If the seasons are cyclical and we all know they are, where exactly does the square come in, much less the first one? Aren’t cycles by definition round? It seems that going back to square one gets a bad rap a lot of the time. For instance, you always go back to square one, right? You start there, you don’t end there. And if you have to return to the first square, you must have failed along the way somehow and had to start over. But, being back at square one doesn’t always have to have a negative connotation. In fact, here at the homestead, it means it is officially Spring! It means we get a new chance to do it all over again and hopefully some things, better. It means we have learned from the period or periods beforehand and have the opportunity to see it all start again. To grow and mature again, to partake and save again. To hopefully improve and give something back, again. Mother Nature has been busy and we have just been trying to keep up…and that ain’t no joke (Get it? It’s April Fools Day…you are laughing right?)! As the anniversary of Caesars’ death has been acknowledged and is now behind us and the month that contains enough significant wet weather events to impact Mays’ blooms is upon us, rejoice! We have turned the corner into more pleasant temperatures, longer days and beautiful colors. It also means, at least for a short while, that we get to have the windows open more often than not and we get to spend more time outside. Everything has come alive and nature is stretching its arms and legs and showing us just how happy it is to be awake.
I mowed the lawn this week for the second time this year. While some may dread the prospect of mowing, I love it. It reminds me that Spring is really here. Spring means planting, preparing and maintaining. Lots to do on the homestead and we have been busy! We have worked on the chickens, the bees, the garden and moved some dirt. Without further ado, let’s get this party started!
First let’s begin with the garden! As you are hopefully aware, we expanded the garden from last year. In fact, we essentially doubled its size. We used cedar posts from cedar trees we cut down and used two layers of chicken wire all the way around the garden. We did leave a section that allows for us to get into the garden and the side closest to the house opens up completely so we can get the tiller and tractor in there when necessary. So far, no rabbits! We have already planted lots of fun things and are close to harvesting some of it. We have planted lettuce, spinach, green pepper, carrot, beet, radish and brussels sprouts seeds. The pepper seeds I had saved and dried from last years peppers, so I don’t know if they will do much, but we’ll see. I had all intentions of starting seedlings from them and just didn’t. So we sowed them right into the garden and we will have to wait to see what happens. The beet and radish and some of the carrot seeds were in a new type of delivery system, tape. They were sewn into white cloth that was three sections of about 7 foot each, so that they were the exact right spacing when planted. Pretty neat. I planted regular carrot seeds too, just for some added insurance since last year we didn’t have much success with carrots. Along with the seeds, I planted swiss chard, red leaf lettuce, Bibb lettuce, spinach, green pepper, broccoli and two tomatoes plants. We also planted a couple of rhubarb plants just for kicks and they have started coming up too! The radish seeds have sprouted the Hubs thinned them out. Did you know you can eat radish sprouts? They have a slight radishy taste and are quite lovely! We are seeing some lettuce, beet and carrot sprouts and all the other plants are looking great. So, when it comes to fresh garden veggies, we are back to square one!
What’s that? What about your herb garden, you ask? Well, it is in fine form. My rosemary, oregano and thyme all made it through the winter and continue to produce. I have just added the basil and my accompanying tomato plant. They all smell so good, especially the basil. I am so excited about basil. I love basil. Have I mentioned how awesome I think basil is? Basil rocks. Basil is the bomb. Basil makes me happy. 🙂 Just like the garden, we changed the fencing this year to keep yellow dog from sticking his head up under the fence to get to the tomatoes. I used the old rabbit fencing from the garden and I think it should keep both hoppity critters and yellow dogs out. The herbies are back to square one!
