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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Bees, Dogs, Plants, and Pictures

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Bees, Dogs, Plants, and Pictures

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pawprints
Welp, it's been a busy past few weekends, hence my relative silence here. Bobby and I have been spending most of our time outside, getting ready for planting season. Everything was crunched into April and the first few weeks of May (versus beginning in March) since we were under a blanket of snow for just about all of March. And last year, what with Bobby taking his Outdoor Emergency Care class for ski patrol and me physically unable to do much beyond moan and groan, we slacked off on things like weeding, so we have extra to do this year, since one thing weeds do very well is make more weeds and survive conditions that kills just about everything else living. (The latter attested by the number of plants we lost this winter: both blueberries, a holly bush, both rose trees, and the arborvitae, of course. We also have broadleaf evergreen shrub that is trying hard to live with some modest success after all the foliage on it dying this winter. But the dandelions are doing great! :)

Anyway, Mother's Day is the traditional planting day in central Maryland for tender plants, so true to tradition, we started to put our plants into the ground a week ago, which means that this week has been a lot of weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; weeding, planting, fertilizing, mulching; and so on. But everything is now in the ground and doing great.

I wish I could say the same for our bees. As I posted earlier, I made a dumb mistake when installing our package this year and popped the cork out of the wrong end of the queen cage. Before I knew what had happened, she flew out of the cage. Bobby emailed the supplier where we'd gotten our package, and he suggested waiting a few weeks because she may have flown into the hive and established just fine on her own. We did as instructed, but within a few weeks, it was very obvious that we did not have a queen. So we ordered another. We picked her up last week and installed her successfully, without popping the cork out of the wrong end this time. We went in today to check that she was out ... and every bee in her cage, including her, was dead. It was like they didn't even make an attempt to get out. (The queen cage is plugged with a soft candy at one end, so the attendant bees in with her eat their way to freedom and use the sugar in the candy to feed her.) So we're back to square one for the third time and now with the clock ticking, as we can already see the number of bees in the colony is lower than it was. Bobby has calls out to several semi-local bee suppliers to try to get another queen in early this week. It's been very frustrating, as otherwise the colony seems to be doing great.

We've also been busy socially, seeing friends on the weekend (sometimes accidentally! We went out for Indian on Friday, and I usually email our friends Tristan and Don to see if they want to meet us over there, but we decided to go so late that I didn't this time. But when we arrived, who had arrived only just shortly before us? So we got permission to combine our tables.) Last night, we hosted dinner for our parents as a belated Mother's Day dinner. We had a green salad, teriyaki chicken (asparagus quesadilla for me!), Bobby's incredible "island rice," grilled asparagus seasoned with that ubiquitous Maryland seasoning of Old Bay, and tres leche cake for dessert, topped with fresh strawberries and mango. Bobby made piña coladas and got the moms pretty soused. I was supposed to make strawberry ice cream, but every place we checked this weekend was sold out of local strawberries (Bobby had bought his for the cake earlier in the week), so I had to do vanilla instead.

We are dogsitting for our friend Dawn this weekend, so in addition to our two big dogs, we have her big black dog Duffy. And my inlaws, of course, brought their Great Pyrenees Bella, so the house was overrun with dogs. Big dogs.

This was doggie dinnertime yesterday, with my mom-in-law in a sea of dogs preparing food for them. That large white shape in the foreground is what is visible of Bella.

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And Bobby with Duffy heading back from the stairs (having probably to tried to rile up Freyja, who was closed in the basement when the dogs came in, and gotten yelled at for it).

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Okay, so the rest is just random pictures that I've either been meaning to post but haven't or have needed to take and just got around to doing today.

The other week, I was working in the vegetable garden (weeding--what else??) when Bobby called me into the yard. We'd just had a light rain, and there was a spectacular horizon-to-horizon rainbow stretched over the garden. The pictures don't do it justice. It was the most stunning rainbow I've ever seen, with three bands of colors (only one shows up on the pictures) and so dark at the horizon that it looked to be a solid, touchable thing.

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I think the word amazing is overused, but this was pretty fecking amazing.

