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Posts Tagged ‘Island’

The lovely quince

Mary Beth: I can write this post now because the cold weather has finally come to the Island and my husband won’t blame me for “jinxing” the unusually warm weather we’ve enjoyed recently.

Every time I spoke about how wonderful it’s been and of the flowers that are still blooming around the Island and in the gardens, he shushed me and clapped his hands overs his ears. Apparently, just speaking about the warm weather will make it disappear. I guess having to work outside makes one desperately (crazily?) grasp onto these final warm days.

I’ve really enjoyed these last few weeks, discovering new blooms and admiring how beautiful they are among the fallen leaves, in low light.

As I type this, a gale is blowing and these tough as nails beauties will be swirling away in the whipping winds. Tomorrow’s garden will be a winter garden. In the meantime, here are the miracles in my garden — the last flowers of the season. In December!

Nicotiana

Heritage Rose

Heritage Rose

One of my sweet girls in lavender

Winter rain on Heritage Rose

Winter rain on Heritage Rose

Sweet Alyssum

William Shakespeare 2000 Rose - a last promise of spring

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Mary Beth: I love this time of year. It’s a time when I like to make a few changes in the garden beds. Some work, some don’t and, while the main bones of the garden will always be the same, it’s fun to have a few surprises to look forward to the next year. And changes here and there are especially nice for those of us who like to take photographs.

Today I dug up one of my favorite plants, the Blue Star Amsonia. This plant looks especially good contrasted with the red poppies that grow next to it (it’s one of my favorite photo subjects) but, it got too big and began to take over the bed.

Red poppy and Blue Star Amsonia

Red Poppy and Blue Star Amsonia

So I moved it, leaving behind an Amsonia seedling I found to keep the poppies company. This also gave my father’s pretty yellow rose some room to be seen. In the Amsonia’s place I transplanted a white coneflower, a dozen crocosmia ‘lucifer’, and a clump of Red Switch Grass that has beautiful leaves blushed with red. I think this combo will look amazing with Dad’s yellow rose and a delicate white rose, ‘Darlow’s Enigma’, that’s nearby. It will also give the bed color throughout the entire season which it lacks this time of year. I planted the Amsonia on the other end of the bed with the yellow daylilies and blue Japanese iris, where I think it will look especially nice and give me more pretty combos to photograph.

I’m planning on more garden changes, but right now they are still swirling around my brain. I’m one of those gardeners who doesn’t plan on paper. The ideas pop in my head while I’m having a bout of insomnia, while I’m working in other people’s gardens, or while weeding in one of my beds. When things start to come together and the picture I’m painting in my head seems right, I’ll  grab my shovel and start creating a new work of art.

Speaking of changes, this fall will be extra busy for me because Ray and I have decided that we won’t be coming back to live on Block Island next year. We’re going back to our home in Colorado and will stay there year round. It’s a very bittersweet time for us. I’m very excited about living all four seasons in the mountains and working in my Colorado gardens again after 5 years on Block Island, but heartbroken to leave this special garden that’s filled with so many wonderful memories.

Laying out the vegetable garden 5 years ago

Laying out the vegetable garden ...

The vegetable garden five years later

The vegetable garden five years later.

The flower bed in front of the vegetable garden

The flower bed in front of the vegetable garden...

And five years later

And five years later.

In spite of leaving so much behind, I know that these changes will be good for us. I can feel it. And my Colorado garden, which has endured on it’s own all these years, is calling me.

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Barbara: The vegetable garden provides us with deeply-appreciated sustenance for body and soul, but the flower garden is a feast for the eyes, not to mention an irresistible draw for bees and humans (especially humans with cameras).

I’ve indulged in the written word in the past two posts. This time I’ll let the images speak for themselves. Here are some of my favorite shots of Mary Beth’s star performers:

Love-in-a-Mist pod. It looks otherworldly.

Love-in-a-Mist pod. It looks otherworldly.

One of two flower beds visible from Corn Neck Road.

One of two flower beds visible from Corn Neck Road.

One of my favorite color combos.

One of my favorite color combos.

Dive right in.

Dive right in.

Ballon Flower — one of Dad's favorites.

Balloon flower — one of Dad's favorites.

