Saturday, May 2, 2009

Spring rains and micro-livestock

It has been a while since anyone has written, and since I've been holding down the home front recently, I guess its my turn to catch up a bit.  I'm still getting used to this blogging stuff.   Out the window, it looks like our garden is enjoying this late spring rain as much as I am.  Continuing to prep garden beds and trying to make/find places for all the seeds we want to plant and all the seedlings Lindsay brings from the nursery is a big job these days.  I’ve also been trying to get soil building systems in place to help transform our heavy compacted clay soil into rich loamy garden beds.  The good news is the army of gigantic earthworms that seem to reside just below the crust (the soil can't be that bad) the bad news is the layers of gravel, black plastic, broken glass and trash one has to dig through in our yard to find these guys.   Our red wiggler compost worms have moved up in the world, out of their too-small wooden box into a bathtub, where we can collect the casting tea from the drain(pure gold to the plants) and we've been building and turning compost piles in the back, honing methods and observing transformations from duck poop, straw and kitchen scraps into steamy black compost.

No one has fully mentioned the honeybees yet, so maybe this is a good time to do that, especially since they are part of what I affectionately refer to as our micro-livestock collection. The earlier pictures I posted show the top bar hive that Sasha built.  Spring is when bees swarm, which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with bees, is when part of the hive leaves with the queen bee in search of a new home.  This is the natural ways for bee colonies to grow and create new bee colonies, and it also happens if they outgrow their current space.  The bees are vulnerable because they have no home, and only have as much food as they’ve eaten before swarming.  As a result they are fairly docile in this state as they conserve their energy.

I had a near miss catching a hive, which is a story in itself, but luckily Sasha had success, and helped a friend prune a rosebush to access the hive swarming inside of it.  The short story is that the bees all ended up in a wooden box with holes punched in it, and early in the morning, still half in our pajamas, we emptied the box into the hive.  It was amazing to watch the bees literally pour into their new home, and to see that they had already started building new comb overnight in their temporary abode.

  We’ve opened up the hive once since then to see how they are doing.  Apparently all is well, as far as I know, which isn’t all that much, because they are still there and are building arch shaped combs that hang down from the bars of wood that sit across the top.  We were able to distinguish between workers and drones (workers are all females that can’t produce eggs but do practically everything else, and drones are males that mate with the queen and then die).   The drones have big eyes (for spotting the queen when she flies high up in the sky to mate).  Its been great fun to go sit by the hive every now and then and watch the buzz of activity.  It seems like about 20 % of the bees flying in have gigantic yellow blobs of pollen on their back legs (which is where the saying “the bees knees” comes from because they have an interesting pollen storage system around their knees).

  Ok, that’s it for now- time to go see if the ducks are behaving themselves- they are out free-ranging in the yard this morning!

1 comment:

  1. Hello lovely ladies! I enjoyed watching the slideshow of your old pictures Trilby. How is the house? Any work done on your pod Sasha? I have great memories from the workshop. I wouldn't have traded a single eccentric one of us. Lindsay, I'm concerned that I took the nettles accidentally instead of the poppy. It came to me in a flash. Sorry if that's the case! I hope that everyone's health is okay and that villa life is good, that Massey's workshop went well and that one of you has the time in your busy schedules to update this page. Love to you all. - Julia