Friday, April 27, 2007

The Bees Arrive

Last winter I studied bee keeping, it's something I've always found interesting, and wanted to try. Being a gardener, and orchardist, it was also appealing knowing they are also pollinating my fruit trees, and helping create food. After reading and studying some books on bees, I slowly bought everything to start my adventure, we are lucky to have a first rate bee keeping store right here in the town of Snohomish, it's called Beez Neez. First I bought the hive bodies, suit w/ veil, gloves, smoker, hive tools, and many frames to fill the hives with. I painted the outside of the hives, and all the exterior parts with a primer first, and then a green shade of exterior acrylic paint. They say for our NW climate, we need the color green to help absorb heat, any shade of green will do. My husband also had copper roofs made, although any roof will do, metal preferably.
My first year of bee keeping had it's share of ups and downs, and learning experiences. We got a large amount of honey, although we didn't weigh or keep track of how much we got, we definitely will this year. I told so many people that I would give them honey that we giving almost all of it away. Unfortunately last Fall and Winter we had horrible weather, and my bees didn't make it through. I didn't give them a medication called Fumagilin-B in the fall, so we believe they died from nosema, or dysentery, the symptoms were they just slowly died. Also the location may not have been sunny enough, because the hives also had some mildew in them. In any event, I had to clean everything very well, and disinfect the hive, and start over.
So, this Spring I bought 16 lbs of bees, and installed them a week ago. They are thriving, and happily setting up home. When I stand under my large cherry tree, I can look up and see hundreds of them pollinating, and the sound of the buzzing underneath is incredible. I've learned the importance of regularly checking on my bees, and doing the rountine chore or medicating. I did give them menthol/ thyme patties, and that helps the mite problem, I also learned there is a lot to learn about keeping bees, so having someone to ask questions and can help is really nice.

When you install bees they are very calm, and not yet territorial, so you can see my daughter Kaley and I watching them up close, she was facinated with them. I also plan to buy this year a pollen trap, and a propolis tray, it will be nice to have fresh pollen to eat, it's the perfect vitamin, and propolis for cuts, abrasions, sore throats etc. Keeping bees has many rewards like wax for candles and lip balm, pollen, propolis, fruit tree pollinating, and of course the honey. I will keep you posted on my progress with the bees this year, and will having fun learning more about their amazing world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Spring is Finally Here

Finally the daffodils are up, and blooming!!!
This year more than most, I wanted the winter to be over. I think the flooding, the windstorm, and the many missed school days because of the snow, was beginning to take it's toll. Not to mention the cold. Time to move on...the first day of Spring, we awoke to more snow, it snowed hard for most of the day. We live at about 1100 ft, so we are considered the foothills, and will get snow if it's forecast. It can be raining in the valley, and head up our hill, and you can see the snow line half way up. This also means, when it's foggy in the valley we have sun, because we're above the fog line. This is life at Applegarth gardens.

I did go out later in the day when the sun poked through, and dug up half my raspberries to get them out of my garden...the only protected spot from the deer currently. All that is changing because we are building fences, one Jarin has been working on since last summer, going around the entire 10 acres. It's not your average fence either, it's very artistic, because that's what he does. I need to take pic's, and show what he's doing. So now he just dug the first 3 post holes for going around the garden. This is his next project we are going to fence the entire vegetable garden, and are in the process of expanding it. There will be arbors for the grapes, and kiwi's finally.
Here's the entry to our home and Applegarth Gardens, Jarin is so talented!

The biggest problem we have is the deer, they are here everyday, and seem to live here. I do like deer, I just don't like the fact that they love my gardens, and like to eat my roses, raspberries, strawberries, and whatever else looks tasty. Here they are... we had a nice buck last fall, he was safe on our property, but we knew it was only a matter of time before someone would see him as fair game to shoot, and fill their freezer. It was sad when we saw the does, without their buck.

Last year my vegetable garden consisted of one small raised fenced bed. This year I have great ambitions, with hopes the fence will be done soon enough to get some vegetables in the ground. I had left some of the raspberries last summer in the vegetable garden, so we could have a few to pick. I dug them yesterday because they would love to take over the whole bed.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fruit tree work party

Yesterday was so much fun...I got to meet a really great group of people who also love fruit trees, and have a 7 acre fruit garden in Mount Vernon, WA, it's called the , Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation. I actually found them on the Internet, and emailed about helping out, so I could learn more.
Wow, did I ever learn a lot, my head was swimming with information when I left. I learned about espaliers, and how they prune, and train them, one of the instructors was Kristan, and this is his specialty, he was very knowledgeable, and spent time teaching everyone. See picture below of him pruning one of the many espaliers. They use copper pipes to create forms like fans, and other interesting shapes, they've even spelled out the words 'WELCOME' with fruit trees... imagine that.

If you live in the area, and want to learn more about the exciting world of fruit trees, I highly recommend checking out this worthwhile organization. The display garden has 223 fruit trees, along with many more edibles, and exotic fruits. Many of the varieties that WSU offered to the Display Garden were selected as the best varieties for our Pacific NW climate. I got so many great ideas for planting cherry trees, espaliered in a line, short enough to pick, and throw a bird net over. Varieties that win taste tests, and the ones that are great for our wet climate. It is worth it to know the best varieties, and how to take care of them and prune them correctly if you desire an edible landscape.

