We have one strong hive which overwintered in Elkins Park. We eyed its strength and hoped to make our first successful split this season. We wanted the strong hive to raise a new queen for us so that we could build an additional hive. Upon inspection, we realized that we had, accidentally, excluded the queen into a super. Must we make all of the possible beekeeping errors?! The positive side of this error was their readying to swarm for lack of room and their building the most gorgeous queen cell. A queen cell is the cell that is built for raising a new queen and it looks very different from regular worker or drone capped brood. Here is a link to an image of a queen cell. We took that closed queen cell, some brood, workers, honey and NOT the active laying queen and put that all into a five frame nuc….a little hive. We crossed our fingers and not even two weeks later we discovered new brood and the loveliest, most graceful, youthful queen ever! Seeing that queen was like finding a wonderful treasure! I think we got that queen cell out of the big hive in the nick of time; otherwise, we would have seen some exciting, but unwanted, swarming action!
This spring, I am seeing the benefits and the beauty of establishing perennial food systems on a small scale in the inner suburbs of Philadelphia. This season, I’ve not been able to spend as much time in the gardens of Elkins Park Front Yard Farm as I have in the past couple of years. Apparently, they don’t need me very much at this point! Aside from the beauty and harmony of the plantings which I find very satisfying; the harvests that they promise are abundant.
We are going to have a killer gooseberry crop this year from 8 plants! Varieties: Red Hinomaki, Yellow Hinomaki, Invicta, and Poorman.
And of course, we are all watching the June-bearing strawberries with anticipation. I think they are loving the long cool spring we are having. They are standing tall and lush and are full of flowers!
It appears that the pears are trying to keep up with the apples for quantity this year. I’ve never seen so many tiny pears. It may have something to do with having introduced the two dwarf pears to the front yard which are acting as pollinators.
Blueberries from four healthy shrubs! Now, to keep the catbirds from stealing all of them this year!
Don’t forget the blackberries and the raspberries. The goumi shrubs and the chokeberries may fruit for the first time this year. The sour cherries and pawpaws and the serviceberry won’t fruit this year but the trees look healthy as can be. We have two new dwarf pears, a Potomac and a Seckel. This is their second spring in the ground. It looks like we might get a few of the small sweet Seckels, already, this year! We, also, have perennial culinary and medicinal herbs and plants to make tea. Lovage, sweet cicely, lemon balm, feverfew, nettles, red clover, mint, anise hyssop, St. John’s Wort, chamomile, New Jersey Tea, and yarrow to name a few. Scorzonera, perennial potato onions, jerusalem artichokes, perennial leeks and Egyptian walking onions will provide food without my having to think about it at all. I have some groundnuts floating around in the blueberry bed. We’ll see if they pop back up this year. I have one sea kale that came back strong this year. It’s ruffled blue green leaves are gorgeous and it is getting ready to flower. The other one, unfortunately, succumbed to the harlequin beetles last fall. I tucked some alpine strawberries in its place last fall and, just yesterday, another rhubarb. Such wonderful, perennial abundance!
It felt pretty chilly out there to me this morning but the honeybees couldn’t resist the sunshine. Did you know that there is blue pollen out there for honeybees to collect?
Check out her legs! Click this link for a description of how honeybees fill those pollen baskets.
And where does blue pollen come from? This pollen is coming from the Siberian Squill that appears in early spring. Wonderful!
Looking forward to seeing you there!
I spent a glorious sunny weekend in Elkins Park with family and friends. I pruned the raspberries, cheered on the chickens, and applauded the activity of the honeybees as they collected pollen from the earliest blooming flowers. Besides that, we laid Princess to rest.
I met Alaina Mabaso about a year ago when she was writing an article for GRID magazine about chickens, bees, and sustainable living. She is a very talented freelance writer. She has an active blog site called Alaina Mabaso’s Blog: Fiction need not apply. I, definitely, recommend visiting the site to read her posts. (Personally, I’m crazy about her cartoons!) Recently, she had posted The Big Dead Goldfish Dilemma. She had a large goldfish that passed away and she was querying her readership as to what she might do with its body. She received record feedback on her post and one of the responses was from me. I was planning a Three Sisters Garden for the front yard and, in my reading, found that the native people who planted these gardens would bury the bodies of fish under their corn to nourish the plants. This is what I suggested and, then, I forgot about it until I received a message from Alaina. She was interested in taking me up on my offer.
I dug down about a foot into soft soil where one of the corn/bean mounds was to be planted. Alaina placed Princess on a moist nest of straw. Upon Princess, we placed another thin layer of straw and, then, mounded the earth on top of her. To keep animals from being tempted to dig, we secured a screen over the area. In May, the corn, beans, and squash will take deep root and flourish. Princess will be a part of that. Thank you, Princess, and rest in peace!
