Archive for April, 2011

Early Flowers for Bees

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, honey bees, organic farming with tags , , , on April 17, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Witch Hazel blooming in early February(!) on through March


Early Spring and cold, wet and windy weather can be a hard time for honey bees this time of year. They need pollen to feed the new larva and nectar for themselves. If their winter stores are used up, and if its too cold or wet out, they don’t get out. Last spring we lost a hive after they ran out of honey and it was too cold for them to forage, so they perished. Last Fall we didn’t take any honey off the hives and they have all seemed to come through the winter strong and buzzing. (As a result, we didn’t get any honey, depending on how much is left in the honey supers, we may get some this spring when it does warm up)
A few of the early flowers we have are crocus, anemone (Anemone blanda), Witch Hazel and Daphne.

early flowers: Crocus


Witch Hazels are the first blooms here. We have a few cultivars, the one pictured started blooming here in early February. (It is Hamamelis Japonica- Jelena, Copper Witch Hazel)
Which is way early for bees, but it continued through March and when the bees did get out they were all over it.
The Crocus’ are the next to bloom, the bees seem to really love these things. Sometimes there will be four or five bees in a single flower. They come up just after and sometimes through the snow.

Anemone blanda


The Anemone are another low growing, early blooming flower like the crocus are started with bulbs planted in the fall. And also like the crocus they spread on their own and make a beautiful early ground cover. Both are also low growing, which when its windy (a lot this time of year) is where the bees tend to fly. One close observation of the pic above you can see the pollen sac on the bees rear legs getting full. Good food for raising baby bees.

Anemones spread easily, from bulbs


Daphne’s are another early flower which the bees seem to like, and the fragrance alone is worth planting these.

Daphne in bloom


Honey bees aren’t the only insects that benefit from these early flowers, whatever natural and local pollinators are around will be happy to find any early pollen. And after a winter , most anyone will be pleased to see and smell these floral wonders.

Advertisements

Newtown Pippins

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , , on April 3, 2011 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Greetings and happy spring to all!
Winter is definitely over, the last of the snow here disappeared yesterday. Its been a fairly wet spring, and warmish the last few days which has really begun to green things up. Its great to hear birds early in the morning again, its hard not to love this time of year.

Newtown Pippins in our cooler, early April


I just opened our box of Newtown Pippins in our cooler the other day, and they look great. Firm, crisp and tasty for sure. As you can see from the pics , they’re just beginning to turn yellow (ripe). We’ll eat these until they run out or until strawberries start to ripen in June and fresh fruit becomes more appealing. I’m still eating Jonathan, Prairie Spy, Spitzenburg, and King David apples. They’re all good and keep well, but don’t have the long term keeping qualities as well as the Pippins do. Pippins are good off the tree in late October or early November, depending on the year, but they don’t reach their potential until they sit in storage for a few months.

The Newtown Pippin is also noted as being one of Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apples. It was once widely grown as a commercial apple, but has become eclipsed by the Granny Smith, which in my opinion doesn’t come close in quality to the Pippin.
We store our fruit in our walk in cooler which has the refrigeration unit turned off in the fall, and has air vents and a fan connected to a thermostat to turn the fan off when it gets too cold, nothing fancy. I have a friend who keeps them in outside sheds in Seattle all winter (be sure to put them in containers to keep rodents out) with great results. A cold porch or basement or spare refrigerator works too. In colder climates keeping them from freezing is important.