Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More Additions to the Truck

We are getting ready for our first plant sale this weekend at Mayberry Mill Craft Show in Westminster. We are only selling herb plants since Mayberry Mill sells bedding plants and hanging baskets. It should be fun! Anyway, here it is, the cap! Great, isn't it?
Today we took it off and scrubbed it inside and out. We also added some sealing tape around the edges before it went back on. That will help with waterproofing. It really looks like a farm truck now! We especially love the scroll detailing on the tinted bubble windows. Classy.
Now that we have so much space, we want to make sure we use it efficiently. Shawn built a frame to fit inside the bed. We will be able to slide pieces of plywood onto the frame to create a big shelf. Since we can't stack plants or soft veggies on top of each other, this will double our space!
Our test-run will be Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd. Here is the info in case anyone wants to come see us! (There will be free cookies...)

5/1/2010 - 5/2/2010
Mayberry Mill Craft Show
Address: 3001 E. Mayberry Rd., Westminster
Sat. 10 AM to 5 PM, Sun. Noon to 5 PM.
Demonstrations, crafts, art and gifts displayed in a pre-Civil War grain mill. Hanging baskets, herb, bedding and garden plants also available.
Contact: Mary Ann Galandak 410-848-6213

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Bees Are Here!

After much preparation and anticipation, a new colony of Italian honeybees has arrived at the farm. We spent the afternoon installing them into their new hive - more on this in a moment, but first, a bit about how all of this came to be...

In the midst of this years long and cold winter, we cooked up a plan with our city-dwelling
friend Mark to go into beekeeping together. Mark has a charming apartment in Brooklyn, with enough space on his fire escape for handful of herb and vegetable plants, but not quite enough room for a full fledged beehive. Furthermore, New York had a ban on keeping bees at the time, (a ban which has since been lifted). On the other hand, we had plenty of space on the farm and have had bees here in the past. And, bees play an important role by helping to fully pollinate
much of what grows here on the farm. All in all, it seemed like a good idea for everyone.

Because there are so few honeybees left in the wild, the best way to start a new colony is to buy young bees from a local beekeeper. We made arrangements with one to start a colony for us and agreed to come pick it up in the middle of May. So, it came as a bit of shock when we got a call earlier this week telling us that because of the unusually high pollen levels, the bees were already big enough to be picked up! With no time to spare, we spent the rest of that day building the wooden bee hive.

Painting the bottom board

Painting the hive body

A completed frame

The hive is finished and ready for bees

Because we are new beekeepers, we opted to start our colony by buying a 'nuc' - five frames from an existing hive, filled with bees and a queen that already know each other. This is the best way to start a new colony, because the bees have been living on the frames for a few weeks and so have started producing honey, pollen, eggs and larva.
Once we picked up the nuc, (it comes in a brown box which buzzes and vibrates from the ten thousand bees inside), our first task as beekeepers was to move the colony from the nuc box into the new hive by slowly moving each frame from one to the other. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having 10,000 bees flying around you!

All geared up to go work with the bees

We began by removing a frame from the nuc box

There are thousands of bees on each frame so we had to move them very slowly

Each frame is then gently put into the new hive body

Somehow we found the queen - she's been marked with a blue dot

Once all of the bees are in their new home, we put on the roof and let them settle in.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tourists for the Day: White House Garden Tour

Today we went on a tour of the White House gardens! Linda's long-time friend, Lois, offered us tickets and we couldn't pass them up. Thanks Lois! Shawn's parents were able to come too which made it even more fun!
It was really chilly today but the sun came out just for us while we made our way around the First Backyard. Oh! And we saw the First Dog, Bo, before we walked in. He was being walked by the First Dog Walker, he peed in the ivy behind the security booth. I didn't get a picture, but it was exciting anyway!

