Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beeladee: To Bee or Not To Bee!

We have had bees for 10 years now. I would like to say we are beekeepers, but in reality, we are more "bee havers"! I can't handle the hives by myself, the boxes are too heavy for me to lift. Mark is busy with his own work, so our bees are usually left to fend for themselves.

We went out a couple of days ago to inspect the hive near our house. It had started leaning and I was afraid it would fall over. I had expressed my concerns that the hive might be in trouble (wax moths, varroa mites, ants, etc.) since the bees were not visiting my garden this year! We also hadn't been in it for a while and thought an inspection was well overdue.

Once we had the topcover off, we realized the bees were not suffering! They poured out and clustered in a huge mass on top of the frames! I smoked them, trying to calm the hive. We pried off the super to inspect the brood box! Again they became quite agitated. After several stings through his suit, Mark decided we had better put everything back together, level the hive, and get out of there! We smoked and worked, smoked and worked and finally got it all situated.

We couldn't get into our truck as several bees were still swaming around us. We decided to walk home and come back for the truck. Usually the bees won't follow for long, but I guess that they smelled where Mark had been stung and also where he had accidentally crushed some of them while lifting the super off. A few persistent ones just wouldn't go away! We continued to smoke our suits and finally were able to get in the house, away from the bees!

I showered to get the smoke smell off me and out of my hair. Mark decided he would wait and shower in a while. He went back outside several hours later, still wearing the same clothes he had worn under his bee suit. Out of nowhere, a bee zoomed in and stung him on the nose! We've never had the bees act agressive away from their hive. All we could assume was that this bee was one that was stirred up when we opened the hive and she smelled what was still on Mark's shirt from his earlier bee stings and smashed bees!! He showered and changed right away!

With all of the recent incidences of Colony Collapse Disorder, I'm glad we are able to have our bees. Bees are the best pollinators in the world and our food production would suffer if not for their presence. My neighbors tell me that our bees are all over their gardens. Glad they are reaping the benifits! I need to plant something yummy to lure the bees back to my garden!

Smoking the enterance to calm the bees


This is my first try at growing watermelons! It started as an experiment; I found a packet of seeds that was packaged for 2005! Being the frugal person that I am, I decided to plant some of the seeds anyway instead of just throwing them out. THEY GREW!!

My next surprise was two large watermelon that just seemed to "appear"! I don't know how I could've missed these melons when they were little, but, one day they were just there! I kept them well watered and excitedly looked forward to the day (a long time from now) when they would be grown-up watermelons and we could eat them!

Yesterday I went out late to gather some greens and a bell pepper for supper. As I walked past my watermelon, I notices ants all over it......there was a small split! With feelings of frustration, I picked the cantelope-sized melon, brushed off the ants and put it in the refrigerator. Why would it develop a split like that when it wasn't ready yet? How dare the ants get on my precious watermelon!

Today I washed and cut it open; it was beautiful! The melon was at its peak of ripeness. It was wonderfully sweet! I guess it was fully grown even at this small size.

Once again I am amazed at God's goodness. Did he orchestrate this event? Even if he didn't, he has blessed me with the ability to be awed by the wonder of His world! What serendipitous moment awaits for me today?

OLD seeds!
Found seeds!

My little watermelon!

So sweet!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Zucchini Troubles!

I love all kinds of squash! Squash's ablility to grow rapidly is a gardener's thrill. Each morning when I venture into my garden, I look to see what the squash was up to while I slept. I usually find an errant vine trying to poke through the fence into the dangerous, deer and rabbit laden expanse beyond the safe confines of the garden. I scold it and shove it back through the fence!

Lately I've notices that several of my zucchini were turning yellow and rotting while still attached to the parent plant!! Oh, no, not my zucchini! I monitored a few days and decided that this was not going to be an isolated incident, so I ran to google and typed "zucchini rotting on the plant"!

This turns out to be a common problem. Several articles suggested that it was either a lack of calcium or nitrogen. I could quickly rule out the calcium issue as we have a well and our appliances will quickly attest to the fact that we have PLENTY of calcium in our water. Suggestion two: nitrogen. Hmmm.... well it seems that I have a near endless supply of nitrogen in old goat manure!!! (The manure is old as well as the goats!) Off to the goat shed with a shovel and bucket. I carefully scraped aside the fresh manure pellets and shoveled in the powdery old manure. I sprinkled generous amounts of this around each zucchini plant and watered it in.

