I scraped the weeds out of the cracks between the paving slabs in the Italian garden, and fetched the pots of blue hyacinths from outside the greenhouse, and the cafe table and chairs from the garage. I fear that to keep the paving clear of weeds I will need to go along the gaps with glyphosate every now and then, if it doesn't blow a perpetual half gale all summer. I'd prefer not to use chemicals, but weeding it takes quite a long time. Glyphosate breaks down quickly on contact with soil, and is not so bad as some of the others. The hyacinths are the variety 'Minos', and are slightly bi-coloured, being a strong mid-blue with more than a hint of violet towards the tip of each petal, and a paler blue near the base. They have a good scent. A couple are starting to flop over, maybe because I left them under the greenhouse staging for slightly too long, and I might stake them tomorrow to help them last.
I was surprised to see two pots of tulips about to break bud, since the tulip pots normally come after the hyacinths. They were a touch on the short side for the pots, and when I looked at the labels I saw they were the variety 'Concerto'. That would explain why I seemed to have lost the bulbs that were intended to go in four small pots on the terrace: I absent mindedly planted them in two of the larger pots that go in the Italian garden. When I placed my bulb order with Peter Nyssen last summer I made a list of what I had ordered, with careful notes of what colour it was, and where in the garden I intended to put it. By the time the bulbs arrived I had lost the list. 'Concerto' as supplied by Peter Nyssen is a beautiful pale yellow. Different sources on the internet attribute it variously to the fosteriana, greigii and kaufmanniana groups, and it is described as pale yellow, white and (in one case) peach coloured. Broadleigh Bulbs, whom I normally regard as being utterly reliable, say that 'Concerto' is pure white, and these are definitely a soft yellow. I have just been outside to check. So I am not at all sure what they are, but they are very nice, and probably worth planting out into a border when they've finished, since the small hybrids often seem to last for a few years in the ground.
By mid afternoon it was warm enough to inspect the bees. The wind was stronger than I would have liked, and I didn't keep them open for long, but I did want to know whether they were queen-right and what they were up to. The colony that swarmed late last year was small, but healthy and producing eggs. The ones that took ages to get going last year were doing very well, with lots of eggs and brood, and I gave them a super. Their neighbours were not really doing anything, but I thought I'd give them a week of warm weather just to check, before messing around with frames containing eggs. The final colony had brood, but looked slightly messy. I couldn't put my finger on anything that was definitely wrong, but I didn't like the look of them as much as second hive, although the flying bees were bringing in a lot of bright yellow pollen. I was able to move the frames out of the two boxes that had been chewed by some animal into new boxes, which I fitted this morning with reinforcing metal corner strips to prevent them suffering the same fate. Whatever it is that was eating the corners of the hives has been chewing at the stands. Some of the damage was fresh, and I think we had better put the night camera on them and try and find out what it is. I had blamed badgers, but badgers are big animals, and I'm not sure they could wriggle in under the stands without simply toppling the whole lot over. Rats? I have never heard of rats attacking beehives out in the field.
The chickens are still eating eggs. I bagged two today, one still warm, but they ate at least one, and I suspect two. The question is whether one or more of them are laying soft shelled eggs for some reason, or whether they are making determined assaults on perfectly good eggs. I wondered whether putting something soft in the bottom of the nest box would help. If they laid their eggs on the hen house equivalent of a bunk cushion instead of sawdust, that would prevent them from kicking the sawdust out of the way and hammering down on the wooden bottom of the nest box, as they are doing at the moment.
The Systems Administrator has disappeared to the April race meeting at Cheltenham. I feel as though I could do with some practical and moral support regarding egg eating, and whatever it is that is gnawing at my hive stands. The question of what exactly the yellow tulips are is my problem.