Monday, June 22, 2015

July 4th dilly

What does this remind you of?

Aerial "peony" fireworks?

Instead of traditional red, white, and blue whatevers,
how about bringing these bursting "fireworks" to your buffet table
for the decorations?

A large bouquet for a fountain-effect centerpiece or several smaller vases
festooning the length of the table will bring the highlight of the day's festivities to mind.  Pyrotechnics!

This bouquet is made with dill.  This is one flower head. Arranging this couldn't be easier.  Cut one flower head and put it in your selected container, and then add a stem or two of contrasting leaves.

Dill is easy to grow and sometimes you find it growing wild.  
This dill was picked from my garden. 
It volunteered from a plant grown last year. 
Fourth of July or not, I think this is a nice way to bring a bit of the
outdoors inside, whenever dill is found.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Just the facts, lady, just the facts

I love the tiny, amazing details of nature.
Nothing speaks to me of God as loudly 
as the brilliant design of every living thing.

Here are a few facts 
about solitary bees, Masons mostly, but others as well, that I found particularly irresistible. 

75% of bees are solitary.  Solitary means each bee tends to its own brood.
There is no Queen. There are no workers. They do not live in hives nor do solitary bees make honey. They do not swarm.  
They are harmless and non-aggressive.
Solitary bees are docile, gentle natives of the United States and Canada.
(I think John Lennon could have written song lyrics with this information.)

There are over 1,600 species of bees in California alone.
Over 4,000 species in the United States. The honeybee is not native to the United States. It was brought here from Europe, Asia, and Africa.

At night, male solitary bees will sleep on plant stems, under
leaves, or in flowers. Females may return to their nest to spend the 
night constructing new tunnels and brood chambers.
(A man may work from sun to sun, but a woman's work is never done!)

Individual pheromones help the bees identify their own nesting holes.

Female destined eggs are laid first, in the back of the nest/tube. The eggs closest to the entrance hole are males: thus the males are the first to emerge in the spring. 
Outside of the nest, the males wait for the females.  As the ladies
appear, the males mate with them.  The female mates only once, and then releases the stored sperm as she needs it. 

Bees encounter nest predation from birds, spiders, and other insects...wasps. If the nest is plundered, the larvae/pupae closest to the entrance will be eaten first. Females are more important to the reproduction of the species. Thus the males are a barrier protecting the females. This increases the survival and fitness of the species. 

Ground nesters need bare dirt. 60 -70% of native California bees dig tunnels into the soil and provision a series of nest cells.  We obstruct ground nesting bees with mulch or even worse, black plastic.

Bees need to warm up to 80 degrees for their wings to function. Mason bees' black bodies can soak up heat even when the air temperature is only 58 - 64 degrees.

One fast flying Mason bee is as efficient in pollinating as 100 honey bees!

The Mason bee has long antennae and black furry legs. They are small bees that don't look like "bees" as we normally think of them.  What cute antennae!

It's easy to enhance bee habitat on your property.
I suppose a good mantra would be
"Let it be."
(I've definitely got a Beatles songbook playing in my head today.) 
Don't be so fastidious in the garden.
Minimize lawn or mow less often.
Tolerate dandelions. (This is one that I need to work on.)

A bee friendly yard has a lot purple, blue and yellow flowers.
These are the most attractive colors to bees.
Provide water and a mud source.
Plant a mix of flower shapes to accommodate 
different bee tongue lengths. Awww.
Plant native perennial plants.

Native bees.
Wild bees.
Solitary bees.
"All You Need Is Love".
Love is All You Need...

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mason bee and Marriage Pickle

where did I leave off?
Oh yes,
Solitary Bees.

But before I go into the black and white information about the bees themselves, let me share my dilemma.  A little gray area of life.

The type of Mason bee house that Duke lovingly took 15 days to make for me for my birthday is a death sentence for some Mason bees. 

Yes, in the wild the bees find just this type of dwelling to lay their eggs in.  Long holes.  Preferably, 5/16" in diameter and about 4" long. (Albeit, not grouped for human interests.) 
if you, me or you, is hoping to increase the population of these brilliant pollinators, the beautiful type of house Duke built is not helping.

The problem is POLLEN MITES.  Mites, the curse of the world.
As I understand it, pollen mites can harbor in solid wood holes.
In the spring the female Mason bee, aka Orchard bee, collects a pea-size ball of pollen and nectar, which is gathered together within a channel...
natural or man-made.
A single egg is laid on top of this pearl.
Mrs. Osmia then builds a wall using mud, as a plaster, for sealing the nest.
The same bee goes off to collect more pollen to repeat the process.
Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall. Pollen ball. Egg. Wall...
until the tube is filled with eggs, provisioned with a nutritious mix of pollen and nectar.  Each tiny egg hatches and the larvae quickly begins to develop by eating the yummy food mama bee left for it.
During the summer, cocoons are spun and the larvae then pupates for the next 9 months. 

