As I write, the arborists are here pruning our Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) and California Pepper (Schinus molle) trees. Both were desperately overgrown, and I'm looking forward to the increased light in the flower beds they cover. I am saving some of the larger branches for mushroom inoculation. I'm going to try again - I've tried twice with no luck. I'm hoping the fresh oak logs will be just the ticket, and I've ordered oyster mushroom plug spawn.
We've had a lot going on here and I want to catch you up.
I was absolutely sure the bees were going to swarm this past weekend. Every single day, I had witnessed a hovering mass of bees near the entrance; these are just-born bees orienting themselves to home, before they go back inside to start their lives of work. So I knew that there were LOTS of bees in there, and more every day. They had also started bearding at the hive entrance. Usually bees beard only if it's very hot, and they need to cool off the hive by removing extra bodies. Of course it hasn't been hot, in fact it's still chilly at night, so I knew that the bees were running out of room. And possibly preparing to swarm.
We opened the hive Sunday afternoon and it was simply full to the brim with bees. Usually when we open, always from the back of the top bar hive (a horizontal, not vertical, hive), there are only a few bees, and after we get deeper in, we find the crowds. Not so this time. There was brood on all but the very back two bars, which is incredible. We've never had that much brood. Tom and I were planning to take out a couple of bars of honey, but since all the bars had brood on them, we didn't take anything. We just added the last three bars we could squeeze in, to buy them some time. They'll likely swarm in the next week or so, and then we'll get in there and take out some of the older bars near the front, making sure we don't get any queen cells in the process.
Another thing we had to deal with was a sick chicken. We have six chickens, two of whom haven't laid in at least a year, one of them Luna (above). In the last week or so, Luna has started to act funny - not eating the fresh greens I'd give her - and walking with a strange, rocking gait. She developed a very wide-legged stance, and her abdomen appeared very swollen. When I'd pick her up (strange in itself, she would usually run from me), I'd notice that she felt dense and heavy, which is extremely unusual.
When I researched what all this meant, I came up with five different problems, all of them fatal. The final thing that decided us was that Luna would just sit, with her tail and bum raised high, and would sort of heave with every breath. She was clearly in pain. So, we made the difficult decision to cull her. This is never a pleasant thing, but sometimes it is the best thing all around.
The wheat took a real beating in the hail we had, twice in the last couple of weeks. Some of the stalks are still upright, but many have keeled over. I'm still hoping for a harvest.
I once heard a homesteader say that the best thing about homesteading was that there was always something to give away. We have found that to be true. It's such a pleasure to be able to give eggs, honey, canned goods, seedlings, flower bouquets. Kate needed a basket for her theater company auction; it was easy to come up with a 'Good Eats' basket full of treats from our little urban farm. I was proud of this basket and glad to share our bounty to raise money for the group.
I'm enjoying hunting the yard for tiny insects to photograph with my new macro lens. I especially like this one - a little guy I found on a leaf - he was smaller than a grain of rice.
I also found an egg sac on some mulch.
I'm excited to see what hatches. Remember three years ago, when we found that egg sac, and it hatched, and we couldn't figure out what they were? I showed my insect instructor a photograph, and he said those were orb weavers!
All of the tomatoes I planted germinated, which is fabulous; I'll be potting them up later this week, and then they'll go into the greenhouse with the peppers. I'm not planning to get the summer veg into the garden until May 1. This has been such a crazy season weather-wise, I'm not hedging my bets, I'm going to make sure everything is warm before I plant out.