Love the swirl pattern on this Coneflower.

Love the spiral pattern on this Coneflower (Echinacea).

Hydrangea — an old-fashioned beauty that I never get tired of.

Hydrangea — an old-fashioned beauty that I never get tired of.

The garden shed in back of the house is covered on this side with clematis and the other with wisteria.

The garden shed is covered on this side with clematis and on the other with wisteria.

Behind the house the bed was filled with a feathery cloud of white and pink astilbe.

Behind the house the flowerbed was filled with a feathery cloud of white and pink astilbe.

Oh! I just can't get enough of the color of these roses.

I just can't get enough of the color of these roses.

Nothing makes me smile more than these daisies, unless it's the peonies that preceed them in the early spring.

Nothing makes me smile more than these daisies, unless it's the peonies that preceed them in spring.

A glorious jumble of blossoms!

Black-eyed Susans in glorious jumble of blossoms!

Sunflower unfurling her petals to greet the day.

Sunflower unfurling her petals to greet the day.

Heavy with seed and waiting for the birds.

Heavy with seed and waiting for the birds.

This

This quiet beauty — St. John's Wort — was tucked away behind the cottage.

The colors of sunset in a rose.

The colors of sunset in a rose.

Around every corner there is a new delight. This "Cherries Red" nastursium sits outside the outdoor shower that Ray Ray built. There's nothing better than taking a shower here with the setting sun warming your face. One of life's blissful moments!

Around every corner there is a new delight. This "Cherries Red" nasturtium sits by the shower that Ray built. There's nothing better than showering here with the setting sun warming your face. One of life's blissful moments! (Thank you, Ray.)

This flower bed borders the vegetable garden. A great place to enjoy morning tea.

This flower bed borders the vegetable garden. A great place to enjoy morning tea.

Amazing how the light at different times of the day changes the look of things. Bonica roses in the morning light.

Amazing how the light at different times of the day changes the look of things. Bonica roses in the morning light.

A sweet flower-filled window box graces the cottage.

A sweet flower-filled window box graces the cottage.

Burgundy-colores roses decorate the vegetable garden.

Burgundy-colores roses decorate the vegetable garden.

It looks like a Fourth of July sparkler.

It looks like a Fourth of July sparkler.

Wisteria archway frames a classic Block Island view.

Wisteria archway frames a classic Block Island view.

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Barbara: A few days ago I shared the story of how my Dad started gardening on Block Island and how my sister helped him after he became ill. Until he passed in 2004, Dad and Mary Beth worked side-by-side and built on the bones of the garden he started back in the summer of 1968. In the five years since, Mary Beth has created a masterpiece. As promised, I’ll take you on a little tour starting with the vegetable garden.

It’s been a tough growing season this year, as many of you know. The rain never seemed to stop and the sun hid behind the clouds for most of the spring and early summer, so the gardens got a slow start. Luckily the week I was there it was beautiful. (Guess I brought some of that California sunshine with me.) Most of the photos were taken when I was on Block Island in the beginning of July, but a few are from seasons past.

The view from the house

The view from the house.

The Vegetable Garden

This is at the far end of the property. I love waking up with the sun and wandering around here. It’s so peaceful and the dewy earth smells fantastic. It’s also where I can usually find Mary Beth — weeding, pruning or watering. It takes a tremendous amount of work. Good thing she loves it!

Herbs are planted in the center raised bed

Herbs are planted in the center raised bed and the vegetables are in the beds that surround it.

Misty August morning last year

One misty August morning last year.

These posts have been fun for me. I’ve rediscovered lots of old photos like the ones in the previous post and these of my daughter, Kristin with my Dad.

Harvesting tomatoes in 1982

John and Kristin harvesting tomatoes in 1982.

Kristin's prize tomato. Her grandparents are behind her with their heads cut off (?!!)

Kristin's prize tomato. Her grandparents are behind her with their heads cut off (?!!).

This flower bed sits directly in front of the vegetable garden. It’s the most beautiful of the garden beds. The perennials are artfully planted and timed so that it’s never without a magnificent display of blossoms from early spring through the first frost in late October.

The Island’s summer visitors stop by the side of the road to take pictures. It’d be fun to see some of them.

zyx

This is the one that stops traffic all day long.

