A while back I made a promise to myself that I would explore the trails at the beautiful county park that is just a few minutes from my house. Promise kept. A very interesting and diverse group including a wonderful guide from the County Park District and a professor from a local college set out Saturday morning armed with cameras and copies of Wildflowers of Ohio by Robert L. Henn. Here is some of what we saw. I’ll ‘fess up that I have a new lens for my camera and I’m not quite used to it yet. I’m trying to practice shooting with a wide open aperture and a shallow depth of field and it’s very tricky to get the focus just so, especially with a stiff breeze stirring the flowers.
And a special guest appearance by…
In addition, at the end of the hike I was given a “Single Report” from Project Budburst (link here) so that I can go to their site and document my observations about any single plant of my choosing in my area on one specific day. The observations of all who take part will be stored in a database for analysis by students and scientists. It sounds like a really interesting project that may uncover some trends that have gone heretofore unnoticed. If you wish to participate you can register and log in and the report forms may be found as pdfs under the Observing Plants pulldown menu.
Strange, the vicissitudes of Ohio weather. We have jumped from daytime highs of just above 0º (Farenheit) and nighttime lows of just below 0º (Farenheit) to rather seasonable daytime temperatures of 50º and nighttime temperatures hovering around 32º F. The maples in our low-lying area are not producing much sap for us. We hung fewer buckets than we normally do.
The maple syrup producers in our vicinity have clouds of steam rising from their sugar shacks. Our beloved Dawes Arboretum’s Maple Syrup Madness has proceeded on schedule, we think. We have, until last weekend, been very much “hunkered down.” It is my hope we have not missed the sap run in our grove. We suspect it has been shortened by the sudden shift in temperatures. I took this photo about a week ago, just after the last snow fall. That snow is now gone from our area, leaving a moonscape of brown grass, mud and mole hills. It’s a tricky time of year, filled with promise and foreboding.
On an ATV ride around his property last weekend, my father in law asked my husband and I, “Are you in a hurry to go anywhere?” We said, “No, why?” He said, “Lets drive down the road. There’s a really old cemetery I haven’t been to in years and you might like to see it.” So, of course we went.
The trip along the country road in the open cab was pleasant and breezy. We crossed a farmer’s field to get to the cemetery and admired his tidy red barn.
What a peaceful, beautiful place for a burial ground it was. The stones told stories upon stories. The farmland in that area is dotted with family plots. Many of the people buried there cleared and settled the land in the first half of the nineteenth century and the monuments bear witness to the difficulty of life at that time. I was especially touched by the little sleeping lambs that marked the graves of young children. There were several of these.
One grave site puzzled us. It was marked as that of a Civil War soldier, but if the birth date was correct, he was only twelve years old at the end of the war! Could he have been a drummer boy, or one of the very young who concealed their age and enlisted to fight? In any event, his headstone records his passing at twenty-six. Perhaps his time in the army took a toll upon him despite his having survived the hostilities. Or he may have contracted a disease such as influenza, or been thrown from a horse. Life was surely different in the eighteen-hundreds, and fraught with many hazards. It’s fascinating to think of all the things those folks had to do to keep the wolf from the door, especially considering the modern conveniences we enjoy. Take a walk sometime in an old cemetery near you–just get permission if you must cross private property to get to one. 🙂 It’s well worth the hike.
It’s Friday evening and the wine has been poured. There’s laundry in the washer and the dryer and a backlog of dirty dishes. The bathroom is topsy-turvy with cleaning in progress and the cats are hungry and underfoot. Then my husband discovers the bees have swarmed.
Could it be our fault? There are many theories on why bees swarm. We haven’t been “working the bees”–periodically checking on conditions inside the hive, and adding boxes when necessary so it can expand. We just like to watch the bees come and go, and figured the unusually cool summer and our late start on the hive would not be conducive to a swarm. We were incorrect. Now we must hive the swarm.
What is a Swarm?
Bees swarm when a new queen is born and leaves, with her workers, to seek other quarters. A swarm looks very intimidating, with literally thousands of bees clustered in one place (in this case the branch of a fruit tree.) The bees are protecting the queen while they wait for a scout to return and direct them to a new home. If there isn’t a beekeeper with a hive this might be a hollow tree, like in the Hundred Acre Wood. 🙂 Luckily for us, we have a box and some frames at the ready. It’s also a cool evening and the sun is setting so it’s not likely the bees will take off while we suit up and prepare the new hive. We have had swarms fly away before we had time to don bee suits.
He carries the bees on the branch to the new box and plops it right in. We lid the box, weight the lid to keep varmints out, and give the bees a Boardman feeder of sugar-water to get them started. And that is how you hive the swarm. At least in this case, the conditions were perfect for a successful hiving. We hope to make some improvements to the box and the site in the near future, but for now it’s back to our other chores. Tonight when things settle down we’ll watch those beekeeping videos we laid aside earlier this summer and try to learn how to be more attentive beekeepers so our bees don’t all fly away.
