Friday, November 12, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Apparently dew can not adhere to human hair but can on dry spider silk. A study published earlier this year in Nature (Zheng, Y. et al. Nature 463, 640-643 (2010) of the hackled orb weaver spider Uloborus walckenaerius web concluded the following:
“Dry spider silk forms a necklace-like structure. Two main fibres support a series of separate rounded 'puffs', each made up of tiny, randomly intertwined nanofibrils. When water vapour condenses onto these puffs, they shrink into densely packed knots, shaped like spindles (or two cones with their bases stuck together). Thinner connecting stretches of nanofibrils, separating the knots, become more apparent; these areas are called 'joints'. As water condenses on the web, droplets move towards the nearest spindle-knot, where they coalesce to form larger drops. The spindle-knots have a rough surface, because the fibrils within them are randomly interweaved. But the joints between the knots have a smooth texture, because their constituent fibrils run parallel to each other. It is this difference in roughness that helps water drops to slide towards the spindle-knots, sticking when they
The researchers then created their own spider silk using nylon fibers dipped in polymer solution and found when dry formed a similar structure. Their findings could lead to new materials for collecting water from the air.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Throughout the day, deer come to browse the fallen fruit from our mature crabapple (Malus) tree. The tree is at least 20 years old, has rough gray bark, has a round habit and blooms beautiful deep pink flowers in the spring. It produces literally tons of 1” diameter glossy reddish yellow fruit which I finally sampled and found to taste quite good. It is an excellent food source high in sugar for our local deer who keep our yard spotless of apples year round and it provides nectar for our bees and local pollinators in the spring. With 35 species of crabapples with 700 varieties, it is no wonder I can not quite identify it even after perusing Michael Dirr’s amazing: Manual of Woody Landscape Plants for awhile.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Today is a day worth celebrating! Not only is it Equinox and the beginning of the fall season, officially but also tonight we can enjoy an amazing extra special large Harvest Moon. Apparently the equinox began actually at 11:09 p.m. last night. With the sun setting and moon rising, together they create a special 360 degree twilight glow- only rarely seen. This is not to happen again until 2029. Also, according to Science News from NASA (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/22sep_harvestmoon/), it is called the Harvest moon because farmers actually harvested during the bright night to prepare crops for the last markets of the year.
Be sure to keep an eye out for Jupiter in the east as well. Happy Viewing!
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
There are spiders everywhere I look - especially orb weavers and funnel web spiders. A funnel web caught my eye - I gently tapped on the web and out pounced the spider ready for some prey only to find me. We exchanged some looks, I shot a few photos and left him to his business. Spiders live in abundance here and we have had our share of nasty bites this year including several bites on John's head and on my stomach and still after 3 months, I have necrosis of tissue on my knee. They are important predators though and an integral part of the ecosystem.
I found an excellent ID chart on the web: http://www.termite.com/spider-identification.html
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
(This is not a current map)
We have experienced an excessively dry summer this year in Bucks County PA and I was curious if it is an official drought yet. I found excellent drought monitoring sites: http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html and http://www.drought.gov/portal/server.pt/community/drought_gov/202. According to the sites it is excessively dry and we have a drought warning for our region. With temperatures this week back in the 90s and no to little rain in the forecast, this designation might become more severe. Be sure to water plantings less that 1 year old – for trees 1-2 gallons per inch of trunk caliper – 2-3 times per week and for shrubs 3-5 gallons twice a week or use gator bags or a slow dripping hose – it is a balancing act when having a well – so use your best judgment.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The golden rod is blooming and the nectar is flowing, despite the 4+ weeks of drought we have been experiencing. The hive we gathered over 100 lbs of honey from is weakening with the queen laying irregularly and several frames are empty. We rotated the emptier hive box to the top. There was concern of disease with a few brownish larvae but thanks to Brian Marcy he determined the hive is fine and just needs to be re-queened. We continue to administer Tetra-Bee Mix from Dadant to be safe. Both hives are creating honey at a good pace in preparation for the winter.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
