Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: gardening, Memphis, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
The rain has come so often the last few weeks that I haven’t been able to do many of the chores that need to be done. Monday evening I finally got some okra in the ground, along with some kale and spinach transplants. In order to get the transplants in, I had a tremendous amount of cleanup work to do from the spring weeds. I also planted my rosemary and thyme in the front herb bed, and seeded the other herb bed with basil.
Today, while the sun is shining (it rained early this morning, and more is on tap for tomorrow), I’m going to attempt the following list:
- Clean the rabbit cages
- Turn compost
- Trip and trellis grape vines
- Plant more squash
- Plant oregano
I’m hoping that in between the rain tomorrow and a day of company on Sunday that I can butcher six of my rabbits. That will leave my breeders, Bugsy and Ruby, as my lone rabbits for the hot summer months.
How’s your garden? What do you need to do today?
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: gardening, Memphis, Planting, seedlings, spring, Urban Ag
April 15 in Memphis is “the day” to plant. Last year I fudged and got some plants in the ground a little early. I’m glad I waited this year. At the end of last week we were certainly having warm days, but then the temp would plummet back to the 30′s. Monday, and every day since, has been gorgeous, between 70-80 degrees, so my wife and I spent Monday putting seedlings in the ground.
Tomatoes, peppers and loofah seedlings went in, but my okra and herb seedlings didn’t look quite strong enough to put down yet. I also seeded some pumpkins, squash and cucumbers. My usual routine is to put my tomato and pepper seedlings in rows with adequate spacing, then plant vining, creeping plants in between rows to make the growing space a little more intense. Tomatoes grow up. Curcurbits grow out.
I still have some beds to finish up. I have spinach and kale seedlings to put in one bed, basil and cilantro to seed in another, and a few more cukes and squash to put into two yet un-weeded beds.
With all that said, the temp tomorrow is supposed to drop back down in the 30′s, but not quite to freezing. Hopefully the plants will be hardened off enough to handle the change.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Bees, gardening, Memphis, potatoes, spring, Turnip Greens, Urban Agriculture
Had a great afternoon working in the garden today. In preparation for planting my spring crop I harvested a boatload of turnip greens (with my first turnips). I let the plants go to flower because they’re really beautiful and have a fantastic fragrance. I picked some as a bouquet for the kitchen, let the bees enjoy some (the bees love them!), then fed the rest to the bunnies.
In addition, I did a walk through to see what was coming up, and it looks like my first potato is up, and the grapevines are covered in buds.
My seedlings are going in the ground next week, along with lots of pots full of plants. I’ll keep you posted.
How does your garden grow?
For close to ten years I’ve kept in bees in one particular bee yard owned by a very gracious farmer. It’s been a somewhat symbiotic relationship. He accommodates my hives when he plows, mows, and harvests, and my bees pollinate his crops year after year.
But the plot has never been ideal.
When it rains, the place is a mud pit. The hives are located so very far off the road that it’s almost impossible to reach for weeks after the rain. The crops are conventionally grown, which means there’s lots of herbicides and pesticides. My hive losses the last few years have been huge. It’s time to try another, more hospitable place.
If you have a spot you’d like to donate to two bee hives, I’d love to talk.
I’d prefer a spot in the Raleigh / Bartlett area of Memphis, since that’s where I live. But I’d also love to help you if you have an urban farm / garden in the city. As long as there’s easy access, and low/no pesticide application, I’d love to talk.
You can post a comment below if you’re interested, or feel free to email me at memphisfarmer[at]gmail.com.
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: Garden, gardening, Garlic, Memphis, spring, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, vegetables
It’s 65 degrees here in Memphis today, so it’s not hard for me to be distracted by the garden, even though it’s mostly bare this time of year. One exception is my herb garden. In November I planted about 60 cloves of garlic, my first ever attempt at growing it.
Today I walked around to weed out some wheat that’s taken root (from the wheat straw I use for rabbit bedding and mulch). Here’s our current garlic progress. I’m so excited. So is my wife. And my kids. Why? We use an incredible amount of garlic around here, especially on homemade pizza night!
Filed under: Gardening | Tags: Garden, gardening, Memphis, seedlings, spring, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, vegetables
In addition, I planted some new seeds: Kale (Red Russian), Spinach (Long Standing Bloomsdale), True Lavender, Common Thyme, Rosemary, Okra (Bowling Red), and some Loofahs. I’m a little worried about the loofahs, though. I grew a couple of vines two years ago which did great. But last year’s vines didn’t come through. So these seeds are a couple of years old. I’m not sure how the germination rate will be after two years, but I’ll keep you updated.
Filed under: Bee Keeping, Livestock, Memphis, Urban Ag | Tags: beekeeping, Bees, Honey, Memphis, spring, Urban Ag, Urban Farming, winter
I made a lot of bee keeping mistakes last year. At some point, I’ll detail them, because the tale is worth telling. I’ve been keeping bees for 17 years now, and I’ve never made as much of a mess of my bees as I did last season. But 2012 is gone, and spring is springing in Memphis, so I decided to bite the bullet, wander out to the apiary and see if any bees made it through the winter. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find my last two remaining hives going strong. And compared to years past, I’d say strong is an understatement.
What’s typical for especially new beekeepers in this area is for their bees to starve, not freeze, over the winter months. Often bee keepers take too much honey off the hive in the fall, and don’t feed early enough in the spring. Once the cluster breaks (due to warmer, 50+ degree temps), the hive has a desire to take in more calories. In Memphis, we can have 60, almost 70 degree days in February(!), so the cluster breaks early. Because there is no nectar source, a bee keeper must have a sugar supply ready for his girls. If not, he’ll discover a hive full of bees with their heads buried in wax cells, dead. If you’ve ever experienced it, it should make you sick, because it’s your fault.
