Most visited this week:
Building a bee waterer
Fighting tomato blight with pennies
Square foot gardening rebuttal
How to help chicks during hatching
Moth pupa in the soil
A year ago this week:
Spring in the Warre hive
Brood coop escape
Choosing the right drill for mushroom inoculation
DIY dog door update
Walden Effect Facebook page
What do you do if your hitch
pin is lost somewhere
along a muddy driveway?
Last year, I started researching swarm traps just as the garden was heating up, so we didn't really manage to get anything going in time to catch a swarm (although a swarm did end up in the barn anyway).
But now that we have all of our ducks in a row, it's simple to bait a
few hives with lemongrass oil and hope we'll catch free bees.
While this experiment
is far from scientific, I'm always curious which of the main beekeeping
methods the bees themselves would prefer, and this should give me some
indication. Here's hoping we catch a swarm early enough that it
makes it through the winter!
We've been having a problem
with our young fig tree "accidentally" exposing herself.
As one of our readers commented, my terraforming project created tiny chinampas. All winter, the rye
I sowed on the raised parts of the beds thrived despite the soggy
aisles, and come spring, wildlife moved into the little ponds between
the beds. I found two baby snapping turtles hanging out in the
shallow water this weekend, and plenty of tadpoles are escaping their
eggs to join in the fun.
You'll know if your soil
is wet enough to need small-scale chinampas because rushes and sedges
will be growing in the mown aisles along with grass. To confirm
that the groundwater is too high for the soil to be planted into as-is,
dig around a clump of earth, then grab the grass on top as if lifting
the clump up by its hair. If the soil is well-drained, the whole
clump will stay together since roots go straight down into the
subsoil. If the soil is waterlogged, the top will peel off since
the plant roots stayed in the inch or two of soil above the water.
I dug one long chinampa
Monday, which is about all my wrists can take before they start to
complain. I mostly tried to place the sod grass-side down so it
will rot quickly, but I wasn't all that particular about it, knowing
that I can always lay down some cardboard over top before transplanting
in my tomato sets.
All winter, our farm
grows toward the sun. I plant most of our fall and early spring
crops in the mule garden, the furthest away from the shade of the
hill. We bask in the warmth that comes in the south-facing bank of
windows in front of the trailer, and our tractored chickens do the same
with their open-fronted living quarters.
But as April brings a
spell of days in the low 80s, everything turns around. First comes
the chicken tractor, which I literally turn 180 degrees so the solid
back creates a shaded zone for hot afternoons. I start to close
the shades on the trailer's west windows to block out afternoon
heat. And soon we'll even switch our work schedule so we do
outside tasks in the morning instead of the afternoon.
This heat spell won't
last long, and by tomorrow I'll be scurrying around to cover up
seedlings, glad the strawberries haven't yet opened their blooms.
The hint of summer was fun, though, since it gave me the chance to
lounge in the yard and find the year's first four-leaf clovers (two in
As a completely unrelated side note, I really appreciated everyone's rhubarb suggestions! I merged several pieces of advice together by tossing about a cup of chopped stalks with about two tablespoons of strawberry freezer jam
and roasting them at 450 degrees for about ten minutes until they were
just becoming soft. Adding the strawberry-roasted rhubarb to a
spring salad of lettuce, baby kale, and arugula, topped with hard-boiled
eggs, a store-bought avocado, and a bit more strawberry jam drizzled on
top was delicious!
We made this first Star Plate
chicken door out of 1/4 inch plywood.
Mark and I only tasted our first homegrown apples
last year, and those trees were already two or three years old when we
put them in the ground four years ago. By that math, the little
trees I grafted this spring won't fruit until 2020 or 2021. It's hard to imagine waiting five to
eight years to taste the fruits from the trees we just grafted.
mental perambulation reminded me that I have some spare room in between
the new grape vines I installed this past fall. I mulched the
grape rows well to begin the battle against weeds, but the transplants
won't have spread their roots far yet. Why not sneak in an extra
two dozen cabbage transplants into that ground? In an effort to
hedge my bets against weird weather, I started about 200 more cabbage
seedlings under the quick hoops than I actually need, and they all came
up, thrived, and need homes. I know I have a plant-propagation
problem...but I can quit any time....
Observing sun spots is a nice way to end an afternoon hike.
The garden bounty is
starting to come in, which is lucky since our freezer and larder are
nearly bare. We're eating leaf lettuce every day, kale nearly
daily, shiitake mushrooms from the old logs under the fruit trees
whenever they feel like popping up, lots of chives and Egyptian onions,
and masses of eggs. Working with what's in season, I made this recipe with shiitakes and dandelion greens in place of the sweet potatoes, and it was delectable!
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