Our first dandelions have started to blossom so I thought it would be a good time to tell you about a pollinator conservation campaign that I recently learned about. It’s called No Mow May. According to Bee City USA “No Mow May is a conservation initiative first popularized by Plantlife, an organization based in the United Kingdom, but which is gaining traction across North America. The goal of No Mow May is to allow grass to grow unmown for the month of May, creating habitat and forage for early season pollinators. This is particularly important in urban areas where floral resources are often limited.” (Click link to learn more.)
Now I’m guessing that there are a whole range of responses to this – from people who would love any excuse to not have to mow the lawn for a whole month and those who will be happy not to spend the money on gas for the lawn mower, to those who would never consider not having the perfectly groomed lawn. Even if you are in the latter group the Bee City article is worth reading. It offers alternative ways to support pollinators such as planting flowering lawns (I love this idea), planting flowering trees and bushes or planting patches of native wildflowers. It also tells of a study done in Massachusetts that found that mowing every other week seemed to be as beneficial, if not more, than mowing every three weeks. That’s good news for those who, like me, think that letting the grass grow for a whole month is a bit too extreme – every other week’s not that bad.
Being a beekeeper, people often mention to me their concern about the decline of bees. However, they often don’t realize that honeybees are not the only pollinators that are in jeopardy. The difference is that honeybees are the pollinator that we humans attempt to manage. It’s not necessary to be a beekeeper to promote the wellbeing of pollinators. Simply creating a pollinator friendly environment will help.
It’s hard to believe April is almost over already. This post contains some of the things that have happened in the past two weeks.
After a week at the farm my husband decided it was time for the chicks to learn what farm life is all about. He opened up just one side of their pen so they could roam and learn to forage. It is amazing how they instinctually know how to find bugs and worms and grubs. Some breeds are said to be better at foraging than others. It’s a trait that we look for when choosing what breed(s) of chickens to raise.
It didn’t take long for them to spread out and begin scratching and pecking. They didn’t wander too far from their pen, or the coop and they mostly stayed close together or split into two smaller group.
They also learned quickly (within one day) how to find their way back into the coop which makes closing up the coop at night very easy.
They have been very entertaining to watch (Chicken TV). It’s always funny to see when one finds a big grub or worm and the rest of the flock begin chasing it to try to steal it away. At night they all huddle together in one or two of the nest boxes. It’s a tight fit but they seem to like it that way.
This year there was also a new star in the show. It was quite comical watching Ranger trying to wrangle those young chicks. I’m not sure what he was trying to do with them, and I don’t think he knew either. He would follow them trying to keep them all together as if herding them (he never tried to hurt them). If they went into the coop through the small chicken door, he would follow them in and as they exited through the big door, he was right behind them. If one or more of the chicks went under the coop, where he could not go, (it sits about 6 inches above the ground) we would hear BaROOOO. Again, I’m not sure of his intention. Was he trying to tell us that a chick was where it shouldn’t be or was he telling the chick to come out of there? I’ve not yet become fluent in beagle. LOL!
Our bees came last Saturday. This year we decided to try raising Carniolan bees, a breed we have not raised before. I didn’t go with my husband to pick up the bees or to the farm to hive them, so some of these pictures are from a couple years ago. We ordered three 3# packages like the ones in the picture below.
Most of the bees that you see in these clusters are worker bees and a few are drones. In the middle of the cluster is a small separate cage like the one in the photo below. Inside the cage is the queen bee and a couple of attendant worker bees whose job it is to feed and care for the queen.
Once the bees are in the hive my husband uses a nail to put a hole in the queen candy. That is the white stuff that you see in the end of the queen cage. He then places the queen cage in the hive. Over the next few days some worker bees will eat a hole in the queen candy that is big enough for the queen to get out of the cage. The reason for leaving the queen in the cage is that the bees will stay where the queen is and there is less chance that the colony will abscond from the hive.
This year rather than feed sugar water my husband had some frames of honey that he had saved from last year’s hives. Each new hive was started out with a couple of frames full of honey for food.
It was Wednesday before the weather warmed up enough for the bees to come out of the hive.
These pictures (above and below) were taken on Thursday.
Today, Friday, my husband opened the hives to be sure the queens were out of their cages. In two of the hives the queen was out, and all was well. In the third hive the queen was still in the cage and many of the workers were still trying to free her. She was alive so he opened the queen cage and released her into the hive.
We began seeing our first blossoms this week.
These mini daffodils are always the first to open.
Some of the larger daffodils have begun to open as well.
The chives are not blossoming yet, but I could begin harvesting them any time.
These primroses have begun to blossom – I do hope the chickens leave them alone.
I spotted this crocus in bloom. Last year we had more crocuses, but this is the only one I have seen so far.
The forsythias are taking their time but one bush has a few flowers that opened this week.
One of the things I have have been doing is sorting through my clothes and getting rid of some that, for various reasons, I no longer wear. I came across a pair of white denim capris that I haven’t worn in sometime because they had some stains on them. They still fit and were in good condition, so I decided to tie dye them make them new again.
I’m quite happy with the way they turned out. Quite stylish.
Now that you know my, um, excuses for not blogging much this year (the dog ate my blog –Blame It on the Dog) let me catch you up on some of the things that I’ve been up to in 2022.
Daily Yoga – The day after Christmas I began doing yoga. I have never done yoga before but have been told about its benefits and encouraged to try it by two of my sisters and one of my daughters. Since I was no longer experiencing as much pain form the pinched nerve, I decided that it was time to start trying to heal this condition. In order to do so I figured some type of exercise is necessary. I decided to start this 30-day yoga journey entitled breath because for the past two years I have been practicing deep breathing and encouraging others to “breathe deep” as well.
Now don’t get the wrong idea. I am nowhere near good at this. I am not graceful. I am awkward at best. I am getting better but it’s not pretty. (That is why I only do it when I am home alone.)
I have been feeling and seeing some of the benefits. I can tell that I am getting stronger and increasing my balance. I also feel good physically and I seem to have more focus after doing it. Once I finished the first 30-day program I started over again and I’m about to finish it a second time. I plan on repeating it again in March.
If you’ve ever considered learning yoga I would encourage you to do it. I would also recommend this program as a starting point.
Sewing Projects– I have completed two sewing projects. The first was this sweatshirt dress made with plush fleece. I did adjust the pattern to make it a turtleneck. This top is so comfortable and warm; I wear it quite often.
(I’m no model so this is what I do when my husband tells me to pose. LOL)
The second is this sweater. I’m not sure what the fabric would be called, but it is a soft knit with silvery threads intertwined to give it the shimmery look.
I have a third project started but it’s way different from anything I have done before. I am learning to work with interfacing and make buttonholes, so this is taking a while.
Garden Planning – We are really looking forward to spring. We have ordered and received all of our seeds for this year’s garden. I found it interesting that we did not receive tons of seed catalogues in the mail this year. (I think we received one.) I wonder if we have been removed from the mailing lists because we hadn’t ordered for several years, or are companies no longer using catalogues as a means of marketing? Maybe some of both?
After last year’s gardening disaster (too much rain) we decided we need to do something different this year. We will be adding some raised beds. We are in the planning stage, and I’ll write more about it once we begin working on them.
Bees – We lost both hives again this year and just can’t explain why. There were just a few dead bees in the bottom of both hives. The rest were just gone. This is an unexplained phenomenon referred to as colony collapse disorder. We did harvest about 30 lbs. of honey that was left in the hives so at least it wasn’t a total loss.
We have ordered three bee packages for this year. They are scheduled to arrive on April 15. The bees we are getting this year are a different breed than the ones we have had in the past, so that gives us a little more hope for their survival.
Chicks and Chickens – Sunday as I looked at the weather forecast, I realized that the weather this week would be right for tapping maple trees. With above freezing daytime temps and below freezing nighttime temps that sap should begin to flow. We are not tapping trees this year, but I reminded my husband that in past years it seemed like at the same time we tapped maple trees the chickens began to lay more eggs. Monday my husband collected 6 eggs and Tuesday five. For about the past two months we had been averaging only between two and three eggs a day. An interesting correlation between sap season and egg laying.
We are going to add about 12 chicks to our flock this year. I will share chick pictures when we get them. 🙂
New Chair – Last week we finally went shopping for a new desk chair. this is the one I selected.
While it doesn’t actually have bells and whistles, it does have lumbar support, height adjustment, arm rests that adjust up and down and forward and backward, and the seat back reclines. This makes sitting at my desk much more comfortable. It is called a gaming chair so as I like to say, “game on!”
There are three bushes in a row. The two on the ends have the deep red blossoms. The one is the middle has light pink/white blossoms.
This year we have an interesting phenomenon. One of the end bushes has both the red blossoms and the pink blossoms. This has never happened before.
The only explanation I can come up with is that these bushes drop seeds every year and small plants sprout each summer. I end up pulling them so I don’t know how long it would take for one to mature. Perhaps a seed from the pink bush grew up amongst the red bush and has become mature enough to produce flowers. So this is actually two bushes that have commingled.
Many of the plants are suffering from too much rain. The oregano leaves are turning yellow and orange. I have been tempted to cut them way down.
But the bees are enjoying the flowers
as are the butterflies, so I will leave them until they are done blossoming.
Dragonflies are not really pollinators but I do love having them around, especially since they eat things like gnats and MOSQUITOS. (Bring on the dragonflies!!!) This one was resting on an Agastache Kudos Mandarin plant, AKA Hummingbird Mint, that we planted this year.
The honey bees were foraging in the anise hyssop.
This patch of wild flowers attracts a lot of pollinators.
Look closely – how many bees do you see on the Mountain Mint in this photo? I see at least 3.
How about this one? (two?)
Honey bees aren’t the only pollinators enjoying these plants. The blue mud dauber wasps like them as well. This is the first year I have seen this type of wasp.
Honey bees like the cone flowers,
and I even spotted some foraging the purple loosestrife. That is something that we haven’t seen in the past.
It took a while but this beauty finally posed for a picture on a marshmallow plant.
