Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Disturbing the Neighbors??

Sunday at 8:30pm I went over to the neighbors to inform them their goat was stuck in the fence. I had never been to their house before. We had talked a few times between properties. So anyway I drove over and was greeted by two outside barking dogs and another two dogs inside barking. I rapped on the door several times before she heard me, the dogs were pretty loud.

She answers the door and I tell her a goat have been stuck in the fence all day and they needed to do something about it. Here first response was 'which goat?' That really set me off. I then explained I've rescued the goats three times and the last time it was stuck all day on an 101 degree day with a vulture waiting for it to die. She says 'we don't want to disturb the neighbors' I said disturb the neighbors? Your torturing those poor goats, I don't think she got it. I told her perhaps install an electric fence to prevent them from getting in the fence. She says an electric fence and donkeys is not a good ideal. Anyway we did not hear the goat anymore that night.

Another thing I noticed was their loud AC unit blasting away, could not hear anything but the AC and the dogs barking. You know we have not ran the AC for weeks, using the windows to cool off at night and closed keep the cool air inside during the heat of the day. Why with all the talk of an energy crisis do these stupid people run the AC on a very pleasant evening. They did not have the front door closed leaking out AC and the house was recently built so the windows should work just fine. My thoughts are if you have a lot full of animals you leave a window(s) open the hear what is going on outside any chance you get.

Oh, these people voted for GW Bush twice, I saw their signs...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Out and about after the rain

 Here is a hornworm I found on our pepper plant. If not for the frass I would have missed it. For those of you that don't know what frass is, it is droppings.
 Just about any damp or semi damp spot along the county roads here have lots of Wingstem blooming. The bees are using it too. I noticed a week ago or so, the bees bringing in orange pollen. The nearest wingstem to just that I know of is maybe an half mile from here. Something you might not know is that each bee gathers one pollen type usually until the flowers are finished. Other bees might be out there getting pollen from another source, once brought back home they do not mix the pollen.

This bee with orange pollen confirms to me that our orange pollen bees are visiting wingstem right now.

Today I saw lots of these Eastern-tailed Blues, these two posed for me nicely.
This is an wild lobelia that I see every late summer or fall. It was in great light and had a decent background for a change.

This is Gerardia it looked really really good the rain has revived it. I saw lots of it, yet found no Common Buckeye caterpillars on it. Usually in late summer you can easily find caterpillars.

This is my favorite spider it is an Marbled Orb Weaver. Very secretive and weaves a beautiful web. If you ever find one building its web it is fascinating!
This spider on the other hand is the villain of all spiders. I have seen this one with more rare butterflies in its clutches than I care to recall. It is a Green Lynx Spider, my first this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Vanishing Bees

Last week Meg and I rented Vanishing Bees from our local library. It was very eye opening to us on the loss of honey bees (CCD) across the world. If you have not seen please do.

This documentary points toward pesticide use, from what I have read mostly used on sunflowers and corn. Here is an article about what they did about it in Germany.
Our government is doing nothing to ban these pesticides like Germany and France several years ago. One thing we can do is save the bees with our forks. We can do this by growing our own fruits and vegetables. Buying our organic produce at the local farmers markets and food co ops.
 This morning after the rain!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Duke Gardens at the end of summer.

Most of the time when I visit Sara P Duke Gardens, the light is too sunny or I'm looking for flowers to take macro photos of. Bright light does not do well to get nice photos.  Sunday Meg and I spent almost two hours walking around on a mostly cloudy day cool day. I brought my trusty Canon G10 with me and here is a tour of the gardens in mid September.

Above and below, the nicest planter I have seen in our climate. I just love the color combination with the agava plant. Note the rusty chain it is a rain chain, not so fancy.
This planter was on the back side of the main building, most would never see it.
Here we have a look at some of the terraces.
Another agava, the white flowers in the foreground had lots of bees on them.
Another look at the terraces with tiny look at the water garden.
Light is everything in this photo.
The agavas really caught my eye on this visit.

One of the stone paths by the big pond, sorry no pond photos. This path is lined with camellias, not blooming yet.
The butterfly garden.
The entrance to the Memorial Garden, this is a recent addition to the garden not to many years ago. Duke Gardens if I'm correct has 55 acres so it is always growing and changing. Meg just loves the little pool by the rock walls.

The wisteria gazebo, a lot of weddings happen in there. Very lucky to get this shot with no people in the way.
I like this fern, toad lily combination.
The gold fish pond was recently renovated, those water lily pads are 3 foot across and very spiney on the underside.
This is the main terrace garden it changes with the seasons. At the top of the steps is the gazebo.
This new fountain used to be the center of the rose garden. Good bye to the tea roses.
A close look at the heron fountain, it is nice. I enjoyed the ancient rugosa roses that used to be on the lower corner.
A small section of what used to be the tea rose garden. I like the ornamental sweet potatoes, but the rest does not move me.
I waited for the sun to go away for this fountain photo. Waited and waited, even had a family come in and do a family photo with their feet in the water as I waited.

