Tag Archives: honey bees

Less Mowing, More Pollinators

Buterfly Garden in Portland Maine

Less mowing, more pollinators…that is Glenn’s mantra.  As much as he says that, you would think that he was the one who took care of our mowing and was coming up with a strategy to lighten that chore, but, nope, I am the one who mows the yard.

During our recent travels, he did enjoy pointing out examples of his “no mow” philosophy.  The Bee and Butterfly Garden in Portland, Maine was a great example of both a beautiful and useful habitat.  We also paid attention to how states were choosing to maintain their roadsides.  The case has been made that roadsides could provide a valuable pollinator habitat.  This article from Xerces Society makes the case in Pollinator Conservation at 60 MPH.   Then, if you are so inspired, the Xerces Society has even created a good sample letter to send your state representative and/or your state DOT to let them know you are supportive of these roadside efforts.

There is also value in re-envisioning our yards:  meadow gardens, cottage gardens, butterfly gardens…there are many options to consider beyond the traditional mown lawn.  When we lived in the city, my goal had been to eventually get the mown lawn area down to size that was manageable with only a human powered lawn mower.  Now that is an interesting google search:  human powered lawn mower.  Have fun with that!

When we moved to the farm, however, our mown lawn size increased to the point of needing a riding lawn mower.  Yes, we thought about goats, and then thought better!    There may be a meadow garden in the future for our lawn, but for now, I will at least mow on the high setting as to leave the clover blooms for the bees to enjoy.

First Honey Harvest of the Season

Glenn harvested the first honey of the season Saturday, May 20th.  We have it bottled and ready to go!  Get in touch if you want our wonderful Sandy Mush honey; our bees are healthy and happy in our beautiful Sandy Mush valley where they have plenty of forage to enjoy.

683-1683 or beebranchfarm@gmail.com

Honey Bees are Active


bee yard with barn in background and beekeeper

March 2017 Bee Branch Farm Bee Yard

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.

Spring weekend on the Farm


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.




Our Honey is ready!

Our honey bees survived the winter and are strong.  They are happy making honey!  One hive that was weak going into the winter didn’t make it, but the other three are strong, and Glenn started another hive with some of those bees and a new queen.  We will let them store all of their honey so they can build up reserves and go into the winter strong.

The other three hives, however, are strong and making plenty of delicious and nutritious honey.  If you want our pure and natural Bee Branch Farm Honey, get in touch.  This first honey of the season is a poplar/blackberry blend and it is light and very sweet.  The 8oz honey gift jars are $6 each.  You can see a photo of the gift jars on our honey page.  Everyone loves a gift of honey.

See below to learn more about our WNC nectar flow season:  Typical Flowering Season for Nectar Flow.

I find it fascinating to observe the honey bees, and this year they were very interested in our young asparagus.  The asparagus bed was its own little microcosm.  Here is a great description from a fellow beekeeper in Arkansas.


Visit to Horne Creek Living Historical Farm and Getting There

Glenn and I enjoyed traveling the rural back roads of North Carolina for a couple of days earlier this week.  We meandered from Morganton to Wilkesboro, with a very useful stop at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm to stock up on jars and bee gear.  The place was buzzing with bee enthusiasts, their bee stories and exchange of experiences.

Then we selected a few vineyards on the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail to visit and sample their vintages.      One of our favorite stops was a visit to Olde Mill Winery and Vineyard, a family run and owned business.  Beautiful place, great people , good wine and a commitment to quality.

We had not made reservations, and asked at one of the wineries for a recommendation.  Chip, of Vintage Inn, happened to be there and let us know they had a room available, and the Inn’s guests who he was taking on a tour of the wineries, gave a glowing recommendation.  We loved it.  Chip and Sandy were great, and they are close friends with our own local Applewood B&B owners, Nancy and Larry.  Fun connections.

On our final day, we enjoyed several hours at the Horne Creek Living Historical Farm in Pinnacle, North Carolina.  Lisa Turney, the site manager, was extremely generous with her time and gave us a tour of the home and farm, providing us with thoughtful insights, history and answering our many questions.  It was interesting to learn more about a Piedmont farm in the early 1900’s and compare that to our mountain farms, everything from the difference in the tobacco process to seeing a fruit/vegetable drying shed for the first time.

