Tupelo

My first spring walk around the estate today to see how well spring has sprung so far. Not much is happening. Things are budding and turning green but no real flowers are blossoming yet, save for a few dandelions and other yellow ground flowers. If we have daffodils anywhere, I cannot tell for I didn’t see a one.

There is one peach tree with a blossom. Another has green leaves, and the third looks to have died. The apple trees all have leaves budding, but no flowers yet. The cherries have small leaf buds as well.

As we’ve know for some time, the last of our bee hives died out over the winter. We are not getting a replacement hive this year. We’re taking a year off. I really want to get a hive, but the wife is right in talking me back from the edge. I have too much going on and I don’t need the stress and responsibility of raising bees this summer. I will really miss all the work they do around the yard pollinating though, especially if we revive the vegetable garden as planned.

Walking through the woods, everything is very wet. I doubt the ground will dry out any time soon.

In the front yard I noticed something peculiar. One of the black gum trees was cut down or gnawed down or magically fell. The two step break was really weird but I suppose an animal could have done it. This particular tupelo tree was dead on its main trunk so no great loss, just weird. there were shoots growing up from its base so I don’t know…do they grow up to be a tree someday?

Out of the five black gums we planted I think only two survived, so that was a pretty good waste of money.

Right now a walk around the yard is pretty uninspiring. Hopefully by May 1st things will be in bloom and drying out.

New Roof Washer Filters

After four years of living here, our roof washer filters really needed changing. The roof washers wash all of the water that comes off of the roof when it rains. There are two fiberglass chambers in our front yard that the water flows into. As the chambers fill up with water, debris like leaf parts, bugs, and dirt stay on one side of the filters and the water flows through to the center of the filter, into a pipe and down into the cistern for storage.

I had previously taken the filters out twice, they’re like a cotton material, and washed them. I tried getting new ones last year, and through circumstances didn’t successfully get new ones until this year.

I’m very glad the new filters came with new mesh screens inside and out. The screens give the filters their circular shape. The old screens were rusting out. To install, I simply took off the top caps and threw out the old filters, and inserted the new fluffy white ones.

I’m still waiting to get an invoice for the filters, but I don’t imagine they cost too much.

Elsewhere not much is going on. In the 90 degree heat this past weekend I cut the grass and finally spread a few bags of mulch I had purchased in June; spreading them around some of our smaller younger plants we planted in the meadows. The mulch will help them get some breathing room from encroaching meadow grasses and golden rod.

 

 

For a link to one time when I cleaned the roof washers click here.

Peach Blossom

Our peach trees are blossoming, but they don’t look that encouraging. There aren’t many blossoms across our three young trees. One of the trees looks dead basically, with just two random shoots growing from the bottom of the trunk. A few blossoms decorate each shoot, and a couple branches that look to still be alive. If the bees pollenate the peach trees, we might get one or two peaches before summer’s over.

It’s hopefully too early to tell but honestly not many of the plants and trees that we’ve planted look very good, across the entire yard. I’m hoping things shape up soon.

The apple trees have all leafed and look pretty good. In fact this year I think I’ll actually have to figure out (guess) how to prune them. I do this in the fall I believe. It’s too early to tell if we’ll have any apple blossoms.

Here are today’s pics. Fingers crossed we get lucky with spring – weather wise and bounty wise. Or just luck wise in general.

-c

P.S. I forgot, the one redbud tree has a giant ant hill at its base, just like the other redbud tree had in years past. None of the redbud’s look that great. I’m going to go around and spread fertilizer at the base of all my plants and trees this weekend. Don’t know if it’ll help but it’ll make me feel useful, which is all that matters really. Anyway, the ants..I sprayed them with two mixtures: one was vinegar and essential oils, and the other was warm water with Dawn dish soap. In theory one or the other or both will either kill or deter the ants from living at the base of my redbud tree. I’ll keep spraying, dousing for several days and see if it helps any.

2015 Christmas Tree Planted

Just a quick post today to share some photos.

