Beets Overwintered

It worked! It’s almost Christmas and the beets are still being harvested in great condition! A little hay and a fabric cover hooped over the row of beets have kept them just the right temperature through multiple snow storms.

The cold snaps the root vegetables experienced under the covered hoop tunnels actually made them taste even better! The carrots were so sweet and even the beets had a brighter flavor. Also, the texture of the beets were not as hard as they usually are during the summer.

The extra beets were eventually pulled just before a multi-day near zero temperature spell. We did not want to potentially lose them to the freeze. Are finishing the harvest, the beets lasted in the fridge into February!

Since there were so many beets we tried our hand at pickled beets which is something my mother used to feed me when I was growing up. This too was successful.

2019 was the best year to date for successfully storing and preserving excess vegetables!

Wintering Over Root Vegetables

Looks like we will be having an early winter this year but we still have a lot of carrots and beets! It’s time to put row cover over the hoops for these root vegetables and see how long they will last.

We are trying two different approaches. The carrots on the right will just be covered with the fabric. The beets on the left are covered with hay AND the fabric to double insulate. Beets are more susceptible to the cold than carrots so we thought they may need extra help to keep from freezing.

We had great success last year when we winter covered for the first time. We only covered the carrots and they lasted until almost Thanksgiving! In addition to surviving the winter weather they also lasted into January after harvested and refrigerated.

Let’s see how long we can make the carrots and beets last this winter!

Winter Feeding the Bees

We are starting to get used to the challenges of keeping bees in the volatile weather of the high plains. We purchased 4 new bee packages in the spring and two of them either swarmed or combined with another hive. We still call it a win. The two existing hives were doing so well we were able to get 7 jars of honey their first year! It was much lighter in color and taste but it was nice to see how productive they were.

Since this is the bees first winter we wanted to give them a little extra help. We found a recipe online for a fondant you can make for bees for over wintering them. Fondant is preferred over sugar water as it keeps the moisture level down inside the hive. Moisture mixed with cold weather equals frostbite. Fondant is made out of sugar, water and a little apple cider vinegar for probiotics. You cook it just as you would cook candy, pouring it onto trays of parchment paper once it reaches the correct temperature. Once hardened you lay the slabs on top of the frames inside the beehive.

You can watch us deliver the fondant on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Last Harvest – Pumpkins

After pulling up the pumpkins in spring due to cross-pollination and then cleaning them out due to the hailstorm, they now went through snow which devastated the plants. But look! We still managed to get over 50 pumpkins? That’s 3 growing cycles the plants went through in this areas short growing season! Clearly squash plants like our environment!

Pumpkins are the last item to harvest for the 2018 growing season. Nothing else survived the October snow except our wintering over carrots which are now in a covered tunnel. If you didn’t see the post on the tunnels you can see how well they wintered over last year. Search on tunnel.

So what are the sales figures for the year? Let’s just say we lost this year. The hailstorm took it’s toll. The bees swarmed and either left or died last year so we are not able to harvest any honey this year. The new bees we got in the spring need to build up their stores for the winter.

I also need to personally take the blame on lost sales on eggs. We have had these chickens for over 2 years and I didn’t have the heart to get rid of them to bring in fresh new egg layers. I had convinced myself that they would continue to lay enough to cover our egg customers and I was wrong. Not only did they slow down they also started laying strange shaped eggs and started to have physical difficulties. Kind of like a woman in menopause, but unfortunately a chickens egg laying system can be fatal when they don’t work properly and that was the case here. We are starting to lose chickens to old age issues. Lesson learned. New chicks are in order for next year.

See what’s left of the garden on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

After the Frost

Last week a somewhat thriving garden. After the frost…..

It’s a little disappointing when you still have tomatoes ripening on the vine when your first frost comes. But then there is also the stress release of knowing you no longer need to spend every morning and evening caring for your crops.

What’s next? Clean up. Let the chicken have at it while pulling everything out of the ground and tossing it into the compost pile. We decided to leave the landscape fabric on the ground to protect the soil. We aren’t sure if it’s a good idea yet but we’ll see what the soil is like next year.We pulled out the irrigation drip tape to be sure water in the tape didn’t freeze and crack the tape. Other than that we are just leaving the garden to rest until spring.

And next year? Of course we will take a look at everything that worked and didn’t work and plan on adjusting for next year. We have 4-5 months to finalize our plan. The biggest learning was that we had too many rows of a single item and couldn’t sell them all. We will do fewer rows next year and only 1 row per item. Only exception is the beans. We’ll have 1 row of green beans, and a second row split between yellow and purple beans. No more 3 rows of tomatoes and cucumbers. Even though they were very popular it was still too much. I’m sure we’ll have more thoughts as the full winter comes and we will have more ideas on ways to make next years crops better. More efficient set up, bigger variety and better yield. That’s what we are looking for next year.

 

Final Hive Swarms

Not too long after we collected the honey from the hive we had a small cold snap. A big drop in temperature and a little snow. We didn’t think much of it but when the snow melted and it warmed up we saw bees starting to swarm and fight over the hummingbird feeder. They were knocking each other off the feeder trying to get to the sugar water. It then dawned on us that the bees were stressed out thinking winter had arrived and they may be short some honey to sustain themselves over the winter even though they had plenty of stores left.

A couple days later the whole colony swarmed and left the hive. The queen apparently felt they were not prepared for winter so they left to find a better place. This left us with no more bees. It was too late to get any more this year. This means no honey for another 2 years. Very disappointing. It seems like bees are just so hard to keep in the high plains dessert. All we can do is wait until next year to buy more hives and catch some swarms to start all over again.

You can watch the fight on the farm’s YouTube Channel: