Archive for February, 2010

Disappearing Bees

bee on marigoldWe need bees; to pollinate our plants to produce our veggies. We have been lucky, the bees have always found us. I love to hear them buzzing in the cucumbers and squash, doing their job to help the cycle of growth.

But, as you are probably already aware, there is a problem with the bees. Colony Collapse Disorder is one of the things that’s killing off the bees. There’s lots of theories, but one thing is for certain, there aren’t as many bees and if we don’t have bees, we lose a majority of our food crops. It’s a scary thought.

So I figured, let’s get bees on the property. I thought I’d just make a few phone calls, maybe an email or two and viola, we’d have bees. Ha!!! Well, not so fast. I spoke to a couple of beekeepers today and first of all, they won’t come out unless they can put 100 hives on the property. I don’t think we need or can support 100  hives. Plus, the hives are getting sick and dying. One beekeeper I spoke with said he may not even get honey this year. The majority of his bees are dead and/or sick. He said he’s done everything right and it’s driving him nuts because he can’t figure it out. He’s having problems with parasites. Again, it’s a scary thought.

Ok, so how about we buy our own hive and box. We’ve taken some classes, read some books, have friends who have done it; why not us? Because we don’t have the time. We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin, as we need to focus on the garden and growing the veggies. That’s why I contacted these beekeepers in the first place. They are the experts.

Now where do we stand? Well, there are some other ideas out there and I will continue to pursue them. (One of the beekeepers I spoke with today was very helpful and gave me some info I need to explore before I give up.) In the meantime, I’ll plant more flowers to bring the bees to us and thank each one when they are visiting the garden.

Download this PDF on Bee Facts; two simple to read, nicely designed pages, for more, yet concise info.

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Potatoes

blue potatoes

Blue potatoes, cut and waiting to be planted

Time to get ready for potatoes. We are currently digging one bed deeper for the seed potatoes. This year, we will have one bed, about 30 feet long, 4 feet wide, 1 foot or more deep of potatoes. In this area, we usually say to have them planted before St. Patrick’s Day; it’s just a good reminder. So we are getting ready and they’ll be planted in the new bed.

Once you get your potatoes, and you can also buy organic potatoes from the grocery store too, as well as the nursery, keep them warm and in light so they will grow eyes. Once they grow eyes, cut the potatoes in pieces, with about 3 eyes per piece. Let the cut harden over, that takes a couple of days, and then plant, being careful not to knock the eyes off.

Last year we planted 5 per square foot and although it worked, I think this year we will plant only 4 per square foot. As they grow, gently pile on more compost or dirt to cover them. Don’t worry, they will grow through, creating more roots for more potatoes. You can grown them as deep or as high as you’d like. You can usually harvest in about 3 months. With Mel’s Mix, they are so easy to dig up, and easy to clean. Home-grown tomatoes are the best. I know, you may be saying, “A potato is a potato.” But believe me, they are best when you get them fresh from the ground.

There are tons of web sites with info on how to grow potatoes: here are a few:

Tipnut.com, How to Garden.com, Great Garden Info.com

Potato flower

Pests we have had to watch out for: the ever present gopher, and the weird and ugly potato beetle. I won’t post a pic here, they are ugly, but check them out on your search engine. Type in “potato bug old man” or “Jerusalem Cricket” and you’ll see what I mean. These guys are big too! So watch out for them.

You may enjoy this humorous blog post about how to get rid of them. Pretty funny, especially if you know these bugs personally. Yuk!!!

Eggs, Beautiful Eggs

Dozen eggs

Beautiful colored eggs

What can I say. The variety of colors makes these eggs the most beautiful eggs I have ever seen.

These are from our new egg lady. If you haven’t tried farm fresh eggs, please do. Find a neighbor, farmer, anyone with chickens and buy some eggs. Then compare store bought eggs to the farm eggs. Crack each into a small bowl and note the color. The farm eggs usually have larger and darker yolks, which to me, are richer tasting and better for you.

Eggs of many colors

Love these colors

What Snow Does to Tomatoes

Tomatoes After the Snow

What snow does to tomatoes.

This is what 6″ snow does to tomato plants. It freezes the leaves and vines and makes them crunchy. Not the correct sort of farming term, but more like how the plants feel and look.

We are in the process of clearing these now, adding them as compost ingredients. Then we’ll add more compost to the bed, to get it ready for the next planting.

We rotate crops as best we can, so something other than tomatoes will go into this row come Spring.

Frozen Brandywine Tomatoes

Frozen Brandywine Tomatoes

Here’s another pic of what the snow did to the tomato plants. Yeah, it was December and who would have thought we’d have tomatoes at that time, but check it out, in the middle of the pic is a red tomato. It wouldn’t be as good as a summer tomato, but maybe it would have been OK enough to eat.