Thursday, January 27, 2022

November Hill farm journal, 146

 Post snow we have had some warm days - one of them 60 degrees, which gave us a chance to check the bee hives. Four of the five were active, two of those extremely so, with orientation flights happening, which means the queen is already laying to build up the population in advance of the early spring nectar flow. There’s the chance these colonies will build up too fast too soon and then have many new/young mouths to feed before spring really arrives, but the bees do what they do and I’m going watch closely while they do it! 

Sadly our captured swarm combined with the queenless hive has died out. They were both small in number and while they were very active during the summer and early fall, I should have removed their top hive box before winter as it was too much space for them once the summer bees died out. I had hoped they would make it through winter and have a chance to build up properly this spring. However sad, I suspect with the other four hives I’ll be in the position of doing runaway splits and if that is the case with all four, we’ll go into summer with 8 colonies total. More than I really need, but we’ll see if we can manage that many, and if not, may move some up to the mountain house, which will be a whole other kind of beekeeping, since we’ll need to put them inside an electric fence to keep black bears out!

Our holly and eastern red cedar tree installation has had to be delayed due to the snow and wet ground. We’re getting another round of rain/snow this weekend, so it looks like we’re a couple of weeks out at the very least before the trees can be moved in and planted. I took advantage of this delay to call our gravel guy, who miraculously had a cancellation and came right over with a load for our driveway, with a second load to come on Friday. I’m glad to get this done before we start moving the trees in, and grateful we have someone who does such a great job with it. 

The horses and pony and donkeys are all doing well. As much as I fret about inclement weather, they seemed to love the snow and they are all good sports about wearing their turn-out blankets when needed. We’re aiming to get the second bit of finish work done to the barn this Friday and then when our contractor returns he can go ahead with the next stage. We’ve decided to replace the Hardie-board on the barn one side at a time, starting with the back side which he just worked on. This is of course deviating from my original spring work plan, but it makes sense to go ahead now that he’s got the foundation boards replaced. I’ve done a series of four sketches of what I want done inside the feed room, since this is best done during the time of year the horses are in daytime turn-out. I have no idea how long this will take, but we’re taking the slow and steady work pace so that I don’t get totally burned out!

I walked the farm yesterday to check all my plantings. Everything is in dormant mode still, which is good - I don’t want the scattered warm days to set off buds too soon! In mid February I’ll start the process of trimming back the dormant growth from last year to make room for the new spring growth, and will try to get started with mulching. I’m considering investing in a tool I didn’t even know existed until yesterday - a vacuum mulcher for leaves. The NC Botanical Garden uses leaf mulch in many of their beds and we certainly have plenty of leaves every year. My hope is that by March any insects nesting in the leaves will be starting to emerge and I can use the leaves (without killing the insects) to mulch and top off all the beds.

Our cats and dogs are all happy and enjoying life. They are such great reminders to appreciate the small joys, and to live in the present moment.

In my writing life, it’s being a busy and productive new year. I have three short pieces coming out in various places between now and May, and have many other pieces out on submission. I’m working on a nonfiction hybrid chapbook and also on the novel in progress. I did a fairly intensive garret tidy right at the new year and it has really rejuvenated my writing practice. The space is clear and clean and fun, and that’s conducive to creative efforts. 

I meant to take photos yesterday as I was marching about but of course got so caught up in looking that I never even took the phone out of my pocket. However, here’s one shot I took a few days ago, mostly to document how well the inkberry hollies are doing behind Poplar Folly. A good reminder that if you plant and give things a few years to mature, you’ll see the good results of that effort and patience. 

These were quite small when planted, and they’ve grown and matured nicely. The deer have total access to them but do not touch them, so they’re perfect for this space. They flower in spring to provide terrific forage for the bees, and produce ink black berries for wildlife and birds. These aren’t done growing, and as time passes they’ll get taller and fuller and provide a very nice screening between Arcadia and Poplar Folly. This is one example of a native planting decision that has worked out very well. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

What can I say, it seems you never stop working on projects. It seems there are quite a few and they are coming along. I don't know when you find the time to write!

billie said...

I never get more than 3 things done in any given day - ie house, barn, writing - or gardening, writing, house, etc. And the three things get pushed on my what comes to the top of the list (like the barn foundation boards pushing out) so often I feel I don’t have much control over what I’m doing on any given day - hence my total dedication to trying to plan things, LOL. :)