Why is there a line forming in the parking lot of a hardware store in a suburb of Columbus Ohio at 8:45 in the morning on a Friday in mid July? What is the pair of 24 foot trucks carrying that is generating such nervous excitement in the crowd? Whispers of, “Is there a limit?” and “What are you going to do with yours?” can be heard.
It all goes back to the early Spring. To the winter actually. To the very long harsh winter, and then to the spring when Ohio’s peach farmers discovered this year’s crop had been lost to the cold. I’m not going to lie–I cried. Not so much for my well-fed spoiled self who would dearly miss the local peaches. I also shed a tear for my favorite orchard, where they pour their heart and soul into their product. The family of farmers work so very hard, and sometimes despite their best efforts, things don’t go as planned. Their peaches have rock star status among my friends and neighbors. Their truck always has a line at the Saturday Market. I happily wait in the line. But not this year. (Not yet. Not until the apples come in.)
I guess my gradual transformation into a “locavore” who is more connected with my food and my farmers has an emotional cost. A few years ago, the news of a crop failure might have elicited an “Oh, that’s too bad.” from me, but I would have been comforted by the well stocked produce department in the supermarket. I mean, after all, it’s in season somewhere. Now I am pained if I see discouragement in the faces of my farmers, or if I read it in their social updates. With the purchase of a CSA share comes a closeness that I can’t really explain. It’s not even the anticipation or expectation of a return on my investment in the form of food for my table. I want the farmers to succeed. I love what they’re doing.
So, that is how I came to be in the parking lot, grateful, but a little conflicted, queuing up to buy Georgia peaches from The Peach Truck.
The young entrepreneurs responsible for this peach lifeline to Ohio have their own wonderful story. They are evangelists for the thing they love–legendary Georgia peaches, grown on a five generation family farm, using the best agricultural practices possible. By extension, for right now, they are my local growers. They embody the same spirit I admire in the farmers who live just a mile or two away from me. As for my favorite local orchard, their foresight and resilience has resulted in a bumper apple crop and plans for an autumn festival. Who knows? Perhaps these would have been overshadowed had there been a peach crop in Ohio this year. Weird how things work out sometimes. Weird how my thoughts wander while I wait in line for peaches.
Oh, and if you happen to be in Ohio, Kentucky or Tennessee, and if you would like to buy the Georgia peaches, check this: The Small Town Peach Tour, courtesy of The Peach Truck. They’re coming back soon!
The view at the head of the trail that winds through the Japanese Garden at The Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio is a perfect metaphor for what my Mom and I learned on a guided tour there yesterday. What you might see on a single visit is enchanting but it only hints at the depth and breadth of the Aboretum’s mission and its present and future offerings.
Work in Progress
Many thanks are due to Luke Messinger, Executive Director, for inviting us to see the ongoing progress of the Japanese Garden Restoration, as well as many other projects that will greatly benefit guests of the Arboretum and the community at large. The Japanese garden was temporarily reopened this week after being “closed for renovation” since late winter. The reopening was to honor several commitments made to engaged couples who couldn’t imagine being married anywhere but in that garden. It’s a spectacular and much beloved wedding venue. The reopening was also a great window of opportunity for Luke to show us what’s in the works.
A point of great pride is the newly rebuilt meditation house, created from the original plans. Its very precise joinery is in the traditional Japanese style. It will be getting a coat of light-colored stucco over the green board, and will stand out from its shady setting as the old one did.
The giant stepping-stones across the pond have been leveled and reset. The end of the pond has been dredged of the sediment deposited over the years. The area next to the pond, between it and the motor tour road is being prepared for what is sure to be wonderful addition. The plan is to plant a grove of Katsura trees that are native to Asia and have beautiful golden fall color. They will mix well with the nearby American hardwoods, and along with North American sedges at their feet will create an “Asian Themed Upland Woodland Garden”. Something I was not aware of was the crucial part the Japanese garden pond plays in the management of rainwater throughout the Arboretum, and how all the excavation will vastly improve it and help with the collection of sediment that actually has great value and can be repurposed!
More wonderful things in store include the leveling, rerouting and resurfacing of paths to make the garden more accessible to guests with strollers, wheelchairs and walkers. Certain paths and roads will also be altered so they are more intuitive and guide users to emerging and expanding areas of the North Arboretum such as the Daweswood House, the History Center and the Zand Education Center…and beyond.
That Red Barn
If you are already a visitor to the Arboretums best-known collections, but have wondered about the barn that sits just to the North, and is visible from Route 13, it is the Red Barn Environmental Education Center. It was originally a sheep barn, but was acquired by the Arboretum along with surrounding lands. The entire area has very recently been equipped with a set of hands-on open air classrooms for visiting school groups. It may also be used for events and nature walks by the public on weekends and during the summer months. The barn has numerous picnic tables, many of which have a tops constructed of different woods harvested from trees at the Arboretum.
