7.22.2014 Tuesday Tidbits

This post about a farm on a Tuesday begins with Sunday.  I took Sunday off because during morning rounds, I got stung by a carpenter bee while watering in the hoop house. It didn’t hurt or swell or itch or last as long as much as a honey bee sting, but I took a Benadryl anyway because I didn’t know how I would react to carpenter bee venom. Taking a Benadry when I’m tired to begin with and well, I ended up sleeping the day away, missing a cool, cloudy day that would have been perfect for planting lettuce or other outside chores.  Incidentally, bumblebees and carpenter bees don’t die when they sting you. Unlike honey bees, their stingers are not barbed and retract easily from human skin, so one bumble or carpenter can hit you more than once and still live to tell the tale. We’ve got lots of bumbles and tons of carpenter bees this year, but normally they are not at all aggressive.  They just don’t appreciate being watered.

Monday, I had to catch up with the watering, the squash, the cucumbers and the blackberries. Then deliveries and band practice.  Typical.

So today, I woke really intending to do something that would eventually generate income, i.e., plant something in my half-empty garden. But as I was sipping my morning cup, the ginger plants demanded my attention. They were in dire need of potting up.

Now, way back in February, I bought ginger from the grocery store, broke the root into thumb-sized pieces, each with “eyes” and set them on the counter. For weeks. Waiting for some sign of life. Finally, the “nodes”, “eyes”, whatever you want to call them, began to bulge with life. So I potted them up in half gallon pots, kept them moist, and waited. For weeks. Waiting for some sign of life. But then, finally, little green sprouts popped up through the soil.

They’ve been living on our north-facing, shady front porch all summer. And they are fairly happy there. But in recent days, I could see the root nobs starting to push through the soil. Now, when grown in the ground, you treat ginger like potatoes, and hill them up as the plants grow and after about 9 months, you end up with a root ball that is the size of a basketball, or larger.

So today, I transferred my six ginger plants into 5 gallon Homer buckets to give them room to develop those lovely roots. Each bucket is only about half full of soil at this point. I’ll add more as necessary.

But six Homer buckets would have really crowded the porch which is already crowded with coolers and lettuce flats, a refrigerator and plenty of places to sit in the shade while waiting for the sweat to dry.

So I cleaned out the front flower bed, laid down a solid layer of cardboard and topped that with a couple of inches of compost. Now my ginger has a decent place to live, still in the shade. At least until it gets frosty out.

After the ginger and a trip to town to go to the bank and get more sugar for the bees, I went down to water the chickens and noticed three of my beehives were in an absolute frenzy. I was pretty sure they weren’t swarming. I’d checked all four hives a couple of days earlier, frame by frame, and other than a near total lack of honey or nectar in my 3 underachieving hives, all was well. Queens all laying well, pollen stores sufficient with more pollen coming in, no sign of wax moths and small hive beetles present, but only just a few. Most importantly, no swarm cells.

I had put bucket feeders on the underachievers. A robbing frenzy? Possible, but I use hive top bucket feeders to discourage that sort of behavior. Only 3 of the hives were boiling over and agitated. The fourth, 30 feet away, was July normal – all the bees bearding on the side of the hive telling tall tales of mythical times when everything was green, the flowers were filled with nectar, and you didn’t have to push aside bumble bees to get a decent seat at the bar.

By the time I got my veil and gloves, (still haven’t fixed my suit) and got back to the hives, the whole episode was over. Situation normal. I poked around the entrances, looking for the dead bees you always find when there’s a robbing frenzy. The bees were quite calm and kept their barbs to themselves. Two dead bees, not dozens like I expected.

I think they were just war gaming. Weird.

Ginger and bees. I simply wasn’t destined to tend the garden today. Instead, I spent the afternoon pruning fire blight out of the pear trees and the evening setting up the fodder system for the chickens – who have been confined to the coop for a couple of months now, and are having to rely on garden scraps for green things to eat. We now have a fox problem. I’ve lost more hens and Stupid and Mannerless.

I have been seeing the fox for about a week now. He’s big and red and he hangs out in the big field with the horses and comes out every morning between six and six-thirty. We’ve taken a couple of shots at him, but he’s a hard target to hit.


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