Friday, April 26, 2013

Sounds like I missed a doozy

Of a meeting last night.

I'm concerned about where this is going, and obviously I don't agree with the folks who suggest that it's opening a floodgate to animal abuse.

Anyone dealt with this in your city/town?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beans back; branch still there

Michelle's post about her perennial beans prompted me to take a closer look at the weird sprouts popping up in last year's pole bean area.

Ignore the oxalis; the real stars are those beans. I can't say enough about how much I love these beans, so even a few vines of resprouts are cause for celebration. Plus, I don't have to decide what to put in that spot. I'm struggling enough with a bad case of the Garden Flakes.

And even though the sprouts might pass them, the newly seeded bed is going like a house afire, mostly.

They're climbing the twine and the bamboo, and it's a case of "If you can't be/climb on the one you love, then. . .

Love the one you're with!

And tree news. The neighbor's acacia still hasn't fallen, but the branch is going to die and eventually fall. I guess I have to decide if hiring someone to do it myself is worth it. I don't have a relationship with that neighbor.

The other tree news is that the Katy apricot is dealing with its yearly aphid infestation. Fortunately, I suppose, most of it clusters on the new growth, much of which I spend the summer hacking back so I can walk by the tree. I carefully remove the ladybugs, and if I find evidence of ladybug love, it's easy to relocate:

Those babies are going to feast when they hatch.

My town is hosting a meeting on newly proposed animal/farming ordinances. Looks like more regulation is in the works. I may or may not get to go to the meeting, but tonight I need to write my responses to the proposal. If you want to see how my town compares to others nearby, here's a way to check it out.

Monday, April 22, 2013

First one this year

Got a call from my friendly local police department about a swarm, a big one, they said. I remained skeptical because the first call was for a swarm of wasps -- not bees, did I do them? No, I said, call a pest company.

Ring, ring. . . they are bees, it turns out. One flew into the caller's house. Sigh. I thought to myself, well, of course. Wasps don't swarm.

Drove out there after dinner, and hooray! Another beekeeper was already there. I offed to provide backup, and carried things, etc. The swarm was so high in a tree I wouldn't have been able to get it. He had the patented "five gallon bucket duct taped to an extension pole" toolkit.

The swarm was huge. Truly impressive. He did the bucket under, thwump, approach, and half the swarm fell into the bucket, half on the ground. So many many bees. Once things settled down, I left him to continue coaxing the grounded bees into the box.

The children had been patiently waiting near the car to go get some post-Frisbee ice cream, so I hopped in, started the car and wham! Got stung on the chin.

It seemed so. . . unfair.

No pictures, although it's impressively Dudley Do-Right in size.

I sure hope my buddy got all the bees. And no stings.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Almost Earth Day

April 20th -- first ripe strawberry of the year.

Monday, April 15, 2013

 When Sarafina was very little, like babe-in-arms little, she didn't like wind. If it was gusty, she'd bury her face in my shoulder and say, "Windy! Windy, mama, windy!" We tried to skip days like that. She gets it honestly. I'm not a fan of gusty wind, although I like that the dogs like it so much. Must be fun to have your nose stuffed absolutely full of All The Smells. Like a moveable feast. It's also hard to throw a frisbee in windy conditions. I heard a coach today saying, "Make sure you release it low in the wind! No higher than three feet! The wind is absolutely unrelenting!" as the discs sailed randomly around.

The garden appears to be on my side of the equation. It's just drying -- seedlings looking sad, asparagus already leaning (guess who did NOT make a strong support structure in the off season?), stuff flying around. The chickens even sound kind of indignant. Maybe their feathers are literally being ruffled?

And that's not all. I went outside to shear the kale bed which is going to seed, and saw this:

Can't tell what's happening? Look at the big branch:

I'm no fan of this tree. Shades the back bed and they're just junky trees. I'm kind of hoping that this will be a wakeup call for the owners. Remember they're the ones whose fence fell down a few months ago. Now this tree is threatening that same fence. Hopefully they won't want to see that money down the drain, and not only will cut off this branch, but will take down the whole behemoth.

