winter blues

IMG_8150To say it has been cold here is an understatement.  Yes, I know that plenty of places are much colder and covered in snow, so what!  We moved south to escape snow and frigid temperatures and the last two weeks have been brutal here.  So rather than dwell on the cold or debate who has it worse and all that, let’s just look at photos from the fall taken out at the Demonstration Garden in Ellington Ag Center.  Before the frost.  When it was still warm…  Mexican Sage in bloom.IMG_8151Love the fuzzy blooms, so do the bees.

IMG_8155Vietnamese coriander in bloom.  So delicate and tiny.IMG_8158The swamp monster that tried to eat the garden-Swamp sunflowers in bloom

IMG_8159The swamp sunflowers were about 8 feet tall and they are spreading out.  Don’t they look beautiful with the Burning Bushes?

IMG_8168Want to plant something that bees and hummingbirds love?  Fill your garden with salvias and one of my favorites is Pineapple Sage.  The leaves smell like a pineapple lifesaver candy when you rub them and they are edible meaning you can use them as you would most other edible herbs.  Honey bees love them and if you have a colony nearby, you might just find enough of them in it to make the whole plant buzz and vibrate.  Hummingbirds will visit them too but only if they stay in your area through the fall.  Pineapple sages tends to put this show on late in the season and this was taken around the first week of November.

IMG_8176Just look at those pollen baskets!

IMG_8170We built this out at the Bee Garden and we are hoping that beneficial insects are nesting here.

IMG_8172IMG_8179This garden is just full of color and blooms.

IMG_8180Our climate here allows for tropical plants to grow and thrive during the warmer months but the fruit never has a chance to mature and ripen.

IMG_8185We can only dream about bananas; these did not make it and were killed by frost shortly after I took the photos but while it was blooming, the wasps and bees loved the nectar and pollen.

Hiking the Black Balsam Knob area; a girls trip

img_2347Recently, I flew to Atlanta to visit one of our daughters.  Once she had picked me up from the airport and we were on our way for some much needed coffee (it was only 7:30am at this point), she surprised me with the news that we were headed to Asheville.  Hiking was on our list of things to do and we set off on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We stopped on several occasions just to admire the view.

img_6960As we drove on, we gained altitude and the views just got better and better.

img_6961We were lucky, the weather was perfect; sunny, clear and not too hot.

img_6965At one stop, the old Buck Spring Lodge site is near the Pisgah Inn on the Mt. Pisgah Summit and there are a few trails around the parking area.  Take the stone stairs and follow the trail toward the inn, the views are worth the walk.

img_2353We were headed for Black Balsam Knob and we drove on.  These were spotted on the Flat Laurel Creek Trail.  If anyone can identify these, please do-I have no idea what they are.

img_2349Even though were around 6000ft, honeybees were present.  While I am sure that the altitude was not an issue for them, I could only wonder if they were there because a beekeeper has hives out there somewhere or if there were feral bee colonies.

img_6976These were spotted along the Art Loeb trail as we hiked up to the top.  They had finished blooming for the year and were loaded with seeds for next years blooms.

img_6971There was no shortage of Mountain Ash berries.

img_6980And with goldenrod in bloom, the bees had plenty of flowers for foraging.

img_6984Again, I am looking for an assist on the ID, if you know what this is, I would love to know as well!

img_6973When we finally did reach our goal, not the entire trail but a nice high elevation, we were standing on this rocky spot.  The pattern in the surface of the stone is intriguing.

img_2355We stopped for a bit and enjoyed the view.  If you want to take a hike near Asheville, we highly recommend making the trip to Black Balsam Knob.img_2351img_2354img_6969img_6966img_6968My hiking partner, Alix.  It was a wonderful surprise and it was a perfect afternoon!

honeybee hive inspection

IMG_6071All hail the Queen.  Can you see her?  Center of the photo with the large yellow dot, that is our lady of the hive.  We went into the hive yesterday to take a look, and there she was, at the top of the hive on the outside frame-not a good thing.  What that means is that she is running out of room to lay eggs so lucky for her, we were prepared and had another box of frames ready to go.

IMG_6076The hive is fairly full, so full that they were building comb in the feeder.

IMG_6081Darry cleaned it all out and refilled it with sugar syrup.

IMG_6084The hive has really increased in number, look at how busy they are!

IMG_6089To clean out the feeder, Darry took out the floating bars, the bees were pretty calm about it and just gathered on the slats while he worked and I took photos.

IMG_6093Drones cannot feed themselves when they first emerge from!  The drone (on the left) is being fed by a worker bee (on the right) and he will start feeding himself by the time he is a week old.  To learn more about the roles of bees in the hive, read this article by the Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium. IMG_6094IMG_6095Check back for more photos, I will post more next time we go in for a look!

news from the garden


Things are taking shape in the garden.  Our lasagna bed is slowly filling with herbs and flowers and above is a photo of a selection of flowers planted to attract beneficial insects.    The straw bales are coming along, a bit slower than I hoped but things are growing.


The bigger news is the addition of honeybees to our backyard.  We were beekeepers when we lived in Nashville and when we packed up to move to Williamsburg, we brought all of our woodenware and equipment.  One of the first things we did when we unpacked was to join the Colonial Beekeepers Association.


One of the members of the association arranged to pick up packages with marked queens from Mann Lake.  After picking up our bees, Darry put them into the hive and they began foraging immediately.


A hive inspection revealed that they are gathering nectar as well.  The white spot in each of the cells is actually the reflection of sunlight on the surface of the nectar curing and once it is ready, the bees will cap each cell.


As we ventured further into the hive, we noticed lots of activity and randomly placed cells between two frames that is commonly referred to as brace comb.


As we pulled frames out, we found capped brood and larvae and of course, her majesty, the queen.  Can’t figure out which one she is-that big blue dot should make it obvious.


The activity level here is typical of a hive and it quickly explains the origins of the phrase, “busy as a bee” because they never stop moving.


Even though they are actively foraging, they still need a little help from us.  Because they have nothing stored in the hive, we give them sugar syrup so that they can build a reserve of syrup to feed themselves.  The first year is a critical time for a new colony and taking honey from them is not an option this year.  If all goes well, we will be able to harvest honey in year two.


The bees are big on building brace comb and once again, they built some in the feeder box.


Bees aren’t the only new addition to our garden.  We also added a flock of chickens.  Golden Laced Wyandottes are beautiful birds and we are excited to have them.


These girls are growing quickly and they are beginning to get their adult feathers.


And they are also sprouting tail feathers and the beginning of their combs.  When they are living outdoors in the coop, we plan to use the chickens to help us control small hive beetles in the bee hive.

IMG_3621Check back to see the progress of our girls, meaning the chickens and the bees!