welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania

Saturday, May 29, 2010

market season begins!

This week was the start of the market season for 2010 and also, for me. The verdict? I had a blast! While the Willow Street Growers Market was a bit slow, Eastern Market was hopping. I love the energy of that place and it's people.

Taking my cue from one of today's customers, I decided to make a salad for dinner tonight. Buttercrunch lettuce, chopped cucumbers, strawberries, Sungold tomatoes, and basil, all tossed with balsamic vinegar.


It just doesn't get much better than this. At least for now. Until the next great salad comes along, that is.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

checking on the bees

View of the hive after opening the bottom vent board. Please note the ginormous cluster of bees. (Oh, and also the cork that is still in the third entrance hole.)

The hive was installed over five weeks ago. According to the barefoot beekeeper, I should have checked on them and moved the dividers out to give them more space about four weeks ago. Did I? No. It was one excuse after another: too busy, too scared, too rainy, too scared, too cold, too scared, didn't have my tyvek suit yet, too scared, etc. In my defense, however, I have been peeking at their hive (from a safe distance) quite often. Lots of bees going in and out, seemingly normal activity, and so it was easy to put off. Then last week while doing my peeking, I saw hundreds of bees clinging to the outside of the hive near the entrance holes - like they might be running out of room. So after four more days of excuses, today was the day - warm and sunny, just the type of day that makes bees happy and content, with most of them out foraging for honey. Looking at what now seemed to be a couple thousand bees clustered on the outside of the hive, all I could think was "Most of them gone? How could this be the minority?" If the thousands of bees still in and on the hive are any indication, then clearly the queen lived and is laying eggs like gangbusters. She is one fertile mama.

So I made up a batch of liquid bee smoke, donned veil, jacket, gloves, rubber boots, and the new tyvek suit and walked that long, lonely walk to the end of the driveway where the bees live. Wow, was I hot. And a little claustrophobic. Even without the tiniest bit of skin showing, it was still unnerving. So first thing, I sprayed the liquid smoke on the cluster at the front of the hive as well as every bee flying anywhere nearby, then I released the bottom vent door and sprayed the bees that somehow managed to get in there. Kept spraying as I removed the roof. As a matter of fact, let me save time and just say that I really didn't stop spraying. Did I overdo the spray? Quite possibly. Most probably. Almost definitely. But it did seem to work.

So how were the girls, you ask? Well they've been busy. Busy building and filling comb. They even built comb on the dividers which wasn't a good thing since I was going to remove them. Since they were in use and full of bees, any one of which could be the queen, I moved them to the ends of the hive so that they at least have more room in there. Hopefully that won't mess them up too bad.

In retrospect, I quit too soon. I should have taken the opportunity to see if they have brood comb and honey comb built on different bars. I should also have removed the cork from the third entrance hole to give them more room to come and go. But quite honestly, when ninety percent of your brain is occupied with thoughts of an imminent bee attack, little details are easy to forget.

In conclusion, there are a couple things I'd like to say:
First - so far the bees seem to be thriving all by themselves without any help from me, thank goodness.
Second - if I can do this then nearly anyone can. So if keeping bees is an idea you've toyed around with, go for it!
Finally - that cork is staying right where it is and the bees will just have to deal with it.

By the way, is it just me or does that bottom vent board seem like a bit of a ramp for rodents and ants?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

planting frenzy

I have been in a planting frenzy this week and I'm not done yet. Most of the new garden plot has been planted with cut flowers, tomatoes, cantaloupes, watermelons, cucumbers, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, swiss chard, and raddichio. Today I plan to put in corn. Next on the agenda is getting everything mulched in an effort to keep down weeds. I need to go visit my neighbor to see if he still has straw for sale.

Both the Willow Street and Lancaster's Eastern Market start up next week which is pretty exciting. Oddly enough, with the exception of lettuce and perhaps radishes, most of the harvest will be warm weather (greenhouse) produce. It looks like I'll have tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. Oh, and maybe sunflowers and peppers, too. Weird, but so much time was spent in the greenhouse that many of the typical spring crops just never got in the ground or were put in late. Seems as though it's been a constant game of catch-up, but this latest round of planting should bring things back up-to-date.
325 square feet of cut flowers

Thursday, May 13, 2010

spring sunshine!

Is it just me, or do others feel a bit giddy when the sun comes out the morning after several days of rain?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Landis Valley Herb and Garden Faire

I spent Friday and Saturday in a most enjoyable way - in the company of a new but good friend while we sold heirloom herb and vegetable seedlings to possibly the nicest people in the world. The mood was relaxed and happy, everyone was smiling, and I had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful folks. In all my various endeavors, I have never felt as comfortable as with people who garden. We come from all walks of life, from college students, to urban professionals, country dwellers, and retired folks, but we share one thing in common - the love of growing food. Egos and agendas are left elsewhere while ideas, information, recipes, and growing tips are freely shared.

So thank you to everyone who stopped by. It was a pleasure.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

back on schedule? one can only hope.

So I bit the bullet and rented a riding rototiller. They delivered it early this morning and by eight a.m., I was out there tearing up sod with this baby. For four hours. Non-stop. First, I went back over and completed what was started with the walk-behind version. Next came the potato and bean plots. Last, I prepped a plot that won't see any actual use until 2011. In the meantime, it will be planted to a cover crop of mow-down alfalfa which is supposed to help break up compacted soil while also adding nitrogen to the soil. A win-win.

With the major tilling completed, planting should get back on schedule. Flower, tomato, cabbage family, melon, and cucumber seedlings can now all go in along with potatoes, beans, and soon, corn. With the exception of shoots for salads, I've given up on peas this year, it's just too late to start them any more. Ah well, moving on.

Later today I'll mark out beds and add amendments. Then tomorrow morning will be dedicated to planting. Tomorrow afternoon I'll be loading up seedlings for the Landis Valley Herb and Garden Fair on Friday and Saturday. Looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

for your viewing pleasure...

Mayapple and her lambs

lamb races

Rosebud's little boy

Aster's little girl


the goose family