Usually the leaves in Pendleton County WV reach peak fall color around October 14-21, but the whole month of September into October was so dry this year that many leaves have dried up and fallen before obtaining their normal vibrant colors. There are still pockets of color to be found though, especially in the valleys, so you still catch some color, if you don’t wait too long.
On October 14th, at Spruce Knob Lake, the usual magnificent reflections of color on the water were not to be had, but with the sky such a beautiful, clear blue and the temperature at 70 plus degrees, there were no complaints from us.
We have never seen so many folks fishing at the lake as we did this past Saturday, as we walked the easy, level trail around the lake, taking photos and enjoying the balmy weather.
I found that the lack of leaf colors caused me to look more closely at everything else as we walked.
Interesting textures and the odors of warm fall earth, still water and decaying plants became more important.
After leaving the lake we drove up the partly gravel road to Spruce Knob, the highest point in the state. We were a little sad to see that most of the trees towards the west had already lost their leaves. The wind was not bad and it was a gorgeous view of the West Virginia hills, regardless.
We followed a trail down from the lookout tower that goes through some loose rocks onto a small level meadow. The views to the east and South were excellent from there.
A few huge boulders you can climb on walked the meadow.
I thought this one looked like a lumbering short legged creature from the stone age. I did climb up and sit on top pretending it was a horse sort of thing.
There were Mountain Ash on top of the mountain, with brilliant scarlet berries, dark green Spruce trees leaning out of the constant western wind, and the wonderfully textured sandstone aggregate rocks to admire.
You can never go wrong with a trip up to Spruce Knob and the drive back down on the east side is paved. Route 33 East to Franklin has the Germany Valley overlook as another highlight.
This maple was one of the few colorful trees we saw up close and it looks great with the sumac and Germany Valley beyond.
The Potomac Valley and other lower elevations should be pretty in the next week, especially since we finally got a rain last week. Even after the leaves fall, Spruce Knob, in Pendleton County, West Virginia is a magical place to visit. (Click on the Link for photos from 2016)
I have finally decided to give up on ever becoming a decent beekeeper. I have taken numerous classes, tried various methods, spent all kinds of money on equipment, food and new queens, and I am now officially done.
Some people find caring for bees to be relaxing. I am not one of those people. Stress is not something I handle well and the bees have done nothing but stress me out. I am tired of feeling guilty for not being a better beekeeper. I was always wondering if I was doing the right thing at the proper time. When I asked other beekeepers, I got conflicting answers. I hate feeling incompetent.
I had wanted to keep bees so I could supply myself and maybe a few friends with good healthy honey and enjoy the benefits of their pollination as well. It turned out I could not do that organically because of the mites and beetles that attack them. I tried. This year I managed to get all six hives almost through the winter, and then lost three to Nosema disease, just before Spring arrived.
I had to re-queen one of the hives in May and was still hopeful that they would be able to make me some honey. Then one of them swarmed and I had to re-queen another hive. It all seems kind of pointless when the queens can’t even seem to survive. I gave them each a deep body full of honey that the three dead hives had made, thinking that would enable them to draw new comb for a honey super. I think it worked, but three deep boxes are too high and heavy and hard work to move when I needed to check them.
The idea of having to suit up and go out there in the summer heat again was beginning to weigh on my mind. Plus I got stung a few times and each time the swelling seemed worse. Then we set up our swimming pool and the bees decided to take it over as their private water source. They could have continued getting their water at the water garden, or in the bucket I provided right next to the hives, but no. It is hard to enjoy cooling off in the pool when you are being harassed by honeybees flying at your head.
I thought about donating everything to the Wounded Warriors Project, which helps Veterans get set up with beekeeping, but the tax deduction would not be worth much. I messaged a fellow beekeeper family who has had good luck with their bees and they offered to take the whole shebang and give me a better deal. It is a super good deal for them because they were already able to split my three hives into five today, and amazingly enough, one super is full of honey. Tonight, they are coming back to pick up all the hives and take them to their new home.
It is such a relief to find people who know what they are doing to want to take these bees. Plus they will give me some honey back, which makes me happy.
Room For New Projects
It is ridiculous how much space my beekeeping equipment had been taken up in the garage. Summer feeders, winter feeders, honey supers, extra hive bodies, screened bottom boards, and hive beetle traps were all stacked up in my pottery studio area. I would rather have the space to make pots and now I do.
Goodbye bees, goodbye stress. Hello to more time for fun and maybe even some relaxing projects.
Wendy lee, writing at Edgewisewoods, Gardens and Critters
It can be hard to find time for all the springtime chores and harder yet to write about it, especially when the weather and my thoughts turn foggy and gray for days on end. I am much more productive when the sun is shining.