Next, the chickens! All seems well with the one late bloomer, as I believe she has finished her molt. She looks so much better these days and she has most of her big girl feathers back. We are getting about 12-14 eggs per day now. We turned off the all night-light party and just have the solar panels back on to light the coop early in the morning. The girls are still waking up early (as in before sunrise), but they do get a little shut-eye in the dark at night. Grass mowing means a fun treat of grass clippings and bugs. We haven’t gotten the new chicks yet although we are still planning to get them. We will cull about half the flock once any new chicks are old enough to start laying which means later this fall. We find it so much better to cull them when it is a bit cooler as it keeps any yucky smells to a minimum. Last weekend the Hubs changed out the bedding in the coop and that means we started the new compost pile, so too the chickens are back to square one! I hope by now you are getting the gist of the title to this post. Pretty sure you are. But just in case you aren’t, just wait for it…
The orchard and the bees! So, while I said above that being back at square one isn’t always a bad or negative thing, in the case of the orchard and bees, it is. As you know, I lost my two hives that I started last Spring. A moment of silence, please, for the lost ladies. As such, I have no bees again this year to pollinate the orchard. I have seen no sign of any honey bees in the orchard although there have been quite a few flying insects that I hope are pollinators buzzing all over the flowers. Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean they are not there, but I highly doubt it. It seems the girls that left, stayed gone…The peach trees have already bloomed along with the plum trees. The apple trees and the cherry and the pear trees are starting to bloom and will most likely be finished by the time we get the new colonies. When do you get those beautiful bees you ask? Two weeks. April 15th is the date. It was supposed to be next week, April 8, but I got a call from the supplier that said due to weather, they had to push back the date. The bees are coming from Georgia, so it seems their weather has not cooperated as much as we would have liked and the nucs aren’t ready. However, if all goes well, we will get them a full two weeks earlier than we did last year. Hopefully that will turn out to be a positive. So, as you can see, with the orchard and the bees, we are back to square one.
Being back to square numero uno however, gives me the opportunity to do some new things! Cue silver lining! We are putting two hives in the orchard and two hives down by the big hole that has water in it by the old barn. We have put the fence up for the orchard and will be putting in the new gate this weekend. We used more cedar posts and put in a four-foot high fence. We figured that this height would keep Ri from jumping the fence into the orchard since she liked to jump the three-foot high fence into the garden last year. This will keep the canines out of the orchard and more importantly, out of the grapes! It will also keep them away from the two hives that will be in the orchard. While I have doubt that they would only go too close to the hives just once, no need to teach that painful lesson if I don’t have to. In addition, I have two new things I am trying with the lovely ladies this year: Horizontal hive and Flow Hive. The horizontal hive is the actual hive body where I will build out horizontally rather than up vertically for honey. The Flow Hive is new honey box that is supposed to make harvesting simple and removes any disturbance to the bees and colony while you harvest. I will post pictures of the Flow Hive once I have it on the hive. I have ordered two, but only one has come in. It is a beautiful Australian cedar box and I have put a couple of coats of Tung oil on it to not only to bring out the colors in it but to protect it a bit and seal it for outdoor use. I have ordered four nucs this year, so I will have four hives. One is the horizontal, two will have Flow Hive supers and two will have the regular set ups. This year I will also be sticking to one deep brood box and then adding the honey supers on top for the honey rather than using two deep brood boxes as I did last year. I will also be leaving them alone a lot more! We have the horizontal hive all finished except for the stop chain on the lid, but barring that, I believe it’s the best hive yet! In honor of my Tarheels…well, you’ll see! Just so you know, while I live here in beautiful East Tennessee and love it, I am Tarheel born and Tarheel bred and when I die, I’ll be Tarheel dead! Go Heels!
There is so much to love about Spring. I love to see the red buds in bloom, the honeysuckle that is just starting, the daffodils and lilies. The new chicks and ducklings and bees. The sounds of crickets and frogs. The grass is green again, the trees are unfolding their new leaves and it just smells so good outside! Nature has awakened and is shedding the slumber of Winter. It is slowing but surely putting on a show of beauty and showing us a glimpse of what is to come. Spring has sprung folks…and lovingly, it has brought us back to square one.