Thursday, March 24, 2011

Give Bees a Chance

PBS aired a (rerun) episode of Nature a few nights ago. This episode was concerned with honey bees, what's happening with them, and why. They also touched on where we are headed if things do not change....

I love animal shows so when I saw the bee show coming on (with a rather obnoxious groan from my other half) we sat down to watch. It was a truly enlightening and kinda scary story.
  Here are some of the best parts, a'la me :)

People in China who produced pears in the mountains, without the help of pollinators! The bees just left in the 1980's, and the government (in all their glorious wisdom) said to the local farmers, "You must do the work of the bees if you want to feed your people." And that's exactly what they do.

Every spring they go out and gather the male parts of the flowers. They bring them home and strip off all the pollen, which they put into little jars. Tying chicken feathers to a stick, they recreate "the fuzzy body of a bee". Then they go to the real work.

Workers go out with jars and feather sticks in hand, climb ladders, and hand pollinate every flower!! Amazing!! The narrator said that one worker could pollinate 30 trees in one day, which sounds like a lot right? Not really...

"These top pollinators are responsible for 80% of all our fruit, nuts and vegetables, and a single hive of 50,000 honeybees can pollinate half a million plants in just one day!"{AES}  This, obviously, did not come from the show we watched. I was double checking my data, and have found somewhat conflicting reports on exactly how many flowers one hive can pollinate in a day.Since that's kind of relative, I went with the smaller number so that I didn't come off sounding like a crack-pot (anymore than I usually do, anyway).

New reports show that 96% of 4 species of bumble bee have died off in recent years.{2} And if numbers continue to decline the way they are, all the bees will be gone by 2035.  That's right, ALL of them. GONE. Think about how many plants in your own garden are pollinated by bees and other flying critters. Yep, pretty much all of them. No bees, no food. Plain and simple.
So, what's to do about it? Other than wait for scientist to try and find out why, there's LOADS of things that will help the situation.  Here are some:

You can start by not spraying ANYTHING else on your yard or garden. Bees are highly sensitive to pesticides, and mostly likely herbicides too (it does have "cide" at the end of it after all...and would you drink Round-Up?)

Give them a place to call their own, and something to eat. Kinda like "if you feed that dog, he'll just keep coming back", only the bees won't tear up your trash. Here's a pretty comprehensive list provided by the wonderful people at UC Berkley. They also have lots of information on their site about helping/raising bees. Check them out.

And one last piece of advice that I hadn't really considered before...Let a few of your veggies bolt, or go to seed. Per Mother Nature Networks article, "5 ways to help...", letting a few veggies go to seed in the fall will help provide valuable food for the bees during the winter.

....Yeah, bees are pretty friggin' important. And yet, people are still doing things that we know are terrible for them. People continue to support the Big Ag companies and the Chem companies, and all we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot.
Bees need real food, not GM crap, and they need a huge variety of it. They need clean food, not something sprayed with a chemical that the average college graduate could not spell, or probably even pronounce. They need shelter, and they need a chance. Can you help give them one?

photo taken last year, by me at Savanna's Garden Treasure on Irby St. in Florence, SC. Plant pictured is Mountain Mint.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrating the Green-ness

Happy St. Patty's Day to you! I don't do good accents in person, so I won't attempt one on here either. :) I do hope you are enjoying your day, and please remember to wear something green, or you might get pinched!

Now, as we are a kid friendly household, we can't celebrate like we use to (cough*more beer*cough) so we will be doing some other things 'green' today.

We will be planting our first garden bed today, using mostly organic seeds and homemade compost. All of our seeds this year came from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Virginia. We ordered everything from them because of their selection, the quality they offer, and their proximity to us (as opposed to other companies carrying matching quality products). If you are a little further west, I would recommend Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds of Missouri. We have ordered from them in the past and they are always a pleasure to deal with. Their selection is hard to beat, and their seeds packets almost always come adorned with very pretty art.

Also on the green-ish list for today is our dinner, which will include some sort of beef and potatoes (no, I don't know how to make corned beef. *sigh* maybe next year) Nothing fancy about the food, it came from the closest grocery store to our house, which is another way to keep it "green" (both environmentally and economically).

Okay, I guess that's about it. Our kids aren't old enough to get anything more than clovers and leprechauns anyway. How are you spending your day?

Until next time, DRIVE SAFE!

