Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spring Growth and Scything

Spring has arrived and with it the grass has grown swiftly and strongly, the fruit trees are blossoming and being pollinated by my bees and consequently setting fruit.
A pear tree, with my hives in the background....
 and set fruit.
Looks like we are in for another bumper nashi crop.
 The chooks are enjoying the growth in their run.
 The chooks enjoying food scraps and sprouted wheat, next to the korokia which has delicious (to chooks) red berries later in the season; and the fig from which we ate our first fruit last year. 
An apple tree and, behind on the fence, a boysenberry vine given by a friend - a huge mistake, as it is rampant but the chooks enjoy them.
I've never eaten vine leaves, but judging from the way the chooks keep the vine trimmed, they must be yummy! It's hilarious watching them jump straight up in the air to pluck a leaf.
We planted the pear tree, but both the avocado and the peach (just over the fence) have grown from seed thrown out with scraps, and are thriving in the rich compost made by the chooks. The avocado had flowers this year, so maybe next year we will get fruit, though I'm told it takes up to 15 years for a seedling to produce, and this is only about 6 years old.
The flax was brought with us when we moved here, and just dumped into the ground with no thought of where and why. Later we built the chook run around it. The chooks love the dry, shady spot that also provides snails and insect snack delights.
Mac mows with the tractor, and I used to clear around the trees using a line trimmer or bush bar. Neither the process nor the results were satisfactory. The process was loud and smelly, and often I gave up because the damn thing would stop and refuse to start again - I'm not really in tune with motors. The result was often a ring barked or damaged tree.

I now use a scythe, thanks to a workshop with The Jolly Scythers, and find it so much more satisfactory. The process is both good exercise, and a meditation practice. The results are better: I have not damaged a single tree.
Kiwiberries (tiny kiwifruit) and grapes - the scythe is so very much easier for freeing these from the grass.
 The Luisa plums were 'grassed out'...
 and looked better for the grass being cleared.
 My scythe.
And though the ordinary plums don't have much fruit this year, the Luisa is looking good.
 The grapevine on the chook run is looking good.
 The ugli fruit wasn't looking at all - it couldn't see out!

It's actually quite big! It had a few not-very-nice small fruit this year, but is covered with flowers at the moment, so I have high hopes for the next harvest.

Scything is hard, hot sweaty work, but I love the meditative quality of the time spent doing it, and the sense of satisfaction when I'm done. Over the last ten days I have done about half the trees, and by the time I'm finished it will be time to start again - but it's the sort of work I love, and it makes me feel like a real yeoman farmer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bee Happy

So first I moved my hive, with some loss of bees, but successfully overall. Then I made a nucleus hive using a frame of brood with a queen cell. Would it work?

I was determined to wait at least two weeks before looking inside the nuc, but ten days later I had another look in my main hive and there was considerably less brood that before. I was worried. At the weekend I looked into the hive again, and although I thought I saw a few eggs, there were no larvae, and not a lot of brood. Panic call to Barbara my Bee Buddy. She came over last Tuesday and we looked again. We could see no queen, little brood, and, because it was a grey day, no eggs but there were a few larvae. We thought it might be a worker bees laying drones. But the thing I have learnt is, don't panic, wait a little longer. We looked into the nuc hive for the first time, and straight away Barbara spotted a large fat healthy looking queen! Yay!
Today I procrastinated all morning, then took a deep breath and went over to the hives. First, I looked into the bottom box of my main hive. The outside frame had honey and pollen in it and I removed that before looking further. I inspected the next three frames and -oh joy - found them full of eggs and larvae! There must be a queen in there! It appears my old queen absconded with a small swarm, and a new queen has taken over.

The next job was to check the nuc. I found that too was full of eggs, larvae and capped brood and full of bees, so I moved them into a full sized box. I now have two hives!

Now I'm just waiting for a phone call, this week or next, to say a nuc is ready for me to collect in Albany and then I will be a three hive beekeeper, which has been my aim since I started. Next year I'm thinking I might get myself a top bar hive.

I can spend hours watching these magical creatures.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Betsy McCall

I've been following a wonderful new blog, Pass It On. Johanna Knox and her friend Emma Levy say, "We realised we were all bursting to talk about the culinary legacies left by loved ones - and it suddenly seemed like an exciting idea to make a blog where inherited recipes could be passed on and special people remembered through those recipes. It's a tribute page with a difference."
Today's recipe was from Johanna's grandmother, a Canadian, and mention was made of paper dolls - which sent me off on a Google journey into my own childhood.

My maternal grandfather's people came to New Zealand in a somewhat convoluted way: Scotland to Canada, where some stayed and some went back to Scotland, where again some stayed and some came to New Zealand. When I was little my mother corresponded with a Canadian cousin, who periodically sent Mum a pile of McCall's magazines. The big excitement for my sister and me was the paper dolls and clothes that came with each one. And look what I found! Isn't the internet wonderful?

If you go to the site you can even download high quality versions so you can use them - and the great thing about that is you can also download TWO copies so you don't have to fight with your sister ever again!