I caught a swarm of bees a few weeks ago. A swarm is usually a lot smaller in number than a full sized hive and they are often a little weaker and disoriented so I usually try to keep them separate from the bee yard for awhile until they get themselves together. By consulting the bee gods, I determined that this weekend was the weekend to move the swarm to the bee yard in the country. I usually catch swarms in a smaller “nuc box” which is easier to manage and seems to be better for the smaller swarm too. As I transferred the swarm to a full sized hive, I found the queen and did a general “once over” of the colony. They looked great so I called the move a success and started on some other clean-up tasks in the apiary.
Turtles are master hiders
We have had some serious winds lately so a pile of junk had toppled over. While I was suited up, I decided to work on that a little too. As I started to gather things up, I noticed a small turtle hiding out under some stuff. Friends, I have always wanted a pet turtle. I don’t know why but I am fascinated by them and they are just cool to watch. I stop on the road to get them to safety, almost every time I see one. They are fascinating and I am curious so it’s a good match. I had to check out this turtle that was right before me…he was in my bee yard after all! This turtle had a crack in its shell but did not seem to be bothered by it. Still, being a turtle sympathizer and seeing an opportunity for a pet turtle, I picked him up.
Like all kids, I heard the story of the tortoise and the hare. Of course, I know this was a box turtle and not a tortoise but my turtle was more hare-like than I expected. He paddled and squirmed and when I set him down, he moved quite well. I wanted to call him Flash, like the speedy super-hero. Of course, we already have a cat named Flash, like the super-hero, so I knew that wouldn’t work. I decided, instead, to name him Gordon, like the super-hero’s last name.
That crack in his shell worried me…
I got permission from Emily and I was all prepared to have a new pet turtle. I did a little reading on pet turtles and found out that it’s probably not cool to grab turtles from the wild as the breeding range is fairly limited and though momma turtles lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetimes, only 2-3 survive to adulthood. Taking potential breeders out of the area can really mess with turtle populations and I want lots of turtles at the cabin. Turtles in captivity also are very susceptible to dry-eyes and other ailments including nutritional issues and pneumonia. I didn’t know it but turtles need calcium and all sorts of other minerals and they need light but not too much heat, but not too little heat either. They need to roam some and dig some and…well, it seemed like more than I expected to keep a pet turtle. With enough work (translate: money and time), some folks are able to manage keeping turtles in captivity but I don’t want to hurt the local turtle population and I certainly don’t want to have to work at it.
Turtle eating a raspberry
Perhaps the biggest problem, though, is that, in my reading, I determined Gordon is a girl. Sexing a turtle is an interesting process. They don’t like for people to peek inside their shells so…aw shucks, just kidding…it is easy. Boy box turtles have red eyes, girl turtles have orange eyes. Gordon definitely has orange eyes. So, next weekend, I will return Gordon the girl turtle to where I found her so she can breed (if she is so inclined. I like to think I raised her as liberated turtle who doesn’t cave to societal norms) and keep moist eyes and eat all the slugs she wants. If anyone asks, I once had a pet turtle though and her name was Gordon and she made me very happy!This entry was posted in Nature and tagged Nature, Pets, Turtles are cool! by warren
I have a tree that shades my driveway and makes me smile every day. No matter where I stand or how I look at it, it just looks amazing and beautiful to me. Regardless of the season, it has something to offer visually. I am not sure if Emily or the kids even notice it, but I hope they do. Anyhow, here are a few pics I took of this beauty back in April.
Click on the pics to enlarge…I just love the tree in detail
This same tree, however, is the one that sheds hickory nuts every fall. Our house is at the top of our long and somewhat winding driveway. We have become pretty proficient at backing up and down it. When we first moved in, however, I did not recognize the importance of keeping the nuts from the tree off of the driveway. One rainy day while backing down, we happened upon a sea of hickory nuts. As I turned the wheel to follow the driveway, the car continued straight. I applied the brakes but the car kept on rolling. There were so many nuts that we just kept sliding until we slid into another tree in the yard which stopped our movement…luckily because we were at the edge of a small drop that would have been very bad to roll over. We literally (yes, I am using that correctly there) would have rolled over. As it was, the car stayed greasy side down. We spent a few hundred on a wrecker and a grand or so on body work. I did learn a lesson…keep your pathway clear of nuts. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good motto, tree or not!This entry was posted in Nature and tagged Nature, What a tree! by warren
I was outside pouting about something the other day and somehow, out of the corner of my eye, spotted movement. I rose from my self-pity to discover a swarm(?) of newly hatched praying mantises (mantii?). I suppose they were newly hatched though I didn’t see still-attached umbilical cords or anything. Anyhow, they were itty-bitty and there were tons of them.
