Earth Day 2016

Today is Earth Day! For our household it’s a holiday or at least a reason to celebrate. It’s also the anniversary of when we moved in to our new home, four year ago. A happy coincidence if you ask me.

I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning – planning on writing then getting to work on my regular day job work. But of course here I sit, an hour and one cup of coffee later, and I’m already way behind schedule. I got off on a tangent finding a source for what tree we want to buy this year to celebrate earth day. This year I’d like to order some hazelnut shrubs from the Arbor Day Society. And later today I’m thinking we’ll go out to to pick up a small cherry tree or three.

We try to plant a tree on our property every Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (last Friday in April). I’d have to look at our landscape plan to see if I’ve been keeping track. I know we keep track of the Christmas trees we plant every December (we’re up to four). On the other hand I think I’ve been keeping track on the blog every Earth Day so I can go back and look that way.

I need to get to work, so I’ll leave you with these five tips for living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle:

5 Earth Day Tips for Better Living:

  1. Be an informed and responsible consumer – I freaking love shopping, that’ll never change. But I, and you can be a responsible consumers. Ask your self: do I need this? If so, what are my options – like who can I buy it from and how do they manufacture it? Is the price a fair price or is it too low to cover the actual cost of social, economic and environmental implications of me buying this thing (think fairness)? What will happen to this stuff when I don’t want it anymore? Be conscious and informed; vote with your dollar to support goods and services that are fair to our planet, people and economy. Yes it requires research, thinking and weighing pros and cons, but it’s no different than shopping for the best price, which you probably do already.
  2. Plant native trees, shrubs and plants – As I said, we’ve gotten into a routine where we plant major trees on holidays and life events like anniversaries or birthdays; trees make great gifts by the way. Search the internet to find out what plants are native to your area. Native plants require virtually no maintenance which frees up your time and money. And it’s something the whole family can get involved in.
  3. Recycle paper and cardboard – 99% of the paper and cardboard we consume in our household gets recycled. We gather it up and about every other week I drive it all over to one of those green and yellow collection dumpsters at our local school. Many communities’ curb side recycling will accept paper and cardboard as well. Recycling paper is easy to get into your routine, and it cuts the amount of trash we throw out significantly – some weeks we don’t even bother taking the trash down to the curb.
  4. Switch to LED light bulbs – the cost of LED’s has finally come down to where they are affordable for ANY household. LED’s last a lot longer (20 years+), so you won’t be storing and changing light bulbs anymore, which saves you hassle. Also they will reduce your electricity consumption which saves you more money in the long run than the bulbs cost.
  5. Spread the word – if you find something that works for you and our environment, share the info with friends, family, strangers…anyone, even if it’s just one thing to one person. Energy efficiency, electric cars, LED light bulbs, honey bees, recycling….they were all things “crazy hippies do” years ago, and they’re all mainstream stuff people from all walks of life do regularly to help our planet. It is all really common sense stuff. The system has just been set up the wrong way until now, but now we’re recognizing that as people, we have the power to do things the right way.


Happy Earth Day everyone! Hoping you get out there and do something good for the planet, but really it’s about doing something good for you. Be selfish about it, and most importantly, have fun.

Autumn Bee Check & Early Winter Hive Prep

We did a quick bee check of all three hives today. It was a fairly temperate day, and we just had our first frost, so all the signs point towards checking bees while we still can. Snow will be upon us soon enough. This is probably the last or second to last check of the bees until spring

Our goals for checking the bees in fall:

  1. Start moving honey frames towards the center – the bees will form a big warm ball of bees in the center of the hive, likely the middle or lower deep. They won’t go far to get honey, even if they are hungry. Also they likely will move up the hive, so it’s important that the middle deep is where most of the honey is at
  2. Check for mites – hives 1 and 3 both have mites, so we decided to treat all three hives with Hop Guard. Mites create bees with deformed wings, kill baby bees before they hatch and generally cause decline in bee populations. The cardboard strips of Hop Guard are placed over the deep frames, two to a hive box. They are not placed in the honey “supers” higher up in the hive.
  3. Treat for hive beetles – hive 1 has beetles so we decided to put beetle traps in all three hives. The trap is just a clear injection molded compartment that we fill with safflower oil. You can use canola oil, or other type of cooking oil that’s lying around. The beetles check in, but they don’t check out.

Later on this month we’ll install mouse guards to the entrances. These sheet metal shields are perforated to allow bees to come and go, but they won’t let rodents enter the main entrance of the hive. Up top we’ll place a queen excluder screen to keep the mice out of the top of the hive, as well.

