Posts Tagged "spring"

Random May Garden Pics…

Posted on May 21, 2011

Random May Garden Pics…
Peonies: High Life and Fairy's Petticoat

Peonies: High Life and Fairy's Petticoat

Bumble Bee on White Sage Bloom

Bumble Bee on White Sage Bloom

Guard bees saying, "Everything allright in there?"

Guard bees saying, "Everything allright in there?"

First Apples of 2011: Liberty

First Apples of 2011: Liberty

Love it: Assembling & Painting bee boxes...

Love it: Assembling & Painting bee boxes...

Peony: Moon River

Peony: Moon River

Larrapin Honeybee on Blackberry Blossom

Larrapin Honeybee on Blackberry Blossom

—A Larrapin Garden  www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends —you can subscribe by Email here.  You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/larrapin.garden. Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.

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Wednesday’s Walkabout (a day late): Spring Veggie Patch

Posted on Apr 21, 2011

Spring garden is going strong at Larrapin thanks to the wonderful light table! I’ve been able to start with seedling vs seeds and the immediate gratification factor has been exquisite. The pics above are a row by row walkabout a couple of days ago. (If you are reading on email and the pics don’t show up, click to the actual post here to see them…)

Starting with the top left and moving across is the most recently dug bed with little rock piles still nearby. Don’t be fooled, those handfuls represent about the third rock-clearing sweep. At least rocks don’t grow back right away….  Anyway there are potatoes under the soil in the trench, planted quite late…like, um, a few days ago vs the traditional St. Patrick’s day planting. The next two beds are peas, kale, broccoli and collards—yum. I’m crazy for cole crops, as you’ll soon be able to tell.  In the top-middle pic there is the happy accident of using large tomato cages turned on their sides as a makeshift pea trellis. Will use this again.

Second row, starting on the left: garlic!! I love garlic. Why did I plant so little last fall? What was I thinking? Note to self, plant about 3X that much this fall!  Middle pic: not done. Those beds have to be rearranged to run in wide rows so the irrigation t-tape will work. Oh, I love t-tape and it saves SO much time come summer, not to mention water and the plants just love it. Well, heck, spring too since there hasn’t been much rain. That’s a huge pluffy bed of chickweed going to seed in back. Don’t laugh, I love chickweed and make wonderful salve from it. It’s actually kind of rare on our rocky terrain so collect the seeds and plant little beds of it wherever there’s enough soil to support it. Also a great salad green, though I’ve never tried it. Finally, more cole crops. You can see the t-tape down in this bed..

Third row, starting on the left: Spinach and onions (red and texas super sweet). That’s my very favorite spinach “Monstreaux de Viroflay,” a heritage variety from Baker Creek that I LOVE since we can’t grow any faint-hearted spinach around here during Spring planting. The leaves of this will get as big as your head and it’s vigorous. Love it. Middle pic: that enormous green mass is what will happen if you don’t cut down your cover crop of Austrian Winter peas in time! But will make compost when I clear it and meanwhile it’s provided chicken greens for weeks now. Lastly, that bare looking row has cilantro, parsley, beets and other stuff. The blank spots are from the banty hen flying over the fence and eating the chard, which apparently was her favorite and she clearly doesn’t care for cilantro. Wing feathers clipped: check.

Fourth row, far left: new strawberry bed, all June-bearers so we can net them while the berries are green…otherwise the squirrels eat them green. In the middle, the old Ozark-beauty strawberry row, which I’ll be pulling out after they bear (which they will if I go out and put the net down!). They are ever-bearers which means they keep putting out berries a little at a time, which doesn’t work if you have to net them for squirrels! So I’ve switched to June-bearers which come off in one big burst. I refuse to grow more strawberries for the squirrels than we already have…  Lastly, the ‘bad’ row. Plants don’t like this row, haven’t figured out exactly why. Will probably just cover-crop it for the season (with bee forage of course) and see if it gets better…  As you see, the garden overall is not mulched yet, and it needs to be. See: to-do list.

Bottom row left: this is one way to kill bermuda grass: weighted tarps for many weeks. This is actually a wide path (made necessary by a tree stump) right beside the new asparagus bed. Asparagus hates weeds, hence grass killing in progress. Will mulch this in a few weeks with wet cardboard covered with straw.  Boards are nice way to walk over the tarp without disturbing the snakes beneath. (Just kidding, kind of!) Next is the new Asparagus bed in it’s second spring. Asparagus key: Year one-take none. Year two-take a few (but I don’t). Year three: W00-Hee!!  Made that last one up, but you get the point. If you can be disciplined those first two years, you’ll be rewarded with really strong plants that third year. We’ve eaten Asparagus all month from the three-year old bed (not shown here) and it’s nearly time to let it grow and recover too. MMMMMMM, it’s been delicious!

