“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31, 2010

Last Thursday, May 27, my 09 nuc hive swarmed. A swarm is when the hive splits – the colony produces a new queen and then half the bees and the older queen leave the hive to find a new home, while the new queen, brood, and the other half of the bees stay behind. It’s nature’s way of producing more colonies to perpetuate the honey bee.

When the swarm leaves the hive, it usually doesn’t go too far before finding a “resting place”. While the swarm is resting, so to speak, scout bees go out looking for a place to live, which might be a hollowed tree. When a place is found, the scout bee(s) communicate its location to the swarm and off they go. Once there, they will build comb, the queen will begin to lay eggs again, and the colony will grow.

I pretty much knew that the 09 nuc was going to swarm because it was overloaded with bees, and last year, the same hive had a history of producing swarms. Since early May I would always walk around the yard and check in the trees for swarms.

On Thursday I did the same walk and looked around the yard and did not see a thing. About 5pm, I went out to check the garden and as I was climbing through the field fence, I heard a sudden buzzing, like a small plane would sound if it was warming up in the yard. I looked over and the cloud of bees that I had expected to swarm was in the air and circling around like a developing tornado.

I went inside and got my camera. The video is not the best as my camera is more or less a camera with a “video option”. There are some blurry zooms, but I think it will show you what it is to stand in the center of a bee swarm. Understand that I am only panning a bit to my left and to my front into the tree. The bees you see are only 90 degrees of bees! What the video shows in this small window is going on around me 360 degrees! It really is like standing in the middle of a tornado as its walls of bees rotate around me!

The next video is the swarm as it came to rest about 30 minutes after the swarming began.

My son Allen got the ladder and the truck and pulled up underneath the branch on which the swarm was resting. It was approximately 15’ off the ground. I wanted to hive this swarm as soon as possible, before any of the scouts had a chance of leading the swarm away.

First we smoked the 09 nuc hive and opened it up. We took out a frame of brood – comb with eggs, larvae, and capped larvae. We brushed off the bees and put the brood frame in a new super. A super is the box part of the hive. We did this because I have read that if you put brood in the new super before you put the swarm in, the swarm will stay, and not leave for another location. Old time beekeeper’s say “bees won’t leave brood”. I then added a few more frames to the super so that the swarm had something to build new comb on.

We set the ladder in the pickup bed and I climbed up with the super. I grabbed the branch that the bees were on and gave it a quick jerk which dislodged the bees and sent the clump falling into the super! At that time a few of the bees got riled up and began to sting me. I climbed down and walked away with about 30 bees on me (out of maybe 10,000). After I got them shook off (yes, I got a few stings- maybe 10 or 15), I went back and brought the super off the ladder and put it on the tail gate and let the bees climb in. Later, after a few hours, they settled down, I put on the cover and I moved my new hive to a location about 30 feet from its mother hive! Today they are pretty happy and have begun to build comb and make a new home.

And most all my stings are all healed by now! Those stings will be forgotten when I am eating honey this fall!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

May 22, 2010

The seven o’clock sun
kneels down
the huddle of willow oaks,
and prays the world to stillness.

In the silence
I curl my fingers into the soil
forming cradles for seed

God is here…beside me
We talk
without words…

The other day I did not go to meeting. Instead I went out to the garden and weeded and planted and prayed. Many times I feel that I am cut off from God when I am surrounded by four walls. Sometimes when I am in the meeting house, or visiting a church, I feel as if I am tying to get out and God is trying to get in, and we are both banging and prying at our sides of the walls to greet each other. When I am outside, there is no need for us to struggle at all- there is nothing there acting as a boundary….there is nothing to separate us. Outside, we are always together.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

May 15, 2010

I had my camera out the other day and took a few pictures from around the farm. I was also lucky enough to catch a video of Louie rolling in a recently tilled area in the field…

This is Aflac (she came with that name) whom we adopted a few weeks ago. Last winter, Aflac and two other ducks showed up out of nowhere in the neighborhood of one of my wife’s co-workers. Aflac’s pals were killed by cars, and so my wife’s friend asked us to take her before she came to a similar fate. Aflac is a White Crested duck, with a fluff of feathers on her head. So far she and our male duck, Duke, have hit it off!

Each year we add chickens to the flock so that we always have young laying hens. Our friend Bill says we are the only farm around that has a retirement plan for chickens – meaning we let them have a long life even after they stop laying. To do that we always add a new generation of chickens to keep us in eggs. This year we are raising six Rhode Island Reds, and one white Leghorn.

This is a picture of one of the Purple Martins that come back each year to nest at the farm.

The apple trees were loaded with blooms this year, and with the dry, windy weather, they were well pollinated and are now loaded with marble sized apples that should make a for a good crop this fall.

The other day there was a frost warning, so we rushed out to the field with black plastic nursery pots and set them over the young egg plant and tomato plants. It worked really well, as we did have a light frost and had no damage!

The following is a video of Louie – he likes to roll in the garden, and as I wrote in former post he always rolls just three times! He was out in the field with me as I was weeding, and I caught him on camera rolling in an area I had just tilled! I can’t get mad at Louie…he’s just so cool, even when he does something wrong.

And that's pretty much the farm this week!

Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7, 2010

One of the advantages (or disadvantages) of having a small CSA farm is growing and tasting new kinds of vegetables – things that I’d seen but ignored because maybe I was a bit intimidated of cooking a vegetable that didn’t come frozen in a bag with the “how to” boiling instructions printed on it’s backside. So my tastes never reached far from plain green beans and shoe peg corn – the Jolly Green Giant kinda stuff. Ho –ho-ho.

Now that I am a farmer of sorts, I am trying stuff that even though it’s most likely old hat to experienced farm market shoppers, it’s new and exciting to me. I am almost embarrassed to say that I am an arugula newbie or that I am just learning how to cook chard. And perhaps it’s just because I’ve been growing it myself, but cabbage doesn’t make me gag like it did when I was a kid.

Tonight I harvested some baby broccoli raab which up until this spring I had never grown before. I think that I seeded it a little too thickly, and could have thinned it a bit more. I hate to thin plants, because it means that some have to go to the great compost cloud in the sky, and I don’t like to exercise that kind of decision power. I like to let things just grow. But anyhow…I sautéed the raab in olive oil with garlic that I had grown last year. It was pretty good! I liked it! I will eat it again! It’s kind of funny that years ago I thought broccoli raab was some kind of rash you might get from playing in the woods….That’s how far I have come.

I am going to try growing a few other things this year – yellow tomatoes, potatoes, and a few new varieties of beans, peppers and edemame. And I am going to try okra once more… little by little I am leaving my vegetable comfort zone to see what I can grow, hoping that the new tastes will be as good or better than the old! Ho-ho-ho!