They have also started a Southern Heritage Apple Orchard, which we plan to visit again.  We are currently enjoying the book by Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr., Old Southern Apples:  A Comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts.

I highly recommend a visit to the farm which can easily be combined with hiking and camping at nearby Pilot Mountain State Park.  This is situated on Hwy 52 just north of Winston-Salem.  At the most, it is 30 minutes from I40, but I, of course, recommend the more ambling back roads route with all of its fun discoveries along the way.


Spring is poetry to my senses

I am so thankful for spring and all it brings!  It feels good to be back outside digging in the dirt, hearing the birds sing and watching for the promise of new life sprouting forth.

We planted three varieties of potatoes this weekend:  Red Thumb French Fingerling, Purple Majesty and Yukon Gold.  The broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and cabbage starts are growing in our make shift “greenhouse.”  The fall planted garlic and winter leeks look good, and I hope to plant onions later this week.  The first week in April will be very busy with getting lots of seeds in the ground, as we plan to begin our deliveries in June.

Thankfully, three out of four of our honey bee hives survived the winter, and two appear to be very strong.  We are hoping to get another queen and pull bees from the others hives to help populate and start a new hive to try to hold steady at four for this season.  We shall see; last April we had two swarms, but we still had our best year ever.  Looking forward to the honey!

Lastly, I thought I would share this poem by Marge  Piercy that resonates with me.  I am enjoying her poems from her Circles on the Water:  Selected Poems of Marge Piercy 1982.

To be of use

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

The pedigree of honey Does not concern the bee….

A clover, any time, to him Is aristocracy. So observed the keen Ms. Emily Dickinson.

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We had our best honey year yet on Bee Branch Farm. Even with two swarms spiraling away this spring, we were able to make an additional hive by splitting two hives. Thus, we still have the three hives that made it through last winter, and now have an additional one to head into this winter. We were able to collect three honey harvests this year. The June honey was a light and sweet clover and poplar, the July honey was a golden toned wildflower with a hint of citrus, and the August honey was the lovely and oh so tasty sourwood and clover. We just finished labeling the final sourwood/clover honey gift jars and have a few available if you want honey for yourself or to give the sweetest gift one can receive. If you aren’t already on our honey “to notify” list and you want to be, let me know. Our honey sells out very quickly. 

With much gratitude to our hard-working bees and our honey-loving customers,


Wild Ramps, Milk Snake and Honey Bees at Bee Branch Farm

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Our Bee Branch Farm hike was full of discoveries on this lovely spring day.  Native wildflowers blanketed the forest floor, and we enjoyed the fresh earthiness of wild ramps plucked from the rich soil.  Landon found his first native milk snake, and Tillie loved “the hunt.”  Upon return home, we watched as Glenn transferred our two new nucs of mountain bees to their hives.  They are busy making their home on Bee Branch Farm.  It was a beautiful day shared with friends.

Farm fresh veggie starts

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I’m pleased with seed germination from our own mix using Eliot Coleman’s recipe and soil block makers. Onions, cabbage and parsley off to a good start, and broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi and thyme has germinated within 4 days this week. Apparently our plants enjoy the soothing tones of Enya’s Memory of the Trees; I thought they might appreciate this addition to their growing environment. You can tell from the photos that we don’t have a greenhouse, but have created a makeshift “greenhouse” in our garage. I monitor temperature, moisture, circulation and provide pleasing vibrations with music for their and my enjoyment; on the weekends we mix it up and jam with Glenn’s Sirius radio. I love growing healthy plants!

Elsewhere on the farm, the hens are healthy and happy. Glenn is broad forking the root vegetable garden; a great workout, no gym, no fees required. Sadly, our hives are silent; we are, however, excited about the “mountain mutts” we are getting from Jon Christie of Madison County. And, I am thrilled for the snow to be kissing my face as I walk about the farm with Tillie.