New bees

We drove up to Abnaki Apiaries on Wednesday night to pick up two “nucs” (nucleus hives) of Bob Egan’s Maine bees. The weather nicely cooperated by not pouring rain so hard that we couldn’t see, and the non-highway part of the trip was very scenic. We arrived at 8 pm and it was still light enough to chat with the Egans and admire the piles of varied color nuc boxes under the huge old maple trees and lilacs in the front yard. Then we loaded Mr. Pink and Mr. White (with apologies to Quentin Tarantino) into the back of the Honda and headed home with @ 16,000 bees.

Meet Mr. Pink:

Nuc o bees

That picture was taken the morning after we brought them home. I popped the screens off and they’ve been free to fly around the garden (during breaks in the torrential rain) since Wednesday.

two nucs in the garden


The next step is to transfer the four frames full of bees from the nucs to the full hive boxes, but that may have to wait till we have sun on Tuesday – when I have to be back at work. Good thing R is now interested in beekeeping AND self-employed.

The garden continues lush and green under 3″ of rain a day for a week:

rainy garden

Dandelion time

We had our first rain in nearly a month yesterday, and the dandelions developed really stunning height and heft practically overnight.

yellow rules

Taraxacum is native to Eurasia, and was introduced to North America by early settlers. The entire plant is edible. It makes excellent bee fodder, especially here in Maine where the only other blossoms out right now are the maple buds. The thick tap root and lush leaf growth also increase the soil depth considerably every year on these thin hillsides.

taraxacum oMore rain is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Soon the forget-me-nots and Centaurea montana will catch up and turn the hillside blue. Meanwhile, early and drought ridden, yellow rules!

dandelion closeup

A day in the garden

I have Wednesdays off from my day job in the summer. This week was the first time it’s been warm enough out to work without bundling up in longjohns and canvas gloves. Here’s what got done: looking south, planted Fedco’s beneficials mix next to the path (under the white Agro row cover), and moved some logs around down in the main garden.

looking south Planted Arava Cantaloupe and Athena Muskmelons in the newly re-covered hoop house. My min/max thermometer showed a range of 128 – minus 15 degrees through last fall and winter.

hoop house


Planted Giant Winter and Bordeaux spinach, tatsoi, and radishes in the bed under the pear tree. The green leaves are sorrel, ready to be picked for Saturday dinner with haddock and rice.


Moving more (big, heavy, not getting any lighter as time goes on) spruce logs around as garden bed borders.

Moving logs around, again.

Once upon a time. . .

. . .it was summer in the garden. Not today, because we’re having a raw, wet March day with snow still on the ground, but summer will be back around soon. I was going through my photo files to find a particular study of quince and wild apples and found a few images that reminded me of what the weather will bring in the coming months once March with its snowy mornings is out of the way.

Below, a steam canner full of Beta and Somerset grapes ready to put the lid on, turn up the burner, and make juice. The vines look thin and sad in the garden right now because the posts are crooked and some of the wires are down, but I’ll be able to set things right in April. I made almost 5 gallons of grape juice concentrate last year and it was wonderful – rich and sweet. More on the way for 2014 as the vines mature!

steam canner full of grapes

My pallet after painting peaches and geranium blossoms in the hoop house under the summer evening sun – light enough to work until 9 pm.


Setting up to make tomato sauce on the Hoosier cabinet. We put up 5 gallons (in pint jars) in 2012, none in 2011 due to virus, we’ll have to see what 2014 will bring.


Changes in the garden

Sometimes gardening is very subtle, nothing a traveler on our gravel road might notice passing by. This weekend Billy Guess from Eagle Aboreculture came by and took down the 45′ double-trunked spruce that grew right in the middle of the garden, and people have been screeching to a halt in the middle of the road all day.

