One-Block Feast: Spring Garden Plan
(Page 6 of 14)
We had had phenomenal luck getting our winter garden to ripen all at once. That was not going to happen with this one. The favas were ready now, in April (right on schedule for favas), and so were the radishes, but everything else needed a few more weeks of grow time. We weren’t worried: Favas keep well layered between damp paper towels or newspaper, and we quickly replanted the radishes (they grow fast). We harvested twenty-five pounds of big, meaty pods from those fava vines in about half an hour and packed them away, along with their entirely edible greens, in the fridge.
Brewing Beer Update
Beverage-wise, we were moving right on schedule. Our beer had taken a couple of days for fermentation to kick in, but when it did, it blew the airlock clean off the carboy. Now, after six weeks of racking it and letting it percolate, Team Beer filled and capped a grand total of fifty-one bottles. We tasted it expectantly. Even though it wasn’t yet carbonated, it seemed balanced, with a nice graininess and fragrant hops. After all that work, we had probably made some decent beer.
Three weeks later, when carbonation was complete, we popped a few caps for a group taste. Maybe we hadn’t cleaned our bottles quite well enough, or maybe something had crept into the brew while we were bottling, but the beer was undeniably funky. At first we tried to deny it, saying things like, “It has a zingy, citrusy edge,” and “Boy, is that blond.” The more honest among us noticed flavors of plastic jug and bathroom cleanser, and then we all did. Team Beer drew on its inner Buddhist and tried to think about the journey, not the end.
Navigating Swarm Season
Nothing we seemed to do could keep the mites from swarming all over our bees. At best, we kept them at bay. Our newest tactic was to bring in an alternative hive called a top-bar. So far, we’d been using traditional Langstroth hives, which have stacked boxes and frames with preexisting foundation on which the bees build honeycomb and brood cells. The top-bar is a long single-story box you build yourself, with strips of wood (the bars) running across the top. The bees build their own comb, as they do in the wild, and anchor it to the bars. The topbar was reputed to reduce disease and pests, and we were willing to try anything.
For this hive, we installed bees for the first time. We had purchased our first two hives as nucs (new colonies complete with queens). We built this one from scratch. The bees had arrived by mail, in a very buzzy shoebox-size box, with the queen in a small, separate capsule inside. During the trip, she had been emitting the powerful pheromones that were gradually bonding the other bees to her, but without her own traveling compartment, they might have killed her first. We named her Califia, after the queen of the mythical island of California. She was a beautiful bee, the color of a ripe apricot.
We removed the cork from the bottom of the queen’s capsule and stuffed in a marshmallow instead, which the other bees would chew through in a few days, giving the queen time to fully cast her scent-spell over her subjects before they released her. We hung the little cage inside the hive. Kimberley shook the box of bees over the open hive, and they fell in with the sound of rice pouring from a box. After a couple of hours, they were already out on scouting flights. Three weeks later, fourteen of the fifteen bars had comb descending from them in snowy white lobes. Our new bees were busy and capable. Now we hoped they would stay healthy, too.
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