Category Archives: Bees


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Welcome Friends!

I have to start with a huge THANK YOU to everyone reading this. When I first started writing this blog, about two and a half years ago, I never imagined it would be what it has become. I figured I might have a few people who would read it regularly – friends and family that know and love me. For quite a while that was the case. Occasionally I would look at my stats and see that no one had viewed my blog for several days and I wondered if it was worth writing, then a friend or family member would mention how much they enjoyed reading it. That was all I needed to inspire me to keep writing.

Today I am amazed as I look at my blog stats and see that people from all over the world, 67 countries at last count, have visited my little piece of the internet. Since visiting my blog is often much like a visit to our home or our farm it occurred to me that many visitors probably have no idea where in the world we are at, so if you are curious I will give you some direction. I will start by saying that we are in Michigan which is a state in the USA.


If you are not familiar with Michigan you can find it easily on the map above. Michigan is the state that is shaped like a mitten, well at least part of Michigan is. Our state is unique in that it is made up of two peninsula’s. The lower peninsula is shaped like a mitten and the upper peninsula, you can see on the above map, is the piece of land to the North that extends Westward or to the left (its upper border is outlined in red). Interestingly, while lower Michigan is bordered by the U.S. States of Indiana and Ohio to the South and Upper Michigan is bordered by the U.S. State of Wisconsin to the West, Michigan’s two peninsulas do not share a common border. They are separated by the Straits of Mackinac, which are a series of narrow water ways that connect Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. To travel from one peninsula to the other, by car, you must cross the Mackinac Bridge, which is nearly 5 miles long and said to be the forth longest suspension bridge in the world. Because Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes and adjoining waterways there are also many islands that are part of our state.

To give you a better idea of where we are in Michigan I would hold up my right hand with the palm facing you and my fingers held tightly together (like a mitten) and point to an area near the bottom of my thumb. Michiganders are known for using their hand as a map. Our little piece of the earth is 7.6 acres of farm land in a rural area North East of  Detroit and South West of Port Huron. Some of it is wooded and some of it is open field. We put in a pond as a source of fresh water in 2012, but have yet to build a house on the property.

Like much of the U.S. this winter has been brutally cold here in Michigan, but I thought today I would invite you to take a walk with me. Don’t worry we won’t have to put on an extra 10 lbs. of gear to survive the freezing temperatures and trudge through the snow, because this part of the post I actually started writing last summer.

During the warm seasons, spring after the snow melts, summer, and fall until the snow gets too deep, I like to walk our back field. We keep a path cut around the outside of the field and two paths that cut across the middle. We allow the rest of the field to grow wild during the summer and we mow it each fall. It’s interesting that each year different plants seem to dominate the field. This field, which many people would view as a field full of weeds, we see as a field full of wild flowers. Not only does it provide habitat and food for countless bunnies, birds, rodents, toads and insects, the deer graze it regularly, and it is home to many plants that our bees love to forage.

I usually start my walks on the East side of the property, heading North and off to our left you will notice a large fenced in area. This is our main garden, where we grow much of our own produce in the summer. We also have 5 apple trees growing within this area and we moved our entire blueberry patch in here as well. It didn’t take us long to learn that fencing is the best way to protect our vegetation from deer.

As we walk toward the field I will look for deer grazing. This will be our best chance to see deer because Scout and Trooper will undoubtedly be with us and will frighten off any deer. The boys have been taught that they can only chase the deer as far as our property line and it has become a game for Trooper. I suspect if the deer ever decided to stay and play he would have a ball with them…but they don’t.

We may see one or two, we may see a mother with her baby(s) or we may see 20 or more deer grazing in the field. On a rare occasion we might witness a scene that feels like something out of a Disney movie. Like this red winged black bird that rides on the back or head of this deer.


One day when Trooper was walking with me he scared the deer off. The blackbird that had been sitting on the back of the deer began diving at Troopers back, obvious angry at him. The bird never touched Trooper and because the bird was diving at his back he was oblivious to it and bird eventually flew off.


While the deer are beautiful to watch, are seemingly harmless and our guests get very excited to see them, we have come to see them as a nuisance.  We have invested much money, time and energy to protect our crops against deer. It seems that deer will eat or at least taste anything … except garlic.

When we first bought the farm and we asked a neighbor how he kept the deer from eating his garden he said “plant enough for you and plant enough for the deer.” While his advice sounded good in theory, we quickly learned that it doesn’t work. The deer apparently did not understand the concept; they would walk through the pumpkin patch and rather than eat just one or two whole pumpkins they would take a few bites out of many pumpkins. Thus we concluded that the best way to protect our plants, including young trees, is adequate fencing.


