Bees, Bytes, and Babies STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAN TODD
hings are buzzing around the Faith Mountain Farm, in more ways than one. The Wilkes family has gathered to celebrate the birthdays of two children and a grandparent, and the small living room is wall-to-wall people: James and Shannon Wilkes, their eight children, ranging in age from 5 to 26, plus two of the children’s spouses and a baby, two sets of grandparents, a couple of aunts and some cousins. James makes a quick announcement, “Just to let everyone know, the yard is full of bees. Sulli has set out some honey, so the bees are pretty excited right now. Everyone be careful.” This news is received matter-offactly by the immediate family, who are accustomed to a bevy of bees from the many hives of their beekeeping father and brother. Some of the other party guests, however, announce their intentions to stay inside until the bees settle
High Country Magazine
August / September 2017
down a bit. Meanwhile, birthday gifts are opened, with each card read aloud. “Happy Birthday” is sung, and two beautifully decorated cakes (one “regular” and one “gluten-free”) are cut and shared. A curtain is hung across the door in the adjacent room, and pulled back to reveal ten year old Zion, ready to perform a magic show. Sisters Lilian (age 11) and Vivian (age 5) follow with a dance routine, delighting the audience. It has been a full day for the Wilkes family, with some rising as early as 5:30am to head to the Watauga County Farmers Market in Boone, about a 45minute drive from their farm in Creston. For the past twelve years, the farm has rented space at the market to sell honey, fresh eggs, baked goods, vegetables, and other products. James is almost always in attendance at the market, along with some of the children.