Canning · Gardening

Lavender and figs

Fig jam

We had planned to take it easy last night, but the fig tree had other ideas!   We arrived home shortly after 4:00 p.m. after driving through a thunderstorm only to find our sub-division bone dry and a fig tree weighed down with beautiful, ripe figs.  We picked 15 pounds of figs in about 20 minutes, and our restful evening turned into making jam until 9:30 p.m..  I quickly loaded the dishwasher with jars to sterilize, and got to chopping and stirring.   Hubby measured the sugar and we loaded everything into the new 18 quart pot.  It is only logical that it takes a whole lot longer to bring that much jam to a boil than my normal 2 – 3 pounds of figs, but it turned out well in the end.  Well, it turned it okay — I underestimated the number of jars I needed, so we have plastic containers of jam in the fridge for our consumption.   We ran out of jam by Christmas last year; I don’t think that will be a problem this year.    I am going to attempt fig jelly with the next batch, which will probably be tomorrow. My mom wouldn’t have been able to eat the jam with all the seeds, so I want to experiment with some seed-free varieties.

Nuc with lid feeders and robbing screen

While I was finishing up the jam, hubby installed a robbing screen on the front of the new Nuc with the found queen and topped off the Mason-jar lid feeders.  As we are in a dearth, we don’t have fresh brood in other hives to strengthen this hive, and they don’t currently have enough bees to defend against being robbed by bees from other hives.  We like lid feeders and top feeders because we can be certain we are feeding our bees and not every bee in a three mile radius.  Bringing in “guest” bees invites robbing when feeder buckets become empty and the guests start looking around for free snacks around them.

Planted cuttings

We had a busy weekend at the farm.  Hubby improved and adjusted the leveling of the RV, and I planted cuttings and seedlings.   I had no idea that I had 16 lavender cuttings and only two rosemary plants until I started digging holes.   I know I had more rosemary when I gave a tray to one of my fellow teachers, so I must have lost some the week the sprinklers didn’t work well at the house.   I stopped counting mint plants as I placed them around the RV.   Their roots will help with our erosion problem and their strong scent is supposed to deter snakes!   I also had some Columbine seedlings that were doing amazingly well in the heat of summer and some Echinacea seedlings that don’t seem to have grown at all in the past two months.

In addition, we planted four gardenia cuttings, five butterfly bush cuttings, and seven Goldenraintrees.  Our Goldenraintree at home is close to blooming, and it is a rich nectar source for bees, which is why we want plenty at the farm even though they can be invasive in the South.  (Seed germination rates are lower in cooler regions.)

This afternoon we need to go pick up some woodware (hive bodies etc.) we purchased from a retired beekeeper and then go to both outyards to refill feeders, add a super to one hive, and check on a queen in another hive.  We’d marked one hive as a deadout when we were trying to finish inspections right before dark one evening, but found a handful of bees and a queen still alive in the robbed-out and wax-moth infested mess the next day.   We pulled some brood and nectar from our strongest hive in that yard to help get that hive going again, but the queen flew off in the transfer.   (I actually caught her in my hands, but then she flew off again when I opened my hands to see what I’d caught.)   We hope she made her way back home and is enjoying the top feeder.   With hives in four locations, we really needed a better way of tracking inspections and our apiary to-do list.   We tried a few apps, and Hivetool Mobile is working well for us as data syncs across devices, so hubby and I both have access to records.   Inspections go a lot quicker when one of us checks frames and the other updates Hivetool.   Hivetool also allows us to move a hive from one location to another while retaining history.  Apiary Book is another good app, but data is limited to one device — it would work very well for an apiary in which only one person is entering data.   In between everything else, I need to number hive bottom boards to make tracking new hives easier as we assemble them.  Our quick growth has led to us being less organized about things like that than we would like, so we’re eating that elephant on bite at a time!   Of course I’ve added a second elephant and am trying to write an apiary centered inventory program using Visual Basic in my spare time!

I’ve joked about needing to go back to work so that I don’t have to work so hard, but I’m loving every minute of it.   On the other hand, my students did very well on the IB exam and I am excited about teaching a new crew in a few weeks.  Concentrating on non-education activities this summer has revived my love of teaching, and we’ll start heading into a quieter garden and hive time soon.   Our home-on-wheels is set up for relaxing get-aways throughout the school year.   Life is good!


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