Archive for Garden

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.


Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts

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Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the hives, I store the frames separated by hive location and date.  Once I remove enough full frames, I start extracting the honey into buckets and jars, all the while keeping the batches as separate as possible.

Flowering plants blossom at different times throughout the year, tempting bees and other pollinators with nectar of different characteristics (color, smell, taste, viscosity).  Those floral nectar differences are reflected in the resulting honey; as flowers change the honey changes. In the past couple of years the honey has been dark in the early spring (autumn olive and tulip poplar in April/May),  then became lighter in color as the bees moved  to wild berries and brambles (May/June),  and lighter yet as they finish with basswood, linden, and clover in June/early July.   2017 has been different – for the first time in several years black locust has bloomed in glorious quantity.

Black locust honey is among the sweetest of honeys and very light in color.  I won’t say that I sell black locust honey, because so many other things blossom at the same time and the bees gather whatever they can. What I can say is that the early 2017 honey is lighter and sweeter for which I credit black locust.  Early autumn olive did not make it into honey frames, while tulip poplar was stretched out over several weeks.  Linden, basswood, berries, and clover will be in later honey batches.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement.  Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)


Batch “A”
Black locust, tulip poplar, early wildflowers.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.6%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, Washington, near Goat Hill Farm, harvested June 24.

Batch “B”
High black locust content, with tulip poplar and wildflowers.  Thicker with beeswax scent.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Tiger Valley Rd (June 24) and Jericho Rd (June 8).

Batch “C”
Predominately black locust; very sweet with butterscotch and vanilla tastes.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.2%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, June 24 of selected frames.

Batch “D”
Some autumn olive, with black locust and some tulip polar; creamy with caramel.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.5%
Origin: Jericho Rd, Huntly, June 8.

Batch “E”
Color: Light Amber
Although I manage over 25 colonies, not all colonies produce equally.  Jericho #2 was one of my top 3 producers contributing over 80 pounds.
Moisture Content: 17.2%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, June 24

Batch “F”
One of the first batches harvested from the rock star Jericho #2.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.9%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, May 27

Batch “G”
This Laughing Duck home colony was a surprise and promises good production in the future!  A captured swarm, such colonies get a late start and a harvest is not expected.  The girls of LD #L4 didn’t get the memo and contributed a full harvest of about 35 pounds.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Harris Hollow Rd, Colony #LL4 August 1

Batch “H”
This was the last batch of the second extraction run, each batch has 9 frames and these were the leftover frames at the end of the day!  Its like a capping tank batch, but more cohesive as I tried to identify frames of a like color.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Jericho, Tiger Valley, and Harris Hollow areas, August 7.

Batch “I”
This is another batch of 21.9 pounds from Jericho #2.  The nectar was collected over 4 weeks with contributions from many different plants including tulip poplar, basswood, and clover.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Colony Jericho #2 Honey Super, July 16, Jericho Road, near Flint Hill

Batch “J”
This is was the last batch of the year, taken from colonies at our home. The light color reflects clover with basswood (American linden), the basswood providing a fruity, leitchi-like aroma.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “K”
Capping tank batches represent a mix of all the individual colonies and flowers collected during June and early July. The color is a little darker with pollen from many different sources.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: July capping tank
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “L”
Tiger Valley Colony #1 was a captured swarm that wasn’t expected to produce a harvest. My eye will be on this colony to propagation the strong work they did in a short time. I expect the colony found a stand of basswood (American linden) and harvest a large amount of honey is a short time.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #1, July 8.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “M”
Tiger Valley #4 was an established colony which swarmed at an inopportune moment. The harvest took a long time building, as a result having a darker color with a wide variety of pollen.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #4, July 8.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

Batch “N”
The final batch from the rock-star colony #2 at Jericho Road. The timing and very light color suggest a strong clover component with basswood (American linden).
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Jericho Road Colony #2, July 16.
Moisture Content: 17.6%

Batch “O”
Batches are built of up to 9 frames of honey taken from a colony. In the case of this batch from my home beeyard, I had several isolated frames and not enough to build a batch from one or two colonies. Given the frames on hand, I selected those of lighter color to make up this batch. Its companion batch of darker frames will make up Batch P. This batch has a higher clover and basswood component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected light frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “P”
This is the companion to Batch O. This batch has a higher tulip poplar and bramble component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected dark frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.3%

Batch “Q”
This was the last batch of the year, taken on August 26.  Very light and sweet. White clover with thistle and basswood.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, various colonies.
Moisture Content: 18.6%

Batch “R”
This is a blend of the August batches as taking from the capping tank.
Color: Amber
Origin: Harris Hollow, Jericho Road, and Tiger Valley beeyards.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)

Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet


Postcard From the Garden

Open today.

October 29 And It’s Snowing

October 29 and it is snowing – wet heavy snow. Plenty of leaves yet on many trees — although the birches are denuded by now. Still, some under story trees or ornamental ones like crape myrtle sport lots of green. It’s an unusual sight, snow on leafy trees. Will winter be short? Or will it be a long one?

