There’s more life in the orchard than just peach trees…
I used to think of the orchard as a sterile environment in which only fruit trees and grass existed. Sure, there’s the ever present weeds and the occasional rogue tree sprouting up from the ground but there’s much more than that. The reality of the orchard ecosystem is far more diverse and certainly more fun! Here are some pictures from the last year.
Killdeer (it’s a bird)
Who would have thought that smack in the middle of the row of peach trees, nestled into the mulch would have been an ideal place for a killdeer to lay her eggs? We kept close watch on the eggs whenever we went out to work in the orchard, and one day one of the eggs had hatched! Apparently the babies hatch out and very soon are on their feet and running around with their mommy. A couple days later and all the eggs had hatched and they had headed off to forage for food.
You have to admit that the camouflage of the eggs on the mulch is exceptional.
The last baby killdeer hatched out and ready to run.
As it turns out, bumblebees don’t like it when you step on their hive entrance. They like it even less when you mow over it with an 8 foot wide mower being pulled by a 2.5 Ton tractor. I had never seen a bumble bee hive before and honestly thought that perhaps they weren’t even the type of bees that lived in hives / colonies, so finding this was a real treat for us. Yes, bumblebees can sting multiple times unlike honeybees that lose their stinger, but thankfully we didn’t have to experience that personally. Though large and intimidating, these bees were incredibly docile.
I asked the local honeybee group why no one keeps bumblebees instead of honeybees. I mean, who wouldn’t want massive black and yellow bees instead of small little honeybees? The answer was somewhat surprising. Apparently bumblebees never store up large amounts of honey because, unlike honeybees, the queen bumblebee is the only bee in the entire colony that survives the winter. Where honeybees store up large volumes of honey to get them through all the winter, bumblebee queens simply have no need for the extra calories and help laying around.
Years ago I found a beehive on the property that is nestled into a small hollow tree. Today that beehive is still happy and productive. Earlier this year a nearby friend invited me out to see the beehive that he found in a tree on their property. Frankly their wild beehive is downright picturesque so I couldn’t help but use the picture of his wind hive instead of ours.
A picture of a couple of our honeybee hives. One hive makes more than enough honey for our household for an entire year.
Earlier this year we used cheap paint filters from the hardware store to strain the honey we harvested from one of the hives.
Unknown Bird Nest and Eggs
Sadly these little eggs never hatched out. I was looking forward to seeing the tiny little babies that popped out of these eggs because the eggs were each about the size of my thumbnail. This bird nest was hiding under the cover of leaves on one of the grapevines we have been tending for the last several years.
The last two years have been excellent years for frogs. With all the rain we had there has been quite a diversity of them running …err… hopping around.
My oldest daughter Rainey spotted this one sunning itself 4 foot up the size of an old tree where we had setup a squirrel feeder.
There’s lots of big toads of course. This one decided to wait out the heat of the day inside a flower planter that wasn’t much larger than he was!
Like most of Texas, in Erath county we are cursed with wild hogs. Unknown to many, wild hogs are an epidemic that continues to spread across the state because of a lack of predators to curb their growth. 10 years ago we hadn’t ever seen a wild hog in Stephenville. Today we have herds (sounders?) of 20+ that will burst out of the brush and will run across the field.
Naturally we caught a baby and bottle fed it.
Then we slapped a white flea collar on the pig and informed her that she was a dog now. Nobody complained.
There’s so much more!
The orchard is teeming with life and the pictures above are only a sliver of the life that exists out there. Unfortunately these pictures are the only ones I stopped long enough to take.
3 of my girls “helping” me work in the orchard the day after a good rain. Arguably they’re just as much animal as anything else in the orchard.