Walk around any corner on the property and you will find a lovely surprise — birdhouses and birdbaths, wind chimes, and pots brimming with flowers. It’s a never-ending delight and every season Mary Beth finds new treasures to tuck into the garden.

The slow drip of water attracts all kinds of birds

The slow drip of water attracts all kinds of bird who fight to bathe here.

Some of the best treasures are the ones we rescue. Mary Beth’s client was tossing this bird house. She brought it home and rebuilt it. After a coat of paint, it was ready for some new tenants.

Afternoon sun

Afternoon sun lights the bird condo that sits near the bee hives behind the vegetable garden.

Another spot I love. There’s nothing so soothing as sitting here with a cup of tea and a book to read.

Peaceful moment

Lovely, weather-worn bench waiting for a visitor.

More water for the birds

Terracotta frogs guarding another birdbath.

While the vegetable garden is mostly planted with humans in mind, Mary Beth always remembers to add treats for the birds, bees, butterflies, etc. I love these exhuberant, fuzzy sunflowers.

Dew like little jewels sit on the fuzzy stem of this gorgeous red sunflower.

Dewdrops highlight the fuzzy stems of this gorgeous red sunflower.

The little hoenybee is so covered in pollen that she's hard to see.

This little honeybee is so covered in pollen that she's hard to see.

The next post will focus on the flowers beds. Till then be sure to spend a few quiet moments in your garden just taking it all in.

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Barbara: Once upon a time my parents dreamed of a place where they could live by the sea with their five children during lazy summers. So in the winter of 1964 my mom pored over the rental ads in the Sunday New York Times. She found a tiny ad for a summer cottage on Block Island, a place she’d heard of only in weather reports that at the time contained the phrase, “from Block Island to Cape Henlopen.” She called the number, spoke to Fran Quillan and rented a cottage by the sea for two weeks the following summer.

In August my parents loaded up the old Pontiac station wagon — a feat that would be repeated for many years to come. In piled three feisty girls, one sweet boy, a bright-eyed baby girl and a rambunctious, stinky dachshund, all of us squeezing in between boxes filled with cereal, peanut butter and tuna fish. My Dad lashed our overstuffed suitcases to the roof with knots that proved impossible to untie. Mom passed out Dramamine. The car creaked and groaned as the undercarriage scraped the concrete on the way out of our driveway. Much cursing ensued – a continuation of a days’ long stream of invective from our overworked Dad. But who cared, we were on our way to the greatest adventure of our young lives.

Four of us in front of the pond by the Quillan's cottage in August 1964. The ocean was a short walk over the bluff.

In front of the pond by the Quillan's cottage in August 1964 - the ocean was a short walk away

All five of us with our Mom on Mansion Beach in 1965

All five of us with our Mom on Mansion Beach in 1965

Thus began our family’s love affair with Block Island, the most magical of places. This first summer stretched to two and then three until my parents could finally scrape together enough money to put a down payment on their own piece of the island — a magnificent Victorian-era boarding house known as Cottage Farm House.

Cottage Farm House in the 1920's as it appears on a vintage postcard.

A vintage postcard shows Cottage Farm House in the 1920's

My father took one look at the broad lawns and saw beautiful flower-and vegetable-filled gardens. The original garden, a weedy bed hugging a stone wall by the road, was a just smattering of daisies and irises. From there my Dad went to work. Bit by bit over the summers when he could get away from the office, and later after he retired and lived on the island full time, he created his gardens working himself to the bone to bring his vision to life.

Dad in his vegetable garden with just-harvested lettuce - as always in paint-spattered work clothes and a bandaged finger

Dad in his vegetable garden with just-harvested lettuce - as always in paint-spattered work clothes

The gardens grew in size and beauty until they became a stopping point for photographers, painters, and the island tours heading down Corn Neck Road. But in his final years, they started to get overgrown and untidy. Dad still dreamed the dream, but his ticker was bad and he had trouble keeping up with the demands of the flowers and vegetables and the endless repairs on the “old gal”, as he called our house. We all helped when we could, but we had spouses, babies and careers that limited our time there.

