Because we lost our entire in-town bee yard this past winter to the Colony Collapse Disorder, we moved all the mountain yard hives to town so they could take advantage of the earlier spring there. That meant we had to make new hives for the mountain apiary. Mike ordered twelve packages of live bees from a breeder.
Our son, Matt, and his friend joined us for the installation day. It was a cool crisp spring morning, perfect for playing with the bees. The bees were happy to finally be moved from their cramped quarters in the little Nuc (breeding box) to their new home in full hives. The air was so full of bees that we need to wear veils to keep them out of our faces. They were not angry or anxious to sting ….. just happy to be home.
We located the queens to make sure that each of the hives had a queen, and gave each hive a jar of sugar-water to tide them over until they begin foraging to store some nectar and pollen.
Hopefully they will be rockin’ and rollin’ by the time the Sourwood trees bloom towards the end of June - first of July.
Speaking our son, Matt …. he has followed in his dad’s footsteps and keeps bees at his home in Brevard, NC. Check out his honey website at www.purepisgahhoney.com
Every fall the ladybugs that have spent the warm months in the forest are looking for a warm shelter to spend the coming winter. It seems they love the little nooks and crannies between the logs of our cabin. Our first year here, swarms of the little critters found their way in and took up residence. At first glance, this seemed like a workable arrangement. After all, what harm could the tiny ladies be, and they are so cute.
As the weather grew colder, they hid away, and we had no idea how bad the infestation was to become. Perhaps if they had stayed out of sight in their nooks and crannies, all would have been well. But, fooled by any sudden warmth, they poked their selves out to have a look. This meant, when we visited the cabin on a weekend and turned the heat on; they would crawl out of hiding and congregate on the windows looking for a way to the outside. If the sun warmed up a window, dozens would appear, crawling over the glass panes. The warmth of lit light bulbs would attract them. If we turned on the light that hangs over the dining table, we would have ladybugs falling into our plates. Have you ever tasted a ladybug? Yeaaaaach, they taste so disgustingly bitter that even birds and other bugs won’t eat them. So we swept them up from the floor in heaps, raked them from the window sills by the handful. Then when spring came, all the remaining ladybugs emerged from hiding and we had them everywhere!
And though I had always had a particular affection for this little bug, I was now thinking horrid and ghastly thoughts of extermination.
The answer turned out to be not quite that nasty. Mike found a spray that he coated the outside of the cabin with this fall that repelled them. We still have a few that sneak in, and that’s okay. I can once again look at these spotted ladies with affection. There is now a little cast-iron ladybug sitting on their favorite sunniest windowsill in memory of the great infestation, which thankfully, we can now laugh about.
This week we moved the bee hives from our in-town apiary, up to the cabin property. The bees are finished with the spring wildflower production and it is time for the Sourwood trees to bloom in the mountains.
The nectar of this little bloom, found only in the southern Appalachians, produces the very best honey in the world. And since it is almost the only thing blooming at the time, the bees will make a unique pure Sourwood honey.
The apiary (bee yard) is surrounded by a solar-powered electric fence to keep out bears.
If you are interested in buying our honey, check out Mike’s Beekeeping website.
We have a lizard that lives under the front porch and loves to sit in the sun on the wood pile, as he is nicely camouflaged there.
I think he is an Eastern Fence Lizard.
Larry is very friendly and doesn’t seem to mind too much when people are around. He draws the line at dogs though and hides from Millie.
Of all the beautiful birds God has given us, I think Bluebirds are my very favorite. My heart thrills when I see a Bluebird in the winter, as I know Spring is almost here.
The pairs mate for life and the male helps his mate search for just the right nesting place. Then he protects her and the nest, brings her food while she is incubating the eggs, and helps feed the young nestlings after they hatch. Such a good “Daddy.” Henry David Thoreau said, the male “carries the sky on his back.” His lovely blue coloring certainly seems as though that is the case.
Mike put a house on the post of the fence that circles the Bee Yard, and we have been watching our resident Bluebird couple raise this spring’s family.
The lid on the top is hinged, so each weekend we have taken a quick peek inside to see how the nesting is progressing. Take a look……….
One of the great pleasures given to us by our forest friends is to watch the antics of the wild turkey that live in woods surrounding us. Just after sunrise and just before sunset, they will come to open areas to feed. If we spread corn in the meadow behind the cabin, we can draw them out and watch them.
Particularly fascinating is early spring (mating season). First the old Tom will strut out from the creek area where we suspect they roost, across the grassy area in front of the cabin, heading for the meadow and the spread corn. He will pause and fan his majestic tail feathers out, slowly turning to show off this impressive decoration, uttering his “Gobble Gobble Gobble Gobble”, all the while hoping to attract the attention of a hen.
By and by, a group of hens (or sometimes just a single hen) will emerge shyly from the woods. Very cautiously she will closely skirt the edge of the clearing, afraid of any lurking predators, and waddle towards the strutting Tom. I imagine that she sees him as the glorious vision he imagines himself to be. And of course this causes Himself to strut even grander and his waddle (the fleshy part hanging on his neck) turns a brighter red. We have yet been witness to the fulfillment of this ritual, and I am not sure we are meant to intrude upon the moment, as entertaining as it is bound to be. Nor have we observed a fight between two Toms as they are wont to do when vying for the attention of potential mates.
We are not always graced with a visit from a Tom. Sometimes it is only a bunch of hens that come to feed, perhaps accompanied by a Jake or two. Jakes are juvenile males who the hens are not yet romantically “interested” in. Today, late in the afternoon, a parade of six Jakes came waddling up the driveway, their necks bobbing comically in unison, heading for the meadow. This was quite a spectacle. We watched in amusement as they enjoyed their dinner, then as if on signal from whichever was their leader, they all lined up to parade back across the yard and back down the driveway.
When they were gone, the lone crow returned to his previously interrupted grazing of the meadow.
Look who I found lurking in the sink when we arrived at the cabin this week …..
We have lots of iddy-biddy spiders in the cabin. I mostly don’t see them or pay them much mind, just clean up their webs. After all, there are all those old stories about house spiders bringing GOOD LUCK.
Back in the 1500′s they would say, “When a man fyndeth a spyder upon his gowne it is a synge to be that daye ryght happye.”
Remember the passage in Mark Twain’s book when Huck said, “ Pretty soon a spider went crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit in the candle; and before I could budge it was all shriveled up. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes off of me.” Then he blamed all his troubles on the spider bringing him bad luck.
I hear there is an Appalachian superstition that you should never kill a spider in the house. I think maybe the ever-resourceful Appalachian housewife found keeping the cob webs cleaned up in a log cabin, just as impossible as I do, so like Huck they found blaming it on spider luck to be a plausible rationalization. It worked for them …. it works for me. But I draw the line at GIANT spiders in the house.
So he only stayed in the plastic-tub jail until I could identify him, then I set him free, outside, of course.