Planning a Pollinator Garden

I visited the Chatham County Extension Pollinator Garden for a IMG_4808lecture and tour last week.  What amazing resources we have in our NC State Extension offices!   They offer all types of classes and garden assistance for farmers and homeowners.  Our extension agents are true friends to native NC pollinators – not just honey bees (which actually aren’t NC natives) but all the bees,  butterflies, and moths that help our plants go from flower to fruit.

Now, I count myself as somewhat of a gardener.  I know the difference between an asclepius and an agerarum, but I had no idea the wealth of species, let alone cultivars available to attract our pollinators.  Their garden (like mine) was tired this time of year, but still remarkably beautiful (unlike mine) with seed pods, vertical structure and late blooming beauties.  The variety of native plantings really

IMG_4813struck me.  Why plant fussy roses that mildew or the ubiquitous annuals when we have a wealth of beneficial plants available with a southern accent?  These gems are from these parts and gladly spread their offspring to fill in garden space at a low cost.  And they don’t need watering once established.  Check out the Bat-Faced Couphea in this photo.  It’s an annual, but one of the few flowers the honey bees were working at the time.  Can you find her?

 

I left the garden at Chatham Mills feeling like a horticultural toddler. There is much to learn, but as I left clutching my sample milkweeds I was excited for Fall.  It’s the time for planning and planting!  We are also fortunate to have fantastic nurseries offering native plants all around us; from Tony Avent’s Plant Delights Nursery to Mellow Marsh, and Niche Gardens.  So while most plants are yawning for a winter rest, I’m rolling up my sleeves to start work a true pollinator garden on the farm.  If you are interested in visiting the Chatham Pollinator garden or in planting native species, check out Extension Agent Debbie Roo’s site https://growingsmallfarms.ces.ncsu.edu/growingsmallfarms-pollinatorconservation.   I’m starting with her Top 25 list, and maybe adding a few of my own favorites.  Now is the time to get started with soil prep and perennial planting.  Your garden and the bees will thank you come Spring.  Happy Fall!

 

 

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The Experts on How to Clean Your Room

Honey extracting leaves a mess.  All of the equipment, floors, frames (and people) are  hopelessly covered in layers of pure stickiness.  You could spend hours IMG_0793cleaning and scrubbing, or you can call in the experts.  Given the slightest encouragement of a morning breeze, the honeybees show up right on time to solve the problem.  (Remember me saying why we extract at night?)  Within 5 minutes of placing the honey extractor and equipment out in the bee yard, the first scouts arrived.  Within 10 minutes, the keg-party cleanup is underway. 

It looks like a melee but they aren’t aggressive, just enthusiastic about a tremendous food source during meager times.  After a day of the bees’ scrubbing, not a trace of honey can be found.  IMG_0803Mr. Clean has nothing on these ladies.   They turn a former mess into  bounty for their hives and leave us with sparkling clean equipment.  By the end of the day they have cleaned and sanitized all the extracting equipment, the former honey frames, and even the cap pings wax.  It’s a great relationship – they recoup honey during a lull in the landscape, and we get effortless cleanup.  They do lick everything clean which is a bit different, but their housekeeping skills truly put mine to shame.  These girls are a great example of how nothing is wasted.  I hope they aren’t judging me.  I’m glad they can’t see my kitchen floor.

Movin On Up…

IMG_4908Yesterday was moving day for some of the bee hives at our friends Ninja Cow Farm.  They have been managing in top bar hives but decided to switch them over to Langstroths to ramp up honey production next spring.  We assured the bees (who were incredibly docile for all the interruption) everything will be kept natural – no chemicals, no foreign honey, no new taxes… They seemed confused but cooperative (except for the one who kept hounding me, clearly buzzing ‘I hate her!’).  Dan likened it to going off to school and coming home to find out that your family had moved into a new house.  They left a forwarding address, but still weird to suddenly have a new layout and all new furniture. My kids and some onlookers were a bit disappointed at the lack of running and flailing during the whole affair. It truly was a smooth operation with the bees settling down into their new pads pretty quickly.  Sorry kids, but stay tuned, I’m bound to get stung again before long.

IMG_4906It wasn’t the ideal time of year for the move but two of the hives were weak and didn’t stand much chance of making it through winter.  This was a rescue operation for them.  We were able to salvage much of the natural comb they had drawn, but they had precious little in the storehouse.  We’ll be nursing them along through fall. We decided to hedge our bets leaving one colony still in their top bar hive.  They seem pretty stable so we will wait until spring to relocate them into new digs.

Call Dan to book a Ninja Cow Farm visit.  They are close by in southern Wake County.   You’ll get to see the cows, pigs, and whole farm operation, including the bees’ new deluxe apartment in the sky.IMG_4914

Only 7 plants

I only have 7 tomato plants.  Well, actually that’s a lie.  I have a bunch.  But I do only have 7 Roma tomato plants this year.  This is the second crop, and more are coming.  I know the horror stories of people trying to unload boatloads of summer zucchini but these are tomatoes.  Did I mention that no one in our house eats tomatoes?  Not raw anyway.  So into the sauce pot they will go.  They are a blessing, and I am truly thankful.  )aare the deer who regularly patronize my summer buffet.). So it’s time to fire up the canner, peel, reduce…  But I guarantee you that next January, from a frosty window, I’ll debate if 7 plants is really enough.  And seeing those glistening jars on shelves in the deep of winter I’ll wonder, is 7 enough?IMG_0808-0

2015 Honey is here!

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Our 2015 wildflower & sourwood blend honey is ready!  This year’s crop is some super sweet stuff with a really unique flavor – totally different than anything you’ll find in a grocery store.  I compare it to eating a grocery store tomato vs. a homegrown heirloom variety.  No contest!  And the best part is that this summer harvest can be enjoyed year round.

We have 8oz and 16oz jars available.  Please visit our Where to Buy page for purchase information. Now go make some biscuits….