Tag Archives: bees


I’ve been thinking quite a bit about bees lately. At the moment, I’m mostly considering where I want to place the hives and when to start sowing the seeds of things I picked up specifically for them so that we may have something in bloom when the packages of bees finally arrive.

Some people go into full-on apocalypse mode – TEOTWAWKI – and talk humorously about defending against the zombie hordes, but in reading everything I possibly can about bees, it turns out zombification may be an issue amongst bees as well. I have to say I would not be as worried about zombie bees as the humanoid variety (no opposable thumbs!) but hopefully this won’t be an issue here for a very, very long time (if ever).

What’s next?

Thanks for the question, Ben! Of course I have mighty big plans for the coming year – but don’t we all? I decided this coming year needs to be much better planned than last, so I took the time to figure out how much plantable space I have: 2680 square feet in the frames that are not used by things that won’t be moved (asparagus and strawberries). This does not include any of the other berries or fruit/nut trees. In addition, I currently have a number of frames tied up in garlic production, and those will not be available until at least May at the very earliest.

I have planned much of the same things for 2012 as we’ve had in years past: tomatoes, both sweet and hot peppers, onions, peas, snap beans, dry beans, brussels, cabbage, lots of herbs, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cukes, okra, summer squash, zucchini, peanuts, tobacco, corn, winter squashes, melons, beets, spinach, leeks, lettuce, pumpkins, and many, many flowers (and clover) for the bees.

Now, having said that, I tried to stick to fewer varieties of tomatoes this year, but couldn’t resist a sampling of them to see what we can get to grow around here. The Cherokee Purples were doing well until the worm invasion, but we got a grand total of zero from the late plantings before I let them go in the freeze last night. The peppers performed quite admirably, and I am mostly staying with the same varieties. For the bells, I’ve selected Revolution to replace Fat N Sassy as the big blocky bell. I’ve also added pepperoncini peppers to the hot pepper mix, for pickling.

Average last front here is the second week of March, although a couple of years ago we had a freak freeze the first week of April. That’s the only time that’s happened in all the time I can recall, so the plan is to get things started this month and put them out around mid-March (coincidentally, the same time as my birthday, and I can’t imagine a better gift to myself than to be grubbing around in the dirt). The first rounds of tomatoes will be in this group, along with the first rounds of broccoli and cauliflower. Sow things like peas and cukes directly, along with lettuces. When the determinate tomatoes have finished their output, which would be June/July for most, pull those and replace with okra, since okra doesn’t care about how hot it will be. Put in the dry beans, as they’re fine in the heat. In August, restart flats in the barn with the second round of tomatoes. In September, restart flats with another round of the brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, brussels). By now, we should be able to check in on the bees and see how much production they’ve had for the season, and harvest a bit from them. Late September/early October, plant out the flats. Later in October, plant next year’s garlic. End of the year: final harvest and cleanup. Throughout the year, successive flower planting for the bees, so there will always be something in flower for them.

That’s the goal. How closely I manage to stick to it is something we’ll have to see as we go along. The most exciting part of the year, to me, will be getting the bees to help out with pollination and seeing if we can begin harvesting some honey. And it would be nice to get a tomato or two, something we haven’t been able to do since the first year we had a garden here, due to various circumstances.


The air up here

Bad blogger, bad! No posting on a regular basis, what is wrong with you?

Nothing wrong, just incredibly busy around here. Our season has lasted well into the winter, and we’re still harvesting peppers. The tomatoes that showed some promise going into fall succumbed to massive worm damage, so once again this year, like last, no tomatoes (although for wildly different reasons, given that last year it was a cancer of a different sort).

There’s a monarch butterfly chrysalis attached to the upended cooler by my garage, which is right near the butterfly bush I planted for the other monarch caterpillars that graced us with their presence before moving on to whatever secret place they chose to attach themselves. I’m hoping to capture it as it emerges, whenever that happens to be, and I have the plant cam set up on it.

My dreams have been invaded by images of paintings I’ve never seen hanging in galleries I’ve never visited (or heard of). My subconscious is probably trying to tell me something.

My puppy had to have the top part of one of his (non weight-bearing) toes amputated because he tore the nailbed right away from the bone on a ball-fetching excursion. It’s sad to me that he was in pain, but good that he’ll heal just fine and he’ll be right back to his duties.

The bees have been ordered, and should ship to us in May. We’ll be able to put these things to good use.

Most of this will be gone from the new barn when spring arrives, as they’ll be set up as homes for the three packages of bees (and queens) we’ll be receiving. Everyone is pretty excited about this, including me, and I’m looking forward to spring even more than usual.

Seeds for the new year were ordered and have arrived (mostly), and the next two weeks will be seed starting time in the small barn, under the lights – which I need to rerig for the pulley system I came up with to make things easier to wrangle under them. As with years past, we’ll be attempting a good variety of tomatoes to see what we like, or is we can just get any to maturity and get a harvest. This year will be better planned than previous years, to be sure.

The garlic went into the frames in late October, and is doing wonderfully thus far. By my estimate, I planted out over 2000 individual cloves this year, which will give us plenty to use and some to save as seed for next year’s planting season, I expect. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to sell some as well, since this is not the usual garlic found in grocery stores.

Here’s hoping the new year will be better than the previous years. Be sage, be happy.

Greetings, Earth creature

OK, so maybe it isn’t an astronaut suit. But it does look like something from outer space when you’re not used to seeing it.

If you’re going to play dressup, you might as well include some other people in the fun.

Of course, you can use all the help you can get.

Especially when you’re on the cusp of undertaking something new and different.

Something that promises to be great fun – and a nice side business for the ranch.

It’s all quite exciting. We can’t wait to order our bees in a month or so and pick them up in the spring for placement in their new home. Did I say home? I meant homeS, plural: we’ll be starting with multiple hives on the ranch. Both better pollination and honey are in our future – the primary reasons for bringing bees to the ranch – and we’ll also get beeswax for things like candles, salves, and balms.

Let the games bee-gin

Low-hanging fruit, that title, I know.

On Saturday, my sister and I attended a short course beekeeping class offered twice a year by UF/IFAS. We had missed the spring class by a week or so, but found the fall (such as it is) date early enough and got ourselves registered. I was a bit concerned about the class going forward, as the registration form indicated if less than 20 people registered, the class would be cancelled. That worry was for naught, as by my count there were almost 30 people in attendance, split evenly between men and women. There were several people from the Northeast Florida Honeybee Association in attendance as well: all older men, all incredibly friendly, and all hilarious.

We’ve discussed having bees on the ranch several times over the years, and now we’re ready to move forward. The class itself covered various aspects of keeping bees, from hive structure to honeybee activity, splitting hives, and diseases and pests. Most of the things under discussion were things I already knew from prior research, but it was great to be able to hear from real, live beekeepers instead of reading about things in a book or from the web.

The Clay County IFAS office keeps bees on the fairgrounds, and has a honey house on the property as well. It was there that they had set a demonstration hive with open, paned sides back in April during the fair, and the bees were still there, still alive, and we had a chance to see the activity – and spot the (unmarked) queen.

After a full day of class, we’re more ready than even to get some bees around here. I’m hoping it will improve some of the plant-related issues we’ve been having, particularly with things like melons and squashes, and of course there is the potential for honey to be robbed from the hive. We were excited enough to consider adding bees now, but it appears that almost everyone has no bees for sale during the fall. Waiting until spring seems to be the only option, but that will allow us to get all the equipment we need and have it on hand for the big day when that day arrives.