Telling it to “hold still” did absolutely no good so I just had to be patient. I think this butterfly is called a Red Spotted Purple.
When I did my mushroom post I had forgot about these puff ball mushrooms that grow every year on the hill where we someday hope to build a root cellar. They are well hidden beneath other weeds that grow up around them so we usually don’t even know they are there until late fall or winter when all the foliage dies. By that time they are just large dust balls.
When I first noticed these, a week or so ago, they were bright white. I didn’t have my camera with me at that time and as you can see they have since turned various shades of brown.
Each of these fungi is between 12 and 20 inches across.
Breakfast With the Chickens
Sunday morning I went to open up the chicken coop. When I do this my routine is to first fill their water dish. I then spread some chicken scratch on the ground in piles around the chicken yard, then I fill their feed dish before I open the coop to let them out. I do this because I know that the first thing they want to do when they come out is eat (except the rooster but we won’t talk about what he wants). If I were to let them out first I would likely have the whole flock following me to the feed can, then I would be tripping over them as I tried to the scatter scratch.
As I was filling their feed dish I noticed a deer approaching the chicken yard. She noticed me as well and we stopped for a minute and stared at each other. I then finished what I was doing while she moseyed over to the pile of chicken scratch that was about twenty feet from the coop and began eating. I opened up the coop and the chickens scattered around the area some of them joining her.
I decided to get my camera to see if I could get a picture of this breakfast club. It was still pretty dark in the chicken yard as it is in a grove of large hickory trees so i wasn’t sure how the picture would turn out.
It wasn’t until I got home and viewed the photo on my computer that I realized
that I had experienced an alien encounter. (Where’s Will Smith when you need him???)
Even when she got out in the light her eyes glowed.
Meanwhile the chickens went on their way,
cluelessly searching for worms or grasshoppers and enjoying their worry-free life.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you have a great week!
We got some light rain yesterday and there is more in the forecast for tomorrow. Boy is that a good thing. Our garden is planted but we haven’t had much rain so we’ve been watering plants to keep them alive.
On Saturday, May 15 my husband put the pump in the pond so we could begin filling the tanks that we use for irrigation.
It may or may not have been my turn to put the pump in the pond but here’s how that works each year.
My Husband: “It’s your turn to put the pump in the pond.”
Me: “Ok as soon as we have a couple of consecutive days of 80 degree F (26.6 C) weather for the water to warm up I’ll do it.”
My Husband: Puts the pump in the pond when temperatures are still in the 60’s or 70’s F.
OR some Years it goes like this
My Husband: “It’s your turn to put the pump in the pond.”
Me: No honey. Last year was my turn. I know you did it but it’s still your turn this year.
My Husband: Puts the pump in the pond.
I didn’t get any pictures of the planting or the garden as of yet but I’ll tell you what we have planted. Potatoes, onions and cabbage were plated first and are all doing well at this point. Tomatoes, hot peppers, sweet peppers, eggplant, melon, cucumbers and basil were planted as seedlings or young plants. Beets, carrots, Swiss chard, green beans, three types of squash, dill, sweet corn, pumpkins, sunflowers, and broom corn were planted as seed. ** My husband brought home a package of okra seed yesterday and we are going to plant some. We have never grown okra before and I have only eaten it a few times but we decided to give it a try.
While it feels good to have the garden planted we realize the work has only just begun.
Now for other farm happenings:
This spring we doubled the area that we have fenced in the back field. It’s an area where we have apple trees, our blueberry patch and our strawberry patch. It is now known as the puppy playground. It’s over 52,000 square feet where Ranger can safely run off-leash and sniff ’til his heart’s content.
As always the prayer garden is a work in progress.
We decided this year to add mulch to dress it up and for weed control. I started by weeding then edging.
Then we began adding the mulch.
It’s nearly done and I hope to have it finished by this weekend.
Mean while we have watched the transition from mostly yellow blossoms to lots of purple and some pink blossoms.
Chicken Coop Construction
We are in the process of building a new home for the chickens. It’s a slow process because it gets worked on in between other things that need to be done. I don’t have any photos yet but as we get further along I’ll share some of the process. Hopefully by the end of June our chickens will be in their new home.
Our bees arrived as scheduled on May 13. It was a lovely day for hiving bees and my husband had the two new hives set up before noon.
My husband and I agree – it’s nice to have bees on the farm again.
It seems like I’ve spent a lot of time mowing grass this spring. According to the mower it’s been over 18 hours. The task has been made easier by this new mower we purchased last month.
When the local greenhouses opened in the beginning of May we stopped by a new one just down the road to purchase flowers for our hanging baskets and porch pots. Their prices were a little higher than the one we usually shop at but we wanted to support this new local business.
They did have a nice selection.
Thanks to my husband’s diligence in taking them inside on the frosty nights and making sure they have enough water each day they are all thriving.
The one above has a volunteer sunflower growing in it. Not sure how it got there but I see it as a gift.
It’s not been all work though.
We’ve been blessed to have a couple visits from the grandkids (and their parents).
And we’re looking forward to many more of these.
Thanks for visiting. Do you have a garden planted?