Thursday, April 29, 2010

hail damage

april 28 - official tomato planting day and farmer freds birthday was capped off by an incredible hail storm with hail pellets nearing the size of double ought buck pellets.

if i had planted starts or seeds, i would be looking for replacements.

the trees in the orchard, however, were in the line of fire. this is one of my pear trees which shows some moderate damage from the 12 minute ice deluge.

up here in the foothills, its usually mothers day when we plant. this year, we might be rethinking that one.

one of my garden buddies

jed - probably the best dog in el dorado county. he loves the garden, i often find him laying down up there year round.

green, orange and purple - oh my!

some of my favorite colors - particularly for bell peppers. frontyard nursery is in full swing with their veges and i scored some nice peppers.

transplanted from the six packs to these larger pots and they quickly responded.


i couldnt help it.

it needed a home and i couldnt leave it sitting on the counter with her sisters. i brought home another tomato plant.

this will be the last one i add to the inventory this year. honest.

tomato update

these babies are definitely in the class that farmer fred and bill bird have produced. they arent leggy, they are lush, rich green - not induced by excessive nitrogen - but deep green indicative of a strong well built plant. scroll down a few posts and compare their size today versus when i first transplanted them into the 1 gallon pots.

keith - the seed guy - is still working on wave two of the tomatoes, but these babies have just skyrocketed since i transplanted them into 1 gallon containers.

some topsoil and dr. earth is all i have added to these pots. 2010 is going to be a good year.

bee's at the trough

rainy weather is not helpful to a young bee hive, short on resources. like puppies, you have to keep the food constant and plentiful.

a 1/2 gallon container of 1:1 sugar/water mix helps keep the bees happy and keeps them focused on drawing out the wax frames. the hive will run thru 1/2 gallon of water about every three days, depending upon weather - the better the weather, the more bees fly and they do prefer real nectar and will eventually wean themselves from the sugar water when nectar is plentiful.

until then, costco and 20 pound sacks of sugar for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

i'm getting greener

ants like sugar.

honey is concentrated sugar, kept outdoors and guarded by bees.

sounds simple, but ants are a constant battle for bees and if not controlled - the bees spend a lot of resources securing their hive from ants. i know bees live in trees and other places where ants are - but i figure if i can help the girls out, they would help me out with abundant honey.

the solution is to create a barrier ants cant cross, thus freeing the bees to do other tasks. the solution i found was empty cat food cans, holding the feet of the redwood hive stand. the cat food can was filled with oil - motor oil.

i know, i know - not too green; but very effective. at the last house, the bee hives were not in my vegetable garden and i honestly didnt worry too much about the oil. the current hives are in the middle of my vegetable garden and i dont want vegetables with hints of penzoil.

at this house its changed. although not a hardcore organic dude, i have made a significant leap in that direction. miracle-gro? not for me. it's dr. earth. yearly fruit tree spraying regimen? nope - only if i need it (so far, havent needed it for 3 years). weed killer? not in the garden.

so i had to find a solution that is effective against ants, but friendly to my garden. thank heaven for diatoms.

diatomaceas earth, is pretty much the skeletal remains of microscopic sea critters. the skeletons are as sharp as glass to bugs - and those that crawl across the barrier - pretty much signed thier death warrant. its like dieing from a thousand cuts; the bugs end up drying up and dying. so instead of cat food containers filled with oil, we have them filled with diatoms and hopefully will have reasonable results on the ants. only time will tell.

its a small step, but certainly a green one. lets hear it for the bee's.

no swarms this week

the funky weather mid week probably had a lot to do with it. what self respecting bee would find herself all balled up in a swarm - getting soaked. may is still a prime swarm month and i would bet at least a couple calls come in.

in the meantime, i transferred my hives from the nuc (nucleus) hives to full fledged 10 frame langstroth hives. willingly moving bees from one home to another is a challenge, but they adapt.

the apiary at this house is better planned than at my last house. i am setting the hives up on concrete pads to elevate them off the dirt. i am also using the redwood hive stands that allows me to create an ant barrier to make my apiary a 5 star resort for bees - after all i dont want them spending time chasing ants; i want all bee attention on making honey and lots of it.

the photo to the right illustrates the current layout of the three hives. the pad is for the next swarm or the nuc ordered from sac beekeeping supply.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


well you cant count your chickens before their hatched, same thing goes for swarms - but if i get this one home , we will be well along at re-establishing the apiary i gave up when we moved to diamond springs.

this swarm thought it wanted to live in serrano. a rather posh, ritzy, way too expensive for my income place to live - and its behind gates, which makes it extra special. well the serrano folks dont take kindly to bees trying to take up residence in their neighborhood. this is a second swarm i got a call from in this area. thats ok, their loss is my gain.

it was another good sized swarm, not as big as folsom's but i will take it. about 3 feet off the ground on a small oak tree. a few snips of some limbs, a few squirts of sugar water and 'BAM' right onto the ground.

you guessed it, trajectory calcs were off again.

the bees survived, i pulled out with only one minor sting and if the bees stay in the hive when i go back to pick them up, we will put this in the win column. my goal is 5 hives - i am buying a nuc from sac beekeeping supply and hope to get 4 swarms - only one left to fill my quota. after that - mr. bird in natomas, swarm #5 has your name written all over it.

