Archive for the ‘Bee-loving flowers’ Category

2830B Mason bee on Meadowfoam, 4-20-16 copy

Late April, for the first time ever, I start seeing Mason bees in the Meadowfoam.

3260 Mason bees + Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

My sister is a watercolor artist. She gave me her Guidance Mandala because she knows I like bees. I realize Mason bees don’t fly too far from home, but bees need all the help they can get, so I hung it here near the Mason bee nesting blocks.

3257 Guidance Mandala, 5-29-16

A closer look at the Guidance Mandala. When Vikki paints a mandala she never knows where it will take her. During one of our weekly phone conversations she was inspired to add a circle of bees.

2503 Mason bees set up, 3-6-16, detailed

I set up the nesting blocks on March 6. Then I waited a good three weeks to see any activity. The cocoons had been in the refrigerator since October. You don’t want them emerging too soon because there won’t be enough to eat (or so I have read), but I always hold my breath hoping after five months of ‘chilling,’ they will emerge.

2587 Mason bee, long antenna-male 3-29-16 copy

Finally on March 28, I see a bee. This must be a male. Males have long antenna. They usually emerge first because they are laid last in the tubes (being expendable.) Predators will be able to reach them easily. 😦

2582 Mason bees emerging, 3-28-16 copy

I see them slowly ‘waking up.’ This could be a female. The antennae look shorter.

26 Mason bee tubes filled so far copy

May 19…I start to fill pretty smug. 26 tubes filled already…until I come across this post of Rusty Burlew (of Honeybeesuite) in Washington state.


Rusty says one of these cans will fill up in about three days. I count the number of straws to realize there are close to 100 straws in each can. Either there are more Mason bees in her area or they like the straws in cans better. I’m gonna try this method next year. Photo reprinted with permission from Rusty Burlew.

3147A German wasp on nesting block copy

When I first saw this wasp go into a Mason bee nesting tube I was afraid it would start digging into the tubes. I asked Steve, of “In a beekeeper’s Garden” about this. His reply, “Your wasp is or has all the markings of a vespula germanica (german wasp) which lives in all the northern hemisphere, they are a social wasp so live in nests. they are great pest controllers eating caterpillars , insects and the odd bee (usually weak ones ) they won’t break into your bee tubes :)” In the video, I watch the German Wasp patrolling my garden. I watch until the wasp decides I haven’t gotten video permission from her and chases me away. 🙂

3274A Mason wasp? copy

I think this is a resting Potter Wasp. I’m not sure what it’s up to. While I was grabbing my camera it poked into the tube and then emerged for it’s camera debut.

3290 Plum tree loaded, 6-4-16JPG

Want some plums? It looks like the Mason bees have been busy. My Methley trees are loaded with plums. Here are some recipes from Glory Garden.

3260A Mason bees, late May

It’s late May…I haven’t seen any activity for awhile which probably means the Mason bees are finished pollinating for this year. The cocoons are in a very delicate stage right now. I’ll be storing them in a cool inside room to protect them from yellow jackets. In September or October, I’ll remove the tubes from the blocks to store in the frig until next March. (Maybe I’ll have some new housing by then.)

More about Mason bees

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3146 Entrance into Sue's secret garden, 5-18-16

May 18…This is the entrance. Just today Sue was able to get the path covered with wood shavings. She says, “I feel like this is a secret garden. I can’t wait to show the grand kids.”

3142 Pat's block work, 5-18-16

The project involved some block work by you know who. (Note to self…never make suggestions to someone about block work unless you’re prepared to do it yourself.)

3129 Sue's (semi) Secret Garden, 5-18-16

Sue has added the planters with lobelia, snap dragons from seed, and Clary Sage Salvia (also from seeds this year), hoping to attract some bees. The squash barrels contain butternut, Red Hubbard, and Sugar Pie pumpkin starts. Between the planters and the squash is the Witch Hazel which we bought a couple of years ago, but it didn’t  do well in the clay pot we chose for it. We hope it comes back and blooms in winter. It’s next to an Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium).

3159 Sue in new garden room, 5-19-16.JPG++++

I asked Sue to sit down for a moment so I could take a photo.

3144 Hugelbed, cosmos, marigolds, phacelia, 5-18-16

The hugelkulture bed is technically in the new garden too. It’s getting planted with cosmos, marigolds, phacellia, California poppies, and more marigolds.

