Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ten Things I Love About Sping

1.  The strawberries are getting ready to start our first harvest of the season.

2.  The mint and oregano are still behaving enough that I can still see my little bear statue.  By the end of summer, they'll be duking it out in this corner of the shed garden. (See the mint in the front and oregano in the back.)

3.  Not everything died over the winter.  That alone is reason to celebrate. (See the fennel and a rouge holly.)

4.  Lily of the Valley is starting to emerge.  I was told when I planted it that there is some lore surrounding the effect Lily of the Valley may have on the gardener's heart, but I'm glad to say that several years later my heart is still beating. That is just another reason to be glad.
5.  Apple blossoms! And this year, with our new hive, it is fun to watch honeybees on the blossoms.

6.  The tulips weren't eaten!  This is only the second time in eleven years that we've gotten to enjoy tulips.  The tulips usually are eaten as soon as the leaves spring up.  I'd like to think our fantastic abstract art scared away the culprit this spring.

7.  Cherry blossoms fall like snow in our front yard each spring. The children sometimes dance around in them.  The chickens eat them.  It is all very enchanting.

8.  The Bleeding Heart is taking over.  Maybe soon it will camouflage the hose that I can't seem to correctly coil.

9.  These irises are refreshingly low-maintenance -- my kind of plant.

10.  I don't mind dandelions. I know most people hate these little guys, but they make me happy.  That little Lemon Balm growing near the center is another story (Argh!! It's everywhere!), but the dandelions are yellow, free, apparently nutritious, and good for the honeybees. I hear they make good wine, too (we'll have to try that).  They are endless fun for children. They are a sure sign that spring is here.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Window Boxes, take two

This is our second year with window boxes.  Last year they were quite colorful, but I couldn't help thinking that we could make them work for us.  (Notice a theme on our patch of land?  We only keep pets that can pull their own weight; why shouldn't a window box be held to the same standard?)
Besides a few pansies for color and some pretty little nameless white flowers that should spill over nicely to add visual appeal, everything in the box is either edible or on the list as a nectar source for honeybees.  Some, like thyme, even do both.  In some of our window boxes, the ivy from last year overwintered.  It looks a little brown, but I left it in to see how it would recover.
My oldest son helped me with this project and was surprised to see how many flowers are "named after" Harry Potter characters. (Lily, Pansy, Petunia, etc.)  The box beneath his bedroom window has a Lupine in honor of this amazing phenomenon (since his favorite HP character is Lupin). He wanted to install a Harry Potter garden, which is a great idea.  Maybe next year...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Raising Butterflies

My youngest son got a Butterfly Pavilion for Christmas. (Butterfly Pavilion is from a company called Insect Lore.)  In the final weeks of winter, we sent away for our caterpillars and let the fun begin. The caterpillars arrived in late March and spent only a few weeks with us.  My son documented the changes in a little booklet we made.
We originally labeled the pages in his book by weeks, but each change for our butterflies took a little less than a week, which was fantastic for holding the interest of a five-year-old.
Once they turned into butterflies, we only kept them inside for a few days, picking fresh flowers for them daily (dandelions and grape hyacinth, mostly).
When the daytime temperatures were consistently comfortable, we released the butterflies into the garden.  The butterflies didn't want to leave at first, which allowed the kids time to hold them. This was an easy project we will probably do again next year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Installing Honeybees

As soon as my cat became quite used to her new play area, we've ruined all her fun by installing honeybees.
The honeybees arrived in a package of about ten thousand.  The queen was inside a smaller cage in the center of the cage you see below.

 We sprayed the package several times with sugar water to make the honeybees happy and full.  It also attracted a variety of neighborhood bees and other winged insects into our garage.  Note to self: don't spray tons of sugar water in the garage next time.
Brave husband and brave son (in baggy beekeeper suit!) opened the package and literally dumped the bees into the hive.  (Little brother needed to hang back because we don't yet own a veil for him.)   They made an opening in the tiny queen cage and wedged the queen cage into the hive where the other bees will hopefully find her and rescue her from her little cage by chewing through the candy that blocks her exit.  Finally, a top-feeder full of more sugar water was placed on top of the hive and the lid was sealed with a brick to stop the high winds from wrecking everything.

Now we just need to wait and see if the honeybees like their new home.

Busy as Bees

We've been busy this spring! New this year is an asparagus patch.
It won't yield any asparagus this year or next, so it is more of a long-term investment.
Speaking of long-term investments, we are also starting an adventure with honeybees. We won't get any honey until at least next year.
After spending a weekend digging the asparagus pits, I spent several days transforming a huge patch of grass (above)
into a bee yard. (below)