Sometime in November I’ll fashion insulating shells, from 2″ rigid insulation. The insulating shells will protect the hives from what is supposed to be a very cold winter. This will be a pain to do every year. I’d like to invent a hive with rigid insulation built into the boxes. This would regulate temperatures year round just like an old hollow tree trunk would (that’s my theory at least).

The bees seem happy, as happy as bees can be. Hive No. 2 should be fine, as should hive No. 1. Hive No. 3 is lagging behind honey-wise and bee population-wise, so I’m uncertain. All three hives have eggs and / or a visible queen (we saw hive No. 1 queen today).

Here are today’s photos including a bee birthday.

Autumn Scenes & Honey Bottle Label

Autumn is in full swing.

Today we labeled our honey bottles. The labels look okay. There are some design changes I’ll make but those can wait until the next batch. We needed to get them labeled for tomorrow’s community yard sale.

Here are a few photos, including one of a frog that jumped out in front of the Rabbit the other day. It’s a northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanomawhich is can be found throughout Ohio. It’s fun discovering a “new to us” species on our land. Especially this large of an amphibian. One of these days I should do a book on all the animals we have on our land.

So many ideas, so little time.


Saturday morning I was reading on the screen porch while we waited for a friend to call; we were going blueberry picking later. It was nice to be just sitting on the porch doing nothing for once. Life gets so busy and daunting we forget to just say “forget it” sometimes.

At some point though I looked up because there was a great commotion in the yard, over by the old dead cherry tree. Beneath the tree is a tuft of wild bushes, an island in the sea of our freshly mown yard. I heard a rabbit bleat out then saw one or two rabbits sprinting along the boxwoods. A baby rabbit circled all the way around and sprinted under the screen porch where I stood.

I looked out at the boxwoods and saw a weasel!

I didn’t even know we had weasels in Ohio. At first I thought is was a squirrel. But it was too low to the ground, and tail was too small, to be a squirrel. Plus it was super aggressive. I suppose it could have been someone’s escaped ferret. But I looked it up and there are a few species of weasels that are native to Ohio.

As the weasel retreated back to its island in the grass, all hell broke loose. At least six blue jays and even a cardinal all flocked to the dead cherry and started screaming out, letting everyone know a predator was afoot in the area. I don’t know if the weasel did get a rabbit or not but the birds worked hard to chase him off into the south meadow.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to snap a photo but here’s some Ohio weasel information from the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources. I would guess it was a short-tailed weasel, but I really don’t know. I’m going to sit down and make a list of all the animals we’ve seen on the land here. It’s really cool and unlike anything else.

All this information is from the Ohio DNR website:

Long Tailed Weasel

Long-tailed weasels may be small, but they are very aggressive. They will even threaten animals much larger than themselves.

This weasel is very adaptable and can be found in all land habitats near water. Like most weasels, it is chiefly nocturnal, but can also be active by day. They can climb trees and swim, but most of their time is spent on the ground. They typically eat rodents, rabbits and birds, but in the summer they may also eat fruits and berries.

The long-tailed weasel is distinguished by its yellowish-white underparts and the black tip on the end of its long, bushy tail. The tail is about 50 percent of its total body length.

Long-tailed weasels exhibit delayed implantation. Copulation occurs in the summer, but the egg does not begin to develop until March, making the gestation period between 205 and 337 days. Litters of four to eight are born in April or early May.

photo from Ohio DNR website

photo from Ohio DNR website – keith and kasia moore

Short Tailed Weasel

This small furbearer is known as the short-tailed weasel, the ermine, or the stoat. It lives in open woodlands, brushy areas, grasslands, wetlands, and farmlands.

Ohio Status: Species of Concern

Like other weasels, the short-tailed weasel has a brown coat in the summer and white coat in the winter. They are small, measuring 7-13 inches in length.

This small furbearer inhabits open woodlands, brushy areas, grasslands, wetlands, and farmlands. They typically eat small mammals, including rabbits, chipmunks, voles, shrews, and mice.

Short-tailed weasels mate in the spring and early summer. A litter of four to eight young are born between April and May after a gestation period of about 280 days due to delayed implantation.

Short tailed weasel - photo from ohio DNR website

Short tailed weasel – photo from ohio DNR website – USFWS

Least Weasel

The least weasel is the smallest member of the weasel family and the smallest living carnivore.

Like other weasels, the least weasel has a brown coat in the summer and white coat in the winter. A distinguishing characteristic is that it does not have a black tip on the end of its short tail.

This weasel inhabits open areas such as meadows, marshes, brushy areas and agricultural fields. They typically eat mice and other rodents.

