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Snowy Landscapes

January 29th, 2009

What a snowfall we got the other day.  Our thoughts are with all those folks struggling to get their lives back together after the ice storms this week.  Thankfully we only received the white stuff- about 6-8 inches worth.    The kids were out of school for a couple of days, and we enjoyed a chance to spend some time together.     

The Shiba Inu loves to run around in the snow, and has a coat so thick he would be just fine outside all the time.    He’s running through the garden here and likes to look for rabbits and moles. 

Shiba Inu in winter

Speaking of the garden, it’s pretty sad looking.  I’m embarrassed to show how we’ve barely cleaned up last year’s growth.  The next warm spell we get I’m going to head out and clean it up, and topdress the rows with leaves.  It’s time… I’m already imagining tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, peas…

Garden bare in winter

I keep telling myself spring isn’t far off, especially while plowing the gravel drive.  I took half the snow off, but it’s still a few inches deep.  I don’t want to plow too closely or I would scrape away the packed gravel base.  We park one of the cars near the road during snowstorms because it doesn’t drive very well down and up the snow-covered slope.  Hopefully some of this will melt off today.

Plowing snow on gravel drive

But I just love how the landscape looks when covered in snow.  Maybe it even keeps the bees a little warmer?  Who knows, but in about a month it will be time for the queen bee to start producing a lot more baby bees.  Oh, if you’re wondering- the beehives are black looking because I wrapped them with black-painted insulation for warmth. 

Some people debate whether you should wrap hives in winter in the midwest.  Some believe it makes them too warm and hence they could be more active and eat more their winter stores of honey.  I like to think it helps them stay warmer, using less of their own metabolic energy to stay warm comparatively, and hence eating less of their stored honey over time.  I’m sure there are a lot more opinions and research out there… I’m a new beekeeper and still learning.  But this winter has been colder than normal for us, and I’m glad I wrapped them up. Hopefully they make it to late winter when I’ll start feeding and the cycle will begin again.

Winter landscape and bee hives

Winter Mysteries and Bee Shadows

January 25th, 2009

Looks like snow in the forecast for tonight or tomorrow…  If it’s going to be winter, I enjoy having some of that white stuff around- especially if the alternative is ice or freezing rain.   Late one afternoon as I walked along the pond dam the Little Bluestem just stood out beautifully against the background of the pond.  Snow flurries in the afternoon covered the ice briefly.

Little Bluestem and snow on pond

The next day was warm enough that the sun begain melting the snow.   I found the footprints of an animal that crossed the ice- they look like coyote or fox tracks, but I don’t really know.   Neat to see however.  I also have to wonder how the fish are doing under the ice?  Maybe if it stays cold enough we could even try ice fishing this year.

Footprints on the ice at Fox Haven

The next day the sun melted the snow off the ice to reveal a marvelous scene.  The thawing and freezing of the ice had created some of the most beautiful designs!  It almost looks like stained glass or something created by man… but only God and nature creates such beautiful scenes as this. 

 Designs in the Ice

It was even warm enough one day for the bees to fly around.  It was weeks since I had seen them, and I always worry that they are getting enough to eat through winter.  Watching them buzz all around the outside of the hive was pretty neat. 

 Bees flying about in January

I had to zoom in on one part of that picture above- I love how that one bee’s shadow is reflected on the white landing board!  Here’s a close-up-

Bee and Shadow © Fox Haven Media 2009

Is that cool or what?  I liked it so much that I cropped just the bee’s shadow and added it to the image rotation of the little pictures by the quotes above.  With cold nights and warming days, we could think about tapping a few maple trees for syrup.  That’s a project for another year, however, and for now we’ll just enjoy getting things done around the house.  I actually cleaned off that workbench in the barn yesterday with a nice fire in the woodstove- first time in several years.  With any luck, this mad streak of productivity will continue for a few months into spring.   Goodness knows it’s time to think about what’s going in the garden this year.

Doing Nothing Much

January 3rd, 2009

A couple of warm days means a chance to get a lot accomplished.  Even the bees took some time to stretch their wings, and I was glad to see them.  They had not been out for at least 3-4 weeks after the last cold stretch, and they need a chance on warm days to relieve themselves.  And there’s bound to be a lot of new young bees that have emerged.  They look soft and fuzzy, and fly around the outside of the hive to orient themselves.  Only a couple of months to go bees… hang in there!

