It’s taken almost 3 weeks to get back to “normal” after returning home on January 1st from our 30 day cross country road trip! Isn’t it fascinating how long it takes to get back to your routine after being away?
The ‘Infusio Interviews‘ seem to have taken a front seat on this blog but I promise there is much more going on around here! Now that I’ve begun the therapeutics semester for my nutrition program at Bauman College, studying and homework have taken up a majority of my time.
I had a bit of extra time today and wanted to share what’s been going on with the homestead we are attempting to build. And those waiting for more Infusio info, I will have updates and with a comprehensive FAQ’s post coming soon. I’ll have a new ‘Pre-Infusio’ interview ready to publish tomorrow.
I shared a few months ago about the amazing chicken condo my husband built, and it has been such a great addition to the homestead, especially with all the El Nino rain we’ve had in my area. It has given the ladies a warm and dry shelter to hang out in during the rainy weeks. Yes, we are having rainy weeks! It rained everyday for two weeks straight and we got one sunny day last Friday. This weather is exactly what we need here in parched California!
The consistent rain has helped the “soil builder” cover crop I planted in one section of the orchard to grow successfully. I’m attempting to balance and build our soil fertility naturally, instead of using commercial fertilizers. The soil test I did in 2014 confirmed our soil was low in nitrogen and cover crops are an excellent way to build nitrogen and nourish the soil. I was happy to get cover crop sown at the right time (late October to early November is perfect) and it’s made a huge difference in how many seeds germinate and grow. Originally, I wanted to plant the cover crop around every tree, but prepping for our road trip didn’t allow for that this year. Check out how much it has grown in the last few weeks.
Come spring time, before the crop sets seed, I’ll remove the temporary fencing put up to keep my chickens out and “kill it.” Yep, “kill it,” I promise it’s not mean 🙂 This is done to get the nutrients into the soil. There are two ways to accomplish this, either mow it down, wait a couple days for it to dry, and then “turn” the cover crop into the soil, or let my chickens do the work. I vote for option #2, since it’s no extra work for me, or the chickens. They will do their usual scratch, peck, and eat the greens, which they LOVE! Once they do their work, it will begin to decompose and feed the soil.
The rain has also helped bring my citrus trees back to life, they struggled during the hot and dry summer. My orange tree amazingly produced a tiny bit of fruit after almost dying, and both of my lemon trees are full of fruit! Here’s some of the beautiful citrus that I picked a couple weeks ago.
There have been a couple challenges around here too. During Thanksgiving weekend, I was very excited to plant seeds I started in September. As I was digging up my pathetic summer garden, I realized the reason my summer garden barely grew was because roots from a redwood tree in my neighbors yard had overtaken the entire raised garden bed!
This was a HUGE bummer because we paid a pretty penny for quality organic soil just two years ago. The roots are so embedded, that the soil is as hard as a rock, and completely unusable. The soil it so hard, it’s impossible for me to dig it out! Thankfully my husband was supportive with me hiring help to get the roots out, right now with his work schedule it’s not possible for him dig them out.
Another bummer that happened on Thanksgiving weekend, was realizing my Zinna colony that I started last spring, had died. I’d seen less activity in early November but they seemed to be eating and foraging as the weather permitted. I really have no idea what caused them to die, as they had plenty of food, aka honey, and they didn’t have high mite counts in the summer. This is the second hive I’ve lost since I began beekeeping in 2013. It was super sad to see so many dead bees on the bottom board. They left behind almost and entire hive full of honey so I need to work on processing it soon. As you can see, the frames of honey are taking up almost all the space in my garage fridge and freezer.
Thankfully, my Cosmo colony that I started from a nuc I purchased in spring 2014 from The California Bee Company, is still strong and seems to be thriving. I’m optimistic they will make it through the rest of the winter because by feeling the weight of their hive boxes, I’m certain they have plenty of honey, and I saw lots of bees out foraging yesterday during a break in the rain. I got great picture of one of them resting with full pollen baskets.
I’m going to give a second colony one more try this spring. This time instead of starting with a package of bees, I will buy a nuc, since in my experience they seem to be a healthier and stronger option. If they don’t make it, I’m not sure I can’t stand to have another colony die off, it’s really sad!
Now it is time to get back to homework. Currently, I’m in the middle of a report writing, meal/recipe planning, and handout making all about hypothyroidism. Wish me luck!
What are your plans this for the rest of this winter? Did you have any successes or bummers in your garden/homestead this year or last? Any beekeepers have any idea why I keep losing colonies? I’d love to hear from you!