Most breeding occurs in the spring and late summer, although they may reproduce any month of the year, with more than one litter per year. Litters usually have four to five young.

photo from Ohio DNR website - Kevin Law

photo from Ohio DNR website – Kevin Law


Bees Wax

The double boiler I ordered from Amazon finally showed up today. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to melt the bee’s wax I collected from the cappings a couple of weeks ago. Here’s how to turn bees-wax into usable “blanks” that can be stored and eventually used to make bees-wax products such as candles or lip balm.

Collect Raw Wax

I took all the cappings from the extraction process and washed them repeatedly in cold water right after I was done extracting honey earlier this month. I then dried the wax out as best as I could. In reality I didn’t realize it’d take so long to select and get a double boiler, used in melting the wax, that I actually let the wet wax sit too long. It got moldy. And attracted a lot of fruit flies. I did my best to then spread all the wax out on a pizza box and dry it out in the sun on the screen porch.

Washed wax ready for processing.

Washed wax ready for processing.

I could’ve also taken the wax from the bee hive frames, but I had left most of that for the bees after extraction. Side note: we checked the bees last week. The bees did a freakishly neat job of cleaning up the extracted frames. What was a train wreck after my brutal uncapping was turned into a geometric masterpiece by mother nature. I can’t even describe it, you’d have to witness for yourself what an incredible job they did cleaning up the frames. They’re already filling them again with honey as I write this.

Okay, back to wax melting. You need a double boiler to melt the wax. We couldn’t find one locally so I ordered this one from Amazon.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

This is the double boiler I bought on Amazon for like $15. Worked like a charm.

I like it because it’s a single piece that fits into a variety of pot sizes. As you may be wondering, a double boiler is essentially two pots on top of each other. Fill the bottom one half full of water and put the other pot on top. Boil the water in the pot below and it evenly warms up the upper pot, allowing stuff to melt up there without burning. “Stuff” can be anything from chocolate, cheese, or in our case: bees wax.

What You’ll Need

As mentioned, you’ll need some tools to melt your wax. I recommend having a set of items that you use specifically for melting wax, if for no other reason than melting wax is super messy or rather super hard to clean up afterwards. Wax cools and dries almost instantaneously, leaving a film on everything that is difficult to remove without reheating it.

  • double boiler
  • wooden spoon
  • bowl (for draining the wax into after you strain it)
  • butter knife (for scraping wax off wooden spoon)
  • muffin pan ( or milk carton or other form, your choice, to make wax blanks in the shape of your choice)
  • towel
  • cheese cloth
  • raw bees-wax (from cappings, scraps or frames)

Melt The Wax

I set up my double boiler on the range and turned on the fire. As everything warmed up I started shoveling bits of wax into the pot with a wooden spoon. When the wax started to melt I stirred the pot and added more. I had ten (10) frames worth of capping wax this time around. All of it fit handily in the boiler, no problem. As the wax melts you can see impurities in the was, and ours was a dark gold clear color.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Wax is just dumped into the double boiler and slowly melts. Stir with a wooden spoon.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn't need to do that. I was correct.

Bees wax melts in the double boiler, muffin pan stands by. I was going to embed twine in the mold to help release the dried wax muffins, but decided I probably wouldn’t need to do that. I was correct.

Strain The Wax

Once all the wax is melted I covered the top of an old bowl with cheese cloth. You can fold the cheese cloth over a couple of times to really get a fine mesh. I just left it folded over like it came out of the package. With the cheese cloth in place I poured all the molten wax over it and into the bowl: straining the wax to get all the impurities out. It was amazing how much “garbage” was in the wax including the aforementioned mold, bee parts, honey, and other debris. There was a huge ball of brown muck in the cheese cloth, and purer wax in the bowl.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bees wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

Cheese cloth filters out impurities in the bee’s wax. Some wax dries on the cloth is lost; not sure how to recover it so it goes in the trash.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

The cheese cloth filters impurities: bee parts, honey, mold, etc. Pour liquid wax through cloth into a bowl then put the wax back in the boiler to melt again; repeat until pure wax is left.

I then poured the wax back into the double boiler. I used my wooded spoon to scrape the bowl and a metal knife to scrape the wooden spoon; returning all the clean wax I could gather back into the boiler. Once back in the boiler the wax that had cooled remelted. I then strained it a second time.

Two passes through the cheese cloth made wax that looked clear to my eye. I did lose some wax as it dried on the cheese cloth and the bowl. I’m not sure how to avoid wax loss unless I had a custom set up in the studio with more than household items. Having now done it once I do know what to do in the future to be even more efficient.

