The bees are back here at Happy Acres. Our nuc last year never took off and did anything, and by the time we figured that out it was too late to get a hive going in time to make it through the winter. So we started over again this year with a package of bees. The phone rang at 6:30 am last Monday. It was the Post Office, calling to tell us our bees had arrived. My wife went to pick them up, and the folks there were happy to get them out of the P.O. facility.
About 10,000-12,000 worker bees (three pounds of them) are shipped in a little screen container that has a can of sugar water in the middle to feed them. Enclosed in her own regal cage is the queen. The queen and the workers are not from the same hive and are not acquainted with each other, so the queen is kept separate until they accept her as their new queen. The new hive will be populated with offspring from the queen, so these workers are all ‘temps’ so to speak.
We got them in the hive that same day, along with the queen in her cage. The entrance to the queen cage is protected with a plug of candy, which the workers will eventually eat away to free the queen. By that time, the pheromones released by the queen will have spread throughout the colony and everyone will know that she is present and o.k. Once in the hive, the workers go to work doing what bees do, things like making wax and building comb so the queen can lay eggs in it and they can store honey and pollen.
We’ll make it a little easier for them and feed sugar syrup for a few weeks so they don’t have to travel to find nectar sources. It takes a lot of time and energy to build the comb, and we want them to concentrate on that. They set out that same day to forage, no doubt looking for pollen and propolis sources. Propolis is a ‘bee glue’ they make to glue the hive together, and they gather resinous secretions from tree buds and other botanical sources. I love to watch them coming and going from the hive.
If you look closely at the above photo you can see little specks on the landing board at the front of the hive. That is bee poop, and after being cooped up in the shipping cage for a few days one of the first things they usually do is make what is delicately called a cleansing flight. It’s messy but harmless and the first good rain should clean most of it away. I am excited to have the bees back here, and I guess you could say it’s the bee’s knee’s!
In gardening news, we continue to enjoy the daily harvests of asparagus. It is averaging about a half pound per day, though the amount does fluctuate from day to day. One night for dinner I made a dish for Asparagus Mimosa using a recipe from the cookbook Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. This recipe adds capers to a classic but simple dish featuring lightly cooked asparagus topped with chopped hard boiled egg then sprinkled with coarse sea salt and drizzled with some good olive oil. It looks like a lot of egg but it’s just one. We paired it with fresh baked homemade whole wheat rolls and made a meal of it. I do love asparagus, and when it’s fresh I don’t think it needs complicated preparation.
We’re still enjoying sweet potatoes from storage. I sliced up one of the Purple ones and grilled it for lunch one day, along with a lamb chop. My wife has not acquired a taste for lamb yet, so I occasionally fix it when she is out. I also added a bit of homemade fermented red turnip and kohlrabi kraut as a colorful side. The Purple sweet potatoes are great in so many dishes, and I also roasted some of them last week along with chicken.
I’m also still experimenting with various dried beans and lentils. Last Monday I made a Garlic Dal using some split Pigeon Peas (aka Toor Dal), plus green garlic and cilantro from our garden. I can’t believe there are no photos of it but in my haste to eat I neglected to document the occasion. Saturday I made a salad of black lentils that wasn’t camera shy. Along with the lentils it had grated carrot, dehydrated tomatoes, cilantro and parsley from our garden plus a bit of avocado from faraway places. I tossed it with a light dressing of walnut oil and Meyer lemon juice, plus a little Dulce Rojo paprika from last year and served it atop some leaf lettuce from the greenhouse. It made a tasty meal for lunch that day.
I got all of the tomato seedlings potted up into larger containers next week. That not only gives the roots more room, but also lets me bury the tomato seedling a little deeper in the pot to keep it from getting leggy. I used 3.5″ pots since you can fit 18 of those in a standard 1020 tray. I’m guessing it will be two or three weeks before I plant them, depending on when the soil dries out and warms up. We had two mornings with frost last week, as you can see in the below photo, so I’m not in a big hurry to get them in the ground just yet. They’ll do better on the greenhouse shelf for a while longer.
Also in the greenhouse, some Baby Oakleaf lettuce is growing fast in one of the mini salad boxes. I planted this lettuce in a cold frame bed about three weeks ago, but had plants left over. I wanted to see how it could do in a container planting. It’s looking good so far. Since I’ve never grown this variety before, I don’t really know how big it gets, except it should be more compact than a regular oakleaf lettuce. I guess we will know in a few more weeks.
I pulled the rest of the bolting spinach in the greenhouse bed last week. There was a little over three pounds of it, and I blanched and froze most of it. I saved out enough to make a side dish for us one night, sauteed along with some mushrooms and garlic.
That’s the buzz around here lately. It’s my turn to cook again this week and I am hoping to get a taste of the Cime di Rapa (aka rapini) I planted in one of the cold frame beds. I also need to pull the Siberian kale in the greenhouse, since it is starting to flower. I’ll plant that space to something else, more greens no doubt. I have plenty of seedlings waiting for a home. To see what others are buzzing about, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from HA.