Saturday, December 31, 2011

The end of 2011

Hard to believe it went so quickly... We just got back from visiting family in Ohio. Everyone is well although I picked up a cold when I got there. The cold is much improved as I'm no longer stuck inside the dry heat.

Christmas brought me a new camera! It is a Canon PowerShot SX40 HS zooms from 24mm to 840mm pretty cool! It also has a red button on the back, press the red button and your shooting video. The video is pretty good, tested it inside a restaurant with my 2 yo grand niece in Ohio.  All photos and video below were using the new SX40 HS
White-throated Sparrow in our back yard. Hand held from about 12 foot awa

Here are Rainbow Carrots picked today, the cold frames are growing nicely. Some reason I lost a few photos and video just after Christmas, I think the new 16gb PNY memory card is at fault or I some how deleted them. Anyway not very happy about loosing some Mail Pouch Barn photos and the 10 beautiful Rainbow Carrots photos we ate with Christmas dinner.
New yard art Meg got for Christmas.
Rowdy squirrel at our feeders, which all were empty when we got back home.

One of the first photos I took with the new camera on Christmas day. Here is the tiny Brown Creeper now a regular visitor to our suet station.

The bees on December 31 2011 today! You can see two large orange pollen packets in this photo.

The bees are bring in pollen like crazy, three kinds from what I could tell on this 60+ degree day here in Rougemont, NC.  Helleborus foetidus  is blooming and I saw at least 6 bees on it in the few minutes I was observing, the pollen was a straw color. Locals have reported seeing bees on maples in blooms, so many the buzz could be heard.

 Bee with pollen on Helleborus foetidus in our back yard on December 31, 2011.

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy New Years

Everyone from our house to your a very special warm greeting to you and yours.
 Now for all the gifts... Oh it looks like Valentine thinks she is the gift.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bees Christmas shopping??

Today was a tee shirt day here in Durham, NC, hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner. Anyway I was out in the garden at 10AM today and the bees were busy. First thing I saw was 2 undertaker bees removing dead bees. All the worker bees at one point in their short life have different jobs to preform at different ages, undertaking is one of there jobs during their cycle.

Anyway the bees were very active bringing in pollen in 3 different colors, orange, tan and, off white. I was very surprised to see so many of them bring in pollen. I went Christmas shopping today and summarized these wild possibilities. Dandelion, henbit, frost asters(still) clovers white and possibly red. I did see all of these in bloom today except red clover.  Also I have seen Japanese almond these plants usually bloom late January or February. Maple is in bloom also, not seen any here, it blooms late February or March usually.

Other nectar sources that I witnessed were Kanjiro camellia in the garden. We have two other camellias in bloom too. Pansies and violas are here too, but mostly drowned looking after last nights rains. I would guess a few other shrubs like elaeagnus would produce a lot of pollen as well.

These videos were taken with my new Ipod Touch.

Speaking of tee shirts today I wore my new Eat More Kale tee shirt and 3 people I met knew about it. Eat More Kale is a one man show in Vermont, Bo prints his tee shirts one at a time. Anyway I got an Eat More Kale shirt and Meg got a Compost shirt in yesterdays mail. Bo is being sued by Chik-fli-a because his tees dilute their message.

Karen, you were right on the Christmas lights it was a tractor on my last post. Looked into taking stained glass classes today, don't tell Meg.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The cats relaxing, Christmas lights

Yesterday it barely reached 50 degrees here, the cats were quite happy to sleep on the couch. The one-eyed orange tabby is Grumpy. The tuxedo is Valentine, she is our mouser.

Grumpy got into a fight over Thanksgiving. We arrived home a day later than our cat sitter could  feed them. He came home a good 2 hours after we got home limping and barely able to walk. Took him the the vet and they fixed him up. Now he's good, wanting as much attention as any cat could ever get.
You know once in a while I find discarded plants behind Home Depot. Yesterday I collected 2 beautiful large(20inchs across) red poinsettias. A little water and some dead leaf pulling and they both looked great. I could have picked up 8 more plants, but I feared they would live through the winter and become more ugly house plants to keep in the house. The freeze last night should have killed the other plants unless others found them first, it was dusk when I picked up my two. Took photos of them with my new Ipod, but have no idea how to get them on my mac, as I can not location the Ipod drive.

Tonight we went to a Christmas Party and I took this Christmas lights photo with Meg's camera just as she hit the gas. Pretty cool effect don't you think? Any guesses on what it is? I'd think Karen would know this easily, it is a rural area where it was taken.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Last weekend I built a new compost bin, the two compost bins we currently use were full. Every school day Megs brings home 1-3 five gallon buckets of compost from the school. It takes us about 2-3 weeks to generate five gallons of compost in our house hold.

FYI Meg's school composts everything. The school tried having a big 12 ft long multi stage compost bin, but the rats got in the compost way too often. Guess having 250 or so children who most do not eat all of that apple or orange they bring for lunch can make quite the meal for city rats.

Thought I'd list some advantages of composting.

1 You get great soil enhancement and it also fertilizes your gardens.

2 The worms are very happy to eat everything you bring them and they make the best compost.

3 Kids can learn a lot from composting and grow things in it too.

4 Save landfill space.

5 You garbage does not stink as much. Rotting food really stinks.

6 Our bees visit and produce nectar from the fruit and eventually we get honey. Yellow Jackets can be troublesome in mid summer though.

Here is the new compost bin. Everything except the nails and staples were recycled. The frame and siding covers(in back) were from a shed I replaced, and the 10 year old 5/4 x 6 decking boards were from a deck I took down. I grabbed the chicken wire from the free shed at the land fill. We cover it at night to keep the possums out. To get the finished compost you just take a shovel and lift out the decking boards out in the front.

Thought I'd show you inside cold frame #2. It was 27 degrees this morning I think the coldest here this season. I had just watered everything and took these photos today.

 Here we have mixed lettuce on the left and Lacinato kale on the right. The lettuce we eat it daily, there's lots of it.
Swiss chard, wow!
Here starting from the left arugula, spinach and gourmet lettuce.

Watched the bees at noon, it was barely warm enough for them. I did see one bee returning with large orange pollen packets. And I observed an undertaker bee removing a dead bee and flying 6 foot away with it, the farthest I have seen a bee carry a dead bee.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

UNC Observatory and the Coker Arboretum

Yesterday The second grade class from Meg's school had a field trip to the UNC Observatory which is on top of the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill. We met the kids and families at 5 pm  and everyone got to look at Juniper in the big telescope! I was hoping it would have enlarged it more than it did, still it was fun. Meg noted 3 moons which I did not see around Juniper.

You can see the copper dome opened from the roof of the Planetarium in this photo. Wish I could show more photos but it became dark very quickly. Seeing the doom turn was very cool, from inside it slightly made one dizzy.

Here is a view of the Coker Arboretum which was started in 1903. Those trees have grown a good bit, they have a lot of very cool mature trees from all over the world.
 Above is Chinese Quince, the bark reminds me of Sycamore trees.
 This holly on approach one would have taken it for an Magnolia the leaves were so big. It is called Luster-leaf Holly, Ilex latifolia.
Coker has a few camellias, this is Camellia japonica 'Kanyotai'. At least I think it was labeled correct as another label was for another hybrid camellia that I knew of from Duke Gardens. Anyway a new favorite of mine. A web search of this was not very production so getting it for our garden might be a tough task.
This Camellia sasanqua 'Otome' was very nice as well.
Coker has extensive plantings of hellebores, nothing even budding from what we saw. This is our Helleborus niger  'Ivory Prince' from today in the garden here.

Yesterday the bees were out, still bring in pollen at a rate of about 10 bees a minute. Today lots of bees flying with slightly less pollen coming in, noticed an off white pollen a few times. One of the local beekeepers told me red pollen would be from henbit. There is lots of henbit in our garden I pull it up as best I can, it rarely gets the chance to bloom in our garden.

One more item about yesterday. Meg and I ate at Crooks Corner in Chapel Hill. I have been here since 1985 and had never eaten there before. Slightly pricy but outstanding food. Meg ate hopping Johns, it was awesome. I ate shrimp and  cheese grits, best I have ever had, except it needed more cheese. Dessert to die for Persimmon Puddings with home made ice cream, oh my it was so tasty... I'd rate it 5 stars out of 5 stars, we well be back.

Coming soon our new recycled wood compost bin. Meg brings home the schools compost, does your kids school compost? We get from 5 -20 gallon a day, the bees like it if we don't cover it with leaves or straw.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Could not help myself.

Guess you might have guessed I found so much humor in this I had to share it with you.

 Here is a short video that will brighten up your day. The police arrested some OWS people and locked themselves out of their detention van!

This I did not find any humor in. In fact I'm disgusted with Gingrich who exists only to give "hypocrisy" a human face. A lot of poor people work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet, this man is a disgrace and completely out of touch with the American People.

Back to the garden! Our bees were bringing in orange pollen packets yesterday December 02 at a rate of about 10 bees a minute!