Enter Mary Beth. A master gardener, Mary Beth loved the place and couldn’t bear to see my Dad struggling, nor could she stand to see all his good work go to seed. So she sweet-talked her husband into moving to the island for a while so they could help Dad keep his dream alive.

Dad watering some late season cuttings

Dad watering some late season cuttings

My Dad was delighted to see the work Mary Beth did. (Nothing ever pleased him so much as to see his children doing his bidding in and around the house.) And he loved working with her in his gardens. Together they studied catalogs in the winter, raised seedlings in the spring, planted in the summer, and harvested in the fall. They battled Japanese beetles and deer. Dad lost tools and Mary Beth found them. He said it wasn’t possible to grow roses in that briny climate; she proved him wrong. Mary Beth breathed new life into his garden and his dreams.

Mary Beth transformed Dad's garden

Mary Beth transformed Dad's garden

My Dad passed away a few years ago, but his gardens, which are now Mary Beth’s gardens, are magnificent. And I want to share them with you. I have many, many pictures taken over the last few years and for the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting some of them a few at a time. Come with me for a tour of the Cottage Farm House gardens.

In awe and gratitude. Thank you, Mary Beth.

Roses in early July

Rest in peace, John Hobe

Rest in peace, John Hobe

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Bees from the third swarm moving into Green Hive.

Bees from the third swarm moving into Green Hive.

Mary Beth: Crazy days! For a couple of weeks things were so chaotic that I got the point where I didn’t want anything to do with my bees. Thankfully they’ve settled down, but those bad girls sure gave me a run for the money. At the end of the swarming, four in all, I ended up with three hives — the original Old Blue, home to a much smaller, much crabbier bunch of bees; Hippie Shack, the Top Bar Hive which houses the very laid-back bees from the first swarm; and Green Hive, the bees from the third, much smaller swarm. The second swarm was the one that got away.

I’m not sure what will happen over the winter, but based on what I’ve seen in the last few days I’d predict that the Hippie Shack will make it through just fine. I’m a little concerned about Old Blue, but if they can expand their numbers enough I think they’ll limp through. Unfortunately Green Hive looks underpopulated and there really isn’t very much activity in the hive, so I’m thinking that they may not have the resources to survive the long, cold Block Island winter.

Old Blue on the left and Hippie Shack to the right.

Old Blue on the left and Hippie Shack to the right.

Swarms aside, the thing I’ve found most interesting about this first bee season is that the honeybees haven’t been hanging out in the garden much. I had high hopes that I’d be watching the girls working hard to pollinate my vegetables, fruits and ornamentals, but that hasn’t been the case.  It’s most likely because I don’t have large enough patches of any one type of plant. Honeybees typically visit only one kind of plant during each outing and, while my garden has lots of plants, they are probably too scattered to make it worth their while. So instead of heading to the garden, the girls been gathering nectar and pollen from the plants in the swamp and beyond.

Rose petal in the swamp behind the hive.

Rose petals floating in the swamp behind the hives.

This week the milkweed is in full bloom and the bees are going crazy for it. They are working this area all day. One very curious thing I’ve noticed is that some of the bees get stuck to the leaves. They eventually work themselves free, but the poor things kind of flop around for a while until they get their feet unstuck. Has anyone else seen this?

One of the girls working the milkweed.

One of the girls working the milkweed.

Poor little bee with her foot stuck to the milkweed leaf.

Poor little bee with her foot stuck to the milkweed leaf.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that the real workers in my garden have been the bumblebees. These plump fuzzballs have been feverishly pollinating the garden while my prissy honeybees wander off in search of greener pastures. I’ll have them to thank for my tomatoes, squash, beans and the like. Kudos to the bumblebees!

Marybeth puts sage and lavender into the smokepot.

Marybeth puts sage and lavender into the smokepot.

Barbara and I suited up and opened Hippie Shack to see how the hive was doing. We were so relieved to see how very hard at work they’ve been building their new hive, which is about halfway full of comb. And my worries about a virgin queen were laid to rest when we found lots of larvae in the comb cells. There was also a decent amount of honey.

Workers tending to bee larvae on the TBH comb.

Workers tending to bee larvae on the TBH comb.

The Top Bar Hive, what some call a more natural hive, is designed to let the bees build their combs without a foundation. Most of the combs in the Hippie Shack were nice and straight and there was only a little wild burr. What little there was was easily removed with a small tool I made from a piece of copper.

