Thursday, May 3, 2018

Pollinators: Bumble Bees & Bee Flies

Spring arrived here in Ohio in temperature this past week and it feels wonderful! We had some early glimpses of spring - think frogs, woodcock, swelling plant buds - but warmth sure took a while to get here this year.

While still chilly early this month, we observed multiple queen Common Eastern Bumble Bees emerging from their overwintering sites in the ground and were fascinated by their simultaneous emergence and wondered what they would find to eat on our land. (Clearly, we have a gaping hole in our wildflower/tree/shrub plantings, which we will remedy.)

Here's my awed/baffled video on the bumble bees emergence. 

There are currently 28 different species of bumble bees in the Eastern U.S. & Canada and we are working to learn more about them. They are incredibly efficient pollinators and form annual social colonies, in some ways like honeybees. (Heather Holm wrote some great books on bees and pollinators that we love.)

While hiking at a Seneca County park, we observed oodles of Spring Beauty and a few Trout Lily in bloom. The air around these plants was alive with the buzz of dozens of species of pollinators and many more individuals. The two plants on their own were such a beautiful sight to our eyes and spirits after a long winter, but to witness all the pollinators more joyful than we were to see these blooms was the true gift of the day.

Here's my wonder video on all the pollinators. We were seriously wowed!

A little Bee Fly chased everyone off the bloom and Steve caught an awesome video of this beautiful insect nectaring.

The Trout Lily were much sought after by many species and are definitely a plant we want to increase on our land. We've noticed so many trees and shrubs as other vital sources of early season nectar here in Ohio. Take a look around your there early food for these emerging, hungry and important pollinators?

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sun, Snow, Rain - Spring Happenings

When the sun shines, Steve and I flood with energy. It's really mind-boggling what we accomplish on these days filled with light and warmth. Because we are blogging less frequently at the moment, you will find lots of varied happenings below.

Fern loves the sunshine too and says more please!

Then 4 inches of snow fall and we are back in winter wonderland mode just like that.

The snow melts quickly this time of year, though, and we get to see Steve's new vernal pool creation fill with water. (Did you know Save the Frogs is creating an effort to re-frog America? Join us!)

Then a deluge of rain falls...more than 4 inches in less than 24 hours and the uncovered soil turns into a slurry and starts washing back into the newly dug vernal pool. EEK! Cover is key for soil health so that's a priority asap.

There is so much beautiful topsoil where Steve dug this vernal pool because it hasn't been farmed hard by an uncaring farmer or mudded in by some 4-wheelin' maniac (we both used to do this before we knew better so can attest to the horrors) and washed away downstream (more on this in a minute). He moved much of this soil before the rain started and it's a big, heavy job so he has my huge thanks.

Fern and Sassafras love(d) mucking about in the newly dug vernal pool and we cracked up everytime they showed up at our door with their little mud shoes. Sassafras (on the right) died a fairly sudden death at the beginning of April so we are super glad we captured one of her many silly moments. We seriously miss that girl.

In our continued quest for efficiency and best use of space, during one of those warm beautiful days, we worked hard and moved the entire nursery closer to the barn, opening this area up for more orchard and native wildflowers.

We continue to pull up the last of one of our most significant mistakes here at The Common Milkweed and so these are our thoughts: Goodbye to the rest of you awful, awful weed barrier/path mat. We recommend you to NO ONE. You don't work. You hurt the Earth. You are incredibly wasteful. You are just one more version of the menace that plastics have become when produced thoughtlessly. You compact the crap out of the soil. You burn my bare feet. Your strings kill birds and so many invertebrates. We hope you are made no more and no one falls for you ever, ever again.

On another of those brilliantly, sunshiny days, Indiana friends (Paul and Tim) visited us and we are so grateful for their fabulous conversation and inspiration.


Tim is making some beautiful art with his artistic skills, welding skills and CNC machine. You will see some of his work for sale here this summer. We are completely smitten with his bats.

One thing I just adore about working for myself, from home is my ability to be outside as much as I can. Presentation prep on a sunny, but windy day? No problem - I made a little nest right next to our lean-to greenhouse to get out of the wind, but where I can still feel the sun on my face, the Earth under my legs and hear the birds and the frogs. Combine this with a caffeinated beverage and presentation prep is easy. Also, if you are working to change minds or habits or behaviors or simply spread your message, you must listen to this webinar. Conservation people....we are messaging WRONG!

Thanks to everyone who stuck around till the very end of the Licking County Master Gardener Conference to hear us. We appreciate your excitement and can't wait to see how you change your land, too. Thanks friends for sharing time with us....

Cold, rainy days are perfect for seed stratifying. I am working on the 30 days cold/moist seeds here. I love listening to She Explores or Dirtbag Diaries or Women on the Road while I work.


We want you to know our alternative life plan is still in action so it's not all work here...easy mornings waiting for the day to warm and yoga with cats make life so much fun.

Minnie Pearl says, "Um, let me show you how to do that cat pose correctly."

Alright, back to uncovered soil. Notice here in our garden how the water is clear even though it is flowing (soil is covered with mulch and soon to be - with vegetation)...

And here amongst the dogwoods the water is clear even though it, too, is flowing off to the top left of the photo (soil is covered with plants and leaf litter).

Now, look at our stream. Completely filled with soil because our neighbor up the watershed from us replaced his septic system (yay!) and there is no cover what-so-ever on his soil. He is losing it all to run off. That's not good for his septic system, or the animals and plants that need clear, flowing water to survive, or for us, or for the Gulf of Mexico!

Here's the lake, oops!, farm land behind us through our window during the last thunderstorm of the day. There is a continuation of our stream (ditch) down the middle of this photo draining the land and all the soil with it. Caring farmer or no? You decide. Remember though, topsoil is the basis for all life and that's already largly he is losing subsoil. Hmmmm. Our question...what about the grandbabies?

What do we do when we need to recharge and shed despair? Hike in beautiful woods with clear-flowing streams, of course.


Half Acre

Caught a Long Wind

Stone Walls

I Went Down to Georgia

Scale Down

Friday, March 23, 2018

Our Return to the Arizona Trail 2018

Hello long lost followers! I'm sorry for the delay in writing, but we are back in Ohio and awaiting full-on spring so you know I will write again soon about what's happening on these magical 3.5 acres.

Our trip along the AZT was fabulous in so many ways and challenging in so many others. We LOVED it. The paragraph beginning with "Every time" sums up our feelings and so I will just share those beautiful words written by Peter Kahn Jr. The pictures are just a snap shot of our time on trail, but I think you will see the splendor of the natural world and what it does to two people deeply immersing themselves.

Data so far (last year and this year): 260.7 miles; Total Ascent: 39,938'; Total Descent: 43,727'

Steve's birthday trail magic thanks to very dear friends who helped us this entire trip (Deborah and Bill that's YOU!)...

Pusch Ridge Wilderness: one of our most favorite sections.

Living out of an Expedition for our final few days in AZ. No problem...

East side of Saguaro Ntl. Park

On our way to Summerhaven

Steve's 51st Birthday 

Wilderness of Rocks

Leaving Oracle

Heading to Gila River