Beekeepers

I’ll get to the bees in a minute. First some photos from earlier in the month. Here, the fringe tree and columbine are blooming.

What do Frida and Smokey want?

A replacement rhododendron – the others are white. I’m okay with it.

Blooming woodland geraniums and stonecrop

I love green and gold as a ground cover in our native garden.

Lichen (blooming?) on the old fence behind the barn.

Peony time

Ready for the bees

Larry (we know him from hOUR Economy) had hives and not enough property. We had property and a desire to have bees with the help of someone with some experience. So we have partnered with him in beekeeping.  The bees arrived last Friday in this box. The queen bee come in a little separate box.  There is a piece of candy on one end and the bees are supposed to eat the candy over a period of a few days to release her. It gives the other bees the time to accept her as their queen. We opened the wrong side of the little box and released her too early. Either she was killed by our clumsy efforts of hive set up or the other bees killed her because we are pretty sure by the behavior of the bees that they are queenless. We even had someone with two decades of bee experience out here yesterday and that was her assessment. Sue wore only a veil and looked all around the hive, lifting the frames and lid to look at all the bees to catch sight of a queen. She couldn’t find one. She also thought they were without a queen by their high pitched buzzing. We are now waiting for another queen to come in the mail.

We have harvested nine quarts of strawberries. Most of which have been sugared and frozen for my mom ; c )

Poor Len took a turn for the worse recently and we had him euthanized a few days ago. He had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer 15 months ago. The doctor was impressed that he had lasted this long. We are now dogless and it feels strange though I was happy to get ride of the stinky dog beds.

I love my old oak.

Not really sure why we did it but we bought a second hive of bees. This one came all ready in a hive and was delivered to us by my friend Paul who keeps bees in downtown Staunton. One of his hives swarmed a month ago so he put them in this hive and they are busy doing their thing – making comb, the queen is laying eggs and maybe even making honey already. I forget what Paul and Larry said. There is so much to learn. This is a very small colony of bees but they seem to know what they are doing and are doing it. I guess because they have a queen. We won’t harvest honey this year because we want the bees to have it so they are strong and make it through the winter. We are of the mind that honey is better for them than sugar water. If both hives do well, we will harvest in he fall of 2020- some honey for us, some for Larry and we’ll leave honey in the hive for the bees. If they run out before spring we will supplement with sugar water. Paul says our garden will flourish with the help of the bees.

You know you are in the country when your neighbors want the beehive near their property ; c )

Perpetual Nature Journal

Here is a photo of my perpetual nature journal. The apple is there to hold the page down while I photographed it. In the journal, each double page spread covers a week of the year. You can make one entry a week a more or even skip a week. The idea is to record nature in a specific area and notice how things change from year to year. It’s also a way to learn about nature and to improve your drawing skills.

Found a land snail on my pot of marjoram yesterday.

We thought the pinxter azalea we planted last year was dead. It’s not!

This is green and gold – a native spring ephemeral. I probably incorrectly identified lesser celandine as green and gold in years past. What a mistake! The lesser celandine is an aggressive non native that we actually planted back into our native garden not realizing our incorrect id. I’ve been weeding it out all spring and I’m sure I’ll have to do the same for years to come. The photo above is the real thing. I planted two last year and only one survived. It is doing well and spreading so I’m happy about that.

A close up of the bullfrog entry in my nature journal.

No Ducks

I went out with camera ready in hopes of sighting the ducks, but no luck there. Instead, I found spring flowers, leaves and leaf buds.

Blackhaw viburnum

We rescued this viburnum from honeysuckle last year.

Pin oaks we planted down by the creek last year.

Even the one Dave mowed over is leafing out.

One of the Black Gum trees we planted last year.

Another blackhaw viburnum being overtaken by the honeysuckle. I was hoping to clear this area out in late winter/early spring. Maybe next year.

I think these are leaf buds on a button bush we planted last year. I can’t find the other nine we planted. I don’t know if the deer got them, they just didn’t survive or I’m just not identifying them among the brush. I was happy to hear the city police did a deer cull back in March and one of the areas was Montgomery Hall Park which is behind us. The deer really chewed up a lot of the saplings we planted last year. We’ve put cages around a lot of things, but not everything. Everything else I want to protect I spray with Bobbex.