And finally, last pic on the bottom right — blackberries!  They have been covered with blooms and I’m nearly drooling at the thought of berries to come. The bees have been all over them too. Thanks for taking a walkabout in the veggie patch!  What’s going on in your garden about now??

—A Larrapin Garden  www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends…like this one on Why Eat Local Food? Don’t miss any posts— subscribe by Email here.   You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/larrapin.garden.  Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.

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Lord-willin’ and the Queen don’t fly…

Posted on Apr 16, 2011

Lord-willin’ and the Queen don’t fly…

8 Frame HiveIf you were raised in the South, you’ve heard the expression ‘Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.’  (Pronounced: lordwillinanthecreekdonrise.)  Usually it’s used just after a statement of something you plan to do, kind of a disclaimer, a humble acknowledgement that there are many things that might happen between now and then, things over which we have no control…

For example, when you have a brand new hive of bees over which you are deliriously happy and on day-four you watch helplessly as they  swirl away in a big bee-tornado off into the tall forest full of hollow trees that must be more inviting than the lovely little home you so carefully prepared. Humbling indeed. Hence the new variation of the old expression: Lord willin’ and the QUEEN DONT FLY!!

“Absconding” is the beekeeping term for when you install a new package of bees into a hive and they, well, decide otherwise. I found this out after obsessively reading for hours on what could have happened or what I could have done wrong. Absconded. (Visions of wearing the Scarlet “A”  of  Shame to the next beekeepers meeting did flash through my mind…)  It was a rough day all around, even after I found out that sometimes bees just do this. “It happens,” say the bee discussion boards. “It happens,” say the experienced beekeepers, adding a shrug. It happens most often when installing ‘package’ bees in brand new equipment that lack the honeycomb and brood that tether bees to a homeplace. Some sources say there’s a one in four chance of absconding in a brand new package-bee installation.

Sometimes the swarm lands nearby in a low tree and you can fetch them back. Sometimes they leave again. “It happens.” Mine just went once, but with a sense of purpose and no hope of retrieval from the forest. Worse yet, this late in the season and with an ongoing ‘bee shortage’ it seemed unlikely I’d find more bees this year in the short Spring window for starting a new hive. It was a sad day. Those happen too.

But you know how difficult events sometimes bring their own gifts with them. One huge gift on that sad day was my wonderful bee mentor dropped what she was doing and drove right over in hopes of locating the swarm. I’d never been so happy to see a green truck pull in the driveway. Her kind presence and determination to get me more bees this year is something I’ll never forget! Thank you so much Charity!

Mendy was so kind and supportive throughout all my distress and dismay, an award may be warranted. Being a poet, she added at one point it was worth the price of a package of bees just to actually witness a swarm —an awe inspiring sight! It is, after all, what bees do to make create more bee colonies in the Spring, adds the poet. It’s much more enjoyable, I observed, if those aren’t YOUR bees swarming away!  Later, there was her short summary Facebook post of the events of the day:  “Queen leaves. Seeks better disco?”  I laughed, and that was a good sign.

Then there was knowing we’d contributed roughly 10,000 pollinators to our ecosystem since swarms usually travel less than a mile to locate a new home… And that did help me to feel better. I hope my errant colony found a wonderful, spacious hollow tree and are setting up housekeeping right now. I send them fondest wishes and luck since I couldn’t help but fall in love with every fuzzy golden one of them in the brief days they were here. Every one was magic and their absence was palpable here at Larrapin.

Days passed and another good thing happened. The local swarmcatcher of the beekeepers association told me he’d call me if they caught a wild swarm. Jim’s the person who gets the call if a beeswarm shows up on someone’s front porch, the playground,  etc and someone calls the police or animal control or the fire department. Jim shows up both to save the day for the folks scared of the bees and to save the bees from any harm. If the swarm is caught, some lucky new beekeeper is going to get THE telephone call…THE call that has been the reason the new beekeeper has kept the cellphone at his or her side for days or weeks…

I got THE call on Wednesday: a small swarm in a lanky tree overhanging a patio. My lucky day. With the help of Jim, the homeowner, several ladders, a prop, good luck and a long bee-catching pole, the swarm was placed in my hive.

There are no guarantees at all. Will they stay? No one can say. Will they thrive? Will this current cold weather snap and harsh wind harm their homemaking? Will the colony grow to a size they can survive winter? No one can say. Jim did say that if they flew away to call him and he’d catch me another swarm. Charity has offered all assistance needed. Another friend’s Grandpa may have bees to sell soon too. Beekeepers are a good bunch. And I find I’m willing to pursue every angle, because it’s been a long time since I felt as enthralled by an endeavor as since picking up that first book on beekeeping last fall. I love everything about it and the more I know the more I love it all.  I’m determined to learn this amazing art, and that includes the challenging parts and the humbling parts too. It all feels worth it just to experience such amazement.

So for the second time in as many weeks, Larrapin has bees—lord willin’ and the Queen don’t fly.

