Today’s post was supposed to be a list of all the things lately that are bringing me joy. And that list exists towards the end of this post… but I couldn’t write that post without first telling you how I ended up in the hospital trying to save money on my taxes…
Most of you probably know that farms are (or should be) eligible for a lower property tax rate than residential or commercial land. The concept seems simple enough, but the execution? Not so much. Bastrop County, where I live, has specific parameters for each type of agriculture. To qualify for a tax exemption as a vegetable or crop farm, the property must be at least 20 acres - a rule that makes no sense to me as VRDNT is a commercial vegetable farm on all other counts, except for the fact it's only 11 acres.
Even our Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, has referred to me as an 'up-and-coming young Texas Farmer' on TV. But, oddly enough, neither his words nor my tax returns showing vegetable sales seem to convince the authorities to grant me an agricultural exemption. The only feasible way for me to receive the coveted exemption is to keep bees on the property.
Last year, I collaborated with a local beekeeper, but this year, the logistics fell through. The decision came down to either buying my own bees or risk losing my exemption (and face back taxes). Despite the hectic spring season and a million other things that needed my attention, the convoluted tax code made it essential for me to become a beekeeper.
After a crash course in beekeeping, I purchased 10 hives from an apiary in Houston. I returned home, unloaded all the hives in a thunderstorm (without getting stung once!), and started learning about my new buzzing tenants. All was going well until yesterday morning when the bees decided they weren't feeling as docile as before. I found out the hard way that I'm allergic to bee stings - three stings sent me to the ER with severe reactions. I’m okay, and the bees will stay.
Though it's frustrating to start a whole new agricultural venture just to fit an outdated tax evaluation system, I'm choosing to see the silver lining. I now have dreams of making mead, honey glazed carrots, and I'm meeting new people at the Bastrop Bee Club.
Bees are technically categorized as ‘livestock’ so after having been a vegetable farmer for the last 12 years, I'm somehow giddy at the thought of ‘bee’ing a livestock rancher. Last but not least, bees are just really, really, really cool. Digging into learning about how to take care of my winged livestock has just generally re-ignited my passion and curiosity in relation to insects.
Did you know that mealybugs can eat styrofoam? If you are my kind of weird, this news may just bring a ray of hope to your soul.
Have you ever thought about eating insects? I've been following @mnforager on Instagram, whose posts about eating beetles (he made scones!) have made me keen on experimenting with insect flour. Growing up in Thailand, fried grubs and grasshoppers were common snacks. While I'm not eager to munch on a whole grasshopper, the idea of baking with insect flour seems intriguing.