We have miserable English ivy at our place and though I hate the stuff, I was delighted by its greenness which is the only way I could have seen the little critters. They scampered as well as any baby 6-legged creature could scamper. I guess they liked being in the sun though mostly they stayed hidden. It was awesome!
I looked around some more and noticed some cool lady bugs though I couldn’t get a good pic to save my life. I figure they were probably eating my baby mantii anyhow so I didn’t want to stick around for that show. I moseyed over to the driveway and found a cool collection of ants. I am not sure what ants do in their spare time but they were certainly busy doing it, whatever it was. Ants can be sort of hypnotizing to watch, much like rushing water. Does anyone else ever get the (sort of) urge to get closer and closer to running water? Maybe it’s just me but I am drawn to water as if I being compelled to jump in. Of course, that sort of water would end me so I am lucky to have some power over my compulsion…anyhow, ants…back to ants. I took some video and they just make me want to stand and stare at them. I suppose I could jump into them. They are not nearly as dangerous as rushing water!
My video isn’t great but I still love to watch the ants
I guess it was good to look down and see some small stuff. It made my pouting go away. That was small stuff too..This entry was posted in Awesome, Nature and tagged Bugs, Cool, Nature, Quit being a cry-baby by warren
I wrote a few weeks ago about wanting to grow, process and eat sorghum. The first step in that process is, of course, planting some sorghum seed. Really, before that, we had to prepare some ground to plant. Larry, Granny Sue’s husband turned over a bit of earth at our place. I don’t know if you have ever tried to cultivate a new piece of land for garden space, but it is bone jarring, punishing work if you don’t have big equipment. One could certainly take to it with a rototiller and it will work but you’ll feel a new kind of pain. Anyhow, Larry ran his plow and tractor over a nice chunk of our land to do the initial “turn-over” which I followed up with a smaller tiller to break up the ground further.
I got about half way done with the tilling when another neighbor, Tim, stopped by with his tractor which he used to
save my life finish tilling the land. Everything was bone dry and dusty which made this whole process a messy endeavor. Still, Emily and the kids pitched rocks into the woods while I set up the rows and drove row stakes. We carefully planted a dozen or so rows of Sugar Drip sorghum seed. Sugar Drip is an old-time variety good for our part of the country. It matures in around 102 days and makes nice sweet 8-10 foot tall stalks. I ordered seeds from 2 well known heirloom seed suppliers and one says it is a rare breed while the other says it is common across the South. Who knows?
So, we marked our rows and planted the beautiful little seeds (which we will collect from our plants this year and save for next year) and covered them carefully with the freshly tilled
dust dirt. Luckily, it rained some this week so things should start growing well. Sorghum is an African native so prefers warm temperatures but does well in heat and dry once it is established.
I have learned that sorghum is one of the top grain crops grown around the world. Varieties can be used for syrup but most sorghum is planted as fodder for animals or as grain for daily consumption by humans. Many people are considering using it to make biofuel as it thrives in most warm locations. For folks with gluten allergies, it also is a common grain source for gluten free beer (hmmm…another project?).
So, our sorghum is in the ground though possibly a little early. I will keep a close eye on its progress but am hopeful for some awesome looking cane in a few months. Now, I really have to get back on track with restoring those cane mills I have sitting out in my yard!This entry was posted in Food, Land and tagged Food, Garden, Nature, Pa Ingles I ain't!, Sorghum by warren
Emily’s grandparents have a small pond at their place and every year Mr and Mrs Frog raise their babies there. We usually try to time it right to experience the sheer joy of frog season. I don’t know if you are familiar with how frogs work but Mrs Frog lays huge caches of gelatinous eggs which very quickly hatch and turn into tadpoles and eventually frogs. If you watch carefully, you get to see all of the steps in between tadpole and frog which might be the stuff of nightmares if you didn’t know better. Seeing a pond full of tadpoles is simply amazing! They swim so awkwardly and yet not. When they start growing legs and losing their tails, things get really interesting. It is an absolutely amazing transition and a lot of fun to witness!
