A post of just a few weeks ago included photos of a sea of yellow dandelion flowers in full bloom. Today the gold has turned to silver as every floret matures into a seed, and each plant can produce up to 2,000 seeds. Multiply that out by the plants in these photos and you can see next year’s dandelion forest in the making.
The bee colony in as a rock in a river of gray flower-heads:
Dandelions guard the path to the driveway, with some centura and valerian waiting in the wings.
Also in bloom this week; Dyer’s Woad.
Dandelions are only a nuisance weed if you have lovely heaps of fertile soil. For those of us who live on a pile of rocks, Taraxacum o. is a long-season cultivator with a tap root that loosens packed subsoils and moves soil nutrients to the surface for other, more delicate species. The composite blossoms are a dependable food source for the bees during the early spring, and I have to admit that as much as it would have driven my father crazy, I don’t mind looking out my front door on to a sea of yellow blooms.
Looking to the side yard toward the swamp, where the blue Chinese forget-me-not is blooming early and the Centura nearly taking over. . .
And along the front walk by the hives and tomato plants in their protective cloches.
We’ve had a few warm days since I took these photos last Sunday, and the blueberry bushes in the foreground are all blossomed pink and white. Spring is passing quickly!
If you live on the island, you’ve noticed that the rocks at Compass Harbor are black basalt, bleached with salt-grime and truly spectacular in the late afternoon sun. If you also said to yourself, wow, I bet that view would be very difficult to paint, you would be correct. Here’s a first attempt:
View from Compass Harbor to the Porcupine Islands, late afternoon. 24 x 18 inches, oil on panel
. . .so I spent most of Sunday making them a nice clean home.
Last year’s hives were down the hill in the garden proper (one of the originals is visible in the photo above). Unfortunately, neither colony was particularly strong and bald hornets attacked in July. They’re carnivores and attack the hives for their larvae as well as honey and pollen stores: neither colony survived the long Maine winter. The new site is not too far away, on the hillside overlooking the garden in a nice, sunny spot where the hornets may not find it right away. My research suggests it doesn’t take much displacement to confuse the predators.
Sunday was clear and warm although you can see that we still have plenty of snow around the yard. The exposed ground was soft and the air temp stayed @ 50 F during daylight hours. The first hatch of mosquitoes is still a week or so in the future (I hope) so it was a pleasant day to spend outdoors, cleaning and smoking the used hive boxes and bleaching the hive-top feeders. I may even have gotten a little bit sunburnt around the edges.
This weekend I’ll get packaged bees delivered from Spicer Bees in Whitefield and we’ll start the 2014 garden season with a new colony. I’ve fitted out the old hive box, below, with smoke-cleaned frames, applied Bee Charm to the inner surfaces, and left the bottom entrance fixture open to see if we can attract a swarm.
A view from the garden down the bee highway:
Tonight there’s a scary-beautiful conflagration of low pressure and high cold air that will bring us 20″ of spring snow and 50 mph winds by early morning. The storm will intensify over the Gulf of Maine and bring even higher winds to the Nova Scotia reaches, scouring the highlands and dumping 2′ of snow along the way.
But isn’t it pretty? That’s us – right between the huge gray high and the Buddhist monk orange low.
Time to go fill the teakettle and grind some coffee before the power goes out. Stay warm, everyone!
May has turned to June and the garden is taking over. We’re currently under 16 hours, 35 minutes of daylight, folks, and the plants are loving it. Of course, on the twenty-first we’ll start counting backwards toward December. Nobody tell the beans, OK?
The garden changes with the weather: one day of sun,
and one day of rain.
The bees love their centura highway.
The bees have been busy in the Seckle pear where every blossom has started a tiny brown fruit. I’ll probably have to thin these this year.
Flats of seedlings still waiting for the gardener, and a new slate-topped bed where the old peach tree used to stand. (Moment of silence for those ghost bushels of peaches. . .)First outside laundry day of 2013! Please don’t tell my mother that I wash and hang darks and lights together. She did individual loads of wash by person and then divvied it up further by dark/light and general amount of soiling. Now that I think about it, that probably made sense given my brother’s clothes would be covered with hay chaff and machine oil – still too much decision-making for me.
We drove up to Abnaki Apiaries on Wednesday night to pick up two “nucs” (nucleus hives) of Bob Egan’s Maine bees. The weather nicely cooperated by not pouring rain so hard that we couldn’t see, and the non-highway part of the trip was very scenic. We arrived at 8 pm and it was still light enough to chat with the Egans and admire the piles of varied color nuc boxes under the huge old maple trees and lilacs in the front yard. Then we loaded Mr. Pink and Mr. White (with apologies to Quentin Tarantino) into the back of the Honda and headed home with @ 16,000 bees.
Meet Mr. Pink:
That picture was taken the morning after we brought them home. I popped the screens off and they’ve been free to fly around the garden (during breaks in the torrential rain) since Wednesday.
The next step is to transfer the four frames full of bees from the nucs to the full hive boxes, but that may have to wait till we have sun on Tuesday – when I have to be back at work. Good thing R is now interested in beekeeping AND self-employed.
The garden continues lush and green under 3″ of rain a day for a week:
Cooking outside is one of my favorite summer activities. Right now, while the days are long on the island and temps in the 30’s at night keep the bugs down, is the perfect time to grill. We are (mostly) vegetarians so arepas – corn cakes made with pre-cooked ground cornmeal and brushed with butter – are what’s for dinner.
You’ll need a bag of Masarepa. My local grocery store carries it in the aisle with salsa and refried beans. Recipes for arepas sometimes specify “instant cornmeal” but that covers a lot of products that will result in a soupy mess instead of firm, pliant dough that easily forms cakes for the grill. These are better behaved on the grill than any of the nature-burger recipes I’ve tried (or bought).
Mix the dough according to the directions on the bag: 2 C of Masarepa to 3 C warm water, 1 tsp salt, stir and let stand for 5 minutes. I like to add about 1 C of corn, fresh off the cob or a can of vacuum packed with peppers. A friend of mine likes to add chopped pickles. It’s traditional in some families to mix in some farmer cheese or ricotta, so actually anything goes here. Form palm sized patties of the dough and fire up the grill. Brush the patties on one side with melted butter and cook until firm and slightly colored. Brush the top with butter and flip – the patties should be crispy on the outside when done. Serve with salsa, grated cheese and a salad, or they can be eaten like burgers in a bun with ketchup and relish.
(Your grill is probably more sophisticated than mine, but really, all you need are a few cinder blocks, 6 firebricks and a grate. Enjoy!)
We had our first rain in nearly a month yesterday, and the dandelions developed really stunning height and heft practically overnight.
Taraxacum is native to Eurasia, and was introduced to North America by early settlers. The entire plant is edible. It makes excellent bee fodder, especially here in Maine where the only other blossoms out right now are the maple buds. The thick tap root and lush leaf growth also increase the soil depth considerably every year on these thin hillsides.
More rain is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Soon the forget-me-nots and Centaurea montana will catch up and turn the hillside blue. Meanwhile, early and drought ridden, yellow rules!
This was going to be a post about arepas – delicious grilled arepas made with fresh corn and farmer cheese. But this is not that post. Instead, you’re getting an update on the drawing that has me burning midnight oil and still getting up at 5:30 a.m. for the day job. It’s a still life! With a view!
Mallow and the Causeway, 20″ x 16″, oil drawing on panel. I blame the Dutch.