2017, May

Farm update – 5/7/2017

For this week’s Whole Farm basket, choose two large items and two small items from the lists below.

  • Large items: salad medley lettuce, romaine head lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, carrots (1.5 lb), and eggs
  • Small items: carrots (0.75 lb), small or medium onions, radishes, and large bunch of parsley

We’ve done two more rounds of bee inspections/interventions since the last update here, and we finally do have a bit of good news, just none yet from the two hives that are queenless. About 10 days ago we grabbed a frame with eggs on it from one of our newly establishing hives and brought it up to the orchard hive – the one that swarmed earlier in the year. We hoped they would be able to raise a queen from those eggs, but the inspection today revealed no queen cells on that frame. There were some uncapped larvae, interestingly enough, which is usually proof that a queen is in residence laying eggs. However, in the absence of a queen, worker bees can begin to lay eggs, but since they are not fertilized eggs, they can only develop into boy bees, which, as you might know, are not particularly useful to a bee colony, unless there’s a young queen around looking for a mate. I suspect that the brood I saw today is that type of brood. I’m not fully ready to give up on that hive yet, though the chance for losing it still seems awfully high. Our other queenless hive, established from the swarm we captured, might be in a slightly better situation, though it’s too early to know for certain. It takes 16 days for bees to raise a queen, and up to another 5 days for her to go out on and return from her mating flight and start laying eggs, so we’ll have a better idea in about two weeks whether or not they will come out of their queenlessness with a queen that can get them going again.

Now for the good news!! We were able to give a second honey super to our woods bees today, which means the first super is close to full of honey and could potentially be harvested soon. Yay! We don’t like to take honey from the hive as soon as it is ready, because if conditions aren’t right and they don’t make a drop more honey this year, then they will need a full super of honey as their own food resource. However, once they’ve made good progress toward filling up the super they received today, then we will feel better about taking the full one for our own purposes. Under perfect conditions, this could happen in about a month. Under imperfect conditions…well, given everything that’s gone wrong on the beekeeping front this year, let’s not consider that right now!

Last week I made a point to watch an independent film that aired on PBS called SEED: The Untold Story. It was an interesting documentary about seed savers/explorers, seed banks, and the great loss of crop diversity over the past 100 years. The film starts by listing the number of vegetable seed varieties that were available in the early 1900s compared to what’s available today. For most types of vegetables, we’ve lost 80-90% of the varieties that used to exist. It got me thinking more about my own love of seeds, especially as I start planning for what I’ll need to buy for our fall planting, now only a couple of months off. I’ve mentioned before that I love perusing seed catalogs because each seed represents hope and opportunity for something you might one day grow. But I also love seed catalogs because each variety tells a story. It was created by someone to serve a specific purpose. For example, I was hooked by the story of a tomato variety called Mortgage Lifter. As lore has it, this variety was developed by a radiator mechanic who paid off his mortgage in 6 years by selling his 2-4 pound tomatoes for $1 apiece (a whopping sum in the 1940s!). In choosing varieties that we hope will do well in southwest Georgia, those seeds then become part of our story here at the farm. Then, finally, they become part of your story, too, as you prepare a meal with food that’s fresh from the farm. Amazing that such a thread of connectedness can fit into something as small as a seed. No wonder I’m so captivated!

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