Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Home for the Bees

I have wanted to keep bees for a long time now. You see, my Grandpa Krause was a beekeeper back in Humbolt Co. and it has always fascinated me... BUT! I have taken a solemn vow to hold off on the hives until I graduate from Vet School. Now, while that vow is still safe, I do have a new home for bees in my garden!!! HURRAY!

It's for Mason Bees!  

 I've been hearing for years from Mike McGrath on "You Bet Your Garden," that native pollinators are just as (or more) important to gardens as the non-native honey bee. So, when I recently discovered that these poor guys had been trying to live in the handle of one of my watering cans, and then drowning, I decided to build them a little condo. I also turned the can upside down. Hopefully they'll get the hint. 

I have found this project to be really, really simple and very cheap. 

What I used:

-a drill
-a 5/16 drill bit
-a piece of scrap wood (preferably un-treated)
- 3 screws 
- a fence post (near the garden)

 This is the scrap piece of wood that was left over from a garden bed I put in out front. I am unsure if it's treated. 
 These are the bits that I had to choose from. In my very brief research I found out that 5/16 inch was the size hole that mason bees prefer to live in. LUCKY ME, we had that size. 

I drilled a very crude hole in the back to fit over the screw so it could hang from the fence. 

Then I Drilled 
a lot.

I kinda felt like a "Maverick!" 

Pretty Nice
 I did have to put a few extra screws under the condo as bracing. I think this may have had something to do with the crudeness of the hanging hole. 
I have the "Bee Condo" kinda highlighted in the background.

I think if I make another one I'll put more holes in it or maybe do something like this. All in all, I think this project went pretty well. If I see any tenants I'll post an update.

Here is a link to instructions to build a Mason Bee House
Here's a nice house you can purchase that my buddy and classmate Andy found. (It seems us vet students are often geeks in similar ways)

(another link to Mason Bees)


The hens enjoying some watermelon. Those poor girls are really stressed by this heat.

 I mowed around the pumpkins. So far, even with some squash bugs, they are growing well. Although, I haven't seen them setting any fruit.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Salsa, Ears and Strawberry Stress

Hello again

Well, the garden is really cookin' (HA!). Apparently it was the hottest June Oklahoma has had since 1911. The heat has been pretty good for the tomatoes, great for the corn and super bad for the poor poor strawberry plants.


I have been making fresh salsa since I first started gardening. It's just fun and easy!

I use:
-a handful of fresh cilantro
-fresh squeezed lemon juice
-home grown garlic & onions
-Anaheim peppers
-salt & pepper
-and a whole bunch of home grown tomatoes
(cherry & standard sized).

Someday I hope to get it all from my garden, but this year I grew peppers that are MUCH too hot for me, my cilantro bolted in early june and well I don't know how to grow lemons here. (I guess I could get a dwarf variety and grow it in doors...
maybe next year...

not sure what this die off is about. The rest of this tomato plant is great though


And now The Strawberries!

This how most of my strawberry plants looked after forgetting to water them for ONE DAY!!!

It's just not fair. 

So, I moved them to the shady side of the house (the front) and I hope they will survive this super summer out there.

Another factor that seemed to play a roll was the type of container. All of the plants in plastic pots were much less stressed.
I may have to re-evaluate keeping them in terracotta pots... or not.

*** update: Terra Cotta Pot Sealer. I'm not sure how toxic it is, but it may be worth looking into.***

AND the EARS!!!

I have Corn Corn Corn!! And I did not have to grow it in a block! TAKE THAT CONVENTION!

Oh and there is more where that came from! 
The 2nd crop just started pushing it's tassels out. 

Here are 2 bonus pictures

I love this Bell Pepper (Golden Bell) I haven't let them turn yellow though.
 I always pick them when they're light green.


Brussels Sprouts! I hope they turn out because I really love to eat them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Garden Update with Rose Photos

Hello Friends! (and Enemy...)

My tomatoes are huge & red, my peppers are doing great, carrots are thirsty & heat stressed, squash plants are in several stages of death, melons are pathetic, corn is looking good (ears are hand pollinated as silk emerges), garlic + onions seem happy, asparagus is doing it's getting established thing, brussels sprouts have not yet bolted, the lettuce has more than bolted, beans are starting to produce (but not much), and herbs are as vivacious as ever.

In short, just like every year it's gonna be a mixed bag. 