I left a note suggesting that their fence is in danger. We'll see if they respond. Even if they don't take down the whole tree, though, there's going to be a little more light in my garden soon.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The long and the short of it

It has been a crazy-busy week, with no end in sight. The pole beans are growing and stretching. I'm having to water already, as it's been hot and windy here. Sucks the moisture right out of everything. Despite some of the baby beans being nibbled by something slug or caterpillar like, they are all looking pretty good. I probably ought to reseed some of the bush beans, as there are gaps. Gaps are pointless and need filling.

Ultimate Frisbee continues apace. I've had the great good fortune to find a twice weekly pickup game for adults that's made me very very happy. I'm not a great player, but it's so much fun to play that it makes running feel like child's play. I'm looking for more playing opportunities and playing catch with anyone who will play with me. 

One of my favorite catch partners is my long-haired nephew. Denise's kid is a good Ultimate player, but more than his skill level, his interest in and commitment to the game is pretty intense. He's always had interests like this, as I recall, from trains to cars to computer games. . . fortunately, this is one interest that I share. We can talk together as we throw in ways we haven't been able to before.

Ellie continues to develop as a player. She made great contributions to the middle school team, and I believe will continue to be a force on the field. Plus, it's just fun to watch her play.

Some pruning was in order outside of the garden, also. I'm enjoying my cropped locks.

The last time I had hair this short, Eric's was long enough to put into a ponytail.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Swarmy weather

I'm not even going to bother with pictures.

Another swarm, not sure which hive it came from, but I newspaper combined it with the latest one (actually, as I was doing it, I saw drones cartwheeling out of the hive on the stand, so that was probably it).

And, I'm done. I have no more deeps, I'm needing to order some more frames for the mediums, and I feel overwhelmed already. Dratted bees. I keep assuming it's something I'm doing, but these swings between cold, rainy weather and sunny days can't be helping.

I'm going to call another keeper for the next swarm. Probably lessen my honey crop, but that's the way it goes.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Adding after division

I wonder why it is that the bees swarm when I'm not looking? I was off getting young missy's cast off -- everything healed nicely, thank you! -- and got home to hear, "Mama, the bees are in the tree again."

Yep, it's the Magnetic Apricot Tree:

Since I'd already set up a fourth hive, for just this eventuality, I grabbed the bucket, but then thought, maybe if I add more room to the other hives, this can be the last swarm of the season. Please. . .

So a quick dump, and voila! Four hives:

It took them some time to agree that they wanted to be in here -- at least for about 20% of them. Despite the brave signaling of one bee, they clustered at the top of the bucket instead of marching up into the hive:

I just kept dumping, and in fact have "thwumped" another couple of softball-shaped clumps into the bucket and into the hive over the course of the afternoon. The tree is probably smelling pretty attractive now -- so either scouts from this swarm or from some other group keep gathering.

The other hives looked okay. I didn't do full inspections -- no smoke, just suit -- but each one looked as though it could support at least a little more room.

Some spare comb on the queen excluder, but this hive just needed another honey super, since it had two purple brood boxes. This is the one I had combined last time. They're looking okay now.

The next hive needed more room both top and bottom. They're from the last swarm in the apricot tree, so it was nice to see that they're busy and active.

Somewhat too active. Early in the season is prime comb-building time, but they'd drawn this drone-sized comb above the foundation, not attached to it. It couldn't stay, although it's beautiful. 

Reminds me that I must render wax, clean out my cappings box, and harvest some honey. I need a warm room, because I think some of the frames must be crystallized by now. I may end up having to scrape and drain. But I must get on top of this - honey season does not wait for anyone. Plus, I need to come up with a plan in case the hives just keep swarming. I don't want to lose any more bees at this point. Thoughts?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Extra Eggs?

