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Showing posts from April, 2012

Almost Done!

Eric has been Mr. Garden Studmuffin all this week. (Plus he's either made me tea or met me with coffee every day this week, and gave me a really helpful leg and back rub one night because I started a "boot camp" type fitness program that felt very intimidating. Poor guy is getting up at O'dark-thirty in the mornings, participant or not.)

The thing I'm blogging about, though, even though it's only one thing, was part of getting the yard really ready for the tour. I'm trying to clean up, spruce up, and fill empty spots. So I bought some plants that I might have waited and grown from seed, or those that died in their pots quickly or birds ate or something.

Yesterday I put the climbing winter squashes in half of the spinach bed. This half wasn't intensively planted, and besides, some of the other spinach is bolting -- it's not going to last long. The butternuts I planted never came up, so I grabbed a couple of them at the nursery, plus a Kuri Red squash…

April overview

This is post #2 today. Not fair to put this many pictures and the videos in the first up in one post, methinks. Speaking of which -- can anyone SEE the videos in the earlier post??

Garden overview -- from left to right, which is west to east from the house, and then south to north.

First bed has pole beans and bush beans, and still needs yellow wax beans and Romano bush beans. Must go buy some seeds. . . and something is already eating the babies. Must buy more snail and slug stuff.

Bed of brassicas going by and ruby chard volunteering. If I knew what was supposed to go there, I'd plant it. Guess that's why I should look at the pictures.

Kale, the indispensable vegetable. I'm going to start a flat of that inside, because in six weeks, there's going to be more room somewhere!
Brassicas flowering (I'm going to put up a sign about allowing that for the bees, and maybe something about how/why/when to save seeds -- this is not the method!) and some lettuce. This bed is alm…

Now there are five

The other crowded hive swarmed yesterday while I was transplanting cucumbers. This time, I took some video and so did Cat. Unfortunately, the video that was terminated when I discovered a bee inside my veil wouldn't load, so you don't get that pleasure! I had forgotten to zip my hood. Not a mistake I make often!

Here's the first one, after I ran around and found empty frames and a box to entice them into:

Then I did the bucket trick. I had already dumped one load, from the bottom branch, and then waited for a clump to re-form. I also wasn't wearing a bee glove on one hand, and hey, presto, pushed one bee hard enough for her to nab my finger at the end. See if you can tell how calm and collected I am!! This is one reason I almost always fully suit up, although I am impressed at the bare-handed and short-sleeved keepers among us. It's just not me. You can see how sweetly they just flow into the box -- I bet they follow the same kind of form that something like molasses…

Got Dramamine?

In the middle of shoveling mulch in the back garden,

 my crowded hive swarmed. Fortunately, I was there to see it and fortunately they started landing in a low plum tree. Also fortunate? I had a deep with enough ready frames to tempt them in. Finally fortunately, my dear son was willing and able to shoot video of the coaxing them into the box.

You might need antinausea medication to watch the first video. Unfortunately, my cameraman sees the world faster than most people, so jerky edits don't phase him. Be grateful that I didn't post the six minutes of the whole swarm process, because that one almost made me fall off my chair.

Never before have I experienced a mid-swarm hiving -- it was a matter of plopping the queen into the prepared hive box before they had really established a midway point on the plum branch. The bees really want a safe, dark home, and are easily persuaded once given one. I have questions about the status of the original hive. Will it swarm again? There were …

Lots afoot

So much happening. Things being planted out (hot peppers and pole beans so far), things being harvested (peas, celery, a garbage bag full of spinach), and one big thing being built.
Kevin has been making me an unbelievable birthday present:

and Taz is going to find that her easy-access days are all over. I'm working hard getting ready for the Bay Friendly Gardens Tour on April 29th.
Denise and Cat helped process the celery.

I've posted a listing for "soup celery," which is what the San Francisco Chronicle called it this weekend, although I'd call it "trimmings," on Freecycle. Don't worry -- I'm keeping plenty to flavor broth.

Oona can now put herself IN the dog crate.
And Eric and I got to dress up and go to a wedding this week.
Clean up rather nicely, don't we? Unfortunately, Taz proceeded to eat my new shoes the next morning. I had gotten home late and tired, and left them carelessly on the couch. Instead of getting up and taking her running, I&#…

Tomato time

During a break in the rain today, a friend of mine and I
Set up the funky linear cage system I like to use for the tomatoes
Perhaps I should have placed the tomatoes in first, but by carefully reeeeeaching through the 6" openings in the mesh, I managed to tip each of the first eight seedlings into holes made on a slant, so that they'll make more roots along their stems and hopefully grow very happily
Of course, it's not supposed to rain again, at least not this week. Wonder if it will again? I did lay out the hoses carefully so I can hook them up to the irrigation system if needed.

