A Post Holiday Greeting and News of Bees and Trees

Post-Holiday Greetings and Happy 50th Birthday to my sister, Julie!

We have been swamped during the past month with activities on all fronts including some travel for both of us ‘hither and yon’!  The house is all quiet now – the holiday visitors dearly welcomed but now departed – leaving us with a refrigerator chocked full of overly rich leftovers from days of cooking and celebrating! So I am now finding some moments to sit and reflect on the status of the farm over the past few weeks before the New Year is upon us.

I left off at the end of the last posting with the promise of a visit from my newest acquaintances – and future bee mentors – J&H (as I will refer to them in postings). They visited the farm on a bright, sunny, afternoon several weeks ago and took a little tour of the orchard, berry patches and fields. It is always interesting to introduce our property and its intended purpose to new visitors and get their reactions. Wouldn’t you know, beekeepers ask questions of a new ilk. In admiring the European Hornbeams (allée trees – Carpinus betulus), they immediately asked, “what type of tree is this, and more importantly, does it FLOWER?!”  Oh dear, I wish I could have said definitely ‘yes’ (I think I actually said ‘no’ at the time) but the flower is so small and inconspicuous that one never really thinks of this as a flowering tree. But, research confirms that it does have tiny white flowers in early spring which we will surely take note of this year and hope that the future bees find them too! Our visitors surveyed the landscape looking for elevation, screening, water sources, noise/motion interference and much more, I’m sure. I believe their greatest source of excitement came from learning that we don’t use herbicides or pesticides in our farming practice. (See links below.)

So after a nice visit, it was decided that J&H would initially introduce their hives to the farm next spring and mentor me in the art or science (which is it?) of beekeeping.  This way, I will be learning from someone who has prior experience with the nuances of apiary science instead of starting out with the trial and error method which can be not only costly but discouraging. J&H say that there is plenty of room for me (and/or all of us for that matter) to add many more hives here in the future, but this will be a wonderful way to get started. I am very, very excited about every aspect of this adventure but mostly for the future benefits of the orchard pollination. I have been keenly following international news of bees and will begin to attend the local beekeepers’ association meetings (there are currently 3 groups in our area) as well. I have added a category to the blog for beekeeping news! Here are some links related to the current plight of bees.

http://www.vegfriend.com/forum/topics/37-million-bees-found-dead-in-elmwood-ontario-canada-after-large-

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/business/international/europe-warns-of-human-risk-from-insecticides.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

We have also been busy removing the fence posts left behind after our most recent fence project. We were not excited about the prospect of digging out these posts and our reticence was not unfounded. Dave dug and dug and finally engaged the brute force of the tractor to aid in nudging some of the posts from their spots. Please imagine this: what appeared to be four foot tall fence posts actually had and additional three feet buried and set in concrete. The resulting landscape when all posts were removed and holes filled, was quite satisfying to admire, but the effort was tremendous since many of the 4″ wide posts were also filled with concrete as well.IMG_5085

The fence post removal chores were completed in a relative warm weather snap which was unlike that in which we were planting more trees. The last of the Trident Maples were finally planted on one very cold day but Dave and I also attempted to replace some of the failed Green Giant Arborvitae that did not survive the trials of last year’s summer drought and heat. We ordered these trees to be dug from a tree farm associated with a local nursery. We picked up 6 large, balled specimens the day before a winter storm was to arrive here. We drove them directly to the back, eastern fence line and got to work immediately with a joint effort since the temps were dropping steadily and a light rain was turning into spits of sleet. IMG_5093

If we have learned nothing more, we have certainly figured out how to bundle up and work in multiple layers of warm clothing!IMG_5094

We were hurrying to get these planted before the predictions of more rainfall but the slight spits ceased as soon as we were done with the plantings so Dave hustled out with a bucket brigade of water (our orchard spigots are all tied to the irrigation system and so were unavailable for use at this point) in order to insure that the new trees were nestled in properly until our next rainfall. We look forward to the promise of up to 3 feet of growth per year on these trees!

Since then, we did get a measurable snowfall which produced at least .75 inches of liquid precipitation, according to our measurements. Image 5

Fans of Seven Oaks Farm continue to amaze us with fun gifts. Our friend, Kathy Bussmann gladly played elf this year and delivered an assortment of items…a bee embroidered bag (spot on!) a new soup ladle (after I borrowed two from her earlier this fall) and a riotous book on the 50 uses for Kale (must see photo!) Goodness knows, we still have kale in the refrigerators since it produces so long into the winter and keeps so well!IMG_5105

Our friend, Mule, recently returned some of our glass jars along with a wonderful collection of recipes from the Cooking Light magazine called the Pick Fresh Cookbook. I really like how this is organized in sections by the produce item so it is easy to see which recipes are options for a particular veggie!IMG_5107

We continue to do battle with the deer and their growing annoyance and boldness in our area, but I had to use some humor for our latest example of XMAS decor. IMG_5030

Our little Farley continues to have a great ability to heal. He had three broken teeth extracted recently and has rebounded nicely. Here he is with his mini kerchief from the vet while gingerly noshing on scrambled eggs (on my good dishes, no doubt!)IMG_5032

Here is the enlarged ‘bed’ that we made for him so that he could snuggle up with us on the couch without making a mess!IMG_5031

While trying to keep him quiet, I managed some more knitting, producing socks for Kate & IMG_5097 Peter. IMG_5027

In the meantime, here is my nephew, Jack, in the Cross Country Ski hat that I knitted him. Image 2

So as I get ready to push the “publish post” button, Dave brought in the mail, and along with it, the first batch of seed catalogs for 2014!  And to think that we are still harvesting carrots (which we served for XMAS eve dinner) and some last bits of the hardy cold season crops, bringing us to a total harvest (so far) in 2013 of 1,652.81 pounds!

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