We had a meeting at the church this morning, and after the meeting, a friend invited me over to his house to get a squash. Boyd also keeps bees, and I asked if I could see his hives because, well… bees!
When we got up to his hives, we noticed a fairly decent amount of activity, which is uncommon on a cold morning (about 39 degrees). On closer inspection, we noticed that it was wasps and not bees, and that there was a healthy stream of the little beasts flying in and out! Boyd quickly cracked open his hive and confirmed that he had a colony in the top of the hives, but that wasps were scattered throughout the hive raiding. We quickly sealed up the hive completely except for a single tiny entrance at the very top. Within moments, a sizable number of wasps had built up in front of the hive trying to get in. I’m hoping we got the entrance closed up in time, but I admit to not feeling very confident in that. I think the damage is done, and we probably trapped another 50 wasps inside who will just continue to do damage until they are gone.
Boyd filled a bucket full of carrots and onions for me, and I went home.
When I got home, I checked my own hives. I have seen some wasp activity around the hives, and yesterday I couldn’t hear the bees when I knocked on the hives. That’s always been a fairly unreliable way to check for me, so I wasn’t too worried. After Boyd’s disaster, though, I moved my entrance reducers to the smallest opening possible and cracked the lid. The top of Inside Hive was full of very active bees. The top of Outside Hive had bees but they were less active. I think Inside Hive was more active because I was a touch more aggressive in trying to get a noise through knocking. Both hives weren’t necessarily light but also weren’t that heavy oomph that I would have hoped for.
I still need to get into Inside Hive and pull the medication strips (I’m still bugged I had to do that), and I will do a good honey check when I do that. If they are light, I will sugar feed (even though I hate that as much as I hate medicating). It’s better to sugar feed and live than not and starve.
With the bees done, I went inside to clean up the carrots and onions Boyd had given me. Boyd suspected that most of the onions were bad, which turned out true. We were able to salvage just one, but the carrots were almost entirely good. There was only three or four that had been nibbled on by rodents or rotted in the cold. The rest were pristine, crunchy, and perfect.
As I cleaned them, I had the strong thoughts that we have got to do better of being self-sufficient. Boyd talked about how he’s able to keep most of his veggies fresh and edible clear into mid-winter with very little effort. That includes the squash and especially his root vegetables like carrots and onions. Looking across his garden, which wasn’t that big, I’d guess he had a good 200 lbs of cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and various other kinds of produce that he simply hadn’t gotten around to harvesting. I’d guess total garden space at less than 30 X 30 feet. It was a spectacular haul of produce and very inspiring for me.
This year we didn’t plant a garden of any kind. We kept hoping to have the garden ready for spring and it just didn’t happen. Courtney has committed to spending time this fall at clearing that garden space so we can use it. It’s a big space, and if we plant it right and maintain it, we could probably get quite a harvest out of it. Of course, I would love to double and even triple the size of it. It just has the feel of “right” to it all.
I don’t know what the future holds for us, but the more I learn about health, eating right, and the world in general, the more I’m convinced that local, sustainable food is by and large among the best of paths for many of us. I hope this next spring to join the ranks in full!