Bees, Native Plants, Duck Eggs, and More – Never a Dull Moment on the Farm


~ Grassy Roads Farm Life ~

Well, the last month and a half has been interesting to say the least. Things haven’t gone as planned and like everyone else I’ve been scrambling to figure out the next steps. At the same time, life on the farm keeps going – the plants keep growing, the ducks keep laying, and the bees keep buzzing. I have so many things I want to do “once things slow down,” but I’m beginning to accept that things are never going to slow down and I’m going to have to figure out how to fit those other things into everything else that I’m doing. Here are some of the things currently keeping me busy.

 

The wild black cherry is in full bloom at Grassy Roads Farm. Wild black cherries are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey bees and native bees. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Honey Bees

The honey bees are doing their thing and the colonies are building up fast. I’m trying to stay ahead of the colonies and give them enough space to keep them from swarming but not so much space that they can’t maintain it or that they get too far away from the food on the cold nights we’ve had recently. It’s always a balancing act and this year has been especially challenging for me.

Last week I had to split a colony because it was getting ready to swarm. However, although the hive was making queen cells and obviously wanting to swarm, it wasn’t putting much effort into the process and the queen cells were all tiny. I’ll likely re-queen that hive later this spring with the daughter of a queen I like better, but I’ll let them do their thing for now. Speaking of swarms, if you’re interested, here’s an article I wrote a while back about swarms and what to do if you find one.

The black locust are starting to bloom at the farm. Some of the leaves obviously got burned a bit by the late freeze we just experienced, but it looks like the flowers survived! Our spring blooming trees, especially black locust and tulip poplar, are important contributors to much of the honey harvested in this area. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved.

Like many beekeepers, I also spent a few days keeping my fingers crossed and wondering what the impact of our late freeze was going to be. I’m getting low on honey, both in my personal stash and in what I have available for sale (only 5 jars left) so I’m really hoping for a good honey harvest this summer, and crazy weather at this time of the year can have major impacts on the honey harvest. A lot of our honey in this area comes from spring-blooming trees with the two largest contributors typically being black locust and tulip poplar – both of which had the potential to have their buds harmed by the freeze.

But, in the last day or two the wild black cherries on the farm burst into full bloom and the black locust are starting to bloom. If the flowers of those two tree species weren’t destroyed by the freeze, then I’m guessing the tulip poplar which will bloom a little later, also wasn’t destroyed. Yes, I’m sure there was some damage done, but it wasn’t a total loss and from what I can tell so far, I think we’re going to be ok. Over the next few weeks, I’ll get a better idea of what this year’s harvest might look like.

 

Culver’s root is one of the new species I am growing this year. It’ll be available for the first time at the April 28 and 29 drop-offs. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Nursery

Once again, Mom has been a tremendous help with the nursery and I couldn’t have done half as much as I’ve done without her help. I really appreciate her help and am super excited about how the plants are looking this year. The seedlings are growing quickly and I have some really nice overwintered plants that are more mature. A few overwintered species got nipped a bit by the freeze and have some leaf discoloration, but most came through the freeze and frosts with no damage. I’ll hold onto the ones that had a little discoloration for a few more weeks to let the leaves recover and then they’ll be as good as new. Native species tend to be pretty tolerant of crazy weather because they evolved with this craziness.

I was also reminded this week of just how important native plants are to our local ecosystems, even if they are still in pots in a nursery setting. I was anticipating being able to offer overwintered purple coneflowers at my next pre-paid, contact-free drop off (see below for details). Then today I noticed that something had been eating the leaves on all of my purple coneflowers and the largest plant had not one, but THREE, silvery checkerspot caterpillars on it. (Silvery checkerspot butterflies are a small orange and brown butterfly. They are pretty common and I started seeing my first ones of the season two or three weeks ago.)

Proof that my native plants are doing their job: Three silvery checkerspot caterpillars decided to make a meal out of my overwintered purple coneflowers. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

I left the caterpillars alone and crossed purple coneflowers off my list of plants available for the upcoming drop-offs. This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, that I’ve had to set plants aside because of caterpillar damage. Although as a business owner it is hard to keep putting product back like this and potentially losing or delaying sales, I also see it as proof that my plants are doing their jobs and contributing to the local ecosystem. The caterpillars are potential bird food and if they aren’t eaten, will turn into butterflies that are both important pollinators and potential bird food. Plus in less than a month, you won’t be able to tell that the plants once provided lunch for a set of hungry caterpillars. I just have to be patient and hope that my customers are also willing to be patient.

 

I have an abundance of duck eggs available for sale in both dozens and half dozen cartons.

Ducks

I’m getting lots of nice, big, beautiful eggs from the ducks. Many of the eggs I am getting are over 3 oz each, with a few giant ones that are 3.5 oz or a little more. That means a dozen duck eggs could easily weigh over 3 pounds! I’ll probably let some of the hens start sitting on eggs before too much longer, but for now I have an abundance of duck eggs available in both dozens and half dozen cartons.

