Friday, April 26, 2024

Blooming Now

In my beehive journal I often write, "Blooming Now" and list all the main wildflowers honey bees visit that are currently blooming. It is important for beekeepers to know and understand the bloom cycles for their area. But for this post, I am showing you just a portion of the plants I have seen blooming recently. They are not all plants for honey bees, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.


I like the Bleeding Heart. My mom has one that blooms every year (not this plant) and she gave me an offshoot, but it did not thrive in my environment.

Don't forget the Forget-Me-Nots

Okay, this is not a bloom, but a fruiting body. It is a true morel, according to my mushroom expert son. But it is a "half free" meaning it is not connected to the stem at the bottom. So, we do not harvest these. We use them as a sign that the "eaters" are not far away from coming up.

These Lesser Celadine are invasive. I usually see them near rivers, but these I saw along a path in higher elevation than I expected. I was surprised and a little bit alarmed.
Bluebells are always a joy to see.

The first day the Tulips opened up.
Note the white bark of the Birch Tree. It is blooming, too.
Here is the bloom of the Birch Tree.
Here is a clump of moss on cement. It has bloomed already, I think, on the tips of the longer strands.

When you see the Garlic Mustard (my walking stick is pointing to it), please pull it, bag it in plastic and toss it into the garbage. It is very invasive and will be blooming soon.
A type of maple tree in full bloom.

Here you can get a closer look at that maple tree's yellow/green blooms.
I like daffodils. A true sign of spring and they come up year after year, sometimes for many years.

Dead Nettle weed grows in large clumps, oftentimes. I found this loner and took its picture.
Box Elder is a type of maple tree and can be tapped for making maple syrup. Here it is in bloom (or maybe just past the peak of bloom).

The Bradford or Cleveland Pears always show well, especially with a blue sky backdrop.

The wild cherry trees are often the earliest, most obvious bloomers in our woodlands.

I use the Red Bud bloom as a signal that it is time for me to get out bluegill fishing.
As a beekeeper, I love seeing fields of dandelions in bloom. Their pollen is orange when the bees are bringing it back to the hives on their back legs (pollen baskets).

The Myrtle ground cover seems to be blooming prolifically this year.

Blood Root is one of my favorite wildflowers to see.

A type of maple tree blooming here. Just think of all the pollen and nectar available to the bees when a tree like this is in bloom.

Beware of ticks as you wander outdoors. This is our first for the season and it won't be our last.

Happy Springtime. It is a busy, but amazing time of year.

Friday, January 26, 2024

I've Got Worms!!

I do not need another hobby in my life, but I started a new one. I have started raising worms. It is a natural fit for someone who likes to fish and frequently uses live worms for bluegill fishing. Purchasing bait is getting expensive and the quality is declining. And finding my own worms in nature has been more challenging recently, so I have decided to raise my own bait. I hope it works. The composting the worms do and the castings (poop) they produce will be a bonus for me and the garden.

My first worm purchase was 100 European Nightcrawlers. 

I set up a five gallon bucket worm bin. One bucket sits inside the other. I placed a brick at the bottom of the outer bucket so the two pails do not nest too closely, making it difficult to separate them. Holes are drilled in the bottom of the inner bucket to allow excess water to drain into the outer bucket. That water can be used as "tea" for feeding plants. Holes in the lid are for aeration. This keeps any decomposition from going "anaerobic". Anaerobic decomposition stinks, literally. The system needs good air flow in order to work properly. The tote the bucket sits in is to contain worm escapees. It makes me feel better, but I know they could and would escape the tote, too.

This is the "outer" bucket with the brick at the bottom.

The bag of worms has been installed into their new home. Be fruitful and multiply, please.

Two weeks after installation into their bucket system, I decided the nightcrawlers should have more space, so I put them into a tote for their bin. Here, I am rehydrating some coconut coir to use as part of their bedding material. 

The coconut coir brick soaks up lots of water. As it does, I am able to break it up. I want it about as wet as a wrung out sponge for the worms. 

Torn up paper egg cartons make a good bedding material.

Shredded newspaper is going into the bin as bedding material as well. I layered the various materials, mixing in some soil from my bait worm cooler. A spray bottle of water moistens any additions because the worms need a moist, but not sopping wet environment to thrive.

I peeled back some of the moist shredded newspaper to reveal some nightcrawlers for you to see. They do not have eyes, but have light sensors, so as soon as the light hits them they pull back. I was glad to be able to get parts of a few of them in this pic.

Since the nightcrawlers are in a tote now, I purchased some composting worms for the bucket system. These were smaller worms and came in a bag of 250. You can see some dead ones in the mix, unfortunately. I called Uncle Jim's Worm Farm and was given the option of replacement of the lost or partial refund. We decided that since we are in the heart of winter, a partial refund might be best, due to cold weather. My hope is that the 50% that seem alive will do well enough to out produce the losses. If these little composting worms get established, we may have to decide who gets the kitchen scraps, the chickens or the worms! Check out this YouTube video of my inspection of the European Nightcrawlers' bin where I find some actual cocoons!

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Fun Stuff!

That's a pretty nice perch at 12 1/2 inches. I figured it's belly was fat due to crayfish inside, but it turned out to be spawn (eggs). Perch do not usually spawn until late winter, so it surprised me to find such mature looking eggs inside this one. It made me feel a little bit bad for keeping it. I did fillet the fish and had two nice fillets with two fried eggs and two slices of toast with jam and two glasses of water for breakfast two mornings later.

