Our fields and berry patches are just brimming with fresh produce! We have such a wide variety of leafy greens to pick from every day! Spinach is a family favorite…I just need to come up with more spinach recipes and perhaps a better way to preserve it so that we can enjoy it year round. The peas look wonderful and the slim pea pods are quite edible at this stage but I also love eating the fully matured peas, in part because I love shelling the peas. This is a self supporting variety from Burpee called Easy Peasy, and boy, are they ever just that!The green beans are finally perking up and showing off in perfect rows….they really want to see the heat of the summer so it will be several more weeks before we have beans to eat. The potato patch is really trying to steal the show with the sheer volume of their plants dominating one whole section of one of the fields. The cukes are finally up as well. Dave plants these in hills and then puts a trellis around one half to support the fruits. This system worked quite well last year and we hope to make plenty of pickles again this year! Last Wednesday’s strawberry harvest was a single day record so far from this patch, weighing in at 25lbs 6oz! I picked again on Friday and the haul was smaller but still significant at 15lbs 10 oz, bringing the total YTD at over 95lbs. I find all sorts of creatures while picking in the patch…can you see how nicely this toad is camouflaged? He sure took me by surprised when he suddenly moved right under my nose! I know I sound like a broken record since I am constantly telling people that I either have to go out and pick and/or work up that which I just harvested. In fact, I should be washing and hulling more right now but I had to take a break. Here is my favorite strawberry of the year so far….I call it Quasimodo’s Lips…I think it looks like ruby colored lips that are puckering for a sloppy, gross, kiss from himself! The last blueberry row has finally been thoroughly weeded and mulched so we added the netting today but not before two black snakes, (Romeo and Juliet?) found themselves entangled in the blueberry netting at either end of the same row. Unfortunately, like so many other black snakes before them, they were not able to extricate themselves from the netting. I think they are attracted to the black soaker hoses that we have laid out in the rows. We are sad to have lost two more of these since they do their bit here by helping to keep the small rodent population in check.
The turkeys are making their presence known and although we see lots of them browsing about, this big tom was available for a nice photo as he found himself in a corner against the fence before gathering enough energy to fly up and over the roof of the house to get away. Of course we are working hard to be ready with lots of flower beds for the wedding and are making sure the bride even has some nice sod underfoot as she steps off the back terrace and down the aisle! It wouldn’t be a Seven Oaks blog with out a bee update! Today I did another tour with Jurgen to inspect his bee hives but we started out the day at my favorite hives, the ones at Seven Oaks. The deep boxes were filling out nicely with lots of brood and honey so as I suspected, Jurgen wanted to add honey supers to each hive today. So we stacked another box on top of the deep boxes and filled it with frames for the bees to draw out. First we sprayed all of the empty frames with sugar water to attract them into that space and encourage them to start working on drawing them out with combs that they will then fill with honey. After we finished up with these hives, we continued on to his other locations around town and found some good news at one hive in particular where Jurgen had tried a little experiment. He hoped that a queen would develop out of a swarm cell that he had placed in a queen-less hive and he found that he was successful! Not only did he spot the newly laid eggs to indicate that she was laying brood, but he also found the young queen herself which made him very happy! This is how good beekeepers work to expand their colonies. He also decided to add a swarm catcher to one of the locations so we took a break from our bee suits to walk around and find a place to hang the bracket up in a tree. A nuc box with bait for the bees completed the set up. This swarm catcher could attract a wild colony or also one of his own colonies that might decide to swarm. I think Jurgen is smiling because he is taking his beekeeping skills to a new level. Here he is at one of his favorite bee yards. He has five of his hives here in various stages of development. The bees are easy to work and are being very, very productive. He will most likely get his first honey of the year from these hives in the next week or two. That’s all I have to say about bees today. Onward!