Week 5: The birds and the bees

Finally, a rainy day.

After weeks of sun, and “mist” that only ever lasts 2 seconds, it is good to have a few full days of rain.  After planting all our peppers and eggplants in the hoophouse, and fixing up our duckling palace (2 inside jobs), we’re not sure what else to do.  When it rains, it’s a good idea to avoid working in the garden because wet soil means a few things: soil that is easily compacted, diseases that can be spread, (and cold hands!).  When there is lots of planting and weeding to be done, it is hard to appreciate the rain.. but there is also a lot of rest that we need to do- so rain helps us take a break.

Many things have been happening here.  Seb and I brought back our bees last Saturday evening, and shook them out of the cardboard box we bought them in, into our bee hives.  There were frames with honey and brood (bee eggs and larvae) but they were too big to fit in our hive.  We spent until 1:30 in the morning cutting them to fit, and lit up our smoker one last time to reassemble the hive.  All this moving and interference stresses the bees out- but luckily we haven’t had to disturb them since then.  When we lift the cover on our hive’s observation window we can see them working away on the frames.  Below are a few pictures from that window.  

Then on Monday the ducks arrived.  We had an area prepared for them, but the moment they were put in it, they started eating all the pine shaving on the ground, and soon after- the cardboard walls that surrounded them.  The lady who brought us the ducks said, “They will get into anything”, and so far we’ve found that to be very true.  No matter how much you prepare, and read books (which we did), nothing prepares you better for reality than living and observing real life.

We re-built the duck brooder (that’s what you call the space you raise baby birds in) so that the duckie poo and pee (and there’s lots of it), falls through wire mesh onto and election sign below that we can pull out and clean once a day.  We’ve gotten rid of any cardboard around the outside of them because they somehow have found a way to eat it, and now they are surrounded by wood, plastic, and beyond that- straw bales (which they also try to eat).

We’ve had them only a week and they’ve already grown a fair bit.  They are certainly a joy to visit and work with, and we hope they continue to be!

The garden is growing indeed.  We’ve planted 3/4 of the 1/4 acre we are working with, and when we work in there we can’t help but feel inspired by our surroundings!  There are pea vines just tall enough to need trellising, swiss chard plants the size of my hand, rows of fingernail sized carrots and beets, greens, cabbages and radishes under row cover so as not to be eaten by flea beetles, a growing row of onions, and much more!

And the last of the trees we ordered have been planted in our tree nursery.  They arrived upside down in a box that said “This side up”, woops!  Now most of them look like they will survive and thrive, but when we got them we were worried!  

In our nursery there are nut pines, persimmons, paw paws, heartnuts, hazelnuts, mulberries, persian walnuts, cherries, saskatoon berries, artic kiwis, pears, apples, plums, and chesnuts!  Some of the pears even have fruit on them already, most of which we’ve thinned off so the trees will send energy to establishing their roots.  We are also growing some flowers and herbs between the trees to attract beneficial insects to the nursery and confuse pests (strong smelling plants make it harder for pests to seek out their desired food- say, pear leaves.)

So far it seems we are going to come across many pests this year.  We’ve caught cabbage loopers munching our chinese cabbage, tent caterpillers munching, well, everything, leaf rollers in our parsley and on our tree leaves, potato bugs on volunteer potatoes, swallowtail larvae on our parsely, potato beetle, and much more.  We’ve gotten better at scouting for these things, and usually just hand pick them (or cover the crop in row cover).  We sprayed our eggplant transplants with and organic spray of water, soap, and neem oil (made from the seeds of the neem evergreen tree.) as in just one day they had eaten 1/4 of the transplants.  

The bugs don’t like it because it tastes bitter- and luckily it is not known to be harmful to other insects like honey bees, butterflies, and ladybugs.  

Those are just some of our adventures. 

The pigs, chicks, cows, sheep, gardens, and lovely farmers at Green Being farm are also teaching us many new things.   And, as always, the land is speaking to us- in wind, rain, sun, and soil.  We’re so grateful to be here.  




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