Our very own pot of gold! A beautiful way to get the day started.
Our very own pot of gold! A beautiful way to get the day started.
The honey bees look healthy, and Glenn is splitting the hives today. I was going take a few up close action photos for you, but apparently I walked right in the bee flight path, which is especially an unwise thing to do if you have my hair. Buzzing ensues, I begin to run, never escaping because some are entangled in my hair. Shaking my hair, I try to release them from their tangled trap. My first honey bee sting, that I recall since we first started keeping bees, sharp on my scalp. Still more continue to struggle to escape. I enter the house in search of comb or brush, Tillie is prancing with anticipation and excitement, back outside I gently comb the honey bees from their tangled trap. They fly to freedom save the lone bee, who upon sting is no more and falls to the ground. Glenn, whose purposeful focus never leaves his task, completely unaware of this side show.
I agree with the interviewee who I heard on NPR yesterday that it is important to be able to enjoy the lively and open discussion of politics with your guests. I actually believe we need to have more open and respectful discussions outside our homes as well, but I will save this topic for a future post because today I am sharing my gratitude for a meal enjoyed with friends. Good food and lively conversation is definitely one of my favorite ways to enjoy an evening, and thanks to Susan’s new cookbook, I finally ventured back into the kitchen.
We sampled three of Susan’s savory bites with the Blue Cheese and walnuts with a dollup of Bee Branch Farm honey, of course, being our favorite. This is very simple to prepare and to have all the ingredients on hand for when guests drop in for a visit, which is one of the aspects I appreciate about Susan’s recipes, they are not overly complicated and most of the ingredients are readily available. Entertaining should be fun; keep it simple and relaxing. It is not about impressing people; it is about having a lovely time with friends.
My mouth is actually already watering for the main course of Beef Bourguignon, again. Before you jump to correct my English/French combination name of this dish, you will just have to get the cookbook and learn the rest of the story. This was my first time making this french classic, and Susan has simplified and adapted the recipe to easily available ingredients and modern cooking styles. Absolutely delicious!! Well done Susan; I am going to add this to my favorite recipe repertoire. I served it with peas and a crusty seeded sourdough bread to soak up that tasty gravy.
We finished off with an apple and pear bread pudding, which was a slight adjustment on Susan’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding. Susan’s recipe called for a pumpkin butter, but I had a jar of my mom’s apple butter, and my mom makes the best apple butter. This recipe can be served for breakfast or dessert, and Glenn and I just enjoyed it for both!
There is no pretension in Susan’s cookbook, just as there is no pretension in Susan. It is absolutely delightful. Enjoy.
Great news on the honey bee front, Glenn had good success with his queen breeding program. He bred five new queens last summer, one was a replacement for a new queen we had bought last spring which didn’t survive and the other four he used to start new nucs. He overwintered these nucs and now he is moving those up into hives. We are very excited about this new development because it allows us not to rely on buying bee stock, and we may start selling nucs locally next spring. The bees seem strong; all hives survived the winter; therefore, he has doubled our hives. We are now up to eight hives. The hum is electric around our bee yard!
We have begun our spring planting with cabbage, broccoli , kohlrabi, and cauliflower transplants that I grew from seed now in the ground. I believe they are the best looking I have grown in four years; hope the final product is as tasty as the plant is good looking. Also have onion, leeks, fennel, beets, carrots, chard and kale seeds planted, as well as potatoes. The tomato, pepper, basil and eggplant starts are looking good, and will be ready to pot up soon. Many more plants and seeds to get in the ground, but off to a good start. I will have tomato, pepper and basil starts available for sale this year; lots of tomato varieties. I am looking forward to that first taste of the sun-drenched tomato; truly one of the great pleasures in life.
Just finished planting our mini vineyard with cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon; since rain is supposedly coming tonight, we decided to get those in the ground today rather than waiting until the weekend. Now we can focus on getting the posts in the ground this weekend. We are excited about this new project even though it will take three years before we can experiment with making our own wine. Lots of reading up on how to manage an organic vineyard; I do enjoy a challenge.
And, just in case you were concerned that we might be getting bored this season, no worries because we are going to build our farm shed and greenhouse ourselves. The shed/solar greenhouse is designed, the layout is squared up and the holes are dug for our pole barn construction shed. Not bad for a Saturday’s work. A sense of accomplishment and a solid deep sleep. And that is a weekend on the farm.
Pure joy is being in Sandy Mush with snow all around. Sledding, hiking, enjoying hot cocoa by the wood stove. Pure joy.
“Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.” — Maya Angelou
She was a very wise woman, and she is missed. I do believe a daily practice of gratitude would increase our overall well being on both an individual and societal level. May we all strive to fill our hearts with gratefulness.
With appreciation and joy from Bee Branch Farm,
This fall, Glenn and I were pleased to observe Monarchs, and we plan to increase the native milkweeds in our landscape. Here is a good resource: http://www.xerces.org/milkweed/. Also, it looks like Hop’n Blueberry Farm in Black Mtn. sells milkweed and provides informational tours. If you know of any other local sources for native milkweed that haven’t been treated with insecticides or pesticides, please share. It is such a joy to be still and observe.
Today as a way of thanks, a friend shared this wisdom from Wendell Berry with me, and I am grateful.
