Category: environment

Goodwill bee swarm

I took a swarm call today! It was a small one, but they seemed healthy and lively. They had landed on top of a van at Goodwill.


We had a hard time picking them up, until I realized I’d brought a piece of comb.

After that I put the comb in the box.


And then all the bees wanted to join the party. Here’s a shot where they are starting to fan and line up.

FullSizeRender_1We watched them file in for a while, then left the box there until after sunset. It is a really warm day and there was a bright parking light so a handful of bees was still on the top of the van. We slipped a piece of paper under them and shook them in.

Since we did a split recently, we will keep this Queen until we figure out if our bees have made themselves a new one. We may combine them eventually since this swarm is small, but we will see how they do.

They are all home safe in our backyard. It’s always such a rush to catch a swarm!

what do you plant for a bee sanctuary?

I have been so pleasantly surprised every time I dig a hole for a tree on this land. I’ve heard the term “fertile river valley,” before — but never experienced it to this degree! The soil is gorgeous.

Since part of this adventure is a hope to share what we learn, I wanted to post about what we have planting on the farm in our past three months of stewardship. The season is right for planting trees now, so we are trying to get the year’s plantings in now. I’ve also included our wish list for the future.

Pictured above is our peach tree of the Frost variety. In speaking with neighbors we learned that was the best variety for the region. (Some said the only one that would give us peaches.) Fruit trees are generally a great bet for bees. Others we have planted include: crabapple, two plums, and quince. There were already four old apple trees, so I gave those a good pruning.


IMG_2613-1Above is a photo of heather. Two days after we planted it there were 5-7 bumble bees on each of three plants! In the bushy category we have also added three ceanothus plants, lavender, red osier dogwood, Indian plum, daphne, and flowering currant.

Here’s the flowering currant, right by the bridge to welcome visitors.


I also chose that general location for the magnolia, so that at the first of the season we’ll have a burst of colorful blooms right at the entrance.

As far as flowering trees goes, I did a previous post about the Arbor Day Foundation, where you can buy very affordable seedlings. Of course, this is an exercise in patience since it will take years (decades) for them to grow into large trees. We have ordered, Northern Catalpa (2), Sourwood, Red maple (free with order,) Washington Hawthorn, Tulip Poplar, Forsynthia (2 free with order), Little Leaf Linden, Witchhazel, Black Tupelo, Sugar Maple, and Eastern Redbud. These are all spectacular bee forage trees. I encourage you to research them all. Gorgeous trees.

I’ve also ordered some willow. Most willows are great food for bees. I have a pink pussy willow known as Mt. Aso coming, as well as a curly willow and a basketmaking purpuera. The purpuera is also good for creating living willow structures, which I am excited to try out!

Last, but not least, we have some things started in the veggie garden. For the bees we have borage, poppies, and echinacea. For us we’ve put in an asparagus patch, ginger, and tumeric. Much more to come!

One challenging aspect that we are not very familiar with is how wildlife (including quite a large herd of elk!) will impact what we plant. We have caged the trees for their protection. We have a fence around the veggie garden, which we will fortify in time. We might build quite a bit more fencing than we have now… we will have to see how it goes. So far it seems that the elk avoid the areas near the house, but I have heard that can change pretty quickly.

Here’s some of our wish list for the future: (some for bee forage, some for perennial edibles)

More bee trees and bushes (with groves of like-species, but we’re starting with one of each to see how they do.) Japanese snowbell, winter jasmine, serviceberry, lilac, beautyberry, aralia, vitex.

Persimmon, pomegranate, paw paw, pear, hardy kiwi (I am rooting starts right now!) figs, grapes, rhubarb, artichoke, ramps, sea kale, sweet potato, ground nut, good king henry, lovage, french sorrel, plus every herb and medicinal plant we can find (with plans to build a formal herb garden.)

I’m sure more will get added… if you know of a great bee plant or perennial / self seeding non-invasive edible that would do well in Coastal Oregon, please let me know!

We love this land. Thank you for reading about our adventure!

Arbor Day Foundation

Are you looking to do some landscaping? Check out this amazing resource!

The Arbor Day Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to helping people conserve trees. Their mission statement: Founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance in the 19th century, the Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners.

