Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm thankful....

Thanksgiving traditionally has been a time for football and eating the traditional meal. I wanted to think a little about what I'm thankful for this year.

I'm thankful I live where the cows and horses outnumber the people...

...and thankful for nature because it enriches my life.

Thanks to the uncommon nature finds like this Common Grackle which appeared below the feeders last week or the Golden Crowned Kinglet (a lifer if I kept a life list) I saw on a walk down the driveway today.

Thanks for my family (especially my husband) and my friends and for my health which has held up this year.

I'm also thankful I can share my love of nature with fellow naturalists in the New River Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalists and the New River Bird Club.

I'm grateful for my bees who inspire me and my beekeeper mentor who has helped me get through a second year of beekeeping.

Finally, I'm thankful to other bloggers for being a great community. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Witch-Hazel and Honey Bees

I awoke to the sounds of gunshots because today is the first day of deer firearms season which lasts for two weeks (except Sunday--hurray for the religious). I am afraid to go out in the woods to take photos even with wearing a blaze orange vest and hat. Forget about taking the dog out for a walk as Kookie only has the blaze orange collar. She looks just like a deer running in the woods.

So instead of walking, I am sitting here at the computer doing this post on a gorgeous sunny warm day.

Yesterday, I noticed my honey bees were out and about bringing in water and pollen. That's not surprising since the weather has been nice and warm (70 degrees most of the week). But where were they getting the pollen? The goldenrod and wingstem are long past flowering--the same for the asters.

I did notice this solitary dandelion blooming but that was probably not the source.

Then, I spotted the witch-hazel tree that was in full bloom. Sure enough, there were honey bees all over it. The witch-hazel is special that way--always blooming in November, a welcome respite from all the brown.

This close up of the flowers was posted on my blog a couple of years ago with the following text:

The Witch-hazel is an understory tree that is fairly common in our woods and a favorite of the Wood Thrush bird for their nests. The leaves are aromatic and can be used to make astringent lotions. Some old timers use the forked branch of the Witch-hazel branch to detect underground water.

This was an earlier photo of the beehive about a week before. The entrance reducer is pushed out so that the bees were able to come and go as they please. I swear I saw them pushing the entrance reducer out themselves! Anyway, the reducer is used to keep predators out but especially mice which will come in and build a nest making a mess. I made my own from 1 x 1 trim. I put 4 holes in it since I knew they wanted more than the typical small hole.

Thoughts on Hive Winter Preparation

This year I left a lot more honey on the hive, (2-1/2 medium boxes). It seemed I had twice the number of bees going into the winter as last year so it made sense to me. The bottom one had brood and lots of pollen storage. I figure the winter cluster can gradually move up the hive through the honey which also should help insulate against the cold.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I won't lose the bees this winter like I did last year. But one thing I noticed about these bees is that they seem a lot healthier than last year's bees. I kept doing varroa mite checks all summer and did not see any until the very last time when I counted about 5 (used powdered sugar treatment to check). Last year, I counted over a hundred on last check. Nevertheless, I plan on leaving the mite board out of the screened bottom board to allow any mites to fall off to the ground and to allow plenty of ventilation. Last year, I got so concerned about the cold that I left the board in. Maybe the mites got to them or the lack of ventilation made them susceptible to nosema (a fungal infection).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall Color Fading Fast

Red Maple with Yellow Poplars Oct. 28, 2010

The weather has turned chilly enough that we fired up our woodstove. Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees although a few red maples still retain their color.

Red Maple with Christmas Ferns

The Red Maple and Christmas Ferns remind me that the holiday season isn't far away.
The ferns will stay green until next spring when fiddleheads form with the old growth finally turning brown during the summer.

My dog, Kookie, loves it when I go on these walks. She's usually hunting for chipmunks or anything else she can dig up.

Back at the house, she is content to go through her toy box. Unfortunately, she never puts the toys back!

Well, I better put another log on the fire.