The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Month: October 2014

Pumpkin patch kids

Pumpkins glowing in the dark

Tonight was pumpkin carving night. We grew our own pumpkins this year which made the event a bit more special.

The pumpkin patch was planted on a whim, in a corner of the yard that was going to be reseeded with grass. It was an afterthought to the main garden. But it turns out the most successful part of our garden this year was the spot that got the least attention. There’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Huge pumpkins in our pumpkin patch

Month after month we watched on as the vines grew by the foot, sprouting bright yellow flowers that dropped pumpkin after enormous pumpkin. By the end of the season we had about 18 pumpkins.

An early frost this year killed off several vines before the pumpkins fully matured so we had a couple of off-color pumpkins. Of course Ivar picked the green pumpkin when it was time to carve.

Ivar wasn’t a fan of the pumpkin guts. He hid under the table to keep his pepperoni pizza in its place.

Ivar is grossed out by the pumpkin guts

We took turns tracing faces on the pumpkins and carving them out.

Becca carved one of our green pumpkins

Thomas the train pumpkin carving

I lit some candles and set the pumpkins outside to show the kids what they looked like in the dark. They walked outside while I was setting the lids on top and started screaming: “Ahhhh!! Scary monster!!!” And then they ran around in circles and fumbled their way back into the house, giggling the whole way. Inside, I had to hold Ivar in my arms to get him to look at the pumpkins out the window. Even then he mostly hid below the window sill.

Good times and great memories for us all.

Orange and green pumpkins


Colony collapse

Bee hives on our property

We had a bit of a tragedy on the farm recently. To call it a death in the family wouldn’t be so far off the mark. It certainly felt that way.

Dead bees at the base of the hives

Since we got our bee hives this Spring, one hive was always more active than the other. But they both seemed to be thriving (growing). It wasn’t until late Summer that Becca noticed a real problem. On one of her weekly inspections she noticed a pile of dead bees at the base of the weaker hive. Other beekeepers chalked it up to seasonal changes and said not to worry. But when our friend and fellow beekeeper Adam came out to inspect a few weeks later, it was clear there was a serious problem. No eggs were being laid or hatched in the bottom hive meaning there was no queen in that colony. Worse, it was too late in the season to introduce a new queen. This colony had collapsed.

We don’t really know why. Could have been disease or a swarm or most likely just a weaker queen from the get-go. Whatever the reason, it was a major blow to morale. Especially to Becca who has been nurturing these twin hives like her own children for the past several months.

This is unfortunately a common plight. Colony-collapse disorder (CCD) is a hot topic right now. We get articles sent to us about the issue almost monthly. Roughly one-third of all bee hives collapse each year. Losing one of our two hives means we are just below average.

Adam has generously offered to split one of his hives with us next year to help us get going again. Until then, we still have plenty of work to do to maintain the health of the other hive.

Bee hives opened with frames pulled out for inspection

We combined the two hives by pulling the honey-filled frames from the dying hive and placing them into the healthy hive. Becca also applied a treatment for mites.

Becca’s inspection process involves opening the hives and pulling out frames to look at close up. In these pictures you can see “capped” honey. That is, honey stored in the frame cells sealed with wax.

Capped honey

This honey will be the bees’ sustenance through the long winter. We were advised not to harvest any honey this first year as the bee colony is still small and will need as much nutrients as possible to last the winter.

Closeup of bees on the frame

We’re determined though to push through and learn from this experience. Next year we’ll start more colonies and, I hope, harvest a bumper crop of honey.


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