Thursday, August 27, 2009

Working Hard!

The bees are working intensely, collecting nectar as fast as they can. I found them covering sedum around the house and all over the meadow collecting from the golden rod. We are still feeding them sugar water though which they are using quickly these last few hot days. They have been bearding a lot too to stay cool as pictured here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our Bee Journey

It began about a year ago when we attended Montgomery County Beekeepers Assoc. beginner classes. We became official beekeepers or apiarist in early April with 2 hives filled with about 30,000 bees each – all mostly ladies, very hard working and too busy to even sting us on most days. We always knew we would raise them and were certainly inspired by John’s grandfather who had over a dozen hives in northern Florida on about 20 acres. Hive 1 is amazing with a strong queen and textbook hive development whereas Hive 2 has had 3 different queens and it still struggling. From Hive 1, we extracted about 30 lbs of honey a few weeks ago and it is - oh so golden and delicious. The ladies are gearing up for the second big nectar flow, which I am following as you can see on the left column of this blog.

The hives are situated in the middle of about 2 acres of golden rod (Solidago) so we are hopeful that we might extract more honey in October. More importantly though, we need to make sure the bees have enough food for themselves to survive the coming winter. They are truly amazing, beautiful and crucial for pollination and the creation of flowers and fruits. If you are interested, see the following sites:,,,,

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A late afternoon surprise!

Walking through the meadow late this afternoon, I startled a group of goldfinches who were feasting on thistle. They twitter to one another that I am there and scurry to the trees till I have passed. The thistle blooms are a reminder to me that it is nesting time for them. Check this website to hear their song and learn more: - great photo - another amazing photo

Monday, August 24, 2009

This says it all!

Fall Gardening Anyone?

Although it is the dog days of August and quite hot, we planted our fall vegetable garden. I started with a drive up to Agway in Dublin and found some healthy and reasonably priced late fall vegetable plants and seeds. After cleaning out the drooping cucumber and squash monster plants and the one bean plant the bunnies left me, I added several wheelbarrows of mushroom soil and manure and John tilled until the soil looked like crumbly chocolate cake. Following the advice of the handy Agway guide to ward off pesky cabbage maggots and keep them confused, we diversified our planting – so first a row of red cabbage, then romaine lettuce, then stonecrop cabbage, then more romaine, then brussel sprouts, a patch of spinach from seed, broccoli, beans and more romaine to finish. The guide also recommends creating a physical barrier so the flies can’t lay eggs around the plants. Using weed control material I will be cutting out 10-12 inch squares to place around the plants this afternoon. I mended our 8’ high (with 2’ deep wire rabbit fence) deer fence again in hopes of keeping out the bunnies at least long enough to let the plants have a head start. The fence gets torn by birds, wind, claw wielding groundhogs, who knows? Next year I’m fighting back with a solar powered electrical fence. I hope I’m not turning into grumpy Mr. McGregor.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Share the Harvest!

After pickling, freezing and canning, baking tons of zucchini bread, making lots of salads, cooking and giving every person that you come into contact the bounties of your garden and you still have more to give away, consider donating your extras to a local food bank.
There is a great demand for food in our communities which led to the creation of Sharing the Harvest - See the article for more information and details.
Be sure to contact the food bank for hours and needs before heading over.
Here are some sites to consider:

Local Food Banks for Bucks County:
Food Banks in Bucks County:
Bucks County Housing:

National Food Bank Info:
Feeding America:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stunning transformation from lawn to meadow:

When we first moved here, we had oodles of lawn and wanted to create more natural areas. We staked out an area, making it curvy for visual interest and a clear boundary to show we were going to continue to maintain our property. The area we set aside is about 2 acres and compliments meadows that exist in our wetlands area and contain primarily goldenrod. The new area also contains a large groundhog home that was regularly being mowed over. Besides installing 2 blue bird house, we didn’t do anything more and just let things grow. With the help of the birds, we now have an amazing diverse habitat filled with vegetation such as numerous grasses, wild mint, thistle that the goldfinch frequent, common yarrow, wild carrot, carpet weed, and common milkweed for the monarchs passing through. The meadow provides not only important habitat for mice, insects and groundhogs but also for many birds. To name just a few, I have spotted blue birds, red and goldfinch, swallows, sparrows, mourning doves, vireos, chicadees, cardinals and blue jays and then the raptors and hawks including the red tailed hawks, turkey vultures, a sharp shinned hawk, and a large hawk that I still am trying to identify – perhaps a broad winged hawk. I cut a winding path through the middle for better observations. It is beautiful all day long and through the various seasons. See website listed on sidebar regarding meadow creation and managment.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Curious Green Heron

Who should be appear this morning but a handsome young Green Heron - When curious, he stretches his long speckled neck and then fires his black tail rapidly downwards and back up repeatedly. He is poolside this morning looking for treasures left from last night’s thunderstorm – he keeps poking at things that look interesting with his dull yellow beak but he is not having much success. I see too that the storm’s violent winds dislodged a plank in our fence that will need fixing later.

Here is more info and a photo:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hawk versus crow

Last summer a pair of red tailed hawks built a nest in the woods beyond the meadow. The woods were filled with squawking and cries from the babies while Ma and Pa kept flying back and forth all day to meet their needs. This spring though a gaggle of crows moved into the neighborhood. They ganged up on the hawks and drove them away. I did some investigating and found that crows will “mob” hawks to drive them out and this is exactly what I observed. This in turn caused an explosion of rabbits to be born. I can count over 5 rabbits anytime of the day in the yard in all stages of life.

The gang of crows built a nest in a row of evergreens opposite from the woods in the late spring into the early summer. After the crow fledglings were out on their own a hawk reappeared. The crows gave a bit of a fight but not enough this time to keep the hawk pair away. So, now the hawks are back, trying to nest again and bringing the rabbit numbers back in check. There is finally balance again in this part of the web of life.

Check out these amazing photos: