Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Warm Saturday, November 7

With the temperature in the upper fifties, our bees came out in force.

The hives are close to the trees in their "winter cluster" to keep them out of the wind. Bees form their own clusters within the hives to stay warm. The bees consume their stored honey and metabolize it to generate heat. As long as there is enough honey and enough bees, they have a good chance of making it through the winter.

We took advantage of the warm weather to tie up our raspberry bushes and trim them. Stalks which are tied together can stand up under the snow load and will not break.
We transplanted swiss chard, a frost hardy plant, from our backyard garden into the greenhouse. A layer of woven plastic row cover material goes on top of the hoops. According to Eliott Coleman, an organic gardener in Maine, and the author of the Winter Harvest Handbook, this double layer system will keep the plants about 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, allowing frost hardy vegetables to be harvested year round. This is our first year with the greenhouse, and transplanting plants is stressful on them, but I wanted to get started with the experiment. Next year I hope to plant the winter crop in August and then transfer the greenhouse over it.

The chickens enjoyed the warmth and sunshine as well. We originally had three roosters with these hens, but we had to eliminate two because their repeated matings wore the feathers off most of the hens backs. There is nothing gentle about rooster courtship. A friend had warned me, "If you keep more than one rooster, your hens will never forgive you." Now almost all the hens have regrown their feathers, and life is much more peaceful for them.

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