April 19th, 2010

Lettuce, Chickens, and Bees, oh my!

It turns out our dizzy, mop-topped hen, Phyllis Diller, is actually Phil S. Diller, a trans-gender cockerel. He went from dulcet murmuring to an all out strident crow in the space of a week. Give him some Spandex and he’s like a relic from an ‘80s hair band. Chickens are full of peculiar surprises, but this one I didn’t see coming. We put him on Craigs List and a very nice couple from Connecticut adopted him. Apparently they’re into leather.


Phil S. Diller: A bird of a different feather.

A new flock of fuzz (all female, I’ve been assured) arrived via the P.O. today. They, along with these beautiful, warm April skies have put dance back in our weary Winter bones here at Stonegate farm. The sugar snap peas, savoy spinach and  tender varieties of early lettuce have been hardened off and are upright and steppin’ out in the Spring beds (var. ‘Red Fire’, ‘Red Sails’, ‘Black Seeded Simpson’). Other delicious greens such as Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, arugula and mesclun are warming up and waiting their turn to flee from the hot confines of the greenhouse.

The only caveat to such a glorious early Spring is the dark, foreboding lurk of a late frost, ready to take out all that’s in bud or bloom. Like a wolf crossing the property line (if I hear Prokofiev I’m going to scream!) We’re in zone 6B here in Balmville along the Hudson River, meaning our potential final frost date is May 15th, so who knows? Erratic weather seems to be the new normal, and humble resignation to its mood swings is a hallmark for those working the land. To put a spin on an old chestnut: Hope, in Spring, (and Summer, and Fall) must be eternal, otherwise we’d all be in therapy.
Rudyx2

Far From the Madding Swarm was where I stood as hive and housing were introduced.

True to our goal of sustainability, and our dogged, hopeful nature, we’ve said Benvenuti to a hive of 12,000 italian bees in the orchard. These insatiable, chatty, free-range pollinators and makers of organic honey (maybe we’ll have some  dripping out of the combs come Fall!) will add viability to both fruit and vegetable crops. Despite our being programmed to fear their Vespa-like buzz, they’re generally ambivalent about us, and have their own Dolce Vita to live.

My Swiss friend Rudy, who’s a pastry chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, set up the hive last week. As a master of all things sweet and delicious, Rudy has a fondness for bees. He showed up and built a tower of boxes and frames, emptied the thrumming swarm into them, gave me some bee-keeping-for-dummies fundamentals and told me to hope for the best.  That I can do, eternally.          – Mb.                     

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