Sunday, May 22, 2011

What it sounds like to stand in a swarm of bees...

If you are curious about bees, you may wonder why and how they swarm. In my opinion, this is one of the most fascinating aspects of bee biology. Swarming is their way of managing the size of their hive, and furthering their species. When a hive becomes too crowded they will do what we call, "throwing out a swarm." The old queen will leave the hive with the swarm, and new queen cells will eventually give birth to a new queen (they will fight it out to determine who gets to be the big mama in charge). The bees will often cluster on the outside of their hive on the day they will swarm, and this usually happens after several rainy days (we've had our share lately, haven't we?).
When it is time to go, the bees will start to fly in a frenzy, making an intense buzzing sound that is so much fun to hear and witness. They will sometimes hover for a while, but usually will slowly move towards the direction they plan to go. Sometimes they don't go much further than 10-20 feet away, such as this hive has done. They will then cluster on a branch, fence post, side of a house, etc., until the "scout bees" have found a nice place for the hive to make a home. The queen will be hanging at the center of a swarm, with all the other bees clinging to each other around her. There is no comb, beeswax, or honey in a swarm, so the bees are usually docile because they have no home or property to protect.
If you see a swarm, you should try to contact your local extension agent, or do a google search for your local bee club. Beekeepers such as us are more than happy to come and take your swarm. We simply knock them down off the branch into a box, and later put them in one of our hives, with some drawn out comb with honey to entice them to stay. Sometimes we will even go as far as putting a frame of brood (baby bees) in, because the bees have a hard time leaving the babies. Yet sometimes, when a hive has it in their mind to swarm, they are even going to swarm out of the hive you provided... so it is never a sure-fire thing. Just today we had a swarm leave one of our hives after we caught it last night (leaving the brood and all). Bees are wild animals, no matter how much we try to domesticate them for our own use, they will do as they please. If you are local to our area, check out our Scioto Valley Beekeepers website to access a list of local beekeepers who are happy to help with swarms. In Columbus, the Central Ohio Beekeepers have a similar program.
Don't fear the swarm!
-Thanks for stopping by,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Snapshots from the farm on a Wednesday morning

Every morning when I wake up and look out the window, I am amazed at how green everything is! That is one aspect of living in Ohio that I really do enjoy. I thought it might be fun to simply take my camera around the farm and post pictures of how everything is growing, flowering, and enjoying the rain. While we commiserate about not planting corn, tomatoes, etc etc etc... some of the plants that are in the ground are really thriving. Here is the garlic, in all it's splendor. I can't wait for the garlic scapes!The catnip has really gone crazy this year! Some cats are about to be very happy, because these plants are at least 4' high, and I plan to bring some cuttings to the Worthington market this weekend.
Some of our potato plants are already flowering... while others are just now starting to poke out of the ground!
The chickens seem to enjoy their little pond. They venture over to grab a few worms that have worked their way up to the surface, but they can't resist a human being with a camera! They are curious little ladies.
This is a valerian flower. I planted these so that I could harvest the roots in the fall of the 3rd year (which is this year, finally!). This plant can be used as a sedative, steeped in a tea, or in bath water to help cure insomnia.
The strawberry plants looked so pretty with the dew, and the little flowers dropping their petals to reveal the tiny green berries below.
This is my very favorite type of Spearmint. I call it "fuzzy leafed Spearmint", and I took a start from my mom's garden, which she took from my Grandma's garden, and so on. It has such a delicate flavor. It is my first choice for herbal mint tea.
The chives are also starting to bloom! I love their flowers!
And finally you get to meet the newest addition to our family... Lucky! Courtesy of Teresa Hoxworth at Danville Veterinary Clinic, Lucky certainly is one lucky dog. She was going to be euthanized, but instead my sister Teresa decided to give her as a gift to our son Mason for his 3rd birthday. Despite the fact that Lucky has chewed up everything that I was using in my greenhouse (an entire gallon of fish emulsion fertilizer, my good permanent market, plant tags) as well as shoes, bags of mulch, morning papers... the list goes on.... she is a great dog. Very lucky, I might add.
Hope to see some of you at market this weekend!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

This guy is a little sensitive...

Let me introduce you to one of my very favorite plants. It has been a favorite of mine since I was just a little kid, and my aunt had it growing in a pot on her back porch. His name is "Sensitive Plant" and he is just a tad bit shy...On a fine summer's day he will sit with his leaves open, as you see above. But as soon as someone comes along and brushes his leaves (below), he closes up, kind of like a venus fly trap, but much quicker and more gratifying. After about 10-15 minutes, he will open up, and the fun begins once again. I remember being told that we weren't supposed to sit in front of the plant all day, touching and terrorizing the poor thing... but it really is too much fun! I will bring a few of these to market this weekend so you can all enjoy the show put on by Mr. Sensitive Plant.
Now... a trip down memory lane. About a month ago, Becky received 20,000 onion plants in the mail (and yes, they did smell pretty strong). She hired a team of 2 helpers, along with her father-in-law... who rigged up this amazing back-saving device to assist with planting. Normally it would take many hours and uncomfortable back strain to plant this amount of onions. But in just two days, (well, two very long, wet, muddy days) Becky and her crew were able to get all 20,000 onions in the ground. One person "drove" the tractor (kept it straight as it crept along at .0000001 mph), while two people lie down on this device (formally some useful farm implement he picked up at an auction) and poked the onions through the hole in the black plastic. Becky has drip irrigation running under the black plastic, to preserve moisture at the plants' roots and control weeds.
Becky is on the left, and her helper Kyra on the right. Can you believe they are smiling through it all? It was COLD.
And on a completely unrelated note... we have baby chicks! Our kids love them... a little too much. Whenever we go out to see them Maizy shouts, "A chick, please!" so that I will let her pet them. These birds are actually broiler chickens, and we will be getting them butchered so that we can have a freezer full of anti-biotic free meat for our family throughout the year. Shhhh.... don't tell Maizy.
Until next time... when the rain stops (hopefully)!