We say hello to the 2015 Nine Apple Trees Christmas tree, which is now planted out on the pond berm. It’s been a warm December. Who would’ve imagined I’d be planting a tree, and about a dozen ferns between Christmas and New Years.

2015-xmas-tree-planted

We say goodbye to an old friend. I sold the Rabbit a couple weeks ago. I don’t even want to think about how sad it makes me to see him go. We had so many awesome memories when we were building the house. And he was no stranger to the blog. But we needed a larger vehicle with four doors for our family so reluctantly we bid adieu.

07-VW-Rabbit-for-Sale

And lastly, wash your beeswax. LOL I was lazy and just threw all the wax from the last extraction into the pot and melted it down. The honey residue, which normally would be washed out, liquified and made it through the strainer. It then congealed underneath the beeswax during cooling. Gross.

when-you-dont-clean-your-beeswax

Don’t let this happen to you. Wash your beeswax before melting it.

Christmas Tree Day 2015

It’s Saturday early evening, I’m sitting down with a beer and listening to Christmas music. For the next half hour or so I will have the equivalent of a day to myself, to relax and write.

In the spirit of the season, we went out and bought our Christmas tree today. It’s a live Norway spruce tree, or at least that’s what we think it is. They weren’t labeled at the tree farm. As is our tradition, we get the tree a few weeks before the holiday, then bring it inside a few days before Christmas and decorate it. After the holiday we plant the live tree in a pre-dug hole somewhere out in the yard. This year the tree will go out on the pond dike. Previous year’s trees can be seen just off the driveway. Once a tree graduates from home to yard, the following year it gets a string of colorful solar lights. The idea being that, let’s say we’re here twenty years. Visitors would be able to see twenty trees in the yard with colored lights on them. Fun.

Back inside the house, I’ve been slowly continuing work on the basement. I’ve started tiling my office area, and I have also essentially finished the full bathroom.  Tiling is going slow, but I think I’m doing an okay job. I got a new tile cutter at Lowe’s and I’m very happy with its performance. I haven’t really ruined any tiles yet. I think it’s got a good sharp wheel and easier action, and that makes a difference. I do need a grinder though to angle cut some tiles around a doorway. But there’s no reason to spend $80 on a tool I probably won’t ever use again. I’m going to see if I can make a Dremel tool work or, worst case, rent a grinder.

In the bathroom, all of the accessories are hung. It took me a while to figure out where the blocking was for the towel bar. In the process of discovery I drilled about a half dozen holes in the drywall, all of which I had to patch up and repaint before mounting the bar.

While figuring out where to hang up the toilet paper roll holder, I discovered that you’re supposed to mount it about 8″ in front of the toilet bowl, off to the side. Well I don’t have a wall in that location. I could have mounted the holder on the adjacent cabinet, but the wife and I both voted against that. So, behind and to the side of toilet the holder went. I think it’s fine. I don’t see how just putting the roll in a basket or a freestanding holder does anything. It’s fine back there.

As time allows I’ll continue to tile. I want to make sure I get all the tile down as soon as possible, in case they discontinue the tile style. I don’t want to be left short of tile. Then I’ll really be in trouble.

Earlier today I extracted honey from hive No. 3. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, this hive died late this autumn. We got nine frames of honey. I haven’t weighed it yet.

Next year we’re just going to manage one hive. If it gets large enough we can split it. Otherwise, we’re not pouring any more money into beekeeping if we can help it.

Actually we’re not going to pour any money into any projects for the foreseeable future. I’ve got the materials to finish the basement, except the ceiling. That should keep me busy DIY-wise for a while.

One interesting side note, I’m finally selling my trusty Rabbit. The wonderful VW that kept me company throughout our new home build, and was mentioned in many a post, well it’s time to say goodbye. We need more space and more doors in a vehicle. If you know anyone who’s looking for a great, clean car for commuting, running errands, or just starting out, let me know. I’ll make you a great deal on our good friend.

Ok, here’s today’s pictures. Time for me to go back to the real world and all of its responsibility. Cheers!

 

 

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.

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.