Welcome back!!

After spending the Winter cleaning up and repairing the damage from Hurricane Sandy, we celebrated the arrival of Spring by starting our second colony of honeybees! But then the rain and humidity arrived; we endured New Jersey's wettest June on record and the 5th hottest July. Surprisingly, August brought cooler temperatures and dryer air which led to a spectacular September!

It's been nearly a year since our last update... where should we start?? How about:

And then, we'll focus on the pond from a brand new perspective:

Enough talk. Let's get started!

Hurricane Sandy Repairs

After a lot of planning and permit-gathering, repairs to our house began in February. In the first photo, you can see that the front of the house looks just like it did before the storm. The only change here is, that messy and troublesome Elm tree is now gone... good riddance!

However, inside the house, we made some improvements to the living room. First, the old wallpaper was removed and the walls given a fresh coat of paint. And, since the builders had to tear down the entire vaulted ceiling, we decided to have recessed lighting installed up there! Finally, the insulation in the ceiling was replaced with R-21 so we should be nice and cozy this Winter.

Our Second Honeybee Colony

In April, Draper's shipped us a package of 10,000 honeybees (give or take a few). This time, a guy from the post office drove up in a pickup truck, rang the doorbell, and left the bees on our front porch. Great service! We installed them the same day and they got right to work.

To give the new colony a head start, I took 3 empty frames with drawn comb from the established hive and installed them in the new one. This gives the bees a place to store pollen and nectar, and allows the queen to start laying as soon as she's ready.

Spring Garden

This year, Catarina chose to dedicate an entire quadrant of the garden to potatoes. As a result, we feasted on delicious New Potatoes from late Spring into early Summer. The tomatoes had a rough year on account of the wet June weather, but there were still enough of them for sandwiches and salads.

As I write this now, it's the end of Summer and the potatoes are long gone. In their place, we have a second crop of lettuce coming in and there are still more tomatoes and beans to harvest!

Spring Flowers

It's mid-April and one of the first flowers to bloom at the edge of the pond is the pink Moss Phlox. We originally planted a single cluster in the rocks to the right of the filter, which you can also see in this picture from 2011.

I really like this plant so... last year, I grabbed a clump and moved it in front of the grass circle (along with some random succulents). And now this Spring, we were treated to another splash of pink at the ponds edge. That was easy!

The Three-legged Fox

On May 3rd, Catarina snapped this photo of a three-legged fox that stopped by the pond for a drink. I had only seen a fox by the pond once before... 8 years ago! We have woods nearby so there are certainly foxes about, it's just rare to catch one by the pond.

Water-level Pondscape: chipmunk sitting on the filter top

In the following series of photos, we're going to look at the pond from a new perspective. Imagine being some of the different insects and animals that visit the shores of the pond. Our eyes would be no more than a couple of inches above the waterline. How would the pond look from this low vantage point? Looking at these photos, I think those lucky critters may have the best seat in the house!

In this first photo, imagine that you're a chipmunk sitting atop the flat rock that covers the filter pump. Your cheek pouches are full of seeds and nuts and you stop here for a delicious snack. After the snack, you scurry under the bridge and back to your burrow.

Water-level Pondscape: squirrel stopping by for a drink

In this photo, you're the squirrel who recently stole an apple from one of our trees! (Grrrr :-)) The apple was delicious, but now you're thirsty so you hop to the edge of the pond for a sip of that clear cool water. As you drink, you glance at those mossy rocks across the pond and wonder what all those flying insects are doing over there...

Water-level Pondscape: honeybee drinking on a moss-covered rock

Now you're a honeybee! And it's a particularly warm day so, rather than collect nectar and pollen, your job is to bring water back to the hive. You ask a fellow worker bee where to find water and she gives you directions to the pond. So you fly over, land on the soft moss, and then walk down to the edge of the water and drink your fill. The warm Sun feels good on your back, so you pause for minute and catch some rays before heading back to the hive.

Upon returning to the hive, you deposit the water at various locations and use your wings to fan air over it. In this way, you cool the hive by evaporation. Pretty smart!!

Water-level Pondscape: robin taking a bath on the beach

Imagine this time that you are a robin! After spending the morning hunting for delicious worms, you're looking for a place to cool off in the midday Sun. You can hear water running nearby so you fly over for a look. Hmm... the water looks too deep, but then you notice a cove covered with pebbles sloping gently into the water. After wading in a couple steps, you start flapping your wings splashing water everywhere, covering the nearby rocks and moss with water.

After that refreshing bath, you fly into the pine tree to dry off in the Sun.

Water-level Pondscape: snake searching for a meal

And finally, you're a ribbon snake! You've been stretched out on the rocks in the Sun for the past hour and now you're getting hungry. So you slither over to the edge of the pond in search of a meal... what's that you see moving on the other side of the pond?? You dive into the water and glide across the top for a closer look... It's a frog!!

Of course, the frog saw you coming... but did he have to laugh at you as he dove to safety at the bottom of the pond? "Ribbet!" Oh well, fortunately you found some tasty crickets between the rocks so you snacked on those instead.

Cedar Mulch Path in Summer

Okay, let's get up off the ground and step away from the pond!

In last years update, I included a couple pictures of the cedar mulch path in early Spring.

Above is how the path looks in late Summer. This photo was taken near the weeping cherry tree, looking out toward the garden. Left of center you can make out the stump seat. To keep the plants from encroaching on the path, every few weeks, I walk through here with a pair of pruning shears. So with just some occasional maintenance, we have the perfect place to stroll with that morning cup of coffee all Summer long!

Maple Tree becomes Stump-top Planter

And here's a new stump! This one came from the storm-damaged Silver Maple tree (that nearly fell on the bee hive). Rather than pay to have the stump ground down, we decided to turn it into a plant stand!

Catarina found this coco-lined basket and I secured its metal frame to the stump. She then loaded it with sedum and succulents; the result being, a no-maintenance stump-top planter! By the way, there are always several honeybees and other insects on that sedum.

Hungry Fish

In this photo you can see the ponds oldest resident! The black Ghost Koi (front and center) was introduced in 2001 (12 years ago). The orange Sanke Koi at the top was introduced a couple years later. As you may recall, the 5 Sarsa Comets (goldfish) were introduced in 2010 after a Heron ate the other Comets. Incidentally, I stopped testing the water quality (i.e., for ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, or pH) in 2005... Mother Nature is in charge here and she's doing a fine job!

Hmm... I guess I should finish this update and feed those fish!!

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