Jun 102017
 

In April, my husband and I went to the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati.  It has been an annual event for us these past few years, often combining visits with friends from our college years. Granted, it used to be closer.  At LOT closer.

So why did we go this past year?  My parents offered to watch the kids and my husband was going to take an extra day off.

However, plans changed and my husband had to go into work.

Starting a long trip out at 8 a.m. is a whole lot different than starting it out at 5:30 p.m.  Vastly different.  Especially if bed times are usually 7-7:30 and you rarely leave the house after 6 p.m. due to tired behaviors.

Next year … well, I doubt we will attend a conference at this particular location. 😉

At the end of this past week, we embarked upon a long return trip.  The going out part had taken place last weekend, spread across two days as the end destination contained cousins not seen in months.  We (adults) decided it best to not get there after the bedtime hour had occurred.

Coming back, however, was a different story.  With the lure of our beds awaiting us, we started out at 7 a.m. and arrived home 13+ hours later.  It was a long drive, though not nearly as looooonnnnggg as the shorter drive (distance, but not attitude, wise) we took to the Midwest GHC.

And that, dear readers is where I have been this past week and why I suddenly dropped off the face of the earth … or at least the blog.

Between George starting his summer break from public school and Summer (home) School routine, Jack starting Term 3 of AO’s Year 2, and me getting ready for our trip, I had forgotten to schedule posts to occur while we were gone.  I apologize.

This upcoming week is a bit calmer, though it contains activities to prepare to move the majority of our belongings to our new home the week after.  Gardening wise, I hope to: mow both yards, do some weeding at the new house, and cut down some stray saplings at the rental house.

 

Before we left to visit family, George helped me do some imperfect gardening – we spread magnolia marigold seeds from 2014 in the front beds of the new house, covered them over lightly with the mulch, and hoped for rain while we were gone.  There were still some weeds growing, some sort of grass, but I decided not to wait till it was “perfect” in order to use the seeds I had in my collection.

If some of the flowers grow, that would be great.  If they do not, well, no great loss. As they were gathered 2.5 years ago and stored in standard envelopes in the basement, I would be surprised if any grew.  He had fun helping though, so that was worth it.

The flower boxes pictured in this post were outside a restaurant in Cincinnati in April.  It was unusually warm at that time, though pansies and dusty miller are fairly common early garden plants.  As time goes by, both will increase in size, spilling over the sides and adding great color.  They are not overly picky (this was a fairly shaded spot between buildings), and come in a variety of colors.

Oct 192016
 

kids-garden-window-box

The planter box above is made up of fairly small growing plants.  The area gets a fair amount of sun, is about 3 feet off the ground and around 2 feet wide.  Using more petite plants keeps this area from being overwhelmed.  Instead of using one regular sized or larger plant, at least 4 smaller plants are used.  The colors, even though they are all green, vary from light to dark, solid to stripped.  This variety keeps the plants from all blending together into one blob of green-ness.  Small pops of color are added by the flowers, which added just that extra bit of interest.

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My attention has been pulled elsewhere these past few weeks.  I have not forgotten about the blog, I promise. Each day my plans to post at night after the kids are in bed are routinely foiled by falling asleep at 8:30 pm or before.  It is a constant, daily struggle to figure out what is the highest priority versus what is my preferred activity at that moment.  Example: What needed accomplished yesterday –  two kids’ doctor’s appointments, a few phone calls, removing a window to have the glass replaced, taking said window in to get fix, wiping down dinning room walls, and clearing off a set of shelves.  What I wanted to do – sit on the porch swing reading a book from the stack by my bed, write two book reviews for the blog, and haul a few buckets of wood chips for my front flower beds.

I am anticipating my large project being finished by the beginning of next week, but only if I do not spend time elsewhere.  That fact alone (the end is near) is what keeps me moving forward instead of curling up in a closet with a book, waiting for things to magically happen themselves.

Have you noticed I mention reading a lot?  Yeah, I like books.  They are great places to escape into, though they do not help the laundry get done. 🙂

 

 

Oct 092016
 

kids-garden-containers

Contrast in color, size, and texture can add interest to your garden.  Here I showed you an example of a large area where this was used. Here in a smaller example.

Tucked into a corner of a garden, it would have easy to put in a plant and move on. Instead, a bit more time was spent, turning this corner into a spot that adds to the overall garden.

It also shows what you can do if you only have a small spot. While you may not be able to do everything, you can still do something.

