Archive for May, 2012

The tomato bed has weathered through the cold wind and rain. They’re looking good so I added the cages.

Tomatoes prove their worth and get supports
Likewise the Red Pontiacs are looking good

Potato bed gets hilled up.  These were planted April 9th and harvested August 1 to make way for buckwheat.

Greens Grow the Garden

Our supply of salad greens. Pick it, eat it 15 minutes later for lunch. I wonder what’s cooking in the Solar Oven

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I’ve been wildly unsuccessful at launching Mason Bees, so it was with second thoughts that I again ordered a batch of bees. I’ve read so much about them. The Orchard Mason Bee, a book written by Brian L. Griffin, says (Osmia lignaria propinqua Cresson) is native to the United States and Canada west of the Rockies….is easy to maintain, fun to watch, and they are extremely efficient pollinators. This time I wanted to avoid the mistake of putting the bees out too early. The instructions were to hold them in a cool place like a refrigerator until the days’ average temperatures reached 50 degrees F. (10 C.) and the major storm season was over. I held out for as long as I could, but when my wife told me the bees were starting to hatch in the refrigerator I knew it was time to act. We looked for a south-facing wall in full sun and placed the housing under an eave on the solar shed. The perfect place to get the warmth of the sun and yet keep it protected from the south westerlies.

We loaded the bees from the envelope into the bee house. We held our breath for a couple of days before we saw them flying.

Mason bee in final stage of sealing up the tube. Drones (male bees) are laid last. This serves to protect the females if a wasp or bird decides to peck into the tube. (males are expendable). The next year the males emerge first and wait for the females to emerge to mate.

Smile for the camera

Here’s a short video showing a couple of  Mason Bees entering and leaving.

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I had hung two bait hives in a state park, admittedly without prior permission, but up high, in no one’s way. This was a spot where a tall bee tree was located. Each week I would visit, check the box and dab a little lemon grass oil on the outside near the entrance. I had been doing that for three weeks and on the fourth week the hives were gone. I was astonished. Who could have taken them? Only another beekeeper would really want them, but the size was for my Warre Hive and Log hive, not a common ‘Lang.’ Would vandals completely remove them? They’re a little heavy and you need a ladder to reach up to them. I walked around and around trying to puzzle it out when I noticed a business card laying on the ground. It had the name of a park ranger. I emailed him and, you guessed it, HE removed the hives. It turns out that you (me) are not allowed to hang bait hives in a state park.

“…we cannot set the precedent to collect any species for private use.” “We also don’t want to add a liability in regards to a swarm of bees at a park.”

So I consulted my beekeeper sources who advised me to hang a bait hive across the road in some trees. I took their advice…

Bait hive in small tree east of feral bee hive in state park. Maybe a better location because it’s more hidden.

The other bait hive went to a private party. I had talked to a pest control person, giving him my business card and asking him to tell me of any bee swarms that he might be called for. He told me of a bee tree in a small town that I was familiar with. I contacted the owner who let me hang a bait hive on the very tree where the bees were flying in and out.

Feral Bee Tree on Private Land. Bees loaded with pollen. Wife and I standing near the flight path with no unfriendly bee problems. I would really, really like to get a swarm from this tree.

My log hive is eagerly awaiting some bees and I’m eagerly anxious to accommodate.

Footnote:  The bees from this tree are now populating my Bee Beard log hive!

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While removing some rot on the east part of the shop, Geoff discovers a bumblebee nest.

Bumblebee comb in wall

Queen bumblebee

Geoff, a very capable contractor who shares our respect for nature, builds a small box to house the nest.

A bumblebee box is assembled to save the nest

Bumblebee box ready for the rescue

This evening before a rain shower we see what looks to be the bee in the nest, a Bombus Californicus…is it the same one?  You be the judge.

Buzzing in the Rhodies.MP4

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Last week I was able to catch up with Hal and ask him about his log hives.

The hive cavity measures about 10 in. x 10 in. x 36 in. (59 liters) There is a large observation window in the back covered by a wedge of wood.

I admire his spunk in trying something different and his attitude for not feeding, treating them, or taking their honey. And I’d love to get a swarm off that hive.

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Get out the Solar Oven and let’s have enchiladas for lunch.

Enchiladas for lunch.

Now that the sun has warmed up the soil enough to plant, we’ve got to hook up the Solar Roller. These panels are mounted on a 2 x 4″

Solar panels on handmade wheeled cart

cart with some old lawnmower wheels attached. Since I have many trees shading parts of the garden, this roller allows me to follow the sun. I can actually get 12 hours of sun-pumping water into the large tank in the background and then gravity flow to 1/2″ pvc placed in the raised beds. The kit came with solar panels, submersible pump, and a Dankoff control box. This control box allows the pump to kick on in low light and works so well that it’ll pump on a gray shadowless day. I’ve even seen it pump during a light rain.

Gray shadowless day, solar pump still working…thank you Mr. Dankoff, for inventing the controller that makes the pump work on a very gray day!

The tank feeds into a regular garden hose and into the water grids. The grids are drilled with 1/16” holes. Hook up the hose to the grid and plant next to the holes.

Drip water grid in tomato bed

Drip watering potatoes

Placing the plants next to a pre-drilled hole.

Ready to close the tent on the warm loving eggplant and peppers

And that’s how we spent Mother’s Day, how about you?

For more solar check out my little solar system.

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These kale plants might look a bit ragged, but it’s great to have flowers for the bees. It’s easy to grow, lasts all winter, and feeds the bees in the spring. Kale is full of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer prevention qualities. It tastes good too. One of my favorite soups is this one my daughter sent to me from The Dragons Kitchen.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon peppercorns, crushed

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 15 oz can of stewed tomatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled & chopped into large chunks

1 bunch of kale, deveined and shredded

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

4 cups vegetable stock

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 inch piece of ginger, grated

salt to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the onions and cook on medium-low until they begin to caramelize.

2. Add the garlic, cumin, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, mustard and cloves to the oil and onions. Cook for 1 minute.

3. Add the stewed tomatoes, sweet potato, kale and carrots. Cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add the vegetable stock, peanut butter and ginger. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn down heat and cover. Cook for 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes and carrots are cooked. Check the seasoning after 15 minutes and add salt as needed.

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