I have lots and lots to share about what I’ve been up to the last couple of weeks but before I get into all that fun stuff, I thought I’d start out with an incredible bee adventure from yesterday. Dave and I started out our Saturday morning with some early farm chores – ones we can do quietly while the dew dries off the plants – while anticipating stopping in at the Saint Louis Fine Print, Rare Book & Paper Arts Fair in advance of the rest of our planned farm activities. I have a modest collection of antique prints and was looking forward to stopping by this local, annual show to see what some of my favorite vendors would have to offer when I got a call from Jurgen’s wife, Helen. They had just received word that one of the local parks needed help with a swarm of bees and wanted us to help remedy the situation. Jurgen was out of town so Helen called me to see if I would be interested in helping her capture the swarm and relocate it elsewhere. I asked Dave if he minded the interruption in our plans and he kindly allowed me to instantly switch gears. So I donned my bee suit and loaded the truck with all the equipment I could think of (ladders, loppers, saws, etc.) and ran off with Helen to Stacey Park in Olivette, Missouri.
Wouldn’t you know, this is a park where the Olivette baseball practices and games take place for the local grades schools and as luck would have it, this was Team Picture Day, so the entire park was filled to the brim with youngsters and their families, all eager to get their turn in front of the cameras! We found the bee swarm on the lower branch of a small dogwood tree which was ideal, but the location of the tree with the swarm was within a couple of feet of the photo queue! Yikes.
Helen and I wished we had the Ghost Buster movie music ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9We2XsVZfc ) blaring from the truck as we slowly pulled into place and geared up in our bee equipment. Here is what the swarm looked like with little uniformed baseball team groups patiently waiting in the background. I was amazed at how close they wanted to view the swarm. Helen and I assessed the situation and decided to put towels down on the grown below the nuc box that we had at the ready (with frames of drawn comb, of course) to shake the bees into once we lopped off the branch of the tree. The bees are rather docile at this point since they are protecting their queen while they work on a new home in which to live and prosper.We had all hands on deck and moved quickly so there are not too many photos of what happened next. We got the majority of the bees into the nuc box and went back for another, smaller branch of clustered bees as well and drove very slowly off with the captured swarm to install these bees at the Ermel bee yard. Whew, job well done! I saved the tree branch that the bees had been clinging to for Helen to take to her third grade students since the bees had already begun forming wax combs on the branches and leaves which was fascinating! Can you see the beginning of the comb? And the deposits of wax on the branches for future combs? Our satisfaction was short lived as we decided to work on the nuc box and install it into a larger hive box at Ermel’s beeyard and found that the bees swarmed AGAIN!!! This time to a nearby honeysuckle stand! Ugh! Back I went with ladders and loppers to attack this re-swarmed, determined group of bees! Helen and I had our hands full since this time the swarm was about 10 feet off the ground and in the thick of a vibrant honeysuckle stand. We chopped away at the unaffected branches in order to get the ladder closer to the swarm. It took several tense hours and two frustrating tries, but I think we managed to capture most of the swarm of bees into a box and back into the Ermel hive boxes. We hope we managed to capture this second swarm and its new queen and keep them for a future colony!
Between the swarm crises yesterday, we managed to pop over to the print fair and add to our collection. While I dealt with the swarm issue, Dave continued to plant cool season seeds and prepare for the tomato, pepper and eggplant patches. That meant that it was time to buckle down today and get some additional field work and other planting done. I weeded in the strawberry patch all morning. The plants look good and are full of promising fruit but I do plan to in-fill with additional new plants tomorrow that will be productive for next year.
We also decided, due to time constraints, to put the grapes into the already prepared back terrace beds. It is starting to get a little late to add these bare root specimens to the planting agenda this year if it meant preparing a brand new bed. I suggested using the terrace bed in hopes of getting these into the ground this year with the idea of transplanting them if we wanted to move them in the future. First we soaked the 6 bare root grape plants in a tub that we filled with water. Grapes actually do well in sub par soil with a great range of acceptable ph, being viable anywhere between 6.0 and 7.5, so we did very little preparation other than digging the holes and popping in the plants. Easier said than done since we found many old tree roots as well as old (not hot!) electrical wire to patiently cull out with our wire cutters. Farley found the whole experience delightful as he just wanted to be in the sunshine and enjoy the day lying next to the hose! Although they don’t look like much yet, here is one of the six grape plants…we will report on progress as we see them greening up! You all must have figured out by now that I’m now back from California where I was so pleased to spend some time getting to meet our adorable grandson, Coulter Allen Ward! I could blog here endlessly about him as he grows and treats us with the future joys of his small life. For now, just a few words and a couple of photos. He is an easy baby who has a healthy appetite but also already sleeps for long stretches. His parents could not be more happy with this little one… even tho they are leaving this view from their terrace when they move to Saint Louis…sorry, no beaches or citrus orchards here! Here is Cal, ready to take in his new surroundings in Saint Louis…particularly at Seven Oaks Farm. Love and kisses from Nana and Gramps!