The Bee-Team – The farmers‘ magic potion

The golden-orange midday sun had reached its usual place in the sky, the dust clouds whirled over the fields. The farmers were busy cultivating their land. Their heavy machines were groaning and working every inch of earth, thanks to all the technological progress over the years. The fields in the middle of the Tumbawunda Valley were owned by four farmers called Farmer Tom, Farmer Joe, Farmer Pete and Farmer Harry. And this would be another year in which they would force even more harvest out of their land, despite the drought. The money would be rolling in again. They were hard-working people, very hard-working. And what heaven did not provide for them, they would pump out of the earth. Abundantly! That was as certain as day follows night, absolutely certain. But when asked, they only knew one answer: „Rich? Us? No, definitely not! We are as poor as church mice!“ That’s what the Tumbawunda farmers always said. With a thunderous roar they busily drove back and forth. In the case of Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe, their paths just happened to cross; they were driving towards each other. They were giving each other grim looks from a distance; they were competitors after all! But they also noticed some children standing next to their bicycles at one side of the field, watching them work. Some were even using binoculars. In fact, there were quite a few children. Some older, some younger. Some of them even seemed to be communicating via walkie-talkies. And there were also some bikes lying abandoned at the side of the dirt track. How strange: not only the heads and bodies of children, but also of animals were visible in the silhouette. And could they really see the shadow of rabbit ears? And also, of deer, turtles and … perhaps also the body of an upright bear and a horse, holding their paws and hooves above their eyes to shade them from the sun? Over on the other side of the fields, some camera teams were resting, taking a break, sunbathing. They had unpacked deck chairs. They too seemed to be having a lunch break. Constantly searching for UFOs could be quite exhausting. The farmers in the Tumbawunda Valley first stared suspiciously at the TV people, then grimly back at each other. Farmer Tom to Farmer Joe, Farmer Joe back to Farmer Tom. Grrrr. One thing was clear: they did not begrudge the other anything! That had always been always the case! When Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe then arrived level with each other, with their tractor engines roaring, with only half a tyre’s width between them, they stopped their heavy machines with squealing brakes. Squeeeeeeeak!

This is a reading sample. If you like the story, the butterflies would be happy if you bought the book!

While they were still swaying on their seats a bit behind their steering wheels, looking at each other in silence at first, they then slowly lowered their windows. „Alright, Farmer Tom?!“ „Alright, Farmer Joe?!“ Silence. „How’s it going?“ „Hmm, it’s dry again!“ „Yep, you can say that again!“ More silence. Last year had already been a difficult year because of the drought, but they had made the best of it. Farmer Joe checked out Farmer Tom’s tractor. He noticed the seed drill at the back. „What are you planting?“ Silence. Farmer Tom thought for a minute. Should he tell him? It took a few more seconds for him to realise that Farmer Joe would find out soon enough, so he might as well tell him. „It will be maize!“ Farmer Joe nodded. „Yep, that’s better.“ „And what about you?“ Slowly the distrust disappeared, they relaxed. „Rapeseed, first of all.“ Farmer Tom nodded. Both primarily grew cereals, rapeseed and maize for animal feed. Then, for whatever reason, Farmer Joe’s tractor radio switched on, as if by magic. First there was a strange crackling sound, then they could both clearly understand: “ … Germany’s farm animals eat almost 83 million tonnes of feed every year … “ Both farmers rolled their eyes. The stupid Tumbawunda pirate radio station. “ … around 33 percent of the world’s arable land is used for the production of animal feed, not for people … “ Farmer Joe bent forward, annoyed, and gave the radio a thump. It scratched and crackled. But with no effect: “ … In the European Union, this figure is even higher: 60 percent of the grain that is produced ends up in the troughs … “ Farmer Tom looked at Farmer Joe with a serious expression. Turn that rubbish off, his iron gaze seemed to say. But to no avail: “ … Dear listeners, this is unjustifiable waste … “ But then the radio switched off again as if guided by magic. At last! Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe hadn’t really been listening at all. What horror stories those idiots on the radio were always telling children. Farmer Joe played around with the on/off button for a moment, cursed softly, and then gave up. He had wanted to have this cheap and useless radio checked for a while now. Farmer Tom now grinned at Farmer Joe. „As long as your rapeseed doesn’t attract the dirty rabbits and other vermin again. Field hamsters, earth mice, moles and the rest. I hate it when they beg for food. Then they come over to my place afterwards!“

If the two of them had only known that Farmer Pete and Farmer Harry deliberately left some parts of their fields unharvested for this very reason; indeed, they even disposed of vegetables that weren’t fit for sale, in specific places so that the animals could find them and have something to eat. Farmer Pete and Farmer Harry knew that this was far too little, but it was better than nothing. After all, they had to make money, too. They couldn’t do without it. Farmer Joe pulled a face again. „I sometimes drive an extra round so that the ground is so dense that field hamsters can’t dig through anymore. And I work all the way to the edge of the field. Leave as little space as possible, that’s the trick!“ And there was more silence. Both farmers looked straight ahead now. Their faces relaxed. Then Farmer Joe turned back to Farmer Tom. „What do you do about weeds?“ Farmer Tom grinned. „In any case, slam on three times as much weedkiller as the two fools over there! Then there’ll be fewer critters flying and crawling around!“ Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe knew that the two ‚wimps‘ Farmer Pete and Farmer Harry used less weedkiller. And on top of that, the one they did use was not as aggressive as Farmer Joe and Farmer Tom’s. They had even dispensed with insect killer altogether. Protecting the bees, butterflies, insects, blah-blah-blah. But this gave them more unwanted growth in amongst the crops and that meant less money. Farmer Pete and Farmer Harry were obviously not exactly bright sparks.

