Archive | March 2020

Beginning the Arch

I finally decided it was warm enough to unpack the garden arch I got for P’s memorial floral installation. I was less than pleased to see that there was a little rust, and that it was under the powder coat, so it hadn’t happened in storage or shipping. It wasn’t, however, enough to warrant sending back a big, 65 lb box, and I had to paint the arch anyway to match the fence panels, so I just cleaned it well with a wire brush, then wiped it down with mineral spirits. It was damp yesterday, so not ideal for painting, but I’m pretty good with spray paint–Christ knows I’ve had enough practice–and if it took a bit longer to dry, it didn’t matter because I can’t install it yet anyway.

Initial setup. Pinched my thumbnail once, and my pinky finger enough to draw blood, but overall, not bad. It looks black not only because of the shit lighting, but also because it’s brown-black. They called it “aged bronze” or something like that, but it’s almost exactly the same colour as my mascara, which is…brown black. The gates are crooked because the patio isn’t quite level, and because I made zero effort to adjust them. I’ll have to re-do everything once it’s in place, so not worth the effort.

I propped up a fence panel beside it, just to get an idea how it will look. I definitely like it more than the “matching” panels that would have cost me at least $500. I was going to hold off on these because shipping was $75, but R and Dad sent me the money so I could get them before they were sold out or something. Side by side, I could see a definite difference in the colour, but I’d already got a couple of cans of Canyon Satin Black paint, so that was fine. I think I’m going to be quite happy with this!

Once I started painting, it was easy to see the difference, and with black right beside it, the brown-black looks very brown.

Finished. I did order more paint because I used both cans, but that’s a just in case for touch-ups. It looks the same in a photo from a distance, but it perfectly matches the finish on the panels now.

I’m not sure whether I’ll go over and start working out where, exactly, the arch will go (depends upon how the panels will space), or whether I’ll do the laundry and sit on my fat arse today, but there’s no particular rush. I charged my batteries to mow the lawn, too, but whether or not that gets done remains to be seen; lawn mowing is not my favourite chore (I actually resent having to do it), and it’s not one I’m anxious to get started for 2020.

This entry was posted on 2020-03-29.

Spring Things

Just a few…I was taking photos so send to R because they’d got 6″ of snow, and I figured she could use some spring.

Forsythia. This is the little string I got for free with some plant order or another. I stuck it in the ground with no soil amendment, and then the landscapers ran over it with a mini skid-steer when they were leveling the spot where the old shed had been. It refused to die, so even though it’s not a native, it’s earned a place here.

Something broke the top off the biggest (relatively speaking) of my struggling Eastern White Pine trees. I don’t know that I’ve salvaged it, and it was a pretty quick n’ dirty bandage job, but I did try.

Spicebush flowers don’t look like much, but I’ll bet the bees found them anyway!

Elderberry leafing out nicely. Catbirds will appreciate this in a little while.

Virginia bluebell, which refuses to die in spite of the fact that junk plants have overrun what was supposed to be a flowerbed down by the creek, and also the fact that I don’t water anything down there, ever. Won’t be long before I’ll see their pretty purple flowers.

Allegheny spurge by the pond. Again, doesn’t look like much, but again, I’ll bet the bees noticed it anyway.

This one is from yesterday, when I was tidying up the front yard. I get a lot of fungus there because the roots from whatever trees the previous owner had cut down have all started to rot really nicely. I pulled two pieces out of the front flowerbed, and found a little surprise in one of them. Aptly named Pleasing Fungus Beetle, because he was indeed in fungus, and I was rather pleased to see him!

This entry was posted on 2020-03-29.

Mason Bee Time!

I’ve been working from home due to the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order (though we’re exempted by virtue of providing parts for essential industries, but no, thanks!) and there’s a lot going on in spring, so I’m a bit behind, but…bees!

