• Tag Archives orchard
  • On Our Land

    Spring                                                             Bee Hiving Moon

    Well.  Those bees I saw earlier.  That got me excited about a successful overwintering.  They were scavengers.  Robbing the honey left over.  So, now I will have two hives, as I imagined I would.  Moving them them to the orchard. The bees will be closer to the house.

    Also, a rite of spring today.  I walked the fence line, about 2000 feet, looking for trees fallen on the fence (2, but not bad), holes dug under the fence (none) and anything else that compromises our dog security barrier.  Nothing that can’t be fixed with a chain saw.

    A cedar split a live, large branch.  It hangs now, a fresh wound in the tree about 8 feet up.  I can’t figure it.  Healthy.  Not really in the path of the winds.  Yet there it is, a finish to half the tree.

    Bright green grass, translucent in the near noon sun.  Tiny shoots also bright green carry leaves still bound toward their date with the light.  All round the forest has begun to wake up.

    One of our apple trees will blossom this week, two cherries seem ready to burst into bloom, too.  All over our property the land has shaken off the winter, mild though it was, and changed out its somber browns for productive green.

  • Practice Safe Orcharding

    Mid-Summer                                                                  Waning Garlic Moon

    Spent yesterday relaxing after an unusually busy week.  I wasn’t home for supper the first four nights.  I like the connectedness and sense of agency I get when the days get busy, but I also appreciate the calm of home.  Not much Latin gets done when life gets frantic.  There have to be long blocks of time, hours, to settle in and start thinking like a Roman.  At least for now.  Maybe later it will come more naturally.

    Today I finally get outside to care for my potato plants.  They need mounds built around them to support the now over grown stalks.  The leeks get mounded today, too.

    Yesterday I did a weird thing.  I got up on a ladder and put plastic baggies around all of our apples.  The UoM extension says this prevents apple maggots, otherwise known as those damn worms in the apple.  We’ll see.  After I’d done about 20 of them, I realized it was like putting condoms on each of the apples so they’d stay safe.  Practice safe orcharding, I always say.

    Tomorrow I do bee work.  It’s time for reversals of the hive boxes.  actually, probably past time.

    Yesterday when I walked through the garden with Kate I noticed bees flying into the colonies and out again, one after another, filling the sky with their small, busy flights.  To an untrained eye it would look chaotic, bees flying in seemingly random patterns here and there; when, in fact, each bee knows where it’s going and to which part of the hive they will return.

  • In the Garden

    Beltane                                                                           New  Garlic Moon

    One of those nights last night, unable to get to sleep, still rolling around awake at 1:00 a.m.  Up a little bleary.  Wrote  few e-mails, then out in the orchard, first.  I’ve had tent caterpillars on two trees.  Each time I have removed the tent and stepped on it or crushed the worms.  This is non-chemical pest control, a route I prefer and, as long as I’m not running a commercial operation, one I can pursue.

    Now I wander in the orchard, looking at seed pods (fruit) beginning to develop from the last of the blossoms which dropped this week.  I’ll try to find worms and moths before they do 2011-05-17_0805early-spring-2011damage and as long as I can I’ll follow pinch and destroy.  After that, I think, right now anyway, that I’ll go with Gary Reuter, the bee rangler for Marla Spivak.  I’ll just put up with wormy apples.  This is partly out of regard for the bees who have enough pressure of them and they don’t need an added pesticide load from our orchard, but it’s more out of a commitment to no pesticides, grow strong plants and let them fend for themselves.  It’s worked reasonably well for me so far.

    (before the fall)

    After the orchard the potatoes were next.  Now that the soil has warmed up the potatoes have begun to grow, their dark lobe shaped leaves appearing atop a fragile looking stalk.  At this point the basics of potato culture involves mounding earth over the stalk as it grows.  That’s what I did today.  In the long raised bed where I have most of the potatoes this year, I also have a bumper crop of asiatic lilies and tulips.

    I planted this bed originally as a cutting garden, years ago.  The same fall the bed was built I went out to the Arboretum to a lily growers sale and bought Minnesota hardy bulbs.  They’ve been in that bed ever since, maybe 10 years.  Boy, have they enjoyed that bed.  They’ve started lilies all over the place.  That means that as I mound the potatoes I have to move around the lily bulbs that have generated.  I hate to just throw them away because they’re so hardy and have been with me so long.  I’m trying right now to raise vegetables and flowers in the same bed.  That’s also worked reasonably well for me.06-28-10_earlylilies

    I also mounded the leeks as my last action in the garden this morning.  In the case of leeks the mounding blanches the stalk, keeps it white underground and increases the usable part of the leek.

    That done, I’ve come inside to work on my Latin.  Pentheus, now, Book III:509-to the end.

  • An Old Cannabis Farm, Right?

    Beltane                                                Waxing Last Frost Moon

    A long, 3 hour, nap, perfect for a gloomy, chill spring afternoon.  Then off to the grocery store.  With Mark here there are items on the list peculiar to him like Raisin Bran, lots of bread, more fish than usual (a good thing) and a greater quantity of fruit.

    The same kid from Anoka/Ramsey Garden came with the pocket sized dump truck, navigated it through our gate and dumped the load right in front of the orchard, saving several steps with a heavy wheelbarrow.  He remembered our place, “An old cannabis farm, right? Not as much up now.”

    Yep, during WWII the government wanted more rope so hemp farms were common in Anoka county.  The weed grows everywhere, will get 8-9 feet tall if allowed to mature and has a stem at maturity that is so thick a machete takes two or three whacks to bring it down. It laughs at weed whips.  And, no, its THC content is too low to be any good.  It made rope, not laughing teen-agers and college students.

    True story.  When we first moved up here to Andover, back in 1994, we were the only house in the development.  A white car pulled up on 153rd about two hundred feet from our house and two young kids popped the trunk and hopped out.  They busily pulled hemp plants from the lot across from us and threw them in the car, not even bothering to shake the soil off the roots.   Someone, we think it was the developer, Harvey Kadlec, called the police.

    When they arrived, the kids were still at work.  Oops.  The police impounded the car and gave the kids a lift back to the Anoka County Jail.

    Kate always tells this on me, so I’ll just go ahead.  I had laced several hemp plants through our chain link fence, reveling in the fact that the forbidden weed grew wild on our property, a sort of dream lot for a sixties kid.  When the police came, I went out through our back garage door and pulled the plants out of the fence.  Can’t be too careful in these circumstances.

  • Breakthrough!

    Spring Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

    I have made several entries private and will explain that decision on Sunday. Stay tuned.

    The snow has only a few strongholds left in our front yard though the back and the woods still has plenty. The garden behind our patio has daffodil stems through the 06-27-10_marigoldeyeviewearth, a bit yellow at the top, then light green, then a darker green. Soon there should be other bulbs breaking through including some I’d forgotten I planted in the orchard.

    This is the transition week for our place, when the snow disappears and the greening begins. I’m excited to see the garden come to life. When the bees come, some time after April 23rd, it will feel like the whole gangs back together. I’m hopeful that the orchard will start producing this growing season. We’ll see.

    I want to get some more woodchips down right away in the orchard, perhaps in the vegetable garden, too. 670_0300

    It’s also time for serious clean up work in the back. I got distracted last fall and didn’t keep up with the maintenance as well as I could. Then, there’s all those tree branches split by the heavy first snowfall last November. So, plenty of outside work.

    We ate the last of our potatoes just two weeks ago and still have garlic, yellow onions, honey, and canned vegetables from several years.  We couldn’t make it as pioneers but we’re doing well at supplementing our diet.  More.  We tune our lives to natural rhythms, especially in the growing season.

    That original revelation to us that Emerson talks about is coming along out here in Andover.

  • Integrated Pest Management

    Lughnasa                                Waxing Back to School Moon

    It’s been a wet, cool few days.  The Apiguard I picked up last night only works above 60 degrees and 70 is better.  It recommends chemical resistant gloves.  I’m using this on two colonies, the parent and the divide.  I tested the divide and its high, putting the colonies winter survival at risk, though I did not test the parent since the divide began with a hive box full of parent colony bees, it seems reasonable to assume it has a high mite count, too.  I don’t like using the medication, but the UofM, which shares my bias toward Integrated Pest Management and leans against treating recommends it.  I did count my mites, too, so I know the divide has a high mite count.  The package colony, which had only 1 mite all together, I will not treat.

    The fumigilin-B treats nosema.  In this case the only way to reliably test requires a 400+ microscope, an expensive counter and a bunch of dead bees beat up in a mortar and pestle.  The U, again, recommends treatment this year in particular so I’m following their advice.  Nosema and varroa mites are two of the culprits in colony collapse disorder and often combine to cause the winter loss of a colony.

    Integrated pest management for mites and nosema includes using Minnesota hygienic queens, which I have done, and can include use of a drone frame which attracts mites because drones take longer to pupate.  When the drone frame has capped brood cells, the beekeeper removes and freezes it, killing the mites and the drones.  This reduces the overall mite load.

    Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been around for a while.  It’s sort of a middle ground between all organic and contemporary agriculture/horticulture/apiculture techniques.  The idea is to put any chemical treatments as last resorts, utilizing first techniques that either directly mimic nature or are supportive to it.  In gardening, for example, companion planting qualifies.  So does crop rotation.  So does soil improvement.  So does hand picking insects and pruning out diseased branches or plants.  Another involves acknowledging that some level of disease and infestation is a normal part of the natural world.  The problem comes when the level begins to interfere with the plant or animals productive ability or its ability to, say, survive a Minnesota winter in our case.

