Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Blue Ridge In My Backyard

We lived in the small town of Kernersville, NC, before moving to Cashiers 10 years ago. During the summer the temperatures would often be in the 90's and on Sunday afternoons we would head for the Blue Ridge Parkway for a picnic to escape the heat. We could be on the Parkway in Virginia in about an hour. Since moving to Cashiers we've not had to escape the heat because it never really get hot here. Last Sunday we were just looking for something to do and decided to to go on a picnic. We grabbed some beer for the cooler, headed north to Sylva to pick up some chicken at the Bojangles, (we don't have fast food restaurants here either) and headed to Waynesville to access the Parkway. We were there in about 45 minutes. Although it had threatened rain and was cloudy some of the day, the weather was great for relaxing. It didn't take me long to remember why I always took a sweatshirt to the Parkway. The temperatures were high 60's all day.

Sourwood in bloom. Our area of the mountains is known for the sourwood honey produced here. As you look out across the mountains, the white blooms on the trees stand out very prominently in a vast sea of green. I didn't notice this tree at first, but when we sat down at the picnic table my husband said "look behind you." There it was, buzzing with bee activity. All of the views on the Parkway are spectacular. This photo was taken at about 5000 ft.

Whenever we drive in the mountains sometimes the distances are not far, but it takes a while to get to our destination because of the curvey mountain roads. I didn't realize how close we actually are to the Blue Ridge until we can upon this map at one of the ranger/rest stops. Although it is hard to read because of age, the sign points out Whiteside Mountain and Yellow Mountain. From this point at 5700 ft., Whiteside is 27 miles and Yellow is 22 miles. Our house is located between these peaks at 3700 ft.

The view toward Whiteside and Yellow Mountains. We're out there about in the middle of the picture. If you notice, the tree in the foreground is dead. Unfortunaty, there is a small pest called a wooley adelgid that is killing all the hemlock trees. It was painfully obvious on the Parkway. Everywhere we looked there are hundreds of trees that are now skeletons. There are lots of scientists working on the problem, but so far there are no good solutions for fighting this small pest. We have probably 20 hemlocks in our yard right now that need to be cut. They will become firewood for the winter.

We continued our drive towards Cherokee where the Parkway deadends into the Great Smoky Mountain Parkway. From there we headed towards Gatlinburg about 30 miles west. The Oconoluftee River runs along the Parkway and the drive is beautiful. We weren't really going to Gatlinburg, just enjoying the ride and after a few miles we turned around to get back on the Parkway, finish our chicken and head back home. After we had gone just a short distance, we noticed several cars pulling off the road very hurredly. We stopped also and soon found out why cars were stopping. There was an elk grazing beside the river! The elk are being reintroduced to this area and evidently are doing well. I was fortunate that my camera was at my feet and was able to get a couple of pictures before it wandered back into the woods.

We debate sometime whether we will stay in the mountains or maybe someday move back closer to civilization , but after a day like this on the Parkway, we both know we will never be far from this great treasure that is truly in our backyard.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More Bee Photos

Our Smoky Mountain Chapter Beekeepers met Thursday night and our speaker was my friend, fellow Master Gardener and beekeeper, Gary Bradshaw. Gary is a former commercial beekeeper with over 800 hives and also taught college level courses in beekeeping. He is now retired with 4 hives. His topic for the evening was bee diseases, mites, pests, ect. I'm not going to go into all the gorey details. Any beekeeper out there right now should know what bees are facing. What I am going to note is that Gary's plan of action for his bees is to do nothing. He is not treating for anything. Period. At his last inspection he saw no sign of varroa, disease, or anything else to note. I'm impressed.

My daughter is an excellent photographer and she shot the first 2 pix of the workers on the face of the hive. Their pollen baskets are so full they almost stagger. The hive was wet because I had watered a few plants this morning. We should have rain this evening and tomorrow. We need it. I'm going to have the most awesome crop of cukes I've ever had this year thanks to my buzzy friends.

Bee balm is in full bloom and has become quite the favorite.

Here I come.

I like this picture because it looks like I just pasted the bee in. I didn't. Just happened to get a lucky shot. Lamb's ear is just about finished blooming.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ora and Walter

I did a hive inspection this morning and am very pleased with the bees in Ora and Walter. Ora has been a little slow to build-up, but this morning I saw 4 frames in the new super being drawn with comb. I can tell just by looking at outside activity that this colony is really starting to grow. I have confidence they will fill at least one super with honey.
Walter is, in a word, amazing. The bees have filled 2 supers with honey and 8 of the frames in the super I added last Tuesday are already drawn with comb and the workers are busy on the remaining 2. I had to feed Walter all last winter because there were no honey stores. (I didn't take the honey, there was just none there because of the poor season last summer for bees.) My plan right now is to leave at least 1 honey super for Walter, and if Ora does not produce at 1 full super of honey, I will take 1 from Walter to add to her for the winter. If production continues as it is now, I hope Walter will fill 2 more supers. Well see. The following are some pictures of what the bees are loving in the garden right now. Not shown is the feeding frenzy on the cucumber and squash blooms. The sourwood is also starting to bloom.

Headed for the hostas.

Loving the lamb's ear. The buzz around this plant is almost like standing next to the hive.

Bees on borage. Borage is an herb and also one of those plants that once you have it, you have it forever. It self-seeds and is everywhere, but is well worth having because the bees do obviously love it. Very hard to get a picture of working bees. They just won't sit still for me. :)

I'm going to post a picture of Walter's new super in the sidebar. My husband built this box and did a great job on it. He also said it was about the ugliest thing he had ever seen after I painted it. I have to admit it is sort of day-glow yellow, but that's what you get when you mix green and yellow paint. I used what I had. The next one will be red. Bees don't seem to care and I'm not Martha Stewart.