Wednesday, April 23, 2014

overwintering kale & a spring soup recipe

as my husband & i were working in the garden earlier this month, we were surprised to find overwintered kale & spinach! what a treat!

overwintering is, simply put, lasting through winter. we planted our spinach & kale in our fall garden. we've overwintered swiss chard & kale before, but we were surprised to find these garden goodies in the spring after such a harsh winter. to overwinter greens, we usually heavily mulch the base of the plant in late fall with straw mulch or dried leaves.

i harvested fresh kale from the garden one morning for a delicious crockpot soup i had in mind that evening. it was delicious & full of flavor!

if you don't have kale growing in your garden right now, you can find it at the farmers' market in big bunches. fill up your market basket & come on home to make this soup recipe -

we paired this soup with a sweet potato for dinner, but a nice hunk of bread would be nice. you could also make this soup vegetarian with vegetable broth & white northern beans. enjoy!

- natalie

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

spring business

Good morning! I am so tickled to be here with you and share a little about what's going on in my garden.  Memphis has a really warm climate (we've recently been moved to zone 8a) and spring usually comes early for us- the end of February and first of March brings daffodils, hyacinths, and sees hellebores taking their exit.  Even after our fierce winter (we usually see lows in the 20s and were stunned by some of our single-digit lows this year), spring has been lovely.  The tulips and daffs are almost over, azaleas in full swing, and the dogwoods have another week or so before they say goodbye.  Roses are budding up and my asparagus is sending out the first tender spears.

I have been doing a lot of prep work for the other major part of my garden this spring- I got a new beehive!  I have had a top bar hive for two years.  This is the top bar hive, to the right, in mid-summer.

Originally, I bought a nuc (a starter hive with a queen, workers, and eggs) and was sad to see it die of starvation in March of 2013.  Mere weeks after I cleared the hive, some friends alerted me to a swarm of bees clinging to a weeping willow tree in their neighborhood.  One morning my husband and I donned veils, grabbed some sugar water spray, a bee brush, and a modified banker's box and captured our first swarm.  The bees were happy and gentle and increased exponentially in numbers- so much so that I wondered how I'd work with them.  One morning in May, I stepped outside the back door and saw another swarm in the very top of my fig tree! I called my bee mentor and we retrieved it (with a lot of work) and it went to his bee farm. 

A swarm is the bee colony's way of dividing- only very healthy colonies with a good laying queen will swarm- essentially, they outgrow their space.  The queen lays eggs and when the worker bees realize that they're close to running out of room, they build a specially shaped cup, called a queen  cup, in preparation for a swarm.  There are usually several, queen cups.  When the queen lays the egg into the cup, the workers feed the developing bee royal jelly to facilitate her growth from a regular worker bee into a queen.  Once the cell is capped, the queen will leave with up to 60% of her colony, looking for a new home.  A swarm is generally a gentle thing- all of the bees are clustered around the queen, keeping her warm (90 degrees is their optimal temperature), but sometime they land in inconvenient places, like the top of the fig tree!

After capturing two swarms in 2013, I wanted to avoid that this spring.  I bought a langstroth hive from my bee mentor and we began the process of checking for queen cells, pulling frames of brood and eggs, and moving them into the new hive body.  We moved the old hive to a new location, hoping to confuse the foraging bees so that they'd go to the new hive, and made sure to leave plenty of capped brood in the old hive so that the colony would continue to thrive.  In this photo, we've pulled the frames from the top bar hive and are checking for brood (the baby bees and eggs).  You can see that the comb is built off of wooden bars (and plastic supports, because sometimes in hot weather the comb has softened and fallen off of the bar- it is a big mess when that happens).

This is my new langstroth hive.  The bottom two boxes hold the same sort of triangular-shaped pieces of comb from the top bar hive.  The upper box holds smaller square frames that are full of foundation and drawn out comb.  When I checked them last week, they were beginning to store honey in the upper box.  The natural colored wood holds a large feeder.  As the colony grows, I'll add more boxes for honey storage.  I still need to paint them, too.

I felt very pleased with how the transition went and both hives seemed to be active.  Just as I was congratulating myself on having avoided a swarm, I looked up into the antique rose bush outside my back door and saw this:

A swarm!  Early on Monday morning I was ready to start my day in the studio when I noticed bees flying into the rose bush.  It is not yet blooming, and the camellia that grows with it has finished up for the year, so I was perplexed until it dawned on me what had happened.  I was going to have to capture a swarm anyway!  Happily, these bees are not my bees but a swarm from either a neighboring hive or a feral colony.  They are a different type- more yellow with more highly defined stripes than my two colonies.  Again, I called my mentor, and he came to get them.  This removal was easy, especially in comparison to the swarm in the top of my fig tree.  Several days later, I looked up again and there's another swarm.  Very same spot.  Pheromones?  Who knows.

At this point, I am preparing myself for another swarm and getting a bee box ready so that I can get them to someone else who can rehome them.  Tis the season for bees.

If you should be so lucky to see a swarm of bees, don't panic!  Look up your local beekeepers association and see if they have a list of beekeepers who will come to rescue the swarm (and you!).

Thanks for reading about my spring bee adventures.  I'll see you here again next Tuesday with more news from my Memphis garden!

Monday, April 21, 2014

blooming this week

I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend with family and loved ones, I sure did.  I was able to take a few minutes yesterday to walk alone through my garden.  It's always incredible to me when things can appear lifeless all winter long, and then start to bud and come to life again in the Spring.  So many parallels can be made with gardening and the Easter holiday we just celebrated.  I wanted to share some of the blooms that I've been enjoying this week in my garden.

(all photos taken with a hasselblad 500 c/m, polaroid film)

Pink and white bleeding hearts are popping up all over.  My mother-in-law has some red one that are absolutely beautiful!  Maybe next year all add some to my garden.

White anemone with dark purple centers and iberis (candytuft).

A variety of ranunculus and burkwood viburnum.

Dark purple anemone and english daisies.

Ranunculus and spring bouquet viburnum.

Lily of the valley, hellebores (a current favorite of mine) and astilbe about to bloom.

I'd love to hear and see what's blooming in your gardens.  If you don't mind sharing, leave a comment or link in the comment section.  Thank you for being here today!  


Friday, April 18, 2014

A Fourth Season!

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I am so excited to be back here at Tend in it's fourth season and am so appreciative to all of the wonderful women who have contributed to this space over the years. I recently took some time to scroll back to read past posts dating all the way back to 2011. What a wealth of knowledge and inspiration this little site here holds! And thanks to all of our readers who visit and comment and make writing here all the more fun.

When I was peeking back to the very beginning of Tend I found my very first post. And then this little movie too. It's fun to see how much my garden and space has changed in just a few years.

Spring is truly taking it's time here at Second and Edgemont. We had a long, cold, snowy winter and it is still a bit chilly for mid April. The garden is slowly waking up and I am itching to get my hands dirty. But I remain patient. There is something so humbling about how little control we as gardeners really do have. We can tend to but not force our gardens to grow.

Things are happening out there though without much of my help at all. Lettuce and pea shoots have emerged, the hens are laying every day and the strawberries are just peeking through the soil.

I am still dreaming about a rooftop bee hive and hope to learn more from Melissa, who keeps bees and will be joining us here every Tuesday.

Welcome back to Tend!  I look forward to documenting my garden here each Friday with you.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April finally spring is here...


I am thrilled to join Tend and share with you my urban farming experience.

My husband, Dan, and I live in a row house in Philadelphia and have a pretty big backyard for the city.
We've been keeping chickens for about 3 years.
After this long and cold winter I was ready for the spring. This winter I was growing another kind of plant, my newborn Chloe Rose. She is 3 and a half months old. I am happy to finally get some time outside in the backyard. Dan cleaned up a little and we are looking at damages from the cold we had. We lost a rosemary bush!  This year is exciting I am adding some fruit trees to my collection, I have been dreaming of an orchard but in the city...

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

freckled hen farm spring beginnings

oh, it feels so good to be back at tend for another season! i just love this space. the knowledge & experience our contributors bring to this project inspires me every single week! i hope you'll visit our contributors page to learn a bit more about our new gardeners in this space. they're amazing women.

as for freckled hen farm, we're moving right on along. we're thankful for shorter winters here in the south. at the first sign of spring, you'll find us planting our sugar snaps & salad greens. once the hot summers hit, we're ready to move up north. as for now, we're content to just soak up the warm spring days.

we did have a hard freeze a couple of nights ago. we covered our flowers with bed sheets (except for the hydrangeas... oops! will those make a comeback, friends?). we also used covering for our broccoli, cabbage & kale. 

we have yet to make our first harvest, but it will happen soon. i am antsy for a nourishing kale salad.

 this farm is such a gift & we're grateful for every single day to dig our hands into the soil. i cannot wait to share what we learn as we settle into this land.

- natalie

Monday, April 14, 2014

TEND 2014 Season

Welcome to the 2014 season of TEND!  I'm thrilled to be contributing weekly this year!

Let me start off with a quick tour of my garden.  My husband and I own a 1940's bungalow that sits on a 1/4 acre lot just outside of Seattle, Washington.  We have a bit of everything happening in our garden; old growth trees and perennials, herbs, vegetables, fruits, sun lovers, shade gardens, container gardens, and lots and lots of new additions we've been incorporating throughout the 10 years we've lived here.  

Things seem pretty bare right now in the early Spring and are just starting to peak through the soil and fill in.  As the weeks and months continue, I'm excited to share the growth that will take place around my home.

Thank you for joining us here at TEND!  We love having you here.  Happy Spring!