The next few days promise to be mild, and with ground still warm from summer, there will be no lasting accumulation; yet, the falling snow and the frost predicted for tomorrow morning are firmly ending the summer garden. I hurried on Thursday and Friday to pick up all of the remaining peppers and green beans, cut up big bunches of basil and chayote squash vine, and dug up the last few sweet potatoes that I had planted in my tropical bed. Also dug up, potted and dragged those same perennial tropicals or Mediterranean plants to the greenhouse. Barely in time. But in time. They will survive winter – just, sometimes – in the minimally heated greenhouse to be planted out again next spring. What can I say? I love ferns, lantanas, daturas, citruses, jasmines, geraniums, agapanthus, gingers and bananas. I do! Read more

The June Garden

The June garden can be quite overwhelming. There is a lot to seed still, a lot to rip out, a lot to build, a lot to maintain,  a lot to harvest, and a lot to clear and get ready for the next crop. We plant continuously here at Laughing Duck gardens, and try to put something in as soon as we rip something out.


Lets see… We have harvesting mustard greens (still. again!), strawberries, Swiss chard, beets, zucchini & summer squash, all kinds of herbs, and green beans. We are seeing the last of the kale (there was not much to start with anyway). We just finished harvesting  the last of the shelling peas and, all the currants. And I have picked the last of the asparagus for this year ( I am now letting the fern grow). Read more

Firsts and Lasts

First Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas), one of my favorite flowers that I let seed all over the garden.


They come on the heel of the orange-y wispy field poppies, and they come in shade of pinks and reds, from the clearest vermilion to dark wine; some have black crosses as their center, other white blotches. They are so graceful and so luminous in the morning light. Last year they were beautiful with the asparagus ferns, peaking in June.

Now is also the last of the dogwood blossoms, the petals falling off with the rain. It’s been a good year for dogwoods.

First Swiss chard of the season, chopped and sautéed with garlic and some of the last freezer cherry tomatoes.

Last of the spinach: it was a mistake not to plant spinach last fall; the seeds planted in late winter never made plants big enough before bolting. We had a few nice salads, but that’s it. This fall: no excuse, spinach must be sown in September!

First peas… soon. The peas are blooming now, pods won’t be long. Meanwhile, I pinch the shoots off to force the plant to branch, and they go into salad (pea shoots are edible, you know).

And finally: first black bear sighting of the season. This morning around 6:30 as I was on my way to let the chickens out of their coop. I first was not sure what that big black mass was – I did not have my glasses on, but it moved, slowly, so I knew it was not a pool of shadows. He (she?) was where I was expecting him (her?) to show up anytime now: in the skunk cabbage patch. I was expecting him. It does not mean I am happy to see him. I yelled, he raised his big head, look and me, and slowly, slowly, very slowly, turned his back, and walked up the hill.

He is not always that accommodating.

Postcard From The Woods

Actually not from the woods but from a very nice garden that was open during Virginia Historic Garden Week. But the dogwoods are blooming in the woods too – although the last couple of very hot days is shortening the bloom time. Other than that, it’s been a fabulous spring for dogwoods, rebuds, sassafras and other native blooming trees..


Hardening Off

It’s time to start hardening off the babies. At least, for those of us in the Northern Piedmont (and in the mid-Atlantic area). Yep, time to start hardening off the hardy annual vegetables that were lovingly started indoors. That include you people who took one of my “Starting The Veggy Garden from Seeds” workshops a few weeks ago.

Everything but parsley – maybe lavender and pepper (they all can take several looong weeks to germinate) – should be up now.


Continue to give basil, tomatoes, pepper, marigolds and any other warm lovers like eggplants plenty of light and warmth. Take them outside on sunny days only when the temperature is above 50F/10C (mmm… maybe even 60F/16C for eggplants). Place them in a sheltered spot, just an hour or two the first time, then more and more progressively over the course of a few days until they can be left out the entire day when it’s mild. It’s not time to plant them out yet – by a long shot – but fresh air and sunshine will do them good. Read more

Blue And Red

Spring is blue and red: blue clear sky and red maple flowers.


Indeed the maples are blooming now, the earliest single species source of nectar and pollen for our bees. Read more


Finally – rain. Gentle, slow, soft, over the course of a few days.

A the end, it did not add to that much altogether – maybe 1/2 inch (as measured by my hand thrust in a bucket that was left out). Nonetheless, it was rain in what has been a cold and dry winter with hardly any snow, hardly any rain, lots of drying wind and temperatures dipping below 0F ( -18C) at time. So, a few days of mild temperature and a gentle rain are making everything sprouts, buds, shoots, germinates, swells… springs!!! It makes one hunger for fresh vegetable.


Among the vegetable that we can harvest now are the kales. Read more

The Ides Of March

Something softly went through the hollow last night, dropping huge handfuls of wet snow all over. The snow on the ground was gone by mid-morning, but wads of sticky whiteness remained in shrubs and dry grasses – looking like cotton candy.


Meanwhile, inside under the shop lights, seeds planted earlier this month have germinated, true leaves starting to show.Soon to be moved to the greenhouse, thinned and even up-potted.seedling-2009-03-065

and then… peep peep… arrived today, brought by a big stork…peep peep