Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweet little friends

With all the drama going on around food production, bees, wheat, and rice, right now, I am feeling a heaviness around my garden this year. It isn't just a hobby anymore. It may very well be a matter of survival. Now, don't get me wrong, I am still having fun with it. But I am also looking at it in a new light as I plant seeds. Will we eat all of these? Will we need more of this? What will happen if I can't get this from the store if I run out? How close in rotation do you have to plant cilantro, and lettuce, and herbs to never have to buy them? Most of these issues will never come to pass I am sure... but some of them might, and being a mama, and the protector of my family, I have things like this run through my mind at 500 miles per hour all the time.


It was a blessing today to step out of that and go check on my garden this morning, with this noisy, but friendly feathered friend tailing me and watching my every move:


The dew was still on the flower blossoms,


the wet heavy in the air.


Oh, but there was promise. Here are my spinach seedlings:

And my first two sunflowers, who are sure to bring enough bees to give me a decent bounty.


Plants that are bee friendly are planted throughout the garden. Borage and callendula, sunflowers, and violets. All for the bees. Blessings, my little buzzing friends. May you have a wonderfully healthy season this year.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Silence of the Bees

Below are two emails I got today about declining bee populations all over the United States. This isn't a small phenomenon... this is huge. This could easily raise our food prices to astronomical levels, and the even people with organic home gardens could be effected. The world can not stand the level at which we are pouring chemicals into her earth any longer. The stand is clear... either we change, or our whole world will do it for us.



"Major disaster" for bees may jeopardize Washington state's crops

DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Yakima beekeeper Eric Olson holds a hive loaded with bees in Long Beach, Pacific County. A new pathogen is devastating the hives of some Washington beekeepers.\

Q&A What's the buzz?
Do you have questions about how the collapse of bee colonies could affect the state's food supply, or your garden, this year? We'll be asking the experts. Bees are in trouble, and in Washington, that could mean agriculture is, too.

Last year, many Washington beekeepers were relieved that they avoided a mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder that silenced hives all over the country. But this year, some beekeepers are reporting a devastating new pathogen — with no reliable cure — is killing their bees in droves. Some beekeepers are helping to pay for a crash research program at Washington State University to figure out what is going on. "It's a major disaster in Western Washington. We are into a huge emergency situation," said Yakima beekeeper Eric Olson, who runs the state's largest commercial pollination business. While his hives in Central and Eastern Washington have survived, Olson said he has lost 80 percent of his Western Washington hives — more than 4,000 in all — to the new pathogen. Other commercial pollinators with bees in Western Washington were just as hard hit. "I'm scared, and I don't mind saying so," Olson said. For the researchers at WSU, "it's a huge concern," said Kim Patten, a WSU Extension specialist in Long Beach, Pacific County.

"We are just sort of at that tipping point," he said. "It wouldn't take much for the supply and demand for [bee] colonies to wreak havoc with agriculture in the Northwest." Eight of Washington's 10 most valuable crops per acre in 2006 — including apples, the state's top crop, worth $1.4 billion — depend on bees for pollination. In all, at least $1.8 billion worth of crops in Washington are nothing without bees. Nationally, a third of the food supply depends on bees for pollination, from melons to cranberries to carrot seed, according to the National Research Council. Native pollinators, from wasps to bumblebees, are not present in the numbers needed for industrial agriculture — and those pollinators are also in decline. Most troubling is the mystery that continues to surround the Colony Collapse Disorder. "No one really has their pulse on that to say, 'Here is the problem and here is what we have to do about it,' " Patten said.

Beekeepers began reporting mysterious and unusually high losses in 2006. Colony Collapse Disorder is only one of the latest problems to plague bees, from bloodsucking mites to diseases and pesticide kills, and an ever-decreasing supply of nectar as highway medians are mowed, fields are paved and town ordinances banish bee hives. Over the past 60 years, the number of bee colonies nationally has fallen from 5.9 million in 1947 to 2.4 million in 2005, according to the National Research Council. And Washington beekeepers are starting to be stung by losses, too.

