Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Our new friend Jim Ellis ran in to Bellevue from Clinton, 43 miles on Monday, Memorial Day.  Jim is about the half way point of an inspiring 1500-mile, year-long run across the state of Iowa.
Jim's Mission
To challenge, inspire and equip people of all ages to live better by discovering and using their abilities well.

Tonight Jim's off to Maquoketa to talk to a group of High School students.  I'm sure he'll get a "What?  Your sleeping in who's van?"

When Jim contacted us we told him he was welcome to stay in out VW Bus as long as he needed.   Jim is a great young spirit who we've enjoyed having around and the dogs like having him around too.

GALLAGHER: Sioux City runner reaches Mighty Miss
Awake My Sole

This morning Maxine was sniffin around the woodpile and she came a cross a Cedar Waxwing that had become entangled in a nylon band from an old shredded blue tarp.

 The Cedar Waxwing is a silky, shiny collection of brown, gray, and lemon-yellow, accented with a subdued crest, rakish black mask, and brilliant-red wax droplets on the wing feathers. In fall these birds gather by the hundreds to eat berries, filling the air with their high, thin, whistles.

 In summer you’re as likely to find them flitting about over rivers in pursuit of flying insects, where they show off dazzling aeronautics for a forest bird.

 Because they eat so much fruit, Cedar Waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol.  I hope that didn't have anything to do with this little fellows predicament.

The Golden-Backed Snipe Fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus) is a common species across forests in Iowa  This soldier fly gives the appearance of a bee from a distance – probably a defense mechanism – but has some really striking features when you get close. Aside from the bright, yellow mane on its back, rings of white hair surround the abdomen giving an almost silver appearance.

It was very small in size, probably less than two inches. From descriptions I read online, males will bite humans, so be wary. This one seemed uninterested in me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Susie made a beautiful chocolate Guinness cake with strawberry filling a dark chocolate gnash and lady fingers.

The finished product with birthday banner.  YAY NICOLE!
Pearl and
Dan get their jam on
 Make shift high lid.
Trent was great...
lookin good for 81... maybe i should taken the shot for the other side

Saturday, May 26, 2012


 Our scoring drought came about our second round of districts.  Vs #1 ranked Dubuque Wahlert.  They beat us 6 to 0.  Finishing up with a 7 and 6 record for the year.

A female Diana fritillary ?  That's what I think it is...Nope!

 Red-Spotted Purple is common throughout much of the eastern United States and mimics the Pipvine Swallowtail, but its hind wings lack the tails and Pipevine lacks spots at wing base. 
 White Flase Indigo - Baptisa alba One of the longest living wildflowers, a mature White False Indigo plant
practically jumps out of the ground in the spring, growing up to four feet in just a few days! Very striking when in bloom, its white pea-like flowers are visible from quite a distance and the velvety, blue-green leaves are attractive all summer long. It requires four to five years to mature but it is well worth the wait as it is truly spectacular. A major butterfly attractor it hosts the Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, Eastern Tailed Blue, Hoary Edge, and Wild Indigo Duskywing Butterflies.

Drought tolerant, once established and pest free food production. Thornless Blackberry bushes grow more upright than traditional blackberry plants for a less wild looking berry patch. Blackberries are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and Magnesium... naturally sweet.

Cleaning up, down by the VW bus and I spotted this little Blue tailed skink  or five-lined skink they reaches 5 - 8 1/2 inches or about the size of a can of PBR.
Old males may become a uniform gold brown or olive color with only faint traces of striping. Both striped and uniformly colored males develop orange lips during the breeding season like prairie skinks. Young have bright blue tails that fade in males, but the females tails may retain a blue-gray coloration.

 Then the rain came.  This was the first rain in about a month.  Only about a half an inch but every little bit helps.
Once your garden has been planted, nothing is more important to its ability to thrive than water. When provided too little water, plants are unable to develop properly and become more susceptible to damage from pests. Too much water can of course be equally bad. In soil that is kept too moist plants become prone to rots and other diseases.

 I put some minnows in the rain barrel for mosquito patrol.

Below the rooster fountain shoots into the rain barrel.

Friday, May 18, 2012

End of the School Year ;-}

 Posers.... and good workers too.
I think these three will help me out quite a bit next year.
Exploring and solving real-world problems through hands-on exploration is essential. In the garden, students learn to work cooperatively with others, practice patience, and feel pride in their accomplishments and it's fun too.

The test are all graded and the room is cleared out.

Some of  the kids at school welcomed the opportunity to get outside and get their hands dirty in the school garden/prairie.   This year we hand dug the four raised beds, then ran the tiller through them.  We planted  red flint corn and a mix of sunflower seeds in each bed. We removed the split rail fence from the construction area.

 With the expansion of our on-campus community college welding academy (white pole building on the right side) , we will be loosing about half of our outdoor nature lab.  So the kids have been busy transplanting prairie grasses and forbs  to the western side of the prairie.

