Thursday, April 30, 2015

Unity Farm Journal - Fifth Week of April 2015

I’ve been in China this week helping the government of Shenzhen with medical education and innovation.   Kathy has been in charge of the farm.

Before any trip, I do my best to prepare the farm for my departure - maintaining every electrical, plumbing/water, and building issue I can think of.   All of the young plants/trees are irrigated, animals fed/watered, and every supply fully stocked.  The trails are clear, the fallen limbs bucked up, and the mushrooms harvested.   A few of our Shitake varieties fruit in the Spring and we’ve already been gathering our first mushroom harvest of 2015.

Our hoop house beds have been bursting with heads of red romaine, winter density lettuce, and spinach.   Kathy's been making salads for herself, the poultry, and the alpaca/llama.  Even the dogs enjoy a small salad, munching the crisp green leaves while lying under the hay feeder.

Kathy's been tending the newly planted squash and pumpkins, as well as readying the heat-loving peppers and eggplant for planting on my return, when the chance of frost will be less.  

During my absence she’s been preparing more bee hives which she’ll use to create “splits” - dividing mature colonies before they swarm in June.   She’s also put up a swarm trap - a container likely to attract bees should one of the hives still decide to swarm.     This year we’ll end up with 18 hives - a combination of Russians, Italians, and Carniolan bees.  All are gentle, busily gathering pollen and raising brood.

Last week, a commenter asked a question about the reason we paint each bee hive a different color.  Here’s Kathy’s answer:

"Bees see different colors than humans, and are notably able to see in the ultraviolet range. The color of the hives boxes serve three purposes. One is simple fun aesthetics. More importantly, the dark colors used on the brood boxes in the center of the stack are to warm the hive in the winter by absorbing the heat of the sun more efficiently. We follow the successful experiences of Overland Honey of Portland Maine in the use of darker colors in northern beekeeping practice. The third use of color on the hives is to reduce drift from hive to hive by the foragers. By creating unique color patterns especially at the landing board, we hope to increase bees accuracy at returning to the correct home hive."

I return to Boston tomorrow and will spend the weekend catching up on all I missed.  Not only does Kathy miss me, but the Great Pyrenees are waiting for one of their mile long runs around the farm in search of turkey, deer, and chattering red squirrels (chickaree).

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