Here are pictures of my two Knock Out roses. The perfect rose for the busy human

the tomatoes (behind the roses) are about a foot to 2 feet taller now

a poem: 

If I had a gun I'd stalk 
Squash Vine Borer Moths, 
which is why I should never have 
a gun.
~R. Davis

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick Post: Squash Trouble

I had a squash plant fail. 
It seemed to melt at the soil line over night. So far, the other one is good. I was thinking "Vine Borer Moth"? But, I had wrapped the stems with tin foil to prevent them. (maybe I did it wrong)
Anyway, that was a bummer, but we're getting more tomatoes.
The happy squash
Well, You win some, etc...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Junk Mail, Chickens, Compost

So here's the deal...
I take all of our junk mail and shed it in a paper shredder. Then I use it as chicken bedding in the coop. Then I take the paper (+ manure) and throw it in the compost bin. This goes from mailbox to finished compost in about 8 to 12 weeks.


There are MANY people who find tons of flaws with my system including: junk mail has stuff you might not want in finished compost, shredded paper is not ideal chicken bedding and chicken manure has more nitrogen than is ideal for fruiting plants.

To those people I say, "I do not care." 
then I dance around laughing like a maniac

I use the junk mail that I had been throwing away. I no longer have to purchase chicken bedding for the coop. I have a plentiful carbon source for the compost year round. I am using the chicken manure to help my plants grow. (yeah eggs and compost I love those hens) AND, I get lots of compost pretty fast (LOTS)

Some of the finer points:

1. I really try to exclude obviously "bad" stuff like plastic, chunks of glue or perfume samples.

2. I sprinkle diatomacious earth on the paper before I put it in the coop to help to control mites/insects. (only use "Food/Feed" grade DE. The other type, used mainly for pool filters, is heat/chemically treated which makes it very dangerous if inhaled)

3. When using paper as bedding one should make every effort to keep the paper "dry" in the coop. This is because if rain gets in and makes a damp environment then some nasty pathogens could grow in the bedding (just like in most conventional bedding). It's also nice to do this just to keep your chickens comfortable. 

Some people are more concerned about this this, I am not. 
This may be because my coop is elevated and dry or because I have a healthy immune system 
(ie. I'm not under 5 years old, immune-compromised or elderly). 
I do not let my 3 year old son play with the soiled bedding. 

Maybe that's because I'm:
a. really smart about zoonotic diseases
b. a superior mother, or 
c. not a complete moron... 
(partial maybe, but whatever)

4. This is working really well for me and all of my plants (fruiting & non) are responding in a very positive way everytime I apply the compost to them (or tea made from this compost).

So, here is the inside of the coop...
 Here are the hens (or 3.6 of them)..

Here is MBC! (love it!)

And the finished compost.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Tomato

Oh Yeah!
Kool-Aid Voice

but... a bug already chomped it.

 I don't know, it could still be okay, right?


Also, I found a pretty big spider on the pumpkins. I left her there as pest control, but now I'm kind of scared of that area.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Well There's Good News & Bad News

Good News First...

I made "Compost Tea"!

I expect that I'll dial in the process in the future, but for a first attempt I think it went well.

So, First I watched a bunch of you tube videos about making the tea and then I totally modified everything to fit with what I already had.

Here's MBC.
I have it divided in half now because it makes compost much faster this way.

 I sift it through this bucket, that my sweet and handsome husband Chris, made for me.

I end up with this. It's beautiful compost and I get a great upper body workout from shaking it all through the sifter bucket. I'm convinced that I'll soon have American Gladiator Girl Arms.
pretty pretty pretty nice...

Meanwhile, in another corner of the backyard, I'd been saving rainwater in a rubber-made container.
 This was necessary because our tap water has chloramine in it. Chloramine will kill the microorganisms that you're trying to grow and it won't "gas off" like regular chlorine, yuck
I could have used tap water and just treated it with aquarium tap water dechlorination drops, but I didn't. Although, I do have them. I decided that the rainwater would be better because well, my plants just love rainwater! 

So, I put a little compost in the leg of a pair of pantyhose that had a run in them and hung it in the container along with a water pump.

Now, I know you're supposed to use an air stone to keep the tea aerobic, but I didn't have one. I had a pump. So, oh well!

I say "Get Over It" to the Tea Nazis!

 Later, I decided to hang it from a fence post.

 I let this sit for like 12 hours then removed the Tea bag and added watermelon juice. They reccomended molasses, but - again - that is not what I had.

10 hours later I sprayed it on everything!


 and this...

and these...

And this stuff too.

Now for the Bad News...

I found some Squash Bugs and their Evil Eggs!
I ran this leaf through the garbage disposal

So, I guess it's go time.

That's right! I'm coming for you squash bugs and I don't care how bad you stink when I squish you.