Wild Critters v Chickens
Our resident Mama Fox has six babies this spring, and they are more than the usual degree of hungry. She usually only takes about three chickens each spring before the babies learn how to hunt on their own, but we have lost seven hens, a duck and my rooster, who I have had for many years. He was such a good boy. The hens don’t seem to miss him but I do.
The electric fence around the chicken pasture works great as long as there is no long grass zapping it’s energy away. It also helps to remember to plug it back in after clearing the grass off the bottom. The fox was able to dig under the fence because it was not plugged in. My fault. I feel so guilty when I fail to protect my flock.
Meanwhile, I am feeding the fox kits cat food over by their den in an attempt to stave off their hunger and hopefully prevent more chicken losses. The babies roll around and tussle with each other just like puppies and are fun to watch. I just hope they learn how to eat rabbits and mice soon.
Yesterday I was finally getting around to cutting down the last dried Miscanthus grass and discovered a bird nest with five eggs in it. I had to prop the cut grass back up to protect it. The eggs were blue with brown speckles. I walked close later when I did chores and the mama was back on the nest but I did not get a good view and am not sure what kind of bird it is yet. I was glad she came back though.
I managed to divide two of my Big Blue Hostas and the other giant Miscanthus grass recently and potted them up with compost from last years barn cleaning. Two Hostas yielded 12 extra plants which I can trade.
The Veggie Garden
The week of April 15, it was still getting down in the 30’s (F) and 40’s at night, but getting up in the 70’s and 80’s during the day. Frost was still possible, so tender plants needed the protection of the hoop house .
I worked some compost into the beds and sowed tomatoes, basil, cauliflower, lettuce, and peppers for transplanting out later. After covering them with a protective layer of cloth (a recycled wedding runner) I watered them in. The hoop house is open on both ends but I attached some cloth near the bottom to keep a little wind out.
My grandson got the tiller working again (rusty magneto) so I finally planted potatoes April 17th. I usually try to plant them around St Patricks Day in March but we had snow that week. I planted 6 short rows of Yukon Golds and Norland Reds leftover from last years bumper crop where I had buckwheat last year. This plot is outside the garden fence but deer don’t like potatoes, so it should be OK. They are up as of April 26th.
A few days later,I planted two rows of pole beans along the insides, figuring on removing the plastic after frost danger, allowing the vines to climb all over the frame. The tomatoes and cauliflower are all up as of April 26th.
The ground was a still little cool for planting corn April 18th, so I covered the whole area with Remay cloth to help warm it and also to keep the crows from eating the sprouting seeds.
We are eating a little asparagus from the bed I planted last year along the fence and we are still eating the Kale that overwintered really well. The garlic that was planted last fall is also doing well.
If the blossoms on the blueberries and strawberries all turn into fruit we will have a great crop. Last year frost damaged the blooms and we did not get as much as usual. I actually had to buy 🙁 some frozen strawberries this winter for Jeff’s morning protein shakes.
New Dog Fence
After finally cleaning out the front barn, I set up a new solar powered, electric, woven fence for visiting dogs to play in. I ordered the 160 feet of poultry netting, the 10 watt solar panel, a 12 volt, 18 amp hour battery and the Hotshock charger ( uses either 110V or 12 volts) from Premier 1Supplies. I recommend this company. They answer all kinds of questions via chat so you can figure out your best plan, such as, how big of a solar panel and what kind of battery are needed for your job.
I am using a ladder as the people access until I make a real gate. I take care of other peoples critters and bringing the dogs home with me can make it easier to give them outside time. They are safely away from the chickens and have shady trees, grass, sun and barn space.
Spring is one of my favorite times of the year but there is so much to do before the hot weather sets in. In the meantime, it is gorgeous just walking around the yard and enjoying the flowers.
On the long rainy days, I must remember the lush green growth and flowers that will emerge because of the dreary days.
Compton Rocks is a cool geologic feature and a short hike off the Skyline Drive, near Front Royal Virginia. It is one of many short and sweet hikes in the Shenandoah National Park that you can do on a whim if you don’t have a lot of time.
Long ago volcanic activity squeezed basalt up through cracks in the earth to form these long, six sided shapes.
The rocks look like giant, extruded honeycombs, baked hard. The fairly level trail comes at the rock outcropping from the top side and you follow a small path down and around to get a good view.
One way back up is to climb through the rubble slot canyon but there are easier routes.
For a good view, follow the trail back the other direction to Compton Peak and stop at the roadside pull offs to gaze over the Shenandoah Valley below. While you are out that way you could go check out Skyline Caverns back down at the base of the mountain. Both are fun places to take kids.