Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Bee's Knees

We may be inheriting a few honeybee hives from my uncle's cousin, along with his beekeeping equipment. Mark and I have the enthusiasm but lack the know-how to care for them, so last Friday my dad and I went to a well-timed meeting of the local beekeepers' association. The topic, presented by Jolie Dollar of the Xerces Society, happened to be about drawing native bees as pollinators for your garden, which was right up our alley; however, I wondered how the honeybee enthusiasts felt about inviting interlopers into their carefully crafted habitats.

Turns out my suspicions were well founded. After all, what subculture doesn't have its share of rivalry and controversy? My dad struck up a conversation about acquiring nucs for our hives with a young guy who seemed like one of the most knowledgeable people in the room. Considering this guy raises bees for a living, I was surprised to hear him derisively dismiss native bees as nothing more than a nuisance. He was actually complaining how hard they were to exterminate. Meanwhile, I had just exchanged a figurative fist-bump with the presenter over our shared love of permaculture.

Not surprisingly, we'll have to make sure we partner ourselves with an apiculture mentor who shares our holistic, low-intervention approach. Beekeeping is pretty difficult, with hives being felled right and left by everything from mites to nocema to the still-mysterious colony collapse disorder (CCD) to a hard winter like the one we've had this year. There's this awesome-looking class coming up at Genesis, but it's not until July, and we'll need to act quickly if we plan to establish some hives this year. In the meantime, I'm friendly with the wife of the professional beekeeper teaching that class, so a well-placed phone call might be in order.

This article on baby boomers taking up apiculture is timely as well, since I think I was one of three non-boomers at that meeting last week. Four, if you include the speaker.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Signs of Spring

I think this will be enough to sustain me through the next few chilly weeks.

The first brave crocuses.

Planting the cherry trees.

Baby rhubarb.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dirty Fingernails

The alliums (leeks, shallots, onions, scallions) are getting all tall and gangly, and this weekend we plant the rest of the spring seeds--greens and broccoli. Next week is the grand St. Patrick's Day tradition of planting peas, which gives me genuine hope that spring is on its way.

Last weekend was our first chance to get dirty in the garden this year, clearing out the woody remains of last year's pepper plants and herbs. My scratched-up arms are telling me that we won't be planting those thorny Ma Waeng eggplants again!

Even though it was in the mid-50s, the piles of tomato vines we'd piled up in November were still frozen to the ground. My stash of leeks in the corner is alive and well, though--soon they should be cooperative enough for us to pull and eat.

After this long, cold winter of the screaming baby, dirt under my fingernails never felt so good.