Wilted Garlic and Watering Bees

Wilted garlic that may be on its way to being ready to harvest.  Or it may just be dying

When I was checking the garden today, I noticed that the elephant garlic I planted looked wilted.  I know that I watered and fertilized the garden yesterday, so I don’t think it is wilting from lack of water.  I am slightly worried about adding too much fertilizer, but none of the other plants that I added the same fertilizer to look wilted.  What I hope has happened is that when garlic is ready to be harvested, the tops wilt and the leaves turn brown.  I hope this is the case so that I can harvest the cloves, break them apart and immediately replant to try to multiply the number of garlic plants I have for next year.  I want to work up to about one hundred cloves total.

Bees taking a drink at the watering hole.

Today has been rather hot.  Like any other animal, bees need water.  Unlike most mammals and like most insects, bees are not very good at swimming and will drown in large bodies of water.  Large for a bee anyways.  Anyway, the bees like to cluster on the algae growing on the water pump hoses.  The algae stays wet and the bees don’t drown and everybody is happy.

Checking In On Things

Burns look and feel a lot better than yesterday.  I ended up going to an urgent care clinic to have things checked on.  I’m a computer programmer when I am not working in the garden, so making sure my hands are working properly is fairly important my livelihood.

The newly dubbed “White Hive”. This is the second and stronger swarm I caught this year.

Before I was burned myself yesterday, I did an inspection of all four hives.  The green hive continues to fill out the super on it and the blue hive continues to ignore its super.  I can’t really blame the blue hive as it swarmed this year. The second of the two swarms, in one white hive body and two supers, has filled the majority of the deep and the top supper with honey, with only a few cells capped in any of it.  I would not be surprised to get a super of honey from this hive.  The other swarm is still  in two supers.  I have a bit of time before that hive needs to be expanded.

Pinto bean pods on the largest bean plant.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my pinto beans have bean pods growing on them.  The larger of the plants started flowering a week or two ago.  I will need to start putting poles next to the larger plants as they are getting rather large and are starting to topple over.  Altogether, I have about fifteen pods so far on four plants.

The tomatoes are still green, but growing larger every day.

The tomatoes are starting to come faster.  At last count, there are thirteen tomatoes growing.  There are more than fifty small yellow tomato flowers on the plants right now.  Before much longer, I won’t be counting tomatoes because there will be too many.  I’m going to be up to my ears in tomatoes, with a grand total of twenty-seven plants in various stages of development.  Only about a third of those have flowers on them so far.

Very small pecans. I won’t have any pecans ready until sometime this fall.

My wife and my mother noticed that the pecan trees are starting to produce nuts.  Judging from the sizes of the four pecan trees I have on the property, I am going to have a lot of pecans this fall.  I rather like pecans and I’ve lived in a house that had a pecan tree before.  The tree was much larger than any of the pecan trees on my property, but there was only one tree and that one produced enough pecans to fill half a deep chest freezer.  I am probably going to end up giving lots to my family and I may be able to sell some at the farmers market in town.  I don’t know yet what needs to be done for that.

Lots of green grapes.

The grape vines are making some nice bunches of grapes.  I’m not sure how to preserve these yet.  If they were concord grapes, I would be making a lot of the grapes into jelly and canning it.  I will probably try making some raisins from them to see how they are.  I’ve never been a big fan of raisins, so I’m a bit hesitant to make the whole harvest into raisins.  I would also like to try making grape juice from it.

When You Play With Fire…

…you tend to take precautions so you don’t get burned.  Like wearing gloves.  Well, I managed to burn myself today on the beehive smoker, and not the very open flames I use when making charcoal like most people would expect.  I was not wearing gloves.  Gloves have saved me from several burns.  I ended up getting some nice blisters on my hand where I burned it.  I don’t know how long it will be until they will be better

So, to all beekeepers out there, remember: smokers can get very hot and burn you. They also usually have no indication of whether they are hot. So be careful!

Also, anytime there is fire, be careful!

Strawberry Propigation Experiment

Using plastic pots to catch the new strawberry plants for easier transplanting

About a week ago, the strongest of my strawberry plants started sending out runners.  Strawberry plants use these runners as a form of asexual reproduction, meaning the new plants are genetic clones of the parent.  I’m rather glad that this is happening as several of the starts I planted died almost immediately.

A couple of days ago, I had what I though was a bright idea: put some of the plastic starter pots I had lying around under where the runner is starting a new plant.  This way, the roots will grow into the pot and all I have to do to transplant it to a new location down the row is to cut the runner, lift the pot out of the ground and transplant the strawberry plant into the new hole.

First Strawberry, Tomatoes plus a Storm

Today, I noticed that the strongest of my strawberry plants has its first fruit.  This is the most successful of the plant starts I got from my grandparents, via my mother.  They are offering me lots more strawberry starts as well as lots of irises.  My grandparents raise and sell irises and I think they have  several dozen varieties.  Anyways, this plant has one strawberry already turned red and at least three more fruits on developing.  The plant has also sent out two runners and I will likely be getting at least three new plants from it.  After they have developed a bit, I will transplant them to a better spot.

Green tomatoes. And here I was thinking it was going to be another month before I saw any…

After I noticed the strawberries, I noticed that several of my tomato plants have put on fruit. All told, there are currently seven green tomatoes growing and several more flowers that appear to have been pollinated and will be setting fruit soon.  As a side note, tomatoes are botanically fruit, but are considered vegetables by chefs, cooks, and the IRS.

The anvil of a storm that is moving in from the west side of Oklahoma.

It looks like there is a storm on the way here. Not that this is any out of the ordinary here. I am hoping for rain so I can stop using well water to irrigate the garden.  The rain barrels in the greenhouse and the one next to the house are extremely low, to the point that I cannot draw any more water from them.  The garden hose doesn’t quite reach everywhere in the  garden, even at a hundred feet long and even if it did, it is very cumbersome to use in the narrow rows in the garden.  For the most part, I’ve been using a pitcher to water the plants.  It more walking than a hose would be, but lets me use a rain barrel to water the plants and only the plants.

Preserving The Cherries

Drying cherries completely makes them shelf stable. And incredibly sour.

I have started to preserve the cherries I have harvested so I can eat them during the rest of the year. I have been drying and canning cherries.  A gallon-sized bag has been run thru the dehydrator I got from my mother.  The first batch sort of work, but still had too much water in them, so they had the consistency of raisins. The second batch was right with a consistency closer to corn flakes.  The low water content makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow in it and hence it takes much longer for it to go bad. I may be drying some more cherries, but now that the canning stuff I had ordered has arrived, that is how most of the remaining cherries will be preserved.

Four jars of cherries. Would have looked better if they weren’t frozen for two weeks before being canned.

These cherries will eventually be turned into cherry pie, tarts or some other confection that I have yet to discover.  The cherries aren’t much to look at and definitely would not do well in a competition.  Not that I would even attempt to enter these.  These were all pitted by hand by squashing out the put thru the hole where the stem joined the fruit.  The result is a quite misshapen fruit.  Good thing the shape of cherries are not at all important to the taste of cherry pies.

Sweetened cherry syrup. Goes wonderfully on ice cream.

The other side effect of this method of pitting the cherries is that I get a lot of cherry juice.  Rather than just throw away this juice, I decided that I wanted to try making cherry syrup.  Add a bit of sugar, in this case white sugar as I haven’t had a honey harvest yet, and boil the sugar-juice mixture down until thick.  The resulting syrup is quite sweet and nowhere near as tart as the original cherries.

Zucchini Blossom

Zucchini in bloom.

This morning, when doing a quick inspection of my garden, I found one of my zucchini plants had bloomed.  This makes the second zucchini plant I know of to bloom, but I didn’t get a picture of the other one.

Also during my inspection, I found that two of the bean starts I planted yesterday have no leaves.  The rabbit strikes again.  At least the damage isn’t that bad.

Its Looking Like a Real Garden

The part of my garden that hasn’t been overrun with grass.

After returning from my business trip, I have picked up pretty much where I left off where my garden is concerned.  But what has really struck me is that my garden plot is starting to actually look more like a vegetable garden and less like a section of ground with the grass scrapped off.  Several of the tomatoes have started to flower.

There is still a ton of work to do.  My last batch of bean starts was rather lackluster, with only about ten of the seventy-two pots I started surviving. I am fairly sure the heat and uneven watering is responsible.  The best of the surviving plants went in the ground today.  I need to start a few new trays of beans and I hope I have a better yield this time.

The part of the garden plot overrun with grass.

Part of the massive amount of work I still have to do is reclaim about half the garden plot from grass.  I haven’t had a garden hoe until today, and so I have been slowly falling behind on the weeding.  I should be able to reclaim some of the lost ground as long as I can keep from getting blisters on my hands from overworking.

Thankfully, there was a light rain for most of today.  It has been a while since the last rain and I was starting to get very low on the water in my trash cans turned rain barrels.  I’m still rather low, but not as much as before.  I hope this gives another boost to the wildflowers for the bees.

First Harvest of the Year

My mother came down to my home Saturday to bring tools and help with some mechanical troubles the lawn mower was having.  Anyways, while giving her the grand tour of the place to show the progress the plants were making, she told me that the cherries were ripe and needed to be picked.  Soon.  So I spent the rest of the day picking cherries.

The bucket about a quarter full of cherries.

Picking the cherries took quite a bit longer that I thought it would.  I have a tendency to under-estimate how long things will take. It ended up taking about six hours to harvest all the cherries I could from the tree.  There were a few in the very top of the tree that I was unable to reach.  I had the exact same problem when I thinned the peach tree.  Both will have that section of the tree pruned off for next year.

Anyways, the process I used when picking the cherries was: remove as many cherries as I can hold in my hand before I started dropping cherries on the ground and then toss them into a bucket filled with water.  Having the water in the bucket served two purposes for me.  First, it kept the cherries moderately cool until I could get them inside for long-term storage.  Second, it allowed me to drop cherries from the top of a ladder into the bucket without having to climb down.  If I had not done that, it would likely have taken twice as long as it did.

Bagging cherries to freeze and testing dehydrating cherries.

All told, I harvested nearly enough cherries to fill a five gallon bucket.  I am not sure how much that is exactly as I don’t have a scale that I can use to weigh the haul.  After I finished harvesting, I put them all in the freezer so they don’t go bad before my wife and I can do something with them.  I am on a business trip until Thursday this week and will be unable to do anything useful on the homestead during that time.

New Hive Parts Assembled

All setup to add the new hive parts.

I got the new hive parts from Dadant yesterday.  I managed to get them completely assembled and painted yesterday night.  It took about two and a half hours all told, but it was worth it because of what I was able to do today.

Today, I put the new parts onto the larger of the two swarm hives I caught this year.  All told, it was a bit more work that I thought it would be.  As I had feared, the bees built comb onto the bottom of the super frames when they finished filling out the supers entirely.

A bad picture of the extra comb the bees built. It is a bit hard to take pictures and work the hive when daylight is fading fast.

I removed all of the extra comb from the bottom of the frames and did my best to encourage the bees to move into the new deep hive body.  There was a little honey, pollen and capped brood in the comb I removed.  All told, it took up almost a 5 gallon bucket without compressing anything down.

I don’t like working with bees after dark as they have a tendency to crawl up my legs and sting me.  This hive also stung me on the legs when I captured it. and it happened to be dark then as well.  This time, two managed to sting me through my socks.