I might have mentioned that Bobby completely redid the landscaping in front of our house. Previously, we had one of those bland what I call "strip gardens": just a strip of tilled earth directly in front of the house, all lines and angles, filled with shrubs and a speckling of annual plants. We did our best to spruce it up with some decorative bricks and whatnot, but it was still pretty dumb-looking. Bobby had decided to put in a path leading to the house to match the steps he built last year, and we decided to rework the landscaping around it to get rid of the boring and linear look of the garden in front of the house.

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We're both very happy with it. It extends beyond the tree, but since that area still needs a lot of work in terms of plants, I'm not showing it yet. Pretty much every time we pull into the driveway, Bobby nods all pleased with himself and declares, "That's some professional-ass shit."

Various garden plants: the azalea, one of my favorites (and a native plant to our eastern forests as well):

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Clematis, one of my favorite flowering plants, which we are trying to train to climb the lamppost.

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heartofoshun, this is the lantana that I thought I noticed in your photos the other day! It is perennial in the south but can't take the winters here, so it's just an expensive annual, but I love it (so do the butterflies!) and so usually end up planting several each year.

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And the Halloween tree is flowering. The flowers are really pretty. My eternal gratitude would go out to anyone who could help me identify this tree. I have tried for years without success.

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And we'll end with Goldens! Old Wisdom (with glimpses of Phil and Duffy):

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And Phil. Since I was on the other side of the fence from him, he of course wants me to throw the ball for him, which results in him spitting the ball onto the other side of the fence.

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The consequences this time were that the ball went into the pea garden that runs alongside the fence. But Phil has spit several balls over the fence and into the "flowering fence" that runs between our property and the street. You can see this "flowering fence" in the background. It originated at one point as a convivial collection of various flowering shrubs that look and smell lovely each spring and provide a nice, thick green barrier between our house and the road through the fall. (Bobby and I found it for sale, termed the "flowering fence" that we now call it, in a gardening catalog once.) However, it has long since grown wild with various wild shrubs and a couple of small trees growing in it. So when Phil spits the ball into it, the ball is gone. In the winter, when the flowering fence loses its leaves, you can see several orphaned toys abandoned among the wild tangle of branches. Every now and then, a Golden will spy one and stare mournfully into the flowering fence at intervals for days or weeks on end, as though unwishing that act that consigned a beloved toy into the hinterlands of the yard.



This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

http://dawn-felagund.dreamwidth.org/338664.html
  • Oh my gosh, Phil is too cute!
    • He is really into having that ball thrown for him. But I love the second picture, when it's falling, and the expression on his face is like, "Well ... here goes nothing!"
  • The lantana is absolutely gorgeous. No wonder it is a favorite of yours. I have never seen anything like that Halloween tree of yours. Love are beautiful blossoms.

    All the pictures are great. All of those dogs in the kitchen are wild! Quite hilarious also. Wow!

    I have to take a quick shot at finding that Halloween tree. If you haven't found it unlikely that I will.
    • The lantana is absolutely gorgeous.

      And it comes in many, many different colors, which makes it even better! :D I have the one I photoed this year, as well as one that is red-yellow gradient and one that is yellow-white gradient. It's perennial even as near as central Virginia, and I once found a variety that claimed to be hardy in our zone but didn't overwinter. (To be fair, our elevation means that we are on the low end for our zone, and I had it on the north side of the house.) It tends to be expensive for an annual but I can never resist putting in multiple plants each year.

      I have to take a quick shot at finding that Halloween tree.

      Several people have suggested hawthorn, but it doesn't produce fruit. In fact, by the end of the summer, all of the leaves have generally fallen off, and it has really scraggly branches and bark, so it looks dead! Hence the name "Halloween tree." Bobby decorates it each year for Halloween fake cobwebs, bats, and coffin propped against the trunk. I see these trees sometimes used in commercial landscaping--they are small and compact, not messy, and the flowers and foliage are both pretty--but the fact that they lose their leaves so early isn't a plus, and my mom told me that several that were planted outside of her office building were removed, probably because they spent more than half of the year playing dead! One would think, with such a distinctive set of features, that they'd be easy to identify, but no luck. The best way I can describe the shape of the leaves is that they look like flat-leafed parsley. A very weird tree.
      • I tried to identify through the blossoms and no luck. I did not have a good enough image of the leaf to use any of those tree-finding apps.

