Sunday, April 21, 2019


The sky was remarkable today. Last night was chilly, but once the sun cleared the trees things warmed up fast. 

When I walked down first thing this morning to check on the bees, they were moving slow. A few hours later when the temps rose, I went back for another look. All four hives were in a frenzy. Bees flying off in every direction. 

In years past, I kept all the property mowed. This year, I'm creating meadows by leaving swaths of clover and yarrow. After things stop blooming, I'll probably have to mow the grass with the big tractor, but the bees will appreciate the nectar. 

When we walked today, Jilda suggested we go and look at her brother's roses. His place is perfect because several years ago, he cut most of the trees on his property and his yard gets full sun for most of the day. Apparently, roses like that. 

We could smell the aroma before we got to the bushes. I'm a bit envious but I wouldn't give up our trees to have better roses so I'll have to be content to envy his.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bee stuff

I ordered a book from a second-hand book store earlier this week, and it arrived today. You may have guessed that it's a book about bees. I checked the ebook out of the library a few weeks ago and read the first part, but I wanted to highlight and make notes in the margin. Library ebooks are not jiggy with that. 

My friend Danny came across the book at the thrift store and sent me the link. I ordered it immediately. The title is A Book of Bees by Sue Hubbell. It's a beautifully written book about a woman who is a beekeeper. 

This week I added boxes on the two new hives. This box is where the bees make honey for me. Anything below the top box is to feed the little buzzers. 

When I took the top off the first hive there were bees there and they were working, but the number of bees looked fairly small.  When I took the top off the last hive that swarmed, they were busting at the seems. They'd filled the bottom two boxes with brood eggs, larvae, and honey. 

I haven't looked inside the original two boxes yet but I plan to do that tomorrow. I've been taking an online course from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. It's teaching me what to look for and how to keep my hives healthy. 

So far, I've enjoyed this endeavor. I can't wait till the honey starts flowing.

This picture was taken before the last swarm.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Stormy weather

It's rained all day. Earlier in the week, it was warm enough to swim. Tonight the weatherman is saying the county to the north of us could experience snow flurries.

Last night the radar looked ugly. Jagged lines of red and orange raced toward us with each sweep of the radar.  We saw some lightning and Caillou heard thunder and wanted to get in Jilda's lap. She hated not to oblige, but he's a beast. Our lights blinked a few times but they held strong. 

When I looked out this morning, there were limbs everywhere. Also, the old hemlock tree that I'd planned chainsaw down today was on the ground. When we walked, we found several other trees that had blown down overnight. 

I'm thankful we didn't have any real damage.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Blustery day

Today was blustery. WeatherFolk have been jabbering for days about the potential for bad weather. While Jilda was finishing lunch, I stepped onto the deck with a small bag of roasted peanuts and a glass of ice tea.

The sun was warm, but I could hear the winds aloft pushing clouds across the sky. The wind chimes on the back deck were playing the tune of an angry minstrel.

After lunch and a short nap, I headed to the middle school to snap a few pictures of a snake show. Each year, a guy brings a variety of snakes to the school to give the children nightmares (just kidding.) Most of them love seeing the snakes, but only the brave ones agree to handle them.

When I arrived, there were kids everywhere. The school board had decided to send the kids home early to beat the line of storms that were pressing down on the area. I'll have to shoot the snake show another day.

When I started to exit the parking lot, I noticed a bank of red clover with scattered yellow flowers mixed in. With the sky as a backdrop, I knew it would be a good opportunity for pictures. I snapped a few.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Color this time of year

Jilda and I both had doctors appointments this morning. Mine was a semi-annual checkup. The one in the spring is a fasting event. No food after midnight. When I don't have coffee in the mornings I get a little "snip'afied." Is that a word?

The lab got me through quickly and sent me to the doc for some therapeutic spanking (just kidding.) His physician's assistant came in and grilled me. She also did a memory test. Have you had one of these? They gave me five words to think about and then gave you some simple math problems. 

She then told me a short story. After the story, she asked me questions. Then, she asked for the five words she'd given me when she started the test. I answered everything correctly except on question. The trick is to actually listen. 

When the doctor came in he said all the lab work was great and that he would see me in the fall.

It was a beautiful day. On the drive home, I saw horses grazing in a field so I stopped and snapped the picture below. The color this time of year is remarkable.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bee knowledge

The bees haven't found these yet. They are all over the blueberries bushes and the tulip poplar blossoms, but not this baby. It's hidden on the east side of the house in the shade of a sweet gum tree.

Bees are not easily fooled. They are nectar sleuths. Just the fact mam. Where do you keep the rhododendrons? 

I fretted when I added the newly swarmed hives. I thought going from two hives to four within a few weeks might put pressure on the things blooming here in early spring.

Apparently, that fret was ill-founded. They need a bee traffic controller when the sun comes up.

Bees are tidy creatures. The abhor slothful ways and they are not fond of things unclean. Even when it's too cold to forage they will leave the hive long enough to use the bathroom instead of doing their business in the hive.

I still have so much to learn about these critters.

Maybe I'll put up a sign tomorrow with an arrow pointing to the rhododendrons.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Barns ~ my column from Sunday's paper

The recent rains have felt tropical.  One moment the sun was blazing with white clouds drifting across an azure sky and the next it was raining so hard I had to drive with my emergency flashers blinking.

The humidity felt like a steam room. It reminded me of Panama in 1971. The light was incredible. I shot several pictures for the paper but also some for myself. One of the last scenes that caught my attention was an old barn just off of Bryan Road in Sumiton. Did I mention that I love barns?

I had a few minutes to kill, so I pulled over to the edge of the road and off switched the engine. My boots crunched on the gravel as I walked around trying to get the right angle. 

Over to the right, I saw the landowner about to walk out to make sure I wasn't up to no good. I held the camera up and pointed to the barn. He got the message and went on about his work. In the past, I’d passed the barn a gazillion times, but the light never seemed to be right. Today, it was. 

The pasture was full of grass with yellow flowers. Later, when I did a Google search, I found the grass was called buttercup flowers. I’ve always called daffodils buttercups, but these weren’t daffodils.

When I was a kid, we had a tool shed, but we never had a barn. I’d seen hundreds of barns on the roadside with “See Rock City” painted on the tin roof, but I’d never been inside one until the first time I visited my cousin Marvin. His family lived on a farm, and they had a barn out in their pasture. 

I think the structure had been red at one time, but time had stripped it down to the color of ash. Inside were stacks of hay for the horses and cattle. Their barns were their own bouquet of earthy smells - fresh hay, dried corn, cow manure, and other smells that I could not name. 

My cousin and I spent time in that barn working. Some would consider the chores we did backbreaking, but I enjoyed the labor. After work, we found time to jump from the hayloft onto piles of hay. Those summers working on the farm were fond childhood memories.

Fast forward to the first time I ever set foot on the property where Jilda and I now live. It was in the spring of 1974 (I think.) I parked by the mailbox, and we walked down the long drive to the old house on the property. The hollow was filled with dogwoods in full bloom. They looked like clouds beneath the canopy.

At the end of the road were ancient oak and hickory trees. Behind the old house stood a red barn that looked older than father time. There was a cottonwood tree next to the barn, and the sticky lavender blooms smelled like grapes. 

Jilda and I both fell in love with the property that day, but I think it was the barn that spoke to me on a seminal level. It's like the faded wood was saying: Hey, this is important – take a moment to consider my role in the fabric of your life. 

We both knew at that moment that this is where we wanted to be. We were broker than the 10 Commandments then, but I felt somewhere in my core that someday this place would belong to us. It was a twisted road, but it happened.

Did I mention that I love barns?

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