The Circle of Life
It seems incongruous to harvest trees at an arboretum, but they do have life cycles, and eventually decline. At that point, they are felled or pruned before they become a hazard to guests or a threat to their immediate ecosystems. They are then put to the very best use that can be devised by the Arboretum staff. It might be furniture that will be enjoyed by future picnickers, or whimsical enhancements to the garden beds appreciated by the birds, squirrels and passers-by.
What Comes Next
Ever ambitious and seeking to fulfill its mission, the Arboretum is also considering options for a new Visitor’s Center with a children’s outdoor adventure garden where kids can play and reconnect with nature. There are plans for a working farm that will highlight the best of sustainable agriculture. Later on this summer the Agricultural beds that formerly held the “Power Plants” will bloom with sunflowers. That will be lovely to see. The possibilities are endless at this point, and as in the Japanese garden, the things that lie along the path to the future at Dawes Arboretum are certain to surprise and delight visitors, their children and their children’s children.
Yesterday was an exciting day for us. We drove about an hour north to a bee yard and honey processing facility in Ashley Ohio to pick up our very own four pound box of honeybees.
My husband has been a beekeeper, on and off, for about 10 years. We have only harvested honey once in all that time, preferring just to have the bees around for pollination of our fruit trees. This year he decided to start a brand new hive, with all new boxes and frames. The hive, purchased from Rossman Apiaries, was ready to receive the bees when they arrived. The first task when hiving bees is to prepare a 50/50 mixture of granulated sugar and water (dissolve the sugar in hot tap water and allow to cool thoroughly).
The sugar-water goes into a spray bottle and the box of bees is sprayed liberally with it to calm them. Inside the box is a tiny cage where the queen bee is kept while the bees are in transit.
The queen cage is removed and hung inside the hive between the second and third honey frames. Also in the box is a can filled with heavy syrup that feeds the bees during shipment. When the can is taken out the bees can be emptied into the hive.
A pile of them is poured right on the queen cage to keep the queen warm. The rest of the bees are dumped somewhat unceremoniously into the hive. It’s important to continually spray the bees with their sugar-water solution so they remain fairly docile and willing to settle into their new abode.
When most of the bees are in the hive, the transport box can be placed on the ground. The rest of the bees will hopefully enter the hive of their own volition. The hive is then lidded, and a Boardman feeder is installed.
A Boardman feeder is just an inverted mason jar full of the same sugar and water mixture used to spray the bees during hiving. The Boardman feeder is especially important if hiving in the early spring when there is little pollen available for the bees to forage. Later on in the season, it can be removed.
Amazingly, my husband was not stung during the entire hiving process. Italian honey bees (the variety we keep) are generally gentle and only wish to go about their business. They don’t sting unless seriously threatened, and they will give fair warning if they believe they are threatened. If you approach a hive or a swarm and you are bumped by a bee in flight, consider yourself warned and back off. If you run across a swarm of honeybees on your property and you don’t know what to do, call a beekeeper, never an exterminator. It’s usually possible to hive a swarm.
Some Beekeeping Resources:
Rossman Apiaries–beekeeping supplies for commercial beekeepers, backyard beekeepers and hobbyists.
These hummingbirds are very special (as are all hummingbirds). They (or their cousins) were encouraged and tended by my husband’s mother when she was alive. My father in law continues to feed them and admire them every year when they return to his farm.
I so wanted to photograph them, but they are little perpetual motion machines and quite a challenge. I sat as close to the feeder as I dared. (They’re bold, but wary.) I pre-focused and set my camera to manual focus so that a confused auto-focus would not kick in at an inopportune time. I set my aperture to open as wide as it could. I like the shallow depth of field and it helps compensate for a pokier shutter in a shady spot. I also set the camera to burst mode so I could capture several frames in rapid succession. I hoped for the best. These are just OK. I wish I had dared to sit a little closer.
This is my husband’s and my favorite image of the week, from the photos we took around the place. It’s a deer skull he found while walking the creek. It washed up sometime in the last few weeks. We don’t know if the buck is one of the herd that crosses our property. We seldom see bucks. They’re notoriously elusive. Can you blame them?
The logs are from timber that fell during the Derecho of 2012, possibly from a tornado that spawned just ahead of the storm, or from the 80mph+ straight line winds that miraculously spared our house but knocked over some of the stoutest trees in the woods just a few hundred feet to the southeast.
The deer skull was placed by my husband on the log pile so it would bleach in the sun and be spared for a while by the rodents. Apparently squirrels, mice and such will gnaw on bones. Maybe for the calcium and other trace minerals? Maybe to control the growth of those incisors? I don’t know.
All I know is that this photo makes us feel a bit like we are on the Frontier.