I do not wish to "gross you out", but here are the eggs from that perch. How many eggs do you think are in there? A little research told me (if you believe the internet) that a mature perch can lay from 10,000 to 40,000 eggs every year! Let's start counting. Some people like to fry up the roe (eggs) and eat them. I tried doing that a couple of years ago. They were okay tasting. I am glad I did it, but I don't need to do it again.

This is a screen grab from the web cam at South Beach in South Haven, MI. My wife and I took a day trip there a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed walking all over in town and on the beach. We crossed a bridge and walked over to North Beach so we walked out onto the second pier (breakwater) you see with the white and green lighthouse. 

We had a nice, steady wind at the beach, so, even though it was a little bit chilly, I had a blast flying my two stringed stunt kite. It was fun diving and doing loops and flying the kite over the waters of Lake Michigan. A couple of times I touched the wing tip of the kite into the water and then flew it back up into the sky to dry. There were almost no people around, so I did not need to worry about hitting anyone with my kite and I hogged the beach and let that kite do its thing.

I do not get to see whitefish very often, so it was interesting to see folks catching them from the piers. They look to me like large shiner minnows, but they are in the salmon family. I guess I can see how they look a little bit like a salmon, too. Their meat is apparently quite mild and delicious even though they are bottom feeders. I read that they live in 200 feet deep waters and come in closer to shore to spawn in the fall.

We feel blessed to be able to travel to Lake Michigan so easily. The beauty of its waters, beaches and woodsy walks are a joy to us.

Thanks to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park for hosting Thornapple Woodlands, LLC again this December for a mead making class. It is a thrill for me to participate in the activities there and to teach in such a "classy" place. Plus, I get to share my passion for the natural wonder of fermentation--specifically fermented honey--Mead!

I was set up for the class in time to take a quick walk-through to see the decorated trees and other sights.

God bless us, every one.


Friday, October 27, 2023

What A Time!

It has been a busy time of programs and presentations for us. We have done more shows this year than ever before in the history of our business. I do not know if it is a post Covid bump or what, but wow, what a time!

Now the beehives are buttoned up for winter, the fishing boat is put away, and it is time to get back to the blog.

I love it when librarians set up a section of books appropriate for the subject of our program at their facility. Here, we are providing a maple syrup program, and the librarian has a few displays such as this with maple related books to check out. Classy!

Have you seen a pile of greenish gunk, like this, lately? Fall is the time for walnuts. Squirrels like walnuts. But, the walnuts have a greenish outer "garment" that must be removed to get at the hard shell. Squirrels remove the outer part with their teeth and drop it. Then they take the walnut somewhere to gnaw at the shell to break into it for the sweet meat inside. When I am walking for exercise, I often hear squirrels chewing at the outer shell of walnuts. Sometimes I stop to search and find the squirrel in the crotch of a tree gnawing away. The toe of my shoe is pointing to a pile of the outer "garment" of a walnut left here by a squirrel.

The beauty of the fall season is all around us now. I hope you have had a chance to enjoy its awe-inspiring glory.

In early May, we bought 8 Barred Rock chicken chicks. We usually buy ISA Browns, but these were on sale. I think they were about a week old already because I saw wing feathers growing. So, they made it through that first week when mortality is usually fairly high. Still, I purchased 8 chicks because we almost always lose 2 before they become adults. Guess what, none died this time. So, now we have more eggs than we can use. Want to buy some eggs?
And here they are all grown up. I see only 7 in the picture. Must be one is in the nesting box laying an egg since I took this pic in the morning.
First Eggs! It seemed like eggs would never come. Our previous hens (ISA Browns), usually started laying at 18-20 weeks old. These Barred Rocks waited until about 24 weeks of age.
Eggs start rather small and increase in size in a few weeks as egg laying continues. The white eggs are store bought medium sized eggs showing the size of our new brown eggs. It has been so strange eating eggs with white shells the last several months as we awaited our browns ones.
First time getting five eggs in a day. Lately, I have been gathering 7 per day. I am still awaiting our first 8 in a day. What are we going to do with all those eggs!? There is supposedly a way to store them safely long term to eat later in winter when the laying rate diminishes. I might have to do some research. If you know someone who has successfully preserved eggs un-refrigerated for several months, please let me know.
We do not wash the shells because the eggs apparently keep better unwashed. That is why you see a few smudges on some of them.
Check out those yolks! "Orange" you glad for fresh eggs? Yes!
I spent a summer in Mexico in the early 1990's, and there I "learned" that corn tortillas are good with eggs. It is a practice I have continued. I just wish I could find corn tortillas that taste as good as those from the village tortillerias in Mexico. Mmmm, good.

It was an honor for me to make applesauce with my mother, who is in her upper 80's. She is an amazing woman. I have to work hard to keep up with her. I cut up apples as fast as I possibly could. She taught me what to do and then had to go away for a while, so I finished up on my own. Usually my wife and kids did this with grandma, but they grew up and she had to work, so I had all the fun. The jar in the second row left side looks different because it is. It contains some of the juice from cooking the apples. We save it to drink straight or, as in this case, to add to mead and make a cyser. Good stuff!
My wife met with a friend east of where we live, so I drove her there and fished the Grand River from shore for smallmouth bass. I caught and released some little ones and it was fun.
Thanks for enjoying the blog with me.

Blooming Now

In my beehive journal I often write, "Blooming Now" and list all the main wildflowers honey bees visit that are currently blooming...