Natural History Notes

Monday, July 26, 2010

muggy ugh

Oh, ugh. Sunset, overcast, 85°, and 63% humidity. The AC is not on because it isn't hot enough,and the room fan is just circulating the fug. I think I'll go adjust the thermostat, and electric bill and global warming be hanged! Weather says that areas that had rain are in the 70s, but we didn't. Weather, weather every where, and not a drop to fall.

Actually today it seemed fairly cool, in the afternoon. I believe it must have been raining up on Mingo Road, or Aubrey, or somewhere. I walked to Point Bank, and there were noticeable northeasterly cool breezes.

Walking that mile and a quarter was no problem. The second one, on the way BACK, did wear me out, especially that hill at the end. Stopping when you are only half way to tired is always the problem. Besides, I needed to go to Point Bank to put in a check for Crispin.

Yesterday Eddie and Stephen put in 4-1/2 hours clearing the sides of the lane at the Ridge -- the lower half is looking quite inviting. They were able to cut the dead tree at the kink in the road. Meanwhile, I excavated the herb bed from the Johnson grass that was threatening to overwhelm it.

I took some more pictures of the progress on the honey frames. Or make that non-progress. They don't look any more capped than last week, and they almost look as though the bees have been eating all the honey out of some spots. Sigh. Won't be a harvest at this rate. John tell me the rule of thumb is that you can harvest when they are three-quarters capped. I sent him this picture, and he said it was a beautiful frame of honey. Now all they have to do is FINISH it!

They continue to bring in lots of pollen. I got some video of that that I hope to get on Youtube or Fileden soon.

Ugh. Wrists are sweating all over the laptop. Off to set the AC lower.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

hot ...

11 pm and AC going, hot and muggy outside. Remind me again why I wanted the rain to stop ...
Not near as hot as it might be. I walked probably 2-1/2 miles this afternoon between 6pm and 8pm, to the bank and City Hall (utility bill) and the Cupboard and home, and it was pretty much OK. Mid-nineties. But still 84° after 11pm.
Going to be sore tomorrow, probably.
Just put in my order for medium frames, small cell foundation, extra veil (for Tom or whoever) at Walter Kelley.

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Kay's honey!

Kay brought me a present yesterday. She extracted 20-30 pounds of honey Sunday; she also almost accidentally got several combs of foundationless comb honey. Wax moths got in some of her foundation, and at the time, Dadant was OUT of foundation(!?) So, since she really needed to give her bees space, she interleaved empty frames between the ones with foundation. No comb guides or anything. And it worked!

The honey is very good. It's very light, and fragrant and flowery. Hope mine is as good.


Monday, July 12, 2010

summer's b-a-a-ack

End of the rains, and days near 100°, nights upper seventies for the foreseeable future. The last rains were Friday and Saturday, as a stalled-out front at the Red River stirred up some instability to dump a few more thunderstorms out of the soaked atmosphere. Kieren was hammered as he came north from Dallas Friday afternoon, then we had a mild drizzle most of Friday night, and two heavy thunderstorms on Saturday. Sunday however was clear and sunny; the cooler cloudy days gone.

The Ridge rain gauge had 0.6" Friday afternoon, and then over Saturday it collected 2.3" more, for a total of something like nine inches over the two weeks. Sycamore Street's gauge Friday night was 1.8", but I brought it inside to read Friday night and didn't get it back out, so Saturday's storms were unmeasured. While there was more rain in town in several storms the last few days, overall there was less, maybe 6".

Yesterday Eddie and Steven worked around the house and yard at the Ridge. Both screen porches are now largely cleared of the enveloping jungle of creeper, hackberry, and mimosa, and the screen fixed.

I went through the hive (with video). The queen is continuing to lay; there is some uncapped brood and quite a bit of capped on several of the brood frames. But there doesn't seem to be much for all those bees to bring in, even with the rains. The newer super has just maybe three lightly-drawn-out frames, and there is no further progress in the upper super. I saw no pollen arriving, but maybe they gather some earlier in the day. I gave them a pint of syrup with a couple drops of lemon-grass oil to see what would happen.

As I was watching the bees in the late afternoon, I heard a mockingbird do a chuck-will's-widow call, very well too, it fooled me for a moment. He also rendered cardinal calls and song, carolina wren, house wren, and I don't know what else.

A tiny clicky noise made me look up. On a bare peach twig 3-4 feet over my head was a dragonfly. He perched there, then made little circuits, just a 4' circle or maybe figure-eight, and back to the perch, for a long time. I looked him up; he's a Widow Skimmer. This picture is very close to his appearance, though the species seems variable in wing pattern and body color.

