Spider Mites in Arborvitae

Spider Mites in Arborvitae

My current arborvitae problem is another example of how neglect and lack of knowledge and experience can come back to haunt you.   Two years ago I lost the first arborvitae to the left of the current one.  Then this second one became ill and it yellowed in less than two weeks!  After searching the internet for information, I am almost 100% convinced that I’ve got spider mites.  It’s possible that it could be something else, like bagworm, but I couldn’t find anything that looked like bagworms.  I didn’t even have to use a piece of white paper.  I shook some branches over my hand and there were the tiniest little microscopic black specs, crawling across my palm!  Without treatment, they will continue to eat away at my 15 – 20 foot hedge of arborvitae chewing their way along the fence line.  If I lost them and had no more privacy from my neighbors, I would be very unhappy to say the least.

In my desperation I called Glass Tree Care and they came out to give my arborvitae a good drenching with a dormant oil mix with a little kelp, fish and rosemary added.   If it is spider mites then that should smother the hatching eggs for now. They have assured me that I will not lose anymore arborvitae if I keep up a spray regimen of three sprayings over the next 6 months.   I also need to take better care of them.  Considering how dry it was last summer, and how dry it’s been this winter, it doesn’t surprise me that it has created fertile conditions for a spider mites infestation.

Here are a few links to a couple websites I found that explain what spider mites and bagworms are:

http://www.collierarbor.com/probSpiderMites.php

www.gardeningwithchuck.com/bagworms

It’s hard to believe I’ve been living here for 15 years and only lost a few things from disease, lack of care or freezing temperatures considering how little I knew when I first started.  I’ve learned so much about gardening since those first few years, yet the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn.  It is a never-ending growth experience and accumulation of knowledge, and I have to admit that I probably learn more when I make mistakes and experience garden disasters than I do at any other time.   If I’ve learned anything at all, it’s how important it is to read about everything that exists in your garden when you move in and find out how to care for what you have, and how to avoid diseases.   Never plant a tree or shrub or anything without learning about it first.  How to plant it, where to plant it, the type of soil conditions it needs, how to care for it, and what kind of diseases it can get.  If you don’t you will most assuredly lose some precious plants.

One thing about being a gardener, it teaches patience.  It can take years for a tree or shrub to grow into a splendid member of your garden family, and if it’s a fruit tree or berry bush or something of ornamental value you want to be able to enjoy it for years.  So when a disease, or freeze, or something kills this member of your little community, it really is depressing, at least when you have the kind of relationship with your garden that I do.

So be diligent, educate yourself, take precautions, fertilize & spray (organic of course), water and tend to your garden to your fullest ability, and you will hopefully avoid something completely preventable like spider mites!

 

 

Paths & Pathways in the Garden

Changes

I’m going to start writing more about my relationship with my garden and how it makes me feel and gives meaning to my life.  This is something that I haven’t done much of because it is so difficult for me to translate into words my inner experiences in regards to my garden and backyard urban farming life.  I’ve always been big on feelings, but not so skilled at expressing them on paper, and the gift of creative writing has always alluded me.  Never-the-less, I’m going to give it a shot and start writing more regardless of my literary limitations.  As with any journal writing, it’s a creative outlet and leads the way to more self-understanding and knowledge, and that is what is most important.

Sometimes I tell people that the garden is me and I am my garden, which loosely translated means that I feel that I am one with my garden.  When it blooms, I bloom.  When I hear the birds sing, my soul sings.  When I am tending my garden I feel like I am in kinship with all the other creatures who spend their time flying about pollinating or worming their way through the soil.  When the chickens are out and about scratching for bugs and searching for goodies, they are my backyard family, and together we share the spaces in symbiotic fashion.  We are all workers in this place, and we all benefit from the fruits of the garden banquet.  The inhabitants of this garden sanctuary are its congregation; the chickens, the squirrels, the creatures inside the soil, and the pollinators above; and Jan the quirky mother of this place.  Okay, enough already.

Below is an essay I’ve been working on about paths and pathways.

 

Paths and Pathways

One of the most symbolic design concepts I can think of that frequently is incorporated into the garden landscape are paths and pathways, and they can be played with metaphorically in numerous ways.  Although the two words can often be used interchangeably there are subtle differences between the two.  In my particular garden I would probably refer to my main walkway down the center of the property as a path, but all the other sideways I see more as pathways.

Look at the definitions of path and pathway.  It’s ironic that a concept so rich in metaphor and used so frequently in philosophical and spiritual thought is so briefly defined in the dictionary.

Path = a trodden way; a route or course.

Pathway = see path

A path seems to me to convey a course of action, or metaphorically it involves a choice and a direction in life.  Physical paths are more goal oriented like a jogging path or a bike path.  You get from point A to point B on these kinds of paths.  Other phrases like,” I took the wrong path in life” means the choice of a certain direction in life or “our paths crossed” means that our lives intersected.   It’s as though the path is the central story line; the route we take, or the course we follow.

