Sorry for the radio silence over the weekend, I just couldn't seem to get everything done. Adam had the regional Odyssey of the Mind competition (they won first place in their division!), then a dress rehearsal at the Conservatory; I had a massive take-home test to work through, plus some memorization for a lab practical (I think it went ok yesterday). Plus the dreaded late-winter colds are making their way through our house, and on top of that, it was raining. So that's why we didn't get a Weekly Walkthrough video up. This coming weekend is looking pretty busy too, as Adam has his first solo recital Saturday night, but we'll do our best to get something up on the YouTube. We need to go pick up compost, which might be a fun ride-along for you guys.
I'm starting to get more into the rhythm of my new schedule. Monday and Wednesday are just for school - I'm there all day both days, basically. Tuesdays and Thursdays are for homework (and often Friday too), though on Tuesday I also try to get caught up on cleaning and cooking. The garden projects get done in between all this stuff. I'm usually out like a light every night at 9:30 pm; there's not much time for reading or TV (though we have been keeping up with the new Planet Earth, it's awesome!), and I haven't been on a real hike in a week.
This morning I decided to spend some time outside before I got the grunt work done; we're supposed to have a stretch of seven days without rain, and temps into the low 70's tomorrow, so a good time to pot up tomatoes. I got everything ready to go, and went to get some water from the rain barrel, which took me past the beehive, where I stopped abruptly in my tracks when I saw a smattering of dead bees on the landing board.
Damn it. I expected to have some dead brood, because we broke up some herky winter comb when we inspected the hive last week, but did not expect any dead adults. So I took a closer look, and that's when I saw the varroa mite (picture above, the mite is the red circle on the bee's leg). Double damn it. I've never seen evidence of mites this early in the hive. But we did see an awful lot of drone brood last week during our check, and mites especially like to procreate in drone brood.
So, deep breath, on to treatment, a necessity if the hive is to grow and get strong over the summer. It's just not warm enough for formic acid, which does better at summer temperatures (this is what I use in the early fall). Too late for oxalic acid, because that doesn't work on the mites in the brood, and there's already so much brood and that's where this problem began.That left Apiguard, which is made of thyme. Apiguard needs temps over 60 to work, and the warm temps on tap for this week are perfect timing. The downside is that it makes the honey taste like thyme, but we already harvested the honey we are planning to take this year, and the bees will manage. Some of them will die due to the fumes of the thymol, but that's better than all of them dying due to mites.
All these treatments are made for Langstroth hives, so I have to jerry-rig them for our top bar hive. I waited until the sun hit the hive and then I opened her up. Right away the bees were pissed. I had to make several journeys around the yard to lose some aggressive bees, but I got the little dish of thymol into the back half of the hive, hoping both worker bees and nurse bees would walk through it. I took a popsicle stick and smeared some gel on the bottom board in a couple of different places. No one was happy, least of all me, but hopefully this will mitigate any mite problems we have. I'll have to reapply in two weeks.
Fuming but resigned (fuming because LORD I HATE MITES, and resigned because I did all I could do), I set myself to transplanting tomatoes. Every thirty minutes I had to go in a knead the bread, and the combination of methodically removing the tiny seedlings and firmly patting them into their new homes, and rhythmically stretching and pulling the warm dough, got me back into my happy place, mostly.
The peppers aren't ready to transplant, and I want to start a second batch of those anyway, so they'll stay in trays for a while yet, but at least the tomatoes are potted up and happy. I found myself saying things aloud like 'good girl!' whenever I pulled out a particularly strongly-rooted tomato. Are all gardeners this way? I imagine so. We do get awfully attached.
I love these compostable plastic cups for the in-between potting stage. They're the same size, basically, as plastic four-inchers. In another couple of weeks these little guys will go into larger pots. I'll keep them under lights at night for now, but when they get larger, they'll go into the greenhouse. Meanwhile outside during the day as long as it's above 50 and sunny. That way they'll be hardened off when it's time to plant them.
I've pretty much decided to plant the entire summer garden in tomatoes and peppers. I'll do cucumbers in the new fire-rings; I'll do bush beans and basil in pots. That's really all we need. I'll skip melons this year, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to plant corn anyway (it takes up so much space for so little yield), so this will work. Then over next winter, I am not going to plant crops in the raised beds. Instead I'm going cover crop everywhere, in order to build up nutrients in the soil and provide organic matter. Probably clover for nitrogen fixing, mixed with winter wheat to provide both grain and weed-free straw (I'm having a terrible time finding good straw). As for winter greens, I can plant those in pots and move them around to catch the best sun. We can do without peas for one year and buy frozen at the store. This is my current plan, but of course it could all change - stay tuned!
Now I must face the music and go clean the house, then knuckle down to my studies. How are your tomatoes coming along? If you have bees, have you had to treat in the spring? Let me know about your garden in the comments!