Oct 072016
 

city-garden-open-space-before-planting-spring

When I first saw this garden, in its wintertime bareness, I would imagine all the different ways it could be planted and decorated. Then I began to feel like a failure for not being able to do the same in my garden.

circular-garden-in-summer-bloom-2

Later I visited the same gardens. They were taking shape, colors were starting to appear, and the feeling was less of emptiness.

circular-flower-garden-in-summer-bloom

I also realized several things:

  • There are people who are hired full time to take care of these grounds. This is not solely a hobby.
  • There is more than ONE person taking care of these gardens.
  • The same pattern is used year to year. No need to reinvent the wheel each year.
  • Annuals are used, not perennials or bulbs.
  • There is a greenhouse used to grow all of these annuals. I would have to either build a greenhouse, spending months to grow these, or else pay retail.
  • This particular garden is larger than my yard. I could not replicate it if I tried.

Reminding myself of these things when the gardening doubts begin to creep in has helped me keep a more balanced view, to not judge myself so harshly. I am also able to enjoy the gardens more, appreciating all the effort others put in so I can sit and enjoy them. No weeding required.

Aug 122016
 

bee in the know

After the recent review of The Bee-Friendly Garden: Design an Abundant, Flower-Filled Yard that Nurtures Bees and Supports Biodiversity byKate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn, I have been paying more attention to the bees around me.  What I came to realize is, well, there is a whole lot more which I do not know and could learn.  This is a start.

Below is a summary compilation of scholarly papers, book reviews, and letters all concerning our neighbors, the bees.  There were so many papers and sources of information which I could share, but I had to cut it off at some point.  I tried to keep the topics somewhat related to help with narrowing down the results. u6k7v3t5

Relocation risky for bumble bee colonies – this letter in reference to a paper on the relocation of bees addresses some of the possible issues with such moves.

USBombus, a database of contemporary survey data for North American Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombus) distributed in the United States – from the abstract of this research paper, “While a wealth of historic data is now available for many of the North American species found to be in decline in online databases, systematic survey data of stable species is still not publically available. The availability of contemporary survey data is critically important for the future monitoring of wild bumble bee population.  Without such data, the ability to ascertain the conservation status of bumble bees in the United States will remain challenging.”  this paper was authored by Koch, J. et al, representing several universities and the USDA.

Review of the book The Bees of the World 2nd ed. American Entomologist (the review begins on page 3) – As the author of this book review states, “That only seven years have passed since the first edition is testament to the vigorous ongoing research on bees.”  This review happens to have been written 7 years ago with even larger amount of study and focus being given to this insect family.  Some of the references to changes in the classifications have potentially resolved themselves, though even those are under constant review as more knowledge comes to light.

At 900+ pages, this book is not one you lightly add to your library, that is, unless you are a librarian at a large library.

Chemical Signals in Bumble Bee Foraging – though this paper is older, it provides a great look into the world of bumble bees and understanding how they reach the flowers in your garden.

Hive-stored pollen of honey bees: many lines of evidence are consistent with pollen preservation, not nutrient conversion – “Our findings have important implications for the improvement of natural food storage, artificial food supplements, and water balance in the hive especially during overwintering.”  As one who likes to store up one season’s harvest for use in the winter, I have appreciated the research done on nutrient levels and safe storing of these foods.  In a similar fashion bees store pollen, though it has not always been known why this is done nor if there was an unknown benefit for them doing so.  Anderson, K. et al take a look close look at this storage of pollen.

 

Nest architecture and species status of the bumble bee Bombus (Mendacibombus) shaposhnikovi (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombini) – “Here, we report behavioural observations of the nesting biology of B. shaposhnikovi and provide new evidence for the conspecific status of B. shaposhnikovi and B. handlirschianus in our discovery of a nest containing both colour forms.”

I had never put much thought into the structure of a nest – where food was located compared to living quarters, how many eggs were placed in each cell, etc.  It is amazing what you can observe once you slow down and look at different parts of nature.  The authors also present their doubts about the species of Bombus, differentiated only by color, being actual separate species.

Speaking of nests and the various ways of building them, here is a paper talking about the nest architecture of a tropical bee – Nest Architecture and Foraging Behavior in Bombus pullatus (Hymenoptera: Apidae), with Comparisons to Other Tropical Bumble Bees.

And the Bombus transversalisNest construction and architecture of the Amazonian bumble bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae)

 

Determining the Impacts of Pesticide and Nutrition-Induced Stress on Honey Bee Colony Growth and Survival – while this research project is still underway, I thought it was interesting enough to mention.  When I am  hungry, I know how my performance suffers.  Could it be the same for bees?  Another reason for all of us to take a look at our gardens and make changes, even small ones, to help out our much needed pollinators.

As a part of the above mentioned research project, several papers have already been published looking at various aspects. Here are a few of them:

Honey bee colonies provided with natural forage have lower pathogen loads and higher overwinter survival than those fed protein supplements

Methods for Comparing Nutrients in Beebread Made by Africanized and European Honey Bees and the Effects on Hemolymph Protein Titers