Hot stuff and bees

The week has warmed a bit more each day with intermittent thunder storms, not producing much rain, just a lot of noise and light. Today it broke 90 f. We got our walk in when is was 6 degrees cooler than that, but on a section of the trail with little shade.

A few days ago when we walked our hay guy down to see the bee installation so he and his helpers were aware, three of the feeders were still half full. Last night they were empty. This morning while it is still below 80 f, the heavy bee jacket and veil were donned and the hike down the hill to fill the feeders and flip the inner covers to give them more ventilation. My local mentor suggested cutting a notch in the inner cover, my brother said to use shims, the internet suggested craft sticks diagonally across the two back corners to slightly lift the outer lid and provide additional cooling when it is going to be brutal. I like my brother’s idea, but lack the acrylic to cut the shims. My “craft sticks” are coffee stirrers and not thick enough to provide space if laid on the inner cover and not sturdy enough to put diagonally. The syrup I had wasn’t sufficient to fill all the jars, so syrup is being dissolved now and I will look for another shim solution today. I don’t have a battery operated jig saw, but do have a battery powered drill and some hole saws that fit it, so maybe a semi circular hole in the back of the inner cover with the screen material provided by my mentor is the solution. After the syrup is fully dissolved and the bees are quieter in the dusk, a solution will be devised. All 4 hives are filling brood and making honey.

A few weeks ago, Mountain Mint was ordered from a Tennessee nursery, three plants, $20+ dollars. They arrived yesterday, 3 dried out bare root segments in a couple tablespoons of potting soil in a plastic bag. I’m quite irritated by this. My bee mentor has Mountain Mint that she recently divided and she said she would give me a start. The bare roots were planted and watered, but without much hope of success. The Baptisia nearby is blooming gloriously.

It is such a pretty plant and the dark seed pods that form, dry and make interesting addition to dried flower arrangements.

The Wren eggs in the spider plant have hatched, but the babies don’t raise up with open mouths yet, so the count hasn’t been made yet.

Once they fledge, the baby spider plants in the starters around the mother plant need to be set it soil. They aren’t sufficiently set in and the one below the nest in this picture is totally uprooted.

The electric around the fruit was a waste of time. The single strand wasn’t slowing the deer down at all. After our walk today, since we were close to Lowe’s, a second bird net was purchased. In the afternoon heat, the grass within that area was weed whacked down, cardboard put down around the plum and a fence erected around it. Several long coated steel posts were angled over the grapevine, a long cord tying them to the end posts and lashing them together and the net was draped over the line and covering the grapes. There are many clusters starting and the deer can’t have them this year.

a bag of mulch needs to be spread around the little tree.

Hopefully, they are protected now. The electric is just around the top of the garden again, though there has been no evidence of deer in there. The pintos, bush beans, second planting of peas, and some of the sunflowers are sprouted. Not much of the corn is up and no sign of the cucumbers yet. On a cooler day, some work with the hoe is needed out there though. For now, a bottle of water and a rest under the ceiling fan is in order. I like spring, not summer heat. It will be cooler after today for a while.

And More Rain

The crazy boomerang storm has alternated between partly cloudy skies and real rain storms with thunder and lightning. When it leaves this time, it will keep going and it is going to get hot, summer hot.

When I went over this morning to free the chooks into the yard, the path is between the garden and the young plum and grapevine. The plum has fruit for the first time, but it also has new deer damage. Since the fence charger was taken down to use on the bees then returned to the garden as a stronger charged one was needed for the bees, it had been sitting by the post on the ground, and not remounted and turned on. After the Saturday morning routine of breakfast, Farmer’s Market, and daily walk, efforts were made to try to deter the deer from finishing off the plum and grape leaves. The charger was remounted on the pole with new mounting screws and new poly wire strung as the old wire was several years old, showed some burned spots, and wasn’t long enough to go around the fruit and the garden. Because the wood pile, uphill from the fruit and garden already had a couple of T-posts set at the ends, insulators were added at a lower height than the garden wire and the fence wire strung to enclose the plum and grapes. This will require relearning to walk above the wood pile to the chicken coop, but may protect the plum tree and grapevine. If it doesn’t deter the deer, a fence will go up around the plum and another bird net purchased to drape over the grapes.