I tossed out the cheese cloth and put all the wax back in the boiler for a third time. Bowl and implements were scrapped again and all the clean wax I could gather was melted once again.

Mold The Wax

Once it was liquid I poured the wax into a common muffin pan to let the wax cool into easy to store “pucks”.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax cooling in a simple muffin pan to make bees wax muffin shaped blanks.

Bees wax "muffins" ready for storage or use.

Bees wax “muffins” ready for storage or use.

Our ten frames worth of cappings yielded three “muffins” of bees-wax. Enough to make one medium size jar candle. The wax is a deep yellow color and looks pretty clean. The best part is it’s 100% natural. Because of the mold issue I won’t use the wax for lip balm or soap but I don’t see why it can’t be used for candles. Wax in this state can now be easily stored and remelted when the time arises.

There you have it. My only feedback is I think wax making is messier than honey extraction because wax is so difficult to clean up. For example, I hate to wash anything in the sink because I’m afraid of wax build up in the drains. I recommend having wax specific implements so any dried wax can remain on them, possibly being remelted the next time you process.

I cannot wait until the bees have made more honey and wax. I enjoy processing both, very therapeutic and rewarding. It’s cool having new experiences and learning new skills, especially when it’s not that common in our hectic world.

Sadly I think our mama deer lost one of her fawns as we’ve only seen one of the twins the last few times they visited our yard. My absence in the yard (been busy with work, so the yard is a mess) has meant that the deer have gotten comfortable coming up close. They are loving all the clover in the yard, not to mention my poor choke berries.

Yesterday we, as a family, got to enjoy our lunch watching our spotted newcomer play in the front yard with two does (presumably mom and “aunt”). It was funny to watch baby, er actually toddler deer, practice running, jumping and antagonizing. She’d run from one end of the yard to the other and back. Then practice kicking. Our boys would look out the window and laugh. The fawn would spot them, get real serious and commence practicing her hoof stomp-n-snort. Threat averted, she’d be back to playing until receiving a deft hoof in the ass from one of the does, when she misbehaved.

I suspect most folks don’t get to see this sort of thing too often and we had a front row seat. Or if they do, they don’t pay too much attention.

To everyone else they’re just deer.

Not so here.

They’re part of the fabric that makes this a magical place indeed.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

Baby deer pushing the patience of mom and aunt.

Farm Day


I have not found the time or spirit to write much since mid-month. Summer finds us busy trying to scrape by. For me at least I haven’t been in the mood to do much writing or anything for that matter. The work necessary to keep the homestead means we, or at least I, have little time or desire to enjoy the place. The irony is not lost on me.

Outside the world’s reverting back pre-house wilderness. My lack of time and desire means that the clover ridden yard hasn’t been cut in weeks. The planting beds we fought for so much last year are overgrown and mostly in-distinguishable. The garden is holding its own for now, though I can afford it not much more than a cursory glance here and there.

Part of me yearns for the day when the bank takes over the place and I can go back to living in some soulless suburb waiting for death to come rescue me.

What I really need to do is set aside a “farm day” each week to work outside. Six days of work and then one day to tend to the yard, beds, garden and bees. The property is blossoming into a full-blown micro farm (my word), but like any farm it requires attention. We’ve started harvesting herbs and vegetables on a regular basis. Judging by how well the bees are pollinating everything, we’ll have more crops than we could ever dream of, yielded from just a small little plot of ground. We need to start figuring out what to do with it all; look for people to barter or trade with. We’ve taken to freezing herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil for future use. And I’ve got catnip, oregano and rosemary strung up in my studio drying by the north window. By summer’s end we’ll have enough we could start selling the stuff.

Also, I have my first batch of poison ivy all over my body. I will never, ever learn.


We did check the bees last week. Hive No. 1 has re-queened itself and she has been busy. The hive is full of eggs, larvae and capped brood. We pulled a total of ten frames of honey, about 40-80 lbs. before processing, as far as I can tell. I told Christine to go ahead and buy the equipment we need to process it. I’ve also got plans to build a homemade bees-wax solar melting box thing. Once that is built I can melt bees-wax into flat cookie sheet size slabs, cut them and store them for future use or sale. As for the other hives, aggressive hive No. 2 is doing well. Christine spotted their queen during last inspection, and the hive is growing at an alarming rate as well. I suspect my laziness in the yard is resulting in three of the happiest bee hives in the county. We have abundant clover and flowers; our little yellow friends don’t have far to fly. Hive No. 3 is not doing all too well though. They apparently have lost their queen and show no sign of making another. Hopefully things will change by time we check them next.


