Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spring into Summer

So much to catch up on. When last I wrote we were in the grip of a long, hot, and dry spell. Since then, we've had a muchness of rain. Almost too much. But it did cool off for one brief, glorious week. And the rain hasn't been constant unlike the dry spell. On the whole, it's been a bonus. The grass is growing, the wallow is full, the late-planted herb and okra seeds germinated in record time, and mushrooms are popping up all over. Permit me to give you a brief recap primarily in pictures:

The black raspberries (they grow wild here) have been coming in bigger and juicier than last year. The birds are getting most of them, but I snag a few whenever I go out to see the buffs or when I'm mowing the driveway.

House wrens, not known for their stellar site selection, have built a mossy nest behind the old plow head in the right-hand cubbyhole of this storage unit on our porch. You may need to click on the pic to enlarge it.

It's a clever nest design except for the fact that it is exactly at eye level for our dog and is located right next to her water bowl.

Speaking of critters, we found a very recently dead snapping turtle down by the creek. After a few days, nature's clean-up crew had taken it down to the bone/shell. We've got everything but 3 of the legs. Gory? Maybe, but this stuff fascinates me.

Dinnertime? No! This is a very large mushroom that was growing near our hollyhocks. The cap came off the stem before I could get a shot, so I went ahead and laid it out to make a spore print. Spoon for scale not for sampling.

I don't know if the color comes through, but the gills are a nifty shade of green. As you will be if you eat it. Also, you might be dead. If I've identified it correctly, this magnificently monstrous mushroom is none other than Chlorophyllum molybdites (green-spored parasol or green-gilled parasol). Quite impressive to look at but also quite toxic. A good reminder to do a spore print since the gills may not look green especially when it's young.

There were a few glorious days where it wasn't too hot and the sky was a beautiful shade of Carolina blue. The above shot is of the property just down the road from us.

The buffs were thrilled to get up to the main barn again. While I'm not thrilled about having to muck out the barn in hot weather, I did need to let them into this pasture to eat the fast-growing weeds.

Effie trying to keep Eschol from the good stuff. The good stuff being whatever's in front of her at any given moment.

Enjoy it, Effie, you won't be allowed in there much longer.

And stop eating the leaves off the apple tree. That does it! Back to the lower pasture with the lot of you....

Old Creaky has a lot of apples this year. Some came down in the annual June fruit drop but the remaining ones are starting to show a hint of blush as they get bigger.

Thanks, bees, for another great job of pollinating. The New Girls on the Block (my oldest colony) is putting up honey so fast, I've had to add a couple of supers to make sure they don't run out of room now that Sourwood season is upon us. The Blackberry Girls (on the left in the pic) are slowly building up their numbers, so I added a second deep to give them room to grow.

See anything unusual with this picture? Try enlarging it. I was transplanting some herbs this morning when I heard the unmistakable sound of a large number of bees buzzing. I followed the sound to this black walnut tree.

A huge cloud of bees was flying around and I knew that I was seeing a swarm. Sure enough, over the next hour, a cluster formed on the tree branch. At one point, there were two "beards" of bees side-by-side.

But soon they coalesced into one large swarm. I was worried that my bees had swarmed but it seemed unlikely since they weren't hurting for space and I hadn't seen any indications of swarm preparations when I added the supers last week. Ideally, I'd like to capture this swarm but it's 35 feet or so up a tree and the branch is hanging over the creek, so I can't use traditional methods. Instead, I hastily assembled a bait hive within sight of the cluster and am hoping against hope that the scouts will find it and deem it worthy. Unlikely, but worth a shot. I can see the swarm from the windowseat in our house which is both fascinating and maddening. And distracting. I keep checking to see if they've left or if there's any sign of bees checking out the bait hive.

The garden is chugging along. The tomatoes (Roma, above, plus Mortgage Lifters and Mountain Fresh) were going great guns until the rains came. Blight appeared in a flash. I've been spraying religiously and clipping low-hanging leaves so we'll see if they can be salvaged. So far, the Mountain Fresh which is a resistant variety has been doing best though it's got the least fruit.

Greens have done very well. We're still eating tons of lettuce and now the kale (Red Russian, above) is coming along well.

The chard is nearly ready to harvest and I've got several recipes waiting.

Phew! Well, that's a bit of a peek into what we've been up to. The stanchion update will require a whole 'nother post.


  1. Great post, Alison. Great pictures-- that swarm was amazing! What do you spray on your tomatoes to fight blight? The garden looks really great. I admire you for "mucking out" a barn in any weather!

  2. For blight this year, I'm following a regime recommended by our local organic-friendly nursery: spraying Serenade once a week for two weeks then spraying copper sulfate in the third week then starting the three-week cycle again. I'm not sure if it has helped as much as aggressively removing affected leaves and pruning to improve air flow. The big problem with the sprays is that there's not much point in applying them in rainy weather and it's the rainy weather that brings on the blight....