I came to get my laptop on the 20th so I could get my remote connection set up, and noticed some of the mason bees had started emerging from the little yellow house. It was pretty warm, and they were okay until they hit the cold concrete; then, they started getting sluggish. I had to leave and go back to work, so I didn’t take pictures (not worth posting, anyway, since it was grey and dismal and they’re small), but when I got home, I hunted them all down and relocated them to the patio flowerbed. These would have been the males because they emerge first.

On the 25th, the ladies started making their appearance. Warming up in the sun on the yellow house.

Warming up on my hand, which was a lot more fun for me. 🙂

So fuzzy!

Also adorable.

Lookit his little eyes! <3

Fuzz on a hyacinth.

I was concerned because when the bees started to emerge, there wasn’t much available; even by the 26th, the crabapple tree had not yet opened its blooms.

They knew better than I, though, because later that day, the blooms began to open.

By the 28th (though I actually took this today), the tree was in full bloom.

I had purchased fancy (expensive), purpose-built mason bee tubes. I was going to build an enclosure, but the bees were so much earlier than I expected, all I could do was grab the yellow-est thing I could find to hold them for now. My yellow paint arrived yesterday, though, so if I can find something to use, I’ll make them a proper house.

Me: Here you go, guys–actual mason bee tubes!

Bees: Nah, we’ll just be using the old house.

Sigh. I know there are tiny larvae of some sort in that house, and they aren’t mason bee larvae, but I need to leave the house nearby because they look for it; as if they know where they were “born”. I want them to use the cardboard tubes, and a couple did check them out, but I was tidying up the front yard yesterday and didn’t spend enough time sitting there to determine whether they were actually using the new tubes, or whether they were checking them out and subsequently ignoring them. We’ll see, I guess; it’s not up to me, it’s up to them!

This entry was posted on 2020-03-29.

Mason D. Bee

I’m too tired and can’t be arsed to re-type everything, so I’ll copypasta from the email I sent to R.

So…you might remember last year that P had bought me a couple of little mason bee houses. Mason bees are (one of) the cute, fuzzy, gentle little solitary bees that build nests inside tubes. Masons use mud for theirs (hence “mason” bee); others use leaves, etc.. Anyway, P brought home one of those little bee houses last year; he’d seen it when he was picking up my floor stain at Menard’s, and while he had no idea what sort of bees might live in those houses, he did know I very much like bees, and the houses looked cute, so he got me one. I was lazy and didn’t get around to hanging it up, but that deterred the bees not in the least; they used it right where it was, sitting on the patio about 8″ from my feet when I sit in my chair. In fact, when I tried to hang it up where it was supposed to go, the bees were terribly confused and flew around my legs, looking for it, so I put it back. After they’d nearly filled the little yellow house, P bought a blue one, and by the end of the season, they’d filled that one as well. I put both of them in the garage for the winter, out of reach of hungry mice (mice occasionally do get into the garage, but Onje and Bulky are in there, too, and mice tend not to be terribly long-lived with them around). The garage wasn’t heated this winter, but neither did anything freeze in there, so it was the perfect spot.

C has a greenhouse, and she has some dwarf citrus trees that she’s picked up over the years on trips to Florida. Those trees don’t really get cold temperatures because they’re in a heated (wood burner that creates steam to heat) greenhouse, so once the days start getting longer, they bloom. Problem is that because they bloom so early, there are almost no bees around to pollinate them because it’s not warm enough. This year, though, I had those two full mason bee houses that were easily portable, so I brought the blue house in for C yesterday. The bees in the yellow house that I just put out on the patio won’t emerge from their tubes for at least two or three weeks because it’s still too cool. In a warm greenhouse, though, with the days getting longer, they should emerge much sooner; in time to pollinate the citrus trees. That’s the plan, at least.

C was at her desk yesterday, and had told me she’d seen a honeybee flying around her office. Possible–it’s been sunny and not particularly cold the past few days–but I thought it was more likely that one of the mason bees in the house that was sitting on the counter in her office had responded to the warm indoor temperatures and made his great escape. She said she didn’t think so because the bee looked too big for a mason, but I still thought it probably was.

