Category: garden

queen bees!

This is the time of year when the young queen bumble bees leave hibernation to stock up on food and then establish a new nest. Here are some photos of the queens I’ve seen on the farm… most of them are yellow-faced bumble bees (Bombus vosnesenskii) which are very camera friendly. The last photo is a different, unidentified species who usually fly away very quickly!

This post also highlights the need to have early forage available! Crocus and pieris japonica attracted the most I’ve seen this year. Daffodil, sweet box, red-flowering currant, and my plum trees have also had some visitors.

 

Not as pretty, since she’s not in a flower… but it’s the only photo I have been able to get of a different species. These queens are camera-shy.

 

 

composting with live worms!

The first time I heard about composting with worms… I wasn’t interested. At all. But things change!

One of the reasons my mind changed, is that I read a great book about worms. It’s called the Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms.

The author has such a sweet way of engaging with worms, she really seems to love them, and her fascination rubbed off on me. The book is chock full of amazing worm stories.

Plus, worm castings are amazing fertilizer.

So, I got to researching and ended up installing a worm bin!

Happy little worm bin

I learned the most useful information from this video that explains how to do it in detail.

One tricky part was finding an appropriate place to keep them. They are not cold-hardy and they can also die from heat in the summer. Basically, they need to be in the house. Worms… in the house…?! I ended up finding a spot in the enclosed back porch. It’s part of the house, but feels a bit removed. They’ll be safely tucked away from temperature extremes and it’ll be easy to get them kitchen scraps.

If you are wondering what red wrigglers can eat… here’s a helpful graphic.

After researching options, I ordered my worms from a company called Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. Here’s the bag I received in the mail… and the worms before I covered them with wet newspaper in the bin. Very excited to see how these little creatures grow and change!

mole hills to bee buffets!

Do you have lots of mole hills in your lawn? Don’t despair! They could be the perfect way to introduce bee-friendly flowers.

Lawns that are a mixture of grass and flowering plants that are short enough to be mow-able are a great way to contribute to pollinator forage. There are commercial mixes available, such as this (untreated, bee-safe) version from American Meadows.

I just purchased one pound of organic white clover and walked my entire property, seeding every mole hill I encountered. Over time I’ll probably add other flowers too. I’ll post an update once they get growing!

permaculture

One of the reasons we’re really excited to have all the space on the farm is so we can practice permaculture techniques. Permaculture is defined in many ways by different people, but generally it is the development of agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient. (According to google’s dictionary.)

Here’s one of our recent projects, covering grass with cardboard and compost. This is a gentle way to convert grass into perennial beds without the use of herbicide.

We also grew our veggies in a hugelkulture bed this year, which is another permaculture practice. Basically, you bury wood under a pile of soil and plant into. The idea is that the wood will hold water and break down over time, giving nutrients to the soil. Our plants loved it!

If you’d like to learn more, check out some of my all time favorite permaculture books.

Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening

Solviva: How to grow $500,000 on one acre, and Peace on Earth

The Bio-Integrated Farm: A Revolutionary Permaculture-Based System Using Greenhouses, Ponds, Compost Piles, Aquaponics, Chickens, and More

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition

butterfly exhibits

I post about bees more often since they are my personal area of highest interest, but butterflies are of course quite important pollinators too. We seek to conserve them as well and many join the bees in drinking nectar from the plants on our farm.

I recently took a road trip and had the great fortune to visit three different butterfly exhibits.

These gardens and exhibits were quite inspirational! It helped me zero in on how we might be able to help local butterflies as our project takes shape.

Humbolt Botanical Garden butterfly house

They just started their butterfly project this year by catching butterflies in the garden and bringing them into a section of the greenhouse. (Although they also ordered Monarch eggs.)

Above you can see a Red Admiral on a Mexican Sunflower.

They had host plants available as well, with a lot of caterpillars! This is a Monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed.

Hallberg Butterfly Garden, Sebastapol, California

The oldest butterfly garden in the US! They are going through some changes now, since the woman who started it just recently passed away. Certainly worth a visit. Make sure to contact them ahead of time for a tour.

Here are caterpillars from the Pipevine Swallowtail.

And a chrysalis from the same species.

Here’s a caterpillar from a giant Polyphemus Moth.

Last, but not least we went to the California Academy of Sciences. Their project is a bit different, as they actually import exotic chrysalis’ from South America.

For more information about that, check out this sign.

This is a shot of their case of chrysalis’.

And some of the butterflies…

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chickens on the move!

Our chickens are no longer urban! We moved the four beauties out to be with us on our farm in Yachats. It was quite a process!

This was their coop and run in the backyard of our Portland house when it was newly built. (It’s got a huge jasmine plant overwhelming it now.) I bought the coop, then we built the run behind it.

Cute and functional! We didn’t want to move it because we may come back to Portland someday. Also, there’s a foot and a half of hardware cloth buried in the ground all along the perimeter, so that would be a mess to try to undo.

We have learned a few things since then and realized we wanted to buy a coop this time that we could stand up in from day one. I found a great option from some nice folks on Craigslist. We had to rent a U-haul trailer to get it our to the farm, but it was worth it!

We had a few weeks before the chickens were going to be moved to get it set up. We tried it out in a few places in the garden, but finally settled on a spot where they are shaded by the black walnut tree part of the day in the summer.) We installed it with one and a half feet of hardware cloth underground to help keep them safe from predators at night.

It’s a beautiful spot with a view of the pond and barn! (Which means we can also see them when we are in the barn.)

Last step, was to bring the chickens! They had a long ride, but seemed perfectly settled when we opened the box.

Seems like they love it!

(You can also see the chicken tractor behind the coop. We got that from a friend for putting them out in the field on occasion.)

But mostly I think they love how much protected space there is in our farm garden to free range!

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OSU Master Gardener badge

I’ve been part of the OSU Master Gardener program for well over a year. I really enjoy the wide variety of volunteer opportunities it connects me with.

Just today I received my official badge in the mail! This means that I’m no longer an intern, but have become a veteran. This represents 64 hours of class time, quite a bit of studying, and 57+ hours of community service.

I will volunteer 20+ hours a year and participate in 10 hours of classes a year to maintain my veteran status.

Don’t be shy to ask me about the program if you are interested! I recommend it!

pollinator garden

We put a small pollinator garden in at Blossomwood Farmstead this weekend!

Here’s the hill before, with our chosen perennials placed where we wanted to plant them. We wanted things that would be relatively self-sufficient and not need a lot of watering once established. We planted penstemon, pincushion flower, red hot poker, yarrow, breadseed poppy, cosmos, valerian, and lavender. There was already ceanothus, a yellow red hot poker, and rose cambion.

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Getting all the grass and weeds out was the most labor intensive part. It looked like a bit of a mess during the process.

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Here it is with all the sod gone, ready to be planted, before the mulch.

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Here it is all finished!

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It looks a bit sparse now, but there is room for everything to grow and fill in. Can’t wait to see it in a couple years. We have already seen quite a number of bumble bees, humming birds, two butterfly species, and some small native bees as well. It’s amazing how fast they all find new flowers.

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.

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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!