Pathway, on the other hand, is used more often as a term describing structures in relation to something else.  Think of neural pathways in the brain.  They exist within the larger context of the brain and its functions.   In an enclosed garden, pathways are usually a distinct feature incorporated into the total design of a garden.  A pathway doesn’t stand alone, rather it connects and is connected to other features of the larger landscape which are as significant as the pathway itself.  It can only exist in relationship with its larger surroundings, and all the connected elements become more meaningful because of the existence of the pathway.   This type of pathway interests me the most; the path or pathway that provides an experience and sensation that can elevate the senses, reveal pleasing views, and inspire contemplation.

When I create paths or pathways in my garden, they are not just paths directing one to specific destinations, rather they are design elements meant to offer an experience before reaching a destination.   My goal is to transform something utilitarian into something esthetically pleasing that exists in harmony with its surroundings and reveals multiple views.   Some paths themselves can be the main statement, of course, especially when their features outshine everything else around them, but the paths in my garden are not so flamboyant.  They don’t take center stage, but without them the other actors do not exist either.

One could go on forever describing the ways that paths and pathways are used literally and figuratively in every form of literature imaginable, and as archetypical images that emerge frequently in the human imagination and dreamscape, but the main purpose of this essay is to explore the idea of paths and pathways for myself so that I can more deeply understand why they hold such meaning for me.  Posted are a few of the pathways I’ve created over the years.  They are subtle, not showy.  Some are finished and some are still in progress.  Some wear down and need freshened up.  Some reside in my imagination still waiting to be born. They are living spaces, and they all require constant maintenance to preserve.

Following is a poem by Robert Frost that sums up wonderfully my sentiments about the garden as our life here on earth and the pathway within it that leads us to our ultimate home, which is our reunion with God and the All that Is.

God’s Garden

God made a beauteous garden
With lovely flowers strown,
But one straight, narrow pathway
That was not overgrown.
And to this beauteous garden
He brought mankind to live,
And said “To you, my children,
These lovely flowers I give.
Prune ye my vines and fig trees,
With care my flowers tend,
But keep the pathway open
Your home is at the end.”

-          Robert Frost

Life is a garden containing limitless opportunities for love and joy.  We’re given many beautiful gifts, and in turn we are expected to properly care for them.   It’s up to us to care for and cultivate the life garden we’ve been given, and while we do so we need only keep the pathways of our hearts and minds open and we will reach our ultimate destination in the end.

Lots of good Path Quotes

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/path

 

Kombucha

Kombucha 

I got the following recipe and instructions off the internet for making my first batch of kombucha.  It worked perfectly for me, and honestly, I think my kombucha is the best I’ve ever tasted.  The only thing that I did differently is that I used 3 bags of my favorite Yorkshire Tea and one bag of the Wild Raspberry Hibiscus for a faint fruity flavor.  Since Yorkshire Tea is so strong, I only needed 3 bags in a one gallon glass container, and I allowed it to steep for barely 5 minutes.  I also used organic sugar.  The SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, was given to me by my sister.  A scoby is not a mushroom; it’s a yeast cake.

I had so much trepidation about making my own kombucha the first time.  For some reason I had the impression that it was difficult and that there was some risk that it would turn out bad and taste disgusting.  It couldn’t be further from the truth.  It was the easiest thing to make, and it turned out delicious.  The hardest part was just finding a scoby. I let my kombucha sit in a corner of my living room for exactly 2 weeks, marking it on the calendar, of course, so I wouldn’t forget.  I think that two weeks is perfect.  I was just fizzy and fermented enough; not too little and not too much.  I think it did get a little fizzier when it was stored in the frig over the two weeks it took us to drink it up, but it was still perfect.

For me and my son, a one gallon container seems to be the right amount for us that lasts almost two weeks.  As you can see in the photo furthest down, I got 3 good quarts of kombucha and then left the scoby in the gallon container with a good two cups of kombucha to start the next batch with.

The best website I’ve seen that explains about kombucha brewing and scobies is at:

www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/kombucha-brew-faq

Check it out for good information on making kombucha, storing scobies, sanitation, bottling, troubleshooting, brewing issues and more.  Incredibly interesting!

 

 

How to Make Kombucha

Brew delicious kombucha tea at home for a fraction of the cost of commercial brands!

 

Equipment Needed for Making Kombucha Tea

  • Quart-size, half gallon or gallon-size glass jar
  • Plastic or wooden stirring utensil
  • Tight-weave cloth or paper coffee filter
  • Rubber band to secure the cover to the jar

Ingredients for Activating a Kombucha Scoby

  • Active Kombucha Scoby
  • Tea bags or loose tea
  • White sugar
  • Starter tea or distilled white vinegar
  • Unfluoridated, unchlorinated water

 Container Size

Tea

Sugar

Water

Starter Tea or Vinegar 

One quart

1½ teaspoon loose teaor 2 tea bags

¼ cup

2-3 cups

½ cup

½ Gallon

1 tablespoon loose teaor 4 tea bags

½ cup

6-7 cups

1 cup

Gallon

2 tablespoons loose teaor 8 tea bags

1 cup

13-14 cups

2 cups

Instructions for Making Kombucha Tea:

  1. Combine hot water and sugar in a glass jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.
  2. Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep.
  3. Cool the mixture to 68-85ºF. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools or removed after the first 10-15 minutes. The longer the tea is left in the liquid, the stronger the tea will be.
  4. Remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid.
  5. Add starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted.
  6. Add an active kombucha scoby.
  7. Cover the jar with a tight-weave towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
  8. Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste.
  9. Pour kombucha off the top of the jar for consuming. Retain the scoby and enough liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch.
  10. The finished kombucha can be flavored and bottled, if desired, or enjoyed plain.

