A Bit of Spring Bling

This is one of my favorite times of year because everywhere I look I can identify all types of new life. In our case, it is apparent on all the trees, canes and vines as well as popping out of the ground around every corner. It is interesting that no matter how busy we are at this point in the season I never get tired of admiring the wonders of it all. The morning fog rolled in recently blanketing the fields and giving me an extra moment to reflect. IMG_2014

Although we had a mild winter this year, we also had a rather late spring with frosty nights well past the point when our peaches and nectarines were already blossoming and so they have very few fruits on the trees to prove it. We are not entirely crushed by this since these young trees will put their efforts into their root systems and branching which will serve them well in the future. The peach tree with the most fruit on it is the one we have in the “infirmary” up close to the house. We started the infirmary when we were replacing damaged trees from the orchard but didn’t have the heart to totally discard them so we stuck them in the ground in idle beds. Ironically, we have found that these ‘weaklings’ get much more attention with individual watering, etc. and have fared quite well in the end and in this year’s case, were sheltered from late frosts. Here are peaches and nectarines…

Blueberries and apples.

The strawberry patch didn’t mind the frosty weather and has loads of fruit starting to ripen.IMG_1905.jpg

We started harvesting our June bearing strawberries on May 6th (which is the earliest ever for us) and have been devouring anything fresh on a daily basis! The good news is that Kim at The Artery now has a waiting list of people ready to buy the jams as soon as I can replace them! The pressure is on as I now have a following! IMG_2005.jpg

But new to the scene – for us anyway – is our first pears which are Stark Brother varieties called Moonglow and Starking Delicious!

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And our plums which are Stark Brother’s Stanley which will be a bluish purple when ripe and makes for tasty eating as well as dries into prunes if desired.IMG_1938

Last but not least, (okay, maybe least because of their relative size at this point) are our grapes. If you recall we planted two varieties last year – Concord and Marquis – and finally got them staked with a small, two wire arbor set up – aka the Kniffen system – this year…IMG_1840.jpg

and discovered some small grape clusters on a few of the plants. Of course we will have to remove these before long to allow the plants to mature for the first 3 years. IMG_2103

This is pretty exciting but what I really love about the grape vines is the way the dew sits so delicately on the leaves in the morning. There is a perfect, single drop at the points of each of the leaves as well as the tips of the tendrils. The blush of pink against the newly tinged green leaves is exquisite. IMG_2107

This little green frog was trying to camouflage it self to the speckled grey metal of the hose reel. Every time I checked on him, he was a bit more grey colored. IMG_1996.jpg

The nearby garlic that I planted last fall is amazing with the larger variety, German Extra Hardy, standing 38″ tall. I can’t wait to harvest which is supposed to be around the Fourth of July but I think I’ll start in June.  IMG_1973

The fields are nearly all planted with the cool season section well underway. Potatoes and onions are doing well with the Yukon Gold showing up much larger than the Pontiac Red.  IMG_1969.jpg

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Dave has installed his giant tomato staking system again this year in hopes of having a bumper crop that will need the supports. We have planted three tomato varieties as well as eggplants and six varieties of peppers. IMG_1290.jpg

The posts also serve is a sentry spot for our hawks and owls who silently perch a top them at night to be closer to their evening prey. The evidence is often graphic in the mornings as there are white splats along with fur and/or feathers at the bases of the posts. IMG_1971

But best of all are the pellets that are large, turd like bundles that the owls leave behind for us to admire. I have found two so far this week and am turning them over to Kate for her biology class to dissect. This very fresh one is interesting since it has two large, dead beetles clinging on the the sides. I’ll have to ask Kate what she thinks of this. IMG_1957

Besides all of the fruits and veggies we have a growing selection of flowering perennials now which are wonderful attractions for the bees. Lilac is a big favorite since bees really like the color purple.  IMG_1842.jpg

Ditto for salvia…this is the May Night variety which is three times the size it was last year.IMG_1980.jpgIMG_2008

You may remember when I had peony envy last year after I saw the lovely ones at Kate and Jason’s house so I planted some and they have been delightful on our table. IMG_1959.jpg

I planted irises last fall and will encourage them to spread which I hear they do without much reminding. The white ones are called Marilyn’s Skirt which I planted in memory of my mother.

The barn construction is moving along rapidly despite some rainy days. The day the trusses were lifted into place was exciting for all!

You can see the porch developing here as well as the workshop and chicken coop which is already enclosed with plywood. IMG_2012 (1)The latest push was to get tar paper on before the next round of storms arrive.IMG_2027.jpg

News on the bees: I have joked with people that we have a ‘girl’ hive and a ‘boy’ hive since one seems to be so obviously more mature than the other. When I did the first inspection of them last Saturday I was amazed to find that one of the hives was progressing at a rapid speed. The bees had drawn new comb on 3 of the previously empty frames and there were lots of newly laid eggs and larvae which showed up in a lovely brood pattern. I was thrilled but then a bit crestfallen when I moved on to inspect the second hive, which was active but discernibly less so than the first one. There was no comb building and very little evidence that they were eating the syrup I had put into place the prior week. A quick search of the existing frames showed that there was some older larvae and brood but I could not spot the queen. Ugh. I re-sprayed the bare frames with sugar water to encourage the bees to get to work. I was worried enough about this ‘boy’ hive that I wondered if the queen had met her demise and decided to re-inspect the following morning. Good news, I found the queen and decided that this hive would be a bit slower to develop than the other one but would do okay in the end. Here is the newly drawn comb in the girl hive!  IMG_2060

In the meantime, after attending the monthly Eastern Missouri Beekeeper Association (EMBA) meeting last night, I was prompted to get going on building out the additional frames for the next layers of hive boxes. Not everyone builds their own, but I at least attempted to add the wax foundations myself. It was rather simple to do. First, you pry off the ‘stop’ of an empty frame. This piece comes apart much like splitting a new set of wooden chopsticks but in this case requires a metal lever. IMG_2034.jpg

Once this piece is removed, one inserts the foundation layer; in this case mine is made of wax and has a honeycomb imprint on both sides to give the bees a head-start in drawing out the comb. IMG_2035.jpg

You then re-place the wooden ‘stop’ and secure it with small brads, pinching the end wire in the sandwich of wood.

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Dave found my old upholstery tool which is ideal for this task since the brads are so tiny they would be difficult to start. One end of the hammer is highly magnetized and holds the brad in place initially and then one flips it over to drive it the rest of the way with the other end. Thank goodness no one was around to witness my hammering skills! Here are ten of the finished frames…only 30 more to make! IMG_2036.jpg

As soon as the rain stops, I’ll pop these into the deep boxes so the bees can continue to expand. Little Coulter is enjoying a very active spring as he ventures outside at every opportunity. All vehicles capture his fascination – particularly the wheels – but he has also learned how to get in and out of his new Tiny Tikes car! IMG_1987.jpg

Of course riding around on his tractor never gets old!

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Ta ta for now!

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