Beyond the main garden the rest of our property is open fieled. The bright yellow flowers that are blanketing the field at this time are Bird’s Foot Trefoil. The first year we had the farm I notice one small patch of this plant growing in the field. It’s brilliant flowers caught my attention so I did some research to find what it was. Each year I have noticed more and more Trefoil. I suspect that as we cut the field in the fall we are scattering it’s seeds throughout the field. Trefoil is a legume that is used for animal forage, cut for hay, or planted to prevent soil erosion. One thing we have discovered, that is not mentioned in this USDA fact sheet, is that honey bees like it. This in itself is enough for me to appreciate this plant.

The small white flowers tinged with pink are White Clover.  This is another plant that we highly value as the honey bees feed heavily on the blossoms. While we did not plant the clover in the back field, we have planted a mix of clover and grass seed in areas that we have landscaped. Clover is a nice addition to lawn areas as it can be mowed and it will grow back, and even blossom, repeatedly throughout the summer. It is also nice to walk on barefoot, and we have noticed that it seems to crowd out other unwanted plants like thistle.


Young Spruce trees line the East and North sides of our property. We began planting these in our second year here. We purchase the 12″ to 15″ seedlings and keep them in a nursery area for one or more seasons to give them time to grow and develop roots and branches, then we transplant them around the farm. Most of these were planted in 2012.


Canadian Thistle grows sporadically throughout the field and other places on the farm. We mostly consider this plant a menace despite the pretty purple flowers that also have a lovely fragrance, their only saving grace is in the fact that the honey bees like them.


This white flower with feathery leaves is Yarrow . I have noticed Yarrow growing in various areas on the farm over the past few years but this past year was the first time I noticed it in the back field. According to the above article yarrow is both a culinary and medicinal plant. I not sure why I have not harvested any yet.

IMG_2937In the photo above the Timothy Hay is somewhat camouflaged amongst the other greenery, but if you look toward the top of the photo just left of center you can see Timothy’s long thin seed heads that are a lighter green. Small patches of Timothy are scattered throughout  the field and each year I notice a little more. As we walk past the Timothy I will likely pull on one of the seed heads and as I do the seed head along with the top portion of the stem will slide out of the lower part of the stem. I will put the stem in my mouth and you will no doubt think the I am a hick. I will then pull a second one and offer it to you explaining that Timothy is the best weed for chewing. The end of the inner stem is soft and juicy and even a bit sweet. I lightly chew the end for a while before discarding it later along the way.


Along the West side of the field is a line of trees that runs the full length of the property and separates our property from the neighbors next to us. The tree line is composed of mature trees, mostly Oak, Maple, Ash, and Hickory, along with various bushes and shrubs and vines that makeup the undergrowth. Unfortunately, the Ash trees in Michigan have fallen prey to, and are being killed off by the Emerald Ash Borer, thus we have cut down nearly all of the dead Ash trees to use for firewood.  As we cut trees down we are also planting new trees. In the above photo you can see the large dead Ash tree to the right and the young Maple that we planted a couple years back in the center foreground. You may also spot some Timothy growing there. Yep, it’s okay to pull one to chew. I knew you would find them as irresistible as I do. 😉


As we circle back around we are now at the West end of the main garden. This is where we moved our Blue Berry Patch to. Having been in a different location for several years we weren’t sure how well the bushes would adapt to this new environment. They have seemed to do well and while we no longer worry about the deer eating them since they are in the fenced area, we still have to protect the fruit from birds, thus the netting over them.

Well, my friend, thank you for spending this time with me. I hope you enjoyed our walk in the field. If you aren’t ready to leave feel free to hang around and enjoy some more of our farm. You can do so by clicking on the following links.

and if you would like to return you can always do so by following my blog. Please feel free to leave your questions and comments below as two sided conversations are much more fun.





Our Homemade Halloween Costumes

In the 17 years we have been together my husband and I have never been to a Halloween costume party before.  A few weeks ago we received a flyer in telling us that our community was having a Halloween party with food, games, and prizes for the best costume. I set the flyer aside and didn’t think much about it until a few days later when my husband, who had been weeding the strawberry patch all day, told me that he knew what he was going to dress up as for the party.

When he shared his idea with me I thought that it was very clever and would be a lot of fun. I wasn’t surprised that he came up with this cute idea because when you spend all day on your hands and knees pulling weeds you really do have a lot of time to think. Pulling weeds is a very mindless task. I am glad he didn’t want me to guess what he was planning because even though I was certain it would be farming related and that it wasn’t going to cost much, if anything, I would never have thought of this (unless maybe I had spend all day on my hands and knees pulling weeds).

He told me he was going to be a Boo Keeper – think Bee Keeper + Ghost Buster. “I’ll wear my bee suit and carry a net and have little ghosts flying around me and some in the net,” he said. My wheels started turning and in my mind I already had the little Kleenex ghosts made.