It was a beautiful tree, the last one standing from a stand of conifers between the house and road. It was so tall that I can’t really find any good pictures of its entire length, but this is the base rising up from the middle of garden.

spruce before


big spruce before

As much as we thought it was too nice to cut down with the original clearing (thanks, Richard!). it had become weakened by standing on its own. The ground turned soft during the rain storm last weekend and I watched as the whole plate of roots around the tree rose and fell with the wind. It would have taken out the wires and possibly the southwest corner of the house if it fell, so we called Billy and he brought his crew around on Friday.

big spruce down 1I wasn’t around to witness the work, but R. said it was amazing to see someone all the way at the top, cutting huge chunks of (very heavy) tree trunk and dropping them strategically around the yard. Not one plant was damaged, and I have a lot of plantings right around the base of that tree.

big spruce down 2The view from the house: I had no idea the size of the shadow this tree cast against the house and garden beds. We have a lot more sun at all times of day now!

big spruce down logs

Big, heavy pieces of tree stacked neatly and waiting to be used as foundation for new garden beds. Great results – thanks, Eagle!

Favorites from garden season 2012

January’s garden is buried under hard-packed snow and the ground is hard as iron. Subzero temps this week have collapsed any remaining evidence that there were swaths of green in those beds this summer, but. . .

we’re nearly through January, the 2013 seed order is on the way, and Spring will be here, well, soon enough. As a reminder, here are a collection of favorite plantings from the 2012 season – a hedge of pink mallow in front of the tomatoes.

mallow hedge

Prostrate astilbe growing in a shady, wet site with gunnera and a royal fern,

creeping astilbe

and bouncing bet (Soapwort) sprawling over the hot, dry alpine garden.

bouncing bet soapwort

Fedco Seed Order for 2013

I finished my 2013 seed order today. I’ve been working on it since Thanksgiving, but with three separate plots projected for this summer I had some special concerns to work out. More on that later – here’s the full list with prices (OMG I spent over $100 on seeds this year!) and the occasional reference paragraph from the Fedco catalog.
seedling trays

204 – Provider Bush Green Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
285 – Kentucky Wonder Pole Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
323 – Jackson Wonder Bush Lima Bean ( A=2oz) 1 x $1.40 = $1.40
658 – Silver Queen White Sweet Corn ( B=8oz) 1 x $7.50 = $7.50

Silver Queen 2012

675 – Dakota Black Popcorn OG ( B=8oz) 1 x $10.00 = $10.00

677 – Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn OG ( B=8oz) 1 x $11.50 This open-pollinated popcorn is so good on its own that you won’t need to add any nutritional yeast. Our trialers agreed that it was the best they’d ever tasted: creamy, buttery and delicious. Incredibly green and healthy 8′ plants with very long dark green leaves set two 4–6″ ears per stalk, with 26–28 rows (occasionally 22) of fat creamy white kernels. Thanks to our friends at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for enabling us to offer this pre-1885 Pennsylvania Dutch heirloom. SESE was the first to bring this variety to commerce, in 1988

