Archive for the ‘Tower of Jewels’ Category

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »

The new Echium Bee Bed is filling in well.  From the lobelia in the front to the tallest Tower of Jewels echium plant, they all attract bees.

The new Echium Bee Bed is filling in well. From the colorful lobelia in front to the tallest Tower of Jewels echium plant, they all attract bees.

July 3...Hugelkulture bed is looking so much better since we weeded, planted, and mulched with compost and wood chips.

July 3…The Hugelkulture bed is looking so much better since we weeded, planted, and mulched with compost and wood chips.

A view from our garden bench in July reveals the garden in full glory.

A view from our garden bench in July reveals the garden in full glory.

July 3...The dwarf sunflowers are open and attracting bees already.  It's older siblings can only watch with envy.

July 3…The dwarf sunflowers are open and attracting bees already. It’s older siblings can only watch with envy.

This deer seems to be asking me the question...

This deer seems to be asking me the question…”What are you doing out here at this time in the evening, this is MY time?”  In the video you’ll see why she looked up…she picked up the sound of the camera’s zoom lens.  Their hearing is phenomenal, but luckily their eyesight isn’t that good.  I’m standing in the sunlight just a short distance away, but she can’t see me very well.

Arrrgh!  Deer damage!

Arrrgh! Deer damage!

I'm not sure if there's any reason to net what's left of these potatoes.  They have been stripped of their leaves by the 'cute' deer. :(

I’m not sure if there’s any reason to net what’s left of these potatoes. They have been stripped of their leaves by the ‘cute’ deer. 😦

I mulched this corn in the morning...by the afternoon, the deer had already sampled it.  A temporary fence is now in place to protect it...I hope it recovers.

I mulched this corn in the morning…by the afternoon, the deer had already sampled it. A temporary fence is now in place to protect it…I hope it recovers.

This tomato's only crime was to be planted at the end of the bed where the deer could reach it easily.

This tomato’s only crime was to be planted at the end of the bed where the deer could reach it easily.

Planted from seed last year, these Hollyhocks have survived the deer twice.   We're so happy to finally see the blooms, but we've yet to see the bees on them.

Planted from seed last year, these Hollyhocks have survived the deer twice. We’re so happy to finally see the blooms, but we’ve yet to see any bees on them.

Read Full Post »

May 3...My wife suggested putting some logs around the new bee-flower bed.  I declined knowing how much work that would be.  Finding some dead trees that were long and straight enough, cutting them to size, and cutting rebar to hold them in place.   As you can see, she talked me into it.  I think it looks good.   Walker's Low Nepeta will go behind the lobelia, then some thyme, artichokes and various other bee-loving plants to flesh it out.

May 3…My wife suggested putting some logs around the new bee-flower echium bed. I declined knowing how much work that would be, finding some dead trees that were long and straight enough, cutting them to size, and hack-sawing rebar to hold them in place.  You can see who won out, but I think it looks good. Walker’s Low Nepeta (a real bee lover) will go behind the lobelia, then some thyme, artichokes, and various other bee-loving plants to flesh it out.  The Tower of Jewels echium has started blooming already.  Three plants (out of 6) made it through two winters.

I started this project about a week ago.  It kept getting bigger and bigger with all the ideas that were percolating.

I started this project about a week ago after we decided to improve the neighborhood around the new Grand Kids Log hive seen in the background.

The transplanted echiums shot up recently, 8 - 10 feet.  I transplanted them in November 2013.

The transplanted echiums shot up recently, 8 – 10 feet. I transplanted six of them in November 2013, but only 3 have wintered through.

April 29...They are starting to bloom already.  I'm looking forward to watching all kinds of bees partake of the nectar and pollen they will provide.  Footnote:  I've asked my son to practice up his guitar version of

April 29…They are starting to bloom already. I’m looking forward to watching all kinds of bees partake of the nectar and pollen they will provide. Footnote: I’ve asked my son to practice up his guitar version of “Stairway to Heaven” to accompany my video of it in full bloom.

We noticed a pile of top soil on our morning walk.  Someone had dumped it up the road from us after they were done rolling out their new turf.  My wife spotted it.

We noticed a pile of top soil on our morning walk. Someone had dumped it up the road from us after they were done rolling out their new turf. My wife spotted it. “Let’s get it.” That we did, the equivalent of four big wheelbarrow loads. Here she is raking out the treasure.  Then she put in Phacelia started from seed, lobelia, and mowed around the bed to ‘spiff it up.’

March 9, 2015...you can see how much it has grown in less than two months.

March 9, 2015…you can see how much it has grown in less than two months.  This was taken before we trimmed the branches in the background for the new log hive.

I started this post out as a garden update, but we’re so happy about this new spot for bee flowers, I wanted to post it first.

July 14, 2015...In the spring, we enlarged this bed and planted some bee-loving plants along with the echium.

July 14, 2015…The Towers of Jewels echium is standing tall in the background.  The other bee plants are filling in nicely.

