Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is it fall already?

The new beekeeper, or should I say "newbie keeper", has so many experiences the first year of the hive's operation. From the thrill of installing the bees, to the glee of the first harvest, to the fear of the oncoming cold and closing up the hive for the winter. We've been quite lucky with the weather so far with warm temperatures, so I delayed truly closing up the hive until today. I have been feeding the girlz; first with medicated sugar syrup to ward off nosema, a kind of disentery, but in bees, and then with something called Honey-B-Healthy, which promotes a healthy immune system. I've also made "grease patties" including crisco, LOTS of sugar, honey, trace mineral salts and wintergreen oil to prevent tracheal mites which can devastate a hive. I've wrapped the hive in tar paper to maximize heat absorption and retention, and loaded the top of the inner cover with sugar should they need extra stores during the cold months. There's adequate ventilation so that moisture will not accumulate, and so now it's up to them. For those who have had the pleasure of their honey, my girlz do a great job and I feel quite protective of them.
The garden continues to bear tomatoes, just some cherries at this point, but I've planted fall greens of bok choi, kale, chinese cabbage, spinach and lettuce. This is all done in a cold frame setup and should take us through the spring with fresh greens. This past week we've had a visit from a large praying mantis which seems to enjoy sunning itself on the east wall in the back. They are very good for gardens and I consider them good luck. Now, if only the cat would stop thinking of it as a toy!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A harvest like no other

I was away most of the summer "up the river" at the Bard Music Festival.
First I sang in Meyerbeer's opera "Les Huguenots"
after which the

Bard Music Festival was all about "Wagner and his World". In between weeks with four inch stiletto heels as a Catholic noblewoman I came home to check on the garden and the menagerie. Wende held down the fort very well; feeding and watering as instructed. Around about the end of July I harvested 30lbs of honey from the hive on my roof. Given the fact that the hive was started the day after Easter, this is miraculous. There's no guarantee that there will be a harvest the first year of a hive and there needs to be enough honey for the girlz to hold them through the winter. All in all I'm exceedingly pleased, and look forward to next year and more honey and learning about bees.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How sweet it is . . .

Lately I've been very busy preparing Meyerbeer's opera "Les Huguenots" at the Bard SummerScape festival. I'm gone most of the week parading in 4" stiletto pumps on stage, but come home on Sundays and Mondays to tend to the menagerie and the garden. While I'm away things are in good hands with second in command, Wende. The other day she said, "You know, it's like going shopping in the backyard. I stop to pick a bunch of raspberries on my way to collect Uno's egg and on the way back to the house I pick some Sungold tomatoes and a couple of cucumbers." That was one of the nicest compliments I could get. The garden is looking beautiful and bearing just enough produce for the two of us. Yesterday I unearthed several dozen heads of garlic. It won't last long given my style of cooking, but it's a start. Today we had an even sweeter reward. After only three-and-a-half months of beekeeping I removed approximately 60 lbs of honey from my hive. The girlz were very cooperative and no one got hurt in the process. The whole experience so far has been incredibly rewarding and I am grateful to Andrew Cote and the New York City Beekeepers Association for the guidance and support.

Monday, June 29, 2009

We're waiting for "USPS" to deliver

USPS is a beautiful Black Star pullet that arrived from McMurray Hatchery June 17th with great thanks to Carmine our postal delivery man. Our fowl girls are co-habitating, at least. It was touch and go for a while as Uno wasn't so sure she wanted to share her kingdom with anyone else. There was much chasing and hen pecking which has now mostly stopped. I expect USPS will be a dynamite layer, but she still has some growing up to do.
Meanwhile, the garden is thriving due to all the rain in June. I put together some bamboo teepees, as always, to support and corral the growth of the indeterminate tomatoes. The "body bags" on the roof of the shed seem to be doing well. Already in are snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash and the first of the pole beans should be ready by the end of the week.
Last week I added the second medium to my hive on the roof as the girlz are going like gang busters. Our source revealed to me he sold us "super bees" and that while the rain tends to slow the growth of the hive, you can never make generalizations when it comes to bees. The good news is: we will have honey this year. The bad news is: we will have honey this year. How and when we will extract it is yet to be determined.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Urban Gardener