NB: links in this article are NOT affiliate links. I have used both companies and recommend them whenever I can.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Organizing with the Chronically Disorganized

DVD's and CDs -  Toss those cases and invest in one (or many) of those handy-dandy cd wallets. Big box stores  usually stock them in the media/electronics area, and at just about every check out line (how considerate of them, really).
You can have one for the whole family to share, or divide it up. Right now ours goes something like this: the biggest one holds all the kids movies and sing-a-longs, the little ones hold our movies, and the majority are "stored" in piles next to the dvd player... hey, the truth hurts. 

It may be difficult at first to let go of the movie/music cases and the insert art that sometimes comes with. I have not found a great compromise here.
With CD's its easier, just put the insert in the same pocket as the cd. Maybe one day whoever designs dvd cases will get a case of green-itis and decide its time to start using less packaging. Here's an idea: design the cover art to fit into the square and not that obnoxious rectangle they have now. Who came up with that anyway?

Do you keep your cases and organize differently? Do you even have a tv? Thoughts are welcome. :)

Case Logic CDW-92 Nylon CD/DVD Wallet 100-Capacity (Black)<--this is pretty much the same one the kids have. I think theirs holds 60, the one in the picture holds 100.

Case Logic KSW320 Koskin CD/DVD Wallet 336 Disc Capacity (Black)--- and this is what we will probably get, now that I know the system works for us. It holds 360 discs. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Garden News

Oh, are we loving this warm weather!! For the last couple of weekends it has been super nice in our lovely spot on the Bible belt. You just can't beat it, especially since in a few months it'll be so hot you won't be able to get off the porch before you stop sweating (I know, lovely mental images. I'm good at those.)

Our garden is getting some much needed attention this year. We've all been diligently working on the new beds (well, I have) and are anxiously awaiting the day we can harvest our first spring meal. I believe we may be  little behind, but because of some late freezes this year, I think we made a good move.

Tomorrow we are going to start a "kiddie" garden using, what else, a kiddie pool. Check out this link for instructions. We will be using some store bought potting soil, regular garden dirt and finished compost. The pool will be used to start seedlings that will be transplanted to other parts of the garden. I think Thing 1 & 2 are really going to dig this one (no pun intended).  Pigpen will probably just enjoy the getting dirty part...and the eating part. LOL

I talked to one of my favorite garden people yesterday and asked her to place an order for 2 fig trees for me. I know we are getting a Brown Turkey Fig and one other variety. We already have 1 tree that will probably be moved when the other 2 get here (no, I don't know the variety for it either. the hubby bought it for me). Also waiting to see if she has Mulberry bushes available to go on each end of the planned chicken run/pen. Crossing my fingers!

In light of recent events, I have been forced to add to my garden plan something that I hadn't considered, at least not seriously. A living hedge. See, we live in the country, but the other day I saw 2 random dudes just walking by my house! Seriously, they could have looked through my kitchen window! So, needless to say, I am a little freaked out by this. Hence the hedge idea.
We have a small ditch running the length of our property on one side and wild running blackberries (boysenberries) growing in patches along the ditch. My plan is to rig a small trellis system and plant/encourage the blackberries and also add in some heirloom roses for looks. I think it will suffice in keeping out unwanted garden guests, no matter how many legs they walk on.

I am desperately awaiting the arrival of my strawberries. Yes, I could have gone to (insert generic big-box store name here) and taken my pick from their sad looking selection, but I don't like doing things the easy way. So, I went back on the search I started a couple years back. Sparkle Strawberries. Mmmmm!! I have heard such great things about these berries (unless talking to a commercial grower, then they just laugh). Sparkle strawberries do not have good shipping qualities. Hardly any, from what I gathered. They are best eaten fresh or preserved in some way, which is what I plan to do. I do not care that they won't ship, because I won't be shipping them anywhere. So, I found a cute sounding nursery in Illinois Moonshine Designs Nursery with a good rating on Garden Watchdog and I placed my order. My email said they would ship the first week of April, so I'm trying to keep busy til they get here. And just for the record, I had no rhyme or reason for picking a nursery/state to order from. It just sounded cool. :)

Other garden news includes new beds in the front yard that are going in as we speak (or as you read this I guess... depending on the time and such). I am so excited to finally have garnered "permission" from the hubby to garden all over the property and not seclude our food plots out back with birds. I think the tomatoes will be much happier up front where they will get the special attention they need (and deserve!).

I am adding a couple of links at the bottom of this article. These are books that either are or have been in my collection and that I have found useful. These are affiliate links (meaning I make something if you purchase the product after you click the page). Just to let you know :) Thanks for reading. Until next time, drive safe.