Sunday, April 20, 2008

All Work and No Play...

We've been busy, busy, busy around here, and we've gotten so much done.

Over the past week we've been building the beehives so we can have them all set up by the time our nucs arrive in mid-May. "Nuc" is short for nucleus, and it's one way to order bees. It's called a nucleus because it is basically a small, working hive that will create the nucleus of the colony. Nucs are more expensive than packaged bees because they're already established mini-hives—the queen has already been accepted and begun laying eggs, giving a jump start to the colony. I have 2 coming.

I ordered my hives from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm in N.C. and I opted to go with the standard deep 10 frame hive, though I'd seriously considering going with a medium hive because of the weight involved. A hive body full of brood and honey can weigh as much as 100 lbs., so I was hesitant to go with something I might not be able to handle by myself. (Yes, this was a rare moment of trying to spare Jim from being dragged into yet another one of my projects, but as you can see, that was merely a fleeting thought.) Our hives are mostly finished, and I'm hoping to stain them today with a water-based stain. Once finished, I'll set them up out in our hedgerow between the market garden and the berry garden.

Speaking of which, this past week the kids and I transplanted around 350 strawberry plants from the kitchen garden out to the berry garden along with about 50 raspberries. Last year I transplanted around 100 raspberries, most of which got crushed in the drought since we don't have irrigation up there. 15 or so survived, and this year I plan to use woven polymulch to help retain moisture and reduce weed pressure, hopefully given these plants a fighting chance.

The kids are amazing workers, especially Julia, who's happy to spend hours out working with me or Jim. I'm consistently amazed that they're so eager to help as often as they are—they truly enjoy being outside and working because it's their choice. They can work as much or as little as they want, and sometimes they do as much playing as working, but they just like being out with us. When they're really working on the farm, they do get paid, and they all earned quite a bit of money with the transplanting. We never had an allowance for inside work, so it was a bit weird for me to consider how we could integrate them into the farm finances, but I wanted for them to have a chance to earn money when they wanted to. So far, the system has worked out beautifully because it still has free-choice at its foundation, along with the premise that the work is, ultimately, the parent's responsibility, so there's no guilt or pressure—just opportunity.

I also managed to get 50 lbs. of red nordland seed potatoes cut up for planting. We've been letting them chit, or eye out, in the garage for the past week, and the nordlands were ready to go in. The banana fingerlings are just about ready as well, but our yukon golds still need more time. This will work out well because it will allow us to get an early crop and a later crop, making for better storage. I can't wait to have our own potatoes again, especially after last year's poor performance with the drought. I will never be without potatoes again if there's anything to be done about it! There is just no comparison—as with so many things—between home grown potatoes and store bought.

Yesterday, I got 50 trees planted, and Jim and Jules got all those seed potatoes in the ground, which I'm sure he'll post about soon. I planted 25 tulip poplars, a native Eastern poplar that is fast growing and super for wildlife and bees. I planted two groves of 11 poplars on the western border of our pastures to provide afternoon shade for our animals. The remaining 3 I planted in front of where I plan to locate the bee hives to eventually provide some afternoon shade for them as well. Our land has very little shade and nearly all of it is along the eastern boundary, meaning morning shade, leaving the animals exposed to the harshest rays of the day. I'm hoping to rectify that a bit with these poplars.

I also planted 25 hybrid willows down in a low, seasonally boggy spot of our barnyard. My plan is to use this both for shade and coppicing for use around the farm and firewood. Willow is great for everything from baskets to trellis to fencing to furniture, not to mention the fact that it's also fast growing and an excellent pollen source for bees. Next spring I may add some black locust to the hedgerow as well, though it can be poisonous to livestock, so I'll need to think carefully about placement. We have some wild cherry out there now, which is also poisonous, so I'll probably try to work it into those areas. At any rate, I'm just babbling now, so I'll sign off and just enjoy all the rain we're getting that's watering in all our hard work.


karl said...

wow you have been busy.

Madeline said...

My Goodness! whew. I'm exhausted reading all that. I love the pictures with the kids. It is so cool when they work with us and that they can earn money this way. I agree.

I wish that you were closer. : (

Ren said...

I was reading at this website tonight and thought you might enjoy:

He talks about the practice of switching hive bodies around too.:)

Christy said...

What a lot of work you've done! It is all so exciting. I can't wait to see all the great stuff you get from all your plantings. And I really can't wait to do my own plantings like this. I'm going to get the smaller hives when I get mine. Mark will NOT help with the bees!

Jenny said...

You're making up for the all play and no work that we did a couple weeks ago. We got most of our potatoes in too but we're not getting a drop of rain. It's our turn for the drought I think!

Danielle said...

Madeline, I wish you guys were closer, too—especially when you post about getting together with Mindy! Christy will soon be in your neck o' the woods, too. *pout*

Ren, that's a great site, thanks! Are you on the organic beekeeping list? (Cuz I need another friggin' list! lol)

Jenny, yeah, I'm getting caught up, but now it's gray and rainy again, and it's hard to get motivated. I really couldn't live in the Pacific Northwest! Blog woman!

sugarcreekfarm said...

Wow, you have been busy! I'm feeling quite lazy now, after reading all of that ;)

Maggie said...

I think it's interesting that you say homegrown potatoes taste much better than store bought. I'd never considered it before...isn't that stupid of me? *g*

Danielle said...

No, Maggie, not stupid at all. Typical.

Same was true of us until we grew our own, and not just potatoes but pretty much everything. Just shows how far removed we are from our food sources as a society.