Ferns

Took a walk this afternoon in between working and cleaning up after our Memorial Day cookout. Came upon these ferns I planted recently along the nature trail. Thought you might find them as beautiful as I did. Also some yellow flowers from the front yard, and a hive No. 1 bee coming in for a landing.

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Apple Blossom

We’ve been extremely busy in 2015. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, I have not been able to write much. The excitement and energy I had when I started the blog has been absent most of this year.

Work dominates everything. My existence is dedicated to working. And if I’m not working, then I should be looking for more work. It’s the my sole purpose for being. I’m a significantly different person than I was three years ago when we moved in.

That being said, I really appreciate fleeting moments here and there when I find myself in the yard.

I like winter because of the lack of outdoor chores, but spring is nice because watching the plants bud and turn leafy green is a pure delight for me. I have a relationship with every plant and tree in my yard. My mood is altered with the ups and downs of their success and failure. I examine each, talking to them in my mind at least. Seeing how they’re doing. How can I help them. How can they help me. My calendar is marked by which colors are blooming when. I know when something is amiss, a leaf or branch is eaten that shouldn’t be. When something sprouts surprisingly, or doesn’t sprout, regrettably.

As far as our yard goes though, a tough winter leaves for a lot of spring question marks.

It looked like we lost a redbud tree, but just today (Tuesday when I wrote this) I saw it has a couple leaves and even a bloom. Like many of the plants that had a rough winter, life still clings to the plant or tree if you know where to look. Now it’s just a question of successfully nursing the tree back to health.

Looks like we lost one of our black gum trees, as the other four have leafed out already. This is a shame because we actually paid good money for the tree, so that adds a little insult to injury.

The peach trees look horrible, though they are hanging in there. Suffice to say no peaches this year. And it’s too tough to say what’s going on with the black berries and raspberry bushes.

As spring has progressed, it’s been wonderful to see the land turn green. Exciting to see each wave of flowers come and go. The whites and pinks of the crab apples peaked in early May. Now in late may the dogwoods are finishing up, and the meadows are aglow with yellow wild flowers and daisies. Closer to the ground, the strawberries have bloomed and now have green berries.

But the best of all this spring is the news that our apple trees blossomed for the first time. Four out of nine trees blossomed. While I didn’t actively see any of our honey bees pollinating them, I do believe I see little apples budding where there were once flowers. Fingers crossed.

Spring is a balance between the joy of everything growing, and the added burden of more work outside (in addition to regular job type work). It’s all a bit much really, but the thought of leaving it all isn’t very appealing either. I guess I’d rather burn out than not be able to visit all these wonderful spring experiences.

Spring 2015 Honey Bee Update

I haven’t been writing much this spring because I’ve been so busy with work. But I did want to update you on our bee hives. There’s been a lot going on, and not much of it has been good news.

First off, we knew we lost hive No. 1 this winter. The yellow jackets just devastated the hive in the fall and they couldn’t stand the sub-zero temperatures. So this spring we dumped in a new package of honey bees into the hive. Hive No. 1 is now doing great. We just put another deep box on that hive, and there is a lot of brood in the hive.

Hive No. 3 is doing fantastic as well. We’ve seen the queen both time we checked the hive this spring.

Hive No. 2 was the big disappointment this spring. The healthy, aggressive hive was fine all last year, and alive and well at the end of winter. Then devastatingly the hive just collapsed. We have no idea what happened, but the hive was a complete loss.

It’s too late to get a package of bees for No. 2 so we may pick up a swarm or split hive No. 3 this summer. We’ll likely take a class on that very topic later this month.

Meanwhile back at home I spent a few days harvesting and melting bees-wax. Since many of our frames were from dead hives I stripped the frames and melted the wax. The main take away here is that it’s not worth melting down really “dirty” wax; wax that’s been on the frame for years. There’s just too much dirt, and it’s a mess to try to filter it all out.

As for hive No. 2, and some of the frames from No. 1, there was some honey and pollen. I didn’t harvest any of it because it was hard to tell what had been sitting around and if any of it was any good. I guess if you want to really give it to your bees, you should freeze the frames. I harvested the wax, and left the pollen and honey for the bees to clean  up. Some of the deep frames found their way into the reinstated hive No. 1. The shallow frames will all be stripped soon, and then can be rebuilt by the hives later this year.

The loss of two hives is a major setback. It means no honey for us really this year, except maybe from hive No. 3. The loss of hive No. 1 was to be expected. The loss of the second hive was like an unexpected fist to the gut. It’s difficult to not get emotionally involved and then to suffer this big a setback, it hurts. But nothing is easy, at around here it’s not. While I’ll never get used to it, I know how to handle it. Just have to keep checking on the bees (and plants, and house, and god knows whatever else goes amiss around here). Keep doing what we do and hope for the best.