I was out removing Apiguard trays used to treat mites from the beehives yesterday and on my way I discovered a snake in the midst of shedding. I believe it was either a garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) or an eastern ribbon snake (Thamnophis sauritus)with light stripes down its dark brown checkered body which was about 2 feet long. Apparently the eastern ribbon snake is thinner and has a longer tail and has pure white lips and a white mark in front of its eyes, all of which I was not aware of until now. Both snakes are non-venomous and abundant in PA, feed on worms, small frogs and toads and fish and are viviparous, sometimes having as many as 50 live babies at once. I saved the skin and even the eye impressions are visible – it is a perfect specimen.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
In between nectar flows bees are fed sugar water, heavy or light, depending on the time of year. For our 2 hives we use 5 lbs a week. When purchasing sugar recently I noticed that the bag seemed lighter – and IT WAS! Not 5 lbs but 4 lbs and for the same price!! That is a 20% price increase for a beekeeper and also something to take note of when preparing the sugar water mixtures. It takes 10 cups of water to 5 lbs and only 8 cups to 4 lbs when making a light sugar water used during the warm months! Most shoppers might not notice this but this is something for beekeepers to buzz about.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Each spring we enjoy the birth of several new fawns. This year we have 2 sets of twins and one more with three mothers. We see them in all sorts of configurations, sometimes one mother with all the babies - babysitting in a sense. It is fun to see how they scamper about, chasing each other with their ears back or resting in the shade during a hot day or hiding under the magnolia tree peeking out as I walk by with the dog. Other times they are all together eating, usually 2 - 3 times per day from the crabapple tree or grazing on clover or grasses or the most recently planted tree. One fawn seems to be a bit unruly at times or curious going off by itself for hours at a time.
Last year I grew butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), a yellow flower variety. I just found a wild one growing in the side meadow - a pink variety though - with yet again a couple of dozen monarch caterpillars on it as last year. I was having difficulty taking a decent picture though because of how the caterpillars place themselves under the leaves, eating the leaves from below. They are always in a shadow. Perhaps they do this to hide themselves from predators lurking above.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Friday, July 16, 2010
This year we seem to have a lot more bumblebees than honeybees in the garden. I have even observed bumblebees bullying honeybees from a flower. I decided to investigate further about them:
*They remove nectar using their long tongue called a glossa and store it in their crop or they will bite directly into the corolla called nectar robbing.
*Some species will leave a scent to mark that the flower has been visited – I wonder if honeybees do the same and if they can also can detect the scent left by the bumblebee.
*Once they have collected the nectar, they return to the nest and deposit it into brood cells made of wax but do not process it as honeybees so it is diluted and watery. It can only be stored for a few days unlike honey which can last indefinitely.
From this amazing site(www.bumblebee.org), here is some very interesting information regarding honeystomachs:
“Bumblebees gather nectar into their honeystomachs to transport it back to the nest. The honeystomach is located in the abdomen, and it is just a cuticle-lined bag with a long neck located at the mouthparts. It holds 0.06 - 0.20 ml, depending on the size of bumblebee, and when full can take up as much as 95% of the abdominal space and hold 90% of the body weight.
During foraging the bee needs energy, so she will consume some of the contents of the honeystomach. To allow her to do this there is a small valve at the end which can allow some of the nectar to pass into the bee's own digestive system. It has been estimated that a full honeystomach will give a bumblebee about 40 minutes of flying time.
Some flowers contain as little as 0.001 ml of nectar, so to fill her honeystomach the bumblebee may have to suck nectar from 60 flowers, and to find these 60 she may have to visit 100 or more. Then she will return to the nest, which may be as much as two miles away. So providing a supply of nectar for her nestmates would not be possible without the honeystomach to carry it in. A teaspoon holds about 5 ml and nectar is about half water, so to fill a teaspoon of honey a small bumblebee might need to make over 80 foraging trips, flying up to 320 miles, and sucking 80 000 flowers! Honeybees also have a honeystomach, and as they are smaller than bumblebees they would have to make even more foraging trips. Think of that next time you spread honey on your toast!”