We found a Northern Ring-Neck snake behind our art show booth when picking up after the show. For more info click here. They’re cool looking snakes, though I didn’t want to pick it up without putting a baggy on my hand first. I dumped it in a bag and let it go by a creek across the way from our booth. Also, reptile / amphibian related: we have a new batch of tadpoles in the driveway pond. Nature hates me.


This past Saturday I awoke and decided to check on the veggie garden before we departed for our day of work at a local art show. As I got ready I could hear the boys yelling out that there were bunnies in my veggie garden. (It’s mine really, as I’m the only one who works the tick laden soil and plants).

See we have several bunnies who call our land their home. They live under our porch. Each morning they explore the property, eating clover, tea bushes and the occasional pepper plant. And every evening finds them playing in the yard, chasing each other endlessly, jumping in the air, landing in witch hazel.

Our youngest has even named them all…


Bunny Paws




Vroom Vroom…

Like the skunks, deer, turkeys, crows, bats, hawks, woodpeckers, snakes….the rabbits are family. They are an integral part of the experience of living with this magical slice of heaven on earth.

So Saturday morning I stepped out to check on things. I figured I could scare the bunnies out of the garden and maybe they’d think twice about coming back, at least for a little while.

Turns out I would scare the living piss out of them.

The garden is surrounded by a fence delineated into 2×4 inch mesh. The double garden gate has a gap below it that allows the rabbits in. Something on my list to fix some day. On this particular misty morning I walked past all the overgrown planting beds, past the berry bushes and could see a rabbit in the veggie garden.

In my mind’s eye I imagined the rabbits would bolt when I approached and be gone from the garden. Turns out there were three rabbits, and as I opened the gate, sure enough the bolted faster than the blink of an eye.

The problem is since I was at the gate they ran away from me. And the fence openings aren’t big enough to allow a rabbit to pass through.

In a flash I had three rabbits, Rupert to the left, Bunny Paws in the middle and Vroom Vroom to the right, presumably stuck in my garden fence; their fuzzy little asses point back at me, their unlucky rabbit’s feet strumming the ground in a frantic manner.

I guess I imagined they’d jump the fence like a deer, not try to go through it.

What in the hell am I supposed to do now?

Strum, strum strum.

One at a time. I step towards Rupert. I look down at his furry little butt, plain as day. Cock my head a little. Scratch the whiskers on my chin.

Strum, strum, strum.

He looks back at me, and then he works himself free, taking off around the corner past the septic tank back to the porch.

One down, two to go.

Far off at the other end of the garden, Vroom Vroom has grown silent, under a blanket of tomato and zucchini plants. But in the center, Bunny Paws is flipping out. I can’t see him because of the large bush I left growing in the center of the garden. Every time he strums the bush shakes. I pull the bush back, hoping he’ll free himself as Rupert had done moments ago, and all I see is his legs furiously strumming.  I watched as he emptied his bladder, strummed some more and then listened as he cried out with the most god awful bleat. (click “distressed” HERE and turn your volume way up)

I turned tail and ran back to the house, grabbing the wife for moral support, and two wire cutters for technical support.

Oh and I grabbed my camera. You know. Blog.

Bunny Paws was still frantically trying to extract himself from the wire fence. I reached down with gloved hand and grabbed his skinny little butt. Felt just like a cat really.


Strum, stum, strum.


I thought of going around and pulling. What I didn’t want to do was cut my perfectly good fence. But he was seemingly too fat to get through. So I grabbed my wire cutters.

Carefully I selected which wires to cut. The last thing I needed was Bunny Paws running around the yard with a 2×4 inch mesh fence belt.  I cut the top two wires above his hips.


Strum, strum, strum.

“What the hell?” I thought out loud.

I grabbed a leg.


Strum, strum, strum.

Crap. His legs are all intertwined in the fence, no wonder he can’t just scoot out. With every strum more fur came off, more likely he was to slit his tendons into useless rubber bands.

Visions of ‘Watership Down’ (the part where the bunny is trapped in the snare) dancing in my head I started cutting more wires. I grab both legs to stop them strumming. They’re so strong I can’t work them back out through the wires. I can only cut.


In a flash Bunny Paws is gone, running through the brush. In my hand is a square of fence decorated with tufts of rabbit fur. The whole ordeal kind of weirded me out. Standing back up the corner where Vroom Vroom was is silent so I decide to leave him to his own devices. Presumably he either made it through the fence or lie in wait for us to depart. So we departed forthwith.

Now I have a hole in my fence, about the size of a rabbit. At least now they have one new escape route I guess.

