Thursday, March 16, 2017


Last year rabbits in our area had a very good breeding season.  We knew we had to keep an eye out for rabbit damage on our newly and even 2-3 year old trees.  Unfortunately we began seeing damage as early as mid December.  The easy solution was to thin the number of rabbits in the area or come up with another solution.  Although I have fond memories of my maternal Grandfather's rabbit fricassee we decided to find another solution.   

Tree pruning is an annual event for all orchards. We thin the trees to allow for larger fruit, more air circulation, thus better disease control, and more return bloom in the following season.  Usually we prune and move the branches into the wood line.  This year we also made piles of pruned branches along the fence line were the rabbits were coming from nightly.  This worked better than we had hoped.   They stayed in these brush piles and stripped the branches and more importantly we stopped seeing damage inside the orchard.  As long as they do minimal damage in the orchard we can call a truce.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

2106 Honey Harvest

2016 Honey Harvest

This has been another interesting year at our Foster apiary.  We started the season with a strong hive and two brand new hives. Each new hive started life as a queen and three pounds of worker bees. Usually you have a good year if a new hive gives you one super worth of honey once in a great while you can get two supers worth of honey.  A honey super is the boxes above the bottom two larger boxes.  The bottom two larger boxes are for the bees to store honey and pollen and raise bees and survive through the winter. The above boxes are for the bee keeper.

The strong hive was too strong, I knew it was too strong, I knew I should have split it in half but just did  not get to it in time so it swarmed and naturally reduced its size.  When that happens you may or may not get some excess honey we were fortunate to get one nice super of honey.

The two new hives were first installed at the North Scituate orchard to help in apple and pear pollination. Unfortunately the weather was horrible and they pretty much lived on the sugar water we provided.  Once pollination was over we moved them to the Foster Apiary.  One hive was doing well and the other was weak and had a queen problem.  She was there just not producing much.  Things got busy and when I went back to see if I could put on any supers the weak hive was almost gone. The other new hive was doing really well and I suspect that the bees from the now queen less hive started migrating to the stronger hive.  Today August 23rd we were able to remove five full or almost full honey supers from one 2016 hive.

The amount of clover and other wild flowers in Foster is really amazing and for a second year we had layers of clover and other wild flowers right through August.  We left an empty honey super on each hive and we recently planted buckwheat for weed suppression.  Maybe just maybe we will have some buckwheat honey later in the season.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

No Peaches or Nectarines for 2016

It is not hard to guess what is missing from this image, blossoms. Out of almost 250 peach and nectarine trees we counted seven blossoms. Most years we lose buds, blossoms and or developing fruit to spring freezes. A peach orchard can lose a very high percentage of fruit stages and still have an excellent crop.  This year the loss is virtually 100%.   The experts tell us that this year the fruit buds died during the extremely cold weather in February, combined with the warm December and January.

We are still renovating our peach and nectarine orchard and replaced sixty trees this spring including the addition of a white peach and a white nectarine.  We will also take the time to cut back the mature peach and nectarine trees to get them in good shape for next season.  

We still expect a plum crop this season.  The plums are also a stone fruit but it looks like they are just slightly hardier.    

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A New Friend

Now that the orchard is closed for the season we are getting back to doing some long overdue farming. One of the "to do" items on our list is mowing some of the overgrown fields were our apiary is located.  I just finished making three passes with the mower and noticed a small animal running just off the left front tire of the tractor.  I looked closely to see if it was a field mouse or a vole.  Mice do some damage to young apple trees but voles do much more and can kill new plantings.  Over my shoulder a shadow formed and instantly a red-tail hawk landed and took off with its prey in its claws.  This happened just a few feet from the front of the tractor.  I stopped and watched it feed on the rodent in a nearby tree and tried taking some images with the cheap camera on my phone.  

Not to belabor the story but in the three hours of mowing this occurred six more times.  Because the cleared area kept getting larger each of the other times the hawk was much further away from me when it picked up its meal.   

After the fifth rodent the hawk became a little more trusting and perched very close to were I was mowing, resting on top of a tree stake.  The hawks claws are wrapped around the circumference of the round stake about six inches down from the top with the hawks chest resting on the top of the stake.  From this position the hawk launched itself for the last two rodents of our partnership.  The stake is only about eight feet off the ground and the hawk just pushed off and glided to its prey without a wing beat.  Very cool.  I have one more mowing chore and I hope my new friend stops by for a meal.   

Friday, August 21, 2015

2015 Honey Crop Experiment

We have three hives at an apiary in Foster.  This season was an interesting honey year and we actually tried managing the wild flowers making it even more interesting.   Early in the season we had large areas of Red Clover.  Red clover is a tall coarse stemmed purple/red clover.  As the red clover began to die back our cutting revealed white clover which grows much closer to the ground and a high field cutting left the white clover intact.  We also left some areas completely alone providing the bees with a succession of wild flowers.  This was all helped along with a decent amount of fairly consistent moisture going into August.

The normal occurrence, in much of New England, is for the bees to have a very difficult time, from late July and into August, finding nectar producing flowers, sometimes referred to nectar dearth. That has not happened yet this season.  We are not sure if managing the fields in the manner we described will work in a year without such consistent moisture but we think it is worth another try next season.

While we would feel comfortable calling this years honey crop clover honey, we won't.

Our honey is not organic.  We only treat, when necessary, with formic acid which is allowed in the organic program for mite reduction.  Because our bees forage at other farms, residential areas and even a golf course our honey can not be certified.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Peach Tree Borer - Twist Tie Solution

Unlike our apples and pears our stone fruits ( plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines) are not organic. However, whenever possible, we use organic solutions to control disease and insect problems.

A new solution we are using is mating disruption to control the greater and lesser peach tree borer. These twist ties release a pheromone that disrupts the pheromone released by the female insect thus confusing the male.  No mating means no egg laying in the bark of the tree meaning no borers killing the branch or tree.

This is one of the few organic allowed solutions that work as well or almost as well as conventional controls.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More Apples -- No More Pumpkin Patch

This year we planted more apple trees utilizing the space we previously used to grow pumpkins. We will continue a grow organic pumpkins and winter squash at another location, as well as buy pumpkins (not organic) from another farm, but will no longer have pick-your-own pumpkins.

Most of the trees we planted are Liberty, Enterprise, and Freedom. Theses three apple varieties have outstanding disease resistance, including apple scab and apple cedar rust.  They are multi purpose Macintosh type apples that cover early, mid, and late season.  The late season apple, Enterprise, will keep several months in a refrigerator.

I think these three apple varieties are perfect for a home owner wanting to grow their own apples.