The Honey Hedge

We thought that we’d like to have a visual screen between our farm and a neighboring property. My dog, Ginkgo, watches, diligently, over HER land (her boundaries go, frustratingly, beyond ours.) She can sit near J’s office and look downslope to the southeast, south, and southwest with little obstruction to her view. She watches for any activity and will, enthusiastically, announce the presence of our neighbor, our neighbor’s car, our neighbor’s guests, the buzzards and hawks that fly over the neighbor’s house, the cats in our neighbor’s yard; and, indeed, the neighbor’s Fed Ex deliveries. It, also, means that she can catch, with her sensitive nose; the presence of any delectable contribution to the neighbor’s compost pile. Oye! I thought that a hedge might reduce her easy view (sniff?) of the territory. However, I am, particularly, interested in transforming this area of mowed grass to meadow. This hedge of shrubs and trees will be the eastern edge of that meadow. Once a bit established, additional understory perennials will be planted and, over time with work, the meadow will expand out towards the west.

I decided to begin with, what I’m calling, a honey hedge. The trees and shrubs were picked with consideration for honey bee forage, general pollinator habitat, wildlife, beauty, and form. Some plants were chosen because they could, additionally, provide edibles for us. Plant needs; moisture, light, and soil conditions, were researched and, hopefully, met. I’d like to use successful plants for propagation material. I have little experience with most of these plants and have, yet, to see how they function. Need for adjustments are expected as we grow along. Here is a schematic of the hedge. The top of the page is EAST, with NORTH to the left and SOUTH to the right.



This is a link to a chart that gives a brief description of the trees and shrubs. 

I started with laying out some flags. I had a big load of mushroom compost that was spread to visualize the shape and to mulch the area. I followed with cutting three rows with a single shank subsoiler parallel to the line of the plantings to break up compacted soil and to improve drainage. Then, I designed and marked out the plantings and ordered the plants (Cold Stream Farm and ForestFarm.) I made use of buttonbush and sumac that I had propagated myself. I mulched a portion of the plantings with cardboard and straw. It became clear that I had to protect the tiny plants when I started noticing that they were being nibbled by, I believe, bunnies. Hannah took care of cutting and placing scrap tubing and hardware cloth that we found in the barn around the plants. The following image shows just the beginning of planting. The tubes that you see in the photo are not part of the designed honey hedge. I have many new trees and shrubs planted in other areas that I hope will help our honeybees including Sourgum, American and Littleleaf Linden, Spicebush, Sourwood, BeeBee Trees, Hop Hornbeam, Pussywillow, and brambles to name a few. Now, we just have to wait until spring to see what happens next!


Categories: Beekeeping, Flora, Gardens, Shrubs, Trees | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Sassafras and Hazelnut


Photo taken about 8:00 am, February 1, 2014. Sun and clouds and temperature just above freezing. Sassafras over a hazelnut at the southwest corner of the lower field at the edge of the woodlot.

There is a little grove of sassafras, here, and one multiple stem hazelnut shrub. They make gorgous silhouettes in their dormant state. The sassafras is elegant with delicate upturned twigs and buds and the hazelnut is decorated with dangling catkins. Last summer, during a wild food event and with Sarah Murray‘s expertise, we made delicious iced tea from sassafras root and twigs.

We have a stand of about six hazelnut shrubs near the east end of the driveway that are very overgrown. I cleared out some of the multiflora rose and honeysuckle last winter and waited to see how they might bear. In the fall, we harvested a few cups of very small and, somewhat, bitter nuts. The number of stems that are growing are uncountable, the honeysuckle and multiflora are getting out of hand, and the shrub has grown way beyond the reach of easy harvesting. Though, I will be planting a new orchard with hazelnuts, I think it is worth trying to renovate these hazel shrubs. I’m planning to coppice the entire shrub while harvesting the strongest and straightest poles which can be very useful. New stems will grow back and it will be some years before getting another harvest. I wonder if improved growing conditions will produce better and more nuts. We’ll see.


This is one of the overgrown shrubs. There are about six of them.


The pile of hazel poles is growing.

Categories: Flora, Shrubs, Strategies, Trees | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Autumn update…with bugs

Although I have so many exciting bug pictures to share with you; it is time to catch up on some of the happenings at StellaLou.

Well…okay. One bug.


