Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Make Room For Tea

It's always sunshine, rainbows and lot's of work to do around Blooming Hill, especially during  the springtime.
As I have often stated, its never a dull moment around here. If we are not out tending the lavender beds, we are keeping bees.  If it's not about the bees, we are probably down rearranging the shop, weeding the labyrinth or giving a garden tour. Really--it's always something.  So, what is it now???   Well after having guests here for tea almost blown off of the back porch because of gale force winds, during the farm tour, last fall, we realized that there are times when we have to find another place to serve our guests on those cold, blustery days.

The herb garden, last fall, set with tea tables.  Pretty and peaceful, but a little cramped.

The herb garden, last June.
We found just the right place, full of sunshine and calm breezes with pretty flowers and fragrant herbs always in bloom and, that place is in the herb garden. However, we were faced with the predicament of needing just a little more space there, to accomodate our guests on those days when high winds blowing through the covered porch and the brick patio make them something comparable to a zero-gravity training chamber for NASA astronauts.

First things first. The 20-year-old raised herb beds needed to be re-levelled and straightend as well, before any kind of extended terracing of the ground around them could begin.
So Peter, the resident landscape architect/arborist, came up with the idea to terrace out the herb garden area and level the ground off, without changing its original design too much, by using the trunks of black locust trees as extended borders there.   He presented the idea to me, the head gardener and chief dishwasher and, I liked his idea so we ran with it, so to speak, because nobody can run while dragging fallen tree trunks from one end of the property to the other. Why black locust trees?  Well, we have a a lot of them on the property and these particular ones were about to fall down anyway and recycling their long, straight and strong trunks for something useful was the right thing to do. Over a couple of weekends in March, the new extended herb terrace took shape.

Taking down trees is hard work.  Once they were down, then we had to drag them back up the hill and to the other side of the property.

The truck helped served as manual labor in order to get these long trunks up the hill, in one piece.
I drove the truck up the hill while Peter, following behind and seen here in the rear view mirror,  manuvered a hand truck and took up the back end of the tree.  Slowly and steadily, we got them up the hill and into place as the new extended boarders of the herb garden.
Once in place, the tree trunks had to be dug into the ground in order to hold the dirt and pea gravel  that would soon be added to level off the grassy slope.

A shorter piece of tree trunk was needed here and there, too.  It was kind of like fitting life-size Lincoln Logs together.

The new herb garden border is beginning to take shape.
A thick layer of dirt, then an even thicker layer of pea gravel raised the ground, making it even for chairs and tables.
The sloping grass covered ground between the herb garden and greenhouse is now flat and much  roomier for garden guests to enjoy.  The boxwood ring has not been harmed or changed and still balances the boxwodd ring on the side of the garden where I was standing to take this picture.
After truckloads of dirt and pea gravel were shovelled into place, the herb garden was transformed into a peaceful side terrace, still perfect for just sitting and enjoying the birds, bees and butterflies flitting about the flowers and herbs while also possibly enjoying a cup of tea.

A few tables set, just the other day for a group who visited Blooming Hill, this last week.  In spite of the April weather, guests could sit and enjoy a cup of tea without being buffeted by the  gusty winds.
Another view of the newly expanded terraced herb garden, au naturale.
What's next on  the "To Do" list???  Don't ask!   Well--maybe ask for a cup of tea instead.  And, don't forget to reserve your teatime at "Tea with Eliza Doolittle" here at the farmlet on May 20 at 1pm.  $35.00 for tea and talk.  Contact Cyndie for more details; 703-431-0779 or bloominghillva@gmail.com.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Our Burgeoning Brood of Honey Bees

We added two more apiaries for our growing family of bees.  Peter designed and built the apiaries himself.  Nothing but the best of accommodations for our bees and enough room between them to get the mower through quickly and easily.  They are a welcoming and pretty sight to see in the early spring outdoors.
Peter getting ready to introduce new bee colonies to their Blooming Hill neighborhood, a couple of weeks ago.  Getting the bees out of their delivery boxes and into the hives can be a tricky thing.

When you keep honeybees, empty-nesting is not an option, especially if your hives thrive and grow.  We have been lucky to see our brood of bees not only call our yard their home but also to multiply and need more space in order to do what they do best and that is to produce honey.

Peter kept adding more drawers to our original hive, last summer.  He knew then that he would have to build more homes for them for this year, It seemed as though we were heading for a skyscraper occupying space in the backyard.
However, being a beekeeper is not all fun and games.  There also comes the commitment of being a responsible and vigilant landlord to these aviary tenants, as well.  That means giving them good housing, lots of nutritional plants and flowers, a water source, a little peace and quiet and, above all freedom and room to let them fly--kind've like being a parent--only to a few thousand very busy and precocious toddlers, one day and temperamental teenagers, the next.

Hotel "Highrise" Blooming Hill, Summer 2014.
Everybody is scrambling out of the box and into the hive to find their place and already getting to work, just a couple of weeks ago.
Happily, as our number of bees increase, so does their buzzing and humming, exploring and gathering around our property and, our neighbors tell us that they see our honeybees, too.  Right now, the cherry trees are full of busy, happy and hard-working bees.  Everyday, something new begins to bloom, from the smallest pansy to forsythia bushes, already keeping the bees very busy from sun-up to sundown.

Peter standing at the original hive after getting all of the bees resettled, just a couple of weeks ago.  The apiary on the far right is home to a colony of bees that can be a little testy about having visitors so we approach them with more caution than ever before.

This year, we have added two more apiaries to give them sufficient room and while the last two years were a peaceful coexistance with our bee family, as they seemed somewhat docile in nature, one of the new hives could very well be described as possibly related to the likes of Darth Vadar with light saber stingers. Peter came in the other day breathing a sigh of relief, after filling up their sugar water supply and said, "This time, I only got stung once!"  That, in the words of Martha Stewart, is a good thing.

Early spring sustinance--sugar water.  Maybe the Queen in each apiary makes sure they all brush their teeth every day. 
The original hive when we brought our first colony of bees home back in 2013.
So, as we begin another year of bringing up bees, maybe we won't be sitting down to supper with them and asking how their day out in the field went or what kind of homework needs to be done but, we will enjoy listening to their daily chorus of humming voices in the garden and appreciate their time spent with us here at Blooming Hill.