Thursday, July 15, 2010
After weeks of excessive heat with temperatures in the 90s and even into the 100s, the lawn has taken a beating. Usually grass will go into a dormancy period. Although we have had a couple days of rain, the grass is still quite brown and the question is whether it should be mowed or not. It has not been mowed for 3 weeks. Based on some information online, lawns should be kept long – anywhere from 3-4 inches long so the sun can not reach the roots. Ours is about 2-3 inches long so we will wait another week.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Regarding the weak hive, we had killed the second queen as she too was not laying and had added the hive body to the top of the strong hive to keep mice at bay. We returned it to the original platform before we removed the honey supers keeping in mind that it only takes bees 45 minutes to realize they do not have a queen. Later in the day we added a nuc to the weak hive which we purchased from Mark Antunes and has a ton of bees and a queen that lays beautifully. To add the nuc we did the following: On top of the original hive body, we placed a queen excluder and then a sheet of newspaper with a few slates cut into it and then added a hive body we had been saving in the freezer that still had built out frames, some even filled with honey. We removed 5 frames and then added the nuc which is basically a mini hive with 5 frames of brood and a queen. We added 2 jars of light sugar water and hope we can get this hive in good shape before the winter. We returned a few days later to remove the queen excluder and newspaper and hope that they have happily become acquainted with one another.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
For more information, see:
Friday, June 18, 2010
Right beyond our solarium, we planted catmint or Nepeta and enjoy the show of pollinators all day long. One morning though I was especially surprised to see goldfinch. First a pair arrived one morning, then it seemed as if they passed the word and the next few days several more birds arrived, perching on the stalks, swaying with the breeze and nibbling on the flower’s tiny black seeds. Here are some websites to learn more about goldfinch and catmint.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
It has been awhile since I shared some bee adventures. Starting in early April we observed our strong hive working hard and creating some queen cells. We were concerned with swarming and kept an eye on things. The queen was laying well and the hive was booming. Near the end of April, we decided instead of splitting the hive we would add some honey supers as we noticed they were making honey in the brood chambers. On May 22nd we harvested over 50 lbs of honey. We used a fume board and bee quick spray and it worked like a charm pushing the bees below. The honey is light and sweet. We have the honey supers back on and will extract probably another 40-50 lbs in about 2 weeks, after the nectar flow comes to an end.
Regarding the photo, the jar to the left is our honey from last year, which we extracted in mid July.
Friday, May 7, 2010
As I was walking on Monday in the early afternoon, I noticed a female snapper turtle heading up the driveway moving rather quickly towards the pond across the street where she will spend the summer. She still had wet mud on her shell which was almost a foot in diameter. It was a perfect day for a move - sunny, warm but not hot with a pleasant breeze. As soon as she saw me, she stopped dead in her tracks. Last year, a female was hit by a car (see entry from Nov 20th) by my driveway and luckily lived after being cared for at the Aark. I didn’t have time to wait for her to continue on and stop traffic as she crossed so I scooped her up into my recycling container and carried her across the road. I went back to grab my camera to document the event and she was almost in the water when I took this parting photo. She has most likely already laid her eggs near the stream she left so we will be on watch for the babies next.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The swamp or skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) emerged a couple of weeks ago down at the stream. I had read that it provides one of the earliest sources of pollen in the spring and I was curious if my bees were taking part. Upon closer scrutiny I indeed found many bees flying in, crawling deep into the dark purplish curled hood and then off again to the hive to store the pollen. The foul odor attracts the bees and inside they may find a cozy temperature reaching into the 80's. After knee deep in mud and patiently awaiting for a bee to emerge, I captured this great shot. If you click on the picture, you can see the bee at the tip.
When the snows melted, revealed to my surprise were many extensive mouse trails around and inside the meadows. It was like discovering a archeological dig. A few weeks have passed since then and the trails have faded. The mice actually helped aerate the soil and now the grass is growing in nicely.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
While walking early this morning, I noticed some interesting shadows in the meadow. The slow melting of the snow has revealed some intricate mice pathways. I am happy to see the mice are living in the meadow and not in my garage. Sadly, we caught 20 earlier in the winter after I haphazardly attracted them with my sunflower seeds but we haven’t seen any since. (See Nov 22, '09 blog)
Friday, February 26, 2010
Huge snow flakes, icy rain, dry blowing snow, mini snow tornados, roaring winds - these words only barely describe our fourth major snowstorm. This storm is befitting of a poem by Emerson.
