Tag Archives: beekeeping

Farm Update: Oh deer!

We have known for some time that there are unique challenges to trying to grow crops on our land before we had moved out there.  We thought we had most of the bases covered: plant a hearty crop that doesn’t require daily care, plant a crop that doesn’t have a small harvest window and plant a crop that will build up the soil for future crops.  We didn’t think about the fact that with all the readily available vegetation around our land that the local deer population would consider our 400 bean plants such a delicacy.  We were wrong.

For any city slickers who aren’t sure what is wrong with this picture; there should be leaves on those stems.  🙂  I wasn’t really sure what to do so I decided  just to weed and mow and hope that the plants survive.  If not, they will have served part of their dual purpose: to fix nitrogen in the soil for fall planting.

About a week ago we decided to plant a row of flowering perennials on each end of the garden rows to attract beneficial insects and create a more balanced eco-system.  Ironically, the deer decided to avoid those completely.

The flower varieties that we have added so far include Russian Sage (Wayne’s favorite), Agastache, Coneflower, and Anise Hyssop.

The second chore for the day included checking on the bees and putting in some new wired foundation.  When we put the frames in the hives we include a thin layer of wax (known as foundation) so the bees are able to get a head start on building out their comb.  The foundation we put in when setting up these hives had no wiring in it so when it got hot the wax softened and flopped over creating a less than ideal environment for our bees.  You can read more about that little oopsie at our other blog –  Julia’s Bees.

Here is a picture I took looking between the tops of two frames, into the hive.

You can see the layer of wax that is laying down across the bottom of the frames.  Normally this would be standing up in the frame as demonstrated in the picture below.

After getting the slight bee problem corrected, I took a break.  I normally like to walk around the land and take a picture or two to share but 3+ hours in the sun convinced me that it would be best if I just sat down and relaxed.  While doing this I snapped a shot of the open portion of our land.

I like this picture, because it includes the bees, the beans (sans leaves thanks to the deer), and the blueberry plants (a bit hard to notice but in the clearing on the far side of the picture).  My goal is to get the grass down to where it is manageable by the end of summer so we can do a sizeable fall planting of bushes, trees, and winter crops.  Wooohooo!

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Progress at Belle Terre Farm

Slowly but surely, this is our motto out at Belle Terre Farm. When working on a multi year project such as this you sometimes go a while without seeing any noticeable results. While this teaches patience, it is very fulfilling to occasionally see the fruits of your labor. My recent visit to Belle Terre Farm was just such an experience. As you may recall from earlier post the plan is to put in some garden rows and grow beans that will help to fix nitrogen in the soil so we can get on a regular crop rotation either, this fall or next spring. We got the first two rows of Black Valentine Black Beans planted a couple of weeks ago and were pleasantly surprised to see the progress they have made.

Here you can see Cassie, the ever faithful watch dog, keeping a close eye on the newly sprouted beans.  We got two more rows put in this week which leaves only three to go. We are getting about a hundred plants per row so needless to say, we will be eating a lot of black bean soup this winter =). Here is a pic of the four rows.

Earlier in the year we also planted a few blueberry bushes on the land. While we were told to remove the flowers so the plants could focus on root growth we just couldn’t resist leaving a few blooms on so we could enjoy our very own blueberries.

Our biggest concern for the blueberries at the moment is getting them some protection from the surrounding grasses. Blueberries don’t like competition and will struggle if we aren’t able to get them some breathing room. In the next couple of weeks we will get some weed cloth and mulch put down so they can have all of the moisture and nutrients for themselves.

The other big change at Belle Terre farm is the arrival of some permanent guests. We have put two bee hives near the creek, facing our crops and the morning sun.

The creek is just behind the hives and down the slope that is hidden by the unrelenting growth of plant life. The bees oriented themselves quickly to their new environs.

At the end of every work trip to the farm Wayne likes to spend a few minutes just walking around, getting acquainted with the land. A big part of this experience is thinking about how the farm will grow and develop in the coming years. Such walks often result in additional projects (exactly what we need with our current schedules). Since we won’t be able to build our home on the farm this year, Wayne is going to build a small shelter / studio this Fall. The idea is still taking shape but it will be something of a retreat on the lower part of the land that will be very organic and natural that will provide a place of rest and inspiration. Here is a picture of the location for the retreat.

The lighting is incredible as the few tall trees keep the area in relative shad during the hot part of the day. Some of the small saplings will probably come out and we will compliment the existing ferns with a collection of Hosta. We are looking forward to a nice week or two this Fall spent putting this all together.