Anyhow, we were around the pond last week and got to enjoy the tadpoles in the pond. Abigail loves to catch them in her hand and sing to them. She caught a few and while singing, spotted Mrs Frog. Mrs Frog had a protective eye of course (we could tell) but seemed content to watch us watch her babies. Of course, what are her options? We don’t have ferocious frogs here in West-by-God-Virginia.
Abigail decided she wanted to give Mrs Frog a pat on the back, congratulating her on a job well done with her latest crop of babies. She squatted at the edge of the pond (I had my camera ready fully expecting Abigail to fall into the water) and reached out to touch Mrs Frog. With a flash, Mrs Frog leapt into the water upon feeling Abigail’s fingers. She swam across the pond and under a rock where we could see her one back leg hanging out. We decided to leave well enough alone and just watch from afar. Spring is just the absolute best time of year! There are so many opportunities to experience in the spring. The Frog family delights us every year!This entry was posted in Family, Nature, WV and tagged Did you get peed on? You'll get warts!, Family, Nature, WV by warren
We are doing a little bit of fancy building out in the back yard to convert a bit of space from grass to a food plot. A few years ago I cut down and old tree that was both ugly and in the way. I had high hopes of sawing the tree into boards (just to see if I could) and doing something interesting with it. Three years later, the log is pretty well rotted…and in the way like the tree before it. I rolled it out of the way so we could work and we found a regular entomological wonderland!
These two huge beetles dashed around in circles. I dubbed them vampire beetles because they just wanted out of the sun. I think they were actually Patent Leather beetles (Odontotaenius disjunctus). I let them crawl around on my hands and arms a bit, trying to get the kids excited (in a “my dad is so brave and awesome” kinda way). It didn’t exactly work as I expected but I was delighted that the kids at least wanted to touch the beetles. I am a country boy trying to raise city kids to not be too much city and a little more country…touching bugs is a good step on the path. I delivered both beetles to a safe spot nearby…I do not want to harm such cool and beneficial bugs.
We also noticed a large millipede cruising around quickly once we moved a chunk of bark. We could not pick him up but he was super cool though a little shy. He had no interest in posing for a photograph. I am not sure about exactly what type of centipede he is but I think he is in the genus Cryptops. I also learned a little something about centipedes versus millipedes. Millipedes have 2 leg pairs per segment while centipedes have one leg-pair on each segment. Centipedes have venomous legs while millipedes do not. Centipedes are fast while millipedes are typically not. Gosh, there are so many other differences…read some more here.
Anyhow, I think what made me happiest about this log was the worm family we found there. Abigail bent right down and grabbed up a worm. It’s a simple little thing but I love that my darling little daughter will pick up a worm without worrying about it being slimy or wiggly. She relocated a family of worms the other day while some other little girls looked on in shock. I have city kids but even in the city, under a log, lies adventure and wonder and just a little bit of country!This entry was posted in Family, Nature, WV and tagged Bugs and worms and crawly things, Nature, WV by warren
I mentioned mountain color in the last post and as much as I like green, I think purple has to be a close second. We have thousands of wild violets in our yard this time of year. They make a really nice blanket of purple in the still-alive-until-summer green grass we have. I hate cutting grass with a passion and my excuse is usually something along the lines of, “I hate to lose all of the pretty flowers that the bees need so much right now.” It has nothing to do with my being lazy of course…it’s for the bees!
Anyhow, I was perusing the interwebs the other day and a blogger I follow, Woodridge, posted a recipe for violet blossom jelly. Check out the original there but I am going to include the recipe here for my own reference too. Woodridge writes from East Virginia, the lesser cousin of West Virginia…
So, Abigail, Emily and I set about picking violet blossoms the other day. Abigail wanted to take some creative license with the recipe so she included a generous helping of green grass also. I picked it out…I have eaten both violets and grass before and only one is really suitable for my palette. Evidently I misread the recipe too as I insisted we pick twice as many blossoms as we needed. We just made a double batch. Many other recipes I found used less blossoms for a single batch but I figured if some is good, more is better which was in line with this recipe anyhow:
Yield: 5 half-pints.
