Bees! And gardens!

My bees 001

Here are my bees on their honey comb!

Last year, my mother and I decided that this summer, we would start beekeeping.  The benefits of beekeeping in your back yard are numerous, but our main reasons were that we wanted to harvest the honey and the wax, and we wanted to make sure all the vegetables and fruits in our garden were well pollinated.  I also think it is just fun to watch the bees and it should hopefully be educational for Elijah.

Well, my mom and I signed up for a bee keeping class in Fort Collins, which we took this month.  Last weekend my boyfriend helped us build a top bar hive (okay, he pretty much did everything, including designing it, but I paid for the materials, and I did help some).  On Wednesday, we were offered a swarm of bees from another local backyard beekeeper, and on Friday morning she installed them.  Last night, my mom, Jeremy, Elijah and I all went out to open up our hive and see how the bees were doing in there.

Wow, they’re doing well!  They’ve built a lot of comb already and are starting to fill them with honey, pollen

and brood!  I’m so excited!

You really hardly notice the bees.  Even though I have a hive right in my back yard, my yard does not seem to be teeming with bees.  Its not like a constant swarm is flying out of the hive, just one or two every few minutes.  I doubt any of my neighbors will even notice them.  In fact, I’ll bet I could get another hive, maybe even two more, before the number of bees would be noticeable.

I think they will do wonders for my garden, which is growing beautifully, despite the post Mother’s Day snow we got here in Denver.  I’m not expecting great things from my broccoli and cauliflower, but besides that, I think my crops are going to be okay.  If you remember, we have an 8×40 foot raised garden bed in our back yard, which I dedicate to veggies and melons.  This year, I have the following things planted or scheduled to plant

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Radish, both red and white
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions – yellow, purple and green
  • Snow peas
  • A variety of herbs
  • Shallots
  • Tomatoes (16 plants in all, including about 8 heirloom varieties)
  • Sweet peppers (two plants)
  • Hot peppers (four plants)
  • Potatoes (Russets, Yukon Golds, Reds, and Fingerlings – I’m hoping to buy some Peruvian Blues as well)
  • Zucchini
  • Summer squash
  • Cantelope
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber (green and lemon)
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pole beans
  • Bush beans
  • Butternut squash

In addition to all this, we now have five fruit trees planted on our property, and one more waiting to be planted.  We have an apple tree, a plum tree, a pear tree, a Rainier cherry tree and a crab apple tree (I expect to get fruit from the apple, crab apple, and maybe the plum this year, everything else is too new), and the one waiting to be planted is a cherry tree that has five branches, each of which grows a different kind of cherry.

We also have two raspberry bushes and one blueberry bush (we had two, but one died over winter) and a pumpkin patch behind our swing set that is finally starting to sprout.  I’m hoping to get sunflowers planted soon, so I can have sunflower seeds this fall.

I planted a variety of wild flowers near our back fence, to help feed the bees and attract butterflies, and soon I will be planting cosmos and daisies out front to help attract more pollinators and feed our bees.  I’m also planting chamomile, lavender and mother of thyme out front, and possibly some morning glories as well.  I don’t think we got our asparagus planted in time this year, so hopefully next year we’ll get that worked out.

I am very optimistic about my self produced food prospects this year.  I think I’ve got a good setup.  Did I also mention that I completed a hunters education course so I can learn to go out and harvest my own wild game with my family?  I’m going to have really healthy, local, sustainable food this year for sure.  I’m feeling pretty proud of myself right now.

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About Rockingthehomestead

Badass feminist environmentalist.
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9 Responses to Bees! And gardens!

  1. Jeff says:

    Where did you get your fruit trees? Krista and I took a splicing class and we learned that a lot of the trees you get at a nursery aren’t great for the fruit, but for the root stock and you need to splice the good fruit bearing varieties on top.

    We have a raised garden area too, but it is more like a raised jungle area right now… I’ll call you for some ideas.

  2. jessimonster says:

    We got them all at Costco! Except the apple and the crab apple, the previous owners planted those so I can’t say where they came from.
    You’re probably talking about how many fruit trees are grafted? If you were to take a seed out of an apple and plant it, the resulting tree would bear a fruit that did not in any way resemble the fruit you got the seed from. In fact, every seed from that apple would create a totally different apple tree. The only way to propagate an apple that you like is to take cuttings from a tree you like and graft it onto the living stump of another tree (not even usually an apple tree). This is the case with pears as well, though fruits with a single stone in the middle, like peaches and apricots, can be grown from seed.
    Most apples (and probably pears too) grown from seed are terribly bitter, its really rare to get a good one. If you do grow a new, sweet apple variety from seed, count yourself rich! You can sell it for potentially millions. Of course, these days very few people bother trying to find new apple varieties. Most of the apple varieties we eat today were discovered during the days of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, when he went around planting apple seeds all over the country, thus ensuring biodiversity.
    I learned all about this in the book The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, which you would probably really like.

  3. Brian says:

    You must be rather brave to handle that without a bee suit. Are you worried about getting stung? Do you get stung often?

  4. jessimonster says:

    I have never been stung by any of my bees, but I’ve only been bee keeping for about a week now. The last time I was stung was about ten years ago, and it actually happened inside a friend’s house.
    You can’t really tell in the picture, but I was wearing long sleeves, gloves and a hat with netting, so I was pretty safe. I don’t have any strong urge to get stung, but its not like its the most painful thing in the world to get a bee sting. Its not like getting stabbed. I had an almost ten pound baby without any pain medication, so I think I can handle a sting.
    I think its funny so many people say “aren’t you afraid of getting stung?” Aren’t dog owners afraid of getting bitten? Of course not, because if you respect the dog, he’s probably not going to bite you. Bees are the same, you just have to respect the hive and not disrupt them too much.

  5. missiworld says:

    Woo! That is awesome! I wish that I could come visit and see, because it sounds like you’ve practically made an entire farm in just a small amount of space.

  6. jessimonster says:

    Its not quite a farm. It needs chickens, and then it will be there.
    Some day, Missi, I want to have a small farm, with a much bigger garden, more fruit trees, more bees, chickens, goats and maybe a cow. Fresh raw milk, what a dream!

  7. Mom says:

    Sadly, we are only allowed to have 2 hives. And you forgot our grapes! You should feel proud of yourself. You have planted a fabulous garden!

  8. jessimonster says:

    I didn’t know our grapes had survived when I wrote this!
    And I don’t want a lot more bees on this property. If only I’d hear back from that vet to farm coop, the bees are the dream for an orchard.

  9. Aw, the bees! A very interesting and entertaining post! I like reading it.
    Keep up the good work!

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