River Views

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, Jesse and I decided to take our two-person kayak down the river.  It had been a week of tragedy in our small Minnesota town.  Earlier in the week, a swim teammate of our daughter was killed in an automobile accident.  She was only 18 and had just graduated with our daughter in June.  We went to the funeral on that Saturday to offer our support and represent our daughter, who is at school out east and could not be there.  It was heartbreaking.

And then on Sunday morning we learned of another community member, a business person and father in his 40’s, that had passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. More tragedy.  Although we did not know him well, an untimely death of someone in a small community is always a shock.

Having a quiet and relaxing day seemed appropriate…so we decided to head to water.

We put the kayak in the river in the backwater behind the house and made our way on to the main part of the river.  Fall is a great time to kayak here because the mosquitos have mostly died off and the air is crisp and fresh.

I took my iPhone 4s along and was snapping pictures along the way.
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I still cannot believe that it took us a decade of living on the river to finally get around to buying ourselves some kayaks. Why did we wait so long?

I took a bunch of “selfies”, but this is the only arguably decent one of the bunch.  The angles are not real flattering for us older folks.  I guess selfies are best left to the younger generation.  🙂

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Going down stream is very relaxing and for the most part, requires little effort.

Most of the foliage was still green, but some Sumac along the shore was starting to show some fall color.

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The Rum River is a fairly messy river, with trees down and random stumps protruding here and there.  The DNR or someone else must cut a path through the debris occasionally to keep the waterway open to kayaks and canoes. We are grateful for the efforts, whoever it is.

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Because of the frequent changes in the water level due to spring and summer flooding, there is a lot of erosion.  Trees along the bank gradually have the dirt around their roots washed away and some tip into the water, creating the clutter.

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The sun sparkled on the water in open areas.

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Sometimes when we are kayaking, we just stop paddling…and coast…and listen…to the silence…to nature.

It is so peaceful.

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A few random maple trees were showing off their colors already.

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The river is very shallow in some areas, but we almost always are able to skim across the surface in the kayaks.

You can see more fallen trees along the bank. The erosion and fallen trees are not alarming.  I would imagine this process of transformation has happened for decades on the Rum River.

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I was so busy taking pictures around every turn that I did not paddle much.

It made the ride even more lovely for me.  🙂

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More signs of erosion where the sandy river banks are washing away.

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After about an hour, we coasted into Riverside Park, where we had dropped off the trailer ahead of time.

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What a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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We are so grateful to be alive and living this blessed life.

Lynell

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The Front Door

Fall has definitely arrived here in Minnesota and as usual, I am way behind in drafting posts about what has gone on around here.  I have taken hundreds of photos over the summer, but putting those photos into a post takes time…something I always seem to be lacking.

I took this photo of our front porch today.  We harvested our pumpkins a few weeks ago and have kept them in the barn until yesterday.  With a cool and rainy day upon us, we decided it was time to bring them out and display them on our front steps.  The bright orange sure livens up the entrance to our house!

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We have decided to take a year off from growing pumpkins and squash after a nasty infestation of squash bugs for the second year in a row. (You can read more about squash bugs here).

If you have not dealt with these buggers in your garden, be happy.  They are disgusting and we just do not want to deal with them next year again.  We are hoping the absence of their favorite feeding ground for a year will break the cycle and we can resume growing pumpkins and squash without battling those bugs all summer long. We took a year off from growing potatoes after repeated infestations with potato bugs and it seemed to work. Being cautious, we planted a small row of potatoes this year and enjoyed a potato bug-free  season!

On the bright side, we did manage to battle through the squash bugs and grow some pumpkins before they totally destroyed the vines.  Our squash crop however, was a total loss.

My ferns on the porch are continuing to thrive in this cooler weather.  I hate the thought of them being killed off by the frost.  I may try to bring them inside and see how long I can stretch out their life into the fall and winter.

I hope you are enjoying the fresh air and bright colors of fall in your part of the country.

Lynell

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Apple Time

All of those apple blossoms this past spring have turned into a whole lot of apples!

Today I made my first pan of apple crisp for the season.  We made homemade ice cream to go with it.  Yum!!  What is better than warm apple crisp with creamy homemade ice cream?

I am not sure what I will do with all these apples besides doing a lot of baking in the next few weeks. My motivation to preserve them by making applesauce or something else is very low.  Our last attempt was a failure – the sauce was too mushy and we do not eat much applesauce anyhow. It does not make sense to me to go through all that work if you don’t really love the end product.
applesSo, instead of peeling, coring, boiling, and canning for hours on end…I will be eating a lot of fresh and tart apples in the next few weeks, along with baking some up in tasty apple desserts, and hopefully giving some away.  The chickens will get their fair share too.  🙂

Lynell

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My Favorite Roses

Summer is going way too fast.  I am having a hard time keeping up with the gardens, let alone finding the time to write blog posts.  As I have mentioned before however, I still grab my camera often and snap pictures outside…usually in the evening after supper.

