In our neck of the woods, it’s been a hard mast, meaning hard-shelled nuts have fallen in much higher-than-normal levels.
While the uncommon profusion is attributed to an unpredictable confluence of factors, it does provide a feast for squirrels, deer, and other wildlife. Any surplus surviving the predators then has a good chance to refurbish the forests and byways.
As has been noted, nature really is promiscuous.
Lean years, in contrast, limit the animal populations and their offspring.
Mast is most notably reported as acorns, but in our house, overshadowed by a black walnut tree, the golf ball-sized orbs are hammering the kitchen roof and trashcans. We keep thinking people are knocking at our backdoor or something big has fallen over downstairs or outside or even a crazy golfer neighbor is slicing his shots and hitting our house, one-two-three. They’re even a hazard to our parked cars.
Meanwhile, our squirrels are littering the stoops, patio table and chairs, and driveway with messes of shells that stain anything underneath black – is that the origin of black in the walnut variety’s name? But that’s not the only problem.
No, the nuts are so plentiful they make venturing out into the yard a treacherous course akin to walking on ball bearings or marbles. We haven’t fallen yet, but we’ve come close.
It’s especially troublesome when I have a load of firewood in my arms.
We aren’t alone in this, are we?
Blame my elder stepdaughter. Or give her all the credit. She took up the cause last year by setting up two beehives at her house. Her mother and I then witnessed much of the excitement and drama that followed. It was contagious.
Jump ahead to this spring. We were encouraged to get our own hive, starting with the boxes and frames from another couple at Quaker Meeting, and then, drawing on said daughter’s expertise and guidance, we launched into our own “greening” venture. I painted the brooder- and honey- “deeps” or “supers” and the landing board all a light green, and set up a concrete-block base to discourage dampness, ants, mice, and our local skunks from invading. Positioned the entry to catch the morning sun, per said daughter’s instructions. And then she taught us how to attach sheets of what are called foundations to each of the frames that go inside the boxes for the bees to build their honeycombs on. Oh, there is definitely a whole new vocabulary for us to ingest.
The buzz really kicked in when our colony and queen arrived from Georgia earlier this month. We gingerly poured them into the hive, like a big glop, and they do seem to be settling in perfectly. Watching the details is fascinating, from their purging of the drones shortly after the big move and then moving on to the guard bees who expel “robber” bees trying to invade from other colonies while the workers get their bearings, explore, and arrive home with their legs brightly loaded with pollen. Who would have thought there would be so much personality in an apiary? We haven’t even gotten to the queen bee yet,deep within the hive – we hope.
We’re not expecting to collect any honey this year – we’d rather have the hive be well supplied for its first winter – but the benefits to our garden and the surrounding environment give us justification enough.
Yes, we got bees – honeybees!