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the view…

…never gets old.

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hatchlings!

The last of the robin eggs have hatched!

They should be out of the nest within a couple weeks (and I’ll thankfully get my ladder back)…

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first elk sighting

First time I’ve seen an elk so close to the house…

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pea shoot soup

Pea shoots taste like the essence of fresh peas in the pod you get later in the summer. Raw, they’re perfect on their own or in sandwiches and salads. Cooked, they marry that fresh pea flavor to a dish. One of my favorite ways to use them cooked is in cream of cauliflower pea shoot soup:

Cream of Cauliflower Pea Shoot Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium leek, sliced into rings
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 head fresh cauliflower, chopped into large pieces
  • 4 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef – whichever taste you prefer)
  • 4 cups fresh pea shoots
  • Couple dashes garlic powder

Directions:

  • In a stock pot, melt the butter and add the sliced leeks
  • Sautee the leeks until just soft, add the wine
  • Heat for a few minutes to vaporize the alcohol
  • Add the cauliflower and stock
  • Simmer until the cauliflower is soft
  • Add the fresh pea shoots, stir into the mix
  • Cover for 3-5 minutes and simmer until the pea shoots are bright green
  • Add the garlic powder
  • Puree the soup with an immersion blender stick or run through a countertop blender or food processor in batches until smooth
  • Add salt and pepper to taste

The pea shoots turn the soup a vibrant green — a beautiful complement to any dinner.

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bumblebee?

Yesterday afternoon about a half dozen or so of these large, fluffy, yellow and black flying insects with clear wings were feeding on the lilacs. First thought it might be a bumblebee queen, but it didn’t make sense that there would be so many in one place.

I asked some fellow beekeepers. Turns out it’s not a bee, but a moth — Hemaris difinis to be exact. Some call it the “flying lobster” due to its flat, splayed tail. It’s also known as a “hummingbird moth” (pic below from erie.wbu.com). Unlike other moths, these lose the scales on their wings that give other moths their wing color so the wings appear mostly clear — like a bee’s.

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2017 garden started

Forecast is for a warm and mostly sunny week, so moved some of the more hardy plant starts outside. Started these summer squash seeds a month ago.

Mammoth Red cabbage got started mid-March.

Also planted Waltham 29 broccoli, Chioggia beets, Kabocha winter squash, Graffiti Purple cauliflower, tomatillos, and sugar snap pea starts. I’ll direct seed carrots, lettuce varieties, Swiss chard, spinach, and sunflowers later today.

It’s still a little risky here in the northwest to plant chili and tomato starts outside — that will be a mid-June project. The garden looks so empty this early in the season. It’ll be a jungle by July, though, assuming all grows well.

Garlic planted last fall is looking good!

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robins nesting

Went to get my 12′ ladder, and thought I saw a corner of a nest peeking over the edge.

Got a step ladder, and found a robin’s nest with a clutch of four eggs.

Momma robin and her mate were none too happy about me being near their nest. They nervously chirped and buzzed my head until I got down. Ah well, looks like that ladder will have to stay put for a while.

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new cherry blossoms

First cherry blossoms on the first cherry trees I’ve planted. Happy to see they made it through this exceptionally cold, snowy winter!

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sunflower greens harvest

Wow — these sunflower greens came up fast. Usually ~12 days start to harvest, this batch was ready for harvest in 7 days. Fingers crossed the batch started yesterday will be ready for this Saturday’s Kalispell Farmers’ Market!

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beehive dead-out

Planet B Gardens’ bees, sadly, did not make it through this winter. After the bear attacks in the fall that took out half the hives, I had one large, strong hive left and one small, weak one. The remaining hives went into winter with plenty of fresh capped honey. When I opened the large hive, 75% of the honey remained, undisturbed. The smaller hive had 50% left.

There was no sign of moisture build-up, no mold, no varroa mites, no other visible disturbance in either of the hives. A ball of dead bees huddled together in the center of the hive, while the remaining dead ones littered the bottom board. This winter was particularly cold, so knowing that and from the lack of other disturbances, I suspect they simply froze to death.

Local beekeepers say they expect a high level of swarm activity this spring due to the fluctuations in weather among other factors. I cleaned up a bit of cross-comb and removed the dead bees, then set up three hives with the remaining frames of capped honey.

I might get lucky and scout bees will discover my hives full of food and decide it’s a great place to relocate when they’re ready to swarm. Or I will hear of a swarm through the beekeeping community grapevine and relocate the bees to my waiting hives. I could purchase bees again, but last year I heard of several swarms ready for relocation and would like to try repopulating my hives with a swarm (or two) first.

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