3145 Looking over hugel bed, 5-18-16

This is the other end of the hugelkulture bed, looking back towards the tall echium.

Some other garden scenes…

3196 Potatoes growing well, 5-22-16

May 22…Potatoes growing well.

3121 Turnip blossoms, mulched lettuce, 5-18-16

May 18…..My wife says it was a mistake to mulch the lettuce. It takes quite a bit of time to remove the straw when you want to eat it. In the background you can see the turnip flowers heavy with growth. This is our turnip seed source. The bees are still working it for now. For the record, these turnips, which were planted directly over crab shells last year, grew all winter.

3195 Pole beans planted, 5-22-16

Because of the new deer fence, I can plant pole beans for the first time in about 25 years. It’ll be fun watching the vine crawl up the bamboo poles.

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I love the May garden. Everything is so lush and and green.

3002 Garden looking SW, 5-8-16JPG

May 8…Looking over the garden to the southwest, Sue’s foxgloves (grown from seeds) provide the foreground colors, the volunteer Tower of Jewels (or echium Pininana) to the left, yellow turnip and kale flowers all attract the bees.

3007 Potatoes, peas, cultivator, 5-8-16

The potatoes are up.  I just tilled between the rows with the little cultivator below.

3009 Cultivator, 5-8-16

For several years, we tried to garden without using fossil fuel. We prided ourselves on the ability to spade the garden and then hoe out the weeds. But now we’re several years older. Last month when we were faced with the task of planting potatoes, my wife says, “Let’s get the old Troy-Bilt tiller out.” Yes, it started on the second pull, but it also is waaaay too big for the raised beds. Reverse doesn’t work on it anymore and plus…it uses fossil fuel!!! Enter the battery-powered Greenworks cultivator. It’s easy to use, works well in the raised beds, and USES NO FOSSIL FUELS!

2988 Peas growing outside, first time 20 yrs, 5-6-16

Peas planted outside…first time in about 25 years (because of the deer fence.)  I added a couple of rows of carrots in the middle after I tilled it one more time.

3005 Buckwheat, tomatoes, peas+carrots, potatoes, 5-8-16

Buckwheat is growing well, tomatoes need cages, peas and carrots, potatoes in far back.

2931 Sue plants corn, 5-2-16

May 2…..Sue plants some corn.

2941 Sue plants lettuce, 5-3-16

…and a second batch of lettuce.

2998 Tall lobelia transp. 5-8-16

Just for the fun of it, we bought some giant lobelia (Lobelia fistulosa) for the hummingbirds and bees. A daisy to the left and the Knockout dahlia in the center back. The dahlia has flowers that attract leaf cutter bees (at 1:18)  It’s fun to watch the leaf cutters in action.

3036 Creative drip watering, 5-10-16

II had to get creative with the drip water grid for the squash. I’ve been accused of planting the squash too close together in years past. This time, there are only 5 hills here, where I’ve planted 10 or more hills before. The idea is we will get more if we don’t crowd them. I left the turnip flowers for the bees (and for next year’s seeds)

3034 Drip watering Hubbard, 5-10-16JPG

Drip watering gets the water to the customer without wasting any.

3032 Drip watering squash, 5-10-16

Another look at it…I think these are Sugar Pie Pumpkins.

2944 Hubbard near, pumpkins far, 5-3-16

There’s never enough room for squash. We are trying some ‘container squash’ this year. It’ll trail down over the stump grinding experiment.

3023 Squash barrels, 5-10-16

These squash are up against the fence for a reason. They get the morning and afternoon sun. We might try using the fence to trellis them. The upside…more squash. The downside, I’ve got to water by hand unless I figure out a drip water solution.

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2903 Main gate, 4-29-16.JPG++++

This is the main entrance to the garden. It was the toughest area to get fenced, but I knew the deer wouldn’t necessarily follow the ‘honor system.’ With the 4×4 wooden posts and pretty gate, I’m happy with it.

