My mason bee house investment was a bust this year: not a single bee created any masonry or left any cocoons. I dutifully opened all of the paper straws just to be certain, hoping maybe I’d find at least a few bees to protect over winter and set out in the spring.

Instead what had moved in to the hotel were earwigs. Ew. Harmless critters, but a little offensive in the way they scuttle around. They had not laid any eggs either, just left a lot of microscopic poop in the paper straws.

And, when I took the house off of the tree, there were leopard slugs wedged between it and the trunk, causing me to startle greatly (slugs are my one hard-wired, full blown phobia). Egads. Since when do slugs climb trees??

Now that I look at pictures of mason bees again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the blue-brown looking bees around here. And supposedly they don’t travel far from their nest sites. So maybe we don’t have a native population on our property. This fall I’m going to try to buy some to jump-start the population.

BeeHouse1And now, for a non-lambing subject! I recently bought a mason bee house, in hopes of helping along our fruit tree pollination this year. I saw a nice house at a convention, and weighed the hefty craftsperson price against the likelihood that I would find time to make my own, albeit as simple as they are. I opted to just get one.

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PestoWe froze a bunch of fresh basil from our garden last fall, so we could make “fresh” pesto during the winter. Pesto is simple to make for a weeknight meal, and is oh-so-good on pasta. I wasn’t sure how well basil would freeze, because if you’ve ever seen what it looks like in the garden after a frost, it turns a nasty, goopy black! Smile with tongue outBut it worked fine in vacuum sealed bags.

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Hops

This spring, for fun, Kirk bought twelve hops rhizomes. Only twelve, because they are fairly expensive; so it was “just to try growing hops.” Hops are currently limited from being transported across state lines, to prevent the spread of some threatening disease. So that means you can only get them from someone who grows them in your state. In Washington, there are only a few growers, so thus, the price is fairly high, I think we paid around $7 for each tiny root bit.

The vines grew like kudzu all summer, loving our fertile valley soil and hot sun, and we were curious to see what would result.

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Kirk has been super busy with gardening. His favorite things to read, historically, were Porsche, Bugeye Sprite and bicycling magazines. He still reads those, but now added to the pile are seed, plant and irrigation supply catalogs! 😀 He added two rows of fruit trees to last year’s single row.

FruitTrees

There are, I think: apples, pears, Asian pears, peaches, nectarines and plums.

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I haven’t written about the Dolly Llama much lately, so this is for Angie (and probably Marla and Tiffany too!). Here she is!

llamahead

She is doing much better these days, compared to the er, flood incident that happened in January of 2009.

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blackberries Blackberry Bane

The hillside that we’d had denuded of blackberry vines last summer was needing something. It is a steep slope, about 45 degrees, so we want it to be held firm with deep-rooting plants. The steep hillsides around here have never been managed with erosion control in mind, mostly being allowed to populate with blackberries. Blackberries are a noxious weed in our region, and are not a good erosion control plant. Though they have aggressive and spreading root systems, their root type is thick and tuberous, a little like a potato. The roots don’t spread very deep or wide in a “net” fashion like you’d want for holding soil.  And though blackberry vines grow tall, their understory lacks leaves, so they don’t provide a lot of leaf surface for capturing and absorbing rainfall.

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