Game-Planning for Spring

Posted by & filed under beekeeping, gardening, livestock.

With all of the stressing about money and future projects going on in my life right now I’ve been kind of forgetting that I’ve got existing projects to manage and plan for this Spring. I’m going to be heading to Newton Farm sometime in March so I’m going to have to spend as much of February as makes logical sense to get our little backyard garden and beekeeping projects throughout Brooklyn in working order.

Our compost bin is currently overflowing. There’s some nicely broken down humus in there capped with about 6 inches of chicken poo-speckled sawdust, leaves and veggie scraps, so as soon as there is a warm day towards the end of February, I’m going to have to go out, turn it over and shovel all of the good bits into a new bed which we are reserving for a hefty amount of herbs. We’re tearing down the largest of our beds because of some structural flaws…Who knows what will go in it’s place. I told Katrina we should plant some dwarf apple trees but I don’t think she’s sold on that.

The chicken run is looking pretty haggard at the moment too. It’s fairly clean smelling and cozy but just looks a mess. We started off with untreated wood mulch to fill the frame (which also needs some repairs) that is situated on top of a cement extension of the patio. Over the past year the mulch has broken down and we’ve turned in more of it as well as straw, sawdust, grass clippings, coffee chaff ….you name a dry, organic (and free!) material and it’s been added to the run to make it clean and comfortable for the ladies. But now it’s time to do an overhaul of the whole thing. All of the material on the floor of the run is coming out and going in the new compost area. We’ll likely repeat the same process as before.

(Run in it’s current state, less snow. I guess it’s not TOO bad)

I’ve also got to start planning our Spring garden! I’ve got to practice some real restraint this season. Since I will only be in Brooklyn half of the time, I want to be sure that I am growing low-maintenance crops for the household. In addition to not really being here as often as before, I’ll be able to bring produce home with me from Newton Farm, so I want to make sure that I am not growing something that I’ll already be getting from there. I’m thinking that sticking to tomatoes, herbs, beans and potatoes will be our best bet since whatever we don’t eat can be stored or canned. The squirrels pretty much eat everything else anyway. Especially lettuces and kale which just happen to be my favorites. Jerks.

Yes, and the bees! Oh man, how could I forget them? I’ve got to meet up with my lovely partners in beekeeping (non)crime, Annie Novak of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and Stacey Murphey of BK Farmyards. February is a good time to start planning on emergency feeding your bees so that they don’t starve. Truthfully, I don’t think all of our hives are going to need it since we were very conservative with any harvesting we did this past summer. In any case, I will be prepping fondant for them as a precaution. Once they make it to April, Maples and Oaks will be blooming and we’ll see the first bits of golden pollen coming in on the flanks of our winged friends.


(Stacey Murphy with our Crown Heights bees)

We then have to start preparing for swarm season. Swarms are a reproductive division of a strong colony (a good thing!) It is an intimidating sight to behold but the bees themselves are quite docile in this state. They’ve eaten their fill of honey to transport to a new home and for the first day or so after swarming, it’s actually quite difficult for them to extend their stinger. All that aside, since we live in a densely populated area, I want to do my best to keep this from happening. My plan is to do some early alleviation of crowding in the brood nest, perhaps make some splits and set up a couple of bait nucs for good measure. Heck, maybe the bait nucs will catch someone else’s swarming bees! That could be kind of cool.

I’m super fortunate this year because I’ve taken on two very wonderful and dedicated beekeeping apprentices that started working with me this past Summer. Nicole and Patricia will be learning hands-on all season how to inspect beehives, diagnose illnesses and identify pests, harvest honey and lots more. It will be great to be able to call on some folks to go check on some hives in a pinch if I won’t be nearby. I’ll tell you more about these fantastic ladies in a future post.

And that’s about it. I guess I should quit blathering on about it and get cracking, eh?


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