Tag Archives: hive

Suddenly Summer–Time for Bees and More Planting


The sun sets over the farm. The rows are laid out with drip tape and plastic, using our “new” bed layer, all ready for planting melons, cabbages, and eggplants. We will slowly convert all of our irrigation to this system which saves water and reduces weeding. We will wait another week to plant the heat-loving melons, eggplants, tomatoes and peppers though, as nights here still hover just above 40. We need nights in the mid-50s for these plantings. It is so hard to be patient!

In the meantime, several successions of cold-loving crops have gone in, such as onions, (more than 3800 of the sweet Walla Walla variety, plus more bunching onions) spinach, kale, chard, beets, turnips, lettuces and greens. All this on top of the protected plantings of carrots greens and onions started in February and March in the two hoophouses, which were moved last month. The two houses are already filled with their summer crops.


Artichokes, a new crop we’re trying out this year, have been planted inside the small hoophouse. Since this photo, a row and a half of cayenne peppers also got put in. You can see the garlic growing on the other side of the hoophouse.DSC_0013Rosie was game to try out the new two seater planter we got on loan. Our maiden voyage was to plant 600 strawberry plants for next season.


Rosie and Bill took their positions on the back while Mike drove.


After a lot of trial and error they got it done. We still need to learn how to set up and use this tool properly!


Each person alternatively drops a plant between two revolving discs which open up the ground and put the plant in the proper position. It was a little bit daunting, but in the end, much kinder on the knees! We hope to use this planter to get all the broccoli and cauliflower in.

DSC_0009Meanwhile, in the large hoophouse, the tomatoes are growing very well. We’ve also planted a bed of ginger along one side, and will grow pickling cucumbers on a trellis along the other side. We are working to maximize valuable growing space inside the hoophouses.

DSC_0008The mesclun mix is ready for its third cutting! Romaine heads are getting bigger, in time for our first CSA shares which begin June 10. Bunching onions will make a delicious addition to our first shares, along with baby spinach, radishes, and fully grown sweet winter carrots!

DSC_0081And in the middle of all this activity, the bees arrived! We lost all four of our hives last winter. One we knew had a weak queen. We knew we had at least two swarms,  maybe three, last summer. Two of the hives hung on until nearly spring, but didn’t make it. We were left with two broodboxes full of honey, which we will put on the hives in September to help get our bees through next winter. We are about a month late getting the two bee packages in. However, we have enough hive equipment to give these new bees fully built out comb in two deep boxes, which should help them along. If you are starting from scratch, it takes the bees quite awhile to just build comb on all the frames, so we are hopeful that the bees will have an advantage this year. Our main intention is to get these bees pollinating our crops. Some honey at the end of the season is really a bonus for us!

DSC_0056Two of our interns, Rosie and Alisha (doing a great job as photographer, which is why she is not in the photos! Thanks Lish!) helped install the packages. It was a first for both of them, and quite exciting!

DSC_0034This was a first for me, as well, installing packages without Mike and Bill’s input. But we did ok.  The queens must be accepted by the hive (by smell,) so they come protected in little cages that you hang inside the hive. They chew their way out through a candy plug. By the time they get out, usually, the hive has accepted her. We will check in 7 days, and hopefully remove the empty queen cages. In another 7 days after that, we check once more to determine that the queen is laying capped brood. Fingers crossed!


Rocking that bee-hoodie Rosie!


Filed under Bees, CSA Shares, Four Season Gardening, Greenhouse, Planting, Spring, Uncategorized

Bees! Honey! Tomatoes!

We checked the bees today and found a completely full super of honey. So we lit the smoker and brought back a rubbermaid bin with lid and a damp towel.

Michael pries out the first frame from the super. The bees were remarkably unconcerned about our presence.

The box and towel are to prevent a “robbing incident.” As soon as the frames are pulled out of the hive, they are whisked into the box and covered with the towel. This is so the bees don’t smell the honey and try to get it back!

The brush in Michael's hand is to brush the bees off the frame as it is pulled out.

All frames are filled solid, both sides, and nicely capped.

Bees are such remarkable creatures! They create perfectly identical octagonal cells that are slightly angled down into which they deposit nectar which is regurgitated from their honey stomachs. Then they tend it so that the water evaporates from the nectar until it is the exact right specific gravity of honey, then they seal it over with wax. Did you know that honey is the only food found in nature that will never spoil? Sealed honey comb has been found in Egyptian tombs that’s still good. Amazing!

This week, we will scrape the wax caps off each frame and spin out the honey. By the weight of the frames, we anticipate more than 30 lbs of sweet, delicious, light colored spring honey! Our patience and persistence is finally being rewarded!

Today, Michael also began pruning all the excess foliage from the greenhouse tomatoes. This puts all the energy into the clusters of tomatoes, which are pruned to no more than six.  The top of the plant continues to grow, and in fact, once the tomatoes at the bottom are harvested, it is possible to drop the plant down to re-root. This causes the top of the plant to continue to grow and produce fruit. This ensures tomatoes for as long as the daylight length holds out, perhaps October.

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The Buzz On Our Bees

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We have very good news this year: Our bees have finally made it through a winter and it looks like it’s a strong hive. This hive did really well last summer, but it was one of two new packages we installed last April. This means that the bees use all their energy and time to build comb, so we missed the Spring honey flow. This is always the major flow of the season. We ran into trouble right away with our second new hive last year. The queen was DOA. A second queen was shipped in from Georgia overnight, and we installed her, but she wasn’t a strong queen. That hive died around mid-summer.

But there was still hope for our first hive. The first year we did bees, we got 30 lbs of honey. With one of the hottest summers in a long time, the late flow was not very good. Our bees managed to collect enough stores to survive the winter, but there was nothing extra for us. We learned in October when we visited the Topsfield Fair Bee building, that most of the honey produced around here last year came from that early Spring flow with very little honey produced after the Spring flow.

Last fall, we decided not to wrap our hive, but instead put an extra empty super on top which we stuffed with hay. We also stuffed hay underneath the box. This seemed to keep the bees insulated but dry. It’s not cold that kills the bees, it’s the moisture. So we’ll definitely try that again. 

We’re getting a new box of bees on Friday so we will have a second hive. More photos of that will follow!

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