Further Tales from an Urban Oasis
Hive Resurrection: Long Live the Queen! Thirty-three days after introducing a frame of new eggs into our queenless hive, and not being able to stay away any longer (curiosity being an unrelenting force a little like gravity) a quick inspection revealed capped and uncapped brood, laid in a fairly solid pattern.
Mystery as well! Could the new queen have hatched, mated successfully, and leapt into egg laying so soon?
Who am I to deny what my eyes have seen? This is another nice thing about “The Great Mystery”. .In my novice understanding, the number of days between egg and capped brood is within the realm of possibility: in my deeper understanding, the bee entity (hive) knows what it is doing. My role is to be attentive, and of service when needed.
Last years’ new hive, (several frames of brood with their attendant nurse bees, honey, and pollen) taken from the above resuscitated hive (referred to as a split), is rocking. Even late in the season (2010) the queen seemed very timid and would not venture beyond her one hive body; resulting in a small hive. I was advised by a female beekeeper to let her be, rather than follow the industrial advise to replace her (re-queen).
Her advise was sound, and in keeping with natural, holistic bee-caring.
Now, she is into her natural glory, and is moving among 3 hive bodies, laying in a large, half-moon pattern, with small arcs of capped honey in the upper corners.
The supreme compliment for a cook and a delicious meal, is when one is so compelled for a little taste more, that no option exists other than to lick your plate.
I practice this whenever the above conditions exist.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that I teach a 6 day cooking class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C., entitled “From Scratch Cooking That’s Plate Licking Good”!
I’ve just returned from an early June session. The class was full (10 people) and we had a marvelous and productive time. This is an introduction to “natural food” and focuses upon health, nutrition, vitality and taste. This felt to be my most successful class, as everyone was keenly interested in everything I taught, which ranged from fermenting an old style sour kraut (Sandor Katz style: check out “Wild Fermentation”, Chelsea Green publishers), sourdough waffles and artisan bread (baked in a wood-fired bread oven), to whole grains, slow cooked crock-pot chicken (the bones melt in the mouth like sugar candy), scones and flan. And much more!
(Perhaps more in this vein will follow, since vital health and nutrition is a foundational part of Permaculture: Zone Zero, Sustainable Foundations).
Red raspberries are in! We’ve been eating, cooking with (sourdough raspberry waffles), freezing (on baking pans until quick frozen, then into food grade zip-locks), giving away to friends and neighbors, and inviting friends to pick and share the harvest.
And we still have berries ripening everyday!
Catbirds mainly, with Brown Thrashers, Cardinals, and Blue Jays, have decimated the pie cherries, mulberries, and are making a go at the gooseberries, jostas (natural hybrid between currants and gooseberries), as well as swooping into the raspberries and wineberries. Amongst all of us, the Goumis have come and gone.
I confess to getting mad at especially the catbirds (prolific fruit eaters) since they are so convinced that all the fruit is theirs, not just 10%. They first came to our permaculture food forest several years ago, ate what fruit they could, nested successfully, and returned the next year with other mating couples.
The catbirds view our site as an urban oasis.
So it is.
In the Ecosystems section of my Permaculture Design Course, I marvel at some of the topics’ most important findings, and the implications. For example, (and very close to home) Niches. A niche is described as either an unoccupied space or resource within an ecosystem.
In natural systems, there is no such thing as an unfilled (unoccupied) niche.
“Build it, and they will come” is a Hollywood version of this above mentioned natural law. One very effective way to increase bio-diversity on site is to create niches: nature will fill them!
For example: set a small, bird friendly post (stick) in the middle of your garden, and the niche you’ve created soon attracts a bird, who will survey the space, fly down to eat an insect or two, back to the post, enthrall you with a song, drop a small packet of phosphorus –rich fertilizer onto your phosphorus impoverished soil, and fly off.
Likewise, create an abundant home orchard and food forest, and nature sends in guild occupiers to take advantage of such sweet harvest!
So I cannot seriously begrudge these birds…
It looks like snow in the orchard, as apples, pears, asian pears, and grapes are white from sprayed Kaolin clay (Surround) mixed with a little biological (live) fungicide (Serenade). The clay provides an organic barrier to penetrating insects, while the biological organisms provide a living protection against some insidious bacterial and fungal blights that are rampant in our southeastern humidity.
A larger black bear is coming through regularly; a red fox was seen dashing, tail horizontal to the ground, along our driveway (no chicken in her mouth); raccoons are squabbling nightly, making their unearthly, musical trills; Copes Gray Treefrogs are singing from our Black Walnut zone; ripened, small fruits are everywhere on our site; sourdough is ongoing and active on our kitchen counter, with baguette dough in the fridge, awaiting warm-up time prior to baking for tonight’s pot luck gathering and presentation on Orbs; all 3 hives are finishing up capping their excess honey (which we can harvest); yellow-jackets and wasps are patrolling our cabbages for yummy caterpillars; chickens have slowed down some in their laying (averaging 3-4 eggs each day from seven hens, probably due to periods of above average temperatures); we’ve been so far blessed with almost an inch or rain per week, and have avoided hail and other damaging conditions that have occurred nearby.
Even as the days have been hot, and Summer Solstice occurs, Asheville’s delightful night temperatures descend to the upper 50’s and low 60’s.