And tomorrow? I'm going to heavily harvest spinach ahead of the dry weather. Tonight's dinner was a bowl of leaves sauteed with garlic and dressed with a tiny bit of vinegar. The namers of the "Gigante d'Inverno" weren't kidding! 

I think the one next to it is Monstreux de Viroflay, but it's not such a monster.

I quit

Things are heating up, ironically, since it's raining and cold again. The tomatoes, however, are outside getting wet and blown about. I'm transplanting this weekend unless we experience apocalyptic floods or earthquakes or insistent Frisbee or something. It's time.

And things in the basement are doing well. In the absence of the large, hairy tomatoes (I imagine them seeming like older brothers to the rest), there are more timid, more heat-loving plants:
The older peppers. Planted maybe in February? They're bedeviled by some pesky reddish aphids which seem to reproduce exponentially every 12 hours. If I could find the Ur-Mother, I might be able to be rid of them. Daily squishing, twice daily ideally, seems to help. I may make some insecticidal soap stuff and spray it. If I could only find a whole sprayer. How many spray bottles have romped through this house? Sigh.
Younger peppers, more varieties. I had concentrated on Padrons, having tunnel-vision. Then I remembered how m…

Like a useful little notebook

This blog can be.

Just a few notes because by next week, if I don't write them down, the details of today's bee adventures will be overlain by a thick layer of detritus in my brain.

Swarmy hive was split by adding four brood frames to the single-box new swarm hive, put in a second deep box on top of the first. Frames were replaced with a mix of drawn, foundationed, and foundationless frames. That ought to confuse the swarm impulse out of them.

In addition, the bee escape either malfunctioned or I did something else wrong, because far from being empty, the two honey boxes were full, full of Very Upset Bees. I pulled the two boxes off the hive.

The third hive, that I didn't get to inspect yesterday, gave me some grief today. I am trying to love all-medium hives, but so far, the brood nest feels messier -- loads of burr comb, and a lot of drone brood. That tells me this hive is going to want to swarm, too. There was also a few frames of very nice brood, but I only went through t…

Just in time

The weather has been unsettled, and yet the bees work on. Any kind of uptick in the temperature makes them a little more busy, a little more. . . springlike. And spring sometimes makes them think about swarming. No room in the hive, and all that. Giving bees plenty of room in the hive sometimes changes their minds. My job is to make certain that swarming remains a distant twinkle in their compound eyes.

And to do that, I have to get in there and say hi, how are you, every once in a while. Unfortunately, I had mislaid my smoker. Don't ask me how one does so; I live in the sort of family and household wherein such things happen. I kept putting off beekeeping because it's a titch less pleasant without smoke.

Fortunately, I spent yesterday in a nearby college town, being so amazingly proud of my eldest's Ultimate Frisbee team that I could have burst any buttons I might have been wearing. This pride did not prevent me from a quick spin into Sacramento, where I procured a replacem…


I checked my email to make certain I was at the right park at the right time for baseball practice. And there it was -- "Easy swarm available now." I fired off a response (who knew a smart phone was going to be this kind of useful?) and dropped off the baseball player.

A quick toss of materials into the car, and off I went. The original beekeeper whose hive had spawned this swarm had helpfully put a plastic storage box with a couple of frames in it near their location, and by the time I got there, it was 98% hived. The homeowner seemed impressed that I knew what to do, and it struck me -- this skill has grown without me even paying attention. I have a front row seat to all of my knowledge gaps and inadequacies, so I don't see competence and ease, but this guy did. And I do know how to get swarms, of all kinds, and how to protect them, and how to cut out hives. Doing really has meant learning. Slowly, and without seeing it happen. Pretty neat.

Some stragglers were under the…


Or would it be fauna? We've come to really enjoy sourdough pancakes, and I figured I'd spend a few minutes sharing the love because they're so easy to make. Start with a fed sourdough starter:

For each cup, add an egg,

Add a bit of sugar,

A little bit of baking soda and a pinch of salt,

Some fat. Here, I'm using coconut oil which I'll melt before mixing, but you could use butter, oil, whatever

One of the things I like is how bubbly and light the cakes are.

Ready for syrup, or jam that didn't set, or powdered sugar and strawberries.

I've never figured out how to feed a sourdough starter with whole wheat flour, but this one has been robust for a long time.