Bees emerging on a warm winter day

Of course with the heavy rain last week we had to clean up a few areas too.  The gravel driveway tends to wash out during the heaviest rain.  Last year I added two types of gravel on top of the old stuff, and worked hard to pack it level- it has done fine for one side of our dip, but this side still washed out.   The rain was some of the heaviest I’ve seen in the last few years.

 Gravel washout from heavy rain

But I was happy to see the gravel washed straight down the driveway instead of off the side of the driveway.   After using the big rake on the back of the tractor, we all grabbed a few hand rakes to finish it up, and it’s good as new.  We’ve thought about having asphalt put in someday, but those thoughts quickly fade as we remember the driveway’s almost 1/4 mile long.  Realistically the gravel is so much better when the ice comes in winter.  

More rain expected for tonight, but hopefully not too much.  I’m still looking for our first real snowstorm… in the meantime we we’ve been doing various chores including cleaning up a lot of the house, the holiday ornaments, taking the tree down and out and splitting a bunch of older oak rounds for firewood.  With luck we’ll have just enough to get through winter. 

After all the holiday excitement, the boy says we’ve been doing “nothing much” the last few days.  Somehow I’ve really enjoyed doing nothing much.  Oh, except eating of course.  We’ve been doing far too much of that!  This week it’s back to school and back to the routine.  If we have another warm day it will be time to whip the garden into shape.  We’re already thinking of what to plant…

 

Hints of Autumn Color

October 11th, 2008

The green leaves of summer are finally giving way to yellows and reds.  In our area the peak of Autumn color is usually the third or fourth week of October.  It’s such an enchanting time that we often wish it would last longer.  But the next few weeks will be a lot of fun.  I think I see a leaf pile in our future… 

 Early fall color in Missouri

The bees are still hard at work gathering whatever they can.  The roses have come into full bloom once again, and the bees have found their pollen.

 Pink rose and honeybee

And weekends!  It’s not enough that we have work to do outside, here in Missouri football fever has gripped the state as we watch our Mizzou Tigers play.   But that’s not until this evening, so for now it’s time to head outside and get a little more work done.  Have a great weekend.

Flowers, Berries and Bees

September 12th, 2008

The autumn season is just around the corner, and the fall honeyflow for the bees is in full swing.  Many seasonal flowers are blooming and very abundant due to all the rainfall.  I have left the bees alone for the past few weeks, and hopefully they are producing lots of honey for their winter stores. 

Sedum flowers are tiny, but the bees are covering these plants throughout the daylight hours.  Bees are fascinating insectsDid you know it takes over 2 million trips to flowers to make just 1 pound of honey?  Each worker bee lives about 6 weeks, and during that time each worker will make about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.  Makes me appreciate honey all the more!

Bees love Sedum flowers!

I left a large patch of these “weeds” near the pond dam, and the bees seem to love them.  I don’t know what they are called, but there’s probably a quarter acre of them about 4-5 feet tall with white flower heads.   

 Autumn flowers that bees love

Earlier this summer I didn’t see the bees around our property much, and we didn’t have many flowers blooming that were suitable for bees.  They would zoom off from the hive somewhere, and I thought they were really fast.  But honeybees can only fly about 15 mph and can be challenged on windy days to make it to the hive.  The NOVA article above says a worker bee will visit between 50-100 flowers on each trip outside the hive.  That’s a lot of work!

It’s also time to harvest some more berries.  These are “autumn berries” from the Autumn Olive or Autumnberry tree (Elaeagnus umbellata). 

Autumnberries in late summer

Autumnberry is really a very large shrub, originally from Asia.  Decades ago they were planted around the eastern U.S. to help with soil stability and erosion prevention.  Turns out they are quite invasive however and have taken over many areas. The plant is thick and branchy, with many thorns in the upper branches.  Not easy to remove.  I’ve watched a large thicket grow up in just a few years above the pond.  But the berries are edible, and we’re going to experiment with them to make jam or jelly. 

If all goes well, we may also have a little honey to go with our biscuits before the bees settle in for winter.  We’ll check on them next week!

Bee hive and Labrador Retriever in foreground

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