Solstice snapshot

By Tom Read

Overlooking the kitchen garden at mid-day, just before the Summer Solstice, 2010

Time passes quickly for busy bees like me. Today I startled myself when I belatedly realized that the longest day of the year is but a few days hence. Many years ago I enjoyed a tradition of all-night bonfires on various northern California beaches with friends to celebrate the summer solstice. But in my present life on Texada Island that won’t be an option this year. From mid-May to mid-October, most outdoor fires are banned by order of the Province of British Columbia, regardless of weather or forest conditions. Thus, no summer solstice bonfire for us.

Instead, here are a few snapshots of what we’re doing at this mid-summer moment:

— Today we took a dozen fertilized chicken eggs to our friend An so she could place them underneath one of her broody hens. We are grateful for An’s help again this year — our sleek, young Dark Cornish hens seem amenable to Lord John Marbury’s amorous attentions (our rooster), but once again they have shown no interest in becoming mother hens. If the hatch-out with An’s surrogate mother hen is successful, we’ll raise the resulting brood as meat birds in one of our chicken tractors on pasture, and they’ll be in the freezer by late fall.

— Our pastures are awash in flowers just now, which reminds me of bees. I’m stewarding a couple of hives as a new beekeeper (coming up on two years).  This summer, I’m trying to encourage the bees to migrate from my existing, rather dilapidated hives into a proprietary type of beehive called a “DE hive” (named after David Eyre, who invented it). It’s working, slowly. Why didn’t I just follow the easy path and replace my old hives with additional standard replacements? Answer: the DE hive seems not only better designed all around, in my opinion, but it’s also smaller and lighter, thus easier to manipulate for a fellow like me with a trick lower back.

—  Our country homestead needs deer fencing on a new field, rock-picking of a new gardening area, expanded irrigation system, new dog run, and I’ve got to do something this summer about the moss that’s beginning to get established on our roof. Plus, we’re behind on planting our summer crops due to a cold and wet spring. We need every hour of these long days to make a dent in our “to do” list!

And that’s the way it is at Slow Farm on this mid-summer Solstice.


3 Responses to “Solstice snapshot”

  1. 1 Margy June 20, 2010 at 09:19

    I like the design of your garden fence with crossbeams. You can suspend row covers from it easily it seems. I would like to try something to cover my beds for extended use in the fall and early spring, but I am afraid the wind would destroy anything but the most sturdy. We get some pretty strong wind storms up at the cabin and the floating garden is right out in the middle of everything. How do you handle watering underneath? By hand? Does it stay moist for extended periods when the weather is cool? – Margy

  2. 2 Tom Read June 20, 2010 at 10:58

    Hi Margy,

    Thanks for your thoughtful questions. The wind blows hard here, too, sometimes, so the overhead wood structure is held in place by screws at each end and baling twine positioned in the centre as a guy-wire. So far, so good.

    Watering is via a drip watering system, supplemented by hand-watering from a hose or watering can. I don’t use much mulch for water conservation in summer because it just becomes bug habitat, and the top few inches of soil can serve as mulch anyway.

    Hope you’re having a good growing season out on the lake!


  3. 3 Margy June 20, 2010 at 11:09

    Thanks Tom – I may try something next fall but a little shorter. I will need to install the supports to my beds so I’ll try one to start with and see how it goes. It would be fun to have some winter lettuce or chard. – Margy

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