Sting Me Once, Shame On Me…

Sting me repeatedly, shame on you!  Especially if we’ve been kind enough to try to avoid the ground nest you’ve created in the middle of our garden.  For more than a year. 

This is a PSA – a public safety announcement. 

I know that bees are the most magnificent pollinators.  I know that bees are having a very difficult time due to CCD.  I know that honey bees are not aggressive.  But I’m here to warn you about the Common Eastern Bumblebee.

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This Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens, was found by our shed after a freezing rain in late March. We kept it for my daughter’s 4-H entomology project, but it is a good example of the size and coloration of these aggressive bees.

The Eastern Bumblebee creates it’s colony in a hole in the ground.  They tend to prefer areas with mowed grass, open ground & bare earth.  We have all of these conditions in our garden area.  They consume pollen & nectar & so will take advantage of areas with flowering plants. This means they are great pollinators.

However, they are also quite aggressive when they feel their territory is being invaded & multiple bees will attack the invader(s) with painful, repeated stings.  Unlike honey bees, the Eastern Bumblebee’s venomous stinger is not barbed, so they can sting over and over again.  They will attack people and pets within a large radius of their nest. 

We spent all of last summer being attacked when ever we tried to tend the garden or mow in the vicinity.  On more than one occasion they chased us into the house, more than 200 feet from their nest, after walking in the yard 50+ feet from the hole.

I am posting this information because I am very frustrated with all the entomology/insect/gardening related websites claiming that these are docile insects & insisting that people are misidentifying the creatures that are terrorizing them in their own yards and gardens.  These are bumblebees, they live in the ground, they can sting multiple times and they are aggressive if you happen to live in the area near their selected nest site.

I have felt completely helpless, trying to find a way to encourage these bees to remain calm, or find a new home & today, after numerous flybys while watering the animals near the house, I decided that I am willing to resort to chemical means.

So I went online once more, trying to find advice on how to permanently get rid of the little bastards & found one last ditch possibility…  Please let it work, because I DO NOT want to poison them.  I just want them to move off far enough that they will feel safe & not feel the need to attack us.

The plan is to flood them out.  We tried this in the past, but apparently not for a long enough time.  It can take almost a week of repeated flooding of the nest for them to decide to move on to greener, or at least drier, pastures.  I haven’t seen them at a particular hole yet, but I am flooding last year’s nest area & will continue to do so for the next 5-7 days.  In the case of those with an active nest, please wait until evening & run your hose at night to avoid being attacked by active bees.

Here is a link to the forum where I found the detailed idea: 

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/organic/msg071022556900.html

Take note of all the people insisting to the original poster that she must be confused about what sort of insect she is dealing with, and that bumblebees are not aggressive.  The truth is, if you encounter an Eastern Bumblebee on a flower somewhere far from it’s nest, it probably wouldn’t be aggressive unless provoked.  But they are VERY territorial and they are eager to attack if you have the misfortune of stumbling into the area around a nest.

And that concludes my Public Safety Announcement.  Wish me luck and say a little prayer that the bees move on so I don’t have to resort to something loathsome.

A Very Productive Weekend!

This weekend we pulled out all the fence posts from one fence row and built a new fence to expand the pasture for the sheep. That took all of Saturday and part of Sunday.

Here's the new fence and the happy sheep.

Here’s the new fence and the happy sheep.

Next I dug up four grape vines that were succumbing to overspray every spring from the field to our South. I moved them to our new “vineyard”, where they will hopefully be safe, along with the 6 new vines I planted. The varieties are Mars, Himrod, & Canadice.

Ten little grape vines, all in a row.

Ten little grape vines, all in a row.

Next I turned up the soil for our new raspberry patch. This will be just North of the Silkie chicken pen. They are Heritage variety red raspberries & the patch is a arch shape, at the center of which I hope to put a fountain someday.

All cozy in her new home!

All cozy in her new home!

Then I was plum worn out & decided to just wander around and enjoy the sights…

The asparagus is coming up nicely.

The asparagus is coming up nicely.

The kitchen salad garden is off to a very nice start.

The kitchen salad garden is off to a very nice start.

The ducklings are enjoying the sunshine on this beautiful day.

The ducklings are enjoying the sunshine on this beautiful day.

And now it's time for everyone to have a nap.

And now it’s time for everyone to have a nap.

Are You Serious?

That is… Are you serious about preserving rare and heirloom varieties of vegetables?

I am looking for two people who are SERIOUS about helping to keep an old open pollinated flint corn variety called Longfellow Flint alive.  This is corn grown for cornmeal.  It was historically grown in the New England states and I have not been able to find any seed this year besides what I had left over from last year.

I did a germination test and only had a 60% success rate. SO I packaged the remaining seed into 2 packets of 50 seeds each.  If there is someone out there who loves growing heritage varieties and preventing their extinction, then you’re the person I’m looking for.  If you live in the U.S. and are interested Contact me

I will select 2 names on Friday & send off the Longfellow Flint corn seed free of charge.

Thank you.

And the Garden Waits…

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Not too much wind, about 60 degrees, sun shining. So when my husband returned from turkey hunting, we went out into the garden to get the raised beds prepared for planting. We inspected the blackberry canes for breaks, checked over the grape vines to prune dead spots, and discussed methods to protect our elderberry bushes from overspray when they spray the fields around our place.

Today the high will be about 45 degrees. It’s overcast and the wind is high. Guess we’ll be focused on indoor activities in our garden preparations. I think we’ll be transplanting tomatoes and peppers then starting more seeds.

Meanwhile the garden waits, patient as ever, for the warm promises of green summer days.

Sweet corn growing in the raised beds 2010

Corn growing in raised gardens on the first day of summer, 2010

Love, Love, Love

I just had a moment this morning and I wanted to tell you all how much I LOVE these two Missouri based companies. If you haven’t yet, you should check them out…

2010 Tomato plants, just blooming, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

2010 Tomato plants, just blooming, from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds http://www.rareseeds.com
These folks have an AMAZING selection of open pollinated and heirloom seeds. They ship fast & seeds are packaged safely. We have had great germination rates with their seeds & will continue to order from them.

Royal Palm turkeys from Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon Mo.

Royal Palm turkeys from Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon Mo.

Cackle Hatchery: http://www.cacklehatchery.com
So many wonderful heritage breeds of poultry & customer service that just can’t be beat. Heat packs with early chick orders & absolutely reliable shipping dates. Plus they have stunning peafowl, pheasant & duck varieties – even adult pairs!

Free Seeds – Extras from my 2011 & 2010 Baker Creek Order.

If you are serious about gardening, or serious about propagating heirloom & open pollinated vegetable varieties, or all three, then this post is for YOU.

Over the last few years I focused on purchasing open pollinated seed for our gardens, primarily ordering from Baker Creek in Missouri (with a few seeds from Seed Savers & Johnny’s & potatoes & onions from Fed Co.).  The seeds I am currently offering to give away are all from Baker Creek.  I’ve been very VERY pleased with their seeds & service & I do want to make sure that if you plan on buying other seeds you’ll seriously consider visiting their site at http://rareseeds.com

Each year I tend to order more seeds than I need & this year is no exception.  So I would like to pass on those seeds we can not use.  If you are interested in receiving free seed please send me your name and your top 3-4 preferences from the list below.  On Friday (3/25) we will have a random drawing and winners will be contacted via email, each winner will receive two different varieties of seed from the list below.

(*= Currently sold out at Baker Creek **= A Seed Savers Exchange seed variety)

Here’s the list of seed:

Striped Roman Tomato, 25 seeds: Originally packaged for 2010, 80% germination in our test 3/21/11.

Fox Cherry Tomato*, 35 seeds: Originally packaged for 2010, 100% germination in our test 3/21/11.

Snowberry Tomato*, 30 seeds:  Originally packaged for 2010, 85% germination in our test 3/21/11.

Sungold Select II*, 55 seeds:  Originally packaged for 2010, 65% germination in our test 3/21/11.

Black Cherry Tomato*, 30 seeds:  Originally packaged for 2010, 100% germination in our test 3/21/11.