Our hens are gracing us with 5-8 eggs each day. Even with an egg-happy household, we sometimes have extras. I've also introduced the "everyone has a night to cook" approach. What this means in practical terms is that I have to think up only a couple of meals a week, and sous chef two to three. Three family members are pretty much completely independent, including Eric, who has revealed a heretofore unknown facility with a saute pan.

Tonight is my son's night, and he thought making pasta would be fun. Bonus? it uses LOTS of eggs. This double batch used up six.

Homemade pasta is also really easy. To 2 cups of flour (this is 1/2 white whole wheat) and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, add 2-3 eggs. I used 3 because our eggs are smaller than "large" supermarket eggs. Use a fork to gather in the flour.

Once the dough is mixed, I kneaded it until it was acceptably smooth -- not perfect, and much harder than bread dough. Then it went into a plastic bag for about 15 minutes. This apparently allows the dough to relax and become a much nicer thing to work with.

We have a standard Atlast pasta machine. Half of the dough is put through the largest opening four or five times, folded in half each time. This finishes the kneading and sets the dough up to behave itself.

Each pass after the final kneading one, we sprinkled the dough with flour and reduced the opening size by one step, until we were at the next to last one.

The dough gets pressed so much that we usually have to cut each half-batch into a quarter in order to handle the length.

Once the pasta is flat enough, you can roll it up and hand cut noodles. The decorative branch above the table was a temporary drying rack.

Or you can use the noodle cutter that comes with the pasta machine. Tor really likes cranking dough. I foresee much more handmade pasta in our future!

He also likes to play with the noodles

I tried to get him to just finish them by tossing them in the flour so they could be stacked up until dinner, but everything is a game when you're cranking a machine!

We'll toss them with asparagus and butter and parmesan tonight. My youngest is already mentioning that she'd like to make ravioli.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Beans and other things

"What shall I learn of beans or beans of me? I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late I have an eye to them; and this is my day's work."
from Walden

And the beans are, indeed, up. I don't hoe them, however. This pale beauty is only one of the rows of large Italian pole beans that constitute my main bean interest.  Although I believe I sound like I've become slightly unhinged, there are few tastes that I find as thoroughly satisfying as this bean. Hot, cold, dressed and plain, I love these beans. While I've done everything I know to safeguard them, with bird protection and iron-based snail poison, I'm not confident enough to have planted them all. I kept back some of my stock to fill in any nibbled beyond survival.

The yellow wax bush beans are also emerging, but I didn't get any good pictures of them. Imagine a triple row of them in front of the six sweet peppers I broke down and bought and put in early, just because I was feeling optimistic. (Also because I started no plants of my own this year.)

Everywhere I look, things are stretching out to the lengthening days. We've had what I consider "farmers' rain," that is steady rain at night, followed by clearing days that resolve into very warm afternoons. The garden approves.

Every day for the past four days, the police have called me. Not because of any plant-based violations, but because the bees are swarming and I'm a point person for picking them up. So far, I've gotten another beekeeper to get each one, but I went and set up a new hive just in case they call again. I need to make an equipment order so that I can manage four hives. I wonder if any of the kids at the local high school would like to work on hives with me? I should ask. . .

The Katy apricots are largeish, but few. The tree is showing some alarming signs -- whole twigs wilting with no apparent reason. I hear that apricots are short-lived trees here, susceptible to many diseases.

The transplanted persimmon is showing good health. Maybe next year it will bear?

One of the two Early Girls I bought with the peppers.  The other one is going to the front yard bed, along with a "help yourself!" sign. I'm looking forward to painting that.

Both front yard Blenheims are loaded with baby 'cots. I have high hopes. Apricot everything!

Although the photo is blurry, it's time to break out the spray oil for the Anna apple and get the wooly aphids under control. It's been a very successful method, as far as I can tell, no matter how unorthodox.

Everywhere I go in the garden, I hear hurry, hurry. . . it's time to get things done. Maybe I will, and maybe I won't. It's good to know that some things are managing without me very well.