Thursday, July 28, 2016

Catching up on Inspection Notes

It's been a while since I updated my inspection notes, but lots of things have been happening, so I wanted to make sure I captured them. That way, when I read through my posts next year (cringing all the while at typos and awkward sentences), I can reflect on what happened.

I forgot to write the date down, but sometime around July 12, I noticed that Buttercup had gone queenless. Probably her queen got lost on a mating flight, so I donated some eggs/young brood from Elsa. Last week (July 20), she had queen cells, including a couple of capped ones. Hopefully, I'll see eggs around Aug 5.

Checked Celestia last Friday, and she has eggs so I can breathe a sigh of relief on that front.

Austeja, Hippolyte, Persephone, Peach
Haven't checked these since the 12th, but they were all fine then. Since the dearth is on us & I'd like to avoid setting off an attack of robbing, I won't open the hives much until the fall flow begins. Maybe to take some honey...

This is Elsa's second year, and she hasn't swarmed yet, so I split her on July 20. I couldn't find her queen, so I just moved some eggs and brood over to my empty Bubblegum nuc. 3 days later, the nuc had eggs, and Elsa had queen cells. Well, I guess I know where she is now. Fingers crossed, I'll have a laying queen by August 14 -- or maybe I should just buy a queen.

I also took a couple of bars of honey that were about 75% capped out of Elsa. I was concerned that they might be a little too wet still, but my refractometer showed a water content of 16%. So whether the bars are all capped or not, it looks like they are harvestable.

(Actually, there was at least another jar,
but used a lot of honey making lemonade and popsicles)

Weather Update
Weather-wise, this has been a miserable spring & summer. According to the US Drought Monitor, we are in a severe drought and have been for some time. Daytime temps have been consistently in the mid- to upper-90's F since about May or June. Our normal average high for July is 85 F -- so we're 10 degrees above average.  Hearing lots of reports of wells running dry in my town.

I'm in Southern New England. You can see how dry that area is.

Additionally, everyone's lawn has died (except the weeds -- my clover and weeds look super green!) Personally, I have no use for grass, but I am mourning the toll on my garden. My DH's tomatoes are not setting as much fruit as they usually do. Hot spells (days consistently about 90ºF and nights consistently above 75ºF) cause tomatoes to focus on survival instead of reproduction. My cantaloupes, too, are producing male flowers only. Even my pumpkin & winter squash don't want to make fruit. Heat also fries the pollen -- not just tomato pollen, but pollen for lots of other plants as well. Flowering plants don't make as much nectar either without water.

The weather forecast shows a 50% chance of a couple rainy days this weekend, but I'm not feeling optimistic. Most of our rain predictions so far this year have either not panned out or we've gotten a quarter inch at most. Not nearly enough.

In the 16 years we've been married, my DH and I have moved 4 times -- each time further north and to somewhere with a higher cost of living. We have this joke that the next two moves will be to Canada and then the Arctic Circle. As this heat keeps up, Montreal is sounding pretty good to me!

In addition to the heat and lack of rain, garden pests have been the bane of my existence these past couple of months. My guess is that the unusually warm winter we had last year failed to kill them. Tomorrow, I'm planning to put down some milky spore and beneficial nematodes. Fingers crossed for some rain to help soak that stuff in. Anyone know a good rain dance?


  1. Huh. I knew that heat was the problem for tomatoes but did not know it applied to squash and melons, too. Now I know why I'm seeing mostly male flowers. It's so hot and dry in CO, I implemented some gardening rules a few years back, criteria that plants had to meet to warrant the effort. #1 Only Stellar Performers: plants that don't thrive just aren't worth the time and water. #2 Make Shade or Make Food, for either people or bees. I was beginning to be irritated by the amount of water the squash was taking yet not producing fruit, but it's been feeding the bees so it hasn't gotten ripped out yet. Our forecast remains like yours, though: HOT n DRY. Not sure how much water I'm willing to keep putting down just so the bees can have some pollen. My bees don't produce honey, just more bees. Which I adore <3.

