1.24.2013 Visions of sugar plums . . .

January.  Cold.  Ground frozen for the first time in two years. Catalogs and calendars.  Plans.   My arch nemesis, the Bermuda grass, is dormant.  Bigger plans.  Endless possibilities.  Lima beans to feed the entire world!  Mwaaahaahaa!  (Meanwhile the Bermuda grass is also plotting to take over the world, double Mwaaahaahaa!)

It’s in the upper 20’s right now and there’s a wicked northwesterly blowing, the sort of wind that rips moisture out of everything and teleports it somewhere else.  (I have enough static electricity in my hair to power the whole house.)  Ophelia has her butt to the wind and the chickens are hunkered down, either in the coop or in the lee of the coop in the run where they can soak up the sun.  It is not a day for piddling outside.  The dog and the cat said so.  And it’s been like this for a couple of days now.

Inside work.  Bee stuff.  I inventoried all my bee equipment and built all the frames I had on hand.  I’m painting the hive components I bought this past spring when I was having delusions of grandeur, thinking my bees would be fruitful and multiply.  That was before the drought really got going in a big way.

Pink.  I did the blue one yesterday.  I have enough equipment to run six full hives through a honey flow.  Six is one more than I'd like to keep full time.  I plan to use the equipment from the sixth hive to nurse along splits, swarms, nucs, and um, my sugar plums.

Pink. I did the blue one yesterday. I have enough equipment to run six full hives through a honey flow. Six is one more than I’d like to keep full time. I plan to use the equipment from the sixth hive to nurse along splits, swarms, nucs, and um, my sugar plums.  The bee book I am reading now says painting hives is a waste of time as the paint doesn’t really add that much longevity to woodenware.  The bees can find their way home without the color differences.  I paint my hives to help me remember what I saw in each hive.  And they all look pretty lined up in a row, sort of like apartment buildings on the Riviera.

New Year’s resolutions.  Annual budget.  Business plan.  Boundless optimism.  Call it what you want.  We all suffer from it to one degree or another.  Farmers and gardeners get positively rabid with it in January when the earth is cold and still, the ravages of drought, heat, hail, wind, insect, rodent and predator are sublimated by glossy photos and idyllic descriptions in catalogs and conferences.

I prefer delusions of grandeur or visions of sugar plums.  My fantasy du jour is taking successful splits off three of my hives, catching a couple of swarms, selling 3 to 5 nucs, harvesting 60 pounds of honey per hive and selling it all at retail pricing.  Yeah, I know, I should probably get some medication.  I ordered 100 more frames instead.

I am going foundation-less this year.  That will save me the time and expense of putting foundation in 100 new frames.  It will let the bees make comb the size they want – usually a smaller cell size than what comes on standard foundation sheets.  That in turn should give me smaller, healthier, more pest resistant bees.  Yeah.  That’s the theory, anyway, but it feels, I don’t know, almost sacrilegious.  I mean, nearly all the bee book writers use foundation.  It’s what they teach you in beekeeping class.  I feel like such a rebel.

Over in the hydroponics lab, the tomatoes are slowly setting up their first true leaves as are two of the mystery plants in the greens tub.  (They are mystery greens because, while I was gone, someone upset my seedling tray and the blocks got mixed up and out of place.  Won’t know what’s what until the plants grow up a bit more.)

In the orange buckets, if you squint really hard, you can just see my wee little tomato plants.  In the foreground, if you use a high powered microscope, you can see the lettuce sprouts.

In the orange buckets, if you squint really hard, you can just see my wee little tomato plants. In the foreground, if you use a high powered microscope, you can see the lettuce sprouts.

I started more seeds on Tuesday; some for the greens tub to make up for the stuff that didn’t germinate,  plus some Australian Brown onions and some Bleu of Solaise Leeks.  The lettuce seeds went into rock wool blocks and the onions and leeks went into paper towels moistened with the same slightly acidic nutrient solution I used for the hydroponic starts.  Fresh seed made a world of difference on the greens.  In 24 hours, I had sprouts.  After 48 hours, I put those sprouts in the sunshine and they are greening up in a hurry.  About a third of the onions sprouted by the 48 hour mark.  I teased those out and put them in potting soil.  The leek seeds are still thinking.

The Australian Brown onion seeds.  I took all the sprouted ones of the paper towel before the roots embedded themselves.  The sprouts are snuggled into a butter tub filled with potting soil.  Will the rest of the seeds germinate?  I wonder.  Onions are difficult for me, for some reason.  Always have been.

The Australian Brown onion seeds. I took all the sprouted ones off the paper towel before the roots embedded themselves. The sprouts are snuggled into a butter tub filled with potting soil. Will the rest of the seeds germinate? I wonder. Onions are difficult for me for some reason. Always have been.

This is the first year I’ve tried sprouting onions and leeks indoors.  The onion seeds don’t really smell like onions, but the second I put moisture to leek seeds this wall of leekiness jumped out and it’s there every time I check the sprouting progress.  At least this batch of leek seeds hasn’t gone moldy yet.

All of this optimism is my way of avoiding the book work that really needs to get done in the next couple of weeks.  Maybe if we really do get a decent snowfall tomorrow, I’ll find motivation for that, but the forecast for snow keeps deteriorating.  Probably won’t see a single flake, but be assured – I’m awash in sugar plums!


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1.24.2013 Visions of sugar plums . . . — 2 Comments

    • Nucs = nucleus hives. Basically, from an existing healthy hive, you take a frame of newly lain eggs, along with some older eggs (capped brood) and put it in a separate hive box, along with some bees, and frames of pollen and honey. The bees make a new queen from the new eggs. Queen goes out on her mating flight, then comes back and gets right to work. At that point, after about three – five weeks, you have a viable colony. You can sell it, use the queen in another hive, or raise it up to become a fully functioning honey producing hive.

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