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Beds & Bees

Spring is surging forth here at Quinta da Mizarela and miraculous things are happening all over the place. I have been busy working on outside events this year so I have not had so much time to work on the quinta, but that is fine because we have Laura here. Now I knew Laura was passionate about nature and gardening but what she has done this spring with the help of our wonderful volunteers is truly amazing and creative…

Gardens from across the valley

Gardens from across the valley

Laura, Mim and volunteers Duarte & Candice upgraded our garden of raised beds and the herb spiral that Laura created last year…

beds

Duarte & Candice

Duarte & Candice

The Spiral Evolves!

The Spiral Evolves!

The beds are now full of worms that have exploded exponentially (after we began with none whatsoever!) and they are clearly very content with the composted donkey manure that Nuno & Mingo provide for them…as are the chickens who are delighted to get the manure first in order to have a good scratch through and gobble up all the fly larvae!

candice poop

The beds looks so neat and sturdy now I am hardly believe the transformation and we are really curious to see what abundance will emerge this year. Laura has been developing her strategies by learning to communicate with the garden “devas” or nature spirits, for example she decided not to use cardboard as a mulch this year, but to try for a living mulch by sowing a polyculture of low growing plants, more on this from Laura soon…

Laura sowing

Laura sowing

While all this has been happening Adam as been busy creating his latest masterpiece from bits of wood (you can see him in the background above). When the high winds decimated our polytunnel this winter it was clear we needed a more sturdy alternative. The space in a corner between the terrace wall and the donkey stable was decided upon and Adam set to work. What always amazes me about what Adam creates is how good he can make something look that has been mostly made out of off cuts and, in this case, old concrete posts for grapevines that we eventually want to replace with slate posts.

palace

There can be no doubt about it the Propagation Palace is a triumph! Complete with door and windows, a worktop inside and shelves for storing plants and seeds, Adam has a unique flair for creating functional spaces with rustic elegance. Laura is very happy and no doubt she will move in next winter!

palace1

And then there are the bees! After starting out with one hive last year we have now expanded to three in the Bee Village…

Top bar beehives

Top bar beehives

I built the beehive bodies and Adam built the sloping roofs to help keep the rain out (an improvement on last year). Our good friend Harry provided us with the new swarms and they are already very busy building comb…

beehiveclose

These top bar hives are so easy to make and they provide the bees with the most bee-friendly environment. They can make the comb in the shape they do in nature, they are not forced into a foundation wax mould, when the hive in opened, one bar at a time, the beehive is not so disturbed, if the bees get varroa mite, a common parasite, they can brush them off each other and the mites fall through the gauze bottom of the hive instead of just crawling back up again, and there are many more advantages… But the main thing is it is simple and fun because bees are such amazing and delightful creatures. Also one of the lesser known crisis that we are facing, that has enormous implications for the future, is the decimation of bees. Everybody who has the space should keep bees in this way and you will get the most delicious honey to boot!

If you would like to learn more I recommend the book “Barefoot Beekeeper”. Also you can see us doing the honey harvest last year on this video, although we have since learned that we should only brush the bees off the comb while over the hive in case we lose the queen!

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