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.

Rejuvenate Peach and Nectarine Orchard

Many of our Peaches and Nectarines are reaching the end of their useful life.  This year we began a three to four year plan to replace all of these trees.  The bad part of doing this is that we will turn marginally producing trees to non producing trees for at least two and most likely three years.  The upside is it will allow us to try some new varieties including a later Nectarine and a White Peach.  We also included some Red Gold Nectarines.  Red Gold is the first nectarine we grew and was also the best tasting, but difficult to grow.  Because of this difficulty we have not had Red Golds for about ten years.  I'm believing I'm a better grower than when we started....we will see.