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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Planting Has Begun

Spring has definitely sprung in Atlanta (hope these aren't famous last words).  The bulbs Dominique planted last fall are a-bloomin' and the trees are popping with color.

We in response have sprung into action in the garden.  I got busy in some of my beds last weekend and now have arugula, lettuce, carrots, beets, and shelling peas planted.  Plus 2 mystery plants; I think one of them might be spinach.  We have rhubarb coming up in one of the beds from last year which was a pleasant surprise.

My seed potatoes arrived so I've put them in the greenhouse to get "eyes."  Also in the greenhouse I have artichokes, 2 kinds of tomatoes, and basil.  I might have one tiny little asparagus plant or it might be a weed.  The peppers and melons did absolutely nothing, as usual.  I had a scare after transplanting the artichokes from the flats to pots, in that they all seemed to have died, but most of them have come back now.

The compost is amazing.  No excuse for not growing great stuff this year!  Which is kind of too bad, because I'm sure I'll need an excuse.

I have some other seeds I need to get started now:  carrots, some other things I can't remember, and peanuts!  Very excited about the peanuts.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Nasturtiums are blooming. They are great around roses and other plants prone to aphid infestation. Good for salads too! In So Cal they reseed themselves and there are so many I usually have to pull them up because they can block the sun for other plants.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Osmia 4 wks in

The BOBs, Blue Orchard Bees, are hard at work. After 4 weeks they've already complete 7 new tubes of larvae. Interestingly, for four so far, they cleaned out the natal tubes and are using them again. In addition the BOBs took over one of the O. californica tubes. Hmm... not sure how that will work out in the end. These bees only work for 6-8 weeks so you want them to work the blooms on the fruit trees. Our citrus have a very large number of blooms. Unfortunately, the plum tree isn't doing as well. The jasmine is blooming as are the tall, purple irises.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sustainable Pattie

Yesterday I met an amazing woman named Pattie Baker who writes the "Sustainable Pattie" blog here in Dunwoody. I wanted her to blog about WrapCycle so she came over to have a look. We really hit it off. She's a bundle of energy and into all things sustainable, organic, etc., and especially community gardening. She started a community garden in Dunwoody and we talked about starting one in Sandy Springs. She also recommended her CSA so I can finally get started on that.

I loved the write-up she did so I've included the link. I feel like I've really tapped into something important here in Atlanta (along with the racewalking, of course).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poultry and Plant Progress

Day 4 and the chicks are wildly exercising their wing muscles.  They all have feathers at the tips and I'm sure they'll be flying pretty soon.  Sarah arrived this morning and in the nick of time because I don't think they'll be cute very much longer.  At least not in that fluffy, helpless way.

Seedlings are starting to come up, despite the fact that I've lost the use of the greenhouse due to much-needed repair work.  The artichokes look really hardy, and I'm getting quite a few tomatoes and asparagus as well as basil.  The peppers and melons, though - nothing so far.

Could start direct seeding some things in the lower 40, like arugula, lettuce, cabbage, but it keeps raining so it's hard to get down to it.  Only 30% chance today so maybe I'll get to it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

BOBs are Awake!

My BOBs are waking up! It's so exciting and indeed they are starting to fly around. I introduced Mark to these new looking bees or rather they introduced themselves to him by landing on him! As you can see from the first picture (Sorry, not the best picture) there's more mud debris on the shelf. So, the little bees are making their way out. The mud plugs are quite dry. It must take some effort to dig through. There's a post somewhere on the web describing how bees in the back of the tunnel bite or nip their next up neighbor to get going.

They've arrived!

Just as I resigned myself to 3 days of sitting upstairs, barely able take a bathroom break for fear of missing the post, there was a knock on the door.  And there they were:  four of the most adorable chicks I ever saw.  Black, all 4 of them, although 2 have cream-colored patches on them.  I assume those are the Dominiques since they will be black and white, but I don't really know.

None of them was "pasted up" (thank God), much less dead.  First hurdle overcome.  I put them in their new digs unde the infrared lamp and they immediately started exploring.  They found the water right away and knew just what to do.  It took quite a bit longer for the food.  I'm sure they would have found it eventually on their own but I tried to help them along.

Every so often one would stand still then fall over.  I was very alarmed the first couple of times, until I realized that they were falling asleep!  Poor babies; it's been a tough couple of days for them.  They seem warm enough, and the know how to eat and drink, so I felt safe to post their pictures on Facebook and here.  But now I have to go back down - who knows what could happen without my hovering?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ready for the Chicks

Our chicks are scheduled to arrive this week.  We don't know which day; it will be either Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.  We're so excited!  And, incredibly, completely ready for them.  We had ordered everything we needed about a month ago, and yesterday we finally took it all out and made a cozy bed for them complete with heat lamp.  It's kind of a cardboard condo.  I ground up several bags' worth of leaves to use as their bedding, hopefully enough to last until they can go outside to live.

