A few years ago we decided to begin a small farm. Over the years we’ve added an apiary, small orchard, berry patch, and vineyard. This year we also added a large garden.
We started our apiary, or fancy word for beehives, with four hives. Over the last couple years our hives have increased up to a current total of 25. A single hive, during the summer, houses anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 bees. Just think….that means we currently have anywhere from 1.5 to 2 MILLION bees right now!
Our bees attract wild honeybees and we’ve caught a couple swarms to increase our numbers that way. We have also had the hives grow so large they needed to be split into multiple hives.
This is a wild honeybee swarm we caught over the summer.
We have a mix of feral (wild) and Italian bees. The feral bees are much more aggressive than the Italian kind but as long as they don’t feel threatened neither one of them will harm you. Last year we harvested about 30 pints of honey. This year with the increased number of hives we harvested almost 200 pints of honey. We officially sold out within a week.
Before we ever got into honeybees or decided to plant anything at the farm we started with a small vineyard of muscadines. Muscadines are a grapevine native to the South. We typically use our grapes to make jelly and of course, wine. Right now we currently have Carlos, Noble, and Black Beauty varieties. We have just one lone Fry vine. This year was a good year for muscadines. We were able to make a dozen half-pint jars of jelly and the rest is going to be made into wine. (Muscadine wine post coming soon!)
In addition to our vineyard we also have a small vineyard. Right now we have Indian Blood Peaches, Alberta Peaches, a couple Santa Rosa Plum trees, two Wonderful Pomegranate trees, Asian Pear, a few different varieties of apple trees, a Sugar Maple, and one lone baby fig tree. Even though our trees are still young we did harvest peaches and plums this year. We got lucky and found a couple fig trees down a dirt road. We harvested a good many of them to make some delicious fig preserves.
Locally foraged figs.
Our Berry Patch
Besides the muscadines the best producing and hardy plants we have are our blackberries. We currently have two varieties, Navaho and Natchez. These vines have given us gallons of blackberries this summer! This year we also planted some Ever-bearing Strawberries and harvested our first ever Dewberries. We also have a small blueberry patch. We even found some wild blackberries to harvest for blackberry cobbler this summer!
See how big some of our blueberries get!
Locally foraged wild blackberries.
This year was our first year planting a garden. We were lucky and have some great soil to work with. We have harvested okra, corn, peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, chard, lettuce, turnip greens & turnips. Currently we have a small pumpkin patch and “birdhouse” gourds growing. Our okra has exceeded expectations (tops out at over 6 feet) and we have been selling you-pick okra for a few weeks now….and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop growing anytime soon!
Rainbow Chard. This variety is called “Bright Lights” and came home with us from a trip to Oregon.
Tomatoes. The large, dark purple-red variety is an heirloom called Cherokee Purple. The smaller bright red is an heirloom called Arkansas Traveler and the small yellow cherry tomato is called Italian Ice.
Because our harvest has gone so well this year we have been able to put up a lot of stuff for some good eating over the winter. I’ll post some of the canning recipes I’ve used this summer in a post soon!