setting out pepper seedlings

Thursday, May 24:

At five thirty a.m. it is light enough to see your footing on the lane down to the barn, if you happen to be awake enough to look.  I’m not.

The newspaper in the smoker lights reluctantly, reminding me of me getting out of bed.

Two of the swarms we have hived since mid-April, while prosperous, are on the small side, and we chose the early morning hours to unite them.  This is not because the bees are more quiescent in the twilight; they are not; rather, being all at home and not in the field, they are in a better-than-usual position to mob you.  But if you move a hive while the resident colony has bees in the field, the foragers, when they return to where home was when they set out, only find it has been jacked up and moved while they were gone, will not go looking for it, by sight, smell, or any other sense, but will merely fly back and forth over the space the hive formerly occupied as though maybe if they check again it will turn out to be there.  Eventually they will grow discouraged and do whatever discouraged bees do – die, probably – and they will be lost to the colony. So, we move hives while all the little workers are in bed, where we wish we were, and when they set out for the morning’s first foray, the field bees will orient to the new place without any noticeable glitch.  A sheet of newspaper between the two hive boxes will be gone in a day or two, but prevents the colonies from commingling immediately, giving the worker bees time to adjust to one another.  The queen bees are another matter; there is going to be a fight, and only one queen will survive to populate the merged corporation.  May the best Apis mellifera win.

Two hours later the day has really begun and even those of us whose chores wait until after breakfast are up and dressed.  Project number one today is moving two young steers to the new paddock at the monastery, where yesterday we erected a line fence – just what it sounds like, fence in a line – from which we can establish paddocks of polywire on either side.  One of the steers is but newly acquainted with electric fence, and some of us – me – are wondering how we are going to round them up if and when they get out.  The men are aggravatingly soothing.  For now, at least, the steers should be content to stay in their paddock, where the grass is more than belly-deep.

The day is going to be very full, and the rest of the pepper plants have to be set out early if at all.  Seedlings should be planted on cloudy days or in the evening, to avoid their being exposed immediately to burning sun, but this morning is bright, clear, and hot.   The process of setting-out includes raking up the beds, digging holes in which two scoops of good compost are mixed, filling the holes with water, setting the seedlings, mounding the soil around them, and watering again.  In such shade as the hay rake affords D-2 sits with her legs tucked under her like a colt’s, folding cocked hats out of newspaper to shade the little green plants.  With dirt heaped over their edges they should stay in place for the two days we’d like to keep the peppers sheltered.

Sweet corn goes in after the peppers, but we have little hope if it makes that the deer, protected, unlike our corn, by the Ohio Department of Wildlife, will let us have any.

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