A Note About The Blog

We keep having to pull levers to try to make this all work. The spousal unit and I are thinking of something new that would allow us to whore out what’s going on outside with the bees, garden, our knowledge and whatnot. We need another endeavor like a hole in the head, but at the end of the day it’s about amassing enough cash annually to pay for everything (and our tack isn’t working). And it will be an opportunity to pursue a shared dream. Plus I can’t store beeswax and oregano forever…

As such I’m taking a look at this blog (and everything else online) and may be calling it quits. Fret not my four (4) regular readers – we’d migrate to a new blog (or transform this one maybe). Regardless something’s gotta change. Stay tuned.




So for my…our…latest bit of insanity I present to you: tadpoles.

I think it was Saturday. We were doing work, play or whatever in the yard. The weather was nice. I headed inside at some point to do something. A second later I could hear yelling from outside. The spousal unit was calling my name.

Gheez. Maybe someone was hurt. No one ever calls for me.

So I ran outside, yelling to find out where everyone was at, and turns out they were down by the driveway.

“Hey are these tadpoles?” She called out to me.

I walked down as the family stared down into a puddle in the driveway

Sure enough it was full of tadpoles.

There’s one really big puddle that forms in the driveway whenever it rains. I usually splash through it when pulling up the drive. And here some frog decided this was the best place to lay her eggs.

Well being the lunatic that I am, I can’t very well just leave nature to chance. After all, mankind has done it’s fair share intervening into nature’s business in an effort to kill of frogs and other amphibians. The least I can do is step in to help them out.

So we’ve been watering our limestone puddle twice a day for the last three days. Yesterday, Father’s Day, I was watering the puddle and decided the tadpoles might enjoy some shade from the brutal sun. So I pulled some grass and leaves, dropping them in the water to create some shady “habitat”. I don’t know what tadpoles eat, but maybe they’d eat the leaves or whatever. ‘Cause otherwise the puddle is just limestone and some bugs.

Well turns out today that the birds figured out our little secret. The wife says seemingly most of the little swimmers have been eaten by song birds. I didn’t have the heart to go look.

It’s sad I guess, but I’ve gotten use to the futility of my good intentions and effort in this world.

I’ll check tomorrow and keep watering as long as I can see tadpoles. We thought about putting bird netting down, but I’ll let nature takes its course (mostly cause even my insanity is trumped by laziness, and only so many hours in the day.

I wish we had a little vernal pond by the driveway. I’d like to dig a deep hole that will hold water through the dry season for frogs. Someday.

Elsewhere I planted more veggies in the garden. We lost some pepper plants to bunnies, but the family bought me replacements for Father’s Day. The holiday allowed me the opportunity to get out and play golf with my dad. I hadn’t touched my clubs in two years. It was very enjoyable. Also on Father’s Day, while filling out my card to my dad, my eye caught something moving outside in the early dawn: a skunk!  A fluffy skunk waddled by; I ran outside and tried to snag a photo to share with you all.

I love the variety of animals we get out here. It’s like living in paradise really.

Here are some flowers and other pics for you to enjoy.  Enjoy these last days of Spring peeps.


Northern Flicker

Looking at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facebook page today I perused a post on a recent bird watching hike they conducted whereby they saw a bunch of different bird species and it got me thinking about a cool bird we’ve been seeing around the estate lately. I looked at the list and nothing jumped out at me. But I was pretty sure whatever our bird was, it was related to a woodpecker because it had a long beak and some bright colors. So I googled “woodpecker” or something like that and looked at the images. And there was my bird; I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I'll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

Male Yellow Shafted Northern Flicker (not sure who checked to see what color its shaft is but I’ll take their word for it.) Photo stolen from Wikipedia, click link in post for more info.

We have two on the property and they are Yellow Shafted Northern Flickers. I thought they were rare since I’ve never seen one before, but I guess they are not. They’re super neat birds who like to hop along the ground eating ants, and fly around the woods like a wood cock or something. I hope our pair are a breeding / nesting pair.

Speaking of nesting, some sort of bird is using our bird house in the east meadow. I spotted a pair this evening as I walked the driveway. My camera lens isn’t good enough to get a good pic from far away, but it was a little tail wagging song bird of some sort. One was on top of the house, the other inside.

You can't see it really but there's a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

You can’t see it really but there’s a bird on our bird house. Inside is another. We have a resident couple hopefully using it as a nesting box.

I tried to cut the grass but my batteries weren’t fully charged for the lawn mower so I just got the front orchard area done. Before cutting it though, I took in the view of all the beautiful clover blooming in the yard. Surely the bees were beside themselves with all of the flowers. Our lawn is basically a wild mix of grass, clover and other flowering plants. I don’t use any fertilizer of any type (mostly due to laziness, and being a cheap skate).

