One-Block Feast: Spring Garden Plan
This spring garden guide is complete with tips and adventures from the staff at Sunset Magazine. Read along as they prepare a spring feast from their one-block garden, brew beer, treat broody hens, hand milk their Jersey cow and navigate honeybee swarm season.
Check out Sunset Magazine's spring garden plan and how their efforts to eat only what they grow takes local eating to the next level.
Illustration Courtesy Ten Speed Press
Based on the James-Beard-Award-winning One-Block Diet, The One-Block Feast (Ten Speed Press, 2011) is the ultimate guide to eating local. Complete with seasonal garden plans, menus, 100 recipes and 15 food projects, this guide explains how to raise and produce everything needed for totally made-from-scratch meals, all from your own backyard. The following excerpt is taken from “The Spring Garden.”
You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: The One-Block Feast.
Spring starts early in the San Francisco Bay Area. In February, stone-fruit trees puff out in popcorn-like balls of pink and white. With every passing week, new flowers open on trees and from bushes and beds: mock orange and rose and lilac vine, sending out a sweet blended perfume.
Around the beginning of the month, our bees began pouring from the hives. We saw them everywhere, dancing over the flowers and herbs, their golden bodies glinting in the sun. Despite the pleasure of watching them and anticipating the honey to come, Team Bee braced itself. Spring is swarm season.
Navigating Swarm Season
Swarming typically happens because the hive is overcrowded. The crammed-in bees will raise a new queen (or several), and then she and up to half of the colony will fly away. It can seriously deplete the hive, and beekeepers try to prevent this by stacking on another box to give their bees more room.
We had added boxes to both hives a few weeks earlier, but it wasn’t enough to keep Betty from swarming. One morning, we spotted a big, buzzing clump of bees up in a nearby tree—and more bees cascading thickly down the front of Betty. Luckily, bees are gentle when swarming; their goal is to protect the queen (hidden in the buzzing ball) and find a new home, not attack, so even though we had rushed out without suits or veils, we had little to worry about. But we were helpless to intervene.
Two days later, Betty (now ex-Betty, most likely) swarmed again. An “afterswarm” is rare, but does happen when the bees raise more than one queen. The air was thick with darting, roaring bees, and Kimberley and Margaret stood in the middle of it, engulfed by the tornado. “It felt like being encompassed by the Other,” said Margaret later. “You could feel their weird, humming, crackling energy.” Even for those of us standing at the edge, it was an awesome sight. We watched for half an hour, and the bees kept flying crazily back and forth. By the end of day, they still hadn’t managed to locate a new place to live and were pooled forlornly under the hive.
The next morning, Brianne found the swarm clustered on some empty clay pots nearby. She had just been to a lecture on swarm catching, and without hesitation gently slid an empty box under the bees while brushing them in with a bee brush (kind of like a duster). We gave the swarm to the head of our local beekeeper’s guild. And we left the twice-swarmed hive alone for a while to settle down with, we hoped, a new resident queen.
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