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.

Ice Storm

On November 15th we had a full day of sleet and freezing rain. We lost power around 3:00 in the afternoon.

Reading Mendelwitz’s Guide to Drawing by candlelight. It got very windy that night. Dave said he could hear the popping of tree branches.

We woke up to an icy landscape and more branches on the ground than I’ve ever seen. The above photo is the front yard. Somehow my photos have gotten out of order so bear with me.

You can see the icy tops of the white pines as the sun is coming up.

Our poor siberian elm in the back yard took quite a hit.

Branches everywhere…and leaves. Many of the trees still had leaves so when the ice clung to the leaves it was just too heavy and caused so many of the branches to break.

Above photo is looking toward the front yard from the back path to the house. That is the sunroom.

The pine is sagging from the weight of the ice. That building is the garage/cottage.

Ice on the asters

Dave is cooking french toast on the woodstove.

These branches fell on the fence – totally crushed it. This building is what we call the shed. It is two stories and is where we store most of our garden equipment.

Looking toward the house from the backyard.

So many big and small branches – and a deep layer of leaves. We are still cleaning it up.

Duke is having a hard time getting around with so much debris in his way.

Looking toward the orchard from behind the cottage.

The cable we had installed in this siberian elm in the front probably saved this tree.

A big pine branch fell on the power line to our house (seen in the photo above) so we were without power for 3 full days. Our neighbors lost power for 2 days.

Colin helped with the apple pie for Thanksgiving.

A branch fell on the fence in the front too.

You don’t get to see Smokey very much. He always moves around too much when I try to photograph him. This is about the best I can get. He likes to rub up against the dogs. You can see Dukes legs behind him. Smokey is ready to dash outside. He doesn’t come in the house but does come into the mudroom to eat and sometimes to sleep. I think he usually sleeps in the barn – even on frigid nights.

Fog and Flood

A soggy mess. The lady ferns don’t seem to mind.

A lot more rain since Sunday and some very heavy rain late yesterday.

These photos were taken this morning and the water was still running this evening.

Foggy this morning – almost like the earth was giving off some of the excess moisture.

The birds have been all over this dogwood tree.

Finally, some beautiful sun today.

The September Garden

September 19 and 20

A profusion of asters!

White snakeroot under the arborvitae.

These photos were taken just a little over a week ago. Since then we’ve had so much rain that it is now looking very soggy. I hope the asters perk up and the ones that only have buds will flower. Too much rain can be as bad as too little.

Duke got in some cleaver so Damian is getting the burrs out of his fur. Sometimes we can pull it out and sometimes we have to get the scissors and cut it out. That can be real painful after we just paid to have him groomed.

Ash Tree

September 10

I missed most of the cutting down of the ash tree. Above, the crane had just let down a 5500 lb. segment of the tree. Apparently, this was a great weight because they were giving each other high fives when it was announced.

The first crane they brought in wasn’t big enough. This one left tire impressions in the driveway asphalt.

This was the first time Queen City Silviculture did work for us. I would definitely have them back. They did a great job and Jason, who is the owner along with his wife Danielle, was very personable.

They left a huge pile of mulch in the driveway and this pile of logs. We plan to rent a splitter and get the hOUR Economy people to help split and stack.

Because I like lichen.

I’m a little concerned about the plantings in the native garden that will now get more sun. After some research, I think some will actually benefit from more sunlight. Others, we may have to move.

Aromatic Aster

Our first aromatic aster bloom of the year. It will bloom from now until the first frost. A real winner for us and the butterflies. Late last winter/early spring we saw dark-eyed junco birds eating the seed and taking the stems off with them presumably for nesting material. A good excuse not to tidy up the garden.