She is off today, B was gone to St Louis, and I’m by myself in the office. I was sitting here, minding my own business, entering customer purchase orders when something flew in front of my face and landed on my desk beside my phone. A bee. Not only a bee, but a mason bee. He (or she…I didn’t ask) was still able to fly, but sluggish and falling over when it tried to walk, so I was easily able to get the cup we keep in the office for me to catch and release bugs. I knew the bee had emerged yesterday, and there’s nothing at all in the office that would provide either nectar or pollen, so it would be dehydrated, and exhausted from flying in search of sustenance.

We don’t have an office coffee maker; I’m the only one here who drinks coffee, and I bring mine from home, so we don’t keep sugar here. Not even a packet. I couldn’t leave at lunch to go get some sugar to make “nectar” for the bee, so I ran over to the business next door (we know them well) and asked if anyone there had some sugar, even just a packet. K found two in her desk, so I came back to the office, mixed some sugar into bottled water at roughly 1:4 (same as for hummingbirds) because that’s approximately the ratio of flower nectar. I put some in a teaspoon, and moved the bee to a plastic bag so it was contained, but I could see to feed it.

I named “him” Mason D. Bee, and he drank the nectar with great enthusiasm. I’ve been offering nectar about every 45 minutes; I have no idea how frequently they need to eat, but he’s a little guy, so he can’t consume much at a time, and were he outside, he’d be flying around, visiting flowers as long as it’s daylight, so I’m pretty sure he needs to eat frequently. I don’t have any pollen for him, and I won’t see C until Monday, but I’m going to feed him sugar water and try to find enough flowers at home to give him pollen to survive until then. I can’t just release him because there isn’t enough in bloom for him yet, and night temperatures are still pretty cold for a very small bee that shouldn’t be awake for another few weeks. I know it’s just one bee that lives only about four weeks, and in the grand scheme of things, one bee more or less doesn’t matter, but to that bee, it matters very much, so I think it’s worth at least trying to keep him healthy over the weekend, then bring him to C on Monday.

…and here’s Mason D. Bee!

When I’d got him home, I checked to see whether he’d even be interested in crocus or daffodil. He ate crocus pollen, then washed himself like a little cat. Fucking adorable.

Never having had to accommodate a bee “bee-fore” (god, I’m hilarious), I had to get a bit creative, but I made him an apartment. Water for the flowers has cotton balls so he won’t drown, and the cotton balls in the crab dish are soaked in 4:1 sugar water. Sad little jade plant is just décor.

He landed on the flower water cotton balls and parked for a while. He’s so cute!

I wasn’t sure he’d live, but he seemed to be okay, if unimpressed at being confined. I’m glad he’s little and I’m big because he looks pissed!

I thought he must have got out when I gave him fresh flowers and fresh nectar because I couldn’t find him, but I was just looking in the wrong place. 🙂

So…that’s the story of Mason D. Bee. He will go to work with me tomorrow–assuming he’s still alive–and then he’ll go home with Cindy and live in her greenhouse, nomming nectar and pollen from citrus trees. I’ll be sorry to see him go, but it wouldn’t be fair to keep him when I can’t provide properly for him long-term. Granted, he’ll live only about four weeks, and that’s not exactly long-term, but to him, that is literally a lifetime. Those are the only four weeks he’s got, so they have to count.

This entry was posted on 2020-03-08.

Spring flowers!

Not many yet, but after shitty winter, I’ll pretty much take anything.

I noticed when the crocus leaves started to emerge (because I was looking for them), but didn’t notice any buds…and when I got home from work today, I noticed flowers.

The first mini daffodil! Those things are just so cute, and they open before the big daffs even have buds.

This was just a quick test-fit of the fence panels for my PRB Memorial project. I think it’ll look good, and I know that P would have liked my idea, and would have cheered on my implementation…whether it actually looked good or not.

This entry was posted on 2020-03-04.