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

The yard is a haven for bees, as the clover is all blooming and it has been a while since I mowed the lawn.

As for other industrious pollinators, after two years the carpenter bees finally discovered that our house is covered in western red cedar. Smack dab in the middle of the front porch a bee has burrowed through our siding, leaving behind a gigantic mound of sawdust. No way Jose; I took a paper towel, dowsed it in bug killer and plugged the hole. Sorry but this tree hugger has his limits. I provide 6.5 acres of wildlife nirvana. My cedar siding is off-limits.

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

An industrious bee is drilling a hole in our cedar siding. Can you believe all that sawdust?

You know what else is nirvana? The salsa and chips we got from our community supported agriculture program (CSA). The salsa is from Blaze Gourmet and the corn cracker minis are from Shagbark Seed & MIll. Together, with a cold beer to wash them down is pure culinary ecstasy.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

This is the best salsa and chip combo, courtesy of our CSA. Blaze Gourmet salsa and Shagbark Seed & Mill corn cracker minis.

Here’s a picture of a poppy from the yard. All the flowers on the land are incredible. I wish I knew how to paint flowers.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

A poppy bloom. Fun.

Also blooming are the daisies and wild black berry bushes. So far we’ve had constant blooming since the snow departed at the end of winter. Cone flowers are on deck. We’re also starting to harvest strawberries. Back in the garden I even saw a huge zucchini bloom, so we’ll have veggies in no time. I bet our bees help make for a bountiful harvest.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

The daisies are in full bloom throughout the areas I planted them.

I don't think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you'd drape over a race horse or coffin.

I don’t think they are all wild black berries, but regardless bushes like these are in full bloom throughout the property. They are beautiful. They remind me of flowers you’d drape over a race horse or coffin.

One thing I noticed was that the rose-bush that survived (the other one is officially dead) has been devastated again by saw fly larvae. I saw their little green bodies under the chewed up leaves. So I sprayed the same insecticide soap that I used last year. Not surprisingly, this post from last year was from June 1st, and it outlines my discovery and remedy. The saw flies come back at the same time each year. One perk of my blog: it acts as an awesome almanac. I can look back and see when things died, bloomed or whatever in years past.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

The saw fly larvae are at it again. Check the post to see how I take care of them.

One other fun sighting today: a squirrel! Right by the play set, which is the closest we’ve ever seen a squirrel by the house. I find great pleasure in all the flora and fauna we see on the property.

It really is amazing.

Okay, I guess that’s enough for one day. I wish you all could see it first hand, it really all is amazing. You’d like it a lot.



P.S. Christine read that because of the cold, the flowering buds on fruit trees can crack open and die off, which means they won’t blossom in the spring, which apparently is what happened to my apple trees throughout my orchard (except those 5 blossoms I had at the tippy top of the one tall tree).

So no apples this year, at all.

I hope we are still here next year.

Just once I would like to get an apple from one of our apple trees.

The Queen Is Dead, Long Live The Queen!

A quick update because I should be working. Mother Nature is going crazy out there, I’m kind of glad to be indoors.

We checked the bees yesterday. Hive No. 1 no longer has a queen. We didn’t see any eggs and I saw several anomalies that I think are queen “cells” where the hive is attempting to re-queen itself for the second time in as many years. I believe they’ll keep making queens until they find one they like and there you go: new queen. Other than the queen issue, the hive looks strong. We took out two frames of honey out of the top medium super. The other frames in that super had either small amounts of honey or brood in them so we left them in the hive. But because there isn’t much room left, we did add another medium box up top.

It’s a tall hive.

I spotted queens in hives No. 2 and No. 3. right away. Hive No. 2 is nearly filled up with comb, honey and brood so we added the next “deep” to that hive. Hive No. 3 is lagging behind a little so we left it as is.

I did get to taste the honey from hive No. 1 and it tasted like, well it tasted like honey. It’s a nice medium color. Incidentally everything (honey, comb, bees) in hive No. 3 is really light comparatively. It’s interesting to compare and contrast now that we have three hives.

Here's a frame from hive no. 1

Here’s a frame from hive no. 1

I don't know enough to say for sure but this may be one of several queen cells being attended to in hive no. 1.

I don’t know enough to say for sure but this may be one of several queen cells being attended to in hive no. 1.

Checking hive no. 1.

Checking hive no. 1.

Here you can see a frame from hive no. 3. the honey, cells and bees are really light in color.