My climbing roses were absolutely stunning this year. I have four William Baffin climbing roses:  two climbing up the porch and two on an arbor by the vegetable garden.

I planted these two roses by the porch the summer after we completed constructing our home, in 2001.  They are 12 years old and still going strong.  They are zone 2 or 3, depending on what you read, and are a perfect match for our frigid Minnesota winters.

rose3The plants were so loaded down with buds this year that the branches were drooping under their weight.

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I absolutely love the color of these pink beauties and the blooms just keep unfolding over a couple of weeks.  Even after the initial heavy blooming period there are still scattered flowers to enjoy all summer long.

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My only wish is that these roses were more fragrant.  Surprisingly, they have very little smell, even though they are often described as having “fragrant deep-pink blossoms.”

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In the spirit of full disclosure, these climbing roses do not come without a fair amount of work.  I battle the thorny growth each spring to thin it out, cut out dead canes, and to tie it up and keep it focused.  I usually have to deal with it at least one other time during the summer to continually train the new canes to grow in the right direction.

From my porch I can look out and see more climbing roses by the vegetable garden.  I planted these roses later than the porch ones, some time after we built the fence.

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They are finally getting close to the top of the arbor.  I am hoping they eventually will reach over the top.

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If you are looking for a prolific climbing rose, give the William Baffin rose a try.  You will not regret it!

-Lynell

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Pretty Peonies

Almost every day I pick up my camera and go outside to take a picture of something that is blooming around here.  It is hard to keep up with posting the pictures because after all, it is summer and who wants to be inside and in front of the computer?

Last week I snapped these photos of my many peonies.  I have moved these plants from house to house as we moved through the years.  I could never bear the thought of leaving them behind.  This collection is out in my front yard.
peony1The only peony that I have actually purchased is this white one.  Although it is pretty, it just does not have the same strong fragrance as the old-fashioned pink ones that I have transplanted and taken with me all these years.
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I do love the white flowers mixed in with all the other varieties though.

I picked a huge bouquet of these beauties one afternoon to bring in the house to enjoy. I love to bury my nose into the flowers and inhale deeply.  What a magnificent smell!

peony3It turns out it was a good thing that I did pick some flowers that afternoon because we had a big rain and wind storm the following evening that really did a number on the peony plants, pounding and shredding the big blossoms that had already opened.

In addition to the large grouping out in the front yard, I also have peonies planted along the picket fence surrounding the vegetable garden.  These plants are from my first division of the peonies…maybe about six years ago?
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All of my peony plants are overdue for another division.

They do seem perfectly happy however, so I am in no big hurry to create the extra work for myself.  🙂peony6I still have some peonies blooming, although they are starting to wind down now.  The heat and humidity of the last few days definitely hinder the longevity of the blossoms.

I have never taken the time to identify the variety of peonies that I have.  Any ideas?

Lynell

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Prairie Fire Crabapple Tree

As I have mentioned, life has been very busy with a graduate in the house and I have definitely fallen behind in posting some of the pictures I have taken this spring around the farm.  I wanted to share this photo of the Prairie Fire crabapple tree outside our kitchen window.  This tree is such a delight, particularly when it is in its full blooming glory in late spring.

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I have posted pictures of this tree in the past when it was loaded with honeybees (Our Buzzing Crabapple Tree).  Each spring this tree puts on an impressive show and it never disappoints.  If you are looking for a lovely ornamental tree to add to your landscape, I would highly recommend a Prairie Fire crabapple tree.

Lynell

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Garden Art

Life has been very busy here.  Our middle child graduated from high school a week or so ago and we had her open house a few days later.  Because of our late spring I was frantically trying to get my gardens in order for the party.  During one of my trips to buy annuals and a few other miscellaneous plants, I came across this funky little bird at the garden center.  I do not have a lot of garden art, but this silly piece caught my eye and I bought it.
gardenartAnd I am happy that I did.  Two weeks later and it still makes me smile…so I would say it was definitely worth it.

Lynell

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Apple Trees and Abundant Blossoms

Our four apple trees are in full bloom.  We don’t know a lot about apple trees and honestly have not had that great of luck with apples through the years.  Back in 2000, when we first purchased the property, we planted about six apple trees out in the meadow before we even started building the house.  Neither of us remembers the variety and we did not keep any tags.  The trees failed to thrive in the hard-packed clay and we eventually lost all but two of them, which we moved over behind the chicken coop where the soil is better.
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They have grown quite a bit over the years and a few years back we added two more small apple trees on the other side of the garden.  The trees seem to have heavy blooms every other year…and this is an ON year with and abundance of blossoms.  The sweet smell catches your attention as you walk past.  apple4a

Surely the bees are enjoying these lovely white blossoms during the day.  It was later in the evening when I took these photos and there were no bees in sight.  They return to the hive in the early evening and hunker down for the night so it was no surprise that I didn’t see any.
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We have never used any pesticides to spray our apple trees and when we do get fruit it often has issues – it is mis-shaped, has worm holes, etc.  One year we had enough to make some applesauce and apple butter, so I guess it has not always been a total failure.  Maybe one of these years we will put some effort into consistently growing good fruit.
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In the meantime, we will enjoy the blossoms and the few pans of fresh apple crisp that we make each fall.