Read Full Post »

It should be raining sideways right now in March, but because the East Coast is grabbing all the cold air, we’ve been enjoying 66˙F weather on The Oregon Coast.

Because of the warm spell, we were able to move some things off the light stand and into the garden.  These lettuce, Parel cabbages, and (bought) broccoli were put into ground today.

Because of the warm spell, we were able to move some things off the light stand in the house and into the garden. These lettuce and Parel cabbage plants, and (bought) broccoli were put into ground today.

March 28...66˙F (18˙C)  Looking at tomorrow's weather forecast, I'm going to have to look for a shade cloth for the new transplants.

March 28…66˙F (18˙C) Looking at tomorrow’s weather forecast, I’m going to have to find a shade cloth for the new transplants.  Michael Marlow says it was 28˙F in Western Massachusetts this morning, lightly snowing on the foot of snow already there.

We even brought the Sun Oven to bake up a pot of beans.

We even brought out the Sun Oven to bake up a pot of beans.

While my wife was transplanting, I was preparing a base for my new log hive.  The wood carver said he would bring it out Monday.  I think I'm ready with packed sand under these heavy cement blocks.

While my wife was transplanting, I was preparing a base for my new log hive. The wood carver said he would bring it out Monday. I think I’m ready with packed sand under these heavy cement blocks.

When I proposed using an old bird feeding station on the log hive, Brian Vorwaller went quiet.  I don’t think he really wanted to see that old thing on top of his beautiful creation, so he asked me for another chunk of wood.

March 21...From this chunk of wood comes...

March 21…From this chunk of wood (in the care of the wood carver) comes…

...the pitched roof that will serve as the rain-shedding top of my Grand Kids Log hive.

…the ‘shake’ roof that will serve as the rain-shedding top of my Grand Kids Log hive.  It’s hard to see, but the quilt box is on the bottom 4 inches of it.  Brian worked it into the design so well.

March 28...To the bees' delight, our flowering cherry tree is in full bloom.

March 28…To the bees’ delight, our flowering cherry tree is in full bloom.

 

The Tower of Jewels echium are going to bloom this year...HOORAY!  I've waited two years for this.  They should bloom for about 3 months giving out nectar all day long.  How do I know they will bloom?

The Tower of Jewels echium plants are going to bloom this year…HOORAY! I’ve waited two years for this. They should bloom for about 3 months giving out nectar all day long. How do I know they will bloom?

They have shot up about 4 feet in the last month, but the telltale sign is under the leaves where they meet the main stem...bud beginnings!

They have shot up about 4 feet in the last month, but the telltale sign is under the leaves where they meet the main stem…bud beginnings!

Read Full Post »

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left.  The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left. The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Here's a better shot of Bee-atrice.  The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes.  I'm hoping they will bloom this time around.

Here’s a better shot of Bee-atrice log hive. The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes. I’m hoping they will bloom this year because the nectar is so good for the bees and they’ll bloom all summer.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F.  Barely above freezing.  It's no wonder the bees aren't flying today.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F. Barely above freezing. It’s no wonder the bees aren’t flying today.

While the outside temperature is 35˙F (1.67˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C).  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs. :)

While the outside temperature is 34˙F (1˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C), which means there is something warm inside.  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs before he shot the photo. 🙂

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey.  It's such an improvement over last year's status of 'no bees.'

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey. It’s such an improvement over last year’s status of ‘no bees.’

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer.  Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del's hive.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer. Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del’s Warre hive below.

Del's hive...the bees came from the green hive in the tree.  After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil.  No luck.  They finally disappeared.  I thought, "Good, I've got enough hives," only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree.  After they had hung out for at least 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.

Del’s Warre hive…the bees came from the green hive in the tree. After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil. No luck. They finally disappeared. I thought, “Good, I’ve got enough hives,” only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree. After they had hung out for a total of 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.  Lost it…see below.

This hive catches the afternoon sun.  Some bees responded to the warmth.

Del’s hive catches the afternoon sun. Some bees responded to the warmth and gathered outside.

12-31-14...Birdhouse bees.  These bees came from Mary's backyard birdhouse swarm.  When I couldn't get them to move into my new Warre, I 'posted' them here.  Today they are not flying.  Too cold.  You can see frost on the ground in front.

12-31-14…Birdhouse bees. These bees came from Mayor Mary’s backyard birdhouse swarm. When I couldn’t get them to move into my new Warre, I ‘posted’ them here. Today they are not flying. Too cold. You can see frost on the ground in front.  They are in the shade possibly until March.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees shows no bee activity.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees still shows no bee activity.  Guess I’ll have to wait til it warms up.  This hive is in the coldest part of the property.  If they make it, it’ll be because they are strong bees, not because I treated them.

Warre 3...The bees came from Warre 2, around May 10, 2014.  They built up fast but only in the top box.  This 'shelter' leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off.  Thus the reason for the tie down.

Warre 3…These bees came from Warre 2, May 10, 2014. They built up fast but only in the top box. This ‘shelter’ leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off, thus the reason for the tie down.  Lost it…see below.