Dominique finished the outside chicken yard by putting on a door.  Now we're waiting for the coop to arrive - should come next week - but we won't need it for 4-5 weeks yet.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Marmalade Season in SoCal

It's Marmalade season! The citrus are ready. There's a bountiful blood orange tree in the neighborhood. I've decided to find out exactly how much marmalade a single tree can produce. So far I've processed about 20 lbs in three batches. There's a lot more to go. I'll give a final report on volume sometime in April. How much marmalade does a family use in a year? Or, should or could use in a year? And what does that mean regarding use of energy for distribution?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bees - Osmia

While we wait for Janet's chicks to arrive, I'll tell you about my bees. Two years ago when trying to get the vegetable garden organized we had real trouble with the squash for lack of pollination. Flower after flower fell off and no fruit. So, it seemed clear. If we were going to have a successful garden we would need to address the pollination issue.... so that meant learning about bees.

There are many kinds of bees. Guess what! There are many kinds of solitary (not hive) bees that live in total bliss flying from flower to flower for the mere pleasure of procreating yet another generation of pollinators. Forget the hive, honey, queen bee, worker bees etc. etc. These solitary bees sound like my kind of bee: Low maintenance.

So, I learned about the Mason bee, of which, again, there are many types. I'll let you all do the Google search to learn more.

Short story: I settled on the Osmia lignaria, otherwise known as the Blue Orchard Bee or BOB!
Cute and native, a very important consideration. Of course, I was figuring this out in 2008 and by January of 2009 realized that I was out of luck to do anything constructive for that spring. This is also an aspect of learning about nature: Sometimes nature's cycle cannot be adapted to our convenience. Whoa! Did I really say that?

The picture above shows the natal bee tubes on the bottom shelf that I put out two weeks ago and something is starting to happen. I've actually got two types of bees. On the left are the tubes for the Blue Orchard Mason bees that come out as early spring pollinators. On the right are the Osmia californica that some out later and pollinate into the summer. Both are native to California. In between is just crumpled newspaper to hold the tubes in place. These are solitary but convivial bees and are happy to work side-by-side with others doing the same. One can just make out where some of the mud plugs have come out. Two plugs lie on the shelf in front. I haven't actually spotted any bees yet. Bummer, but they must be around. The Mason bees are black or dark blue. Of course the males come out first and get themselves ready for the females. Hmmm... The idea is that the females will come back and lay fertilized eggs in the cells of the above unit. THEN there should be lots of activity to photograph. I cross my fingers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Introducing SoCal

Well, this blog is expanding its perspective to include Southern California, Pasadena, specifically. Now, I contribute with some trepidation. Nothing EVER freezes in Southern California. Growing slows, yes, as daylight shortens. But, nothing seems to ever actually die - even the beets.

We (my husband, Mark and I) have been self-sufficient vegetable-wise for almost a year now. Since I am from New England, where, perhaps naively we think, temperature controls much of the growing, it's a new situation to figure out what the cycle in Southern California might be.

Quickly, we now have beets, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, arugula, and peas harvestable.

More to come.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sparkmann's Dairy

Dom and I took advantage of a road trip to Florida to stop by and visit this dairy that I discovered via Whole Foods.  We arrived at milking time (around 5:00) so we watched them milk the cows for awhile.  They did a lot of washing and the whole process seemed very clean. 

We also saw many calves, ranging in age from 1 day to 5-6 weeks.  They were caged but the cages were quite large.  The one thing I didn't like was that the 1-day-old was already in a cage by himself drinking from a large bottle rather than with his mother.  I'd like to know why that is.

S/he was having trouble finding the rubber teat attached to the bottle and the person taking care of the calves was gently and patiently teaching him/her to find it.

They were very open about letting us walk around by ourselves.  The cows all wander around freely, as far as we could tell.  The calves, as mentioned, are penned but I imagine that's for their own protection.  Maybe also to keep them from their mothers, and vice versa.

They don't claim to be organic but they don't give any growth hormones to the cows.  We ended up buying butter, drinkable yogourt, plus bacon and sausage from another nearby farm.  Haven't tried any of it so far.

In an unrelated aside, the softly falling snow outside my window is so beautiful.  Big fat flakes that are starting to accumulate again.  I already went out for a long walk in it.