My Bee Keeping mentor Dave was subbing at school for one of the teachers who took kids out the state track meet.

Dave showed a few of the boys who got geared up and I around the bee hive while some others watched from inside the green house in the back of my classroom.  Dave pointed out the developing drone cells and worker cells on the frames.

Here's a shot of Derek in the bee gear.
Nice shot Nick.

One of the frames that Dave pulled out of the hive.
Some of the standard Banana plants moved outside for the summer.  I also have several dwarf varieties of bananas and Doc's rubber tree (not one of those damn jade plants) planted at home by the VW bus at home just for that tropical feel.

Closed out soccer regular season with an 8-6-0 record.  5th in the State of Iowa in overall goals scored with 82 goals!  On to Districts.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Vintage Torque Fest

Not the typical car show. Cars are allowed to drive ON the dirt track. 1965 & older traditional hot rods and kustoms. Pre '75 Choppers, Bobbers, and Custom Bikes. RAIN OR SHINE!

Feature cars Indoor and Outdoor. Event will have swap meet, model show, vendors, camping on site, art show, live bands both days, vintage racing on Friday night, 2 Lane Blacktop will be shown @ Rt. 61 Drive-In Saturday night. No Trophies. Show Hours: Friday Noon - Midnight Saturday 9am - 6pm After Party at Route 61 Drive-In - Two Lane Blacktop will be shown.

The Vintage Torque Fest was an awesome event and  you should have stop by and check it out. There was 500-700 Vintage Hot Rods, Many amazing bands  playing, lots of dirt track action with bikes, cars, buses, and even quite a few of the show cars get out and tear up the track!

 Just heard the other day that the Torque fest might not be coming back to Maquoketa for a third year :-{
let's hope they can get them talked in to returning.

Thanks for the pictures Levi!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

On Call

Driving to school yesterday morning and my friend Rich, who Beau and I go paddle fishing with called.  He said he had come across a small swarm of honey bees when he was doing some yard work for an older gentleman.  He met me  before school and showed me a maple tree with a nice bunch of bees hived up in a hollow branch.  The swarm was just 30 feet away and only a few feet off the ground in a bridal wreath shrub.

The old farmers always said:

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay; 

a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon;

 but a swarm in July is not worth a fly

Honey bees often swarm in the spring and early summer, May and June here in Iowa.  When their population increases rapidly and conditions inside the hive become too crowded. Prior to swarming, the bees will gorge on honey to fuel their flight. Then the queen and half the bees will take off in search of new digs. But before the swarm makes it too far from the hive it will take up temporary residence on something nearby - a bush, a tree branch, a picnic table, a fence, etc. - clustered together with the queen inside. The cluster of bees will stay put for a few hours up to a few days while scout bees search for a new home.

From the beekeeper's perspective, swarming is considered something to avoid because it drastically reduces the number of bees available to make honey. Some beekeepers who aren't as interested in harvesting honey but keep bees more for pollination services may view swarming as a helpful self-thinning event. But if the swarm leaves later in the year it can leave behind a colony too weak to make it through the winter. Ideally beekeepers try to prevent swarms.

We are heavy into the swarm season now, and for many beekeepers it's a great way to get free bees! You just need to keep extra equipment on hand to be ready to capture the swarm.  Beau brought my bee veil on his way back for his last final exam of his Junior year.  That and a pair of coveralls and a cardboard box was all I needed to capture the swarm.... Score.

     4 hives from left to right.  Last years captured swarm, this years swarm, this years 2 lb. package and one strong honey producing hive that's two years old.

If you observe a swarm on your property and would like someone to come get it you can contact me and i will be out asap.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


It's been two weeks sense the return of uncle yummy and things have been busy.

Several big dog walks/mushroom hunting outings.  The dogs love the walks and so do we.

 Many great garden fresh salads.  This one has hard boiled eggs from the girls, greens from the garden, fried mushrooms and asparagus.

 Soccer practice each night.  With two games each week.  The team is passing the ball well and  looking great.  Right now we're 6and4.  Which puts us in 3rd place in the conference behind Dyserville, Beckman.  But, we're leading the conference in total goals scored with 62 so far.

3 road game and 1 last home game before districts.

 Family gathering  at pizzeria uno's in Platteville when Beau and Dr. Becker were back in town.

20 hour trip to Milwaukee and back. To do some yard work at kendo's.  With a return trip by way of  the Flower Factory.

Walker recall election is in June.

We picked up a bunch of alpine plants for the roof of  the south entry way.

Tonight was as busy as all the rest with Wood Duck watch out at the cabin.  The 11 eggs she is sitting on were due to hatch on Sunday and as of six this evening no baby ducks.

Bob and Alana have the wood Duck house wired with a video camera and  recorder so hopefully we'll be able to catch the eggs hatching out and the ducklings leaving the duck house.

And finely put a new batch of bees in the super.  With my make shift bee veil from an old window screen.

Using the shake down method.