About a week later my husband asked what I was going to dress up like for the party. I was just thinking of putting together a scare crow costume out of some of the clothes I have on hand. “You could be a Boo Keeper too he offered, or how about the Queen Boo.” Okay, I liked the idea of Queen Boo. We created both of our costumes mostly with things we had on hand. So here is what we did.

I started with making little ghosts (boo’s). IMG_3355

We decided to make them bee-like so I first used markers to put some black and yellow stripes on them. When I went to my craft supplies I discovered that I had some Styrofoam balls that were the perfect size for the head. If I did not have the Styrofoam balls I would have just balled up a piece of newspaper. I centered the Styrofoam ball on the Kleenex then gather the Kleenex around the ball and tied it with thread. I think I learned to make these little ghosts when I was in grade school. I left the thread long enough that I could thread it through a needled and attach it to the costume.

I then cut some wings out of tissue paper and glued them on.


Our little ghost bees became known as boo BEES. Warning: Please be careful how you pronounce that lest you get the wrong idea.

Next I made my Queen Boo wings. My husband had a spool of wire, so I used the wire to form a frame for the wings. After forming the first wing I twisted the wire around itself then made the second wing and again twisted the wire together in the center. I covered the twisted ends of the wire with duck tape so I would not get poked or scratched with the ends of the wire.

I glued one wing to a full size piece of tissue paper. When the glue was dry I glued a second piece of tissue paper to the other side of that wing. When the second side was dry I cut the tissue paper in the shape of the wing leaving about 1/2 inch overhang. I repeated the process with the second wing.



My crown was made of poster board. I wanted it to have a honey comb pattern. To make the honeycomb pattern I decided I could use a wax foundation that we use in the beehives. The bees use these foundation as a base for building their comb. Since the poster board was too thick I decided to use printer paper the make the honey comb design. I placed the printer paper on the wax foundation then colored over it with a brown crayon.

I then  removed the paper from the foundation and colored over the brown honeycomb with a yellowish crayon to give it a honey-like color. I glued the printer paper onto the poster board strip then waited for the glue to dry before cutting out the crown points. I fitted the crown to my head and used tape to hold it’s circular shape.

My husband suggested using glitter on the crown to give it some glitz, but I don’t do glitter. In my personal opinion glitter is an invasive species. Once glitter is introduced into an environment it will spread like wildfire and it seems you will spend the rest of your life trying to get rid of it.

I wore a black turtle neck and black leggings with an oversized white t-shirt that I picked up at Joann Fabrics for $3.00. My husband wore a pair of Tyvek coveralls that he had on hand, then put his bee suit over top. I attached some of the boo BEES to his suit and net and attached some of them to my t-shirt as well. (It’s the worker boo’s job to protect the queen.)

I put on some white face paint to look more ghost-like and my husband picked up some Bit-O-Honey candies for me to pass out.


Here we are at the party on Friday evening.


Our neighbor, Maggie, won first place for her wonderful witch costume. My husband won second place a $25 gift certificate and, to my surprise, I one third place a $25 gift certificate as well.

I love that we were able to put a Halloween spin on something that we do in our daily life and were able to create the costumes at little expense. The only money we actually spent on these costumes was the $3 for my t-shirt and a few $ for the Bit-O-Honey candies.

We enjoyed a fun time with some of our neighbors but had to excuse ourselves as darkness fell and duty called. Once out of public eye the Boo Keeper mysteriously morphed into Chicken Farmer and rushed off to close the chickens in the coop where they would be protected from any dangers that were lurking in the darkness.

Note: This is  not an advertisement but years ago I discovered that I can often find t-shirts on sale for $3.00 or less at Joann Fabric. At that price it was worth stocking up so when the kids were in school I would keep a supply of these shirts in various colors. When the kids would come home from school needing a special color shirt for a school activity or project I usually had what they needed. These shirts are designed to be used for craft projects such as tie dye, painting, iron-on, cross stitch and more but are also suitable for wearing just as a regular t-shirt. I in fact have a few in my wardrobe.

I would love to hear your creative ideas for Halloween costumes. Have you ever added a ghostly or funny twist to something you do everyday? Have you made a clever costume out of things you have on hand? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.  Then to add insult to injury the crows  decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.


He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.


I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.


I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good. The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.


When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid – the hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two.

Mystery Solved -Thank You Lisa!

Our Mystery Plant is a Mountain Mint. plant attracted my attention when I saw our honey bees heavily foraging in it. We are in a wildflower transition period where the blossoms on the Sweet Clover and Canadian Thistle are waning and the Golden Rod is just beginning to open. It seems the bees are foraging mostly on white clover which we have much of but we were happy to find something else that they loved.