Above are some pics from my first bee day with my mentor Charity at an early spring hive inspection with her own mentor beekeeper. Enjoy!

—A Larrapin Garden  www.larrapin.us
Posts most wednesdays & weekends…like this one on Why Eat Local Food? Don’t miss any posts— subscribe by Email here.   You can also get bonus links and recipes by “liking” our Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/larrapin.garden.  Geesh, we’re even on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LarrapinGarden.

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Calvin Bey on Starting a Spring Garden (podcast)

Posted on Jan 23, 2010

Welcome to the first podcast at A Larrapin Garden. Wow, this stuff is fun. If you scroll down to the bottom of this post you’ll see an audio player. Click the arrow and you can listen now, or click the download link to download the file and listen whenever you want. (If you are reading this via an email subscription, I think you’ll have to go to the Larrapin Blog Site to listen.)

My first Fayetteville gardening teacher, Dr. Calvin Bey of Harmony Gardens, agreed to a chat on getting ready to start gardening this spring. Calvin is an amazing organic and ecological gardener who approaches the process in a systematic, experimental process that befits his background as a scientist. Calvin’s garden is about 2000 square feet, he tells me, and he regularly gets 2000 pounds of produce a year from our NWA growing season that runs from mid-April to late October.

But that 2000 pounds is not “ordinary” organic produce. Calvin’s focus is “nutrient-dense” produce, grown in re-mineralized soil so that the produce will contain the maximum nutrition.

Turns out you can measure the nutritional quality of a vegetable with a special gadget, and of course Calvin has one! But the results can be startling. Even the loveliest-looking, organically grown vegetable can be lacking in the nutrition we all believe is in there. It all depends on the soil.  And don’t get me started on the nutrient content of typical store-bought conventional produce. (Ok, can’t help it: One study I read suggested we’d have to eat about 3-5 times the portions of modern vegetables to really get the vitamins and minerals supposedly contained in one portion. The quality of most commercial-farm soils—which is where the veggies get the nutrition to pass on to us— has diminished to that point.)

Besides human health, other side effects of nutrient-dense produce include increased productivity from the plants as well as increased shelf-life and disease/bug resistance. When you ask Calvin how he handles many common diseases and insect attacks in his garden, he will often shrug and smile. He doesn’t have them!

It all goes back to the soil. Well, doesn’t everything. Literally.

If you are into veggie gardening and willing to expand your mind (and understanding of soil) exponentially, I would heartily encourage you to take one of Calvin’s Saturday classes. He’s offering several of the one-day courses this Spring. (See http://harmonygardens.blogspot.com/ for info and signup.) You’ll learn enough in one class to keep you exploring for the next several years, or lifetimes. Plus, best of all, you get to see Calvin’s lovely garden and smart home. But you’ll see the real treasure when you push back a little mulch and take a look at that soil. (Guests are asked to refrain from the temptation of bringing shovels and buckets!) :-)

Click the player below to listen to a 23 minute interview with Calvin, or download to listen at your convenience. (10mb mp3 file)

Thanks for stopping by Larrapin! Let me know what you think of the new audio feature!

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Suet wildly popular at Larrapin

Posted on Jun 6, 2009

Suet wildly popular at Larrapin

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This photo is from a couple of weeks ago now, so now I can’t tell if this is one of the downy woodpeckers or one of the hairy woodpeckers that frequent the suet feeder. The downy is about half the size of the hairy. The hairy, true to the name, has small but dramatic white whiskers on either side of his beak, which is at least twice as long proportionally as the downy’s.

The suet is also a favorite of the red-bellied woodpeckers, nuthatches, and even the summer tanagers. The jays visit (only) occasionally (thank goodness). Even chickadees and carolina wrens will take a snack now and then. Most years we make our own suet blocks using lard, cornmeal, peanut butter, oatmeal and various yummy treats but this year we’ve gotten lazy and have bought blocks.

After the January 2009 ice storm, a local birder said on the radio that it might create some hard years for woodpeckers, because pretty much every stick of rotten or weakened wood — the very places woodpeckers find the grubs and bugs they eat —  was now gone. Mother Nature can be a ferocious pruner of trees, as we learned very well in that experience.  So we’ve been extra attentive to keep the suet feeder going longer in the year than we usually do. We many just continue year round now that they are spoiled. (You can buy or make suet that won’t melt in the heat. We have so many diners, it gets eaten in no time…but if you don’t have as many, watch out for mold and discard right away.)

Just the other day we watched at the kitchen window as a mother hairy woodpecker was joined at the suet by her youngster, who was very loud and demanding. Mom ate a few bites, then would stuff his gullet with suet a few times, then go back to eating.  She had passed on the location of the best diner in town, the way we share directions around here for the best barbeque places!

Thanks for stopping by Larrapin. Please leave a quick comment  so I’ll know you visited!

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