The dead of winter

Inside of a Perone bee hive

Inside of a Perone bee hive

This month we’ve been dealing with death, both the unfortunate demise of our remaining bee hives and purposeful elimination of rats in our long term food storage area.

We recently lost the last two of our three different hive styles in the Great Hive Experiment. Both starved to death despite having access to dry sugar, no honey stores harvested from them, sitting right next to our food forest, and access to massive amounts of blackberries in a nearby forest edge.  I clearly need to read up more on natural beekeeping. Since our first colony mysteriously collapsed this past summer, we’re now officially bee-less until new packages arrive late spring,  which does not feel good.

The only silver lining is that we got to peek inside the bottom portion of a Perone hive, which by design is never meant to be opened. See photos for the bees’ beautiful comb designs made when just given a large empty square cavity.

More death followed recently (on purpose) as we found rats (not cute mice, but 12″ rats) had discovered our long term food storage closet and were eating through any container that was not hard plastic. Given the amount of yerba mate they ate, these guys must have been literally vibrating with the amount of caffeine in their systems. While we continue to trap them inside, we’re getting ready to add barn cats to hunt the outside perimeter of the house to stop the rats entering from the pasture. 

On an up note, we starting  transplanting from our greenhouse into the new hugel bed, beginning with broccoli, lettuce, and carrots. It’s fun to imagine what the bed will look like in a few months when completely planted out. 

On days when we know we’ll be around at dusk to shoo them back into their new coop, we’ve been letting the chickens loose in the food forest to weed and battle the encroaching pasture grasses for us. Other than a single area of garlic protected by an extra strand of fencing, they have access to the entire area and are helping with weeding around the established berry bushes, fruit trees, and larger herbs like rosemary. We’ll add stones to the base of each fruit tree to protect them from scratching, but so far the birds are being quite helpful.