Friday, April 16, 2010


called out on a large swarm in folsom yesterday. with the bee diseases, large swarms are a rarity these days. but i sure appreciate them when i can get them. and as usual, i wasnt prepared. i should have a nuc, frames and capture gear in my car so i can just head over and pick them up.

i didnt.

so up the hill to diamond springs and back down the hill to folsom i had to go. it was worth it.

the swarm was very docile - as expected no stings. the swarm was knocked out of the bush and totally missed the hive. seems my trajectory calcs were a bit off, but the bees and i took it in stride and they started marching into their new home.

the owner of the house, who made the call, turned out to be a gardener and did the fish emulsion/organic thing; so we had a lot to talk about while waiting for the bees to organize themselves.

he has started his seeds in the ground and they have already popped out. all in all, it was a nice experience to get some bees and talk tomatoes with a friendly guy. his boys were real nice kids and all were very interested in the bees and what was going on in thier backyard.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

cuttin' up the spuds

the seed potatoes have really started to push their eyes and it was time to slice and dice them - to allow the potato to harden off its newly cut side.

you can cut a seed potato into smaller portions, if each portion has at least 1 eye. the eye is source of the new plant and your future potatoes - no eye = no plant, just a rotting unproductive seed potato. the healing will make the tuber a bit more robust when it is placed into the dirt in a few weeks. the spuds typically scar over in about a week with normal household kitchen temperatures.

there are four varieties of taters laid in those pans. if you have fluffy soil - you should really consider planting potatoes, you will not be disappointed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

first swarm of 2010

got my first swarm call and was able to hive it up and take it home. attached is a very fuzzy picture of the swarm ball i picked up in edh.

its was a text book swarm, nice height in the middle of a plant. i sprayed the swarm ball with sugar water. this makes the bees less likely to fly and the sugar gets their attention to cleaning up themselves and away from the guy who is trying to box them up in a new home.

i cut back some branches and knocked the swarm ball into the hive, topped it off and went home for the night. the next day, i picked up the hive and now it sits up in the orchard.

orchard 2010

the orchard is now sporting 52 trees and all spots, within the rows are full. all future trees will be espaliered along the fenceline. many nectarines have flowered and most of the newly planted bareroots have pushed some leaves - so things are looking up for the orchard in 2010.

tomato update

seems like these plants are growing inches per day. it was time to move the tomatoes from their small pots to larger pots. so i re-potted the plants into 1 gallon pots. the soil is an organic mix, purchased from the front yard nursery - to which i added a small dose of dr. earth vegetable fertilizer.

cutting off the low leaves and deep planting the starts, we begin to develop the hair roots along the main stem of the plant. the transplant to the 1 gallon pot will be the last one and the next move will be into the raised beds - most likely the first part of may - where the starts, will again have the lower leaves snipped off and planted into a deep hole.

a word of caution, make sure the soil you purchase is fully composted. i learned this the hard way a few years ago, when the 'top soil' was still actively composting and was way too warm to plant into. end result - had to buy new plants.

redneck hothouse

my seed guy keith needed to clear out some plants to make room for the next round. still being a bit cool in the garage, i felt it would be necessary to provide some added protection for the plants that would spend their nights in my cold garage.

so with the help of my eight year old, we geared up this redneck hothouse.

some scraps of cardboard, a couple towels and a nice warm halogen lamp, i was able to keep the temps in the hothouse in the 50's. this only lasted a few days before i had to transplant the tomatoes into 1 gallon pots.

the tomato growing season is looking better, every single day.

Monday, April 5, 2010


a quick update - these pix are the latest and the girls will be coming home this week. so they will start to harden off in the garage and will be planted into the raised beds some time around mothers day weekend. except for 3 - these guys are going into the garden with the walls-o-water.

this will be my first foray into the walls-o-water and hope it works as planned. front yard nursery had already planted their tomato with the walls - and oops, it snowed last tuesday. from what i heard, the tomato is in the green house, hoping to make it as it had about 3 inches of snowed which filled up the inside of the walls.

hopefully no more snow and no more frost.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

dont let the nice weather fool you

mother nature is a tease. thats right, she does pretty much what she wants, when she wants and those who think they can predict her actions - soon realize its at best, a 50-50 shot at getting it right.

it snowed yesterday. march 31, a week or two after the start of spring and we get almost 2 inches of snow at 1900 foot elevation. and boy am i lucky to live below the snowline (yeah, right)thank goodness i didnt fall for mother natures tease of the last 2 weeks and put anything in the garden. this type of weather is even risky for hardening off tomatoes in the garage.

the weather folks at channel 3, who i hold in pretty high regard even though its a crap shoot, missed this last one by - oh about 15 miles (and that would be pollock pines, where they thought the snowline would be.) they predicted snow down to around 3000 foot elevation, like i said, we got it at 1900 foot elevation.

farmer fred, who lives down in the flatlands doesnt put any tomatoes out until national tomato planting day (april 28) and with good reason. so heres to another 4 weeks or so of no planting.

happy april fools day. btw - the above is all true and not an april fools joke.