Flavoring and Bottling

Once the kombucha has finished culturing, remove the scoby and enjoy it plain or add flavoring. There is no limit to the flavoring possibilities. For a fizzy finished kombucha, try bottling in a Grolsch-style bottle or other tightly-sealed container.

 

Health Benefits of Kombucha

What are the health benefits of kombucha?  Apparently not that many studies have been done here in the USA to prove all the proclaimed health benefits of kombucha, but there have been studies done in some European countries substantiating many of its benefits, and that’s good enough for me.  I have just started drinking kombucha and plan to do it regularly from now on, so I will be able to judge for myself in time if I think it helps or not with my particular health issues.

I found the following links helpful in understanding kombucha’s health benefits:

http://www.foodrenegade.com/kombucha-health-benefits/

http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/18-healthy-reasons-sip-kombucha

http://www.motherearthnews.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-drinking-kombucha-tea-ze0z1303zcalt.aspx

 

 

 

 

“To Do” Lists and a Time to Rest

“To Do” Lists and a Time to Rest

As I contemplate the upcoming challenges in my life for 2015, I search inside of myself for the energy, motivation, optimism and solutions I will need to achieve my numerous goals and tackle my “to do” lists for the year to come.  This is nothing new.  It is a Jan tradition that has been a regular routine every year since I became a homeowner and avid gardener 15 years ago.  I make yearly goal lists divided into categories (health, exercise, social, spiritual, brain, friends, family, job, etc…), and of course I have the garden and home improvement to do list that is at least 3 times longer than the ones for everything else.  My daily lists are essential for survival.  If I didn’t have them I would worry constantly that I’m forgetting something, especially as I get older and my memory doesn’t fully cooperate with me anymore.   My lists are a way for me to feel that my life is under control, and as long as I’m organized then I can relax knowing that it will all get done somehow.  I can’t imagine a day, or a week, or a garden season, or a year without my lists.  They are comforting, and yes, they do help me get more things done.

That being said, I’ve decided this year that all the must do’s, should do’s, have to do’s that I usually include on my long lists of obligatory items will be more limited this year.  The lists will still be as long, and possibly longer, but I’m going to substitute many of the must do’s to “wanna do’s” instead.   On my to do lists this year more activities will be fun, creative, relaxing and life enhancing in ways that are less strenuous, and I will not put so much pressure on myself to do them.  I’ll do them when the spirit moves me, or when my creative urges naturally take over.  Some of these activities will involve writing, painting, beading, photography, and that sort of thing.  I also plan to do more walking, hiking, weekend excursions with friends and family, and just sit around more reading, playing games, going on Art Walks, enjoying playtime with my spiritual community, and relaxing socially.  In other words, I will be engaging more in the kind of activities that one doesn’t get as much time for when one has a huge garden to tend to during a long growing season.   But how will I accomplish these goals?  Seeing as how I am still not retired, and there are only so many free hours in a day and a weekend, something else has to give this year, and what will that something be?  My garden and home improvement activities.  OMG! Did I really just write that? After 15 years of intense gardening, growing, and home improvement projects, am I really going to back away from these activities for 2015?

Yes!

A major change this year in my garden that previously would have been unimaginable to me will be that I am not going to grow any vegetables this year!  I have decided that it is time to let my garden soil rest, and in so doing I too will be able to rest a little more too.  I plan to take a break from the intensity of growing things; the laborious preparations, the constant attending, digging & hauling, cultivating and watering, and then of course, the harvesting. Everything that requires daily attention, enormous amounts of time and intense physical labor will be set aside this year.   My growing areas will be allowed to go fallow, and the only thing that I will be propagating and growing will be a few new flowers and the usual herbs.  Of course I’ll still be spending time in my garden on necessary tasks like weeding, watering and detailing spaces, and maybe I’ll lay another  8 feet of pathway along the rose bed, but no more building projects and no heavy, expensive, time consuming activities that weigh me down and empty my wallet. I will also be postponing the purchase of my first honey bee hives until 2016.  My mason bees will have to do for now.

Why?