I even learned about a technique called ringing, Kristan showed how to force a branch to grow where there wasn't one, you cut part way around the branch, and scrape away the bark, and a new growth comes forth,(see above picture). There is much to learn and explore and the techniques vary from person to person. I want to learn about grafting next, and Bill Davis said that he teaches classes around the area, I'm looking forward to taking a class, and learning how to create my own trees.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Garden pictures

A few of my raised beds, made with rocks from the property

A young kiwi vine, along the little house

A few of the fruit trees

Raised beds with the woodshed, and upper meadow in the background

Gardening in the Northwest is a lot like gardening in England, we have a lushness that I love, and can create cottage style gardens. These pic's were from last year, and are the perennial beds. I'll include another post with the vegetable garden. Right now I'm in the midst of creating another large bed, and most of my perennials I've dug (except the peonies) and I'm grouping them with color schemes. It's a huge process, but one I love, the deer are always around, and their favorite are my roses.
We are fencing the entire 10 acres, more on the fence later, along with pic's, because that is another huge project. Jarin and I both work outside the home, so everything is done in stages that take a while. Small steps toward a big dream, working on our land is so much fun, we both like it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Rain and more rain

I guess the weather is a pretty good indication of whether I'll be on my computer or not, right now it's pouring outside and the forcast shows rain for days. This is my 4th blog entry, I'm still learning about the world of blogs, and reading many that are of interest. So many of you out there have a mission, and are able to get your messages out, and use this as a platform. I work at my regular job of real estate mostly from home, or appointments close to home, I try to work regular hours, but when the weather is nice, I find time to be outside in the garden. btw. real estate is a great business for moms, I have 5 children, and have been able to work around their schedules for 9 years now.

I have been pondering the concept of multiple streams of income, and what I can do to make money doing what I love (gardening), I'm sure there are others out there who are making some money from their farms. I have wondered if anyone has started an online business selling from home. I am thinking of starting a website to sell fruit, nut, and edible trees and shrubs. Pondering all the costs, and the best way to create a website. I'm looking at doing it myself (using Dreamweaver) I have never built a website, but as a homesteader, I am adept at doing things independtly to save money, and plus I love creating stuff. So if anyone does read this, and has learned a great way to diversify on their farm I would love to hear about it.

The concept of mulitple streams of income, is that you should have at least 6 or 7 streams, be they your jobs, investments, inventions, creations etc. My husband and I have talked about ways to diversify, because you never know when one stream may dry up, and if you have other sources then you're not totally dependent on your day job. Plus for the homesteader at heart ,this puts you in control... and wouldn't it just be nice to work for yourself, and build your own business the way you want to.

Any thoughts or suggestions?

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Fruit trees in the garden

The plum trees covered in our recent snow.
I bought 11 fruit trees a few weeks ago from Raintree nursery in Morton Wa, they have many to choose from. I studied their catalog all winter, the trees were my Christmas, and birthday and Valentine's present from my husband, whenever he asked me what I wanted all I said were fruit and nut trees! So being ever so lucky to have a husband who can see to the future, and that we will be able to eat from them in 3-5 years, he agreed.
So I got 4 apple trees, Akane, Williams Pride, Honeycrisp, and Ashmeads Kernal. 2 pear trees, a Highland, and Rescue pear, a cherry tree called Black Gold, a Frost Peach, 2 plums, Shiro, and Methley, plus a fig tree Dessert King, and an Almond tree. If you buy trees as bare root they are not so expensive. I also got a couple of grapes, a Venus, and Interlaken, and a male and female fuzzy Kiwi, as the one I have it has never produced fruit, so I don't know if it's a male or female. These were all so exciting for me to get.

I have only planted 8 of the eleven so far, they are taking way longer to plant because as anyone who lives in the country knows, there are deer! Yes and they will strip and ruin fruit trees, especially young ones. So I have been building fences around each one, this is a huge job. I am doing it by myself too, so my goal was to be done by the end of February... but alas we had snow! So they are on hold for a while. I will include some pic's of them when the snow melts.

I did get done pruning the other 10 trees I have planted, that was a huge job too. We took out some trees that weren't producing, I don't know why they weren't, I think they were just inferior trees. I got bees last year, with hopes they will pollinate more effectively. The Kiwi and grapes now need an arbor, so buying the plants and trees was actually the easy part, planning where everything goes and actually building the arbors and fences around each tree is the hardest part. I can't imagine ever going to the gym. I just go out and work for a couple hours in my yard, and stay in shape digging new garden beds, transplanting perennials, chopping wood, carrying wood... you get the picture.

So now I am cooped up inside because of the snow, but I am learning there's a whole world out there, and that there are others like me blogging about their lives... I never knew. So I've been having fun reading a few journals from others, and learning all about putting pictures on etc.

Pic's of trees coming!

Thursday, March 1, 2007

winter wonderland

A picture of the snow. It really is beautiful, although I am ready for Spring!!! I've been dreaming of my garden, and fresh peas, spinach, parsley and all the other fruits and vegetables.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Snow again!

The farmers almanac predicted it, I should have known it might happen. Spring fever had sprung early for me, and now here we are in winter wonderland, with snow coming down hard. I'm in the middle of planting 11 fruit trees, I already have 8 in the ground, with 3 more to go. Plus I have a huge bed of perennials dug, to transplant into another huge bed I created, so that my plants have more space to grow. I also still have some rhodies, grapes and various shrubs that need planting.

They're all covered in a beautiful blanket of snow right now... oh well, this gave me an opportunity to do something I've been wanting to do for the last few days... set up my blog, and record the goings on in my life for friends and family, and others interested in plants, trees, fruits, vegetables, and how to grow them in the Northwest. Along with some of my hobbies, collecting herbs, and spices, making sourdough, saurkraut, and pickles along with creating soup stocks and homemade pastas.

This is my first post, and it took a little while to figure this whole thing out, so I'll write more over the coming weeks, and plan to include some photos along with journal entries .