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Quote of the Day: Nathaniel Hawthorne

July 11th, 2010

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued,
is always just beyond your grasp, but which,
if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Yesterday afternoon when I went out to the compost pile I noticed a butterfly on my raised bed. I looked closely and realized that it had just emerged because it’s wings were still slightly crumpled. I quickly went inside to get my camera and happily took a few photos while it waited for it’s wings to get stiff enough to fly. What a beautiful stroke of luck! I believe this is a Spicebush Swallowtail.

This past week I’ve been noticing more and more butterflies in the garden, I don’t know if it’s the type of flowers blooming or if they’re all emerging with the heat, probably both. I’ll have to spend some time in the garden this week trying to get a few more photos of the various kinds of butterflies that visit the many beneficial flowers here at Chiot’s Run.

What butterfly is most common in your garden?

The First Bloom of the Season

March 18th, 2010

When we first moved in here I planted 300 crocus bulbs (and some tulips, daffodils etc). The following year I ended up with only 1 crocus bloom thanks to the chipmunks around here. I never planted any more, so I usually only have 1 crocus that blooms.

My mom has tons of them that bloom in her gardens, they’re so lovely. She sent me a few photos of hers, they were blooming last week.

This year I spotted one blooming in the front flowerbed and I’m not sure where it came from. It’s right by a hydrangea I planted 2 years ago, so maybe it came in the pot with that. I was out taking photos and was there at the right time because I got to see one of our bees gathering some pollen. Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

I would love to plant more crocuses in my garden, I’m trying to figure out how to do with while keeping them safe from chipmunks. I’ve read you can plant the bulbs in baskets. I’ve had good luck sprinkling tulip bulbs with garlic to keep them from digging them up right away, but I’m thinking they’ll still eat them later, when the garlic washes away.

What’s the first thing to bloom in your garden? Anyone have any great tips on keeping chipmunks, moles & squirrels away from bulbs?

Checking our Beehives after a Long Winter

March 16th, 2010

Every couple weeks throughout the winter, we put our ears up the side of our beehives and listening for that humming sounds that bees make keeping warm. There are a few steps you can take to help them survive the winter; you make sure you don’t take too much honey from the hive so they have enough to eat throughout the winter and you try to keep them dry. We didn’t take any honey from our hives last fall, trying to give them the best chance for survival.

If you were reading the blog last summer, you’ll remember that we split our hive. We were worried that the new hive, which was the smaller of the two, might not make it through the winter because of their lower population and less honey stored. Oddly enough all winter long they were the strongest hive, buzzing away quite loudly. When the weather warmed up they were the first bees to leave the hive.

Last week on a warm day (it was almost 70) we decided to check on the old hive, which we were worried hadn’t survived. We found a small cluster of bees and spotted the queen so they seem to have survived the winter, although they appear to be weak (although since this is the first time we’ve overwintered bees, we’re not sure). They still have a ton of honey left, so we’re hoping they make it through any more cold spells we have.

It’s good to see activity at the hives again and see bees flying around the garden on warm days. We noticed that they’re already bringing in pollen, most likely from the crocuses that are blooming and the pussywillows. We’re considering moving our hives to a different location where they’ll get more winter sun. That’s something we’ll be doing soon before they get too big this spring. We also found a great new resource with tips on overwintering bees and beekeeping in general, for those of you interested here’s the link. We’ll be ventilating our hives better this year and wrapping them in tar paper next winter.

Hopefully we’ll have a nice harvest of honey this summer from our hives. We may end up splitting one of our hives again if they’re both strong by early summer. It wasn’t much later than this last year that we got our first package of bees. If you’re interested in getting a hive now is the time to buy. Make sure you ask around to find a good reputable source.

Have you ever thought about getting bees for your gardens?

Bamboo for Beneficials

November 6th, 2009

I like to use bamboo stakes in the garden because they’re sturdy and they look nice. I also like to use them because the small solitary bees use them for their nests. I was noticing when taking down all of my plant stakes that almost all of them were filled with all sizes of beneficial solitary bees (probably some of those I saw on the last queen anne’s lace the other day).
I think it’s interesting how many different kinds of solitary bees there are. Some of these stakes are plugged with mud, others are filled with bits of leaves. They also like all different sizes of stakes, I assume for all the different sizes of bees. There’s no need to buy those expensive little solitary bee houses when you use bamboo stakes
This jewel wasp is one the beneficials that’s using the bamboo, I’ve seen them coming and going from the stakes.
I think this might be a sand wasp, but I’m not positive. It might be using the bamboo stakes as well.
It’s quite fascinating really, the way nature works. The more I garden organically, the greater the variety of insects I see flitting about the garden and these little solitary bees are no exception. With the number of bamboo stake I use (over 100) I’ll have plenty of pollinators in the spring! This is a great way to attract solitary bees and wasps to your garden and they’ll pollinate your crops beautifully.

Do you do anything special to attract solitary bees or other pollinators?

Fleeting Moments

November 4th, 2009

I’ve been out working the garden just about every afternoon this week. We’ve been having wonderful weather. I still have one Queen Anne’s Lace plant that’s blooming long after the others have gone to seed. I’m not sure why this one lasted so long, but the insects sure are enjoying it. It’s like an oasis in the desert for them, it’s buzzing with activity!
I spent some time watching all the different insects that came and went and was amazed at how many there were. Perhaps since most of the honeybees and larger solitary bees are not coming out any more with the cold weather I’m noticing the smaller insects more. Most of these insects are very small, some of them barely noticeable. I’m glad I saw these, what a wonderful fleeting moment.
They won’t be around much longer. I’m hoping they all have eggs around the garden ready to burst forth next spring with new generation of pollinators ready to enjoy the gardens.

Have you noticed anything new lately?

Seeds and Sundries
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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.