It was pretty crowded but the lines moved quickly and we were able to see everything we wanted to see. We haven't ever been on the White House grounds before so it was fun to see everything up close. It was all so neatly manicured.
There were beautiful wisteria vines crawling up the railings next to the one of the oldest trees on the property: a southern magnolia planted by Andrew Jackson in 1830. You can only see a branch peeking into this picture, but the tree was so big and so old they had to hold most of it up with a giant pole and several wires.
Here is Shawn "The Tourist".
This was one of the most beautiful parts of the property. It is the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. We especially liked the ornamental kale they featured under the tree. I can't imagine living here, though, it seems like you would never really feel at home. Especially with hundreds of people walking through...

Finally! The First Kitchen Garden...this feels a little more homey. Actually, a LOT more homey. They had all the spring veggies growing: the First Chard, the First Broccoli, the First Onions, the First Lettuce, and lots of herbs. It's a decent size and they do a smaller scale bed and trench set up as well. The little signs they had identifying what was growing in each bed were cute too, they looked hand-made.

Last but not least, the First Beehive. It's a big one! Two deep hive bodies and three supers...no wonder they got so much honey last year! It was in a really pretty spot under two trees just behind the kitchen garden.
We are so glad to see the Obamas show that you can mix fancy manicured lawns with growing some of your own food. And keeping bees!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Just In Time...

We have been meaning to plant several more beds in the upper garden (by the chicken coop) for about a week now. But as things go, suddenly it was Friday and we hadn't done it yet. We have a lot of plants still in their plug trays in the high tunnel dying to get out - some display a lovely fall color to let us know their roots have no more room and they are starting to give up. We buckled down to get things in before the rain, they were calling for thunderstorms for most of the night, and we got several new beds built and planted! We got in a row of kale mix, a row of celery, a row of cabbage (half red and half green savoy), a row of lettuce mix, and two rows of broccoli! Although we were planting cabbages in the rain, we got them in just in time...

We are going to have SO much broccoli. With the two new rows in the upper garden and the two giant beds down in the main garden...wow! Here is the new bed, just after planting.
This is the broccoli in the main garden - it's getting huge!! And weedy.
That is the next pressing issue. Weeds. They have been enjoying this beautiful spring weather as much as our crops have. Not good. Between the lambs quarter, various ivies, violets, and god-awful thistle we have our hands full. One or two solid days of weeding, though, and we will have it under control. Anyone interested in weeding? You are welcome here anytime. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The High Tunnel Comes Alive!

With warmer weather finally here, we have been busy filling our new high tunnel with plants - every last warm and sunny inch of the tunnel in fact! Flats full of herbs, flowers, and veggie seedlings fill our new hand built mesh-topped tables, soaking in spring sunshine and growing taller with each day. Wicker baskets of herbs and flowers hang from the ceiling, overflowing with marjoram, sage, savory, forget-me-nots, nasturtiums, and lots more. Tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet and hot pepper plants dot the eleven raised beds on the ground (with cucumbers slated to join them soon). As these plants grow taller, we will train them upwards along vertical strings that we will hang from the high tunnel's crossbars.

It's hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, this 25' x 28' space was just a muddy patch of grass with a metal frame above!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sandwiches, Baklava, and Nutter Butter S'mores.

Oh, and chickens too! Laura and Jon came over to spend an afternoon chasing chickens and eating delicious food. First order of business? Laura must hold a chicken.
Done! It was one of the big ones too...the Mongolian variety with feathery feet, only the best for Laura!
After the chicken fun, we gave them a tour of the farm which included impromptu stories from Mia and Pawpaw. It had been quite a day: Savannah (Pawpaw's cat) had gotten out and was chased all over by Jaxxy, both Mia and Jack were enjoying Mia's secret tree fort, and we had just picked up our washing-machine-salad-spinner crafted by Jackie's dad. And when Jon and Laura got here, everyone was happy to see some more Sandy Springers on the Farm.
For dinner, we ate huge sandwiches and homemade potato chips. ("mmmm...fried...")
Laura brought homemade baklava! It was AMAZING! Slathered in butter and honey, loaded with pistachios. So good.
We christened the new bonfire pit with - well - a bonfire. It was a beautiful 65 degrees out and breezy. Perfect. We sat out there talking and telling stories until it was past all of our bed-times. What a night!