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

more wet

Sure enough, the forecasters were right. A measly little drizzle this morning wasn't much, but about 4pm we got a substantial thunderstorm, the red spot over Denton on the radar. And it looks like there is another one over Dallas that might hit us in a while, too.

Agate and Tut were happy to come in out of the wet. Alabaster must have found a dry spot somewhere. Often she comes bounding up from under the deck, but not this time.

5 minutes later - I passed the back door and called again, and there she was; came in and headed for the food bowl, and then for her spot on the south windowsill. Tut wanted out; Agate remains asleep. A lockable cat door would be handy ...

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camera envy

Oooh, I've got the camera-buying itch. I've been happy with my Olympus C-740 for years now; I believe I got it in 2002. 3.2MP was plenty, and the 10X optical zoom was awesome.

But it's showing its age. I didn't think the difference in pixels up to 4MP, or even 8, was worth worrying about. But 12MP! That's 3000 by 4000 dots in the photo, twice as many as mine. And I really want something with less shutter lag. And now I see that Olympus has come out with the SP 590 UZ, with an impossible 26X optical zoom. Gets pretty good reviews. Could be had for not much over $300 (less than mine 8 years ago.) Heavier, of course, it weighs about a pound, and sure won't fit in a shirt pocket. But ... WANT!


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

rain again, yay

Another thunderstorm, courtesy apparently of a tropical low meandering north along the Louisiana border, broke noisily and wetly over us this afternoon. Later I read 0.3" on the gauge at the Ridge, but I believe there was more in town. Wunderground says 0.47" -- I haven't read my gauge yet. And more coming! Thursday, and then maybe next week too. The ground will be wet to the middle of the month, anyway. It looks all green again at the Ridge, though a lot of it is not grass but little opportunistic weeds, and lots of ragweed. As soon as it gets dry again, I need to mow that ragweed down, before it seeds.

Later -- sure enough, Sycamore Street got 1.5" of water while the Ridge was getting .03".

It's a good thing we had had a good deal of rain before the 4th, given what some neighborhood vandals did on the lane. Seems to have been a fairly impressive fireworks show, judging from the size of some of the remains. And then they just LEFT all the trash!

But watching the bees always calms me down. Caught in flight with a relatively fast shutter speed (late afternoon, with flash) they look distinctly un-aerodynamic, and not nearly as graceful as birds. They seem to hang at any angle in the air.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

food chains

Real ones and hopeful. Light is on where I sit in the corner of the living room. Gecko on outside of glass makes a lunge, snaps up a little moth. (How he sticks to vertical surface of glass remains a mystery to me, no matter how much I read about the mechanisms.) Cat sits inside window and ... watches. Intently.

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Monday, July 05, 2010

berries in the rain

What a welcome break in the weather! All week it has been relatively cool, if a bit muggy, and it looks to continue for a few more days. The rain Friday evening and Saturday morning at the Ridge was another two and a quarter inches, as a gentle drizzle for hours in the evening and early morning.

Mary and her friend Rebecca and I got started berrying around 8:30, an hour later than our original expecting-heat plan. Mary had to go in a bit after ten after running to fire ants that stung her numerous times, but she was feeling OK in the evening. Rebecca and I put in another half hour or more. I froze three small ziploc bags of berries and kept a bowlful in the fridge. (This picture is from July 2007, but the same cycles come around every year - I ate both berries and lambs-quarter this week.)

I told Rebecca about the violent thunderstorms, sometimes with hail, that we had had at past berrypicking/ice cream parties (Cassie's pockets full of hailstones). She is from Florida, where apparently hail is uncommon. Then after a partly sunny afternoon that got up to the high eighties, and felt hotter in the full sun while I was watching the bees, it suddenly got very dark and commenced a sockdologer of a right and proper 4th-of-July-berrypicking thunderstorm! Extremely heavy rain and lashing wind for a half hour, drizzle for a half hour, then the sun came out again. Another inch and a quarter, for a total on the week of nearly six inches!

Since the rain Tuesday morning, some flowers have picked up. I don't know about nectar, but at least the bees are bringing in pollen again. I took numerous photos of the entrance, and caught one pollen-laden worker as she disappeared into the shadow of the interior. Photoshop made her visible.

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Friday, July 02, 2010


At least a brief drizzle, 2pm, with a totally delightful temperature of 86°F. And I didn't even have to hang out laundry; I only THOUGHT about it. Got as far as putting some things in the washing machine, and it started.