MB lifted out a few of the bars so we could inspect the comb. This one is still a work in progress. A finished TBH comb extends all the way to each side and tapers to a squared-off bottom, matching the shape of the hive box.

MB lifted out a few of the bars so we could inspect the comb. This one is still a work in progress. A finished TBH comb extends all the way to each side and tapers to a squared-off bottom, matching the shape of the hive box.

When I removed the burr a little honey got on my glove, the tool, and the wall of the hive. The girls rushed in to recover it — no way they were letting any of it go to waste.

The bees were determined to recover every last bit of honey that got smeared onto my tool and glove.

The bees were determined to recover every last bit of honey that got smeared onto my tool and glove.

My biggest challenge with the TBH was putting the hive back together without squishing anybody. As you can see from the pictures, the bees were everywhere and that made it really hard to slide the bars back together. Unfortunately I did crush one of the sister bees and everyone, including me, got all worked up. I had to smoke them a bit more to get them calm enough to close up the hive. Too bad that smoke doesn’t work on me. I get really upset when that happens, but the bees seemed to take it in stride and they were back to business as usual a few minutes after the top was back on.

Trying to move the bars back into place without crushing any bees was extremely challenging.

Trying to move the bars back into place without crushing any bees was extremely challenging.

My girls have their work cut out for them. Over the next few months they’ll need to reproduce enough workers to lay in a nice amount of honey to get them through the winter months. Hopefully it’ll be smooth sailing from here.

One of my largest garden beds.

One of my largest garden beds.

Deer News: From looking at Tweets and search keywords it appears that deer troubles have increased a lot in recent weeks. The deer fence that Ray and I built around our garden has kept the deer out of the vegetable garden, but the flower beds are still vulnerable. For these areas I use an organic spray recipe that I got a few years ago in my Master Gardener class. I’ve had great results with it and highly recommend that anyone having trouble with these pesky, destructive animals give it a try. I’m not guaranteeing anything, with deer you never can, but this concoction will give you a fighting chance. Be forewarned, its pretty stinky, but it’s definitely worth the trouble. Try it out and let me know how it works for you.

Deer Spray Recipe:

There are many recipes for homemade deer spray online. Here’s how I make it.

4 raw eggs
1 tablespoon or more of hot sauce, the hotter the better
1 teaspoon dish soap
2 teaspoons of garlic juice or garlic powder
2 teaspoons of white pepper

1. Blend all ingredients in a blender with a quart of water. It helps to strain it before putting it into your sprayer because it will clog it, which is really annoying.

2. Pour in a gallon sprayer, add more water to top it off to a gallon and let it sit out of the sun for a couple of days so it gets good and smelly.

3. Spray your plants with a fine mist to coat all the foliage and flowers.

4. Respray new growth and after it’s rained.

I no longer measure anything out because I make gallons of this stuff every season. I use it on my gardens and all of my client’s gardens as well. I think the secret is to switch it up a bit from time to time, because deer will get used to the spray after a while and it won’t be as effective.

So you should add things like a few drops of clove oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, or 1 cup of milk, etc. to change the smell and taste a little. I’ve been adding a sliver of Irish Springs soap to my batches lately and this seems to work really well. I find that the deer may take a bite here and there, but after tasting the spray they move on.

We’ll be posting more photos from the garden soon. Meanwhile, Barbara’s back on the West Coast working on a special post about farmer’s markets. Until then, bee well!

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Barbara: Remember when Mary Beth told you to stayed tuned for updates about the old hive? Well, we do we have updates! Here’s one from a couple of days ago. And I’ll mention that we’ll follow up soon with this morning’s excitement, which is still unfolding as I type — lord have mercy!

 

Preparing to capture the second swarm. A third hive for Mary Beth?

Preparing to capture the second swarm. A third hive for Mary Beth?

Mary Beth: My learning curve in the last two weeks has been steep, real steep! My blue hive swarmed. Again. I felt like I was in the movie Ground Hog Day.

I walked down to the hive to say hello to my girls on my lunch break on very busy sunny day (sound familiar?) exactly a week after the first swarm. Bees were flying everywhere and they were headed to the very same poison ivy-laden bayberry bush that they gathered on a few days ago.

