In Place


Bee hive

Bee hive now in place
in the corner of the field.
Anticipation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This morning my local bee keeper brought his ‘nook’ hive up to our field and set it up. A ‘nook’ hive is a small temporary hive in which to establish a colony. In a few days he will return to check on progress and then, if all is well, begin the transfer to a proper hive. On being let out the bees circled around close to the hive to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and by the time of his next visit he will be able to see if they are returning to the hive and bringing in pollen. He expects to be able to tell if it is going to be a viable location within a few weeks so fingers crossed.

I had a good look round while I was up there with him and I am pleased to say there are a few brambles in the hedge along the roadside and may be more along the edges of the cattle/hay field, so hopefully if I take up some cuttings to plant they should take hold. I also noted that there were a few butterflies and hover flies settling on the clover and buttercups that are already in the field and this too is a good sign. Next job is to order the flower meadow seed and plan the sewing, although it will take at least until next year for positive results so I’m hoping there will be enough to keep the bees on site while the meadowland becomes established.

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Bees

I have mentioned here before that we used to run a small-holding. Several years ago we ‘down-sized’, selling the house and some of the land whilst retaining a 9-acre field with a big new barn. We moved a mile down the road into the nearby small town. In the 9-acre field we fenced an area from the road gate down to behind the barn plus a bit and the rest of the field we now let to the neighbouring farmer for cattle gazing and hay making. The fenced-off area has an opening (which can be closed off) into the field that we sold with the house so that the sheep that graze there from time to time can also graze around the barn to keep the grass down.

Over the last few years I have often thought of finding a beekeeper to keep one or two hives on our field. We are always hearing how much the bees need our help and have been keen to do my bit – short of learning to keep bees myself! Earlier in the year I turned this idea into action and advertised to see if anyone was interested in having a hive or two on our land. I eventually had one reply, from someone with whom we are already acquainted but who I hadn’t thought to ask directly! After various communication problems, not helped by our long absence in the spring, we eventually managed to get together and meet up at the field last Friday to discuss the proposal.

To say I was a little disappointed in that he didn’t seem over enthusiastic about the possibilities is a bit of an understatement. It just shows how naïve a lay person can be. We had grassed the land many years ago after it had been used for a cereal crop and the grass mix contained clover – ideal for bees one thinks. No. Apparently the clover in modern grass mixes is good for fixing nitrogen in the soil but does not produce the right sort of nectar that bees like. Modern farming methods and grassland management are bee sterile and I do have to admit there is not much in the way of wild flowers in and around our field. He was not particularly hopeful that the bees would do well there, but he has a hive that is about ready to move onto a site and is prepared to give it a go for a season.

The upshot of this is that this morning my husband and youngest son have been fencing off the bottom part of the fenced-off area so that the sheep will not knock over any hives that might be there and with a bit of luck the first hive should arrive within a week, although the honey season is practically over for this year.

I have now been giving much thought to how to make the area more honey bee friendly. To be fair there are a few houses opposite and up the lanes near-by that have nice flowery gardens and I know that some the occupants of at least one of these houses has had a beehive in the garden in the past. Our field has damson and elderberry in the hedge which should provide some spring foraging and I noticed that in the hedge between our barn and our previously owned field there is some dog-rose growing. The beekeeper bemoaned the lack of bramble, which apparently is good for the bees, so I am thinking of collecting some bramble with roots from our home garden (where I can’t get rid of it!) and planting it in the hedges up at the field. Will it take? I don’t know. I don’t know why such a ubiquitous ‘weed’ doesn’t grow there anyway, so this will be something of an experiment.

Additionally I am researching into ways to turn the fenced-off area into a wildlife meadow, starting with the smaller area we have just fenced round for the hive and expanding it if it works. It looks like this is the right time to do it as September-October, I understand, is a good time to sew the seeds. I can order mixes on-line for the clay soil of our field which can be sewn in existing grassland (no need to plough up and prepare the soil). However you do still need to create ‘bare’ patches by raking or harrowing over the ground.

As it happens we already have a bare patch where, until recently, an old shipping container used for storage was standing – I just need to loosen the soil and, before any unwanted weeds get hold, sew the mix there for a quick and easy start-up. I can’t wait to get started and am really excited about the idea of creating a new area of traditional wild-flower meadowland for birds and butterflies as well as, of course, the honey bees.

In Shorts

Gardening in shorts
was perhaps
not the best idea.

Legs now scratched
by brambles
in the ‘wilderness’ corner!

Clearing Brambles

Even through my gloves
my hands are pricked and scratched.
The cost of clearing brambles
paid in blood.

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

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