Last fall I left two honey supers on both my hives, more than I typically leave. Part of it was penance for my poor care of the bees last summer, some of it was a lack of time to take off fall honey stores, and some of it – honest! – was to make sure they had plenty of honey to over winter. It appears to have worked. I did feed them on this trip. I didn’t pull the frames in these supers, because it’s still cool enough to chill the brood and I didn’t want to take any chances. I used the baggie method of feeding since the cluster had already broke. I’ve posted a video here so that you can see how this works. It’s quick and easy, and perfect for this occasion.
I’ll reverse the brood boxes in a couple of weeks, and tear the supers down to see what kind of shape they’re in. I can typically get several boxes of early spring honey by May if I’ve planned ahead. Take note: I am planning ahead!
Oh – and if you want a video version of this update, check it out here.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Meat Rabbits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag
I wasn’t really expecting this today. By may calculations Ruby, our #1 for, is about 5 days early. I hope this is just my bad math, and that I don’t end up with some premies this week.
Filed under: Livestock, Rabbits, Urban Ag | Tags: Kindling, Kits, Memphis, Rabbits, Urban Ag, Urban Farming
For those of you who don’t follow on Twitter, you may not know that we had another litter of kits three weeks ago. It was pretty hard to work out the whole rabbit-breeding thing the first time around. The second time? Not so much. In fact, this litter was a complete accident.
At the time the first litter of rabbits started coming of age, I split the males and females into separate cages. It’s been a crazy busy summer and I had planned on butchering this litter in mid-July, but didn’t have time before the Mexico trip (and haven’t had time since). I had noticed them being a little frisky, so I knew I better get ‘em apart.
Well, Thursday a few weeks ago, my 15 year old walks into the house and says, “Dad, we have a problem.”. Son number 2 is my rabbit man. He feeds and waters the rabbits first thing each morning. “What’s the problem?” I asked. He unfurls his shirt and reveals a tiny, baby bunny. “Oh crap.” was about all I could muster at first. But then I tried to find out how many we had. Turns out, only one.
I rushed out to check on the mamma, but couldn’t figure out which female (of four) was the mother. Usually a doe will pull fur from her underbelly just before giving birth, to prepare a nest and make it easy for kits to nurse (if you’ve never a doe kindling, check it out here). Sure enough, there was lots of hair in the cage. But when I picked up each doe to check them, I could find no sign that she had given birth, or pulled hair. On closer examination, you could see that the hair that was present was from the BACK of one of the does (obviously not the momma!)
In the middle of this, one of our (three) dogs started barking at a clump of grass about 15 feet away from the cage. I rushed over to find…another kit. We spent the next twenty minutes or so having a summer Easter egg hunt looking for kits. We found four, for a total of five kits. These dudes were TOUGH!
We quickly put them in a box, and went back to the dilemma of picking a momma from our four does. I finally decided that the one with the worst attitude must be the one. That sounds funny, but seriously, when we had our last litter, our doe was down right persnickety. She would really snip at you when you reached in the cage. So I pulled her out and shut her in the box and waited, unsure of whether I had the right one or not. We took the litter inside to wait.
After an hour or so, we checked in. We had stocked the box with lots of straw and leaf litter, along with food and water. When we peeked in, she was busily going through all the nesting behaviors she had missed out on in her bare, outside cage. She had a mouthful of hay, moving it back and forth across the cage, and had already shed lots of hair. This was either the momma that had given birth, or she was another mother ABOUT to give birth.
I’m very happy to say that three weeks later these kits look AWESOME. They are so incredibly healthy. On their three week birthday last Thursday we gave them a long romp outside in the grass. They had a blast and ate lots of little seedheads off my weedy lawn. They’ve been happily munching on timothy hay and now feed pellets for close to a week now (though they are still nursing whenever they can).
Twelve rabbits in the Scott rabbitry. Full freezer by winter.
Filed under: Bee Keeping, Livestock, Memphis, Urban Ag | Tags: beekeeping, Bees, Memphis, Urban Ag
I made a quick run to the bee yard yesterday morning to install a package and make a split. With these two new hives I’m back to up five hives, four at the yard and one here at the house.
The hive here at the house is blowing and going. It’s the hive I took the split from. I’ve got three supers on it, and they’re putting honey up quickly. I fully expect a May honey harvest from at least this hive. The beetle count was perhaps a bit lighter, but still pretty high. I read this week about treating your bottom board and bee yard with a salt solution to help keep beetles at bay (it melts the larvae, much like salt on a slug). I need more information before I try this, but I certainly plan on pursing this as an added beetle control. Again, these are small bees from Wolfcreek Apiaries here in Tennessee. I’m really pleased with their overall health. Pleased enough to order a three-pound package and a new queen this year.
At the field I had a pleasant surprise. I have one hive there that is particularly healthy. They’re Russians, and they are also putting up an incredible amount of honey. I’ve got three supers on this hive as well, and just cracking the lid yesterday, I could see the bees were at the top of the hive, and were packing away honey.
But the best news of the day came from my other Russian hive. If you watch any of my videos you’ll hear me refer to it as my “mean” hive. On my March 3rd visit this hive looked incredibly weak. It had super low bee counts and no capped brood (though it had lots of honey stores from last season). I’m happy to say that this hive was really active, with many, many more bees. I didn’t crack the hive to look for eggs or brood, but it’s obvious by the activity both inside of, and at the front of the hive that it’s healthier. When I go back next week to check on the splits I’ll tear this one down and look for brood.
During the visit I made another split video. It’s not great – it’s kind of hard to shoot video and make splits at the same time – but it might shed some light on what I believe is a pretty easy way to do splits. Enjoy!