That’s all for now. Will have further updates on Belle Terre Farm as time allows.

Be Well,

Wayne

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Around the Garden

I wandered around the garden a bit today thinking about what we’ve accomplished so far and what is to come.   It’s exciting to see things starting to bloom and peek through the soil, but a bit overwhelming to think of all the work ahead.  W has a detailed plan for the garden that he created using the software he wrote (www.smallfarmmanager.com), so each bed has a carefully designed plan for the season.

Right now, the garlic is up and the bee hive is buzzing.   You can see my second hive – the bright yellow top bar hive – on the left hand side.  It’s bee-less right now, but is expecting company soon.   The lambs ear appears to be completely unaware of the cold winter we just had and is thriving.

W built a cold frame out of an old door from his parent’s house and its currently full of a lovely peppery lettuce mix that’s ready to be harvested.

Around the yard flowers are coming up as well.  Our hellebores always bloom just before anything else.  I fell in love with them at a garden show a few years ago and returned with quite a few.  We have two colors currently blooming at the front of the house.

Our daylilly bed looks like its going to be spectacular – it’s amazing how quickly they spread.   We started with some plants from a friend who was cleaning out a bed and now they’ve practically taken over a bed here.

Walking around today, I noticed an ivy-like plant (I’m sure its a weed) climbing around the house with cute little purple flowers.

Last but not least, our bee balm is once again spreading like wild fire.  In the middle of this patch is a lovely plant whose name totally escapes me, but it always makes me smile when it first comes up because it appears to startlingly similar to asparagus.

Overall, it’s been a beautiful weekend.  I didn’t spend as much time outside as I wanted to (school work, laundry, and cooking took up a large portion of the weekend), but the time I did spent communing with the plants was wonderfully calming.

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It’s official – I am a beekeeper!

The bees have arrived!

David was kind enough (after some minor harassment on my part) to bring some bees over Thursday night.  He had them in a nuc box and carried it into the garden.  We opened it up by flashlight and moved over a few frames.  It’s a bit awkward because the hive I purchased (which I adore) has only shallow supers, no standard brood boxes so we had to finagle it a bit to get his frames to fit in my hive.  The bees were wonderfully calm while we worked and I left them with only a small entrance for the morning so no one hurried out and got lost.

This morning I mixed some sugar water in canning jars and went out to feed them.  I quickly realized that I needed to remove the entrance reducer and, it being early in the morning, I didn’t feel good about doing it unsuited.  So, I wandered back inside, suited up, and went back out.  It took me about fifteen minutes to get dressed and two minutes to remove the entrance reducer and add the feed, but I walked about from some slightly frazzled bees without a sting.

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I’ve pledged to wait the suggested 9 days before opening the hive up to see if they are settling in and drawing out any of the new foundation, but I’m having trouble containing my excitement.

Perfect timing too – my North Carolina State Association of Beekeepers membership was in the mail box on Friday.  🙂

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Bees galore

In March, W & I (and about 1300 other people) had the privilege of attending the Organic Grower’s School.  We always learn quite a bit and made the decision this year to split up for individual classes.  W opted for Building an Outdoor Clay Oven and I took Beginning Beekeeping.  Neither of us were disappointed with our choice.  W built an oven start to finish and came out of the process feeling confident he could recreate it himself (and quite dirty).  I came out of the class with a grand desire for a hive of my very own.  The level-headed suggestion from the class was that each of us should spend some quality time with a beekeeper before jumping in and starting our own hives.

So since class I have been dutifully bugging David and Tina to allow me to come over whenever they happen to open their hives and they have been kind enough to humor me.  I’ve been twice now – once when David was just checking on the hives and (significantly more exciting I must say) today when he was in the middle of catching a swarm.  Someone’s wayward bees (a wild hive maybe?) had planted themselves in the top of a quite tall hollow tree.  David managed to get himself up there and cut down the top, lowering it gently to the ground.  He then relocated the bees in the top of the tree as well as those in a bucket he collected prior to cutting into the tree.  The whole process was enthralling.  W took a couple pics from a safe distance and I shot a few of the tree and bees.  You can click on those below to see larger images.

Needless to say, I returned home and promptly ordered my very own hive.  🙂

Bees - Suiting UpBees - Cutting down treeBees - lowering topBees - Top of TreeBees - moving to hiveBees - Frame2 Bees - Frame

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