Now, that we have that out of our systems:


This is the west side of our house. While it is nice to have some shade here in the summer; we acknowledged that these trees were too close to the house; dropping too much debris on the roof, holding too much moisture, and providing too much shade, too much of the time.  We had these four trees (white pine, hemlock, and river birch) removed and chipped.



Light and air circulation are, already, helping with the mold and dampness in the house. It’s a start. We will want some protection from wind and sun eventually. We have some ideas for appropriate plantings and will be brainstorming the specifics. Our good neighbor, Jim, built us a very beautiful cedar basement door to replace our not so beautiful, rotting plywood boards. Good show!


We had several gatherings toward the end of summer with family and friends visiting. It has been busy and very wonderful. My brother, Dave, came to visit from NH, with his wife, Kristin, and two wonderful dogs!


That’s Kristin in the background. She is searching and, actually, finding four leaf clovers….amazing! I’ve got several of them pressed in one of my cookbooks.

With the large trees down, Dave helped take down the little (and not so little) trees…that grew in our gutters.


And, then, he went on to take down the young black walnut that leaned over the porch roof…and trimmed the lower branches from the Norway spruce, a favorite of mine.


Our mailbox was about to be condemned by the USPS; so J got that in order..


Makes me tired…all this work…You got it, Dave! Naptime!


The summer garden came and went so quickly. We harvested more than I expected this year. I canned some tomato sauce, We harvested lots of potatoes, cowpeas, black beans, and squash that we can use through the winter. I’ve dehydrated garlic, leeks, and tea. The limas are still up on the trellis. The amaranth grew beautifully. I’ve hung it to dry and have started to harvest the seed for porridge.




Yes! More family and friends! That meant help to shell the black beans. That meant sharing great food and conversation and our own honey mead!



We enjoyed bountiful blooms of goldenrod, fleabane, and smartweed, especially, along the edges of the fields and pond. The honeybees feasted. Bug break!


Honeybee on Goldenrod


Honeybee in the Fleabane


Honeybee on the Smartweed

J and I moved the two remaining hives from Elkins Park to StellaLou. It was our first time to truck beehives from one location to another and all went well. We make a good team. However, it has been a challenging year for us with the honeybees. We had one successful split but ended up having three hives fail. Four strong hives remain.


That dirt is where the sheds used to be. We had some top soil brought in. I spread it and seeded it and then we had dry, hot weather. Though I watered it daily, the grass and clover are sparse. Since then, rain and rain. Soil is on the move into the driveway…just what we wanted to avoid. Plan B coming.

On a recent trip to Elkins Park, J and I took advantage of beautiful weather to visit an open house at Collins Nursery where wonderful native perennials are grown and sold. I went with our honeybees on my mind and came back with witch hazel, black gum, and buttonbush. These are good perennial sources of pollen and nectar for honeybees. The black gum grove was planted by the pond as was the buttonbush. The witch hazels went, directly, across the driveway from the beehives. Coming soon: Linden, Hop Hornbeam, and Blackhaw.


Black Gum Grove


Witch Hazel

So the season marches on. The monarchs have taken their last taste of the mexican sunflowers. The spicebushes stand prominent in the woodlot with their yellow glow. The milkweed does what it seems to do best: reproduce.




The garden is getting prepared for winter. Cover crops were planted in some beds (tillage radish + crimson clover mix or hairy vetch, oats, and field pea mix) and horse manure with straw went on others. The woodchip pile is, slowly, moving into the garden paths wheel barrow by wheel barrow load. I will plant garlic in November but, otherwise, have decided to go light on fall planting this year. I will try my hand at propagating some perennial shrubs, plants, and trees with cuttings and seeds.


We readied for the coming cold weather by installing a heating system. The house has been heated only with the wood stove for three years or more.  J and his partner hauled out the old boiler and oil tank from the basement. We discovered that the house radiators were intact so we decided to install a high efficiency condensing boiler.  We have, also, installed a larger propane tank to power that system.  Having a heating system will greatly improve climate control in the house. We have some ideas percolating and anticipate experimenting with other heating solutions in the future.


I think that gets us, somewhat, up to speed on StellaLou.

Hey! Got time for a bug?

wheelbugsWheel Bugs

Categories: Abundance, Beekeeping, Gardens, Herbaceous Plants, Infrastructure, Insects, Shrubs, Trees | 5 Comments

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