My husband and I searched all of our plant reference books and several online data bases and were unable to identify this plant. The plant had grown up in an area where we had planted a wild flower seed mix several years ago. So I decided to go to what I assumed was the source. The wild flower seed mix we planted was from American Meadows . We first search their website and were unable to find any plant that resembled our mystery plant. I then decided to contact the company. I used the contact form on their website and included a picture of the plant I was trying to I.D. This was on Sunday. I received an automated reply that day saying they received my message and would try to respond within 48 hours.

My husband and I continued to search online wildflower data bases to no avail and on Monday I received an email from Lisa at American Meadows. She thought the plant in the photo was Yarrow. I replied immediately. At first glance the plant may look like Yarrow, but we also have Yarrow growing on the farm and there are several differences in the two plants. The flowers are different, but more noticeable is the difference in the leaf structure and I have never seen the bees visit Yarrow.

I sent Lisa a second photo of our mystery plant which showed the leaves more clearly. Lisa replied that same day. From this picture she could now see that the plant was not Yarrow. She could not identify the plant but if I could send a close up of the flowers she would “call in the troops” to help find our answer. On Wednesday I sent a couple more photos, described the light scent of the flowers and told her we lived in South-East Michigan.

Later that day I was surprised and excited to receive Lisa’s email. It read: “Success!

The plant is Mountain Mint, probably Pycnanthemum virginianum, which is the common species in Michigan. There is a related species that is much less common, called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. The main difference is that P. virginianum has pubescent stems, whereas the stems of P. tenuifolium are glabrous (i.e., not hairy). I can’t see the stems well enough on your photos to tell whether the stems are pubescent or not.”

Lisa said her source of this information was a botanist here in Michigan.

I did an internet search and found photos of Mountain Mint and discovered that it was indeed what we had. I at first believed it was Pycnanthemum virginianum, the more common species. On Thursday after I read Lisa’s message a second time I began to question that. I didn’t remember this plant having hairy stems. On my next trip to the farm I confirmed this. The stems of our Mountain Mint are smooth. We have the less common of the two, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. Common names for this plant are Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint,  Common Horsemint, and Slender Mountain Mint. My husband and I could not be more thrilled than to have this mystery solved. We will encourage this plant to spread and perhaps even propagate it.

This might go without saying but in a day and age where good customer service is hard to find I have to say that we greatly appreciate the help that we received from Lisa at American Meadows. She certainly could have determined that our plant was not something that came in the seeds we received from them an left us on our own. Instead she went the extra mile to help us solve the mystery. At this time we do not have a need to purchase wild flower seed but if we ever do we will return to American Meadows and perhaps if you decided to purchase wild flower seed you will consider them as well.



Pond Pictures – Relax and Enjoy

I know what it’s like, too often life gets crazy and busy and we just don’t have time to enjoy the simple beauty that nature has to offer. I try to take a least a few minutes each day to just walk and observe our farm. Today I invite you to join me for some views of our pond. If you were with me these are some of the things I would point out to you.

IMG_2876The honey bees have discovered that the lavender is blossoming. Honey bees and bumble bees love lavender.


My husband and I agree that dragon flies are the coolest insects. We see them in various shapes and sizes and many amazingly beautiful colors. After reading more about dragon flies on this website I’m not surprised at our fascination with them.


This website about dragon flies mating was also very interesting, but definitely left me with questions. My questions were mainly who studied this? and how did they study this?


The dragon flies are not only fascinating to watch, they seem friendly, at times, as they rest on a finger or hitch a ride on a shoulder. They don’t bite or sting and they apparently dine on a lot of less desirable insects.


The above photo, which my husband and I had been referring to as a dragon fly, is actually a damsel fly. Closely related to the dragon fly the damsel flies are also welcomed and admired on our farm.


The honey bees are drinking from the pond. This one is coming in for a landing.


Honey bees are our second favorite insect. We have put a lot of money, time and effort into beekeeping and we are happy to know that our bees have a clean water source.


This year the bees are choosing to drink from an area on the edge of the pond, where we placed rocks last fall. In past years I have seen honey bees drinking on the beach and other areas along the shore.IMG_2901

Turtles, if you were with me you would see more. We have turtles of various sizes and ages who live in the pond, and I saw at least three of them on this day. Apparently turtles are camera shy because as soon as they saw me point the camera in their direction they would submerge and swim away.

IMG_2911Not at all camera shy, this handsome frog was the perfect model. No need to turn him into a prince; we love this little bug eater just the way he is.

This is but a glimpse of the things we would see and the things we would talk about as we spent some time enjoying the beauty of our pond. Thanks for taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy.