Oh Sweet Spring

I know you are there Dear Sweet Spring ..

and soon you will send your blooms into the world bursting with beauty and color!

spring crocus

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This winter has been terribly severe in the Southern part of Illinois as it has been in most parts of the country.  Moving from the Northern part of the state and experiencing extreme cold winters was always the norm, so the cold temperatures down here didn’t affect me much.  Until yesterday ……  I noticed very little activity on the warmer days from two of the bee hives, so I could wait no longer and had to check on their status.  Sad news = they are dead.  There is plenty of honey in each of the hives so I am guessing it was the damp COLD weather that took its toll on them.  This is my first loss as a beekeeper, since I am relatively new, going into my third year with hives and what an awful feeling opening the hives to find such stillness.

On a brighter note, I have started seeds under the grow lights and have little plants already making their appearance.  Usually I have tray after tray under the lights, but this year I am holding off.  We decided to take a year off from vending at the Farmers’ market and I am hoping to start more in the hoop house without the use of the lights and electricity.

grow lights

The daffodils are pushing through the ground and although today is quite warm in the upper 60s, tomorrow may be a surprise.  The weather report says rain and snow (really? again).  That snow just doesn’t want to take its leave for the season yet!

daffodil sprouts

It is still very warm, in fact, HOT in the hoop house today.  Earlier it was 50 degrees, but is well over 100 now in the afternoon sun.  The sprouting seeds need this warmth and I will keep the back of the hoop house closed up since cold is suppose to appear once again.  Next week I bet I will be unzipping the back to let some fresh air in.  I was able to harvest some baby kale that had over-wintered and had it the last two days in my salad.  Soon I will also have arugula, spinach, mizuna and leaf lettuces to munch on.  I have started several tomato seeds under the grow lights and will move them to the hoop house for extra early growth, but will not be transplanting into the hoop house.  Last year we attempted to grow tomatoes in the hoop house and they do grow fine….but, I feel they do better outside in the natural weather.  They did get very tall and it seemed like less fruit was harvested.  So tomatoes outside this year!

seeds started hoophouseOff to a sad start with the bees this Spring ::: lessons learned and sadness felt.  Hoping that the drought of the last 2 years stays away and we actually have a nice garden growing season this year!

The Weather outside is frightful

chicken in snow

Where’s the grass??

This is the first snow for many of our chickens and they are rather confused.  Yesterday they were out scratching the ground and eating grass and today … it’s all White!  Most of the hens ran right back into the barn after a quick peek, but of course, there are always the ones that are just too curious for their own good.  Goldie and Nelda ran under the truck and refused to come out.  Finally after a few hours we succeeded in convincing them the barn was a much better place to hang out.hoophouse in snow hoophouse temp

The hoop house is chilly with the temps just over 30 degrees – outside we are in the 20s.  Right now there is about 8 inches of snow on the ground and it continues to fall.  The forecast for the weekend calls for more snow and temps to dip really low.  The greens inside the hoop house are starting to yellow if you look closely.  I am hoping to get another harvest or two before it’s over for the season.  With the sun shining tomorrow it will give them a boost.  The greens have been absolutely delicious and I have to say being December I am quite happy with all I have eaten this season.

There was no activity at the bee hives and that is to be expected.  If they ventured out today, they would surely freeze.  Some were out earlier in the week, but today is a different story.
bee hives in snow

How is the weather in your neck of the woods?

Beauty in the Hoop House

sun on hoophouse

This morning as the sun appeared it sent a gaze right on over to the hoop house as if checking to make sure all was well.  It appears it was knocking on the door and asking to come in!  It was still too early to open the door … another hour or so to go.  Our first year with our new hoop house and we are learning each and every day.  All summer long we had a shade cloth over the entire house and it helped greatly.  Now during early Fall, if the sun shines on the hoop house it will warm up to 90-100 degrees in no time.  Opening the door and watering the plants keeps them alive.  If you have a hoop house and are growing inside there is not one day you can ignore it.  You have to check and maintain what is growing inside every single day.

microgreens in hoophouse

We have raised beds along the sides of the inner hoop house along with raised tables which are so very convenient and easy on the back.  Right now in early November we have a variety of micro greens growing in the beds.  Arugula, mizuna, kale and spinach … it seems the little lettuces are not doing so well.  They could be just a little too fragile for the ups and downs in the temperatures right now.  The raised tables are closer to the top or roof (basically higher up than the raised beds on the ground) and the plants don’t take the heat as well there.

The  lower bed here has Red Russian Kale, radish and arugula growing.  They are lower and seem to thrive a bit better in the cooler atmosphere.  These tiny greens are planted very close together, but since I eat them at the micro stage, they don’t become overcrowded.

kale radish arugulaThe mizuna below has a peppery cabbage flavor and appears feathery.  It did well but seems like it may be dying down a bit.  Another factor that has to be monitored is the humidity … if these tiny greens receive too much moisture; they die and rather quickly.  So maybe the mizuna is not dealing with the humidity well??

mizunaI am planning a huge micro green salad for Thanksgiving dinner and also sending the guests home with packages to enjoy afterwards.  Since we will be celebrating with our guests in 2 weeks, I think I will have a wonderful harvest.  I need to sit and plan what I will plant next and I wonder if it will make it into the colder months that are ahead.  January and February will probably be the coldest months so I have to figure what will work if anything.  Spinach for sure ….. what else?  Kale possibly …..

collage microgreens

baby snake collageThis teeny, tiny baby snake was out and about today.  The temperature was in the high 60s but I was surprised to see it with all the frosts and chilly weather we have had.  It had no idea who or what I was!!  I made sure the chickens didn’t see it as it scooted off to safety.