So what made me decide to not grow vegetables this year?  When I was down visiting a friend in Gold Beach a while back, we went on a garden tour where the host talked about depleted soil and how to re-mineralize one’s soil to produce more nutrient dense produce.  He recommended reading the book by Steve Solomon called “The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-dense Food”.   This book was the most important book I have ever read on gardening and has completely transformed the way I will look at food growing for the rest of my life.   I, like most home gardeners that I know, usually do the least amount required each year to replenish the soil by adding the minimal amount of amendments and nutrients in order to produce an” acceptable” garden crop.  For me, that means adding a little manure, compost, a little fish oil fertilizer here and there, some standard vegetable food sprinkled about, and maybe a few other basic minerals that I think the plants need like the nitrogen, phosphate, potassium all-purpose blends, and maybe sprinkle on a little lime for the tomatoes.  This is work intensive and may produce positive results to a degree, but if you’re like me, you notice that some years, some things just don’t do so well.  I noticed this trend during the last growing season.   I thought it was due to the drought like conditions we had here in Oregon and the long, hot growing season, but now, after reading Solomon’s book, I believe it was mostly due to the lack of nutrients, minerals, and abundant micro-organisms in my soil.

Year after year of growing vegetables without adding enough fertilizers and minerals, and probably improper crop rotation, has taken its toll.  Sure, a few things grew well this last season, but other vegetables failed to thrive, and much of my produce seemed less tasteful than in times past, especially the peppers. It just seems like everything could have grown better, bigger and looked healthier. Some vegetables, like the pole beans, didn’t do well at all, but that was probably also due to the variety I used which I will never use again: Burpee Garden Bean Kentucky Wonder.  It was NOT tender and stringless as stated on the packet, so I will go back to using Ed Hume Blue Lake beans which have always grown prolifically and been yummy and tender.

Organic = Healthy?

Read Steve Solomon’s book and you’ll understand why my soil, your soil, Pacific Northwest soil, big Ag’s soil, and soils around the world are not abundant enough in the minerals they need to produce the healthiest, nutrient dense, disease and pest resistant vegetables and fruits that are optimal for our health.  You will understand better than ever the direct connection between the health of the plants we eat and our own level of personal health.  No wonder a large portion of the human race is so diseased and unhealthy, as are our domesticated animals, when the so called “healthy” foods we’re eating really aren’t as healthy as we believe.

I assumed that just because I was growing organic produce and could eat it fresh from my garden that it was the healthiest produce I could put into my body.  NOT TRUE!  Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  If conventionally grown produce is grown in nutrient and mineral dense soil, then it is probably healthier than organic produce grown in depleted or less mineral dense soil, and you will need to read Solomon’s book to understand why.   My plan now is to let my soil rest for 2015, take soil samples this spring, send them to the recommended lab, get back the analysis, and then buy the minerals I need and start adding them to the soil. I plan to do this before summer and then cover everything with straw again. Then I will wait & water, and then go do something else more restful on my list!  This will be good for me and good for my garden.  We both deserve some rest this year, and I believe we will both be healthier and happier for it in the long run!

Harvesting Mason Bee Cocoons for 2015

Harvesting Cocoons for 2015

I was very pleased with the number of cocoons my industrious mason bees created this year.   I started out with 17 viable mason bee cocoons the first year.  From those original 17 mason bees I got 35 cocoons for the next season.  From those thirty five bees I got 150 cocoons this year!  That’s almost 7 times more cocoons in just two years!  That definitely will require another mason been house on the side of my shed next year.

Cleaning out the mason bee houses this week revealed some interesting things.  I never did plug up the hole in the little attic so a good dozen wasps were still in there when I opened up the backside of the house.  Since it’s been so cold outside they were very sluggish, and a few were dead, so it was easy to scrape them out without risking any attack.  And of course I took the opportunity to try and get some close up micro shots with my new camera.

The most cocoons deposited in one tube were nine.  The least amount were three.   All of them looked healthy.   I was very disappointed, however, with the development of the cocoons in the other mason bee house.  Those tubes were not protected by an outer tube, so they didn’t do so well and were moist and moldy.  Some of them were infested with tiny flea looking creatures and larva that I don’t think were mason bee larva.  Now I know not to place unprotected paper tubes in the holes.  I’ll need to drill the holes bigger for next year so that they will accommodate the outer tube as well as the black plugs at the back end to prevent the intrusion of those pesky parasites.

I wish I knew what those larva were crawling around in the tubes.  Maybe they were wasp larva.  Considering that the healthy mason bee cocoons are ready for winter, and I opened the one cocoon that revealed a fully developed mason bee, I highly doubt that those larva crawling around were mason bees.

Different Cleaning Methods

Since I had so many cocoons this year, it wasn’t so practical to clean each one with a Q-tip like I did last year, so I used river sand this time.   Using a strainer, I filtered out the finest particles of sand into a bowl.  With a Q-tip I gently stirred the cocoons around in the sand.  I then placed the cocoons in the strainer and kept pouring the sand over them while shaking the strainer.  It didn’t get all the mud & poop off the cocoons, but I think it did a fairly good job.  Hopefully any mites were shed as well. There were still some cocoons with the mud cap stubbornly attached to them, so those I just picked off.