My portion of the sweet potato bundle was planted out in the half barrel and just as water was about to be set up to sprinkle them in, it began raining a very steady, heavy rain. The sprinklers haven’t been needed on the flowers or vegetables for a couple of days which is nice. The only thing left to be planted out in the spring garden are three Thai peppers, but they are still in the hydroponic starter and not large enough to go outside. They could be planted with paper tubes around them to deter the sow bugs, but it is better to let them get some size on them. As there is still about a full quart jar of dried Thai’s from last year, it is no hurry.

The hay is getting tall and deep.

This doe is standing, not lying down.

It is broody hen season, too. One of the Buff Orpingtons has been sitting on an empty nest for two weeks. She would make a good Momma hen as she growls, puffs up, and pecks at me every time the egg door is opened. If she is removed from the nest to the yard, she growls and stays put until the door is closed or one of the other hens pecks at her weird noise, then she runs right back to the nest. No real effort has been made to deter her as past efforts on that front have never worked. A fleeting idea to put fertile eggs under her was quickly abandoned as the coop is already too small for the 13 hens that live there at night. About another week, she will tire of it and return to the laying flock. If not, she will go to freezer camp as a non productive hen doesn’t need to be in the coop.

Her most indignant self.

In anticipation of a bumper crop of assorted hot peppers, most of the remaining hot dried peppers from last year have been started as a hot pepper ferment to make sauce in a couple of weeks. Last year’s sauce is nearly gone. There are still enough dried peppers left for cooking purposes.

That is the spring’s second ferment begun. The asparagus are delicious and a second jar of them will occur as soon as another quart jar of them are available.

For days, the buds on the peonies have been opening more and more. This is the first year that there have been more than a couple and one is full of buds. During college years and when available, a small bowl of a floating bloom adorned my desk. This green glass bowl was hand blown at Jamestown Historical site and was perfect to float two beautiful peony blossoms.

Spring is a wonderful time of the year here in the Virginia mountains. It is great to be able to get the garden in and still cool enough to keep it weeded. The hot, humid summer will be upon us too quickly.

And Then Came the Rain

After yesterday’s errands and walk, the last tomato was caged, two more peppers planted and staked, the blueberries netted against thieving birds, so I can enjoy all of that luscious blue fruit. A stop, no, 4 stops to try to get sweet potato starts were a failure, but the last stop said they had been shipped and should be in today or tomorrow, so today’s check in was a winner and a bundle purchased. It is much too large for our garden or our family use, so the bundle will be shared.

We got our walk in just before the rain began and between showers, the half barrel that will contain the sweet potatoes was moved to the garden on a cardboard layer to deter weeds from growing through the bottom or up around the sides and then filled with fresh soil. The slips are soaking in a pot of water for a few days to freshen the roots and they will be planted out. Herb seed and transplants were also done between showers, but now it is raining in earnest, good for the freshly planted seed and transplanted starts.

In my quest to use open pollinated vegetables and save seed, the small Oui yogurt jars seem the perfect size for seed storeage. A google search produced silicone lids that fit the jars. A dark box will be scrounged and the seed will be stored in the back of the refrigerator between seasons. For several years, flower seed has been saved and replanted each year, beans and peas have been saved without much thought to how they were stored.

The next year or two, the open pollinated varieties may be switched until the ones that best suit us are tried and approved. The beans and peas that have been the spring and summer staples are already on the list. Dent corn varieties will be tried to provide corn meal and chicken scratch. Seminole pumpkins have been favored. Cucumbers are different each year, but maybe the best one has been selected this year. We use a lot of Jalapenos, but often grow several hot peppers, and they will cross pollinate, so that choice might be more difficult. The same with tomatoes. A good paste tomato for sauce and canning is great, but a fresh sliced tomato can’t be beat in the summer and again, there is the cross pollination issue. Lettuce and spinach are planted out repeatedly and not allowed to seed.

The battle with grass and weeds in the paths of the garden has been ongoing. Cardboard and mulch work for a short while. A huge load of wood chips would be ideal and could be added to each year, but it costs an arm and a leg to get it hauled up the mountain. Weed whacking around the beds seems to be the best that can be done for now, and hand pulling those that will come up. Some weeds are so persistent they will go through the barrier layers. It is exciting that the garden is coming together and fresh homegrown vegetables and fruits will soon be on our table and in our pantry and freezer.