As urban gardeners the biggest challenge one faces is space. This year I figured out a few ways to increase crop diversity and yield (see the previous blog entry). Last summer I found it possible to grow more cucumbers vertically than one family could possibly need/want, pickling not withstanding. And, my zucchini and yellow squash took over an entire walkway in the garden. I realized they all needed more horizontal space than actual root space. By trellising and what I refer to as my "body bags" on the roof I could add pole beans in pots against the back of the house and sugar baby water melons on the roof of the shed. Doing this left more room in raised beds for tomatoes, eggplant, etc. and a constant planting of lettuce throughout the summer.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring's a-buzz

Well, there's good news and then, there's the bad news. Or, should I say, sad news. Let's get that over with first. Last week we found "Red" dead in her laying box. It was sudden and inexplicable. She was lethargic Saturday evening and Sunday morning she was gone. I'm pretty good about these things with farm animals. She was a great layer. Actually, I don't know how old she was, so perhaps it was just her time. She had a great life here, albeit brief. I have ordered another hen from McMurray Hatchery. She'll arrive mid-June. So for the time being "Uno," who keeps scratching along - not to anthropomorphize things - seems to be wondering what happened to her friend. She has really stepped up to the plate however, and is laying with great regularity. I've replaced our Rhode Island Red with a Black Star pullet which I understand are laying machines. This we like.

The good news is multi-fold. Life in the hen house can be rather mundane; they eat, they lay, they . . . so I've decided to expand the blog to include my growing passion for sustainable urban living. This includes my most recent acquisition of 12,000 honey bees. As some of you may know, pollinators in the world are in big trouble. For the honey bee it is known as colony collapse disorder or ccd. And while most of the world is worrying about the collapse of the economy (and, by the way, where's MY stimulus?) guess what, no bees = no food, so, no amount of $$$ is going to buy you that piece of fruit that no longer exists without bees.

I picked up my box-o-bees at 7 AM Easter morning, along with my beekeeping partner Charlene. We hived the two colonies (that would make 24,000 total bees) the next day. Everything went according to plan and the girls are now busy playing house with their queen, and a few useless drones. I will do my best to keep you updated with exciting news. It's all pretty exciting to me whereas it's all pretty textbook according to "Beekeeping for Dummies".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring has sprung

Despite the still cold temperatures, sometimes in the low thirties, we have already begun feasting on goodies from the garden. The "girls" are now literally cooped up, otherwise we'd have a moonscape instead of a garden. They are voracious eaters and are drawn to anything green, or red. I supplement their diet with lots of leafy green trimmings gleaned from a local green grocer and they get a little bit of raw meat. I think they'd prefer to be out and about, but . . . too bad! As our farmer friend once said, "Have you seen the size of their brains?!"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Hunting!

Chickens are carnivorous, believe it or not. The other day I watched out back as "Red" chased "Uno" around the yard. "What's going on?", I wondered. I stepped out back and continued to watch. Red would chase Uno. Uno would outpace her, stop, and then Red would chase Uno again. Our # 1 mouser since the fall has been Scooter, our Maine Coon kitty. However, now we've got a team. "The girls" appear to be very good at catching mice who like to frequent our two composts. Uno caught a mouse the other day and Red was obviously quite envious of her prize. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We never lost hope . . .

On the eve of the inauguration,  after not laying for well over three months, Uno made her contribution to celebrate a new era: a beautiful blue egg. Despite the subzero temperatures the girls continue to thrive. I am amazed by their heartiness. After all, we humans wouldn't survive a day in weather like this. The lettuce I planted in October is still doing well under clear shower curtains. I expect to pick a few heads in the next couple of weeks. The seed catalogues have begun to arrive and anticipation is high all around for an expanded garden planting (think roof top).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

They're Still Alive!

With our first accumulation of snow and some below freezing temperatures "the girls" hunkered down for their first winter in Brooklyn. I made some insulated panels to attach to the sides of the coop for a little added protection from the elements. The panels can removed come spring, but for now remain in place. Uno, the Araucana from south of the boarder, has been freeloading for months without an egg. Red, after her molting period, got right back in the saddle and turns out an egg a day.