I have a running list of trees that are great for pollinators, all of which I would like to eventually add to Blossomwood Farmstead. The Arbor Day Foundation had quite a few of them available for purchase — for such reasonable prices! Plus, with a $5 membership I was able to get their membership prices (a few dollars off each tree.) They also added a free Red Maple and two free forsynthias.

This is the list of trees I ordered: Northern Catalpa (2), Sourwood, Washington Hawthorne, Tulip Poplar, Little Leaf Linden, Witchhazel, Black Tupelo, Sugar Maple, and Western Redbud. My total? $76.61. I’m a fan!

I also wanted to point out this program they have to get 10 free trees! (With membership purchase of $10.)

Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson

We all hear the same advice: eat your fruits and veggies. However, many people don’t realize is that there is a huge variety in the amount of nutrition you get from your food depending on the specific varietal, storage, and way it is prepared. This book is an amazing resource to learn how to maximize the nutritional value of your produce.

Robinson talks about how to choose produce in the store, how to best store it, and how to prepare it to maximize benefits. It is full of little hints that can make a big difference. Some veggies are better consumed raw, some cooked. In general the more intense color a veggie has, the more benefit it will convey.

The history of where our food comes from is endlessly fascinating. For each type of produce, Robinson talks about what it was like when it was wild and how it was changed by humans. Corn, for example, came from a plant called Teosinte which bears little resemblance to the super sweet varieties many people enjoy today. Part of corn’s history involves mutations caused by nuclear reactions. I encourage you to read the whole story.

As a gardener, I quite appreciate that this book lists specific varieties of different plants and which have the highest nutrient content. If we are going to spend time nurturing and growing food plants, why not choose the ones that will give the most back?

Some of my favorite tidbits include: carrots retain more nutrients if you cook them whole and then cut them up to serve after. Potatoes are better for you if you eat them one day after cooking. Red lettuce has more health benefits than green.

All in all, I wanted to share this with you all because I found it very interesting and helpful. I hope you enjoy too!

Home Orchard Society Fruit Propagation Fair

The Home Orchard Society has an annual Propagation Fair at the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. For just $5 (members) or $7 (general) attendees are treated to an amazing collection of cuttings and scions!

I got there right after 10am and there was a line down the block. Entry went pretty quickly once the doors opened. The event was packed! Everywhere you looked people were crowding in to grab the cuttings they wanted. I saw some people with huge bundle-loads that had to have been a foot wide!

Next time I have to remember to bring labels and a permanent marker. Luckily someone nearby was kind enough to share his.

I gathered a small collection, then set them up to start this afternoon. Here’s to hoping they root!


Some of the things I chose:

three varieties hardy kiwi, including red princess

three male hardy kiwis

grapes: concord, venus, reliance seedless, canadice seedless, Himrod seedless, bronx

cherries: lapin, ostheimer weischel, montmorency, sweetheart

persimmon: jiro, fuyu

plum: italian, mirabelle

fig: desert king, negrone

I’m so very excited to see what happens with these!

Gardening for Pollinators

I teach a class called Gardening for Pollinators. It includes information about honey bees, native bees, butterflies, habitat creation, best plants for forage, and emphasizes organic practices. Please let me know if you would like me to teach it for your organization.

This class relies on a Powerpoint presentation, so we will need to arrange a digital projector.

Please email me at larenleland (at) gmail (dot) com to schedule!


Here are some great resources that I’ve collected to share on the topic.

Great organizations and information:

Portland Urban Beekeepers

OSU Extension Master Gardener Metro Area

USDA Forest Service pollinator site

Pollinator Partnership

Xerces Society fact sheets

OSU Extension 12 Plants to entice pollinators to your garden

Wikipedia: list of plants pollinated by bees

Southern Oregon Beekeepers Basics of Pollination

PDF’s with valuable information (plant lists!) that you can print out or read on your computer:

Oregon State University attracting pollinators guide

OSU pamphlet on butterfly gardens

USDA Forest Service pamphlet on attracting pollinators with native plants

Xerces Society pamphlet on conserving bumble bees

Puget Sound Bees pamphlet on bee friendly plants

Seattle Urban Bee project pamphlet on pollinator plants

Pollination Partnership Pacific Northwest lowland selecting plants for pollinators

Sonoma County Beekeepers plant for bees

OSU pamphlet How to Reduce Bee Poisoning for Pesticides

App for your phone:

Bee Smart

Help track bumble bees:

Bumble Bee Watch project

Free milkweed seeds:

Live Monarch project


Queen of the Sun

Vanishing of the Bees

More than Honey

A few of my favorite books:

A Buzz in the Meadow: The Natural History of a French Farm

A Sting in the Tale: My Adventures with Bumblebees

Victory Gardens for Bees: A DIY Guide to Saving the Bees

100 Plants to Save the Bees: The Best Blooms to Nourish and Sustain Native Bees, Honey Bees, and Other Pollinators

Top Bar Beekeeping

The Hive: A Story of the Honey Bee and Us

Nectar and Pollen Plants of the Pacific Northwest

Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping

Attracting Native Pollinators

Honeybee Democracy

Thank you for your interest in helping pollinators!

Exciting changes!

I’m so excited to tell you about exciting changes in my business!

I bought a Chevy Volt, which has quite a roomy back seat. Even more fabulous, we will now be cruising on electricity! Yay for Earth-friendly comfort! The Volt can run for around 50 miles per charge on electricity. After the first 50 miles it switches to a gas hybrid engine.

I also bought a iPad Air 2 for clients to use when we are on the road. With this, we can stay connected with up to date information as we are house hunting. (This also means less need to print so many sheets of information about all the houses we look at.)

House hunting just hit a new level!




Oregon State Beekeeper Conference 2015

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2015 Oregon State Beekeeper Conference at the Oregon Garden (pictured above) in Silverton, Oregon. The conference included two full days of class presentations and a huge vendor mart, but best of all was a great way to connect with other beekeepers from Oregon and beyond.

During the wine and cheese social on the opening night, Rufus LaLone gave a talk on his project called the Weather Cafe. He is a hobbyist weatherman who approaches meteorology as an art form.

The second and third days were chock full of classes. I will tell you about some highlights below, but please visit this site for a full list of presenters and their courses.

Of all the classes I attended, the one that captured my interest most fully was Pest, Pathogens and Poor Nutrition: Understanding and Mitigating. The presenter, Dr. Ramesh Sagili, is a honey bee researcher for OSU extension. His research on this topic is fascinating. For example, despite hypothesizing that good nutrition would lead to lower nosema spore counts, he found that the spores thrived with good nutrition. However, the better nutrition is still much more beneficial because the well-fed bees still lived longer than those with less nosema and worse nutrition.

I also enjoyed a class called Maximizing Honey Production by Dr. Clint Walker. Even though I am not currently focusing on this particular goal with my own bees, the information he provided was quite useful. He shared data he collected from his geographical area showing the rise and fall in pollen availability throughout the year as compared to the size of the colonies. My biggest take-away from this session was the suggestion to develop and maintain a pollen calendar for your area by watching how much pollen your bees are storing at different times of the year. He recommended Keith Jarret as a great resource for finding out more about pollen supplements for times when you want to feed.

Peter Berthelsen is from an organization called Pheasants Forever, which is not directly related to bees, but made an excellent call to action for everyone who is interested in creating and saving habitat to band together. Emphasizing the current popularity of bees and monarch butterflies, he said the time to move is now. He mentioned a great program designed to incentivize the creation of habitat by landowners. He illustrated how it can actually save a farmer money to convert certain low producing parts of farms to habitat.

George Hansen gave a great presentation on different uses for wax. He included information beyond the common uses of candles and beauty products, also including medicinal possibilities and information about encaustic and installation art.

Additional information gleaned throughout the event included updates as to legislation in our state and country to protect pollinators, lots of resources (some listed below), and the chance to look at bee equipment up close and personal.

I’d recommend this conference to anyone who is interested in learning more about beekeeping!

Resources: — great resource for learning how to make honey wine

Walt Wright — information about swarm prevention

Honeybee Democracy — great book on how honeybees make decisions

Biology of the Honeybee — the “Bible” of bee biology


So many trees!

Do you ever catch yourself referring to a tree with needles generally as a “pine tree?” If so, substitute that with, “evergreen.” Unlike “pine,” which refers to a specific family of trees, “evergreen” is safe to use┬ásince it covers all trees that do not lose their foliage over winter.

For more great tips and info on identifying evergreens in the Northwest, check out this website!