December 30, 2010

A White Christmas

written by Yvonne

A white Christmas makes for a lovely seasonal song and cozy gift opening inside, but doesn't help a garden a darn bit. We came back from a family visit in Florida to a beautiful, but somewhat damaging (in terms of our garden) blanket of snow.

Although Tom "winterized" the garden by putting down layers of leaves and cover cloths, I have doubts about what will survive under this chilly snow covering. One thing we know for sure, the peas definitely didn't make it. My money says any root vegetable growing under the soil will be fine; namely the garlic, leeks, turnips, carrots, beets and maybe broccoli.  Gone will be the spinach, collards, parsley, all lettuce, kale and peas (which we know for sure is done).  Tom, on the other hand, believes it will all bounce back in the Spring.  Only time will tell. Stay tuned and we'll all find out together.

Here are a few other pictures of our place in the snow.

There likely won't be much garden new for a while, but we will have bee news as Tom works his way through Bee School.  Wonder if he'll keep at least a "B" average.  (I crack myself up sometimes.)

December 27, 2010

Checking Out the Bee Equipment

written by Tom

So my new friend and beekeeping mentor Hernan came over one cold day recently to look over my recent bounty of bee equipment. The beau coup stuff came from my big brother, a longtime beekeeper who actually got me interested and started in beekeeping without realizing it. I went out a few times as a young'un helping keep his hives. The equipment has been in storage for a while. He really set me up well! I had very little idea of what I was looking at.

We quickly dug into those boxes and Hernan hit me with lots of facts. Beekeepers tend to do that, I've noticed. :)

There were some real gems in there. It's older-style beekeeping equipment, so Hernan was quick to point out the differences between newer and older tech, some of the why's and what-nots, and what I needed to do next. Over several cups of hot tea in the cold, I scribbled down a quick inventory.

Thanks to Hernan's help and suggestions, I'll do some cleaning (gotta get those queen excluders ready) and then build a deep super (or two) and see what's what. February will be here pronto when I have to put in my first bee order from Brush Mountain, so hopefully I can rise to the challenges of all the cleaning and assembly that's required to get my hives up and running. At the end of January I'll be starting the Mecklenburg County Bee School, an eight-week course designed to get newbies like me up and running. I'm very excited. Should keep me bee-sy, that's for sure.

December 13, 2010

Winterizine the Garden

written by Tom

 If nothing else, the seasons will teach you. That's what they did to us this past week. A ridiculously harsh Arctic blast came through, sending temperatures into the 'teens and the plants into freeze mode. We were lucky to have anything survive. Fortunately, so far everything has. There were nights scurrying about putting down the two frost cloths we have, but I hadn't made time to properly over-winter the garden. I remedied that this weekend with the help of our good neighbors who continue to spend hours sucking up their leaves and putting them into cinch-tied clear plastic bags for me on their curb.

I put the leaves down and dressed the top of EVERY thing in all the beds, save for one. I used two empty leaf bags as make-shift greenhouses for the sweet pea trellises. I secured the bags to the metal trellises with a few twisty-ties and added holes all over to allow for wind to pass through.

I decided to use our two frost cloths to cover just one bed. In that bed we will eat all winter long. It contains two different lettuce varieties, an amazing spread of collards, a spread of spinach, about 40 transplanted beets and a row of fresh flat-leaf parsley (yes, THAT parsley left over from summer ... we took care of it and it keeps coming back, hallelujah!). The past week of temps into the low 'teens took its toll on everything, but this bed fared the best of all. Lucky for us it's still putting out great food. The rest can overwinter under the cover of oak leaves until late winter/early spring.

Yes, everything, including the turnips have been covered. The turnips really took the BEST the 12-degree record-setting days could dish out. They hung on, but lost about half of their tops in the past week. Yes, it was time (PAST TIME) to prep the beds for winter with a lush coating of leaves. Forget the frost cloths. We'll use those for beds that we're still harvesting from in the winter. Everything else will be leaf-covered until spring says "hello" to an early bounty.

The forecast this week is for temps in the mid-30s and lows again in the teens. Fortunately the leaf-cover will spare everything the brutal touch of Jack Frost.

Turnip greens peek out from underneath the leaf cover (thanks, neighbors across the street!). We'll see if this plan actually works. Only time, and season, will tell. It's been an education all along, that's for sure!

December 2, 2010

What's Better Than a Fresh Salad from Your Garden?

written by Yvonne

You've read about one addition to the Brown-Davidson family; our new dog Olive. The same weekend we got Olive there was another addition to the family; a 5-Qt Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. Because of the great pricing, we were also able to get the pasta maker attachments.

Fresh pasta is some good eats, let me tell you.  We made one batch of dough and split it into two parts.  Half we ate that night for dinner and the other half we dried in "nests" and tossed into the freezer for another time.

But even more exciting than that was dinner last night. I cut two varieties of lettuce and spinach from the garden - enough to make four big salads. Pictured below are: Cimmaron Romaine (bottom left), Four Seasons (upper middle), and Spinach (right).

Once everything was cleaned and weighed, I mixed them all together for a super scrumptious salad!