“I HATE FENCES”…that said, I have to say that, so far, I love this deer fence we recently put up.  It didn’t start out too well though.  The conversation between my wife and I, that is.  She says, “Pat, I’m tired of the deer eating everything that isn’t netted.  And I’m tired of having to lift up the netting just to get a few leaves of kale or pick salad greens.  And last year the deer even ate the leaves off the potato vines.  They even ate some tomato stems.”  That was true.  We can’t net everything.  We use the ‘honor system’ for the tomatoes and potatoes,  deer are not supposed to eat them.  They trimmed the new corn plants too.  Yes, I was tired of all the deer damage too, but our efforts to find an acceptable fence line always ended in a huge disagreement.  I says, “All right…if you can find a fence line…one that doesn’t go through the middle of the bamboo, doesn’t cut off the bee hives, and doesn’t slice through the main entrance to the garden, you can have it, but it’s going to take me a good month to set it up and I’m going to be upset the whole time because it won’t be straight.  (I’m a printer, I like everything straight)  Ten minutes later she marches in triumphantly, “I’ve got it,” she says, with a big smile.  We walk it out, and yes, it’s there.  I have to insist on my gates, though.  I get seven of ’em.  Gotta have my gates. 🙂    We decide in an effort to keep peace in the family and to get the job done in time for spring planting, it’ll be hired out.  “Whew!!!”

4 2617 Fence construction, first day, 4-4-16

The main entrance. The fruit trees are on the inside of the fence. That means all the wire cages can be removed.

11 2709 West gate, smaller, 4-11-16

The ‘small’ west gate.

11 2716 West gate, new deer fence, 4-11-16JPG

The bigger west gate. I’ve got to grind down the stump on the inside of this gate. I’ll rent a stump grinder…that ought to be fun.

2738 Stump west side, before shot, 4-15-16

A closer look at the stump…two stumps. Piece of cake…

2745 Stump grinder, 4-15-16

…NOT!!! I spent a long part of the day, grinding the double stump down with this big stump grinder. I think I got through most of it, but had to hurry to get it back within the time limit so I wouldn’t be charged extra.

2773 Gate to Cody Garden, 4-11-16

This is one of my home-made gates. It opens up to the Cody garden. Cody was a special dog to us for 15+ years. He is buried there.

2923 Cody colored pencil drawing, 2001

My daughter drew this colored pencil sketch of Cody with his favorite cat, Chuck, in 2001.

2893 Southside gate, 4-27-16

We piled up these ‘tomato’ tires in front of the south gate to try to divert the deer around the fence. They are accustomed to walking through here from the side woods. We’re hoping they develop the habit of walking AROUND the fence. Then we can remove the tires.

2892 Compost gate, 4-27-16

Another perk to having a deer fence is being able to grow peas outside the greenhouse. This gate leads to the compost area.

So, there are my seven gates.  The following video shows how to build a deer fence.  You know I have to shoot video of everything that moves in the garden.  When the fence boys came, I couldn’t help myself…out came the cameras.  I just had to find out how the pros build a tight wire fence without bending the fence posts crooked.  I’m proud to say I found out and documented it for others to possibly use.



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2779 Andrea's swarm, view, 4-16-16 copy

April 16…Andrea called to let us know she had a newly formed swarm, hanging about chest high off the yellow plum tree…did we want it? “ABSOLUTELY!”

2780A Shaking swarm into bucket, 4-16-16 copy

It was pretty easy to ‘pop’ the bees into the bucket…

2802A Brown Warré, 4-19-16 copy

…and into a Warré hive. Back to having bees again. Thank you, Andrea Gatov!

2756 Echium against blue sky, 4-15-16

I’ve been protecting this echium plant for two years. It has finally paid off with these bluish-red blossoms. Just in time for the bees. I think this is Wild Prettii echium.

2804A Bee near Echium, 4-19-16 copy

The day after we hived Andrea’s swarm, the bees were all over this shapely echium plant.

2804B Bee on Wild Prettii, 4-19-16 copy

One of our new guests partakes of the nectar.

2757A Bumblebees like it too copy

Yellow-faced bumblebees like it too.

2833 Turnip flowers, 4-21-16

Turnip flowers collect bees.  Is that a ‘hat’ on Bee Beard Log Hive???

22A Turnip flowers, 4-21,16 copy

April 21…Close-up on turnip flowers.


