Farm Update: Bees, Beds, Voles, and Veg

The giant puzzle is complete! Ok only a third of it, but that third is as big as our dining room table. Winter is officially over. The spring season has begun.

Steve and I started pruning the fruit trees last week, a good learning experience for me as I’ve never managed an orchard before. We have apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries, and grapes to think about. The apples and pears get pruned first, the apricots last. I’m excited to be more involved with the fruit this year as we barely assisted at all last season.
Warm enough to know for sure now: the bees are alive and well! During a cold winter, bees will go into a hibernation of sorts. Shutting down their bodies and the hive until it’s warm enough to move around and fly. A warm winter, like this one, has meant that the bees are more active… and they eat more.

You can see the mouse guards I put on the fall are still in place. Even in the warmer weather, the critters are hungry.

The three hives at the farm have gone through almost all of the honey they stored up last summer.

I resorted to feeding them honey and sugar in January when the hives were hopelessly light. Now that spring appears to have arrived, the bees are working for their dinner.

All three hives are bringing in willow-yellow pollen and looking gorgeous.

Two hives are fabulously strong, and the third is sluggish but not in terrible shape for the season. If it rains for a week I’ll have to feed them again, but for the moment they’re holding their own.
This week we put into action our plan for early vegetables. Because we don’t have a nice big hoophouse/high tunnel to seed things in before it gets warm outside, we’ve had to come up with a different system.

So we’ve built a temporary hoophouse over two of our beds. You might call this a low tunnel. We bought a huge roll of “heavy duty” plastic and 3/16″ steel hoops from Nolt’s Produce Supply and put them up on Thursday.

The hoops are fantastic: it’s not easy to find strong, sturdy, pre-bent hoops. I tried to make my own this winter and failed miserably. Nolt’s offers 5′ and 6′ hoops relatively cheaply and pre-bent. A much better deal than buying wire and forming it myself. The plastic, however, I’m a little disappointed with. “Heavy duty” apparently means tissue paper thin. It did survive through a wind storm yesterday, but it’s just not strong enough to last until May. If it calms down today and tomorrow, I’ll go out there with row cover and reinforce the plastic. It’ll keep the ground warmer and the tunnels stronger in the spring winds.

We do have two small hoophouses that we have seeded with greens (mostly for ourselves). Unfortunately, there are a group of smart ass little critters who refuse to be tricked by my traps. If you have a mouser you’re looking to get rid of, we are in need of a good cat on the farm.

Everyday the greenhouse gets greener. Onion, cabbage, kale, collards, asparagus, and other seedlings have begun to take off in the sunshine.

Soon these boring brown trays will be infant vegetables. Some of them are already in the few days it’s taken me to pull this post together.

And some great news. Our 2012 Farm Share pick up will be at 1500 Burns Street, next to the Missoula Food Co-op! We’re really excited to be in this space and can’t wait for share season to begin. A huge thank you goes to the Missoula Co-op and the NMCDC for working with us and supporting the farm.

We still have lots of open shares for 2012, so send us a membership form and get ready for a great season!