818 – Oregon Giant Snow Pea ( B=8oz) 1 x $4.50 = $4.50

896 – Opal Creek Snap Pea OG ( A=2oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
953 – Blacktail Mountain Watermelon ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
1046 – Athena Muskmelon ( A=1g) 1 x $2.80 = $2.80
1059 – Arava Galia-Type Melon OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
1114 – Petite Yellow Watermelon ( A=1g) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
1372 – Lemon Slicing Cucumber ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
1375 – Richmond Green Apple Slicing Cucumber OG ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60
1434 – Cocozelle Zucchini ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
1719 – New England Pie Pumpkin ( A=1/4oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2073 – Shin Kuroda 5" Carrot ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2093 – Yaya Carrot OG ( A=1g) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
2099 – Over the Rainbow Carrot Mix ( B=3g) 1 x $6.50 = $6.50
2149 – Touchstone Gold Beet OG ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $6.20 = $6.20 Open-pollinated. The most refined and reliable golden beet. Much more dependable germination and uniformly round roots than others we’ve tried. Resists zoning. Like other golden beets, retains its color when cooked with the sweet flavor prized by aficionadoes. Performed well even when overcrowded in my trial. Takes the guesswork out of growing golden beets, “The first gold beet that’s ever done well for us,” reports Janine Welsby.
2186 – Bulls Blood Beet ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
2224 – Easter Egg Radish ( B=1/2oz) 1 x $2.10 = $2.10
2310 – Harris Model Parsnip ( A=1/8oz) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80
2425 – Bleu de Solaize Leek ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50
2426 – Siegfried Leek ( A=1/16oz) 1 x $1.70 = $1.70
2766 – Australian Yellow Lettuce OG ( A=1g) 1 x $1.60 = $1.60 (50 days) Open-pollinated. We are hoping this new color in the lettuce palette will catch on. In our 2011 trial the opalescent yellow-green leaves burst out of the gate with rapid growth yet were still holding their quality on July 19 when Waldmann’s had bolted. Glossy yellow in the early stages, seedlings take on more green pigmentation as they mature, with the crinkly quality of a spinach and a sweet taste augmented by the barest hint of bitter. Frank Morton’s strain is the best we have found. Though Australia is more famous for its squashes, this is another worthy émigré from Down Under
2767 – Les Oreilles du Diable Lettuce OG (Devils Ears) ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
2803 – Tom Thumb Lettuce ( A=2g) 1 x $0.80 = $0.80

Lettuce beds 20122918 – Pablo Lettuce ( A=1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
2988 – Winter Lettuce Mix ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
3209 – Maruba Santoh ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3218 – Senposai ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.20 = $2.20
3220 – Tatsoi ( B=1/8oz) 1 x $2.00 = $2.00
3378 – Melissa Savoy Cabbage ( A=0.5g) 1 x $2.40 = $2.40
3467 – Nero di Tuscana or Lacinato Kale ( A=2g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4053 – Black Prince Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4056 – Green Zebra Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4123 – Mr. Fumarole Paste Tomato OG ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4134 – Opalka Paste Tomato ( A=0.2g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4218 – Bobcat Tomato ( A=0.1g) 1 x $2.50 = $2.50 (65 days) F-1 hybrid. Det. This cat is a perfect replacement for Seminis/Monsanto’s Big Beef. Has the same impeccable looks, disease resistance, slightly flattened round shape, 6–10 oz. maincrop size, thin skins, midseason maturity and excellent taste. Flavor mild with a spicy sweet accent and slightly acidic complexity, color medium red. A massive plant with huge leaves, thick strong stems and big fruit set. From an Apr. 4 start and Jun. 11 transplanting, our trialer harvested her first ripe fruit on Aug. 15. Resists F1, F2, GLS and N.
4266 – Honey Bunch Red Grape Tomato ( A=0.1g) 1 x $3.80 = $3.80
4418 – Genovese Basil ( A=2g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4422 – Mammoth Basil ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
4449 – Sweet Dani Lemon Basil ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.50 = $1.50
4467 – Sacred Basil OG ( A=0.1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
4522 – Cumin ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4530 – Bouquet Dill ( A=4g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
4680 – Red Shiso ( A=1g) 1 x $1.30 = $1.30
4684 – Stevia ( B=0.04g) 1 x $5.50 = $5.50
4831 – Love-Lies-Bleeding ( A=1g) 1 x $0.90 = $0.90
5282 – Empress of India Nasturtium ( A=3g) 1 x $1.00 = $1.00
5351 – Ziar Breadseed Poppy OG ( A=0.1g) 1 x $1.20 = $1.20
5545 – Summer Sensation Sunflower ( A=2g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5611 – Perennial Sweet Pea ( A=1g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5614 – America Sweet Pea ( A=2g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5731 – State Fair Mix Zinnia ( A=0.5g) 1 x $1.10 = $1.10
5913 – Madder ( A=0.25g) 1 x $2.30 = $2.30