I have spent a bit of time exploring paper chromatography as a means of testing the quality of soil and compost, thanks to the help of my friend Nigel. Now I’m not planning to explain what it is all about. Those of you who have stuck with my blog are quite able to find that out for yourselves, and the following links should help you do that. Chromatography 1. Chromatography 2. Instead I wanted to record some of the thoughts and ideas that this new technique has generated, and where I may take it in the future. Continue reading
Today was a good day. I manage bees for a local company, who own a biodynamic farm over the road from me. The bees are managed without opening the hives, which means that I check them every day during the swarming season, in order to try and take any swarms after they emerge from the hive.We also have bait hives out. They show when a swarm is looking for a new home, and can be occupied by a swarm. I had two swarms fly into bait hives last year.
A couple of days ago I warned them that I thought that the hives were close to swarming, and that we should check them twice a day for the next few days. My reasons were simple. Both hives were very busy, had lots of drones flying, we had kept them to two national brood boxes to restrict the space in the hive, and the cold snap was likely to have held them back from swarming, with the weather due to improve over the weekend, it just seemed likely. Not concrete proof, but a bit of educated intuition.
Things have been really hectic over the last seven days, so I thought that I would put together a short update of what’s been going on here on the Smallholding, in the last week.
My wheat plants are really forging ahead. I had a visit from my friend who runs the local biodynamic farm. I showed him my plants, and he was amazed at how far ahead they were. Here’s a picture. Note the trowel in the foreground, to give you an idea of the scale.
It will not be long before the plants start to produce ears. He (Jason) gave me some of his biodynamic preparations, which I added to my compost tea, my wormeries, and to my compost heaps, as well as scattering over the smallholding.
I have been planting out as well. Tomatoes into the greenhouse beds, courgettes under cloches, Onions, Rocket, Red Orach, Buckshorn Plaintain, Mallow, Thyme, and Lettuce into the beds, Borage and Willowherb into the hedgerows.
I also managed to sow some more Eucalyptus (Viminalis), and some Manuka. I’m not sure if the Manuka will be hardy enough, but it’s worth a try for the price of a packet of seeds. I’ve put some more Clover in, for the vegetable beds, and some more Tagetes, for companion planting.
There are still lots of things to plant out, and re-pot, but it’s slowly going outside now. It’s also time to get some frames put up for the outdoor Tomatoes, Melons, Runner Beans etc. So much to do, so little time.
On the beekeeping front, I’ve put out some bait hives, and built a swarm box, for collecting swarms. Pictures to follow. The baithive here is white and yellow. I’m hoping that the colours will encourage bees to investitage it, as they seem to examine all sorts of yellow stuff that’s laid around here. I’ve also carried out a shook swarm for a young girl that I am mentoring. I have another three to do for other people, over the course of the next week or so. (Shook swarming is a bio-mechanical method that helps to reduce varroa infestation, and brood disease). Once they have seen it done, they should all be able to do it for themselves next time (the people, not the bees, although that would be great, wouldn’t it?). I will be checking to see if there is enough honey collected, to make it worth extracting. If the weather stays bad, the bees will eat it themselves, and who could hold that against them. They’ve done all of the work.
Most of the stuff that I’ve read suggests that the bees will ignore most sources of nectar whilst they’re working Oilseed Rape (canola), because the nectar is so high in sugar, but for the last few days, I’ve watched my bees working a very pretty, yellow Tree Peony. I had never seen a flower on it until I gave it a good ‘haircut’ a few years ago, and it has flowered wonderfully ever since. It produces large black seeds, encased in a big red seed pod. I planted a few of the seeds last year, which didn’t do anything, but some of them have come up this Spring. Now that I know that the seeds are viable, I’ll put some more in this year. I have some more hives to assemble, and some more to make, prior to increasing the number of colonies.
The Sustainable Watch has arrived. My mother found one at a car boot sale this morning. A Sekonda, cost £2. here’s what it looks like.
I,ve asked her to look out for another, as this one is too pretty to damage whilst working.
I went to Debyshire for a wedding reception. Hi Bob and Heidi. I had a great time.
When it’s written down like this, it doesn’t seem as though I’ve done very much at all. Where did the week go?