Last thing, this is my 100th posting this year.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harvest, Mantis and Stone House

Yesterday I cleaned up the yard and garden a bit, between running errands. So I figured it was way past time to dig the potatoes.

Here are some of the last of the tomatoes, still pretty tasty. The green beans are our first Kentucky Wonders, tasty but nothing as good as a fresh yellow wax bean. The peppers are sweet peppers we grew from seed, likely more than a dozen ready to harvest in the garden right now.
Meg planted two kinds of potatoes, these were the strangest ones harvested, you will not find them in the store like this.
In all I think we grew 20 pounds of potatoes, you can see what I dug up yesterday, others have been dug before on a need to eat basis. The over size cukes were found in the potato patch from seeds that sprouted from last years crop. On the seat is also our largest potato. No not mini potatoes, just small ones.
The bee hive has been very busy with bees bringing in pollen like crazy. I found this Chinese Praying Mantis hoping to grab a meal. Once I put the camera close to her(it is a female) she was more interested in me, not the bees. I went out at dusk and she was still on the hive. See those razor sharp "teeth" on the middle of the femur on her fore legs these are called spiked forelegs raptorial legs. I found on once ripping apart a hummingbird with those raptorial legs.
Here is the Riggsbee Stone House Meg and I looked at on Saturday to possibly purchase. It was built in 1921 and is on The National Historic Registry. Rumor has it was a moon shiners house, the upstiars has hidden room for storing shine in. The price was a bit more than we could round up unless we sold our house first. The kitchen was in need of new cabinets. The first floor had a gravity toilet (cheap reproduction and claw-foot tub with an awful cheap fixture. The upstairs bathrooms were next to each other and on one end of the house the master bedroom was on the other end.
All this native quartz rock was everywhere on the 2 acres. A 16 inch perimeter rock wall needing minor repair, several walk under quartz arches (Karen!!), 2 defunct fountains and a defunct quartz rock pool. Mature trees like American Walnut, Maginolia Grandiflora, Pecan and Tulip Poplars. The gardens in the day must have been really something. 

The Night Blooming Cereus set a record the other night with 9 blooms I think you can see all of them in this photo.
My bees are non stop bringing in pollen! I looked in the top of the hive today and the new super is just full of bees drawing wax. Really looking forward to my next inspection next week. I have ordered a Small Hive Beetle Trap I talked to another beekeeper at the club dinner the other night and she has been using them with great results. Having a bit of shade around you hive makes beetles more of a problem. 

Oh and the garden. This morning I planted Rainbow Blend Carrots, Gourmet Lettuce Mix and Lacinato Kale in the cold frame. No it is not covered yet. Last night we visited the local nursery/farm at the bottom of the hill, I bought 4 different ferns and we were given a nice beauty berry bush.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bee Vac and other stuff

Yesterday we planned to do our first beehive extraction (Jan and I) with hopes of setting up a new hive of feral bees in our garden, everything was set to go. I built a bee vacuum to collect the stray bees, built custom frames to install comb with the bees own brood and honey and a brand new hive to place them in.

The bees were flying into a porch built in 1921. We assumed the bee hive would be under the floor joists of the porch. The owners are getting ready to rebuild the porch and people have been getting stung, so the hive needed to go. So we cut open the porch to extract the bees and the hive was not under the porch. Instead the bees we entering a crack in the wood and going into a 24" x 24" brick column which likely has a 12" x 12" cavity in it. So getting to the hive was not possible. We set up the bee vac and collected 300 or so bees, knowing they would be exterminated.

 Here is the first prototype of my bee vac. The vacuum was one I had in my shop and never used. So I gutted the vacuum and cut it up to flatten the bottom to use in in the box I built for the vacuum. I tested the vac with some bees clinging to  my boardman feeder and it would not pull clinging bees into it, flying bees would be sucked up. So it would not work.
 So I went to the big box store and bought a bigger shop vac, this 5 hp one did the trick. You can see some of the bees it collected, only a few died after being sucked up.
To control the amount of air flow I installed this air port on the side of the vac, too much flow would kill the bees while being sucked up. You need just enough to grab them no more than that. The 1/8 inch hardware cloth top keeps them safe from the vacuum itself. The hose has a hardware cloth screen that prevents to bees from exiting the hose after your finished, this needs to be removed when collecting bees.

