Thursday, June 30, 2011


   You could say the previous post was foreshadowing, or maybe it was meant to bee (sorry couldn't help myself). We have bee's again. If you remember we got bee's last year when our father in law saved a hive  from an overpass that was being torn down. Unfortunately those bees didn't survive the winter. So our hive was rebuilt, this time with more insulation. We weren't able to purchase bees so we have been hoping to "bait" a swarm to move in to our empty hive. We did this by hanging old honey comb in the hive and hoping. Well, the other day while out on our nightly walk with the dog we noticed a swarm of activity in one of our neighbors yards. Our neighbor was there along side a member of the bee keeping association collecting not one swarm but two. The neighbor already has 4 hives, the city limit, and the other bee keeper only had room for one swarm. So, lucky for us we could have the other swarm.

   We are rookies at bee keeping, so we were super grateful for our neighbor Rick whose swarm this was to come and help us load the swarm into our hive. With all the bees flying around and such it was difficult for us to really see what was going on. As it turned out, in the swarm Rick brought us there were actually two Queens. The picture above is of an un-mated queen ( the big ole bee on the top ) and one of her attendants ( small bee in corner ). She needed her own hive so we called up father in law Michael and he came down to pick her up. 

   Meanwhile, Rick and Husband placed the box with our swarm on top of our top bar hive. This was a new experience for both Rick and ourselves. We had never done this process at all and Rick had never worked with a top bar style hive. Nonetheless it was pretty strait forward.  They slid the bottom of the box out and then lifted up the box to see how many of the bees had fallen into the hive.

   Then, seeing a bunch of bees still on the top of the box, Rick set it down again and gave it a good WHACK and the rest of the bees fell into the hive. Then he gently brushed the last few stragglers into the hive and we all backed away to watch the results. 

   Rick sprayed the bees with a sugar water mixture to keep them happy and distracted by cleaning themselves off and eating the sugar water and put a couple of drops of lemongrass oil in to the hive to calm the bees and freshen up the place. We also put a bowl of sugar water near the hive so that the bees would have something to eat while they spend the next couple of days situating themselves and starting to build more comb.

Now, a couple of days later the bees are busy doing their thing. We have looked in on them a couple of times and they are building comb like crazy! We are so lucky to have met our neighbor Rick and we gave him a dozen fresh eggs and a bunch of homebrew to sample. Having the bees makes our garden seem complete again. Looking at the empty hive was a bit sad and to see it bursting with activity is amazing and somehow fullfiling.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ooh yeah, that's the stuff...

The bee emerging
from deep within the peony
departs reluctantly


Friday, June 10, 2011

Coming along nicely

   One of the most fantastic things about a garden this time of year is watching the near hourly growth of all the plants. For me, it is so rewarding to see all the hard work of the previous fall, winter and spring coming to fruition. It is a time for me to slow down and let nature take over and do her thing.

   Our raised beds are looking good. Here is a shot of the most luxurious of the five with Russian Red Kale, Dino Kale, Broccoli and Tatsoi which was really prolific and is already bolting. 

    Our lettuce is OUT OF CONTROL! I have learned that I do not need to plant quite so much at once although it does look impressive, doesn't it? Along side the lettuce are Chard, Collard greens and Walla Walla onions.

    A couple of weeks ago Kevin drilled a ton of holes into the bottom of a metal trough we are now using as our potato bin. We planted Yellow Finn potatoes just a couple of weeks ago and now every time the greens get a little bit high we are alternately covering them with compost and a kind of sawdusty mix from our compost pile. Soon we will have the trough filled with dirt to the rim and then in the fall the whole thing (hopefully) will be brimming with potatoes. Mmmmm, I can just taste them now.

   This crazy beauty is one of the Alium Shuberti that I planted last fall. I first fell in love with these giant firework-like alium when I ran across some growing on the biodynamic flower farm where I picked the flowers for my Mother and Stepfather's wedding six or seven years ago. I ended up using them in a center piece and ever since I have needed to put them in my garden. They are just so unbelievably fantasticle! Plus they dry really well, my dear friend Annie Cooper had the brilliant idea of hanging one upside down in her kitchen and it looks like a crazy mid-century design light fixture.

   I planted some other alium which I can't remember the name of but look super cool grouped together. I am disappointed by the foliage of these alium though. Very wimpy. I think I need to plant some bushy things around their base so that next year the flowers can poke up through the leaves of the other plants.  I think that will look so lush and whimsical! 

   We are also nearly done with the fence project. All that's left is to put the cross pieces on the top of the arbor so our hops can have some support when they get crazy big.  We scrounged a ton of reed screen from the alleyway behind the Hanger Cafe in our neighborhood. It's amazing the stuff we find in the alleys while we are walking Ruby, in a way she has ended up saving us money! Anyway, the reeds probably aren't the final solution but they will do for a couple of years and in the meantime we don't have to deal with deciding what we want to do. The boards for the gate we also scrounged from the alley and I made Husband drill cute holes in each picket. 


   To keep the chickens in the back yard we also needed a fence on the other side of the house. We had a bunch of pear tree prunings from the spring and some branches from other various tree trimming projects so I decided to make a twine and twig fence and gate. Preety rustic but it gets the job done. I still have to figure out how to get hinges onto it though. Also, I want to get some clematis to grow up over the archway. 

   Polly and Pickles are no longer babies although we still refer to them as "the little peepers." We have finally integrated them with the older girls and so far everyone is getting along peacefully. Pickles likes to push the boundaries of older hens patience but they put her in her place pretty quickly. Ruby is doing good too! She loves to bark at anything that passes by our front fence and chase any squirrel or small bird that comes in our yard, which will come in handy once our squash plants get fruit.

   The bed in the front of the house looks great too. I still want it to be fuller and more luxurious but I will just have to be patient and keep fertilizing. Some of the plants in here I have been carting around with me for years. From one rental to the other, I just couldn't leave them behind! I promised them that when we bought this house it would be the last time they would have to move, and I think they're happy.

     The chickens decided that hostas are one of their favorite snacks and this one was doomed to end up as chicken poop. I moved it to the front bed and it fits in well so I suppose it all worked out for the best. Yup, it's all coming along quite nicely, if I do say so myself.