Dear Bob, here are some photos of my life here on the campus of Concordia Seminary. I love kids, working with the grounds crew, swimming, playing with my dog friends, and especially my own family people.
Lots of bees were discovered in the upper walls of a couple of our campus dorms. The more our facilities people poked around, the more amazed they became when they saw the extent of the hives and honey combs. Rather than call an exterminator and kill the bees, they made the decision to bring in a bee-keeper to remove the bees safely and take them to the country. Yesterday two bee-keepers arrived and proceeded to cut rectangular holes in several dorm rooms to reach the bees.
They use a bee vac to gently suck the bees from the wall into a container. A bee vac! We were amazed.
And here is what the men were removing
Several layers of bright white new honey combs filled with honey made from the campus locust trees. The bee-keepers did a walk around the campus before removing the bees to see just what blossoms were open and found that the locust trees were the only ones. According to the two men, Locust trees make the best honey, sweet, clear and pure. Each of the sections of honey comb were carefully removed and placed in a screen covered frame. A few honey combs were removed with the bees still inside which would enable the honey making to continue when they got to their new homes. The other bees would be set free to go to work in rural Warrenton.
We were offered small pieces of the new honey comb to taste and it was amazing.
It's so heartening that we have campus people who look to save and relocate things rather than the easy kill option. The same has been true for using fallen trees for lumber and old plant life, cooking scraps and coffee grounds for making usable compost. These bee keepers were amazing to watch.
All the rain we've had the past few weeks has wreaked havoc on grass cutting schedules. It has been too muddy or wet to cut and then it grows and grows and grows. Most of us make our best efforts to get out and cut whenever possible, but it's been tough. However there are areas where grass has been ignored no matter the weather until nearby people finally get weary of looking at grass two feet high. One example is the soon to be demolished Madison County homes bordering Woodland Park.
Because they will be coming down and replaced, it seems the grassy areas aren't a priority.
There had been some discussion around town about the way this looks and I can see why people who live near this or use the park are frustrated since most ordinary homeowners have to keep their own grass at a certain level or be cited. The problem is when local discussions begin with a fair issue, it often degenerates into all kinds of off the subject finger pointing.
But still, whoever is the operating authority of this property needs to get that grass cut down. It's the right thing to do. It's at the point when a lawnmower won't even cut through this, they'll need a tractor or weed whip first. Why get to that stage?
Yesterday we got to our Collinsville place and as usual walked Ferdie into the back yard so he could do his business before we left for church. He walked straight to a spot near the bottom of the deck, put his nose down and had a long studied smell. Then he walked to another part of the yard and did the same thing. Finally he ended up next to the fence behind our garage which has a few large Boxwood bushes and he stood at attention for some time before moving into the bushes. At that point there was a huge movement, a noise of some kind and he shot back into the yard while still staring at those bushes. He began to move into the Boxwoods again when I realized something not kind was in there and yelled at him to come to me. Just at that point I saw two baby raccoons sliding away from the fence line which meant the mother was ready to do battle with Ferdie.
Honestly, I just can't take this yearly battle with raccoons. And, another call to Critter Control. That mother could have ripped Ferdie's eyes out and he had no interest in being in the back yard the rest of the morning.
This morning our entire area smelled like smoke. It was so strong and so continuous that a few of our students were sent out to see if something on campus was on fire. They checked everywhere and everything but found nothing. Dog walkers coming through the campus said they smelled it from their homes. So what was going on?
Well, it's all due to the goings on in Kansas. "The Missouri Department of Conservation has advised that the smell is stemming from smoke from natural cover and brush fires in Kansas and southern Missouri, which is being pushed through our area by a cold front."
Some years back I was driving through Kansas and saw field after field on fire and was told that this is a normal practice in the spring. This is called a prescribed burn. It is said that fire is a natural process that is essential to the health of forests and prairies alike, and has long been used by property owners and land managers to prevent unwanted stands of brush and cedar trees.
We did have some really strong winds the past couple of days, but it's still amazing how far the smell of smoke will travel.
Once again Dale's car has a squirrels nest inside the engine compartment. A month ago a huge nest was removed filled with newly born babies. Now part of the black fabric backing which covers something in there, has been shredded and a pile of leaves and other brush is packed into a small space. What worries me is whether or not the squirrels have been chewing through wires or hoses which would be disaster while on the highway. Plus the danger of fire from all the dried plant material. So the car is back to being checked over.
I bought one of those ultra sonic sound boxes the last time the car had the nest, supposedly it has sound only animals can hear and they don't like it. Well. That obviously didn't work.
Saw this story last week on straw bale gardening and we're going to give it a try this year. Just about any vegetable or herb plant can be grown in a bale of straw as can annual flowers and the best part, no weeds. This is a good bet for decks or small patios, but we're going to get a whole bunch going in our side yard this spring.
The process begins by spending about ten days watering and fertilizing the hay bale to begin the process of breaking down the material. After that, plant seeds or starter plants and watch them cover the entire outside of the straw. Some people, like the man in this linked article actually go further and set up trellises to get beans to grow up, but we aren't going that far this year.
We have bales left from one of our campus Christmas displays so they are now in place for spring planting and I'm pretty excited to see how this goes.
Some time today the U.S. Green Building Council will announce its top ten states for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Illinois created the most “green” building space per capita in the U.S. for the third year running. LEED-certified spaces use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions, create jobs and establish a healthier community.
Illinois was first and Maryland second. The entire top ten list will be released later today.
"Illinois’ 44 million total square feet was highest by far than six of the other nine states. California and Texas had more total but less per capita than Illinois."
The issue with having real trees in the house during the Christmas season means having to get rid of them in January. Many local cities have tree drop off places where they are recycled into mulch. Here on the campus we now do our own tree chipping and mulching but there was a time when the Christmas trees were picked up by our grounds staff and trucked over to the city of St. Louis' drop off spot in Forest Park. Here's a picture from 2012 when Ferdie and I got in the truck and went along to help with the drop off. This was a crazy day. Aaron was in the back, Gayle was driving with Ferdie and I squeezed into the front.