There are other methods that can be used to clean cocoons.  One method involves washing the mason bee cocoons in a bleach and water solution.  That sounds a bit toxic and harsh, but apparently the cocoons are tough enough that it doesn’t hurt them.  The bleach solution doesn’t kill the mites either, but it’s supposed to do a good job of cleaning off the dirt and poop.

For the bleach and water method you get a bowl of cold water and add a small amount of bleach, about a ¼ cup to 5 cups of water.  That should be about a 5% solution, right?  Place the cocoons in the bleach water for about 3 – 5 minutes and stir them around.  Remove the cocoons and rinse them thoroughly with fresh cold water.  You absolutely do not want to use warm water since you don’t want the larva to awaken and think it’s time to emerge.   Lightly pat the cocoons dry with a paper towel.   Do not store them in the refrigerator wet.   After they’re dry, maybe a few minutes, put them in the fridge.  You don’t want the cocoons to warm up to room’s temperature.

This is my third year with the mason bees, and the more I learn about mason bees the more interesting they become.  Not only is it fun to house, clean and harvest them for the next season, I am just thoroughly impressed with these little guys.  They are incredibly industrious, and knowing how much greater they pollinate than honey bees, it makes it all the more important to give them a helping hand by creating a hospitable and healthy habitat for them.

As much as I love the mason bees, I still plan to get some honey bee hives, and this will probably be the year for that.  I’ve decided to allow my vegetable beds to remain fallow this next season as I work on building up the nutrients and minerals in my soil, so hopefully that will free me up to dabble more in my other hobbies and projects.    One can always hope!

 

 

This was a good article and nice website. The Important of harvesting mason bees cocoons:

http://www.lawn-care-academy.com/mason-bee-cocoons.html

 

Crown Bees puts out a newsletter almost monthly that teaches about Mason Bees and takes you step by step through the stages of care.   I’d highly recommend getting signed up if you have mason bees.  The following link brings you to their page where you can get questions answered for each stage of care:

http://crownbees.com/learn-mason-bees

 

Saving Flower Seeds

Saving Flower Seeds

Saving seed from flowers is one of the most enjoyable things I do in my garden.   While so many other activities can be time consuming, tedious, and tiring, gathering seed is actually relaxing and contemplative.  When I talk about activities that are tiring, I’m referring to projects that involve lots of prep work like spraying trees, landscaping, digging, tilling, sowing and planting in the spring.  Then there are all the watering, mulching and summer related jobs.  Harvesting and preserving is, of course, the most demanding requirement of late summer and early fall.   The intermittent jobs like fertilizing, mulching, hauling, mowing, raking, cleanup and all of that just add to the list of tasks that sometimes seem endless. Finally, in late November or December, one hopes to have all the flower beds and growing areas bedded down for the winter.  Only then will there be time for repose.

No matter how much one may love gardening, let’s be realistic, it can be very, very exhausting at times, especially when the area you are cultivating is expansive.  No matter how much I love my little backyard farm, there have been moments when I wonder if it would be better to move on to something else that doesn’t take up so much of my time and energy, especially now that I’m getting older.  But then I’ll have one of those transcendent moments where I feel enormous satisfaction from something I’ve finished doing in my garden, and I’ll feel a shower of joy wash over me.  At those times I wonder how I could ever exist without my garden, and I know that as long as I live I will always want some place where I can grow things, even if it’s just a balcony with only a few pots for flowers and herbs.   Such mixed emotions I’m sure are shared by many gardeners who have larger areas to tend to.

I realized this week, that saving seeds is quite an intimate aspect of my relationship with the flowers on my property.  I was thinking, as I was cutting off pieces of my cosmos buds, that this was like preserving the essential personality of the flower before its host dies, or perhaps a better way to describe it would be before the host transitions and decomposes back into the earth from which it grew.  It’s a tender and selective process that can’t be rushed, much like pruning roses to nurture them and make them produce more abundantly.   I noticed myself looking at the autumn flowers in a different way.  I felt such gratitude for them that they have produced such beauty for me all through the summer, and now that their days are numbered as the cooler days of fall and winter approach I appreciate them even more.  They are still growing abundantly while other flowers said adieu weeks and months ago.  Saving flower seed is an optimistic and life affirming act that is filled with hope and faith in the future knowing that their essence will continue through their their seed that I will sow around in the garden beds next spring. It’s the circle of life; the cycle of the seasons; the law of nature.

In addition to the glorious array of cosmos and flowers that are still growing at this time, I noticed that the bees were still out gathering nectar as they too prepare for their indoor winter life by making sure that their communities will be fed in the months to come.  The bees were landing on the cosmos, and the flowering basil and oregano for their last snacks.  It’s this symbiotic harmony between the flowers and the pollinators that never cease to amaze me as they display the perfect design and action of nature.  Everything in nature works together in perfect harmony when left alone.  It’s only when modern humans interact with nature that it gets messed up.

Click on this website link      http://fantasticfungi.net/        When you get to the website, click on the two minute trailer to the film called Forbidden Fruit which may come out sometime in 2015.  It’s a life-affirming film about the mushroom and our relationship with nature. Enjoy!

