Is spring here yet? We are so ready for it to be. Our fruit trees have been ready to bloom for a week now, although with freezing temperatures, I’m glad they are holding off. The exception: our apricot trees already flowered – the blooms don’t look so good now.

Other signs of spring: we have a lot of seedlings in flats by large windows and in the greenhouse. Some have already been transplanted in the garden.

The grass is growing: it appears especially green to me this year – maybe because of the lightning? (supposedly, lightning releases nitrogen in the atmosphere). I don’t particularly like mowing, but I enjoy the bright green color of the grass and its enthusiastic growth.

Another sign of spring here is the arrival of interns. So far this year, we have Tyler from Illinois and Darien from West Virginia. In spite of the cold, wet weather, they are busy in the garden. It is also refreshing to have new folks to interact with and get to know.

End of winter found a lot of us travelling, before the rush of spring. Jon has had several music gigs in St. Louis, Mica helped her sister move across country, Joe, Trish, and Emory spent time with family and friends, & Laird has been on the road for a month and a half for work as well as seeing friends. I travelled to the west coast on Amtrak for inspection work and visiting friends.

Emory is almost five and recently learned to ride a bicycle – a rite of passage and/or marker of growing up.

We had a good maple season: we tap, gather the sap from our own trees and combine it with sap brought to us by folks from DR (Dancing Rabbit); we charge them a percentage of the syrup for cooking and bottling it. This year the DR folks tapped a lot more trees than previously and so we did a lot of cooking and cut a lot of wood. The ratio of sap to finished syrup is usually approximately 40 to 1. This year it was actually 46 to 1. Why? Perhaps the sap was less concentrated this year or maybe we cooked the syrup a little thicker. This year, we cooked a total of 1648 gallons of sap into 35.5 gallons of syrup. Only in 2009 did we cook a little more; ironically, that year we had a little less total sap but more finished syrup. The sap numbers are guesstimates – so that may account for some of the difference.

Our honey bees appear to be doing well. I say “appear” because I am an optimist and over the last 30 years, I often think they are doing well, only to have them crash later. This winter we lost about 25% of our hives: that’s a lot, although I am hearing reports from across the country of 50% or more. Why? There are various theories, but no definitive answers. The bees are still struggling with mites; and now, higher grain prices are encouraging farmers to continue getting rid of fencerows, woods/brush, etc – in short, less wildflowers and bee habitat. Also, more and stronger agric chemicals that kill bees (and other insects).

I so love seeing our beehives come to life in the spring: the first sources of pollen are the elm, maple, and willow trees. And then there are all those little purple flowers – variously called dead nettle or henbit. Sometimes folks ask me what they can do to help the bees? My first answer is: don’t spray your lawn for dandelions. Bees LOVE dandelions: it is an excellent source of pollen and nectar. Probably the best thing for the bees would be to stop using all chemicals.

So what else? If you see a swarm of bees – that is, a ball shaped cluster of bees on a branch of a tree – call us. We would be happy to take them off your hands – but you need to call immediately. They are often there only a short time. HOWEVER – we are not in the business of getting bees out of buildings: once they are inside a wall or a building, it is hard to remove them without killing them. We do not like to kill bees. Sorry – I wish there was a good answer. I have seen an ad in local papers for a bee removal service – that is not us!

A blessed spring to all!