Category Archives: Garden and ranch journal

Spring cleaning

It is not yet spring here, if you go strictly by the calendar. If you go by the weather, however, Mother Nature is telling a far different tale.

This is not to say she won’t change her mind about bypassing winter entirely here. It’s possible she will bring some random freeze and drop it on our doorstep with the same pride a cat has when it brings a dead critter home. Our forecast for the next ten days, in fact, has a random evening with a forecast overnight temperature of 34F. This is mildly concerning to me, as I have directly sowed some things, and if they have germinated and are up, it is possible they could get zapped by a sustained freeze (or even frost, in at least one case).

I’m not going to worry about that, though – I can sow those same seeds again, as they are plentiful and cheap. I sowed them early because that allows me to get them out of the way of when transplant time comes. That’s a very busy time for me, both in the gardens and in the bees. Anything I can knock out of having to do then is a plus.

Right now that means weeding and cleaning out hives that are not in active use. I lost some colonies in 2018, and also have other gear that needs to be cleaned, so I got to it.

Hives to be tidied
Cleanup time!


One of the things that happens as you are recovering from a couple of years of constant pneumonia and being in and out of the hospital, and then a year of recovery from that,v is that some things miss the boat as far as getting done. This didn’t rank high on the list, and what happens is that wax moths will move in and start using brood comb for their grossness. I got a late start (in the afternoon, as the rain that was forecast never quite made it) and managed to get three stack done.

As part of that doneness, I picked out some of the larvae so the girls (and Sir) could have some nice extra (live!) protein in their diet.

They loved these. I’m sure I’ll have more for them as I move through the rest of the hives to clean them. The best thing is that when I give them food – this or other food – they transform it into eggs for my family.

The hive cleanup is one of the items on the bees section of attractions on Todo Lake, and while I did not get through all of them today, I got a start, and that is what matters. It isn’t always the doing that is the difficult part. The difficulty is in the starting. Then it’s just a matter of allowing momentum to take over to power through, as many of the things on my list are not things that can be done in one sitting.

Once I get the hives cleaned and the frames and foundation dealt with, I’ll need to repaint a few of these hive bodies. And then, these condos will be ready to be put back into service by some of the new bees I’m getting and from the splits I’m going to have to make from the existing hives, as they continue their population levels. Except for a few packages, the rest are varieties I’ve never had before: Russians, Buckfast, and Carniolan. It is going to be fun learning the traits of these newbees in my beeyard.

The other day, I pulled some weeds in the rear gardens as I continue the race against “No Winter”and schedule my transplants.

One row was infested with lesser swine cress. Nice rosette pattern. Deep taproot, though, so it’s a hard one to get out completely, and if you want it done well, you cannot half-ass it.

Even the baby ones have long roots.


Tomorrow – as long as the rain holds off, or at least whatever time I have before it arrives for a visit, I’ll be continuing my bee gear clean up adventure.

That’s it for today, peeps. Until next time:  be well.

Days of mowing

Half the mowing done. When you can hear the thunder through your earplugs over the drone of the tractor, it’s time to stop for the time being and get back in the house. I did make it partially to the orchard/beeyard, and I think the swarmed hive may have actually been two swarms and completely absconded. The feeder I put on that hive this morning is empty, and I believe the other bees are robbing it out. That will take some investigation, which will have to wait a bit until this storm passes. Can’t do much good for the bees if you’re setting yourself out as a lightning target. I hope they’re not all gone. That would be a pity, although it would immediately free a box for a late season split. It isn’t like our winters are hideous around here, so they’d have plenty of time to make a queen, have her mate, and get going before the chill arrives. We shall see.

Mutants at the ranch

This is what happens when you miss something during a harvest – at least to some things. I had put some carrots at the end of the asparagus row, to utilize the space until I get the remaining asparagus plants dug, separated, and relocated. Instead of laying low for about 60 days, this guy was in there for around four months, give or take.

Giant mutant carrot

What do we do with such a creature? Not eat it, to be sure. At some point, many things will just become too woody to taste good. Okra is a good example of this: if those pods are not cut, they’ll often grow longer than your hand, and turn into something actually resembling wood as they dry and turn brown. Not good eating. If we had any chickens at the moment, we would cut up this carrot and feed it to them, but since we don’t, it goes to the compost pile, where eventually it will serve as nutrient for something else. The circle of life, and all that.

Insanity: Holding Pattern

Another day without a workout. One good thing: a visit with the ENT today, who gave an all clear: everything looks good, feels good (no lumps or anything in my tongue, mouth, or neck that he could feel). I have two CT scans on the 2nd, and I’m hopeful those will come back clear as well. We’re still on a 6-month rotation for visits to the various doctors and for scans, and maybe next year we can get back to yearly.

Today, though, more pain from the dental work and a couple of teeth that will be the next two to be pulled. The jarring from the jumping is a killer. So, new plan: restart on Sunday to give it a couple more days to calm down.

In the meantime, we’re still watching the floodwaters recede, slowly but surely, from the two feet or so that dropped in when Debby did Jacksonville. The bees survived high and dry, thanks to good placement of the hive. The chickens…well, chickens are not that bright, so they looked like drowned rats for a few days since they were not always smart enough to get in the coop and out of the rain.