 

Elkton Community Gardens & Butterfly Pavilion

Butterfly Garden & Pavilion in Elkton

A couple years ago a woman from the Elkton Community Education Center (ECEC) came to speak at the local Eugene Garden Club.  She gave a presentation on the community center and butterfly pavilion that she and members of the community had constructed in the small town of Elkton, about 55 miles north west of Eugene on Hwy 38 that leads to the coastal town of Reedsport.  The community has also built a replica of Fort Umpqua there, which originally was the southernmost outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company back in 1836.  It was her presentation that inspired me to learn more about butterflies and to start focusing on how to create a more butterfly friendly garden along with my bee friendly garden.

I was so impressed that this single woman with such a grand vision, along with her many community helpers, could create such an incredibly impressive and productive operation.  As of this time the site includes a native plant park and nursery, a huge community garden, butterfly pavilion, library/community building, market garden, café, gift shop and a replica of historic Fort Umpqua.  This is another example of the kinds of gems that exist here in Oregon that continually confirm in my mind that this is one incredible state to live in!  Here is the website link to the Elkton community center:

http://www.elktonbutterflies.com/

When I heard about the Elkton Community Center, I knew this would be a place my dad would also enjoy seeing since he’s such a history buff, and being so close it was a perfect destination for a day excursion.  After a big breakfast at the Busy Bee Café we set out for Elkton.   It was a perfect early autumn day in Oregon, and I was looking forward to spending some time with my dad and exploring this new place.  On the way to Elkton you pass through Drain, which is also a charming little town of barely 1,500.  When we arrived to the community center in Elkton the library was closed, but the rest of the center was open.  We said hello to a couple volunteers in the office who were very friendly and informative, and then got instructions for where we could go to see everything.  After a quick walk through in the gift shop, our first stop was the butterfly pavilion.

The first butterly photo in this post is of one of the Monarchs sitting on a butterfly bush, and the second butterfly may be sitting on a variety of Pentas, but I’m not sure.  There were dozens of Monarch perched on the butterfly bush, and it was quiet a thrill to be so close to these beautiful creatures and to be able to get such good close up shots.  The pavilion, though rather small, is filled with bushes and flowers that provide the butterflies with nectar.  The flower under the second butterfly is a Mallow, which is a host plant for the Painted Lady butterfly. The flower under that one is a Pentas for sure.

Outside was a bountiful garden full of many of the flowers that monarchs and other butterflies use for nectar, and hedges of milkweed that the monarchs feed on were scattered in different places.  What I learned that is very important for me when I plant the milkweed that I am growing is that it does very well in hedges.  I think I know a place in my garden that will be appropriate for them, but there are no guarantees that any monarchs will find them to lay their eggs on, but maybe they will get a snack on their way to better places.  We’ll see.

The photo of the orange flower under the butterfly pavilion photo is a currasavica.  It is an annual type of milkweed.  I will post the names to the other plants when I find them.

Monarch Facts

1. Monarchs mate for the first time when they are three to eight days old.  Mated pairs remain together for up to 16 hours – from afternoon to early the next morning.   Both sexes mate several times during their lives.

2. Females prefer to lay eggs on young milkweed plants, most often on the underside of the leaf.  By scattering eggs over many plants, monarchs increase the chance that some of their offspring will survive.

3. The egg hatches in three to four days and the young caterpillar eats its own eggshell as its first meal.

4. The larva devours milkweed leaves.  Monarch larvae do not feed on any other plants, although they do eat many different species of milkweed.

5. The caterpillar molts or sheds its exoskeleton (skin) four times as it grows.  The interval between each molt is called an instar.  The larva goes through five instar.  During each instar the body grows, but the head size stays constant.

6. The larva eats voraciously for about two weeks and grows to approximately two inches in length.  The fully grown larva seeks out a place to begin pupation.

7. The larva finds a location under a leaf or overhang, attaches itself with hooks in the last pair of legs to a silken pad, and forms a pre-pupal “J” before shedding its skin for the last time.

8. The larva splits its exoskeleton and wiggles out of its old skin, revealing the new skin (cuticle) of the pupa.  The cremaster, a spiny appendage at the end of the abdomen, hooks into the silk pad as the larval skin is shed.

9. The chrysalis (pupa) stage lasts for approximately two weeks.   The mature butterfly becomes visible through the pupal cuticle during the last 24 hours of this stage.

10. The fully-developed butterfly within the pupa performs a series of contractions to expand the pupal cuticle.  The contractions split the covering and allow the butterfly to emerge.  Upon emergence, the butterfly begins to inflate its wings to full size.

11. After a few hours, the adult monarch begins to fly and to gather nectar from flowers.   Adult monarchs feed on nectar and water for the remainder of their lives.  The life cycles from egg to butterfly takes approximately 4 – 5 weeks.  The main function of the adult is to reproduce – to mate and lay eggs that will become the next generation.

