Fall is in the air!! If you were outside, in southwest Georgia, this weekend, then you probably think I’ve lost my mind. Because it was hot outside, no doubt. Mornings are starting to feel a little better, if you’re in a generous mood. But what I’m talking about is the spirit of fall. Because so much of this weekend’s work was getting the farm ready for fall.
Due to all this fall preparation, we will be taking a “break” during the month of September, at least in terms of vegetable sales. We’re at a point where the summer veggies are winding down, and the fall veggies are just being planted, and so are several weeks or longer away from being harvestable. We hope to start ramping up again in October, with arugula being among the first crops ready for harvesting. Arugula, squash, two types of zucchini, and broccoli were the earliest seeds planted for fall, with many more to follow in the next month. And while we don’t have a lot of veggies available currently, we do have…t-shirts! Small, medium, large, and extra-large, with the farm logo displayed proudly on the front of a bright green shirt.
One major task this weekend was to start tilling the portions of the field that will be planted for fall. A gas-powered tiller made the job slightly easier than manually breaking ground, but this labor-intensive task would be much more easily accomplished by one piece of equipment we don’t have, yet: a tiller attachment for the tractor.
Another major task this weekend was preparing the bees for fall honey collections. Our “woods bees” have finally been weaned from their daily sugar-water feeding, almost 14 weeks after we installed them in the woods. For any establishing bee colony, we take away their sugar water once they are close to filling up both a deep and a medium brood box. The deep box is, presumably, though it’s been a while since we’ve looked inside it, mostly taken up by brood (bee larvae), pollen, and some honey. The medium brood box can contain brood as well, but in this case looks like it’s mostly honey derived from their sugar-water feeder. Today’s inspection revealed that the medium box was about 90% full. Taking away the sugar water also means that we can add a honey super to the hive. For our woods bees, the honey they store in this super will be what they feed on throughout the winter. Even though we’re not planning on bottling it for human consumption, we nonetheless put a metal grate between the top brood box and the newly added honey super. The slats in the grate are wide enough for worker bees to pass through, but keep the queen bee from entering into honey super, ensuring no larvae would be present in honey collected from the super and destined for us to eat. Our older “orchard bees” were also given an additional super today. They have already made their winter honey, so any additional honey they store in this new super between now and the first frost in November is for us to harvest.
The chickens are settling into their fall rhythm as well. Several of our older chickens are already molting, something chickens do at least once a year. During the fall molt, brought upon by the shortening days, chickens lose their feathers and regrow new ones that will keep them warm through winter. Chickens generally stop laying eggs while they are molting (a process that can take up to two months) due to the high energy demand of regrowing feathers, which are primarily made of up protein. Thankfully, the chickens that we bought as chicks this year are beginning to pick up the egg production slack. The past few days, we have collected nearly as many eggs from our 10 young hens as we have from our 11 older hens, despite the fact that only 5 of the young hens are confirmed to be laying.