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Walden Effect Facebook page
It took a few minutes of trickle
charging to get the ATV going today.
I've come to understand
that a natural beekeeper's primary job is to make sure the bees have
just enough space to continue working without wearing themselves out
patrolling large expanses of empty hive. So, when the third box of
our mother hive went from looking like the top photo to looking like
the bottom photo in a mere seven days, I figured I'd better give them
some room to grow.
The question was ---
should I add the extra box to the top or to the bottom of the
hive? In general, Warre beekeepers nadir instead of super, meaning
that empty boxes are added to the bottom rather than to the top of a
hive. The theory is that keeping the lid on the hive and simply
hoisting the whole thing up to put a new box underneath causes less
disruption to the critical heat and scent within the brood
chamber. In the past, I have only nadired Warre hives, and last week I added the third box to our daughter hive at the bottom, as usual.
However, once a Warre
hive has more than two boxes mostly full of brood and honey, it becomes
much less feasible to nadir the hive without rigging a lift (or roping
two more people into helping you). In addition, this excellent page
suggests that supering is really the best way to add extra boxes onto a
booming Warre hive during a heavy summer nectar flow. In case you
don't want to read the long version, the gist is that bees only build
down as quickly as they need the space for brood, adding honey into
cells above the brood chamber as young bees vacate that space. So
during heavy nectar flows, nadiring simply doesn't give the bees enough
room to store the sweet liquid as quickly as it comes in.
With that data in mind, I
opted to super the mother hive (and then to clean up the weeds around
the hive entrance, a task that was long overdue). Before supering,
a quick peek down into the top box proved that the upper chamber was
full of capped honey, so hopefully that buffer will mean taking the top
off the hive had less impact on that all-important brood chamber.
And if this flow keeps up, we might get a box or two of honey this fall
despite slowing our mother hive down by splitting her in half this
I had to replace
the flywheel shaft key on the lawn mower today.
I'd been planning on setting out our newly grafted apple trees into the tree alleys in the starplate pasture
this winter, but my gut says the soil there isn't ready to support tree
growth. Sure, the texture looked great when I dug into it last
winter --- well-drained and loose --- but plants have been slow to
colonize the bare soil. In our climate, all I should have to do is
avert my eyes if I want weeds to grow over my head, and instead, the
ground is still spottily covered with bits of grass and white clover
despite the copious addition of chicken manure from our pastured flock
and the last mowing over a month ago. As a result, I figure those
tree alleys need another year or two of TLC before I put beloved
perennials in place.
So...what am I to do with 11 beautiful apple trees? Even though a late frost kept our two-year-old high-density apples
from fruiting this year, I've been very happy with the vibrant growth
resulting from the training method. So I decided to keep this new
round of apples small and closer to home using similar high-density
methods. Sure, if I train the trees to stay diminutive, I'll
probably end up getting fewer apples from each plant, but I suspect I'll
get the same or more total apples since close-to-home trees are more
likely to survive and thrive.
It seems like I reinvision the forest garden
every couple of years, always thinking this new plan is going to turn a
problem zone into an area of bountiful harvest. So take what I
write here with a grain of salt. But, really, I think I've got it
The first thing I'm admitting is that high groundwater probably does
mean a poor place for trees. All of my soil amendments have
created a rich layer of topsoil, but the quality dirt soon gives way to
waterlogged clay that kills deep-rooted plants in the winter.
While I could keep working to make the forest garden a tree habitat,
chances are I'd be better off using my efforts to turn it into a shrub
and herb (in the botanical, not the culinary, sense) playground.
I put together this last storage rack in
about 10 minutes.
It's now officially
freezin' season! The tomato crop is far smaller than I'd hoped
for, but enough fruits are coming in to produce one or two big pots of
soup per week, most of which ends up as winter meals. And, as if
to make up for the moderate tomato harvest, the green beans are
extremely prolific this year, allowing me to freeze half a gallon at a time once or twice a week. Add that on top of this spring's bountiful broccoli,
plus the stir fry I'm experimentally freezing, and we've already got
8.5 gallons of winter vegetables socked away in the deep freeze (along
with a bunch of homegrown and purchased meat).
Whenever I write about
our winter stores, commenters always ask about our frozen-food goal for
the year. I'd post a link to my previously written answer, but
we're constantly tweaking our diet to include more fresh produce even in
the winter months, and are also streamlining non-fresh winter stores to
include only the foods that taste best frozen and rethawed. Last
year, we had barely enough winter stores from 6.75 gallons of green
beans, 11.25 gallons of vegetable soup, 0.6 gallons of sweet corn, and
0.25 gallons of tomatoes --- just shy of 19 gallons of vegetables
total. Since we plan to stock up on the same amount of storage vegetables
(onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and butternut
squash) and to continue pushing the weather boundaries with brussels
sprouts, kale, and lettuce under quick hoops, twenty gallons in the freezer should do us this year as well.
"Guess what this is?" I
said to Mark yesterday morning as he walked past. My voice was
full of the excitement of finding a new source of organic matter to
mulch with, so he hit the nail on the head with his first try. "Humanure," my long-suffering husband answered, a distinct lack of enthusiasm coloring his voice.
closed off the first bin of our composting toilet last November, and I
wrote that I planned to wait a year...or maybe two...before breaking
into the stash. However, my standards always start slipping when I clean out the deep bedding in the chicken coops
and still need more high-carbon materials to mulch the
perennials. I figured, as long as no chunks of poo were visible in
last year's humanure bin, I could use it beneath plants that wouldn't
be producing until this time next year. Really, that gives the
material almost 24 months between excretion and eating, right?
I opened up the composting toilet bin, I was surprised to see that the
contents really just looked like slightly aged sawdust. There were
some chunks of toilet paper around the edges, where the contents were
too dry for decomposition, but all other signs of human waste were
gone. I set aside most of the residual toilet paper as we went
along and used the four wheelbarrows of organic matter that remained
beneath our high-density apples, our hardy kiwis, and our black
Mental issues aside, Mark
and I have some thoughts for improving our composting-toilet before
changing back over to the now-emptied bin this fall, but I'm pretty
happy with version 1.0 as-is. Human "waste" has become an asset to
the farm rather than a hindrance --- just what I was looking for!
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