Category: Blossomwood

bumble bee houses

There are lots of bumble bee queens looking around for a place to call home right now. Why not try to create a home they may like? I’ve read that, statistically, for people who study this sort of thing bumble bees only use about 30% of the homes humans try to make. Well, then I better make more than one!

I learned some tips from this video by David Goulsom, founder of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.

In nature, bumble bees often build nests in abandoned mammal holes. To approximate the insulation scientists say they like, I used dryer lint. (I haven’t bought any new clothes lately, so hopefully my lint isn’t toxic. I also wear natural clothes and organic when possible, but that’s surely something to think about. Don’t use your dryer lint if you use fabric softener!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did three different designs in a sunny spot (the featured image above.) One is ground level, two are dug down into the ground. I also built one in to a shaded hillside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know yet if the queens will choose to live in these spots, but I thought I’d share how to do it in case you’d like to build your own.

Now is the time!

This queen spent quite a bit of time drinking from the flower I placed by the front door, retreating into the house , and then coming back to drink more! I hope she makes it her new nest — time will tell.

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!

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

leafcutter bees!

We received our shipment of leafcutter bees today!

Leafcutter bees are solitary bees and great pollinators. Want to know more? Check out this page.

I bought these from Crownbees.com.

When I first opened the package, I saw the pheromone that is used to entice the bees to stay nearby. I set up the house and sprayed it on the nest tubes.

Next… the bag of cocoons, some of which had already hatched out!

I opened the bag and installed it above the nesting material. One little girl came out to say hi.

Here’s the view of the bee house, right on the edge of our garden — facing South to catch as many sun rays as possible.

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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June blooms!

What is blooming for pollinators at Blossomwood Farmstead in June? Here’s a huge list, though I may have missed some!

Bird’s foot trefoil. Lotus corniculatus. Origin: Eurasia and Northern Africa. Often used in wildflower seed packets. Invasive weed in North America. Bumbles love it!

Borage. Borago officinalis. Origin: Europe. Edible herb. I’ve heard that it releases new nectar every 45 minutes!

Blackberry. Rubus. If I remember correctly, this is our native, crawling blackberry plant. We also have invasive Armenian Blackberry. The bees love both!

Climbing rose. Rosa multiflora. Orgin: Asia. Planted in the US originally for soil conservation, it is now considered invasive. Although I am not happy it is climbing our trees, the bees absolutely adore it!

Clover. Trifolium sp. Naturalized, originally from Eurasia. Usually classified as a weed when it occurs in grass, bees love clover! (There’s a bumble right in the center of this image below.)

Dandelion. Taraxacum. Actually, this is a false dandelion, (Hypochaeris radicata) but we have both blooming in June! Origin: Europe. Naturalized. Commonly regarded as weeds, loved by bees.

Daphne. Daphne. Depending on species, native to Europe, Asia, or North Africa. Very fragrant!

Foxglove. Digitalis. European origin, but naturalized here very thoroughly. I’ve seen bumblebees visit foxglove, but not super often on our Farmstead.

Lavendar. Lavandula. Origin: Europe.

Red hot poker. Kniphofia. Origin: Africa. Favored by bees and humming birds.

Thimbleberry. Rubus parviflorus. Native! Delicious wild raspberries later in the season.

Queen Anne’s Lace. Also known as wild carrot. Daucus carota. Origin: Eurasia. Naturalized in the US.

Rose. Rosa. (We have a few different varities.) According to Wikipedia, “Most species are native to Asia, with smaller numbers native to Europe, North America, and northwestern Africa.” Many cultivars are not visited by pollinators a great deal compared to other great bee plants, but sometimes they are for sure.

Penstemon. Penstemon. Native to North America and Eurasia. Favored by humming birds.

Sage. Salvia officinalis. European. Kitchen herb and favorite of pollinators.

Snowbell. Styrax japonicus. Japanese origin. Loaded with pollinators and very fragrant!

Wild lilac. Ceanothus. Native! One of my favorites, and the bees too!

Yarrow. Achillea millefolium. Origin: Eurasia. The first photo is a cultivar, the second is a naturalized common yarrow with white blooms. I see flies on these more than bees — flies are pollinators too!

Yellow flag iris. Iris pseudacorus. Origin: Eurasia. Considered invasive. Pollinated by bumble bees and long-tongued flies. (I haven’t ever personally witnessed a visit by a bumble bee, but there are ants below.)

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farmhouse project update

The old farmhouse is getting fixed up! The project is about 2/3rd done. Take a look at the progress!

The featured image above shows the new polycarbonate on the porch and roof on the house.

The inside is still quite under construction, but still exciting to see all the new light coming in bigger windows, new skylights, and french doors!

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And we can now see the trees through the carport roof!

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no more cedar shakes!

Out at Blossomwood Farmstead we are having a big renovation project done. First step — goodbye to the cedar shake roof. We would have been happy to keep it… but check out the photos of its condition. It was practically a living roof, and not the intentional kind!

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Another issue with the house was how dark the front porch and carport were. Shade is lovely in the summer for the rare days when it is really hot, but near the coast over 90% of the time sunlight is much more welcome. In addition, our inspection report had mentioned that the roof on the carport should be replaced because the angle was too shallow for cedar shake. We will have it replaced with polycarbonate. Here’s the before.

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These support beams under the porch roof (painted white here) were originally forest green, so it was even darker than the photo below shows.

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Here’s the progress… roof removed and tar paper up in preparation for a new metal roof. I can’t even tell you how lovely it is to have so much light on the porch!

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And here is the car port with most of the roof removed. So nice to see the trees from under there!

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Keep an eye out for more updates as the project progresses! Next phases: polycarbonate, skylights, new windows, and metal roof!

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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.