    In apiculture it involves, in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, culling 20% or so of your woodenware as it reaches 5 years of age.  This reduces nosema because the nosema organism lays down spores that can last as long as 75 years.  Another technique involves making sure your colonies have adequate food supplies for the winter.  A colony that struggles for food in early spring has much higher susceptibility to disease.

    I use IPM in our perennial flower beds, our vegetable garden and now in the Artemis Hives.  I’ve not started in the orchard yet because fruit trees are still a mystery to me.  Gotta resolve that over the winter.

  • Photo Time: Late Summer

    Lughnasa                                            Waning Artemis Moon


    Late summer taste treats.  We have red and golden.


    These are the hives with their maximum honey supers.  We extract honey on Monday.


    This is just one of several deep cave descents attempted by the Andover Speleological Society, Rigel and Vega founding members.


    The newly mulched orchard from the perspective of one of our sand cherry bushes.


    Our fruit trees have not really begun to bear yet, but there are six apples on this tree.  More as the years go on.


    Kate spearheaded this project and it looks great.  Not only does it look great, but it is more functional, too, especially from a weed suppression point of view.


    Kate plants coleus all round the yard; they add needed color to shady spots.


  • An Aging Bull Moose

    Lughnasa                                    Waning Artemis Moon

    Easton and Ray, both soon to be seniors at Andover High, worked this morning, moving wood chips, laying them down on the paths Kate and I cleared of weeds yesterday.  Both fit and energetic they kept at it, moving 9 cubic yards of wood chips with a wheel barrow.  That’s minus the maybe one cubic yard I moved to mulch some parts of the further away vegetable patch.  The orchard looks great and completes a job started by Kate a few weeks ago, one she saw through to a beautiful conclusion.  The orchard looks its best ever.  Right after Ecological Gardens finished the installation now 3 years ago, it looked pretty good, but the trees were small and the  plants in the guilds around them were also young.  Now the trees have begun to bear fruit, the guild plants have matured and the place looks like a real orchard.  Pictures tomorrow.

    Working alongside the boys made me oddly competitive.  I wanted them to see me as an old man who could really work.  Not quite sure where this came from but it felt like the aging bull moose in the presence of young, high testosterone males.  Instinctive rather than even subconscious.  It passed, though.

    Now, after a day and a half of physical labor, I’m weary, in need of a nap.

  • Clearing the Paths

    Lughnasa                                  Full Artemis Moon

    Kate and I yanked up the carpet under the mulched paths in our orchard, cleaned it off and re-laid it after putting weed seed germination preventer and round-up on the green vegetation in the paths.  These are the only chemicals, with the exception of cygon on my iris, that I use in the garden.  No fertilizers, on pesticides and only these rare instances of herbicide use.  I also use herbicide to kill poison ivy and to prevent stumps from re-growing.  That’s it.

    After clearing two paths out of four we went out for lunch, now the nap.  We need to clear one more path and we’ll be ready for the mulch tomorrow.  The other path, along the fence with the wild grapes has not had near as much weedy growth, so it can just take mulch as is.

  • A Two-Person Garden

    Lughnasa                                    Waning Grandchildren Moon

    Kate and I have shifted our bedtimes and risings to 6:30.  This allows us to get out to work in the garden when it’s still the cool of the day.  This morning Kate continued to restore the original look and feel to the orchard while I finished up the mulch in the front, moved her growing mound of pulled weeds and gathering lettuces and kale for today’s meals.

    There was, too, the matter of the original guild plantings in the orchard.  Guilds complement each other and, in this case, the fruit tree under which they grow.  Over the last two years we’d let the clover go, after a two year effort prior to that eliminating what Paula, owner of Ecological Gardens, called, “…that damn quack.”  The good news:  no quack back.  The bad:  clover all over.  In the process we lost some of the plants in the guilds.  I know what they are now and will replace them over the next couple of weeks.

    It was also weed identification day, so I spent time in the orchard, my “Weeds of the Northeast” in hand, shuffling through the pages trying to find a match.  The ones I could not identify I have concluded for now are plants that have a place.

    We’re now going to work an hour to two in the mornings together.  That should be enough to manage.  I used to be able to care for our perennials in an hour a morning, but our various plots have grown beyond that.  It’s a two person yard now and Kate’s wonderful recovery has added her back to the team.  Yeah!

    Today perennial bulb orders to go in, too.  Over the vegetable and bee years, the ramping up years, I’ve pretty much left the old perennial beds to themselves, only occasionally working them and then  usually when the situation demanded, rather than requested, me.  Now we’re a bit further along with the orchard, the vegetables and the bees and I want to return some attention to the bulbs and perennial flowers that I love.  Bulb planting happens in October when the rest of the garden has died away, so there’s little conflict in time for that chore.