Range
The monarch butterfly is native to North, Central and northern South America.  It has been accidently introduced to numerous islands in the Pacific and Atlantic.

Habitat
In the spring and summer monarch’s habitat is open fields with milkweed.  In the fall monarchs seek forested areas with a specific microclimate – overnight temperatures above freezing but cool in the daytime.

Food
Monarch butterfly larvae feed on milkweed.  Adults gather nectar from flowers.  Because most milkweed contains bad tasting chemicals (glycosides), that are incorporated into the adult, monarchs are distasteful to predators.

We picked a gorgeous day for this excursion.  Early fall is a good time to visit these gardens because it’s not so hot and there are plenty of flowers still in bloom.   Most of the vegetables from the community gardens had been harvested, and there was still some produce for sale in the market café.  I bought some huge Anaheim peppers so I could finish one last batch of salsa from the two pots of tomatoes that were waiting for me at home.  It was quite impressive how well organized and cared for their flower gardens and growing areas were.   The entire community and the high school students at Elkton High work these gardens and participate in all aspects of the planting, growing and harvesting process.  I was very impressed by how organized they were and the practical layout of their facilities where they do their propagating and other activities and workshops.

I’d recommend visiting this wonderful community center and gardens.

Below are a few links I’ve found so far with good information on butterflies and butterfly gardens:

Guide to the Native Milkweeds of Oregon

http://www.xerces.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/OR-milkweed-guide_XercesSoc2.pdf

WWF’s Website has some good information on the monarch butterflies and why their numbers are declining drastically.

www.worldwildlife.org/species/monarch-butterfly

12 perennials that butterflies love

http://insects.about.com/od/butterfliesmoths/tp/12nectarperennials.htm

PDF on How to Attract Butterlies

http://www.nwf.org/pdf/Certified-Wildlife-Habitat/Attracting%20butterflies_1-13_sm.pdf

How to Cultivate Milkweed

http://www.ourhabitatgarden.org/creatures/milkweed-growing.html

Website called Joyful Butterfly has tons of good information on butterflies:

http://www.joyfulbutterfly.com/product/malva-sylvestris/

 

 

Feverfew – Lavender Migraine Tincture

Feverfew-Lavender Migraine Tincture

Tinctures are fun to make.  Even though I’m lucky and don’t get migraines, I do know some people who do, and I thought that this tincture might be a good one to share.  Maybe it will work for regular headaches as well.  I’ll try it out next time I get a headache. This tincture was easy to make, and since I had an abundant supply of these three flowers in my garden, it was a logical choice for me as a beginner.

What fun it would be to be able to grow most of the herbs and flowers one needs to make a wide range of tinctures, salves, teas and even ingredients for soaps.  For me it is immensely satisfying to be able to grow and create what I want in my own space and to strive for self-reliance as much as possible.

I got the following recipe out of Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide.

Lavender-Feverfew Migraine Tincture

The poppy is optional but recommended.  California poppy seed, leaf, and flower are better, but if you can’t obtain them, any variety of poppy seed will work.

1 part California poppy (seed, leaf, and flower)
1 part feverfew leaf (I added the entire flower, not just the leaves)
1 part lavender bud
80-proof alcohol

Note: Women should discontinue use of this tincture during menstruation, as it can stimulate bleeding.  In fact, feverfew is sometimes used to bring on a delayed menstrual cycle.

How to Make an Herbal TINCTURE

1. Chop your herbs fine.  Place the finely chopped herbs in a clean, dry glass jar.
2. Pour enough alcohol over the herbs to completely cover them by 2 to 3 inches, and then seal the jar with a tight-fitting lid.
3. Place the jar in a warm, sunny spot, and let the herbs soak for 4 to 6 weeks, shaking daily so the herbs won’t settle on the bottom of the jar.
4. Strain the herbs from the liquid. Pour the liquid into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  Store in a cool, dark spot.  An alcohol-based tincture will keep for many years.

I made the mistake with this first tincture by not leaving a good 2 inches of head space at the top, but I did shake it almost daily and I filled the vodka all the way to the top so there was no room for air.  I think it turned out fine anyway.  I’m not sure how much it changed the effectiveness of the tincture since I added the entire feverfew bud instead of just the leaves.  The tincture has a very bitter feverfew taste with a faint hint of lavender, but it is not at all offensive.  I poured a little into a dropper bottle and will definitely give it a try the next time I have a headache.  The drops are certainly easier on the pallet than eating a feverfew bud.

Rosemary Gladstone offers the following additional advice for headaches:

Take several drops of migraine tincture and treat yourself to a hot lavender foot bath by adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to hot water.  Rub a drop or two of the lavender essential oil on the nape of your neck and massage it in.  You can also hold a lavender eye pillow over your eyes for 10 – 15 minutes.  If you can get someone to rub your feet with lavender massage oil then that would be the best!

This beginner’s guide by Rosemary Gladstar is a wonderful book to get started with if you want to know how to grow herbs and process them into tinctures, salves, oils, teas, pills, poultices and so forth.  It’s clear, concise, and abundant with photos and all the information you need to get started.  Of course, if you want more recipes then you can go to the internet where the sky’s the limit.

