Most visited this week:
Building a bee waterer
Fighting tomato blight with pennies
How many batteries do I need for my solar panels?
How to help chicks during hatching
Plug and play grid tie inverter
A year ago this week:
Rainy summers are good for fall crops
Compacting a pond floor
$10 Root Cellar
Cinder block rut repair
Best blueberry varieties for southwest Virginia
Walden Effect Facebook page
We made the Black
Soldier Fly shelf long to accommodate a propane stove top.
Mark and I were thrilled to get our summer purchase of straw last month...until
it started to sprout. That's right, I laid down several bales of
straw in the vegetable garden as mulch, figuring the straw would do its
usual weed-suppressing job, but the mulch turned out to be a source
of weeds. Looking more closely, I saw that the grain heads were
full of seeds --- seems like our supplier forgot to thresh before he
I built a bench like shelf
for our new Black
Soldier Fly project today.
We ran of our storage onions
this year in May --- better than most years, but still leaving me with a
two-month drought. With most vegetables, I simply substitute or
do without if our crop isn't sufficient, but I can't quite imagine
cooking without onions. So we ended up buying a few bags at the
store (plus planting 20% more to feed us over the next year).
We learned the hard way that garlic just doesn't taste quite right until it's been cured,
but onions are ready to go in the soup pot as soon as they reach full
size. I haven't even harvested most of our onions out of the
garden yet, but I've been pulling the biggest ones for soup for the last
week or two. It seems like we can never freeze enough soup or
grow enough onions --- maybe those two problems are related....
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.
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