Are you still with me?
My problem is about to emerge. 
Come spring time, when the fruit trees' flowers start opening like popcorn, the adults are ready to leave their brood chambers.
If pollen mites have taken up residence inside of the chambers, trouble awaits. As the bee crawls out of the tunnel rubbing along passed them, the mites will cling to its wings. The bee is looking to begin its brief 6 - 10 weeks as an adult bee, but because of the mites on its wings, it cannot fly. The bees drop to the ground and die.

People who are "raising" Mason bees use either cardboard tubes, made and sold for this purpose, or they will make parchment paper liners for inside the man-drilled burrows.

 This is how pollen mites are controlled.
In the fall, the tubes or paper liners are removed from the housing and opened up. The cocoons are inspected for mites. If there are any present, they are brushed off, thus protecting the bee wings come spring. 
The cocoons are then stored in a cool dry place until spring.  Some people store them in their refrigerator. When the temperature warms and blossoms pop, the cocoons are set out. The bees will emerge and the process begins again.

From what I have read and seen on YouTube, the type of house Duke built isn't  conducive to the monitoring of pollen mites. And do I even want to be dealing with them? 
Yet, I certainly don't want to encourage bees to nest en-mass, if it is going to be a potential a death warrant for them.
The type of housing that is compatible to cardboard tubes or parchment liners
is constructed differently, i.e., the back comes off and the holes are drilled straight through, for access from the back of the condo for tube insertion and removal. (The chambers in my gift are only open in the front. I'm not sure if I would be able to get the liners out.)

I casually mentioned the mite problem to Duke and he's not buying it. 
Do I hang the Mason bee house and let nature take its course?
Do I try to line the holes with parchment paper liners and deal with any mites there might be? 

What is more important here? Accepting the gift given to me by my loving, sensitive husband of 47 years, without worrying about the bees that might die at the start of their adult life OR do I line the holes and deal with the possible mite problem and possible hurt feelings?

Marriage...and Nature...what a trip!

This post is already long enough. 
Black and white facts later this week.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Solitary bee condo

If Mason bees could read 
(and actually used part of their short 6-10 week lifespan doing so),
I would place this ad in the OSMIA Gazette:

Absolutely Stunning Arts and Craft Homes
available for your Spring, 2016 brood.

Enjoy urban-living at its wilderness finest 
as you fly into your individual nest cells.
No processed paper products. 
Only hand gathered trail branches
placed in a frame of untreated, recycled wood.

Loaded with totally tubular, smooth, 5/16" 
holes, 4" long for your egg depositing comfort.

Nearby water and clay mud.
The high cathedral roof line offers overhanging 
protection from rain.
The South facing entrances will warm you each morning,
 as you overlook
quiet grounds, rich in organic, gourmet pollen and nectar.

Join this exclusive community of docile, solitary, yet
friendly neighbors
in a bio-diverse location.
With on-site security as you provision your 
egg chambers. 

in exchange for open flower pollination
and viewing rights.

This is what Duke made for me for my recent birthday.

I've spent hours reading about Mason bees. 
More about them in a future post.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Thursday, May 7, 2015

guilt of a nimby

a poem by:  jennifer

a blistering day 
and i'm
taking refuge from the sun
sitting in the right side of the car
to avoid the burn.
and i have
the sliding door open
to let in the hot breeze.

while waiting to gather a babe.
from school.

an ice cube shifts in my tea
as it melts.

and i am watching a pincher bug...
  or earwig if you will..
frantically crawling up,
pausing at a crack, on a weather beaten, 
 once orange
 traffic cone.

i could only imagine he was desperate for water,
  on his sun baked plastic island.
bordered by a swath of asphalt
cracked earth and dried foxtails.

and one wouldn't think
that the very next week,
the same she 
who would fish out an ice cube 
and give it to him
   by placing it on his miserable island
(to keep him alive)

would step on his brethren.

seedlings to protect and all.

N ot
I n
M y
B ack
Y ard

am i.


Thursday, April 30, 2015


Today, April 30, is the last day of National Poetry Month.
Thank you Jennifer for keeping poetry alive and well.
Today is National Poem In Your Pocket Day.
Apparently, that means you are supposed to share a poem with others.
I would normally just keep my poems in my pocket, but in an effort to be patriotic, 
 I give you this.


Above the ground you float 
like lilies in a pond.
Breeze and bee set you adrift.
Only your orange flowers
bring you back to earth.

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

an achilles heel in the kitchen

a poem by: jennifer

tikki masala, 
  homemade baklava and chicken marsala.

a rich, creamy, tart lemon curd
  and a perfectly roasted thanksgiving bird.

exotic curries,
  a humble stew and a flaky pie crust i can do.

a moist and tender
  (be it slightly lopsided)
      3 tiered wedding  cake...
and yet,
   a complete failure at a simple pancake.

raw in the middle, black on the top
    i try and try, but they are always a flop.

i often concede, and pass the job,
   to the ever successful pancake god.

but when given a request by a sweet, sweet babe,
    i will try again, always their slave.

and surely one day i will serve
   the stack of cakes that they deserve.

but until that day should arrive at my door
  can i offer some pear frangipane or something more?