Tick Season and preparing for new garden

It is only May 1 and already many ticks have made their way into the house on our bodies or on the pups. Three bites already on me. It is going to be a bad year for them I fear.

There is a mowed path to the bees that will stay mowed as the adjacent hay grows, but sometimes you have to walk through the branches of a cedar tree to brush off any hitchhikers and in spite of pants tucked into socks into boots, the bee jacket, veil, and gloves, they are still finding their way in. I dislike chemical sprays even around my pants legs, much less on upper body, especially since most are from going to the bee yard. I’ve had folks suggest wrapping a dog tick collar around my lower pants legs, but that doesn’t stop them from the cedar branches above the lower legs.

They are disgusting, creepy crawlies, disease carriers. We need Guineas, but doubt they would stick around and they are so noisy, but definitely tick gobblers. This will be a difficult year to wild berry pick because of them.

This week, the last of the tomatoes frozen toward the end of the season last year were finally processed into pasta sauce. That puts 11 pints of pasta sauce on the shelf to start this year. Three from last year, 8 new ones, plus 3 in the freezer, 3 pints of canned tomato puree added this spring. There is still a supply of assorted tomatillo sauces/salsas/jams, and a bag remaining in the freezer, so they won’t go in this year’s garden. There are 8 peppers ready to plant in two weeks, plus another variety started from seed that will be a bit later. One of the Farmer’s Market vendors had several varieties of tomato starts so one each of two varieties were added to my purchase to give me 8 tomato plants, 2 more than originally planned. The huckleberries didn’t come up in the starter flat which gives me some space to accommodate the extras. The corn patch will be half sweet corn and half Bloody Butcher so seed can’t be saved, but extra seed of the dent corn was purchased to use next year. The plan this year has two varieties of beans and two varieties of peas, so again, seed can’t be saved. Already, a plan for next year is in the works to grow only single varieties of heritage vegetables and save seed for future planting. This will be somewhat limiting, but our primary hot pepper use is Jalapenos, primary tomato use is sauces, sweet corn is such a short season, the Bloody Butcher will provide corn meal and roasting ears. Though we enjoy bush beans, young Pinto’s can be eaten green and if enough are planted, dried for winter chili and goulash. With peas, we enjoy both sugar snaps and shelling peas, but if only shelling peas are grown like year’s past, seed can be saved. It will be an interesting experiment to see if the lack of variety bothers us or if the variety will just come from Farmer’s Market purchases. Seminole pumpkins are great for stuffing or pies and will be the third part of the Three Sister’s garden. Spinach will be planted, but I have never tried to save seed from spinach or lettuce. Cucumbers of course will be in the garden to eat fresh and to make pickles. Garlic was not planted for this year, but will be added back in for the fall garden to overwinter and provide bulbs next summer.

Here’s hoping for a great garden season and more putting by for the off seasons. I need to start gathering jars for processing vegetables and later for when honey gathering commences, probably not until next year though.

A Bee-utiful day

The weather is glorious and we took a walk, followed by a visit with my local bee keeping friend and her husband as they did their post winter box inspections. That was delightful and a bit overwhelming as we asked questions and got answers, they offered other information, showed us around. I am glad we live where we do as their property doesn’t have a flat spot on it that they haven’t created themselves. To the point that many areas are being made into gardens so it doesn’t have to be mowed. They also don’t have a lot of open space for sunshine and they are only a few miles from us, less as the crow flies. One of my issues was how quickly the bees are emptying the feeders, and they suggested switching to quart jars instead of pints.

Once home, new batches of syrup were started and the son that got us going and is the official owner of our hives called for an update and he answered more questions. I hope my feeble brain can hold all this information. As we were talking, he walked back to check on his two hives and his feeders were empty too, so I passed on the suggestion of quarts.

Because we haven’t had rain in a few days, the hoses were moved around and the back garden was watered. And the little garden built last year over the septic clean out received a bird bath half filled with rocks so the bees can find water and not drown. To keep the chickens out of that bed as seedlings of flowers are beginning to germinate there, a section of old fencing was cut as a cover with a hole in the middle to allow the birdbath base to fit through.

After dinner, it was still bright sunny and hot, but the bee garb was donned, the quart jars of syrup loaded into a large bucket and the bees were fed. They were pretty agitated that the empty feeders were removed, but calmed back down when the larger feeders of syrup were placed in the hive openings.

The very novice bee lady.

What couldn’t be captured with gloves through the veil net was a picture of the cloud of bees circling the hives and me. This turned into a bee filled day and is quite an adventure. I had read that the hives could/should be different colors or decorated, so some of the remaining boxes are going to get painted and decorated before they are installed on the existing boxes. I need to get some acrylic paints and get creative.

Bee Help

Part of the excitement of this new project is the help that is offered by near and far friends. Friends I have met through this blog and friends that I have met through other friends. The local one, recently introduced to me by a spinner friend, with her husband has 14 hives and she was excited to see our set up. She came over yesterday and made a few suggestions. One was to lower the bottom strand of the electric fence as it was high enough for skunks to go under it without touching it. She said a skunk would scratch at the front of the hive at night, causing bees to come out to examine why and get picked off as they left the hive.

Last night after dinner, bee jacket and veil put donned, fence equipment box hauled down to the enclosure and the electric fence reworked with strands 6″ off the ground, 14″ off the ground, 30″ and about 42″. This should discourage most of our local predators. There are now 4 strands instead of 3, lower and closer together. If I can figure out how to use the volt meter, I will test it’s strength.

When the enclosure was reached, all 4 feeders were empty and the hives were very active. After fencing was finished, syrup was made and the feeders filled. The activity at the hives was encouraging and many of the bees were out foraging. Soon it will be warm enough and they will be settled in enough that the feeders can be removed.

She also suggested placing a brick or rock on top of each hive. That didn’t get done today but will tomorrow.

The distant friend from the blog has offered many suggestions on predator deterrent and winter feeding, providing a website link and all that has helped and will help as I move forward with this project.

I did learn that that the bee suit is very hot when the outdoor temperature is above 70f. I can just image what it will be like come August. But the bees are very docile. I have filled their feeders from behind the hives twice, reaching over to pull the feeder to fill and today mowed a 10 foot wide path in front of the electric fence both with no protection on and no bees bothered me.

None of this would have been possible without our youngest son asking to put hives on our property and teaching me how to work with them between his trips up here to check on them.

Our local teenage grandson came today for riding mower lessons after farmer’s market. It was nice having most of it done while I stayed on the porch or in the house. Since this was his first time, I did the “difficult” parts, the steeper embankments, orchard, around obstacles, and the section below the garden that used to be garden and is very rough. He did a great job and seemed to have fun zooming around the yard.