Catching a Swarm for Our Second Hive

Things have calmed down here considerably since this weekend’s bee tornado, when our colony decided to split and swarm to create a second group of bees. Once they settled down and found their queen, they all clustered up on a sheltered post of our grape arbor: 

This is a lot of bees, and they wouldn’t stay there forever. Their next job was to look for a new place to build comb for a hive — a hollow log would be nice, but it’s just as likely that they would find a hole in a wall and build their nest in a house or garage.
That’s not exactly good publicity for honeybees when it comes to the neighbors, so our job was to catch that swarm and give it a new home. To do that, I dug an old box out of the recycling bin and donned my bee suit to grab those bees and give them some shelter before the sun set. Kirk was called in to work, so I had to do it myself. This would have been better as a two-person job, since climbing on a chair and holding that box in one hand while scooping bees with the…


This afternoon Jonas called me to look out the window because the wind was acting weird and things were flying around in circles in the back yard.
It wasn’t the wind.

What Jonas was lucky enough to notice was that the bees were swarming.
Honeybees do this when their colony is doing well. It’s a way to reproduce by creating a new queen and sending the old one out into the world with a bunch of workers to build a new hive somewhere. 
When they do it, it looks like a bee tornado.

The first video was early — probably not too long after they decided to ship out of the hive — but during the second they were starting to coalesce a bit. You can hear the buzzing if you listen closely. (Jonas was not exactly delighted by any of this.) Eventually I saw that they were beginning to land on the grape vines, and in another half hour or so they had all decided on a post of the grape arbor.

This is a nice, sheltered spot, and hopefully they have a little trouble finding a suitable log or hole to move…

Spaghetti Squash Is Everywhere

When we planned this year's garden back in the winter, spaghetti squash wasn’t technically even on the drawing. We had pumpkins and butternut squash as usual, but when we went to plant, we decided to use some of our spaghetti squash seeds instead of pumpkin — pumpkins don’t last as long in storage, and we really only use them for one meal each year.
The spring was so wet that most of our first round of seeds rotted in the ground. I couldn’t remember which half was butternut and which was spaghetti squash. When I replanted, I only had a few butternut seeds left, so the rest of the empty spots were spaghetti squash. 
Fast forward to today, and it’s all we have. Not a single butternut or pumpkin in sight:

These aren’t ripe yet — they’ll need to turn yellow in the sun, and right now they’re still pale green. This is just a small fraction of what we have going on. The vines have completely overtaken their bed:

You can see them spilling well into the gravel path. In spots they’ve jumpe…

Thuya Garden

Last week we stayed in Southwest Harbor on Mount Desert Island for our summer vacation. In addition to lots of hiking, rock scrambles, and some sea kayaking in Acadia National Park, we also took time out of a sunny morning to visit Thuya Garden in Northeast Harbor.

These formal, English-style gardens are on the site of an old lodge (a great building in and of itself). The property was donated to the town and the gardens are now for the public. It seems to me that the compressed growing season in Maine means that things tend to flower almost all at once — and to pretty marvelous effect.

Different beds have different color schemes, but the clear pinks, blues and yellows above was one of my favorites.

Also impressive are the delphiniums. These are enormous — though they have been carefully, individually staked. This explains why mine always look so floppy and pathetic — that and the fact that it probably gets a little too hot in the perennial border here.

The garden is on the site of an…

The Office Garden, Expanded

The little garden I planted outside of my tiny office is filling nicely. For example, the small nicotiana I transplanted has blossomed:

I like the handling flowers, and it smells nice, too. The container planting has also filled in over the past month or so:

Since this container gets a fair amount of shade, the pansies are still going strong. The whole thing has filled in with all the rains we’ve had:

This garden connects to a tiny strip of land bordering the garage. I filled that in with daylilies that I moved from the perennial border a couple weeks ago. These are a very vibrant red, but that color no longer works with the white-orange-blue color scheme that I’ve switched to:

So now these are hanging out in the back, and once we paint the garage yellow like the office, they should really pop:

The daylilies should also look a little fuller in seasons to come. These are divisions that I transplanted fairly late into the season, so they’re a little droopy this year.

It’s Raining Cats

So just when we decided that Smithy just didn’t come around enough for our tastes and got an indoor cat to play with, another cat seems to have walked into our lives:

This one is a big guy, and — despite the somewhat startled expression on his face in the photo above — is oozing confidence. I saw only his black tail scoot past the back door and thought it was Smithy, but then this much bigger cat sauntered through the cat door onto the porch for what was left of Smithy’s breakfast:

This photo is better, since I opened the door to take it. When this guy was done eating, he came right up to me and was just about to walk on into the house, but I didn’t let him. So ever so calmly turned around and walked away, without flinching or even picking up the pace beyond a slow walk. 
He looked healthy and clean, so I’m not sure if he belongs to someone or is just a solid survivor. We’ll see if he comes around again for more snacks — I wouldn’t mind having him set up shop in the garden, since the…

Meet Fiddle

So this happened yesterday:

After much discussion, we decided that we would really like a house cat in addition to a barn cat. Smithy has become increasingly aloof this spring since we went on our April vacation. He only comes around at night for his food, and sometimes he’ll go a few days without coming around at all. I even tried enticing him with catnip and caught him in a Have-a-Heart trap to give him his tick meds, and though he stuck around on the patio and ate breakfast that day, he wouldn’t come up for a pat. He may change his tune when it gets colder again and he remembers the treats in my warm office, but he seems content to come and go as a barn cat should.
Trouble is, we kind of got used to the ultra-friendlybarn cats of the past, so we decided we should have a house cat to dispatch the errant mouse and curl up on laps. 
So this is Fiddle. He’s an eight-month-old boy who was found in a feral colony, but who the rescuers thought was young enough and sweet enough to be soci…