Royal Golden Watermelon*, 10 seeds:  Originally packaged for 2010, 100% germination in our test 3/21/11.

True Gold Sweet Corn*, 30 seeds:  Originally packaged for 2010, 70% germination in our test 3/21/11.

May Queen Lettuce, full packet:  Originally packaged for 2010, No germination test.

Connecticut Field Pumpkin, 7 seeds:  New seed packed for 2011, no germination test.

Mama Leone Tomato, 15 seeds:  New seed packed for 2011, no germination test.

Sugar Baby Watermelon, 15 seeds:  New seed packed for 2011, no germination test.

Traveler Jalapeño**, 25 seeds:  New seed packed for 2011, no germination test. (SSE seed)

Red Romaine Lettuce, full packet:  New seed packed for 2011, no germination test.

Royal Purple Pod Bean (a variety of green bean) 20 seeds: New seed packed for 2011, no germination test.

Good Luck & Happy Growing!

(*= Currently sold out at Baker Creek **= A Seed Savers Exchange seed variety)

Spring is Coming – Watch the Sales!

You are surely just as busy as we have been around here.  The more frequent warm days bring an eager urgency to the chores, make hay while the sun shines takes on a whole new meaning.  These  days are filled with seed trays, brooder lamps, and special deliveries.  Each day brings a new and marvelous sign of the mirth of a new growing season.  Lambs, calves and kids are hitting the ground.   Ducklings are growing fast, and the chick orders are going in this week.  We have onion sets, bell and jalapeno peppers sprouting and eggplant and tomato seeds are next in line.

Now, as I mentioned, we are placing our chick order this week.  You might ask yourself why I waited.  Originally I planned to order direct from a hatchery.  However when we visited our local farm store a couple weeks ago I decided to check on their prices and minimum orders.  Turns out I could order the same breeds and in greater numbers and still save money!  The individual prices are anywhere from a few pennies less to twenty cents or more.  Plus, the bulk order placed by the farm store does not require me to pay shipping – another $8.75 saved.

As I chatted more with the cashier I told her I’d be having to place my order the next week and she mentioned that If I waited just a few days longer they would be having a sale on the orders.  This is great – I can order a few extra chicks, of the breeds I want, have them delivered to my post office and save $10+.   It is true that they may be arriving in May instead of early April, but hey, the days will be warmer and that can help reduce the time in the brooder.

Take time to check your local farm store or feed store.  They can give you a good price and they may even be able to help you out if you are looking to buy from local producers.  Take some time to get to know the folks at the counter.

Since I’m on the topic of poultry orders I’ll go ahead and tell you what we’re buying:

Buff Orpington (I want broody hens)

Dark Brahma & Partridge Cochin (son wants some feather footed girls or his rooster)

Ameraucana & Maran (daughter wants colorful eggs)

Meanwhile, my daughter chose to spend some of her birthday money on 5 ducklings – 2 Rouen and 3 Pekin.  They are filling the gap between winter and the arrival of our chicks.  Doing a great job of it I might add!

Thank you to all the folks who entered our February Freebie drawing.  Rosalinde in NM will be receiving a free copy of the book:  Storey’s Guide to Raising Rabbits.  Check back for the next freebie announcement!

The Birthday Girl with her Rouen duckling "Water"

The Birthday Girl with her Rouen duckling "Water"

How Does You Garden Grow….

Seed orders are complete! I have ordered from two companies which specialize in organic and heirloom vegetable varieties.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds- www.rareseeds.com

Fedco Co-Op Garden Supplies- www.fedco.com

Both companies have a great following among folks interested in seed saving, heirloom vegetables, and NOT supporting companies like Monsanto which are establishing monopolies on seeds through gene patents. If you are planning to get elbow deep in developing your own sustainable garden plot these are a couple of great places to start!

This year’s garden will consist of a greater variety of vegetables than I’ve planted before.  I’m eager to try a few of the older varieties of corn, carrots and zucchini.  Last year we let some onion go to seed and saved it to start indoors.  We’ll see how well they do.

Next item on the list will be to gather a batch of eggs to incubate!