Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Root of the Problem

 COVID had nothing to do with it.

Raking, mulching, planting, grafting. Spring is a busy time of year here at the Orchard. We have a small window between melting snow and growing grass to clean up the messes we didn’t get to last fall. Almost all the browns have turned to greens with the warming soil. Buds on the fruit trees continue to swell, the Chestnut Crabs have opened and one can see the tight cluster of blossoms ready to burst.


We opened our two hives to remove Varroa Mite treatment strips we’d put in on the first of March.  We were delighted to not find a single mite. Both hives were boiling with bees. The queen takes a break from laying in the fall and starts up again sometime in February. Full hives this early in the season is a sign that the hives didn’t just survive the winter, they thrived.


With the guidance of our bee mentoring friend, we split the resources and now have four hives. We’ll monitor the hives without queens to make sure the workers grow new royalty. It’s truly fascinating, the hive mind and all that the collective does for the good of the group. Jess and I don’t do it often enough, but we’re always delighted when we take a minute to watch the goings on at the hives. Forager bees returning to the hive with pollen-laden legs. Little clumps of yellow or silver that they gathered and flew home with from as far as two miles away. Willows and maples provide important early season food for the bees. Soon they’ll be dining on dandelions in the morning and apple blossoms in the afternoon. If you have a lawn, consider joining the No Mow May movement to help the pollinating population. You can still drive circles in your yard drinking beer if you want. Just don’t engage the mower. It’ll be quieter in the neighborhood and your lawn will reward you with little bursts of color where flowers that never got a chance to blossom, appear.


Jess and I dug a bunch of holes this week and filled them with fifty small apple trees. We’ll add some peach, pear and plum trees over the weekend. We focused on varieties that you won’t find in supermarkets, delicious gems that don’t perform well on the modern industrial agriculture scale.


We’ve started the transition to a Holistic/Biodynamic spray regime. One of the key ingredients in our current mix is pure neem oil. It coagulates when cool. We have a water heater in the Cider House, so I decided to do my mixes and fill the sprayer there. When we turned on the water, a pipe burst. Not a big deal but a small hiccup. Once I had the water flowing again, I turned on the water heater. The water never got hot. I wonder if the mouse nest in the breaker box has anything to do with it?


And a local contractor dropped a dump truck load of gravel in front of our shop. Which was perfect. Until the tractor with the loader bucket decided to break. Since we can’t get a mechanic to look at until next week, we’ll be shoveling the gravel by hand. Luckily we dug all those tree holes and our shovel muscles are toned and ready.