2017, June

Farm update – 6/25/2017

You might think that our long summer growing season would result in an unchanging harvest made up of the same veggies week after week. To some extent that may be true, as only the hardiest crops can endure what southwest Georgia throws at them in July. And August. And September. And yet, at least for now, the ebb and flow of vegetable production remains constant. We are starting to see the end of the yellow squash, zucchini, and cucumbers, and some of the tomatoes, but at the same time we’re also seeing an increase in our eggplant production, are picking the first of the okra (a handful of pods a day for now, hopefully soon in greater abundance!), are starting to see our colorful bell peppers turning their vibrant hues, and are eagerly anticipating the maturity of the butternut squash, butter beans, and edamame. Even the peanuts are showing their continued development with a recent explosion of flowers. And so it is that our currently available list is not a static entity, but changes almost daily to match our ever-changing harvests.

IMG_20170625_232251Signs of the changing times: an okra flower, an orange bell pepper, a butternut squash flower being pollinated, and the first of the peanut flowers.

One exciting new addition to the lineup is elephant garlic. We have been patiently waiting to harvest this for 18 months! We planted our very first elephant garlic bulbs experimentally in and amongst our landscaping in the fall of 2015, and didn’t harvest them at all in 2016 to allow the bulbs to multiply. We’ve been watching the leaves yellow and die back over the last few weeks, and felt like they were finally ready to be dug today. As we were digging, I started noticing small “bulbils” growing side-by-side with the larger edible bulbs. I immediately potted some of them up with the hope that they will grow and become starter stock for a new, more permanent location for future elephant garlic production.

IMG_20170625_232811 Elephant garlic cloves and a small “bulbil” being potted up.

Today also saw us back in the beehives. I jokingly said last time that I wanted to sit down and have a heart-to-heart conversation with our “woods bees” to figure out why they’re not producing honey like we think they ought to be. In the two weeks since then, it’s bothered me that I hadn’t done a full hive inspection at that time. What if they were trying to tell me that something was wrong, but I missed that part of the story by not going into the brood boxes, not listening to everything there was to hear (or see). I admit that part of the reason I didn’t do a full hive inspection last time is that hive scares me. Just a little! They’re a little less welcoming and tolerant than our other hives have been, so that I try to get in and out with as little disruption to their bee lives as possible. Today, however, the bees and I both had to put up with each other from the top to the bottom of the hive. And they really were quite gracious about it, so maybe it’s time to ratchet down my fear of that hive. All my worrying aside, I could find nothing wrong with them. Although I didn’t see the queen, I saw evidence of her existence by the presence of young larvae. None of the pests that take advantage of weak hives were present. So, funny enough, though I’m grateful that there isn’t anything clearly wrong with the woods bees, I still have no idea why they won’t make us honey!

We were met with some great news during the inspection of the hive that was queenless on the last visit. A new queen has taken over and is busily laying eggs to increase the hive’s population. I have never been so happy to see baby insects in all my life. I was hoping to find this queen to thank her and wish her well, but she remained elusive. There was capped and uncapped brood on several frames, so while I didn’t see any larvae during the last inspection, the new queen must have starting laying pretty soon after the last visit. Our remaining hive, this year’s reliable colony, was rewarded for all their hard work with an empty honey super. With luck and good weather, hopefully they will start drawing comb and filling it with sweet flower nectar!

IMG_20170625_232347A frame of capped and uncapped brood in our formerly queenless hive, and the “Twin Hives”

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