Another Month Slips By at The Sustainable Smallholding

Another five weeks have elapsed since my last post, but with the days shortening, I once again find myself with time to share with you. Things are still busy, with the end of the beekeeping and vegetable growing season, and the start of the tree planting and wood harvesting season overlapping. Before I start posting on what I’m up to now, I thought that I would post a quick round up of  what I’ve been busy with over the past few weeks.


The Nucleus mentioned in my recent posts didn’t make it. I had a visit from our bee inspector, and when he opened up the nuleus, it was obvious that although they were coping, there were not enough bees, or enough time, to become strong enough to overwinter. I tried to increase the size of the colony, by putting them into a full sized hive, and adding a super full of bees from a stronger colony, uniting them through paper. Sadly, the super bees went through the paper in about 90 minutes, and proceeded to fetch bees from their parent colony, to remove their honey. In the end I had to give away the queen, and reunite the super bees with the original colony.

I’m currently feeding the colonies, with the exception of the Warre colony. In an ideal world I would be giving them back some of their honey, with the addition of essential oils for varroa control. However, as I have been concentrating on making increase, there wasn’t enough honey to remove, and I’ve been using sugar syrup. If you’re interested in using essential oils, you can find out more


I am fortunate to have access to a selection of oils, and get them blended with ethanol, so that they will emulsify (dissolve) in water.

Bee Plants

I have been fortunate to visit a couple of plant nurseries that have been near honey bee colonies. This has enabled me to see what is flowering that bees are actively working (Permaculture Principle: Observe and Interact). Whilst not all of the plants are multi-function, I have at least been able to obtain plants to fill in the late gap, just before the ivy starts to flower (now). Some, such as Caryopteris were not in my Bee Plant book (Martin Crawford), nor in the BBKA ‘Shrubs useful to Bees’ leaflet, but the plants were being worked by my bees within ten minutes of me unloading the car. As they are easy to propagate from cuttings, I expect to multiply them, and use them on my swale banks.

Tree Planting/Propagation

I’ve been planting out some of my pot grown trees, principally Eucalyptus, and some of the Bamboo. It’s gives me quite a thrill to see them planted out in their final positions. I’m hoping that with there still being some warmth in the soil, there will be some root growth before Winter sets in. I need to order my next batch of trees for planting. Hopefully, these will be the last bulk trees that I will need to buy, as I have lots growing in containers, for planting next year. I’m in the process of potting them on, which means that the space that they take up is increasing. I guess that next year will be the year where I have the most potted plants, and consequently the most watering/feeding to do, as next Autumn will see this year’s trees and shrubs planted out, and each year will see less trees needed.

I found a new source of Mycorrhizal Fungi recently. There is a larger variety of Ecto-Mycorrhizal Fungi in their products, and I can buy purely Ecto Fungi if I want. The products are also more economical, costing less, and treating more trees than the others that I have been using.

Their online shop can be found by using the link below, but the shop will not be functioning for a few weeks. I used the telephone to order.


As many of the trees that I’m planting need ecto-mycorrhizal fungi, it’s been useful to get a supply in, and NO, I’m not on a commission.

Vegetable Growing

This is the area that has suffered the most neglect. Much of what I’ve grown has gone unharvested, and I missed the window for planting Winter Salad plants. The good news is that there is still plenty to gather in, and the Blight resistant Potatoes (Sarpo Axona), have lived up to their name. I’m hoping for a bumper crop of maincrop spuds for the first time in three years.


I went along to take part in a day scything wheat. It was a fun day, experimenting with home made cradles, to work out what was the the best way to cut grains with a scythe. As I missed the West Country Scything Festival for the first time ever, it was nice to catch up with some of the other scything anoraks. I also ran a two day scything course for the Severn Gorge Nature Trust. The course was good fun, and it was nice to visit such a beautiful part of the country for the first time.

I’m just about to mow the areas where the next batch of trees will be planted, so that I can use the grass as mulch.

Lessons Learnt

Whilst I’ve learnt quite a bit about my bees, and trees this year, I think that the most important lessons were about myself, and my priorities.

First of all, when it comes down to it, I will allow all of my other jobs to slip, if my bees need my time. Whilst that isn’t logical, it’s what I have done, and will probably continue to do. I consider myself to be a logical person, but obviously in the case of my bees, emotion plays a stronger part than logic.

Secondly, although growing food is integral to what I’m trying to do, not only do I give it a lower priority than my bees, but I also prefer to grow my trees and shrubs. Whislt it would be easy to say that this will only be the case until the treea nd shrubs are all planted, I think that the reality is that I see the food production, at least annual food production, as a chore. An important chore, but still work. Whether that will be the case when I have to rely on my own efforts to feed us, or not, I don’t know, but I do prefer to grow my bee plants.

I’ll post again soon

Take care


One thought on “Another Month Slips By at The Sustainable Smallholding

  1. Pingback: Tree Planting Update, and Look Ahead to 2011 « The Sustainable Smallholding

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