End of Summer 2014

End of Summer 2014

I never, EVER, thought I would hear myself say that I am glad the summer is ending and fall is on the way.  Even today, September 8, 2014, it’s about 90 degrees outside, and again I will head out into my yard to water for a good hour. What made this growing season different than any of the previous ones that I’ve experiences since living here for over 14 years?  It’s been dry since May!

Even in April I was out wetting the soil because we were just not getting enough rain.  May was the driest I can remember, and although it actually rained a couple times over the summer, it wasn’t enough to help much.   What this has taught me is that I have to invest in an irrigation system for my garden.  I can no longer spend one to two hours a day, 5 months out of the year watering my garden.  Maybe it’s old age, I don’t know, but this summer my energy was just zapped from the heat.

Now that September is here, I look forward to increased energy and mental focus from the cooler temperatures.   More time and motivation to write in my journal will be nice too.   Below is a poem I got from a Facebook friend that I want to post along with this cool photo from my garden that I took the other day when it had just barely sprinkled enough to bless us with a rainbow.  The best part of the late summer for me in my garden is definitely the sunflowers.

When I think about it, September is probably an underrated month.  If anything, it’s the month parents like the most, because the kids go back to school and they are no longer underfoot.  I have to say, it was a pleasure to take my 16 year old to school this morning.  I thought about all those first days of school when I watched him walk towards the front door of the school and how much he’s changed since first grade.  He’s so tall and mature now.  So cute back then and so gorgeous now!

In the poem below the poet suggests that she has a memory from September that she will never forget, but she chooses not to reveal it.  It makes me wonder what some of my best memories from September are.  Do you have any favorite memories from September?

September

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian’s bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes’ sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely token
September days are here,
With summer’s best of weather,
And autumn’s best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

T’is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

— Helen Hunt Jackson,  September

 

Propagation Materials for 2014

Propagation Materials Spring 2014

It’s hard to believe that it is time again to start propagating and planting.  This is my 14th year of gardening in my little place in Springfield.  How did the years fly by so fast?  Thank goodness this place gets easier to maintain every year, because I can really feel my age slowing me down. Fortunately,  I have my 16 year old helping me out with the heavier hauling and loading projects now.  Thank you Joshua!  You’ve been a blessing to me in a thousand and one ways!  With all Joshua’s help it’s enough with three months rest time between November and January, so when February gets here and the crocuses and daffodils begin to emerge I once again get excited and look forward to each hour I get to spend outside in the garden.  Every day it isn’t pouring down rain or too cold to enjoy the outdoors, I take the opportunity to meander through the garden, observing each new stage of rebirth and growth, dreaming of upcoming projects and changes I want to make in my garden landscape, and planning for the new growing season.

Last year I was way behind schedule with my propagating, but this year I was on track.  It’s May 4th today and I’ve got most of my propagating done.  I even managed to get several cool weather starts in by the end of March.  That is very unusual for me.  I’ve even had enough time leftover to start on my arbor, fence and gate project near the chicken coop, and that is very exciting.  Anytime I can build something and add new design elements to the garden landscape, it gives me great pleasure.  Someday I hope to have all my projects done and so much time leftover that I can finally focus on garden art and do other things that are more relaxing. Hey, one can always hope and dream!

This year, I wanted to do something different with the soil mix I used for propagating.  Instead of just peat moss, perlite and garden soil, I decided to use the following mix:

Ingredients:

4 parts Nature’s Best from Lane Forest
2 parts peat moss
1 part Vermiculite
1 part Perlite
1 part red wiggler worm castings (a friend of mine gave me a bucket full!)

Directions:

Mix everything together in a big tote bucket and smash all the big pieces.  Fill your container pots, put them in trays, place the trays on racks in the green house, sow the seeds, and water!   Do not let the pots dry out, but don’t over water either.

This Year’s Soil Amendments

To ensure that the vegetable starts get an extra nutritional boost, I mix in a little Nature’s Best just in the spot where the plant goes. If I sow seeds directly into the ground I also mix some Nature’s Best into the existing soil to add nutrients and tilth.  The dirt can get pretty packed down, but my plan is to not till the existing growing areas anymore and to continue to incorporate the Ruth Stout method of layering instead.

This year I decided to deposit a truck load of Nature’s Best into the raised bed I have behind the greenhouse near the neighbor’s shed.  This is what I use for the propagating mixture, starts and sowing.   When that is used up I will get a load of compost for the garden areas that need it.  Ideally, the manure out at Harold’s dairy would be my choice, but with my bad clutch and transmission I’m afraid to go too far out of town with the truck.  The raised bed around the greenhouse always need amendments and extra soil and manure since it gets so much use and can easily get depleted.  When I plant the onions, parsnips, beets, carrots and whatever else I put in there this year, I will add both Nature’s Best and Manure.  This year I’m also thinking about trying out some fish fertilizer.  One of these days I need to test my soil as well.  Maybe later!