Making progress.

It’s only been a year since we first started talking about looking for retirement land close to my brother-in-law (BIL) instead of close to Bryson City, NC.   We really enjoyed last Memorial Day with BIL and family and the peace and quiet of being on his land.

Digging trenches for water lines, May 2016

Since then, we’ve found land that we absolutely love, refurbished an RV that will be our first home on that land, met the best neighbor’s in the world, had our trees thinned, a driveway constructed, electricity brought in, and a well dug.  We made good progress on water and septic lines this weekend, and are looking forward to moving the RV to the land by the middle of June.  Then we’ll be able to sit in front of our mini-home first thing in the morning and last thing at night and plan where to build the house.

Our first hives are thriving in the woods, and most of our plants are doing well.  Some of my fig cuttings are struggling, and the blueberries never even pushed out the first leaf, but one of the large figs a friend gave us has two baby figs on it.   It has a long way to go to catch up with the fig in our back yard, but we hadn’t expected to see fruit this year at all.  Even though the other fig tree doesn’t have any fruit yet, I’m very pleased with the way it looks.  By the time we retire, I’m convinced I’ll have more than enough figs on those trees to make all the jam I want or need. The two magnolias I planted are thriving.   Three of the daylillies are blooming and the others are doing well, especially considering that they are having to survive without the benefit of an irrigation system!   The gardenias that we planted by the gate are greening up, but there hasn’t been much new growth on them since we planted them at Thanksgiving.

Now that the pine trees have been thinned, we are seeing quite a few tulip poplars popping up.  They are a good source of nutrition for the bees, so we’re excited to see them.  Of course, the briars are also thriving in all the additional light, but I took care of all the ones between the deck and the bee hives with the weed-eater yesterday!   That trail is too uneven to bush-hog, but I don’t mind using the weed-eater as I can cut around any ferns I spot.   The way I feel today, the weed-eater is also going to help me build muscles!

We have another week of school, then hubby has a week of JROTC camp, but after that we’ll be able to work our land every weekend until August.   We’ll move bees down Thursday evenings after hubby gets off work and maybe even move some of our trees down once we see which areas stay moist even when it doesn’t rain.  This weekend was hard work, but so very rewarding.   Our retirement dream becomes more real with every trip.

Bee Rescue/Removal · Bees · Lazer Creek Apiary

Bees ‘n Trees

Honeycomb inside the tree

Our mantra on those stressful days that everyone, regardless of career field, has is “Bees and Trees.”  It helps remind us that the time is approaching when our schedule will be governed more by the seasons and sunsets and less by bells and deadlines.  However, today “Bees ‘n Trees” refers to bees IN trees.

We were asked to try to save a hive inside a hollowed out tree that had been struck by lightening years ago.   Pest control companies have exterminated colonies a few times in the past, but bees keep finding this fantastic place to live and moving back in again.

Removing the small tree.

Two trees have actually merged at the base and it is at this split that the bees were entering.  We couldn’t see inside the split because another tree had grown up, leaving just enough room for bees to enter.  After removing that tree and widening the hole a little, we were able to take the above picture of the beautiful comb hanging down from somewhere….   Hubby widened the hole again, and we could see and reach more.  The hollow part of the tree — and the hive — extends into at least two chambers with somewhat rotten wood between them.  At this point, bees were exiting from a variety of small holes around the tree — some of which were at waist height.  We have no idea how far up the tree this hive extends.  He pulled out some of the most beautiful comb I have seen.  Still, even after cutting as much as we felt was safe, we were unable to reach any comb with brood, although we did gather enough comb with empty cells or honey to fill two large and two medium frames.    We put those frames in a Nuc and left it at the hive entrance in hopes of attracting, and thereby saving, some of the bees.

The first look inside.

As the tree is split and each side has a wide crown, it’s just not possible for us to safely retrieve these bees.  The property owner may opt to have the trees cut down by an arborist.  If that is the route she takes, we will try to save the bees at that time.  It is such a friendly and productive hive; we would hate to see such good genetic stock removed from the gene pool (never mind that we simply like the critters!). But they are in town close to a playground,  and no-one wants to see children stung.

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Drivin’ On….

We were down at the farm last weekend and we got to drive on our brand new driveway!   It has made such a difference; I barely recognized that part of the land.   Not only do we have gravel to stop us from sinking into the mud, the bulldozer operator put in drainage channels and built up a berm along the edge of the deck to protect the driveway and the future garden area from erosion.  He also leveled pads for our garden shed and RV.

Down at the house site, he cleared away most of the debris from the tree thinning, leveled the site, and sloped the septic field.   We can’t even begin to say how happy we are with the work.  

As if those weren’t enough pleasant surprises, our neighbor cut the grass along the road for us, our magnolia seedlings appear to like Georgia clay better than South Carolina sand, the daylillies have buds, and the fig trees are full of deep-green leaves.  We threw out wild-flower seeds as we walked around and hope they grow into nectar sources for our bees.

Talking of bees, an article from Catch the Buzz may help explain why our bees often ignore what I plant for them and go find their own food sources.  The bees know what the hive needs, just like sometimes my body demands a steak instead of tofu!   In order to provide the bees variety at the house, I’ve planted more wild-flower seeds  and have many other seeds started that the University of Georgia recommends for year round nectar sources.    Another source recommended Clethra, a plant that blooms profusely in July-August when there is not much available for bees.  I bought two plants through Amazon that shipped from Hirt’s Gardens.  The plants arrived April 11 and the white one is close to flowering already.   The plants were so healthy and so well packaged that I know I will buy from Hirt’s again.  While I know that what I’ve planted will not be enough to support our hives, it’s a start and many of the plants will spread through their roots or by self-seeding.   Every little bit that keeps them healthy and reduces the amount of sugar water we need to provide to get them through the dearth will help. 

We took two of our hives down to the farm and got them settled in.  They were not at all happy after the long trip on Friday and stung hubby through his bee jacket, but were calm by Sunday.   We’ll take the next set of hives down as soon as we can close them up at night so the bees don’t have to wait to go forage or travel while the sun is up and keeping them too warm.

Now we just have to drive on through the final, crazy weeks of school.   Working our hives, putting together more hive bodies and frames, gardening, and constantly changing our minds about house plans — all those things are keeping us in positive frames of mind.  Summer is coming, and we are one year closer to retirement!   We’ll be able to move the RV to the land during summer break and then start building a workshop, or a garden shed, or a house…. those plans change daily too!