It only took about four months to grow the various participants.
It was delicious, according to the person who got to eat that small bounty. The tomatoes are the earliest I’ve ever been able to get at the ranch: sungolds and a variety called 4th of July (meant for northern growers with short summers so they can have their tomatoes by yes, the 4th of July). Here – at least for this year – they have shown themselves to be the absolute earliest of the early varieties I put in, and the sooner the tomatoes start coming, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The lettuce is a straight cos (romaine) variety that I had tossed into a row with potatoes, and the carrots had been hanging around with the kale. Strange neighbors. But tasty vegetables.
Things have been a little hectic at the ranch this month: all the plants out of their flats and in the frames, the bee hives have had brood and super boxes added when needed, my sister the hurricane and her family were here for most of the month, the weeds need to be pulled in the worst way, and oh yeah, I got myself a great case of pneumonia. But! Life goes on anyway, and one of my goals for this point forward (June 1, technically) is to post every day.
I jumped off facebook at 11:30 Saturday evening, and have not been back except to post a coupe of items not to my personal page, but to a couple of other actual pages (non-individual). Things are a lot more pleasant off facebook than on it, and it’s nice o be able to type out something long that (some) people will actually read and thoughtfully comment on versus the five second attention span and hit and run commenting, and most of all, the snide, nasty remarks people feel free to lob into your own page comments. Site page comments, for news outlets and whatnot, I see as fair game. They are, after all, media. But insulting the individual page holder – and I mean really insult them, not just the “you’re nuts” sort of thing – is like walking into someone’s house and taking a giant dump on the carpet, then yelling at them about it. I got tired of it, so I left.
This will be better.
This is a frame from a brood box I added to a hive that was running out of space in their first box. A generic brood frame will usually have honey at the upper edges, a band of pollen, and then brood taking up a major chunk of the rest. This hive has a giant store of pollen in the lower box, so what we have in this is a honey band – that’s the white capped stuff running like a rainbow across the top – and then a large area where the queen is laying and the workers are dealing with the eggs/larvae and then capping them off (that’s the yellowish cappings in the photo). You can see the glisten of uncured nectar between the two, as well. This will be honey after the girls cure and cap it.
I was getting sick and tired of the usual shakes I generally have for every meal – hey, fuck you, cancer! – so made some roasted red pepper soup tonight. Bonus: some crisped chorizo to go on top. Delicious!
A small pair of birds built a nest in a ponytail palm we had brought up on the back patio during one of the more frigid evenings in our “winter” season. We hadn’t quite gotten to putting it back out before they started building, and when we realized what they were doing, we couldn’t move it at that point – that would be rude!
The female laid a total of four eggs, and on our occasional peeks, it seems all of them hatched into the usual ugly, reminiscent-of-dinosaurs babies. We have some pics of them both pre and post hatching, but for now, a little clip of one of the parents bringing home the bacon, as it were.
It’s the humidity. And also bee swarms that emerge from a brand new package installation because there was a queen in the bees the provider shook into the box in addition to the (marked) queen they put in the cage. What’s the big deal, you ask?
Like the Highlander, there can be only one. Either the bees, happy with the original, unmarked queen will free the marked queen and then kill her, or they will free her and the other queen will take a bunch of bees with her and swarm out.
The latter is what happened today: a very humid, extended round of wrangling to get that swarm out of a tree branch about 10-12 feet off the ground. In the end, I wound up simply lopping the branch as trying to shake them from that height was not working after a couple of tries. After cutting the branch and setting it on the hive I’d set up, I left them for a bit, to calm down and get themselves sorted. There were a handful of bees flying around where the branch had been, looking for their landing site.
I gave them about ten minutes or so, went back out, and managed to find the queen in the box. Hooray! Now, the question is: will they stay? That question is unlikely to be answered today, as it’s overcast and we’re on our way toward dusk. The other question, which also will not be answered today because the couple hours spent working on that swarm in our humidity sapped me of everything I had left in the tank – no lunch in that tank, either – is to determine where the original marked and caged queen is in the hive from which that swarm emerged. Both questions can and by necessity will have to wait until the morning.
Thinking of keeping bees? Think on it deliberately, and don’t make an instant decision. It isn’t for everyone.
Late yesterday, I had the new (to me) experience of watching a new queen emerge from her cell. Fortunately, I had taken the camera out with me and was able to capture it for other folks to see.
How it came about: I was dealing with a swarm and checking a hive for queen cells, only to find a queen cell, just opened, and the new queen emerging. It took almost 25 minutes for the queen and the workers that figured out what was happening to get the hole opened widely enough for her to get out. Then yours truly, while attempting to bet the worker bees out and keep the queen in the cup so I could mark her, allowed the queen to scurry off into the hive. I did a check for her, but by the time all this finished, my smoker was out and it was dusk. I had to end the hunt as the girls were getting a bit peevish.
Lesson learned: just capture them all, and then go about dealing with getting the workers out of the cup so the queen can be marked.
A word of advice for anyone who thinks they want to be a beekeeper. Think on it twice. Three times. Half a dozen. A million. Then put it out of your head. Otherwise, you’re going to be delighted when you capture an enormous swarm and think how lucky you are, until you realize that giant swarm is probably two when you go in to examine it after hiving it. Then you’ll be cursing them out because you swear that last evening at dusk you found two distinct queens, but today, you can only find (and cage) one. You’ll spend the rest of your day tediously moving the bees frame by frame to the new actual hives, hunting for a swiftly moving, sunlight hating needle in a gigantic stack of buzzing, flying, also quickly moving needles that are basically all the same color. This will make you feel a bit like Captain Queeg in The Caine Mutiny and the search for the second key: did you really find two queens, or was it just the one making a sudden appearance in another part of the hive? I’m hoping for the former and the other queen is not in the hive with the now caged queen, but in amongst all the other bees I dumped into a different hive.
Mother Nature doesn’t give a crap about your calendars, or a groundhog seeing a shadow or not, or anything else puny humans wish to do. When she’s ready to do something, she does it. Spring is here. Of course, now that I’ve said that, she’ll probably decide to kick my ass for it by shoving a random freeze in there, but we only had a handful of those during our incredibly milder than usual “winter”.
I do believe it’s time to go ahead and transplant the brassicas – they’re getting crowded in their flat anyway now that overnight temps are in the 45-55F range. The tomatoes I am more wary about, because there are a crapload of them out there under the lights, and Mother Nature deciding to get buzzed and do something crazy would force a restart, thus delaying our first harvest of tomatoes. The peppers still need more warm overnights, which they can get in the barn better than outside.
The melons, pumpkins, and squashes also need to go out: one of them is already putting out tendrils and trying to capture a lock on the chain the light is hanging from, and if I don’t get it out of there soon, it will probably come to life and kill me while I sleep.
The best gauge for us of whether spring is here? Frog butts on the window across from my desk. They hang out there to nab the insects that are drawn to the light seeping out of the window into the darkness.