A sample of Olson's bees turned up a new pathogen, nosema ceranae, that causes a more aggressive and more persistent disease. The fungus attacks the bee's gut, making it impossible to process food. The bees finally starve to death. "People are losing bees right and left, and this new nosema is the prime suspect. All indications are that this is a tremendous problem," said Walter Sheppard, entomologist at Washington State University. "We are all pretty worried ... this is a new thing for us and we don't know what will happen," said Robert Breshears in Wapato, another commercial beekeeper. "I imagine I've got it too, and probably everybody does." Breshears said he lost about 35 percent of his colonies this winter and he has no idea what to expect next year. "It's definitely scary," he said. "You look at them one week, and go back the next week and the box is empty, and it's happened to a lot of people." Jerry Tate, president of the Washington State Beekeepers Association, pegs overall statewide losses at 35 to 50 percent. But he confirmed losses in Western Washington among commercial pollinators were 80 percent and higher. "In the old days, if we lost five to 10 percent, we were whining and crying," he said. "Now, with 30 percent losses, we think we've had a good year."

Lynda V. Mapes

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Snow and Pox

It has been dumping snow all morning. We have about an inch now, and still falling. On April 19th. How completely odd. However, it is my dad's birthday today and he told me that when I was about 5 or so, we had a snow like this on his birthday. We even went out and made snowmen it was so deep. I have pictures. It is odd... but not unheard of for 20 years ago. Is it strange that that makes me feel better?

Pox are going well. About half are dried up now. I was right, yesterday was the worst. He slept badly the night before, and was just a crank all day long. Today, he woke up, nursed, rolled himself out of bed, and was into stuff before I could find my bathrobe. So he is feeling better. He has been running around 'chatting' with everything. His little squeaks make me happy today. It means he doesn't hurt.

Beautiful isn't it?


I took a picture of this flower an hour later:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Oh beautiful....

Wow. I wish Viva Terra wasn't so expensive! They have beautiful things... just beautiful!

I found another site much like it as well: Lekker

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Got the pox

Logan has chicken pox. Poor sweet baby. So far he is doing ok and it hasn't really affected his moods much at all. But I am waiting for tomorrow... the third day is supposed to be the worst.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Farewell, My Subaru

This book was much needed in my life right now. A mix of wonderful writing, humor, and information that I found completely delightful. I read it in three days (and you all know I am a busy woman) and enjoyed 95% of it. The rest, I didn't understand... lol. His quips and comparisons (like naming his local coyote "Dick Cheney") were a highlight for sure. But the trials he went through were also very informative. I learned things I had never understood before. Including information about converting a huge diesel truck (he calls the ROAT or Ridiculously Oversized American Truck) to biofuel, the oily dog situations that ensue on one's property, and the complications that can arise from your ROAT always smelling like KFC, to the intricate measures one has to take to feed livestock newly bought during a devastating flood, his life on Funky Butte Ranch was enlightening, and highly entertaining.

Chapter Eleven "Modern Snake Charming" was particularly entertaining. If I say much more, I could ruin it... but if you know any New Mexican metaphysical types... you will laugh until you pee your pants.

It was a nice break to the doomsday thinking that sometimes engulfs people who have been studying sustainable living and climate change a bit too much. Like the author, Doug Fine, I believe that we are going to make it as a race. And I sure as hell would rather try than give up. So bring on the information about 'goat pimping', garden fence reinforcement that rivals most jails, rattle snake farming, and oily dogs. I am ready for this type of informative optimism.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Looking Up

Our first really glorious sunny day started out with moving a yard of much needed soil over the top of my new raised beds. The kids occupied themselves. Then Alex made us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and we ate them outside. After that, the little kids took a nap and I did a bunch of work in the yard. Alex went to a friends house, and when she woke up, Cyan invited two friends over... whom soon were completely wet in the hose and pool (that was drug out just for the occasion).

When the sun started to cool off Cyan ended up over at their house watching "Enchanted". While the big kids were gone, Logan and I laid on a blanket in the back yard and watched planes go by.


Can you see them? The left one is a plane and the right one is the moon...

The moon was beautiful... and as the planes went by, Logan would point his little finger up and yell "mama-mama -ma!"

It was the nicest moment I have had in a really long time. Just laying on the dry grass, looking up with my baby.

The same baby that is now begging me to put him in bed... so I must retire... but wow.

What a beautiful day.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Backyard visitor

This little one hasn't been the only backyard visitor this week. We have had two Stellar Jays, Robins, a TON of chickadees, a few Bushtits (not nearly as many as a month ago however), a few Juncos, and some birds I can't identify that are brown grey, with stripes on their heads.

It is neat to see the Blue Jays come back with the Robins.

About 6 years ago, my family cat Julian (who passed last summer at the ripe old age of 18) was the unfortunate cat who lived under the hedge of a couple of nesting Blue Jays. They would squawk and dive at his head endlessly until he would go back into the house. It wasn't just a one way affair though. If they let up on their air raid drills, he would stalk their tree, and they would skillfully hop from branch to branch, just ahead of him, until the old cat would give up the chase and go find some quiet place to sleep. Then, you would see him, trying to sleep on a backyard lounge chair, the Jays sitting above him in a tree, watching, and taking turns to dive bomb the cat, until he left the area entirely. It really was quite comical for on-lookers. Especially those who knew the playful (and mischievous) nature of this particular cat. He was loud (Siamese mix), and loved to play up until his much older years... he would let the kids drag him around for hours. It didn't matter... as long as he was the center of attention, he was happy.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Twigs

Last week, on a spur of the moment homeschool science experiment, Cyan and I went around the neighborhood and collected twigs so we could force them indoors. They have been sitting on our table since, and a strange and dramatic change has happened. Many of the branches that were just nubs have leafed out into beautiful greenery, and most of the flowers died! Isn't that odd? We were sure that we would get flowers before leaves, but apparently our house is too warm for flowers to live for long. I found that terribly interesting.

The leaves sure are beautiful though.

The one set of flowers that survived were the apple blossoms. I love the white fruitfulness of them. These are from the tree next door. The apples have worm issues, and are barely eatable... but they sure are pretty!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

THE SKY!


Oh glory! Look at the sky. What a beautiful day! I couldn't nap. I had to be outside. I spent my time tidying up the gardens, putting in things that had been waiting, and cleaning out the pathways. I raked up what the chickens had been tossing everywhere, and laid for a little while facing up in the sun, eating the last of the season's California oranges.

What a beautiful day!

We have birds!


All morning long a little female chickadee has been building her nest in our nesting box. She pops out of the box, goes about 10 ft away, drops to the ground, grabs some twigs, string, or other perfect nesting material, and pops back into the box. It has been SO cute watching her, and so exciting thinking that we may have baby birds in our nesting box this year!

Logan noticed the busy little thing and went outside to investigate. Toddlers are not known for their subtlety... so she noticed him too.

I had to move him from RIGHT under the bird house, as he squeaked and talked to the bird that was sitting, with her latest nesting load, in the tree above the birdhouse. I hope she comes back!

Some people have noticed the new music selections. I have always loved guitar soloists, and my older brother turned me on to Andy Mckee last weekend. I am in love. So that is one of the new artists. The other is Tommy Emmanuel. He is really amazing. Apparently, he is completely different in person than in the studio. lol... he is quite a character. But both are stunning artists and I was glad for the calm but up beat change of pace. I hope you enjoy as well.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Teaming with Life

There is life in my yard.

Flowers are popping up and starting to show tiny bits of color. Branches are near to bursting with buds from flowers or leaves.

The current bush has it's beautiful leaves on it again... I wish they looked as nice in pictures as they do in life. The leaves are just beautiful! Even if I didn't use them as food, I would have these plants in my yard just for the leaves. Mint is EVERYWHERE. My mint has filled in every spare spot in the herb bed, and is kind of falling into the lawn. Lemon balm is doing the same.

My sorrel and rhubarb are taking a beating from the chickens, their spring effort thwarted by holes in all their leaves. The sorrel looks to be defeated... the rhubarb is working over time to fill in the gaps. Perhaps it will win.

Birds are everywhere. We now have three bird feeders, and one bird house. All occupied most of the time now. The bird house has been "checked out" by a couple different varieties of birds for a home. The male always comes first. Bobbing his head in and out, going in, coming out, calling loudly from the roof, standing there, watching for signs of predators. Then, after about 10 minutes of this, the female comes. She sits on the fence, and watches his faithful appraisal with interest. "Is it ok?" she asks "Is it safe?" No one has claimed it as of yesterday. There were two different kinds checking it out in the afternoon. A chestnut backed Chickadee, and then a tiny grey Bushtit. We are ready to put out nesting supplies, and perhaps a bird bath. We would love for them all to come and live here... but our neighbors have lots of cats. So understand their hesitation.

But we are ready. Ready for spring.
Right this second, Cyan and Logan are outside in the sun. I am about to join them.

Cyan's only school assignment today is to draw something living that she can see. She and her sketchbook have been having a wonderful time.

Logan has been having an equally wonderful time his first time outside with out the encumbrance of rain boots, a rain coat, and sweatshirt. Notice he is about to step right on my tulips. Yes, I stopped taking pictures and moved him... but that beautiful big one right in front of him got underfoot... I hope it still blooms.

How can something so amazingly lovely in June, be so darned ugly in April?