        There is a tree in front of our house that is nothing like it in looks, but is also the last tree to get leaves and the first one to lose them by weeks actually. I assumed it has been planted at the absolute edge of its possible survival zones, belongs much farther south. That may be the case with your Halloween tree also.
        • That's a possibility and one I hadn't thought of. I definitely don't think it's a native tree, and we are right on the line--but the wrong side of that line!--for plants that grow great even just a bit south of us. (Like perennial lantana! :D And the huge gorgeous crepemyrtles that are everywhere you look in central Virginia.)

          When I go south, I get plant envy ...
  • I'm trying to match the leaves, but could the Halloween tree be a hawthorn? (I searched "types of rosaceae trees" in Google images and clicked on a picture of flowers from TreeBrowser.org.)

    Edited at 2014-05-19 02:32 am (UTC)
    • Thank you for the link to TreeBrowser; I'm going to try that! I looked up the hawthorn, and one variety has flowers almost exactly like the Halloween tree ... but the Halloween tree doesn't produce fruit. The flowers just fall off eventually, and the leaves fall off at the end of the summer, and the tree looks dead for most of the year. Hence the name "Halloween tree." :)
      • Ah well. I was all excited because when I told my mom I'd been looking for the identity of a "Halloween tree," she immediately thought of hawthorns without seeing any pictures or hearing any further descriptions. :) If it's not just that the individual tree doesn't produce noticeable fruit or something, those flowers still really make me think of the rosaceae family.
        • I'm going to pay extra close attention to it to make sure I am not missing or misremembering the fruit! Because that one hawthorn picture has flowers that look exactly like it. But all the pages on hawthorn I read mentioned long-lasting and noticeable fruit ... I hope I don't end up embarrassing myself on this one! :^P
  • Oh, gosh, sorry to hear about the bees. :( As I've mentioned, I love bees. Hope it works out for you and them.
    • Thank you! I hope so too. :) We were lucky (through a roundabout investigation into oloriel's advice below) to find a local farm selling queens over-the-counter, and our school director--who is fascinated by our bees--was glad to let Bobby go pick one up during the schoolday and let us leave when the students left to install her. She's in now, so we'll see how it goes. The beekeeper who sold her to us suggested that it might have been the couple of days of hot weather we had last week that did her and her attendants in. :(
      • The beekeeper who sold her to us suggested that it might have been the couple of days of hot weather we had last week that did her and her attendants in.

        That makes sense. I've been taught that bees need water (ideally, actual water, but humid air will also do) in order to handle candy, so if you had a hot and dry week, it's possible they starved in spite of having food right in front of their noses. :/
  • The tree looks like a red-blossomed type of hawthorn to me, though of course there isn't much detail to go by. But the leaf and blossom shape seems to fit!

    I've been lucky hibernating lantanas a few times now by simply taking them inside in fall, cutting them back, keeping them watered and waiting for warmer days. Sometimes they loose all leaves but bud again in spring, and sometimes they just keep going through winter - the main thing appears to be not letting them catch temperatures below 10°C or so. Of course, that requires getting them in pots in time - and remembering to water them...

    So sorry about your bees! I hope with the new queen, you'll finally be lucky. Or maybe you can find someone who has a frame of (young) brood to spare that you can put in your colony so they can make their own queen?
    • The tree looks like a red-blossomed type of hawthorn to me

      I investigated the hawthorn and the flowers are almost identical! I had a moment of triumph! ... but our tree doesn't produce fruit. Back to the drawing board ... ;)

      But thank you for this suggestion. :D

      I've been lucky hibernating lantanas a few times now by simply taking them inside in fall, cutting them back, keeping them watered and waiting for warmer days.