Golden alexander in our native garden.

A blurry closeup of the Golden Alexander.

Native columbine among the bluebells.

Spring is Here

We are actually having a long string of spring weather. Cool temps and rain. We could do without the rain but it is what it is. We haven’t had any freezing temps for about a month which is very unusual.

We were in Texas earlier this month for a family wedding. When we returned after six days away it was amazing to see how the garden had changed.

These photos are from last week.

Christmas fern is unfurling.

Virginia bluebells

bleeding heart

Trillium

Woodland stonecrop

Crabapple tree

Redbud tree – not of our young ones, but the old tree out front.

Since the above were all closeups I took a few more photos yesterday to share.

I’ve been mulching these beds with leaf mulch provided by the city of Staunton. It really helps keep down the weeds.

We have a few mallards hanging out in our waterways. If they stay and I can get a photo of them I’ll share it here.

Signs of Spring

I’d thought I’d check in here with some signs of spring.

I heard the first spring peepers on the evening of March 10. That’s always my best indicator that spring is almost here.

crocus

lenten rose

chokeberry

forsythia

weeping willow

lungwort

It has been nice having some dry sunny days. Unfortunately, we keep getting occasional and sometimes heavy rains which we do not need. If it continues, it will be bad news for our farmers and ultimately us. Farmers can’t plant in soggy fields. Our vegetable beds drain well so we are lucky. We did some garden prep in the kitchen garden last week and I even planted some lettuce and sugar snap peas. We hope to get some onions in soon. My plan for the barn garden is to just plant corn. I went to a corn nixtamalization (google it) event at my neighbors (Nancy and Eli) yesterday. Nancy and hOUR Economy leader, Meghan, showed us how to go from dried corn kernel to tamale. We each brought food to fill the tamales and had a delicious feast. I went away with a bag of Pungo Creek corn kernels to plant.

Sketch of Front Door

I’m feeling a bit under the weather so the only thing getting done around here is a bit of sewing, reading, sketching and light housework. (And if truth be told – watching a lot of youtube videos.)

I thought I’d share a few sketches since one is of our front door. The cityscape is of the Clock Tower building on E. Beverley Street in Staunton. The sketch of some of my toiletries and the door was done for an online sketching class I’m taking. I’m purposely focusing on sketching (and not drawing) because I’m not interested in trying to perfectly render what I see.

I’m having fun playing with my pens and paints and seeing a little bit of improvement with each sketch.

It’s time to start thinking about a vegetable garden. It has been too rainy to do any prep work. Right now we are just hoping for a few good days in early spring to get things started and then just planting some of the seeds we already have. No real planning – just doing what can get done.

I should mention here that on February 5 we had our precious goldendoodle, Duke, euthanized.  It’s such a hard thing to do, but we knew it was the right thing to do. He had a good long life – 15 years – and was a great dog.

I think these photos are from 2015.

Random Stuff

This is my best effort of a bluebird in watercolors. I see room for a lot of improvement but it is much better than the one I painted about 6 weeks ago. I’ve been drawing and/or painting most days and taking an online class – all of which has helped so much.

We are finally painting the family room/Dave’s office. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Bruton White paint color. It’s what they call a greige (a greyish beige or beigy grey).

I’m thinking of taking a watercolor class focusing on skies so I’ve been looking for interesting skies.

Above and below are photos taken from our front porch one early morning a few days ago. Above is facing southeast and below is facing east.

While taking the photo below I’m facing north/northwest. In person the trees almost looked like they were on fire. This happens often and I’m not sure what causes it.

Holiday Visitors

We started a 1000 piece puzzle the day after Christmas and completed it the following day. We were on a mission! It was fun! All of our children were with us for Christmas including Sam’s boyfriend, Luca. Other than the puzzle – we ate!

My sister, Melissa, and her two daughters, Emily (behind the camera) and Mary visited us last weekend. We met up in Charlottesville to see Samantha’s Dear Lilith exhibit. We had lunch at Bizou in C’ville and came home for dinner and made Jambalaya.

We got up on the late side Sunday morning and took a walk at Thornrose Cemetery.