Friday, March 29, 2024

Siberian squill

Siberian Squill
Siberian squill is a garden plant run wild.  You'll find it up by Capen Garden at Smith and around Round Hill Road.  It's also on State street. it's an invasive that you'll find nodding its head in the shade.  It's a demure little flower that you might not notice and it's far prettier up close. 

It's around at a time of year when we're not looking for flowers but bees are. Big daffodils hog the attention and snowdrops too, but squill is there, pretty and quiet in the shade. It's the only blue flower I know of that also makes blue pollen.

Squill is out at the same time as the mat green maple pollen and it's often too cold for bees to fly when it's here.  There must be thousands of times more maple trees but the bees faithfully bring in quite a lot of squill so they must like it. 

 When bees bring in squill they can build up strong before dandelion and fruit trees hit and they can field more bees for those crops.  Squill and maple are a big boost early int eh season when bees have neither resources or numbers. It's an auspicious start to the season.

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Thursday, February 22, 2024

We're back, again.

It's been a while since Northampton Honey produced any honey to sell.  My work situation changed and it was no longer practical to try an keep bees for honey production.  I wound up working more than I did when we started Northampton Honey. The trees grew up in our yard and made it too shady for bees. 

There were a couple of false starts along the way. We wound up owning a little vacant lot after we bought and dissembled a warehouse there, giving the parts to Habitat for Humanity.  We also remediated an oil spill too, cleaning up the land.  We've now planted it in clover to enrich the neglected soil.  It seemed only natural to bring back bees as well. 

We've had bees there since last spring, and they're doing great.  We hope this year we can extract a bit of honey for friends, family and for some for sale on a very small scale. 

There's a lot of changes that are happening in our beekeeping, all for the better.  One is that our bees will reside in boxes made by Union Bee Company next year. These boxes have roughened insides that would be more like a natural tree.  This causes bees to deposit propolis there.  This is sap they've collected from tree wounds.  It's naturally antibiotic and antiviral because trees use that special sap to heal wounds. 

This acts as a kind of shell that protects the bees. It's the first line of defense. Our smooth hives don't encourage this behavior and this makes bees vulnerable. 

Union Bee Company is a little company round an hour away.  He's a small time bee keeper and woodworker.  The wood for the hives is locally sourced and milled by him right into the hives and woodenware he sells. He's clearly thinking about how to make a better product with every product he sells. 

Because he keeps bees himself there's a level of practicality in figuring out what makes things better is a meaningful way. He said he made 500 top bars, part of a frame that holds comb for bees, before he was satisfied that he'd gotten it correct. 

Northampton Honey is coming back as something that is better than it was and I think sourcing product from small makers like this makes us better.