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2223 GKLH, 12-19-15

December 19, 2015…The Grand Kids Log Hive is going strong, I’m happy to say. I know the anchors are probably not necessary, but I can hear the heavy gusts of wind hitting at night and I got tired of imagining the tall hive tipping over. Now I can sleep better.:)

2284 GKLH Temp at 46F, 12-30-15

December 30, 2015…The temperature inside the hive is a chilly 46˙F (7˙C), and yet the bees were flying this cold day.

2279 GKLH, bees flying in, close, 12-30-15.JPG++

12-30-15…The bees broke ranks for a short time in the afternoon. I was relieved to see them after viewing the cold temp on the probe thermometer in back. When they’re in a cluster, you can’t see them in the viewing window.

12 Bee Beard, 12-18-15

December 18, 2015…Bee Beard Log Hive might be feeling his age, but the bees still like it as can be seen in the video.

2239 Warre plastic film protected, 12-25-15 copy

12-19-15…my only Warré, having lost the other two during the summer. After seeing too much moisture on the bottom board, I removed it and tacked some black plastic film on three sides. We’ve been having record rainfall in December and it’s possible rain was entering on the observation window sides. I hope this helps.

2138 Birdhouse bees, frost, 11-26-15

November 26…All is quiet. The birdhouse bees didn’t make it. I was hopeful this year because they came through the three month winter shadow last winter, but I must have lost them between October and late November.

10 Birdhouse bees, no bees, 12-18-15

December 18…I shot another photo when the weather warmed back up. Doesn’t look like anything is moving in there.

8 Birdhouse bees, empty comb, no bees, 12-18-15

Empty comb at the front. I guess I can hope they are clustered somewhere back in there, but that’s just a sliver of hope.

2228 Green tree hive, insulation, 12-19-15

The green tree hive is entering it’s third winter. If numbers mean anything, this hive is a survivor. With the sun so low these days the light can reach through the branches to get the bees flying relatively early. Often its the only hive flying. I’m always happy to see the bees flying especially after a ‘rocking’ big storm. This hive is totally intervention free. No mite strips, pollen paddies, or sugar water, it just keeps on going. It’s slightly above my height when I’m looking at it, so occasionally an incoming bee will alight on my ear. “Ooops, sorry I’m in your flight pattern.”

2 Pussy willow tree, 1-1-16

January 1, 2016…The pussy willow tree is getting ready to bloom.

5 Pussy willow buds swelling, 1-1-16

1-1-16…Willow buds are swelling

1 Buds swelling on willow, 1-1-16

More willow buds. “Hang on, little critters, It won’t be long before pollen is available.”

So I’m back to four hives.  I’m a little worried about the Warré hive, because of all the moisture inside.  I’m hoping the sheet of black plastic I tacked on three sides will cut the wind and moisture back.  In the video you can see bees tossing out dead bees.  I always think of that Doors song with Jim Morrison chanting, “Bring out your dead,” over and over again.

I’m a treatment-free beekeeper for better or worse.  I can’t bring myself to believe that killing the varroa mites will solve any problems.  I’m of the opinion that we will NEVER rid the bees of varroa mites.  The bees MUST adapt, because eventually the mites will develop a resistance to the poison and then what do you do?  I say let the bees adapt.  Let the weak hives go.

I’m not feeding the bees anything either.  I saw bees bringing in pollen into my Warré hive in December.  It could be ivy or even gorse.  If they can hang on just a bit longer, they will get pollen from the pussy willow blossoms.    Jonathan Powell of the Natural Beekeeping Trust, also explains the risks of sugar very well at about 3 minutes into this you-tube video.  “Studies have shown that sugar destroys the bees internal intestines and also it destroys a very particular enzyme call the P450 enzyme which the bees use to counteract some of the pesticides and toxins they find in the environment.  So by feeding sugar, we may be averting a starvation if you’ve taken too much honey, but we are also damaging the bees.”  And here’s another article about  feeding anything can be detrimental to the hive. (including honey)

The video.. 

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September 15...Barbara's Kahili ginger (hedychium gardnerianum) is finally flowering.

September 15…Barbara’s Kahili ginger (hedychium gardnerianum) is finally flowering.

Poor Man's Orchids

I wonder if this is the same ginger plant that I shot when photographing the Poor Man’s Orchids in July 2013?  If it is, Barbara has waited over two years to see it flower.

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