The garden: the garlic has had it. After the fast, high heat, then a lot of rain at the beginning of the month, and now this rain, a lot of it is rotted. There may be some that can be salvaged, but for the most part, I’m counting it as a loss. Next season, I won’t be planting nearly as much, and only ordered a total of 20 pounds from Big John’s. This will give us a lot more room for tomatoes, once the frames are reworked. The remaining tomatoes out front are likely dead now, and the cukes were pulled two weeks ago after the first rounds of rain killed them off.

Looking forward to a reboot of the garden!

Garden and ranch journal, Sep 28, 2011

Weather: again just over 90 degrees, no rain, few clouds beyond the massive, towering clouds that I saw on the way back from the NOC. They were just teasing. Still humid. The weekend forecast shows a drop of 10 degrees for the high, so we may actually be moving toward fall – but not too much, please, since I have tomatoes and peppers out there still.

Plants: more peas coming up. Dug up a couple of sweet potatoes for roasted red pepper soup yesterday, and they don’t look too bad. Also picked some jalapenos for that soup as well.

Done: built two more doubled frames, pulled the black eyed peas from the middle area, refertilized with chicken poop, moved the empty trellises to the back, pulled some random weeds. At the NOC, racked up another new server, reinstalled two others, one for production, one as a current testbed.

Garden and ranch journal, Sep 27, 2011

Weather: 90-ish and brilliant blue skies after the fog burned away. No rain today.

Plants: Found the first shelling peas breaking through this morning. Many more expected.

Done: Nothing outside. All morning spent at the dentist have two crowns seated and an extra bonus of another tooth rebuilt. Very, very painful day, and no outside work necessary to jar things around or make me clench my teeth. On the plus side, that finishes this round of teeth needing to be fixed, and we’re back to cleanings every three months until we find the next thing.

Garden and ranch journal, Sep 26, 2011

Weather: Rain last night left things wet this morning. No breeze, quite a bit of fog, hot, and steamy. It didn’t dry out enough for mowing until just before 11 AM, and two hours later when I finished the mowing, the weather station out front said 92. Rain this evening – real rain, finally, almost half an inch.

Plants: the trees in the orchard are doing well, all things considered. The orange and tangerine both have ants around the base, so we’ll use some DE out there to get them to go away.  Some of the green beans sown a few days ago are poking through the earth, and finally, the sweet basil has tiny seedling appearing in the herb garden. The Jerusalem artichokes look very healthy, and a couple of those that had escaped their frame were summarily pulled. The tabascos have some fruits turning red.

Done: weeding, laid out more coffee bags around the tomatoes, mowed the entire property.

Garden and ranch journal, Sep 25, 2011

Weather: another hot, humid day. High at the ranch was 93 officially by the front garden, but it felt like that by 10 AM already. By the time we reached the actual temp high, the heat index was around 110 degrees. Rain in the very late afternoon for about 20 minutes or so.

Plants: the pepper plants in the front garden area where the garlic had been are looking very good. Chocolate bells, jalapenos, and paprikas are all forming nicely. No sign of pea germination, but cooler weather is coming next weekend, and they should like that. Beets have sprouted, along with the mustard, leeks, and cabbage.

Done: transplanted out another 48 bell peppers, sowed another frame of green beans. Weeded, weeded, weeded. Watered almost all the trees throughout the day. Sowed four types of squash to replace the ones killed off by vine borers. This time, a special method that will hopefully keep the critters away (pictures later). Started laying the used coffee bags around the tomato transplant, to be followed by a layer of hay.

Garden and ranch journal, Sep 24, 2011

Weather: topped out at 92, according to the weather station here on the ranch. High humidity all day long, which made it feel like a sauna just stepping outside, not to mention what it felt like when there was actual work happening. About 3 PM, thunder rumbling in the distance, but no rain here at the ranch, and the skies to the east cleared by 5 PM.

Plants: the front crop of peanuts is starting to fall over, which means it’s nearly harvest and curing time for those. The spinach sowed in a couple of 4×4 frames in the front garden is coming up. All of the melons look terrible and should probably be taken out for compost. Still no new sweet basil seedlings from that direct sowing – the second direct sowing, in fact – which is very strange given that it usually grows like a weed.

Done: Weeded, a job that never seems to end. Transplanted 64 cherokee purple tomato plants from the flats, and 32 bell peppers. Reseeded more dud green beans. Ran drip irrigation in the final row of the back garden to replace the traditional irrigation that had been there. Topped the lemon and lime basils in the herb garden. Watered everything except the trees. Replaced one of the watering timers, which picked today to go crazy. Sliced open half a dozen used burlap coffee bags so they can be used for moisture and weed control around the transplanted tomatoes and peppers from today. Picked and tested some of the second round black eyed peas from the front garden. Relaid the black plastic mulch in the front garden that had blown around a bit. Checked for the spider that hangs around the front walkway on the siding, but couldn’t find her; her three egg sacs are still in place.