Spring is sprung, the grass is riz
I wonder where the birdies is..
The bird is on the wing – that’s absurd –
The wing is clearly on the bird!

My grass is certainly riz! But it’s still full of wildflowers so the lawn mower stays firmly in the shed unless I really have to make some paths through the long grass, i.e. out to my bee yard or chicken coop.

This is probably my favorite time of the year. Everything is growing and I love those bright fresh green colors you see everywhere. As the first spring flowers are starting to fade, others are ready to take their place.

Looking out across my landscape right now the one color that hits me is yellow, so cheerful and happy. You can see from the photos below some of the different yellow blooming plants around me.

Spring Weather

I think we can all agree that the weather this spring has been a little odd. Right now it’s warm but very dull and humid & a little breezy. Not particularly nice to be out in but I guess it’s good for plant growth. I’m sure it won’t be long before everything is fried to a crisp as we head towards summer.

It’s been a little difficult for us, as new beekeepers, to know how this weather is affecting our bees and what we need to do (if anything) for them. Luckily there is a Texas Master Beekeeper at tonights Comal County Beekeepers Association Meeting to talk about getting started and what to do over the next couple of months. We hope to learn from that experience.

Bees – the hives are all abuzz!

We received our second hive just after last weeks blog. We decided to move them into our horizontal top bar hive (TBH) last Saturday. This was so they could settle in before this weeks unsettled weather arrived. At the same time we did a quick inspection of our first hive of Italian bees.  All the photos below are from the “Italians”. Unfortunately my phone got put down on a hot metal hive roof in the sun and overheated – so no photos this week of the “Texans”

The Italians seem to be really calm and gentle bees. It was easy to have a quick peek into their hive. We saw eggs and uncapped larvae in the brood frames & found the queen in the photos. It doesn’t really matter if you can actually see the queen because if you see eggs and larvae then she is there doing her amazing job!

If you zoom into the first photo above you might be able to see what are like tiny grains of rice in “empty” cells – these are the eggs. New larvae are the white blobby masses in some of the cells. When they’re ready to pupate their cells will be capped over, allowing them to develop into adult workers.

The Texans are definitely feistier that the Italians but transferring them still wasn’t too bad. It wasn’t a simple transfer because we effectively had to screw their frames into adaptors for the TBH. A bit like changing from landscape format to portrait format! You can see the two different frame sizes – something we have to deal with for a while. Eventually we plan to just have TBHs.

One of the frames in the Texan box had no foundation but they were building natural comb. This was the one thing I wish I could have photographed for you – it was beautiful! A gorgeous buttery yellow color, a rounded shape and (think I’ve already said this!) beautiful. Didn’t see the queen but saw her evidence in the shape of eggs and larvae. All is good for now.

Spring Veggies growing

Any of you that grows leafy veggies (i.e. lettuce, spinach, kale etc) knows that you have nothing and then you have a glut and plants are starting to bolt. Having chickens solves the glut problem. Spinach is seems to be like ‘chicken crack’ – it’s gone in minutes! I just cut off the excess, give it to the girls and leave the plants to grow more leaves for me (or the girls)!

Peppers, tomatoes, beans and snap peas are all growing well. Most of the snap peas don’t even make it out of the garden. My friend, Lee, visited yesterday and we both stood there picking and eating the peas!

The cilantro that I overwintered has bolted and is looking pretty messy right now. But I’m leaving it to collect and dry the seeds for use in my kitchen. I also have some giant dill that seems to have been a good host plant for monarch butterflies. It’s flowers have a wonderful geometry & look like starbursts.

  Birds and Butterflies

It’s a joy to sit on my back porch and watch what’s flitting around the garden. Hummingbirds have been very active around my bird feeders and plants like the salvias. Who doesn’t enjoy them whizzing around like little jet planes?

Butterflies are everywhere. Earlier I told you about them feasting on Prairie Verbena. Now they’re on mealy blue sage which is in full bloom. Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Monarch, Painted Lady,  Red Admiral are just some of the butterflies I’ve seen. Butterfly identification is not something that I’m really good at – still learning!

http://texashighplainsinsects.net/common-butterflies-2

A few of the many butterflies I see around the garden. Pesky things don’t stay still when you’re trying to take photos of them. Not a lot of cooperation there!!

I have several breeding pairs of Cardinals that I see as frequent visitors. Always lovely to see those flashes of red in the trees. Just a couple of days ago I spotted a Painted Bunting from my office window. Not a bird that I see very often, but a thrill every time I do, looking like some mad painting by numbers experiment!

Wrens, scrub jays, sparrows, cardinals are all nesting in or around my garden. Can’t wait to see all the baby birds arrive.

Chickens – Spring or otherwise!

The girls are laying well, a result of longer daylight hours. Some of them are going through a molt and are looking quite straggly. These damp/humid days are great for my bug hunting girls. Chickens are not vegetarians and always seem to have a lot of fun hunting for and eating bugs.

Stuart had a big shock this week when he went down to collect the eggs. He was suddenly faced with a big Rat Snake in the coop! If you know my husband,  you’ll know that he doesn’t “do snakes”. I’m doing my best to eradicate his notion that “a good snake is a dead snake!”  I found a great Face Book group (What snake is this? Southeast Texas) after we came across a couple of Rat Snakes and a Copperhead last year. In my experience education does reduce the fear aspect of meeting potentially dangerous critters out there.

I was at work when this encounter happened – he was all on his own and his heart was threatening to leave his chest!!   Happily though, Stuart didn’t kill this snake but drove it off using the hose pipe on at full blast. Thank you Stuart for not killing it and listening to your wife!

Compost

I know I’ve told you that I probably have too much woody material in my compost – just takes longer to rot down! I’ve been using my compost to pot on a lot of my seedlings, particularly my Basil, Lemon Balm and Osage Oranges. All I do is use a simple garden sieve to get rid of the bigger stuff. What I’m left with is wonderful compost that my seedlings can dig their roots into. I’m slowly spreading my new compost around my beds – don’t worry about woody stuff there!

This weekend I’m off to a Nearly Native Plant Sale in Boerne – I’ll see if I can find a few plants to fill in a couple of holes in my flower beds. Once I get past Early May I rarely do any new plantings. I want any new plants to get well rooted in before it starts getting really hot. The warm & rainy weather is perfect for allowing new plants to settle in.

Have fun in your gardens!

Caroline xo


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