“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an “environment.” None has ever called its feeling for its home place “biocentric” or “anthropocentric.” None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as “ecological,” deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of “ecology” and “ecosystems.” But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind.
The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people. And the real name of our connection to this everywhere different and differently named earth is “work.” We are connected by work even to the places where we don’t work, for all places are connected; it is clear by now that we cannot exempt one place from our ruin of another.
The name of our proper connection to the earth is “good work,” for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing. Good work is always modestly scaled, for it cannot ignore either the nature of individual places or the differences between places, and it always involves a sort of religious humility, for not everything is known. Good work can be defined only in particularity, for it must be defined a little differently for every one of the places and every one of the workers on the earth.
The name of our present society’s connection to the earth is “bad work” – work that is only generally and crudely defined, that enacts a dependence that is ill understood, that enacts no affection and gives no honor. Every one of us is to some extent guilty of this bad work. This guilt does not mean that we must indulge in a lot of breast-beating and confession; it means only that there is much good work to be done by every one of us and that we must begin to do it.”
― Wendell Berry
Our tomato plants are looking strong and healthy; however, a few weeks ago I noticed an odd tomato plant looking very sickly. It was completely wilted, and it was the only plant looking like this. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a whole in the stem. It was obvious this plant wasn’t going to make it so I cut if off at the base, and left a sucker which is maturing nicely. I am thankful for that sucker because this is the only plant I have of this variety of tomato this year. We have at least 20 varieties of tomatoes growing this year.
I am always curious what disease or pest is causing distress to my vegetables so I sliced into the plant stem to see what I could learn. I eventually found the persistent pest working his way up the stem: A Stalk Borer
This is our first experience with this pest. Luckily, we haven’t had any other issues. We are simply observing, and will keep this information in mind for the future. I would like to work on trying to cut down on some of the potential host plants in the area, but still building up our beneficials’ habitat. We will not spray, but will work with managing cover crops.
Here are a few photos that we took and then info follows that I found online (http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG271/corn_sorghum/stalk_borer.html):
Papaipema nebris (Guenee),Noctuidae, LEPIDOPTERA
Adult – The forewings of this moth are basicallyreddish- or grayish-brown marked with distinct white spots or obscure smoky areas. The outer third is paler and bordered by a thin white line. The hind wings are grayish brown on the upper surface and fawn gray below. The wingspan ranges from 25 to 40 mm in diameter.Egg – The longitudinally ribbed egg may be spherical or slightly flattened and measures 0.4 to 0.6 mm in diameter. White when first deposited, it gradually turns brownish-gray or amber before hatching.
Larva – Basically brown, the early larval instars have a dark brown band around the middle and brown or purple longitudinal stripes on all but the first four segments. The mature larva is solid white or light purple and may reach a length of 31.8 mm. Color plate.
Pupa – About 16 to 22 mm in length, the light brown pupa gradually darkens as it matures.
Distribution – The stalk borer occurs in all areas east of the Rocky Mountains from southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Highest populations are associated with fields and fence rows with large-stemmed weeds. Economically significant infestations are most common in the Piedmont, particularly in no-till plantings.Host Plants – Stalk borers tunnel in almost any large- stemmed plant. Their host range encompasses at least 44 families and 176 species of plants. Some cultivated crops subject to infestation include corn, cotton, potato, tomato, alfalfa, rye, barley, pepper, spinach, beet, and sugarbeet. Although many weedy plants are infested, giant ragweed is preferred.
Damage – Stalk borers migrating from an earlier host infest corn seedlings 6 to 60 cm (2 to 24 inches) high, causing two types of injury. Larvae that enter the plant through the lower stalk tunnel upwards, severing the leaves from below. In this case, infested stalks are hollow and apparently healthy green leaves wilt and die. Other larvae climb plants, enter from the top, and feed on buds and rolled leaves. As they unfurl, the new leaves display ragged holes which increase in size as the leaves display ragged holes which increase in size as the leaves develop. Both forms of injury result in destruction of tassels, production of suckers and deformation of the upper plant. Soon after borers enter the seedlings, the stems often break. Frass is usually evident around the base of more mature infested plants. Once past the “whorl” stage, however, corn is somewhat resistant to the stalk borer and recovers more readily from damage. Damage is sporadic but most commonly associated with the border rows of conventionally planted corn and with no-till plantings.
Life History – Stalk borers overwintering as eggs on weedy plants. In May, the newly emerged larvae feed as leaf-miners on broadleaf plants or as stem borers on grasses. On all hosts, larvae eventually bore into the stem and feed until they kill or outgrow their host. When this occurs, they emerge at night and tunnel into new plants, including seedling corn. Developing through 7 to 16 instars, stalk borers mature in their second host. Late in July, the borers emerge, construct individual cells in the soil, and begin a 4-week pupal period. Stalk borer moths emerge in late summer and deposit eggs singly or in masses between the leaf sheath and stems where they remain until the following spring. One generation occurs each year.
Stalk borers cannot be controlled once they have entered the plant; therefore, control measures should concentrate on prevention. Destruction of weeds in fields and along fence rows results in the elimination of many primary hosts from which the borers infest corn. Where applicable, systemic insecticides may be effective when applied in areas of highest potential damage. For specific control information, consult the current North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual.