A few things we are working to tie up as the temperatures drop (and stay dropped):
equipment maintenance and storage
seed & supply purchase (part 2)
rotation planning & bed expansion
First, the bees. Of the two hives, one uses a traditional solid bottom board while we experimented with a screened bottom board on the second. In our area the move seems to be toward screened boards, which offer more ventilation (useful for hot & humid MO) and hopefully allow varroa mites to fall through the screen and out of the hive for good rather than land on the solid board and climb back up to again bother bees. With winter essentially here, I put a rectangle of insulation between the screen and the hive to slow air movement, with a gap of several inches to prevent condensation. I also gave them some sugar.
Second, equipment. We use a BCS manual-start gas-engine two-wheel tractor for everything (attachments: rotary plow, flail mower, power harrow, sickle-bar mower, chipper/shredder) and it’s time for annual maintenance. I’ll move the equipment from the shed to the barn and then clean, grease, sharpen, etc.
Third, seeds & supplies. Our spring perennials, corms & bulbs (peony, dahlia, crocosmia) were purchased mid-summer and we are working through the last of our hardy annual seeds, but it’s certainly time to put our order in for tender annuals and equipment. After the disastrous late blight hit our solanaceae last summer (probably phytophera) taking out 100% of our tomatoes as well as half our eggplants) we will be grafting our tomatoes onto resistant rootstock. So, choosing rootstock as well as field tomatoes this year and reading about grafting techniques. Our orders will go to Johnny’s, Baker Creed, and Seed Savers Exchange for the most part.
Last, mapping out our rotations. With a small footprint (11 100’ beds + 14’ x 40’ hoop house) and a goal of constantly improving soil health, we want to ensure that at least each non-perennial bed is has one growing season in a diverse cover-crop. We are also experimenting outside the deer fence. Fingers crossed.
The photos date back to Thanksgiving, when we had temps in the mid-60s. Our youngest beekeeper is 4 and very helpful with the hives.