 

So there it is…from three hives a year ago to eight hives this year.  As a third year natural beekeeper, I believe in letting my bees swarm.  I like the article written by British beekeeper John Haverson that “Swarming Bees are Healthy Bees,” so I don’t destroy the queen cells or otherwise try to thwart their natural tendency to swarm.

I go against the recommendations of my local bee association which advises to kill the varroa mites.   I know there are beneficial mites in the hive.  According to long time beekeeper Michael Bush, who wrote “The Practical Beekeeper,” there are over 30 kinds of mites in a typical hive.  If you are killing varroa mites, you are upsetting the ecology of the hive.  I think we should let the bees adapt to living with mites.  Conversely, if we poison the mites, they will eventually build up a resistance at the expense of the bees.

Since we have just started winter, I know that it’s possible that some hives won’t make it, especially if I choose not to feed them.  Those would be the weak hives.  As a fairly new beekeeper I’m constantly questioning whether I’m doing the right thing.  Right now, I am of the mindset that we should not be propping up weak hives because we will be passing on weak genetics.   In my humble opinion when you capture a swarm, you should not kill that queen,  but keep her with the swarm.  She has survived the winter and proven herself.  All my bees have come from swarms.

If my bees can make it to early February, the pussy willows will bloom and weather permitting, nectar and pollen will be available in a critical stage of winter.

Yesterday I noticed honeybees on the gorse blossoms down the road from me.  This was a happy surprise because I don’t usually see bees on gorse blossoms possibly because gorse is harder to work (or so I’m told), but if there’s nothing else available, the bees will be able to get nourishment.  Some individuals around here hate the gorse.  It’s spiny thorns make it impossible to walk near, it grows prolifically, and it’s blamed for burning the town in the big 1936 fire.

March 4th note…  We lost Del’s hive.  It’s not a surprise because it never really built up any ‘honey weight’  pre-winter.  I haven’t taken it apart yet, but when I do, I’ll clean it out, put in observation windows, and donate it back to the bee club.

We lost #3 Warré too.  I took it down last week after I saw robber bees visiting it.  There was still some capped honey in the combs.  About 125 bees were dead on the bottom.  Some of the combs were moldy, so I’m guessing it’s been dead for awhile.  Both hives were weak hives.  While I’m upset at having lost them, I’m thinking that maybe it’s for the best because if the bees can’t survive in our relatively mild winter, maybe they shouldn’t be in the gene pool.  I’m down to six hives now, but the willow tree has been blooming for about three weeks and I can see the bees bringing in orange pollen and that means nectar too!

 

Read Full Post »

Some of the bulbs being planted for the bees

Some of the bulbs being planted for the bees.  I was able to purchase these locally from my favorite nursery, 101 Plants and Gifts.

It’s possible that everyone already knows certain bulbs provide an early nectar source for bees.  I might be new to the game because, well, I’ve never really been overly appreciative of growing flowers.  “They take up space and use precious water.”  Being on a shallow well makes you a water miser.  But these grow during the rainy season.  Some can even be planted in the front lawn, not taking up space or using extra water as in the Siberian Squill.  Being a beekeeper has changed my attitude towards flowers.  Now my motto is, ” You can never have too many (bee-loving) flowers.”

Since I recently broke up a new patch of ground for the Towers of Jewel ‘trees’, I have some extra space I can dedicate to bulbs.  Che Guebuddha,  a blogger from Sweden,  mentioned even more bulbs like the white Snow Drops and the yellow Eranthis.  A quick call to find out I can’t get them locally, but I CAN get them from John Scheepers on the east coast.  I order another 150 more.  Looks like I’ll have to break more ground.  As an after thought I wonder if I have to worry about poisons on the bulbs.  Alicia at the customer service desk of John Scheepers, Inc. assures me “there are no sprays, poisons, or toxins associated with these bulbs.”  Good!  They are going in next weekend.

With the addition of bulbs, we'll provide early nectar as well as summer food.

Newly planted “Tower of Jewel ‘trees.  I’m counting on these plants to grow about 10 feet (3 meters) this spring.  With the addition of bulbs, we’ll be able to provide an early nectar source as well as mid summer nourishment for the honeybees and bumblebees.

12-26-13...Persian Blue Alliums are up already.  I don't know if that's a good thing or not!  I'm protecting this patch because the sub freezing temps are bad for the echium...something I didn't think about when I planted the bulbs. :-(

12-26-13…Drumstick Alliums are up already. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not! I’m protecting this patch because the sub freezing temps are bad for the echium (Tower of Jewels)…something I didn’t think about when I planted the bulbs. 😦

February 5, 2014...Grape Hyacinth and 15 Drumstick Allium are up.  Giant Snowdrops just breaking.

February 5, 2014…Grape Hyacinth and 15 Drumstick Allium are up. Giant Snowdrops just breaking.

February 5, 2-14...close up of Grape Hyacinth.  My wife says I planted them too close together.  She might be right.

February 5, 2014…close up of Grape Hyacinth. My wife says I planted them too close together. She might be right.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »