Native Garden

I took these photos of our native garden last week.

from the sun room window

from the kitchen window

The redbud trees have grown so much this year. I can really tell by how much they take up the view out the window.

meadow petunia

orange coneflower

Kitchen Garden

The kitchen garden is starting to  fill in nicely. In the center of the above photo is our onion patch. We’ve started harvesting them one at a time as needed. When the green part is mostly brown we’ll bring them in and store them on a rack in the basement. They should last us through the end of the year. Along the fence on the left are nasturtiums and two little cucumber plants. They are far from producing so we’ll see if we get anything. We were a little late getting the seeds planted. Behind the onions are zinnias, borage and weeds.

This photo shows the day lilies, calendula, borage, purple cone flowers, pie pumpkin, beans, sage, oregano, dill and the inevitable weeds along the fence. It’s always hard to keep that fence line neat.

The cardboard and brick is there to kill the grass. This was a difficult area to cut. I hope to get a path down and some additional planting area. We don’t have a firm plan of what material we will use for the path.

The weather has been hot and muggy. We are getting frequent thunderstorms. Thankfully, nothing too heavy. The wet area along the road has finally dried up. It was very unusual that it was wet for so long – about 10 months. While so much rain was concerning, the one good thing was that most of the trees we’ve planted loved it. We’ve also notice an abundance of black walnut seedlings sprouting here and there. We are leaving those that are not too close to the house. Lots of people consider this a weed tree. Not me. It’s a native and will provide shade on the property. If they become a problem, we can always take them down. Dave didn’t mow the areas in the field that were too wet and we’ve noticed little maple tree sprouts. They are from the mature trees along the road and we are pretty sure they are silver maples. Again, maybe not a prized tree but they are free so we are hoping they do well.

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.

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.

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.

Where Have I Been?!?!

Well, it’s been a busy summer with four sets of visitors over a five week period. I have been taking photos so I’ll finally share them here. These first several are from mid July.

We stopped mowing a wet section of the field (on the left) last summer. The section on the right we stopped mowing this summer. It is interesting to see the difference.

By the front porch. The lone daylily looks pretty with the beebalm.

In front of the sun room.

We noticed a volunteer sassafras tree under the mahonia last year. The japanese beetles have been hard on it but it’s hanging in there.

Zinnias from the garden. I love this little vase our daughter made for us last year. I told her I wanted it to mimic tree bark and she delivered.

The orange coneflowers in our native garden started blooming in mid July and the flowers still look beautiful six weeks later. These photos are from July.

Dave bringing in the onion harvest on July 21.

These bitter melon are ridiculous. We could pick this many each week. I still have some in the freezer from last year. I gave some of these away. Dave took another large basket full to a coworker last week. I’ve frozen some and might freeze more. We learned from our daughter that you can take some of the bitter taste out by blanching them in water with a tablespoon of salt and baking soda.

These photos are from July 27.

I went to Polyface Farm on July 28 to purchase some meat and took the above and below photos on my way home. Polyface is in Swoope – just west of us..

Poor Len. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I hope we are keeping him comfortable with meds.

The only photo we got of our visitors. I’m on the right with my sister Melissa and my niece Mary.

Such a pleasant surprise to find these volunteers on August 11 at the base of the spruce tree between the house and the shed – an impatiens and a coleus.

I harvested these peppers on August 14.

I think it was back in July when I took some bricks and defined the beds around the plants in front of the shed. I think it turned out pretty nice.

Joe Pye Weed in the native garden on the morning of August 15.

Making our yummy tomato sauce on August 19.

I’m so sad that we have to take down this beautiful ash tree (on the right). The emerald ash borer has gotten to it so it can’t be saved.

$3000 poorer and down one beautiful shade tree. I will probably spend most of the day they take it down elsewhere.

Don’t like ending on a sad note, but here we are. I hope I keep up my posts with my photos as we enter the fall. It has been a very wet spring and summer. A little on the cool side, too. I’m hoping the valley will have some spectacular color this fall. Hard to believe it is almost September!