If you are interested in purchasing eggs, please see below for information on my next pre-paid, contact-free drop offs. I greatly appreciate your support. However, I also recognize that COVID-19 is creating challenges for all of us. I’m grateful for the fact that no matter what other challenges the current situation is creating for my family, going hungry is not one of those challenges – that’s one of the advantages of having a farm. But I also know that this isn’t the case for everyone and some families are concerned about not having enough food. If you are local and a dozen duck eggs will make a difference for you or someone you know, please let me know and I’ll be happy to share some of my eggs – no questions or judgement. We are all facing challenges, my family included, and I may not be able to do much to help, but sharing a few eggs with someone who needs them is something I can do.

 

My overwintered Short’s aster has really taken off. This is one of our latest blooming aster species. I’ve seen it blooming in early November with both honey bees and bumble bees working it. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Farmers Market

I have decided that I will not be attending the farmers market for the foreseeable future. I love my market and they are doing a great job of making the experience as safe as possible for everyone while still providing access to quality, farm-fresh produce. However, due to the nature of my products, I can’t envision a safe way for me to participate in the market right now. Instead, I am doing pre-paid, contact-free drop-offs in Bowling Green and Glasgow (see below for details) and looking forward to the day when I can safely rejoin my farmers market.

 

Pre-paid, Contact-free Drop-offs

Approximately once every other week, I am doing pre-paid, contact-free deliveries of native plants, duck eggs, honey, etc. in Bowling Green and Glasgow. I am planning the next drop-offs for April 28 (Bowling Green) and 29 (Glasgow). I will post the list of items I currently have available to my website and Facebook page on Wednesday, April 22.

This is how the drop-offs work:

Sweet goldenrod is another new species that I am growing this year. This is one of our less aggressive goldenrods, thus better suited for gardens than many of our other species. It will be available for the first time at the April 28 and 29 drop-offs. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

  • Several days to a week before the drop-off date, I will post a list of the plants and other items I currently have available on my website and Facebook page.
  • You’ll review the list, then let me know:
    • what you want,
    • whether you want to pick up in Glasgow or Bowling Green, and
    • a good time to call you for payment info.
  • If you have questions about the plants or other items, you can always email me and I’ll be happy to answer them.
  • I’ll make sure I still have everything that you want. Orders are filled on a first-come-first-served basis and some items may be in limited supply.
  • I’ll call you at the appropriate time and get your payment information. (E-mail is not a secure method of sending sensitive information like credit card numbers.)
  • We’ll meet at the appropriate time and location.
  • I’ll have all your items set out when you arrive and will have backed away an appropriate distance.
  • We can wave, give air hugs, chat for a second, etc. as you pick up your items.
  • We wish each other well and go our separate ways so that everyone can stay safe and healthy.

Any help you can give me in spreading the word about these drop-offs is greatly appreciated because, I’ll be honest, not being at the farmers market hurts and like many other small business owners, I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of all this. But I do know that what we, as a society, are doing is what needs to be done to protect everyone right now and so, like many others, I am making the necessary sacrifices.

 

Yellow wingstem is a native plant that can be a great source of nectar and pollen for honey bees and native bees. It’s also a great nectar source for butterflies. I have lots of it available this year, but it is a plant that needs room to spread. Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Speaking Engagements

My March and April speaking engagements were cancelled due to COVID-19. We are in the process of switching my May speaking engagements from in-person events to virtual events. (I haven’t updated my calendar yet because we’re still working out the details.) Although I prefer the energy and dynamic of in-person events, I’m really excited about the idea of doing the virtual ones.

Towards the end of last year, I was contacted by several groups who wanted me to speak at their events, but the travel logistics just weren’t feasible. So, researching virtual options for groups like this was actually on my list of things to do “sometime this year.” “Sometime this year” just came earlier than I anticipated and in a way that none of us expected. I’m still learning the ins and outs of virtual presentations, but if your group is looking for a virtual speaker, contact me and let’s discuss the possibilities.

 

Cardinal flower is one of my favorite native plants for hummingbirds. I ran out of plants last year but have over a hundred available this year! Photo credit: Shannon Trimboli, all rights reserved

Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife blog

I try to make this blog as interesting and helpful as possible. To that end, I have a request. Please take this quick survey to let me know what you are most interested in hearing about. Thanks in advance!

 

I hope everyone is able to stay safe and healthy during these crazy times. I also just wanted to take a second to say “thank you” to everyone reading this. You all support me in so many different ways including words of encouragement, advice when I run into issues I’m not sure how to deal with, sharing my blogs and product information with others, purchasing my products, etc., and I appreciate it all. Thank you.

~ Shannon

 

 



Shannon Trimboli is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. In 2018, her first book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, was published. Shannon also writes a weekly blog called Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. The blog features profiles of pollinators and wildlife, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife, and life on the farm and nursery. You can sign up to have her blog emailed to you.

Leave a Reply