Spring Update

Hi ‘Stalkers,

The bees started bringing in pollen this week. I bought a microscope last fall and I’ve been learning how to identify pollen using it. I have confirmed the first fresh pollen of this year is alder pollen. Alder pollen is very distinctive under the microscope: while most pollen is round or oblong, alder pollen is square or pentagonal. I’m glad I’ve finally found a unique and easy pollen to identify! A lot of pollen looks almost the same to this newbie beginner pollen-IDer.

The bees look great again this year. To date I’ve had 5% winter losses, which is the same as what I had last year. I haven’t treated with fumagillin in two years now, with the exception of a small handful of sick hives last spring. I haven’t used apivar in over a year. Combined with the lack of intensive agriculture in my neck of the woods, I’m tempted to apply for organic certification now. I’m not sure if I will but I’ll make sure you hear about it if I do!

I continue to have my honey for sale at the Old Strathcona Market. My stall is still along the west wall. I’ll be back outside at the City Market Downtown in May.

Moving Stalls At Strathcona Market

Heads up: Beanstalk Honey is in a new location this month at the Old Strathcona Farmer’s Market.

We’ll now be on the west wall between Happy Camel and Little Jack Horner Meat Pies. This weekend we’ll have fresh pollen, comb honey, and the last fresh honey of the season. We’ll be at the Downtown Market this weekend and next and then we’ll just be at the Old Strathcona Market. We decided not to go into City Hall this year, although it’s a great market in there.

The bees this year

It was great seeing all your familiar faces at the City Market Downtown yesterday; all of you troopers who came out to greet us on such a wet, chilly day are appreciated. I’m marking this opening day in my memory banks: I didn’t need to give out a single plastic bag! Everyone brought down their own bags or used their pockets. Thanks!

As far as my bees go, they look great. They’re the strongest I’ve ever seen them at this time of year and I have no signs of any brood diseases. Provided I can keep everyone from swarming, the hives should be fine this year. This rain is going to help get some nectar into the flowers, so hopefully we’ll be okay there too.

As far as the markets, I’m working at keeping all my products in stock. I’m at the City Market Downtown every Saturday this summer and I’ve got my fingers crossed for being at Old Strathcona for a while longer too. Because they’re both on the same day, I have a lovely new person behind my stall at Strathcona. Be sure to say hi and welcome her to the company!


And then there are the vegetables

My winter planning is continuing, although it is now becoming spring planning. I’ve had some feedback that my “thoughts on sustainable agriculture” post was depressing. I didn’t mean it to be sad, just realistic.

However, I feel I need to follow-up on that post. At the time of its writing, I had been planning on leaving the vegetables to concentrate more on honey. Vegetables are a lot of work and worry for very little profit, if any. But as the weather has been warming up I’ve realized I love growing vegetables. This will only be my fourth year but already I don’t know what to do with my spring if I’m not planning for my vegetable fields. Maybe I’m spring-crazed or maybe it’s because the hours at my other job are reduced for April and I suddenly have more time, but I don’t care anymore what my returns are for vegetable production. It’s just so wonderful to be growing veggies for people, spending time in the dirt, with only the birds calling in the trees and my dog lying on the compost pile watching everything I do.

So I will be growing all sorts of vegetables again this year. I even have a market stall at a market in Edmonton, which means you’ll be able to easily access my farm’s products! I won’t tell you where yet because it’s not 100% confirmed.

On a slightly different train of thought, I went to a market gardening workshop in September on Salt Spring Island. One sentence really stuck with me- “nobody should be growing vegetables for other people. Everyone should be growing their own vegetables. Farmers should be growing meat, eggs, honey and other livestock products that urban people do not have the space nor permission to produce.” Not all urban folks can grow their own vegetables either, but this is a sentiment I agree with. Everyone who has the interest, space and capability should have their own garden. I will try to integrate this idea into my farm however I can. I’m still thinking on ways I can do so.

(And about not being allowed to keep chickens or honey bees in the city-  just do it anyway! Bylaws shouldn’t be allowed to dictate our ability to be food secure.) But I didn’t say that. Nor do I keep chickens in town…