Lynell

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A Dash of Color

I have been a gardening maniac for the last few weeks.  With the late spring, it feels like things are moving along quickly and there is SO much work to do just to get the gardens set for the season.  When I need a break from the physical labor of gardening I will sometimes grab my camera and stroll around the grounds to take some photos.

My bleeding hearts are in full bloom behind the house. Such magnificent flowers!bleedingheart

Volunteer Violets are blooming in the garden too. My Grandma called them “Johnny Jump-ups” and they will always remind me of her.  As a small girl, when I would go to visit she would always send me home with a bouquet of these flowers for my mom.  They were prolific at her house, almost like weeds.  She would wet a paper towel, wrap them gently around the stems, and finish it off with tinfoil to hold in the moisture.  I was always so proud to bring these little gems home to my mom, who would put them in a very small crystal vase and place them in the windowsill.  It is these memories that make my heart happy each spring when these lovely flowers appear in my garden.

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And then there are the tulips.  One can never have enough tulips.  I do not have enough tulips.

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I need to remember that this fall.  I really do need to plant more tulips.  They are such a beautiful way to welcome spring.

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I planted these a few years ago when I put in my new Magnolia tree.  I don’t even know the variety, but I really do love them.  The bright color stands out boldly from all the green spring foliage and makes a real statement.DSC_0330

These purple tulips are pretty too, but their color is more muted and seems to get lost a little in the sea of spring green.  I’m not complaining though.  They are beautiful too.purpletulipsI have a lot more pictures of spring blossoms and flowers to share.  Things are really blooming around here!

Hope you are enjoying spring blooms in your part of the world!

Lynell

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Starting Over Again – Bees 2013

As I mentioned in an earlier post this winter, we had a roller-coaster of a summer last year with our bees.

After being so thrilled that we had successfully wintered our bees for the first time since starting beekeeping, we were devastated to discover that they had swarmed in May because we waited too long to divide the hives and they became too crowded.  The early spring last year and the warm temperatures moved everything ahead and because of our inexperience, we missed the signs that they were preparing to swarm.

All was not lost however, because when bees swarm they leave behind a portion of the worker bees along with new queen cells, one of which eventually becomes the new queen.  We observed the hives over the next few months and it appeared that things were back on track, they had a new queen, and were rebuilding their population.  Of course, the hives were not nearly as strong as they would have been had they not swarmed, but we knew we would still get a honey harvest.

The honey started flowing and the bees had built up a good amount of supers of honey.  Once again, our optimism for our honey harvest was shattered in October when Jesse went out to the hives to check on them and discovered they had been robbed!  Yes, hives can be robbed by feral bees.  All the frames that the bees had worked so hard to fill all summer long were stripped completely clean, as if they had never had a bit of honey in them.  The other unfortunate effect from robbing, is that the honeybees usually die in the process of defending their hive against the invaders.

Needless to say, we lost both hives of bees and only ended up with a very small amount of honey to harvest…another year of learning about all the things that can go wrong beekeeping.  We have just put in our order for two nucs of bees this spring.  We are not giving up; we’re just starting over again.

So, spring finally arrived and so did our two nucs of bees.  The bees arrived to our supplier on a rainy and dreary Friday afternoon.  Jesse and our daughter went to work getting the hives ready to add the nucs, which are about 5-6 frames of bees with a queen and brood.
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After adding a few frames to each hive of honey from last year’s bees, it was time to get suited up and put the frames in the hive.

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The bees were very riled up and it was a little scary, so I did not stay too long to photograph. I don’t think they enjoyed the ride across the plowed field in the back of the 4-wheeler, even if it was a slow one. 🙂bee3

Our daughter braved the angry bees for the installation of one nuc and only received one sting on her leg.  She decided to let her dad install the other hive.bee4

We have not examined the hive to look for brood, but after about 10 days it was clear that the bees were multiplying and Jesse decided to add another brood box. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and he can take a peek inside soon to see how things are going.

bees5In the meantime, I can tentatively say that things appear to be going well so far this season with the bees.  I know all too well however, that any number of bee disasters might be ahead yet this summer.  We are continuously learning and expanding our knowledge of beekeeping, so I am hopeful that it will be an uneventful beekeeping season.

For any beekeepers out there, how is your season starting out?

Lynell

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