Excellent! I’ve invited a brilliant Chiogga to the party!
I purchased my first Chiogga Beet from the Creekside Co-op in Elkins Park and have been hooked ever since. Unfortunately, I don’t have the seed to plant this spring. I will have to be happy with Golden and Detroit Red beets instead. We all know that homegrown never disappoints but I’ll be sure Chiogga will be included in my next seed order.
Yesterday, the temperature broke 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was shining. The vibrant conditions outside called me from the spackling job that I started inside. Hellebore, Witch Hazel, Dandelion, Crocus, and Snowdrop blossoms have emerged. The pollinators were active in our, young and packed full of blossoms, witch hazel. There were honey bees and flies and a honey bee mimic called Eristalis tenax (also, called drone fly). I discovered a helpful resource from the Xerces Society when trying to identify this significant pollinator. (Please, click on photo to access larger image. You may need to click twice.)
It was satisfying to see the honey bees carrying pollen back to the hive. We have one hive that continues to be very active. Unfortunately, we lost the other over the winter. Very happy to see this honey bee collecting food for the health of her hive.
The honey bees will, soon, be able to collect nectar from early tree blossoms such as maple so long as it is warm enough for them to fly. The Melissa Garden and Wikipedia provide a couple of helpful resources for understanding honey bee forage plants in North America.
First crocus seen in our front yard in Elkins Park!
I’ve not been very active on the blog of late and not just because it is winter, the time when things are drawn to dormancy. In fact, contrary to hibernating, J and I have set off some real sparks in the routine of our lives. We are working with the School of Living (SoL) to take on one of their Community Land Trust properties in Chester County, PA. This is their webpage. They are an amazing group of people with a fantastic mission and we are very fortunate to be in association with them.
The plantings for Elkins Park Front Yard Farm need to be planned and started and there is considerable renovation to do here at StellaLou Farm. Yup! We are naming it after our most honorable hen. In short, this property is what they call a diamond in the rough. The 8.5+/- acres have been maintained organically for over 30 years. I have been walking this land several times a day (thanks to Indie dog) and we are getting to know each other little by little.
There is so much to describe but I’ll not get into details at this point. I plan to start a separate website for StellaLou and keep this blog’s focus on Elkins Park. I expect my posts will be short and sweet at this active time. Be well!
The title of this post could, also, be “This is peak when it comes to my decorating for Christmas.”
Alternately: “When do we get real Interior Design?”
Or: “How do you spell “loo-fuh?” (It’s a trick. Google doesn’t seem to care.)
I grew the luffa. I peeled the loofah. I removed the seed and washed the loofah. I squeezed and squished and shook the luffa. Then, I hung the loofah out (in) to dry!
They looked like ornaments in the western sunlight coming through the window. Okay. TO ME, they look like ornaments in the sunlight. Click on the photo to see a larger image…it may help.
Originally, I thought that I was only going to get one loofah from five plants and the jungle of bumblebee filled flowers and leaves that they created. However, later in the season; the luffa seemed to wake up and fruit profusely. I thought the fruit would not get to a mature enough stage before cold weather and would be too green to make loofah sponges. I got lucky. I did get enough of a harvest to make me want to try this again….even better next time! I do not mean to neglect, though I did neglect…that these gourds are edible when young. Since I was so neglectful, I did not eat them and cannot report on their taste. Next time! Speaking of multiple functions, I might as well add that loofah growing upon a trellis in front of the chicken run provides a wonderful amount of shade for those special creatures.
According to wiki, loofahs have been used medicinally AND for construction material. If you look at the following photo, you can start to understand how using vegetables for construction could be so!
Please, take the time to magnify that photo (click, click). The structure of the luffa sponge is amazing. (When the light is better, I’m going to nail this photo!) Beneath the layer of skin, there is a strong rough flexible net of fiber that creates tubes going the length of the sponge. The seed that the loofah produces can be knocked out through those tubes and, Wow! the loofah is prolific when it comes to producing seeds! Yup….wait ’til next year!!!
Addendum: A hot shower with a homegrown luffa and a shot of Dr. Bronner’s. There will be no turning back!
December 3. It is 65 degrees. We took advantage of the warm weather to go into our two hives to re-fill jars of sugar water. The honey bees are very active and their numbers look good. They haven’t been using very much of the feeding. We left them with good honey stores for the winter. I don’t need my lined pants today…shoot, I barely need a sweatshirt. I harvested some bunching onions for my Christmas Lima Bean Stew and used up those enormous limas that were grown on trellises in front of the hives this year. Yum.
(I have no decent photos of the Bees, so, I give you Bee-ns!)
There are still some flowers here and there.