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 )

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.

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.

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.

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!

In the Garden

Iris blooming in front of the Soft Rush.

We’ve been harvesting strawberries for about 2 weeks now. They are big and beautiful and lacking in flavor. I’m guessing that is because we had so much rain while they were ripening. Our weather is perfect this week and the berries taste a little better.

Some of the rain came in the form of fierce storms. After once such storm we noticed that one of our big elms in the front yard is splitting in two! One estimate is $3400 to take it down. Ouch! We are now looking into the possibility of cabling it.

An opossum inside the tree crack.