Farmer Tom’s face also lit up. He wanted to spray loads more pesticides and weedkillers anyway. And he and Farmer Joe had the much larger fields too. At the end of the season, they would have the two best-filled bank accounts again. „Of course, they’d be better off having a coffee afternoon and leaving the farming to the real men!“



The colour drained from four little faces. The farmers had not noticed how two scout wild bees from Majesta’s tribe had settled on their driver’s cabs. Nor had they noticed the two blackbirds who had transmitted the whole conversation with a walkie-talkie when the bees had waved them over. But what the two farmers noticed again and again during their conversation was that something at the far side of the field seemed to be reflecting the sunlight. They were repeatedly dazzled by small flashes of light. Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe looked in the direction of the Tumbawunda children. Did they have binoculars? „Are we being watched?“ Farmer Tom squinted one eye suspiciously, then shrugged his shoulders. He couldn’t see because they were too far away. „No idea.“ What they did see, though, was that the silhouettes of children and animals seemed to be starting to moving slowly.

Some of them were still standing, but others were crouching down. Were they talking to the animals now? The horse even seemed to be scratching the ground with its hooves. Was it angry? The two farmers rubbed their eyes, but they couldn’t make out any more. Farmer Joe wasn’t interested in the kids any longer and was now grinning stupidly at Farmer Tom. If Farmer Tom only knew that Farmer Joe would probably be able to produce much more than him in the near future. He had a plan … and he had already spoken with the Mayoress. His fields were also bordered by two beautiful forests and parks owned by the local council. Small havens for wild bees and birds. But the Mayoress had already indicated to him that she was willing to sell them to him so that he could use them to grow more crops. He would flatten the flowers and fruit trees. Cut them down. Get rid of them completely. Mayoress Moneybags had one top priority, which was to earn the town a lot of money. A good mayoress was one whose aim was to fill the town’s bank accounts. Farmer Joe was on the same wavelength as her in that respect and he had already agreed with her that he would pay a much higher price than the others ever could. That wouldn’t be a problem for him.

He had a trick up his sleeve: in many countries of the world it was now forbidden to spread unlimited amounts of liquid manure on the fields. But not in their case. Not really, their laws were pretty lax. „Thanks be to the politicians,“ he now gloated. But the ban in the other countries had been implemented for a reason: ground water could be contaminated if the amount of manure used exceeded a certain level. And at some point, this affected the drinking water that people took from their taps. After a slight crackle from the Tumbawunda pirate radio station, the radio started up again as if by magic: “ … according to the Federal Government, more than 25 percent of the measuring stations in Germany show excessive nitrate levels … “ But now Farmer Joe was becoming really annoyed. The radio would now definitely be sent for repair. This nonsense was unbearable. “ … In the affected areas, the price of drinking water could increase by up to 60 percent … “ Click, it was off again after slight crackling. Farmer Joe hadn’t been listening anyway. His thoughts had already moved on. Fortunately, Mayoress Moneybags did not really want to restrict the spreading of manure as fertiliser as she couldn’t be bothered monitoring any of it properly. She was more interested in helping the farmers to increase their profits. At the same time, however, those who produced the manure were also prepared to pay a lot of money to get rid of the manure they were no longer allowed to spread on their own land.

And that was Farmer Joe’s deal: the manure producers gave him the extra cash to make sure that he could outbid the other farmers when he came to buy the fields. In return, he was contracted to spread as much manure on his fields in spring as he could. At least as much as he could without alerting the authorities.

Already, in the first few months of the year, the use of liquid manure had shown a positive effect. It had killed the animals and insects that couldn’t escape quickly enough. It was a win-win situation for everyone. He got on well with Mayoress Moneybags. At that moment, two electric blue fireflies flew onto the steering wheel in front of him. This tore Farmer Joe from his thoughts. Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe looked at each other with astonished questioning expressions. Could they just make out two little faces? Even before Farmer Tom could wave his firefly away, there seemed to be a bluish explosion at the wheel. Poof! Huh? Something happened with Farmer Joe, too, exactly where a firefly had been sitting. Poof! Huh? The heavy tractors stopped, with a whirring and hissing sound. Farmer Tom and Farmer Joe looked at each other in confusion. Almost at the same time, they bent forward and tried to restart their heavy machines. But apart from the electric grumbling of the starter motors, nothing happened. „For goodness sake! What’s wrong now?“ Farmer Tom had already jumped out of his cab and was opening the bonnet, but he couldn’t see any obvious problem. Even Farmer Joe was already fiddling around with the engine, but that didn’t make any difference either! Both knew immediately that this would be a job for the experts. Farmer Joe reached for his mobile phone. He called the number of the local tractor workshop. „What? It will take you an hour to get here?“ You could tell from Farmer Joe’s face how annoyed he was. He watched, however, as the tractors stood still across on the other side of the field and the farmers Pete and Farmer Harry were also standing next to their machines, with the large bonnets also open. And: they were holding their mobile phones to their ears too! „What do you mean, you have three other tractors to repair first?“ Farmer Joe looked at Farmer Tom, who grinned and waved … with his mobile phone to his ear.


Leave a Comment