Now, that first swarm was exciting. I felt great because I’d been successful in catching the swarm and putting it into a new hive — the Top Bar Hive that Ray built for me. This time, not so much. This time was like, “Been there done that!”  Was I missing something? I mean, obviously I saw the starting of queen cells, but I left them because “they” say hives almost never swarm the first year, so don’t worry about it. So I ignored the first signs. If you’ve read anything about beekeeping you soon realize there’s a lot of conflicting information out there and everybody has very specific ideas about beekeeping the “right” way. Well, the bees also have their own ideas. My word of advice is take it all in and then watch and listen to the bees.

Anyway, I got the swarm into the super that I screwed back together a second time and I left it perched on a bucket. The first swarm in the TBH was so happy that Barbara and I decided to experiment with keeping the second swarm in a hive made of large supers.

Alas, it was not my day. The super had fallen over sometime while I was running errands and the bees were gone when I got back. I felt very sad and dejected, but, honestly, relieved because the thought of three hives was a little daunting. But who knows, craziness abounds so I left the temporary hive out near the swamp in a stable place this time. I thought I just might need it again, feeling as I do that the blue hive could swarm again. I say this because when I went to see what was left in Old Blue (as I have now named it) I was surprised to find it full of bees. I counted over 7 queen cells and there were about 6 frames of full brood, some emerging as I was working through the hive.

The frames were filled out nicely and, even though the hive had swarmed twice, I saw lots of honey reserves, which leads Barbara and me to believe that Old Blue is still very healthy. We’re thinking that perhaps it was too productive and it became overcrowded because the bad weather has kept the bees inside for most of the spring. Another factor was that the bees weren’t going up into the super I added because of the queen excluder. So I put everything back the way I found it except for taking out the queen excluder.

About an hour later the bees were all over the front of the hive with their butts in the air. WTF! Now what?! You girls are killing me!! Thankfully they finally settled down and went inside.

The next day I put my ear up to Old Blue and there was a queen bee piping in there. (YouTube has a few videos of Queen honeybees piping if want to hear what it sounds like — really cool.) I could hear her loud and clear when I was kneeling next to the hive. Hopefully she’ll take over and get rid of the other queen cells and that will be the end of it. I keep wondering if I should’ve taken some of the queen cells out. I wasn’t sure, so I decided I would wait and see.

Meanwhile the TBH, which I’ve named the Hippie Shack, seems pretty laid back. They’ve built up six combs already, so I removed the feeder and slid the false back to the end opening the whole hive to them.

Old Blue is going to be the experiment hive. I’m going to learn as much as I can from this crazy hive, helping it out if I can and letting nature take its course. My hope is since Block Island is so lush from all the rain and the current nectar flow is high, that we’ll have an additional large flow in the fall with the Goldenrod and that will help Old Blue pull it together before the cold weather sets in.

I wish the swarm that got away all the best. I hope they find a lovely new home. As for the girls that are left, take a word of advice from Mary J Blige — No More Drama!

Lying in bed last night I was thinking, “Thank god I didn’t get any chickens this year! With my luck it would have been a freak show!!”

Addendum: Well, it’s been a wild ride. This second swarm got away, but we have our answer about whether or not Mary Beth should have destroyed the additional queen cells. I can hear you experienced beekeepers shouting, “Yes!” And, of course you’re right. We thought we should, but hesitated. In our first year, we are bound to make mistakes. Clearly, this was one of them.

So a few months into our adventure, we’ve made good on our promise to tell it like it really is – successes and failures. Our biggest mistake so far was to miss the signs of an imminent swarm. We compounded that by not getting rid of the excess queen cells which led to the second swarm — and the third one that followed, which was the morning excitement that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Another mistake that we think we made was to use a queen excluder. This led to the overcrowding that was another reason for the swarms.

We’ll be filling you in on the story of the third swarm and the status of the hives as soon as we regain our composure. Hopefully, things really have settled down and Mary Beth can get some gardening done. For now we’ll leave you with a picture of one of the queen cells that started it all.

Queen cell — one of a few that we should have gotten rid of.

Queen cell — one of a few that we should have gotten rid of.

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