Anyhow, the jelly is a beautiful light purple and is some of the prettiest food I have ever seen. It has a super mild flavor and is a little earthy…maybe. I am not sure if that is the right word. Wild is more like it maybe? But that sounds bad…like eating poorly cooked ‘possum or something. Anyhow, it is a light, subtle flavor and will be a really nice addition to our breakfast toast. If you have some violets, whip up a batch and let me know how you would describe the flavor!This entry was posted in Food, Nature, WV and tagged Eat more violets!, Flowers are food? Of course!, Nature, Recipe by warren
Isaac was mowing the yard at my office tonight which gave me a little time to take in the local wildlife…and a lot of pollen and chlorophyll. Mostly there were stink bugs and flying whatnots but there was one extremely huge bumblebee with which I made friends.
Emily really hates dandelions but I think they are sort of nice. I mean, in the spring time, all of the colors are so bold and bright…and it doesn’t get much bolder or brighter than dandelions. My bumblebee obviously agreed as he was all over the flowers that Isaac was mercilessly slaying!
It’s taken me awhile to fully appreciate the lowly bumblebee. When I was a kid, I spent every weekday at the local swimming hole. I mean 100% of days. There was a “beach” set up along one of the local creeks in Tionesta, PA where I grew up. They had a concession stand and..well, that’s about it. But still, it was the beach. Anyhow, there was a ton of clover and back then, honeybees were still common. Between the honeybees and the bumblebees, I got many stings and I hated that. Heck, I have been stung so many times since then, I guess I have made peace.
Most small critters fascinate me but I think bees of all sorts are among the tops in my book! So, my bumblebee and I will check in each week as Isaac cuts the grass…as long as I can keep Emily from plowing under all of my dandelions!This entry was posted in Bees, Technology and tagged Bees, Nature, Stingers suck!, Yellow by warren
We used to have a neighbor who was somewhat less than “whole”. She had a real passion for animals…well, for collecting animals; not so much for taking care of them. Fast forward a few years and she has moved away, and, in fact, her house was torn down. The animals remain and we have grown somewhat attached to some of them. Just so you get a picture of what I mean, we have had as many as 13 cats on our side porch…none of which was ours.
There are fewer now and we have captured the ones that are tame and had them fixed. I guess we should have taken them all to the pound but there are a few that are good cats and nice to pet when we are out in the yard. They stay outside and keep the varmints at bay. There are a number of cats that are feral, and as it is now spring, pregnant. We do not need a dozen more cats around here so we plan to trap the feral ones and take them to the pound. I have a few box traps so this seemed like an easy task. I baited two traps with canned cat food and walked away.
I checked the traps periodically through the day and only succeeded in catching one of the tame/fixed cats…three times. I can’t tell if he is smart or dumb. Dumb to keep getting caught or smart because he filled his belly with good food, knowing that we would just release him. Anyhow, I set them again and forgot about it until morning. I checked the trap Sunday and sure enough, I caught another cat…a real wild one!
I took this one out to the woods and let him go. He didn’t stick around for pleasantries which suited me just fine!This entry was posted in Nature, WV and tagged 'Possum!, Nature, WV by warren
Winter is not my friend. I generally do not like a single thing about it. This week, we are supposed to get colder than average temperatures with the lowest on Tuesday…single digit stuff. We have a little tradition in our house that started by accident…whenever it’s cold outside, we sing (repeatedly) that Christmas-ish song, Baby it’s cold outside. The kids sing it. We sing it. It’s usually loud and bad and we rarely get past the first verse. And it’s bad. We love it though!
Anyhow, my blogging and real-life friend Granny Sue put up a great poem she wrote about the cold…check it out. My poems on cold would be a study in four letter words so I will spare you that.
So, instead, I thought I would post a few pics I have taken as I stand with Isaac at the bus stop…in the cold…and dark.
I do like one thing about winter and cold I guess. I like turning the heat up, piling on a big stack of blankets (which in my case, means one blanket on especially cold days), drinking hot tea non-stop and laughing at the wind with my sweetie. I know we need the cold to reset Mother Nature and all so I guess I will make the most of the crisp cool mornings at sunrise when I get to see the beauty around me and take a few special minutes to talk to Isaac in the dark. His guard is down in the dark (or maybe it’s the onset of hypothermia?) and we get to talk about a little bit of everything.
Bring on the Arctic blast…I am ready and so is my hot tea!This entry was posted in Nature, WV and tagged Colder than a witch's..., Nature, WV by warren