Monday, March 26, 2012

Springing to life

What a wonderful week in the gardens! The peas and potatoes tripled in size in response to some water, fertilizer, and a week of 75 degree temperatures. The lettuces and turnips popped up in only a week, and I even thinned the new turnip rows! Here you see the peas, already in need of some twine to help them aloft. The mesh you see is the new low fence installed to keep the vegetable eating dogs from destroying the spring crops. Who would have thought THAT would be necessary?

The most excitement is in the bee yard. A new package, 3 pounds of bees and a queen, was installed in one hive on Friday evening. A call from a friend and beekeeper led to catching and installing a huge swarm in the other hive on Sunday! Back in business as an active beekeeper.
One photo shows the swarm bees gathering on the outside of the hive before marching in to join the queen. The other shows thousands in the air just after I dumped the box of bees into the open top of the hive, before they realized the queen was inside. Catching swarms is easily my favorite part of beekeeping, so it was a great day.

Monday, March 12, 2012


For years I was a complete failure at growing chard. Then, last year, voila, it grew! The spell was broken, and now my second successful chard crop is yielding thick, beautiful, colorful, tender leaves. They are spectacular in salads, and sauté so nicely.

The chard is a great carryover crop from the fall planting, but it is not alone. My potatoes and peas are up! Seems spring is here, after, what? Not winter as we know it, but apparently all the winter we are going to get. I'll hopefully be planting more spring crops, a bit late, this coming weekend.

Oh, and for those of you wondering, Hilda the hen died last week, seemingly peacefully and after being sick for only two days. The other three ladies are doing well, and again we have more eggs than we know what to do with. Goodbye Hilda, our sweet red hen.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Week of Losses

This past weekend I noticed that my hive, that had been very actively working early flowers and bringing in pollen, whet quiet. Four weeks earlier I had switched the boxes bottom to top, a typical spring procedure. At that time there was brood and some honey, but I started to feed them, as they were a bit light. They were working flowers so hard that they barely touched the sugar water, but I added to it the next week anyway, just in case. All seemed well, then, quiet. Inside the hive I fund beautiful pollen, no honey, and just a tiny cluster of now dead bees, too few to stay warm on the cold nights we had last week. There was an open queen cell. Did they get confused in this odd winter/spring and swarm, and the new queen was unable to find drones to mate? Did they starve, despite not going to the food those first few weeks, or were they robbed of their stores as they weakened. I will never know. I have a package of bees on order, and will start a new hive with them in two weeks. What a sad loss, and no spring honey for us!

Even harder is that Hilda, my sweet red hen, is probably dying. Nothing infectious it seems, no sign of respiratory or intestinal problems. She had had a slowly developing, hard knot in her neck for a couple of years, and it has grown in the last few months. An impacted or infected crop? Maybe. Sunday she was scratching and hopping about and eating, Monday evening she was too weak to get up to her coop. She is getting weaker and weaker. I move her in at night and out to a private coop - where she lived with the others when she was a pullet - during the day. Anything else, it seems, would be extending the process of death, not her life. This morning I thought she was gone, but found she had a tiny bit of warmth still in her feet and under her body where she would have brooded eggs. I gently lifted her to a nest of straw in the separate coop, placed fresh chickweed next to her head, in case something about its essence might soothe her, and left her there. I don't know if she will still be alive when I get home today.

Such a sad week.