Friday, June 25, 2010

Buckwheat: some for me and some for the bees

When I tilled up the plot of land I'm using there was one section that was still pretty wet, so having been worked while wet, turned into hard clods. By hand, I was unable to break the clods with any efficiency, so decided to just run the seeder full of buckwheat seed over the section. I had no idea if the seed would germinate as it fell down through the clods of hard soil.
Well, it did germinate and less than 1 month later I have this:

Buckwheat is used as a quick summer cover crop, usually planted early in the summer and tilled in before a late summer crop planting. It provides excellent organic matter since it grows very tall very quickly. I plan to just allow this planting to re-seed itself (maybe 3 times?) and hopefully improve soil structures for next Spring. Possibly, even Fall planted garlic. In the meantime, it is also attracting bees and other pollinators as well as providing shelter for a new family of killdeer birds.

The bees LOVE buckwheat, but beware it drives them a little crazy. While working on the farm in Maryland I was able to take a bee keeping course and attend to the hives on the farm. I learned that while Buckwheat is in bloom, your bees will be more irritable. I do not know why this is, but it may have something to do with frustration that this delicious flower only provides them nectar in the morning. I love watching bees and feel a necessary, but beneficial calm come over me when I am in a hive. The order and intelligence with which they work to provide for their society is awesome. And so important that we spread the word about bee health. A major issue in the news the past few years has been this idea of "colony collapse disorder". I believe the accuracy of this term is disputable, but there is certainly a decline in bee populations.

One cause of this may that the bees are stressed, and for a number of reasons:
            * Most of the "raised" bees are overworked. They are shipped from one mono-crop farm to another on massive trucks expected to pollinate whatever is in season at the time. So it could be a month of strawberries, to a month of apples, to a month of blueberries. They are not allowed the diversity they (and we) expect for nutrition.
            * In some regions of the US "wild" hives of bees are surrounded by "mega" farms, providing them with limited options at the same time as overwhelming them with pesticides. Some beekeepers will even say it is the development of the genetically modified seed with pesticide and herbicide right in it that is poisoning the bees.They say this new strain of seed is producing plants with systemic insecticides, and this concentration is putting too much stress on the bees.

So, lets start gardens EVERYWHERE and raise bees in them. Lets raise bees in urban gardens and on city rooftops! Most states have regional bee keeping associations that give classes and assistance with getting started.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First week of markets

We have gotten through our first week of markets, and we had a blast! It felt so good to see family and friends come out and give support. We have appreciated the compliments, constructive criticisms, and encouragement to get us through the rest of the season. Thank you all!

Now is the time to start gearing up for this week's markets and revisit the crop plan to make sure all succession plantings are accurate. I am really looking forward to the onset of root crops, squash, and tomatoes, but we will be predominantly harvesting greens, radishes, and turnips for market this week.

Here's hoping for our first sunny market day!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Getting ready for Market #1

This Wednesday will be the first market for our growing farm. We have been busy getting all harvest and market materials ready, weeding beds for easy harvest, all while still putting transplants and seeds in the ground. The inch and a half of rain last week has done wonders for the growing plants, as well as sparing us the task of watering.
For the first market we will have: a Mesclun Mix that includes 4 varieties of lettuce and 3 varieties of greens, Tender Arugula, Salad Turnips, Spicy Radishes, Cilantro, Swiss Chard, and a Brazing mix that includes red russian kale, spicy mustard, and a variety of asian greens. We will also have our handspun yarns for sale at the market.

We hope to see you all this Wednesday at the Westcott Community Center (Corner of Euclid Ave and Westcott St) 2-7pm. Stop by and say hi, we would love to see you!