Springtime… At Last!
Here in New England and specifically at Hunny-Bunny Farm spring has finally arrived. This week was the first recorded seasonable temperatures of 2015. Needless to say between the long, long winter and my health setback there were no peas planted on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, on March 17, 2015 we still had 18 inches of snow over rock-solid frozen soil; and this year marks the first time I was not able to get the peas in on that date in my entire gardening career.
Old Man Winter just wouldn’t release his grip and in spreading compost on the garden on Wednesday, I reached a spot in the compost pile that was still frozen solid. It was comprised of about a foot of thick, rich, frozen compost, so I ‘m forced to wait to finish composting and mulching and the asparagus and potatoes until today Friday, April 17, 2015.
Meantime, in the rabbitry I was finally able to negotiate the wheelbarrow through patches of little to no snow in order to be able to dump the rabbit droppings trays into it and wheel them back to the compost bins. The depth of the snow had prevented my dumping of the rabbits for over 10 weeks; now keeping in mind that I normally dump the trays once a week you can imagine the state of the rabbit shed after all that time. I still have to use the shop-vac to get to those hard to reach places beneath the cage batteries, but that will wait for a couple of more weeks for a thorough spring cleaning of this shed, as well as, the garden shed, and the garage. Yikes! Winter clearly took its toll here at Hunny-Bunny. I was fortunate that the extra mess in the shed did not have an adverse effect on the bunnies, such as lung or skin problems. So now that all is coming back on schedule and spring is here it is time to look at mating my little charges to provide increase.
The hens too suffered greatly from the long, long winter. With the snow so high there were weeks where the hens simply refused to leave the coop, though the door was daily opened to alleviate the ammonia ridden air and provide whatever little sunshine was available for them to bask in. They, of course, stopped laying because their egg-laying cycle is based on the increasing and decreasing daylight. They are now back on schedule and running the garden gleaning all the leftovers from last season and fattening up on succulent bugs. Between the four hens I’m getting 2 to 3 eggs daily, so all is now normal in the chicken house. I will soon close the garden gate so that they will be limited to their chicken yard but have enough free-range here to get their needed exercise and grazing to remain healthy and in good spirits.
In the apiary, I’m afraid to say that all five beehives were lost to winter. With the snow over 30 inches since Christmas week, 2014, I was not able to get to the hives or even uncover them to start feeding them in mid-February. It seemed apparent at the time that at least two hives had made it to then, but not being able to forage for food they too succumbed to the cold and snow. This, of course, necessitated buying five new starter packages of honeybees; so on Holy Saturday, I trudged the two and a half hours to Mann Lake Bee Supplies’ Wilkes-Barre, PA facility and bought some honeybees. This strain is known as Carniolan bees and is native to Eastern Europe. They are cold hardy compared to the usual Italian strain; more gentle. but provide marginally less honey. They should do well in the harsh New England winters and hopefully they will last beyond one season to provide years of honey; but we shall see. So far they’ve acclimated well and with the crocus, skunk cabbage, and the woodland beginning to bloom they are already bringing back nectar and pollen. Pollen gathering is an sure sign that they are producing brood which means that they are thriving. I will verify this by opening the hives this week and evaluating the laying pattern of the queen, the various ages of brood, and the ratios of drone to worker bee cells. One characteristic of these Carniolan bees is that they tend to swarm easily so I must be vigilant in my observations of their comings and goings to prevent this; and be ready to split hives to make more colonies for the future. I don’t want a repeat of last year where I lost one of the swarms because they alighted high up in a tree and were unrecoverable. In actuallity, this lost swarm may be providential as I did notice many honeybees visiting my hives before I got the news packages, indicating there must be a wild hive about. These scout bees took off to the rear of the property where the woodland is thickest, so this lost swarm may have established a bee-tree and could provide no-cost bees for any future hive expansion I wish to make.
So all in all Hunny-Bunny Farm is off to a slow springtime start, but I’m busily making up for lost time. Next week I will plant the cold weather plants in the garden, of course, with the prerequisite of locking out the hens. I will also lime and reseed the lawn; the winter had devastating effects even here with many dead and bare spots, as well as, some mold, moss and fungus.
Once again thanks to all for their prayers and well wishes during my unexpected health situation. Know that these prayers were effective and I’m recovering quickly with no further sign of the cancer spreading.
Remember, as we daily see the world around us descend into the dregs of hell we must have recourse to the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Consecration of Russia by the Pope and all the bishops of the Church, without which all is lost.
We also should avail ourselves of the “Jesus Prayer” which is an ejaculation. It is: Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. This is also known as the “Prayer of the Publican” (read Luke 18:10-14) and is a powerful prayer of humility, submission, supplication, and mercy. It is popular in the Eastern Orthodox Church and deserves more recitation in the Catholic Church, most especially in our tumultuous times.
Richard of Danbury, D.S.G.