      I'm going to have to try that. The only lantanas I've had so far have been huge, sprawling for a couple of meters on either side, but two of this year's claim to stay smallish, so if they do, then I'll definitely give overwintering a go. I already overwinter several ornamentals in my study, so why not a couple more? :D

      Or maybe you can find someone who has a frame of (young) brood to spare

      I want to thank you so much for this suggestion because it started Bobby on a research process that helped us to find a local (northern-bred!) queen! :D I emailed him with your suggestion this morning, so he went onto the Carroll County Beekeepers' Association website, since they will give brood frames from the demo hives to beekeepers who need to make a queen. In the process, he found them recommending a local beekeeper who sells queens over-the-counter at his farmstand. Bees and queens are a pain in the ass to find here! They all tend to come from Georgia (a good day's drive south of us) and so cost a boatload to ship and, of course, are used to much milder winters than we had. So we were thrilled to find a local supplier of northern-bred bees and queens! We installed her about an hour ago. So in a very roundabout way, you're to thank for us finding her--so thank you! :D
      • The kind of hawthorn that's called Rotdorn around here actually bears very little to no fruit, so that might still be it. And of course many wild trees don't bear fruit until they're ten or even fifteen years old, though I have no clue whether hawthorn is among those - and how old your tree is. I still expect it's some form of hawthorn hybrid!

        So glad I could help with the bees! Being scared about a colony's survival is such a dreadful thing, especially if you don't have many colonies. (My beekeeping teacher used to be a lot more relaxed, but of course if you've got 100 boxes, two dying is just statistics. For me, it would be devastating!) So I'm glad my suggestion helped you to find a solution. ^^

  • I'm glad to hear your garden's growing! I'm just about to pick my spinach. I didn't get a lot, but there's enough for a salad.

    Good luck with your bees.

    Dogs! Big, fluffy big dogs! :D
    • I didn't get a lot, but there's enough for a salad.

      Our lettuce garden is so far behind because we were weeks late in getting it planted thanks to the snow. On the date we were supposed to plant lettuces and greens, there was about a foot of snow on the ground! :D I'm glad you got some; we've yet to start harvesting ours.

      Good luck with your bees.

      Thank you! :) We installed a third queen about an hour ago. Hopefully this one pulls through.

      Dogs! Big, fluffy big dogs! :D

      The fluffiness was unreal! Four big dogs in the house plus a cat ... my allergies were driving me crazy. I can take my dogs (and the cat); adding a third dog starts to get a little dicey, but four?? :^|
      • I'd love to let it grow a bit longer (I have one large plant and several tiny ones), but it's supposed to get hot again this week, so they'll bolt.

        I hope the new queen lives!
  • Lantana! didn't know the name. I have one that showed out of the blue and decided to grow quite out of control on a spot that spoils a triangular flower bed. I don't like trimming it though it tends to hog the other plants - true to its wild origins, I suppose - and the triangle has becomes well rather square. Here it's perennial and there are flowers throughout the year.

    Dogs are the best! (*Angelica glowers*)
    • I love lantana. Drive about two hours south of here to central Virginia, and it will overwinter as a perennial. I once found a variety claiming to be hardy through zone 7 (we're zone 7), but it didn't overwinter. (Of course, we're a cold zone 7 because of our elevation, and I stupidly planted it on the north side of the house. But it was a mild winter! So I think there was some wishful thinking on the part of whoever grew that particular variety.) But even as an annual, most of the lantanas I've ever planted get huge, so you have my sympathies on the spoiled garden. (Although I am a bit envious of having lantana growing as a weed! :D The prettiest weeds we get around here are the dandelions, of course, and violets that we've allowed to start colonizing the shade garden since nothing else flowering will take there.)
  • "That's some professional-ass shit."

    AH HAHAHAHAHA!

    Bobby's right though. The landscaping does look good!

    Your clematis is already blooming!? Mine are all growing well (3 years old now) - Polish Spirit and Sweet Autumn in the backyard; Betty Corning, Julia Correvan, and two Prince Charles ("the Chucks") in the front - but it will be a while before they bloom.

    Love the lantana. That's what I plant in my two big terra cotta pots I put on my front steps. They do well in the heat.
    • Yep, clematis is definitely in full bloom here in Maryland. Driving to the farm after work today, I noticed a house where half the front was liberally covered with two huge patches of clematis in full bloom. A second blossom opened on ours two days ago. I expect it's because I'm quite a bit south of you? I posted pictures of my yard in full bloom about a month ago and Janet complained that she had seen nothing blooming but weeds in NYC!

      They do well in the heat.

      Yes. Definitely an advantage! Mine now are all small and I-hate-my-life-woe-is-me-why-am-I-here?? because we're having a rather chilly spring.
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