Tricolor pepper harvest

Fat buds and flowers on my two Sochi tea plants.

Mushrooms in my schroom bed, but are they the anticipated King Stropheria?

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I did a quick inspection of the hive today and found an amply supply of honey, nectar, and brood in all stages of development. There were lots of newly hatched worker bees Рpale, small, their wings still stuck together. A couple of hours  later I witnessed a flurry of orientation flights in front of the hive.

My only concern is that the broodnest is divided between the two boxes. Over Winter, bees eat their way up, (preferably) starting out in the bottom box and ending, by early Spring, in the top one.¬† I asked for advise on the forum of my beekeeper’s club and will do some research. I think the bees (should) know what they’re doing, and am averse to interfering.

I checked the mushroom bed and just under surface there is this:

Mycelium, hopefully the King Stropharia that I sowed in it. There’s a chance it isn’t, of course. The pile of leftover woodchips, which I did not inoculate, looks exactly the same! Time will tell.

strawberry bed

I was skeptical about my strawberries but (again) nature proved me wrong, or rather, made up (again) for any bungling on my part. I bought 25 crowns from Nourse Farms and planted them the day they arrived in a well-prepared bed (it was crawling with worms). The instructions were to plant the crown so half of it is in and half of it is out of the soil.

Honestly, I had no idea where that mark was, the crowns being so short, and I was in a hurry to get them in as it was getting dark and threatening rain and Amie didn’t have much patience with my gardening that particular day (when so many other plants had gone in as well). Later I forgot to water them a couple of times, since their bed is (as yet) outside the high traffic part of the garden. I checked yesterday and all the crowns have acquired new, healthy-looking leaves.

Also the currants and gooseberries are doing well, as are most of the free raspberry transplants, the kiwi vines (the male in particular) and the hazelnuts. Only my Gamma pollinator hazelnut seems dead, as well as one of the two paw paw seedlings. I still have no clue how to prune and harvest my Sochi tea plants: any ideas?

I poked around in the mushroom bed, but see no mycelium as yet.

In the veg garden the peas and favas are flowering, the overwintered pepper plants have beautiful white blooms and even a couple of tiny peppers. Also one of my tomato plants already has a little tomato.

The new hoop house plastic is arriving next week.

The carrot bed is a pain to weed and some animals (chipmunks?) have been digging for the newly seeded beans. Jacob’s Cattle seems to be their favorite, and who can blame them? I imagine the beans displayed in all their glory on their credenzas, dazzling the guests.

asparagus (Purple Passion) pushing up spears

The mints L gave me survived the transplant. I put them in the small bed next to the house that used to have the daffodil bulbs (which are all drying out so they can be stored and replanted in Fall). The bed has a couple of ornamentals (a hosta, a columbine, a couple of coneflowers) but it is Mainly Mint – ideal, since it is bordered on all sides by concrete.

I went back to L and S’s on Saturday morning to help them put in my leftover asparagus and to clear a patch for a veg bed. L is going to grow tomatoes again! She showed my her defense against cut worms. But that’s for another entry.

Amie is sick (a cold, again) and home from preschool. She’s really bummed about it because these are the last weeks of school, and after Summer she’ll be going to a new one. Luckily it is sunny and warm again, today, so we spent a lot of time outside. She is great about letting me work in the garden, though she doesn’t have much energy to help. She did supervise the seeding of the 2,5 lbs of the Winecap – Stropheria rugoso annulatasawdust spawn that arrived in the mail last week.

Oh, it smelled divine: nutty, mushroomy.

2,5 lbs of sawdust spawn inoculates a 25 square foot bed of wood chips. That made for an 8.3 by 3 foot bed on the outside of our fence, in the most shady part of the garden. It’s on the edge of our property, in an area that can do with some clearing, as you can see. It’s also along the path we created by which our the neighbors cut through to the conservation land behind us. I’ll be curious to see their reaction to the mushrooms when they pop up!

On the rich forest floor duff I spread 4-5″ of wood chips (3 large wheelbarrows) that my neighbor, the tree guy, dumped for free in our depot area.† I forget now which tree it is from. I mixed this with half a barrow of† sawdust (from the same tree) and half a barrow of compost. I spread all the spawn on top of that and gently raked it in. I added 1 more inch of the wood chips/sawdust/compost mix and watered it. Then I topped it off with a mulch of pine needles, to trap the humidity. I’ll have to make sure it stays moist, not wet.

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I also planted 18 asparagus crowns that I had ordered from Nourse and that were sitting in the crisper in the fridge for weeks. (I’ve 6 left: where to tuck them?) The picture shows the second furrow – the first has already been topped off. Usually asparagus need a 12-18″ spacing, with 3′ in between rows, but these, Purple Passion, only need 6-8″ in between. That’s how I fit 18 into an 8′ long bed.

This gives you a good idea of where the asparagus bed is:† about 6 feet away from the side of the beehive. The bees were as active† as I’ve seen them in the eleven days they’ve been with us. There were lots of them flying in and out of the entrance. Some buzzed around my ears as I dug and planted, but none bothered me.

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I did the 10th day hive inspection today and found what I was looking for: capped brood! Also lots of eggs, uncapped larvae, nectar and pollen, and the queen. Very exciting!

I don’t think it froze last night, but it might this night, so all the plants that were moved inside will stay inside till tomorrow.

It not being as cold and windy as predicted, I did a hive inspection at 11 am. Again there was very little activity outside the hive, but inside it was busy. I took out frame after frame in search of the queen, and found her on frame four. What a relief, because I was thinking I’d never find her in the melee of bee upon bee crawling over eachother. But as a result of that I couldn’t also discern the pattern of comb, comb filled with nectar (saw some of that), pollen (ditto) and… ah, eggs! YES, there were eggs. Eggs and a live queen: good news, the hive is on its way.

This was my first big inspection, during which I removed frames, turned them to inspect all sides, slid them back in, etc. It’s work that demands concentration and dexterity. At least once did I find myself holding a frame in such a clumsy manner that I couldn’t slide it in gently, or move my fingers. It didn’t ‘t help that my gloves are a tad too large, and neither did the fact that one bee somehow ventured up inside my trouser leg – I just shook it out, no harm done to the bee or myself.

So I could see, as I bungled along, how this will take some practice, but how beautiful the dance will be once I’ve done it a couple hundred times.

In celebration of finding the queen alive and well Amie and I went to the bookstore and gave ourselves a treat. She got a first reader version of Alice in Wonderland and I got Paul Stamets’ Mycelium Running. Just leafing through the book I got excited about the Winecap Stropheria sawdust spawn, which arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. I’m reconsidering where I’ll put the bed (wood chips), since I realized that where I wanted to put it at first is smack in the middle of the future chicken yard.

About the hoop house? I want to write a post with detailed instructions, pictures, etc., so it will take me a while to get that together. Maybe this evening, after pottery, if I have the energy. Check back tomorrow!