Ready or not…

Spring is late coming to Seven Trees. Again. Not that the cold, grey, dank weather is keeping us from diving into spring projects, plans & chores. Today we brought home 2 packages of Italian honeybees & their queens from our favorite apiary supply outpost, the Beez Neez. Years ago we took an intro-to-beekeeping class at the Cattlemens’ Winterschool, taught by Beez Neez’s owner Jim Tunnell’s daughter, Rachel. She took a lot of the fear and mystery out of the idea of working with these amazing insects, while still making the thought of bee keeping fun and rewarding.

This is our third year working with bees, and even though we’ve taken our losses, the magic hasn’t worn off. One positive aspect of losing both of last year’s hives (one to robbing, one to winter-kill) is that we have an abundance of drawn brood comb and filled honey/nectar comb. The will give the two new hives an incredible head start, allowing them to get right to their jobs of making honey and baby bees much faster than if they had to start with bare foundation frames.

We’re also continuing our tradition of naming hives after ships mentioned in our beloved Patrick O’Brian books. The new hives are the HMS Leopard and the HMS Lively (last year’s hives were the HMS Sophie and the HMS Surprise).

Katie is a big help keeping the grass down while we’re too busy to mow. She’s also figured out that humans keep horse treats in their pockets. This week she’ll be visited by a trainer to see what help she might need learning to get on a trailer and general horse ettiquette. Katie sure is helpful with garden fertilizer!

The 2011 pullet flock is coming along nicely, and will be introduced to the laying flock in a few weeks. Both sets of chickens are helping clean up last year’s storage crops, mainly cabbage, squash and frozen greens. This year we’re planting extra grains, squash & potatoes that will help fortify flock and our next weaner pigs.

It’s also time to put together some hoop tunnels for our tomatoes & peppers. We did a trial run last fall with some lettuce, spinach & chard, and the hoops & cover kept the rows warm long into the winter, plus were able to withstand some rough winds. Our neighbor recently made his own hoop tunnels with some additions that are very practical and perfect for tomatoes & peppers. With spring so cold and dark, and the blight attacking tomatoes in mid growing season, it’s important to keep the plants both warm and dry (the top foliage). What we learned from our test hoop is that it’s also important to have easy access for watering, weeding & harvest. The design our neighbor came up with seems to meet all those needs while still being modular and easy to build. We’ll share more pictures as we build ours.

Stay tuned for some pictures and information about ramps, Allium tricoccum. We bought some last year on ebay, and it seems that they like our situation enough to keep on growing.

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