end materials.
As one might expect from the Harvest Land crew, they’ve also had a lot of fun with random bee puns, noting that one hive has a group of slightly aggressive bees that are guilty of bad bee-havior, and various nicknames for the truck, aka the Chevy Buzz, among others.
The bees also have a serious side, of course: They are key pollinators who will help Harvest Land and surrounding gardeners produce more vegetables. Chesbro fell right into the job of beekeeper because he grew up raising bees with his father, Dr. Bob Chesbro, who not only raised bees but used the money from honey sales to fund his college and medical education, Cameron Chesbro said.
Since it is the season during which bees often swarm, we’d be remiss not to mention that Chesbro and crew will also catch swarms: Call 918-287-5333 should you face an invasion!