This summer, as the farm bursts with color and greenery, we’ve also welcomed thousands of new residents: Honey Bees!
The bees, which are being professionally handled by a skilled beekeeper, are a part of our ongoing commitment to agriculture and finding new and creative ways to take advantage of our stunning farm. Bees are also historically important and help us tell the story of their cultivation here in the United States.
According to the USDA, colonies of honey bees arrived in the Colony of Virginia as early as 1622. Early hives were simple straw “skeps,” and were replaced starting in the 1850s with the modern frame hive, designed by L.L. Langstroth.
So far we have been unable to find documentation of hives at Long Branch in the 19th century, but it’s certainly possible. Many hives are referenced regionally during the period, some even popping up on Civil War battlefields. The beehives at the Roulette Farm at Antietam in Maryland, which were hit by a shell from a cannon are perhaps the best example.
Fortunately, our hives are out of cannon-range, and will quietly do their work this summer — and will soon provide us with our first batch of Long Branch honey.
So, on your next visit, keep your eyes open for the hives, which are visible on the drive to the house. And, be sure to say (or wave) hello to our newest residents.
-Nicholas Redding, Executive Director
That’s a question we hear a lot at Long Branch.
Since Long Branch is a historic site with a diverse group of visitors (everything from museum day-trippers to wedding guests), many visitors not familiar with the equine world are very interested in the four-legged residents of the farm and are curious what they’re up to.
Here’s the story.
Just like their human counterparts, horses generally need to retire, too. The vast majority of the horses you’ll see in the fields at Long Branch are retired and are no longer used for riding or any other purpose; instead they have been sent here to enjoy a well-deserved rest on some of the lushest fields in Virginia.
They come from all across the country, although we have many from New England, New York and Pennsylvania, where the cost to board a retired horse is prohibitively high. The harsh winters of New England are also tough for older horses, so life here in Virginia is an appealing option for many owners. In turn, this revenue helps support Long Branch and allows us to preserve and maintain our historic resources and 400-acre farm.
Once retired, our horses enjoy a much more natural lifestyle. They are “field boarded” meaning they live outside, with access to “run-in” shelters anytime they please, automatic waterers for clean water, grass (and hay in the winter) and plenty of treats from our loving staff. They are split into male and female fields (to cut down on the obvious horsey drama) where they develop a pecking order like they would in nature and form strong bonds with friends that generally last the rest of their lives.
Staff at Long Branch checks the entire herd many times a day looking for any signs of illness or injuries and making certain our 14-miles of four board fence is properly maintained. The oldest horses that require grain are fed twice daily. All the horses receive yearly dental care, hoof trims on a regular basis (normally every 6 weeks) and a litany of vaccines to keep them safe and healthy.
Long Branch is a place for the lucky ones. Equine retirement like we have at Long Branch is the humane alternative to the sad practice of slaughtering old horses that are no longer useful to their owners. Rather than slaughter, horses at Long Branch live out the rest of their days eating fresh green grass, basking in the summer sun and making pals with their fellow retirees. For that, their owners deserve much praise.
If you, or someone you know is interested in retiring horse to Long Branch, please contact us to learn more, or visit: visitlongbranch.org/horses
Or, contact our equine coordinator, Elizabeth Ryan at: [email protected] | 540-837-1856
And next time you come to visit, wave hello to a retired horse!
-Nicholas Redding, Executive Director