On the Farm in March

Little Forest Field in March

spring growth

Around the farm, there are signs of new growth. We have nothing in flower yet but the banks of the ditches are filling with bright green primrose leaves and the tiny fern like leaves of cow parsley.

honey bees and honeycomb

When Storm Doris blew through at the end of last month, the limb of an ash tree crashed to the ground. When Bill went to clear the debris and cut up the branch, he noticed a few bees buzzing around. Further investigation revealed a honeycomb in the hollow of the branch and an awful lot of bees. The chainsaw was quickly put back in the shed and the branch was been left in situ as we waited to see what happened to the bees. After a few days of wind and rain there were several dead bees scattered about but the main mass was sheltering under the honeycomb. We were told that if the queen bee is still there, the workers will huddle around her to keep her warm and if they’re left too exposed and cold they will gradually die off. There are still several bees in the branch today (you can just about make them out in the darkness on the right*), so for the time being we’ll leave them and the branch alone.

Hay barn at slamseys

Slamseys Hay Barn

Every time the fields start to dry out there is talk of starting the spring land work but then it rains and makes them wet again so there has been a great deal of building work and maintenance. Most recently some of the twentieth century repairs to the old Essex barn have been stripped out, which has completely changed the look of the barn.

The sun is shining today, so with luck the primroses will soon be flowering and the tractors will be able to get onto the fields.



*This was the best shot I could get without disturbing the bees

27 thoughts on “On the Farm in March

  1. We are battling with high wind and heavy rain here too. We found a dead barn owl that looked like it had just fallen out of the tree. So sad as it is such a beautiful bird. I have not heard an owl since finding that one so guess it was the one who lived in one of our empty barns.
    Lots of primroses coming up and in flower here and masses of snowdrops. I hope the bees survive, such an important part of nature. My bees seem to have survived the winter and have been busy with the emerging dandelions. I must prepare the hive soon for spring.
    It is always hard at this time of year..desperate to get on with planting but too early to do so. Still a danger of frost here. So back to the crochet and planning!

    1. What a shame that you’ve lost your barn owl – I wonder if another will find your barns. We’ve had a few beautiful days when I’m longing to get going with the garden, but as you say, it’s still a bit too early.

  2. I can’t get over the primroses in ditches, but that is one of their natural places. I used to buy them in the spring when I was starved for flowers and plant them out. I hope your bees survive. perhaps you could put a little tent of plastic or tarp over them to keep the rain out (open at both ends of course). We did that once and I think it helped. There look to be a lot of bees in there. I hope they make a new hive come warm weather.

    1. We have one ditch where the bank is smothered with primroses and cowslips, which is a beautiful sight in this rather grey time of year. A fair bit of ivy came down with the branch that is partially covering the bees, so I hope that will be enough protection and they’ll survive until the warm weather.

  3. new season, new life, nature’s time clock ticks on. how wonderful to find the hive, I hope the bees survive. Could you lift them into a traditional hive? We are able to call a apiarist who comes and takes the bees after putting them into a hive. Incredible heat during Jan/Feb here in Sydney, (days of 43degrees) now, more than 130mls of rain. love reading of your country life.

    1. Local beekeepers charge £40 to remove bees so we’re taking a chance that they’ll survive and find a new home around here. Hope Sydney days are a little cooler now – 43 is way too hot!

  4. My comment would be the same as Nandie, we had a bee swarm in one of our trees a few years ago and a man came to take them to a new home. With the sad state of bees throughout the world, I do hope your yours can survive and thrive. Please do put up some pictures of primroses (and cowslips too if you get them) it will take me back to the days when I used to search them out with such joy.

    1. The bees are incredible and I’ve been examining a piece of honeycomb that was dislodged by the wind – it’s so intricate and perfect. They’re very clever little creatures.

  5. J > Those bees are of course honey bees rather than other sorts. They will have sent out scouts looking for a new place to make a hive, and then when they come back with news the whole host will swarm. Normally a queen, once established and mated will never leave the hive for the rest of her life. So this move can fail – she may fail to go with the others, and what happens next – and whether the workers have brood/grubs of exactly the right age to take with them (at about 2d old they can make a worker grub become a queen grub) – dictates how successful or disastrous the move will be. Unfortunately it this time of year the prospects aren’t good.because of the damp/cold and the fact that the queen would not have been laying eggs yet – not enough pollen to feed them with.

    1. Fascinating facts. I hope the scouts find somewhere suitable soon – though not under the floor of one of our bedrooms, which happened one summer.

        1. Ah! Under-floor voids are supposed to be ventilated to reduce risk of damp and rot. Rarely the case on buildings built before about 1910 when building standards started.

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