It has been 3 days now and no new zucchini has turned yellow or started to rot!!! Maybe I have solved at least one garden problem. Now if I could just get rid of those pesky ants.....

Before :(
After :)

Lesson Learned: Grape Tomatoes!

The grape tomatoes have been a success! Every day I have a handful, just enough for a snack or salad. The next day I have a little more! They are sweet and a favorite of my grandkids! I planted two grape tomato plants and this has been a perfect amount.

My lesson has been that I did not leave sufficient space around the plants to harvest efficiently. I have had to learn to be a contortionist just to get to the ripe tomatoes and not break off any green tomatoes or the tomato vine, which snaps off easily under pressure.

Next year: plant two grape tomato plants with elbow room!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More Sprinkles!

Yesterday we had a couple of sprinkle episodes equaling about 1/10th of an inch! Every little bit helps!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Friend or Foe!

My definition of whether an insect is good or bad often has to do with its proximity to my garden! As a rule I like most living things and go out of my way not to harm them, BUT, I will now squash a squash bug in a heartbeat!

I try to stay proactive, checking for eggs, caterpillars, squash bug adults and nymphs and katydids daily. I also make a habit of cutting out damaged leaves so I can see if the problem is increasing or subsiding. If I cut a squash leaf with squash bug eggs on it, I don't put that leaf in my compost pile, but in the trash....far away from my garden!

I have yet been able to get rid of the ants!! They continue to eat my okra blossoms and are now on my squash blossoms. I continue to turn my hose nozzle to "jet", swirl some liquid soap over their mounds and disrupt the ant colony, killing a few and driving the others away. Unfortunately, this has not solved my problem; the ants still picnic in my garden daily!

So, aside from checking often and squashing when needed, the battle goes on. I guess this is just one more opportunity for me to realize that, although frustrating, in the scheme of life, a few bugs are nothing!

Squash bug eggs on the underside of a leaf

Juvenile squash bug

Adult squash bug

Carolina Sphinx moth caterpillar, also know as tobacco horn worm

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Good Soil!

For me, one of life's little thrills is taking daily scraps to my compost pile!! I pondered why I am so fond of this pile of rotting organic material and have come up with this.... it satisfies my desire to not waste things! Fruit and vegetable scraps are valuable, they are not just garbage! God gave us the entire earth to steward. I am grateful for every little thing including potato peels!!!

My compost pile is simple; two drive posts with wire wrapped around extending from the back of my garden. I toss in plant clippings, vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, tea bags, fallen oak leaves, algae from the goats' water trough, as well as a few shovels of old goat manure now and then. Every morning as I water the garden, I give my compost pile a little drink. Every weekend I turn the pile. Over the course of a season, I'll have nutrient-rich, water-retaining soil!!! The value of this soil emphasizes the value of each little part that goes into it!!!

Maybe God understands my joy over my compost pile! He used a story about soil in one of His parables concerning His word and those who hear it.

Matthew 13: 1 - 9, 18 - 23: The Parable of the Sower

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear.”


18“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rain Shower!!!

1/10th an inch or rain!!! Hooray!!! I'll take any amount God sends our way!

Battle of the Ants: Rounds 1 and 2!

Ants have been eating my okra pods for the last few weeks!!! I love okra, so I'm pretty miffed!

I looked up organic advice and found that many people are having similar problems. There was lots of "remedies", so I thought I'd try some of them: unused coffee grounds sprinkled around the base of the plant, cinnamon sprinkled around the base of the plant, baking soda sprinkled around the base of the plant. These might be affective while dry, but one must water....especially in Texas with most summer days in the 90s and 100s!

Next I sprayed a vinegar and water solution on the plant. The ants didn't like it initially, but soon they ignored it and continued to ravage my okra! The solution also slightly burned some of the okra leaves!

Today I found a youtube video about applying orange oil. So, guess I'll see how that works!

I also found damage on one of my tomato plants. It seems that ants are eating the outer covering of the stalk. I don't know if they are doing this because they like the stalk or because of aphids. Hmmm, more research!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lesson Learned: Tomato Cages!