Here you can see a frame from hive no. 3. the honey, cells and bees are really light in color.

Walking past the peach trees we noticed we have little peaches growing where there were flowers just a few weeks ago.  At least something is growing properly.  Fingers crossed we’ll have peaches right out of the gate this year. The service berries are coming in nicely as well.

We have peaches. :)

We have peaches. 🙂

Allegany service berry buds are forming. Actually may be a good crop this year.

Allegany service berry buds are forming. Actually may be a good crop this year.



The wife's red oak, that we planted last month, has grown a foot this spring. All the green shoots are new growth.

The wife’s red oak, that we planted last month, has grown a foot this spring. All the green shoots are new growth.

As I was working today I was distracted by a disturbance on the front porch. A pair of what I believe are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’ evicted the House Finch from its nest. I thought of intervening, and went outside a few times, but in the end I’ll let nature take its course. If the are Bluebirds, then they’re actually a lot rarer than a finch, so maybe it’s okay in the end. I just feel bad because I watched the finches tirelessly build the nest all Spring.

There is another finch nest on the next column down, so not all is lost.

I wish I had a nice zoom lens for my fancy camera. I can’t seem to get a good photo from inside the house of the birds.

What I think are 'Eastern Bluebirds' evicted mama House Finch from her nest today.

What I think are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’ evicted mama House Finch from her nest today.

I wish I had a zoom lens for the nice Canon camera. This is good as I could do. Do you know what kind of birds these are? They are blue in the daylight; I think they are 'Eastern Bluebirds'

I wish I had a zoom lens for the nice Canon camera. This is good as I could do. Do you know what kind of birds these are? They are blue in the daylight; I think they are ‘Eastern Bluebirds’

One other note, inside I tried to clean my sink drain. But I can’t get the trap off. The plumbers mounted the pipe too low, so the trap hits the bottom of the cabinet. Turns out most of the excess long hair clogging the drain was accessible from up top. Eventually I’ll have to saw a hole in the bottom of the cabinet to clear the trap and make it removable.

It’s always something around here.

If you know what kind of bird took over the nest, let me know.

Mother’s Day

I was going to write something grand and epic for Mother’s Day, starting like this:

The world can be a pretty awful place. But it’s not nearly as bad as it would be if it weren’t for a mother’s love.


I don’t know what my plans were but I do know that at some point I looked at the woman who is now my wife and thought to myself, she will be a great mother.


See, we were together for sometime before we had kids. I guess no thought is worth a damn until it plays out. I couldn’t tell you if she thought she would be or not. I guess it’s not something that ever came up in conversation. I suspect like anything, when faced with an unknown variable, one could say there’s no proof until you see it,. No reason to practically think such things. But a life isn’t made of proofs, it’s crafted from the unknown.


When we were blessed with our boys, she took to it like a fish to water.


Her strength and love for her children leaves one in awe.


But I wrote these words last night and then I got tired. And I spent all day with the family, and walking the land this afternoon. And you know what, it doesn’t matter how I write in celebration of the mother that my wife has become; being grand about it may even miss the point. Life pretty much wears you down, but despite all the grinding, there she is being the best mom in the world to our kids.

She is the best mom.

I asked my kids.

They told me so.

I see no reason to argue.

She is everything to them. She does it all and they adore her rightfully so. There is a laundry list of things she does: cleans bathrooms, makes meals, acts as their chauffeur, fixes ’em up when they get hurt, is the chief snuggle buddy when they need a hug…does laundry…she gives every bit of her energy and heart openly to raising our children.

It’s a thankless job, save for seeing the joy on our kids’ faces when they are happy, and the comfort she provides when they are sad. On top of it all she works multiple jobs at all hours of the day and well into the night. (She’s working on her art as I write this, in fact. Tomorrow she’ll bake cookies before school. I’m tired just trying to keep track. She does this every day, of every week.)

She has built this home that we enjoy, with patience and a bottomless supply of energy. I don’t even think she sleeps at night. Maybe she’s a robot or something. All I know is that those kids, and me too, are lucky to have her. So Happy Mother’s Day to my wife. I don’t say it enough, but we appreciate the heck out of you.

We did spend much of the day outside, so here are today’s Spring pics to share. I love that our land has a ton of flowering trees. Today was peak I think in terms of flowers. It’s amazing to come up the drive, over the rise and “poof” see all the flowering trees. Presumably the seeds were carried by the wind from surrounding properties over the years. Like some sort of suburban landscaping fallout. The result is absolutely stunning. The photographs do it no justice. I think today, or the week of the bloom, is my favorite time of year on the property.  Enjoy!