The bee hives in early spring before we installed the new hive No. 1 bees, and hive No. 2 was still alive.

The bee hives in early spring before we installed the new hive No. 1 bees, and hive No. 2 was still alive.

New Plantings – Spring 2015

This spring we planted some new things in the yard. We planted a 5′ tall red oak for Earth Day / Arbor Day. This oak is the compliment to a red oak we planted last year, both of which form a “gate” from the apple orchard to the pond trail.

It’s been almost a month since we planted this little red oak, and he was doing so well up until a week or two ago when I noticed something amiss. It’s uncanny the relationship I’ve formed with the plants in our yard. I could tell from far away that something was wrong. Don’t ask me how I could tell, but sure enough upon closer inspection I noticed that a damn deer had stripped ALL the leaves off of the tree!

With great anger I grabbed a wire tree fence from my storage pile nearby and surrounded the baby tree in wire.

Now weeks later, new leaves are forming so it looks like our new little tree will make it.

The other major new plantings are three lilac bushes we picked up at Home Depot. I planted them over by the septic tank. As they grow up they’ll obscure the unsightly tank tops that stick out of the ground. And hopefully the flowers will mask any smells from the tank in early spring.

I need to find two other types of fragrant bushes to plant in the area, that can mask any smells in summer and fall.

The only down side of the lilacs is, they made my into a hypocrite. You see, the plants we bought were treated with neonicotinoids. Fortunately now Home Depot labels plants that have been genetically modified with these chemicals. While the EPA approves of them, these chemicals are banned in Europe. It’s suspected that they contribute to the decline in honey bee populations and may even cause colony collapse disorder.

Well I didn’t see the labels until I had already planted the plants in the ground.

I decided to keep the plants. The chemicals should only last 2 years in the plants. When planted, they were done blooming. So that just means next spring will be the only exposure to our bees (and other pollinators). I’ve weighed the risks, and made my decision. If you can’t be good, at least know you’re not being good. I think historically people didn’t even realize they were doing harm to the environment. Now at least there are ways to know.

Maybe I can make it up to my bees by some other means.

Finished Basement Update – Electrical

I wanted to share with you some pictures from our basement finishing project. After sitting idle for several months, work has picked up again on the basement. We’re in no rush to get it done, but it would be nice to have it ready by later 2015, fall or early winter.

After completing, and getting approval for the rough framing that yours truly completed, it was time to get the electrician in. I can not do electrical work. It scares me, and as prone as I am to making mistakes, I’d likely burn the house down and kill myself.

The electrical will be completed in two phases. Right now is phase one, the rough-in. After this is approved by the building department, then we’ll cover everything up with drywall, and then the electrician can do his final electrical work.

The install should take three working days total for one electrician. All seems to be going well. Basically a bunch of electrical boxes and yellow wires everywhere.

The Superior Wall System we used for our foundation makes wiring outside walls a breeze. There are little holes for wires to pass through on every cement stud of the foundation. Electrical boxes mount easily to the metal studs of the foundation, and my partition walls, with self tapping screws. Note, if you have Superior Walls, have your contractor check out their website. There is a lot of info on there for contractors regarding how to work with the wall system.

Superior Walls make life easier for insulators, electricians and even plumbers by virtue of their thoughtful, feature filled design. Any house I ever build will utilize this wall system for the foundation, if possible.

I went over the switch and lighting layout with our electrical contractor. I think the wife and I have it all figured out…designed…as best we can tell, in terms of where we want lights and how we want everything to be switched on and off. I’m having the electrician put in a CAT5? cable into what will be my “office” space. Not sure in this day of wireless communication how important this is, but I guess better to have it than not.

There is pretty good access, even after the drywall is up, to many of the walls and all the rooms, especially because of the drop ceiling that we plan on installing. So I’m not to worried if we screw something up and have to “fix” it later.

Electrical should be done this week. Then we can order drywall and start that phase.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

Fun Flowers

These guys followed us home from an art show in Indiana this weekend. They’ll make for a  fun, playful surprise on the nature trail.

Fun, metal flowers by artist William F Colburn, Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama. visit his website at www.williamcolburn.com

Fun, metal flowers by artist William F Colburn, Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama.
visit his website at http://www.williamcolburn.com

Sconces

Stairwell leading down to the finished basement. Two side sconces or one top sconce?

The downstairs landing which could use some light.

The downstairs landing which could use some light.

Grand Edison Caged Sconce from RH.

Grand Edison Caged Sconce from RH.

Grand Edison Caged Double Inline Sconce for over the top.

Grand Edison Caged Double Inline Sconce for over the top.

What style? Caged sconce (see above) or one of these variations?

Perforated Metal.

Perforated Metal.

Glass

Glass

Also, the single side sconces could be mounted horizontally so we could do this style instead of a double.

Let me know your thoughts ASAP!

-Chris