Bees, GIS Planning, Silvopasture and Agroforestry

Trees for Bees 6: GIS Map and honorable mention

Other posts in this series:

Trees for Bees introduction

Trees for Bees 2: Planning

Trees for Bees 3: Sumac

Trees for Bees 4: Sourwood

Trees for Bees 5 : Basswood

 

You may notice one species mentioned in the first post is absent: Liriodendron tulipifera aka Tulip Poplar.

“Liriodendron tulipifera tulip close” by Dcrjsr – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Liriodendron_tulipifera_tulip_close.jpg#/media/File:Liriodendron_tulipifera_tulip_close.jpg

This species is an abundant nectar producer early in the season helping colonies build up food stores and population numbers. While other bee gardeners are full encouraged to consider this tree, it will not be planted on the farm for a few reasons. Tulip poplars require loose, fertile soils as their roots systems are small, fleshy, soft and to put it succinctly: weak. It is also susceptible to numerous pests and diseases. Combining these attributes with its huge form and full sun requirements, the decision was made to plant the more valuable (regarding bees) Basswood in the vacant locations despite the beautiful blooms that resemble tulips, thus the common name.

Final Plans and Map

Putting everything together, there will be sumacs planted on the hill that raises the farm entrance from the pasture as well as below the powerlines. Sourwoods will be planted between the farm entrance track and the main road as well as along the fenceline in the pasture. Lastly, Basswoods will occupy the areas where they have room to spread.

Note: I apologize for the low res imagery. It is used for faster processing as well as the only aerial image saved offline for when I work on maps at the farm where my cellular data is the only access to internet!

That concludes this series…I hope you aren’t sick of bee talk!

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Bees

Hops Help in the Fight Against Beehive Colony Collapse Disorder

I came across an interesting article from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. One of the oils in hops plants has pesticide-properties that are fatal to varroa mites but safe for the bees!

http://environment.yale.edu/yer/article/beer-hops-beneficial-to-honey-bees

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Bees, Garden

Lets talk about companions, acid and berries

If I had to make the choice of a single fruit to eat for the rest of my life, it would be blueberries. Raspberries are such a close second that I would read the fine print of the agreement to try and loophole them in.

Blueberries need acidic soil. I will have to retest my farm, but I anticipate the karst limestone-heavy area is going to need some amendment. In the raised beds I need a solution that doesn’t involve hauling in chemicals or soil amendments. My solution will be to mulch up many of the cedars that have encroached on the pasture. Every year, I will assist by adding a top mulch of chipped, discarded christmas trees (needles and all). I would like to note that I have not found any studies that convince me that pine mulch is any better the just plain old organic matter in acidifying the soil. In a pinch, I won’t hesitate to use the leave litter from the forest as a soil amendment.

As for companions, the literature prescribes clover to help fix nitrogen or acid-tolerant herbs for pest deterrence.

I’m going to take a different approach here. My perennial blueberry patch will be a sanctuary for the bees. Widely-spaced Rhododendron could provide shade for the plants during the dog days of summer, beautiful flowers in its long blooming season, and potentially psychedelic honey. I’ll probably avoid them in the end, but they are a viable companion. Lewisias flowers enjoy acidic soils and bloom in the late winter providing food for the bees when not much else is available. Strawberries are another delicious potential companion that would provide a living mulch but they have many pest and disease issues. Yarrow flowers have a rich history of natural medicinal use and seem to enrich soil where they grow. Clover is the last plant to consider as a legume that fixes nitrogen for the berries high demand.

Honestly at this point I have no idea what companions I want to plant with the blueberries. I think for now I will plant strawberries as a ground cover with no expectations regarding production while locating the flowering herbs on the boundaries of the rows.

If anyone has any suggestions for acid-tolerant plants that provide human food or nectar for bees, please let me know!

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Bees

Siting the First Beehive

An unintended use for the LiDAR data has been made apparent. During my research for beginning beekeeping, I found the consensus among beekeepers was to locate hives where they receive morning sun and afternoon shade. I have not found a scientific source for this so I won’t go into the justifications just yet.

Using the LiDAR data in GIS software, I can create hillshades that show where sun reaches the ground at various points in the day as well as aspect maps. Aspect is the direction the land faces. Using hillshades and verifying with aspect, I found a good spot for the first hive plus solid locations for other hives!

Morning Sun:

HillShadeMorning

Afternoon Sun:

HillshadeAfternoon

Aspect Map with 3D Trees

3dTreesAndAspect

Note that the trees will cast shadows to the NorthEast in the afternoons!

For the initial hive, I chose a small, SouthEast facing clearing in the woods. The sun exposure factors are correct and they will have peace from livestock, laboring farmer and equipment back in the forest. My plan is to grow a perennial, spring food plot in the clearing to give nursing Doe nutrition for their fawns. Clover and Chicory will be the most likely seed (and the only seed I will plant outside of gardens) so hopefully the bees can find enough food year-round with the forest, pasture, vegetable gardens and food plots!

Decision is made!

BeeHiveSite

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Uncategorized

Welcome and Introduction

Independent. If I could choose one word to describe myself, that would be it. Naturally I have accumulated intense dissatisfaction with the corporate world and the lifestyle it commands. Looking back on my life, I’m surprised no one saw this coming. As I aged, my literary tastes all but spelled out my future:

The Lorax, Jack London, Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, the rest of the works by Gary Paulsen, The Hobbit, Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, Into the Wild, Walden, Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea specifically), Steinbeck, McCarthy and so on.

So here I am, writing from my employment abroad in the Middle East dreaming about being home in the Appalachian Mountains. Self-sufficiency and homesteading have always been a bit of a fantasy of mine. However, the difficulty of diving in debt-free has been intimidating enough to keep me out.

Luckily a plot of land, including a barn and pasture, has been in my family for some time. It has been unused except as a hunting ground. With the blessing of the landowners within my family, I have a chance to realize some of the concepts in my head without taking on substantial debt. My financial aspirations are somewhere in the middle: use what is available to me not to get rich but not to operate at a loss.

As for the agricultural operations, I hope to build soil and quality grazing pasture by using only biological means and earn income by harvesting byproducts of my land management practices. I will be adapting Managed Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) and methods of Joel Salatin at Polyface Farms as well as multi species grazing to suit my needs. In addition to farming, Other side projects like bee keeping, soap making and brewing beer will be included.

These projects are steps to self-sufficiency. It is unfortunate that I missed living in an era where most goods were procured locally. Via my farm project, I hope to contribute to making this a reality once again so any excess goods I produce may eventually find its way to local markets. Providing beer at a local scale would be very satisfying!

So here is my blog. Hopefully when I get to the point of selling grass fed meat, pastured eggs and other products, this can serve to provide complete transparency for my customers. I will include all of the planning and analysis I have conducted to assure that this is a worthwhile endeavour and to gain the confidence of the landowners.

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