These are feral bees we collected. I'm guessing one is feeding the other.
 After the failed extraction we went to Jan's to inspect one of his hives. The bees had reduced a great deal and he wanted to investigate.  The honey super he installed weeks ago was nearly untouched. This frame was in the second level brood box about half the 10 frames looked like this 60% filled with honey, perhaps enough honey for them to winter over nothing for the beekeeper. No brood was found in the second level, we were worried at this point. All that extra comb is called burr comb, we cleaned it off all the frames. The tub with burr comb and drippings of honey must have had 300-400 bees in it before we finished.
 Here is an Russian bee just being born. I started singing happy birthday, Jan got a kick out of that. Perhaps the young bee there was singing in Russian bee happy birthday to it?
 Here is a wild morning glory next to potato patch. The photo below is an iron chair covered in morning glory. Meg thinks we don't need a weedeater.

This night blooming cerius opened last night. tonight we expect 8 of them to open on the porch, never had more than 2 at a time before! The aroma is heavenly.

 The pond is happy. Lots of frogs and turtles scramble when you walk down there. I had an interesting thing happen practically under my feet a few days ago. A five-lined Skink jumped out of the flower bed in front chasing a cricket. It killed it after 5-6 leaps right under my feet.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Pond is Back!!

Today it rained, currently my 5 gallon bucket rain gauge says over 4 inches! I was home working on a big quote to remodel an entire house and the rain came down in sheets here. Turned on the TV and the weather was on talking about a bad weather system, and for once we were in the middle of it. The rains came at least 3 times, the first rain was an 1 1/2 inches, the rest came later on in the day. Anyway the pond is back, never quite dried up.

 Still the pond could be up much higher, at least all the frogs and toads are safe now.

The rain chains were overflowing, one was nearly useless in this big rain. The video above is the rain chains next to the screened porch, it usually carries water fairly well. The water from this rain chain goes to a 300 gallon rain tote which was filled up last night before today's storm.

 This rain chain does not like a lot of water going down it at all. Pretty unhappy about it. The water basin drains to the pond. I dumped about 10 of those 5 gallon buckets into the drain to the pond. Even the garden path by the big deck was flooding and falling into the pond, I have never seen that happen before.

Here is an update on the rain. My buckets showed a 5 full inches (combined from the rains) after another storm late late night. So we are watered fairly well now and the pond is a little higher. No damage to the garden, I did see a few drowned bees at the hive entrance.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Rain on the way??

 I read this report this morning. Hope the pond likes it.
...Flash Flood Watch in effect from this evening through late
Tuesday night...

The National Weather Service in Raleigh has issued a

* Flash Flood Watch for a portion of central North Carolina... 
  including the following areas...Alamance...Anson...Chatham... 
  Randolph...Richmond...Stanly...Vance...wake and Warren. 

* From this evening through early Wednesday morning.

* Showers and scattered thunderstorms will overspread the Piedmont
  today and continue Tuesday and Tuesday night. The rain will
  become heavy at times tonight through Tuesday night. 2 to 4
  inches of rain is expected throughout the Piedmont with locally
  higher amounts of 5 inches plus expected.

* Once the ground becomes saturated tonight and the heavier
  rainfall rates arrive... flash flooding of low lying areas along
  creeks and streams will occur. This includes urban and rural
  areas. Occasionally very heavy rainfall rates are expected
  tonight into Tuesday... and possibly Tuesday night as the low
  pressure moves along the front over our region. If this event
  does become prolonged into Tuesday and Tuesday night... then
  flooding of main Stem rivers may also occur.

Precautionary/preparedness actions...

A Flash Flood Watch means that conditions may develop that lead
to flash flooding. Flash flooding is a very dangerous situation.

You should monitor later forecasts and be prepared to take action
should flash flood warnings be issued.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The End is near.....

For our pond this is. It looks like the pond will be dried up by Tuesday! I'm thinking at this point we have more water in the two rain totes (about 350 gallons) than the pond has water. Pretty sad considering hurricane Irene has left devastating floods all up the east coast and just gave us winds with a tiny bit of rain.

 We do not have fish, not having fish is good for the frogs and dragonflies. So we'll loose a lot of tadpoles and some dragonfly larva and damselfly larva. I think some might be able to bury themselves in the mud and survive. The pond dried up in 2008, the recovery was not too bad. I'm sure we'll have wonderful frog concerts next spring just the same.

For forecast currently is spotty for rain. These 1/8  and 1/4 inch rains only coat the top of the ground and dry up very quickly. What we need is several rains of 2+ inches to bring the pond back. Hurricane Bob years ago overflowed the pond, the only time I have seen it overflow in the 14 years I have lived here.

Just wanted to remind any local people visiting this blog that The Paperhand Puppet Intervention show will have the last three shows in Chapel Hill this weekend. Next weekend it will be at the Raleigh Art Museum. We went last night it was a lot of fun, should not be missed. They also have a parade you can see my photos from October 2009 it was a blast. Last night guess what? I forgot my camera....