    Your honey looks lovely BTW. Is there a recipe for the honey'd popsicles?

    1. Those are good rules for the plants. We've always stuck to heirloom varieties, but next year, we may incorporate some heat-tolerant hybrids. Like you, I'm not into watering either, but I'm thinking of digging in some ollas to help with getting water to the roots.

      I don't have a recipe for the popsicles, but if it makes a good smoothie, it will make a good popsicle. The last batch was fresh limeade (made with honey), frozen strawberries, and extra honey to taste mixed in a blender. I make popsicles with all kinds of fruit though -- orange juice & pineapple; pineapple & mango; strawberry, lemon & peach... The sky is the limit.

      Two tips on making popsicles, though:
      1) If using honey, make sure it's dissolved or liquid before putting it in the blender. It can blob up or fail to dissolve when added to cold liquid/fruit, and you end up with super sweet chunks of popsicle.
      2) It helps to use something with a little acid like citrus juice or pineapple to help the popsicles keep their vibrant color.

      I've also done vegan fudgesicles with silken tofu, cocoa, sweetener of choice, vanilla, and non-dairy milk. They were pretty good actually.

      Hope your heat wave breaks soon!

    2. I stick with heirlooms, too. A further rule I have for food-producing plants is that I only grow what I can't buy at the supermarket. I use all manner of water delivery devices. Tried ollas but one freeze-thaw destroyed them :( . Most of my veg is container grown now, so I can move the plants around to follow the shade. I absolutely love my Earth Boxes. I have two permanent raised beds, though, and I use "Aqua Spikes" in those. Oh, and copious amounts of HydroSource crystals worked into the soil.

      Thanks for the "recipe" and the advice. Really good to know!

    3. Thanks for that info about the ollas. I hadn't considered freeze damage. Good to know! I don't like doing extra work, so HydroSource crystals sounds like a good solution. Will try that! Thanks again!

  2. Glad you got some honey and I hope your new queens get well mated. I was thinking of splitting one of my hives, but thought it might be too late in the year to have a viable queen/colony for winter if I let them raise their own.

    My tomatoes are doing really well this year, despite the heat, but I probably water more than HB. And we've been enjoying squash despite the heat. The melons are just starting to flower, so we'll see what happens there. I use drip irrigation for all my veggies so that I'm only watering what needs to be watered. Sometimes that's not enough for some veggies like beans. But there are plenty of native and low water plants that produce pollen and nectar and don't require much water and I try to fill my yard with those. I'm slowly sections of lawn (which is mostly bindweed this year) with native plants because I'm tired of spending money on water. The bindweed is a boon for native pollinators - every time I go to pull some up, there's usually a little native bee in the flower. I'll have to check out the HydroSource crystals!

    Looks like you should get a good shot (up to 1") of rain tonight or tomorrow and just remember, once Tom Brady can play again, the regular rains will return and the drought will be over.

    1. Glad that your garden is doing so well! My watermelons are fruiting, but they keep drying out too fast. Maybe a drip irrigation system (and more heat-tolerant varieties) are the way to go.

      If you want to split, maybe you could find a local queen. Then you wouldn't have to worry about them raising one.

      The bindweed sounds pretty, but I hear you about the water. Only the strong survive in my yard, too.

      Fingers crossed for rain. It looks like we might get a little tonight. Perhaps somebody can arrange a special charity game before September for Tom.

  3. We've had excessive heat, but have had regular rains as well. I notice your U.S. map has Virginia in the clear which makes sense. We had quite the storm last night, in fact. Normally we enter a dearth mid-July, but with the rain I think the bees are still finding nectar. I noticed today that the Sedum hasn't bloomed yet either, though it probably will soon.

    Only my second year with bees, but I know the weather is weird. We had a warm spring and then a cold spell, and then we hit summer with multiple weeks of 90+ days and a number of 100+ days. That goodness for the rain :)

    Hope you get some rain soon, if not already.

    1. Glad that your bees are finding lots of nectar even in July!

      We finally got some rain this weekend, too. Wahoo!


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