In the past the flimsy store-bought tomato cages have worked out fine. I had 4 or 5 and only made a few more cages out of fencing to supplement what I had. I guess that my tomato plants from past seasons just weren't very hardy and the store-bought cages could support them.

In my new garden I have SUPER tomato plants! They are tall and heavy. The little tomato cages just collapsed under their weight, especially in the strong winds that often come up through the valley. Once the tomato plants are large, you can't remove the cage without tearing up the plants, so I bought and, with Mark's help, cut rebar into 40 inch sections. I hammered it in the ground and wired the cages to the rebar. I was able to do that with only breaking off one little tomato! It wasn't easy!

My lesson for next year: do not use the flimsy tomato cages! I will use fencing to make all of my tomato cages and secure them to rebar before the tomatoes get large!

Home-made tomato cage wired to rebar.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Anniversary Gift!

Our anniversary is coming up next week! We will be married 17 years! We all have different things that represent a gift to us. Mark knows that I like the gift of time and help with projects.

I recently heard a good idea on the Gardening Naturally radio show. John Dromgoole suggested a mailbox in the garden to use for storage of gloves, nippers, a notepad, a shovel, etc. It is waterproof and convenient. There was my project!!!! I drove to Lowes early for an inexpensive mailbox. Mark used some leftover lumber and mounted the mailbox on a post. We attached it to my garden fence...voila, a garden storage area!!!

Thanks, Mark, for my cool anniversary gift! Now to decide how to paint it and make it my own! More pictures to come!!!!

Ta da!

Tummy Time!

Yummy salad! Most of the ingredients are from our garden!
Bacon and tomato sandwich with pepper on the side!

I love knowing where our food is coming from and that it has no pesticides. It is sometimes more work to garden organically, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Fruits of Labor!



More watermelon!



It is fun watching the plants grow and fruit and vegetables develope! It is also yummy! I snack frequently as I walk through my garden!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?"


Green beens and tomatoes!

More tomatoes!



Kale, arugula, peppers, collards, parsley, basil, dill, horseradish!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Morning Fog

After my garden was in, I couldn't resist frequent visits! Every evening we sat in the garden after I had watered. Every weekend morning I was drawn outside early to inspect any small change. One morning, just after dawn, I ventured out into the fog, which was hanging like wispy curtains a little ways in the distance. The whippoorwills were still singing after their all-night chorus! In this beautiful setting I stood silently, listening.

Job 12:7-10

New International Version (NIV)
7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
9 Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Garden Progress March and April

We took pictures each week to see my garden's progress. The last here was April 30th.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

God's Provision!

I have had a garden for several years. It was small, but productive! Last year's drought drove the deer to my garden for food! All that work and no more garden! I was frustrated!

A little idea began to grow! I could build a garden where the deer couldn't get in! Problem was the expense for the materials! My husband has a fledgling business and I am a teacher! Never much extra money for projects...... I filed the idea away for a more financially productive year.

My gardening friends told me they were going to start seeds, did I want any!!! I stepped out and said, "Yes!", not knowing what I would do with the plants!! Winter drug on and my idea was stalled!

One day I was out feeding the goats and I noticed some unused fencing panels behind the goat shed. When I started moving the two I saw, more were under them, buried in the mud! I started dragging them to the area where I would want to put a garden in the future. I then found some left over metal panels from where the goat shed had been made.... discarded cinder blocks that a teacher had not wanted... old bee-hive boxes from our former business..... discarded fencing from various projects... and a super tall gate that we never figured out what we would do with! As I continued dragging things over I realized that there just might be enough materials to at least get started!!!

Spring break week finally arrived! (Thrilling to a teacher!) My husband, Mark, and I threw ourselves into the project! We measure and layed out the t-posts (had to purchase since we didn't have the long ones). Our neighbors came over with a hydraulic tool that hammered the posts into the ground. We put up fencing, cut and put metal panels, placed cinder blocks, bought dirt (another expense), and decorated!!

The funny/weird/wonderful thing was, WE HAD EXACTLY ENOUGH FENCING TO COMPLETE THE PERIMETER! God had provided all of the materials except the t-posts and dirt! Even my part of the plants came to $6!

As a Christian, I would not try to tell anyone that God always gives us what we want, because sometimes what we want is not His will. But I will say that the little/wonderful/unexpected blessings that He does give are a joy to my heart!

Matthew 6:25-34

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.