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet
Delated, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry.
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hiddden thorn;
Fills up the famer's lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The picture shows the actual installation taking place at their home.
There are both federal tax credits and state grants that can offset the cost by approximately 60%. Please see below for more information:
PA solar rebate information: http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/in_the_news/10475/pa_sunshine_solar_program/553019
Federal solar tax credit information:
We are meeting with Exact Solar this week so we can begin to determine how to substitute green energy in place of conventional power sources from utility companies.
Monday, February 22, 2010
In the last few months, a group of concerned citizens created a food club where local consumers can purchase food from local growers and producers. By supporting such a group, it helps our local economy, our local farmers and the environment.
A fellow master gardner, Rotarian and dear friend, Jim Schmitt, had joined the group and kindly shared the information with me. I promptly joined for only $100 and I have already enjoyed the fruits of my membership which included some delicious apple cider from Solebury Farms, delicious bread from Crossroads Bake Shop (they have the best bread and Italian cookies ever) and eggs from Ricks farm. There are regular meetings and you order online biweekly, then pick up your goodies the following week, currently at The Goddard School at The Farm.
If you would like more information, visit their website at http://www.doylestownfoodclub.org.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
At last we have a bit warmer weather. There is still at least 8 inches of snow on the ground but the sun feels warm, the temperature is around 40 degrees and there is an approximate 15 mph wind out of the NW. We spot a flock of bluebirds in the meadow and 2 red tailed hawks swirl past.
It is finally warm enough to take a quick peek at our bees. We trudge through the snow following what looks like a fox trail through the snow that leads directly to the hives. A couple of bees greet us from the stronger hive. They haven’t touched much of the fondant we gave them months ago, there is a large bundle of bees near the top of the second hive body and they are milling around slowly, probably dazed by the sun and cool wind. After closing that hive, we head to the second hive, where it is very quiet. We find that they are all dead. There is no honey to be found and they must have starved. We are silent and sad. They originally were our stronger hive from which we collected over 30 lbs of honey in the spring. In the fall though we noticed their numbers were decreasing and they had not collected as much honey. They will be missed.
Picture from this site: http://www.motherearthnews.com/uploadedImages/articles/online_articles/2008-01-01/WinterBlues.Car.Web.jpg
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
After receiving almost a foot of snow over the weekend, 3 days later another snowstorm/blizzard has arrived bringing with it perhaps as much as 2 feet of snow. The area hasn’t seen this much snow since the 90’s. The snow is swirling, pelting and blowing horizontally at times.
The birds have intensified their feeding at the bird feeders as they try to endure this challenging winter. This easy food provides a way for the birds to survive and conserve energy. They especially enjoy black oiled sunflower seeds and hearts which have a high meat to shell ratio and are high in fat. Millet, nuts and thistle are also good seed choices. Suet is especially enjoyed by insect eating birds such as the red-bellied woodpeckers and wrens.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Thankful that the storm has finally passed, I pull on some boots and walk past the Sweet Gum forest down to the small stream that follows the edge of the meadow. I hear it rushing before I arrive at its banks. From the vantage point of an old berm, I see the swollen stream racing by, bringing with it leaves and sticks. The temperature has risen to above 60 degrees and the ground has mostly thawed as my boots sink and squish with each step. The dark grey clouds above are racing and the wind is howling, sure to bring the arctic cold back in the days ahead.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
On my way to work, I was listening to NPR on WHYY radio station 90.9 and they were discussing a new book called Green Gadgets for Dummies – You can listen for yourself by just clicking below:
After the bunny invasion of our garden last year, John and I proactively purchased online a solar powered electric fence to surround both our vegetable and flower gardens. Our friends Margaret and Mike recommended the company and have had much success with this fence. I feel renewed inspiration and hope for our garden and can’t wait to start planning. Here is the site, if you are interested. http://www.premier1supplies.com/.
We already are using a solar powered electric fence (as pictured above) to keep the deer out of the blueberry and raspberry field but it is more minimalist.