Off on a Fantastic Voyage

downed tree

It has been a hectic month; and an event crazier week. On the 27th of July, the area was hit with heavy rain. As the evening rolled in, I was cooking dinner (sweet potatoes with quinoa and various vegetables; I have embraced being a mostly-vegetarian). Melissa was standing in the back entryway with the door open; she was watching the heavy rain come down in sheets. The back sidewalk was submerged as the water rolled down from the driveway. I continued to cut and clean vegetables. At about 5:30 PM, something hit the window above the sink; then again, and again – then a lot all at once. It was hail. Melissa watched the yard become littered with nickel-sized hail balls (15 millimetres for you metric people). Lightning flashed and without delay a tremendous crack of thunder sounded. Melissa shut the door. The storm was directly over our little town. Without warning, the wind picked up. The hail slammed against the house; more thunder and lightning.

Melissa walked into the living room and looked out the front windows. She yelled into the kitchen, "Where is the front pine tree? There is a stump…oh crap! It is on Norm’s house!" (I left out the expletives; feel free to sprinkle them in – it sounds more colorful with them). Our large pine tree had been snapped off – four feet (a bit over a metre for our metric friends) from the ground. As it fell, it crushed our last lilac tree, smashed through the branches on our neighbor’s Norway pine, and hit the roof of his house. The trunk then snapped roughly five yards (metric friends: change yards to metres) from the top of the tree. A mass of mangled pine boughs lay in our yard and Norm’s yard. In addition to the tree being destroyed, the grapes, corn, oats, hops, peas and apples all sustained some damage from the hail.

Since then, Norm has been cleaning up his side of the mess, and in the evenings, I have been chainsawing the mess in our yard. The most surprising thing was the enormous ant nest in the middle of the tree trunk. Stretching from the roots up roughly two yards was an elaborate system of chambers and tunnels. The ants were about a half an inch (one centimetre) long with a black head and abdomen and a red thorax.

Travel Trailer

The fallen tree, the ants, the chainsawing, and all of that will have to wait, though. We head out on our cross country road trip vacation this evening. Where is our destination?
Boone, NC. The Eastern Apicultural Society is having their 2010 Conference in Boone, NC. I am excited (as excited as I get about things; which, I have been told, does not resemble tradition excitement of a human). I hope to take lots of photos, and possibly post blogs in the evenings (if I have Internet access).

We still have a little packing to do this evening, but the travel trailer is mostly set. We pick up the Xterra from the dealer (oil change, and warranty work) after work today. Melissa is excited – in the tradition human sense. This will be our first long trip and use of the new trailer. Tonight we stay in River Falls, WI; tomorrow we drive until we are tired and then find a place to park and get some sleep. We hope to be within eight to ten hours of Boone when we call it quits on Saturday.

On the bee front, my bees are doing well. The Carniolans have three honey supers (boxes) atop the hive. I plan to check the hives this evening and possibly put a fourth on if it looks like they have drawn out most of the comb on the existing frames. The Italians are doing much better than in June; the queen, installed in June, is busy doing her thing, with workers packing pollen and honey into the brood boxes, but are having little to do with the one honey super on the hive. I am hoping they have at least started to draw comb on in it…

Summer Has Arrived

dragonfly

Ryan, my cousin, would not stop. “Look, a bear! Over there, deer!” Michael Bolton’s “How Can We Be Lovers” played on the tape deck. My sister, Meghann, and our cousin, Michael, talked about whatever it was middle-schoolers talked about; Meg made a quick departure from the topic at hand to call Ryan a liar. My mother and her sister, Jane, were in the front; Jane was driving. My cousin, Jonathan, and I watched a VHS of “The Gospel Bill Show“. Ryan continued to announce all the amazing northern Minnesota creatures he was certainly seeing in the thick woods.

It was July of 1989. Each summer, our cousins and aunt, from Colorado, would come to northern Minnesota for two weeks or a month. Our families would rent a place on Perch Lake – near the Sturgeon Lake chain – north of Chisholm. The lake allowed for a respite from the heat and humidity. The adults would talk and catch up on things. The kids mainly swam in the lake and tried to avoid horseflies. Our basset hound, Betsy, would swim a bit, but mostly like just baking in the sun on the shore; like most bassets, she was a sun worshipper.

Summer was also time to watch my mother’s garden grow. The cool spring planting-time would give way to hot, humid summer growing-time. Green & yellow pole beans, trellised peas, onions, pumpkins, squash, corn, broccoli and leaf lettuce – all were thriving by July. Raspberries ran a third the length of the property on the south; Jonathan would often be up early to pick raspberries. Few raspberries made it from the bushes to the house. My mother would also venture out in the morning, before the sun had time to heat things up, and weed the gardens. A watering, and she would be on to getting ready for the lake. Piling coolers of food and drink into Jane’s minivan.

I mention these things because the heat of July seems to have arrived. I was worried that the few stalks of corn we have here in our gardens would not make it. We had a very early spring, but it was cool and dry. The old adage of “Corn should be knee high by the 4th of July” was not looking likely. As the summer solstice came and went with rain, I, again, was getting nervous.

July arrived, and, apparently, it brought sun, heat, and fast moving, heavy rains. For the most part, the gardens are now doing very well. The corn was indeed knee high by the 4th of July, the garlic is thigh high, most of the peas are starting to flower, and the pole beans are reaching for the sky.

The plot of random, old seeds I planted seems be mostly squash or pumpkin; it is doing well. The wildflowers planted in the bee yard are flowering; the jostaberries in the bee yard appear to have taken well – we should have a crop next season.

The black currants and rhubarb are finishing up; the rhubarb will have one more push before the end of the summer, but the grow spurt of the spring is waning. The strawberries are quickly ripening, and the raspberries will be later this week. The purple potatoes have started to flower and the rest of the potatoes will soon be following. Cucumbers seem slow to go and I have started to thin them more. The cucumbers I started in the house a week before also planting seed outside are doing poor then the ones planted directly.

All the hops seems to really like the hot, humid weather. I am expecting a good crop of hops this year. The asparagus has also taken off nicely. None will be harvested this season, but I look forward to next when we are able to get some.

bees

I was also pleasantly surprised to see that I did not lose any grape plants this winter. The plants that looked to have been killed have pushed new vines up from the roots. This is good as the roots appear to be hardy. One of the plants that did not have the top kill will have several bunches of grapes this season.

Finally, a bee report. I checked the hives on Saturday. The Minnesota Hygienic Italians are doing well. The new queen seems to have taken. There were very few drones, too. The hive is a bit of a banana republic. In a power vacuum, I installed a new leader and beefed up things with more foreign troops (the feral bees). The MH Italians are still slow on the comb draw out, but they are working on it. The bottom super was looking nearly drawn out, but little activity was seen on the top. I swapped a frame of bees from the bottom and put it in the top. I also installed a screened bottom board in the MH Italian’s hive. The Carniolans are rock stars and are just chugging along. They are busy drawing out and filling the top honey super. Should be a decent harvest from them later this season.