The Annual Rite of Spring…or in other words…SAVE ALL THE BEES!!!

proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpg-Eastern Carpenter Bee#8This is an Eastern Carpenter Bee, native to, as the name says, the eastern part of the U.S. These guys hang out in my garden during the early Spring, and I have no problem with them. I actually like them very much. They pollinate my violas and whatever other flowers I have that survived the winter. And, I enjoy watching them fly about.proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpg-Eastern Carpenter Bee#1This is a close up view of a male, note the white patch on his face. All the boys have the white patch, the girls don’t. Here is a link that gives more info about these bees  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_carpenter_bee     Now, to why I titled the first part of the title of this post, “The Annual Rite of Spring…”. These bees appear every Spring here and for the most part, they are basically harmless, as in, if you don’t mess with them, they generally won’t mess with you. Only the girls can give a mild sting, the boys don’t. These bees like to chew into old wood to make tube-like burrows to lay their eggs. Then they will hover about nearby to protect their babies. The burrowing in the wood is a large part of why many people don’t like these bees, plus the hovering about. 20181013_145746 (3)That small building, in the above picture, just beyond my zinnias, is one of our local mailboxes and it is made out of wood. The bees love burrowing into the soft, old wood on the underside of that little building. Then they hover about, guarding the area. For most of the day, everything is fine, until people start getting off work and come to get their mail. That’s when the screaming starts! People are terrified of the bees! And unless you actually grab one of the female bees and manhandle them aggressively, they won’t sting. But, people don’t want to hear that, they totally freak out and call the landlord and complain about the “KILLER BEES!”. Then, like clock work, the maintenance men show up lugging a big, industrial size sprayer full of bug killer and hose down the immediate area around the mail box. Then those poor bees that weren’t killed outright by the spray come over to my flower pots and sidewalk and die. Then the ants harvest them, and then the ants die. If any little frogs or toads see any of the bigger ants crawling around before they die, the frogs and toads eat the ants and then they get sick and crawl off and don’t come back, so they probably die too. I imagine that any birds that eat the bees probably get sick too. It just goes on and on.

I have a “bee safe zone” in my garden, like a haven for bees. I don’t use any plant product that might hurt them, I read all the labels to make sure. I always grow some plants specifically for the bees, this year I’m going to grow at least one morning glory, possibly two. And probably some more zinnias. Just for the bees.proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpg-Bumblebee#3This, above, is a Bumblebee, these guys also hang out in my garden. One has hung out all through the winter, working over the violas everyday.proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpg-Honeybee#4 This, above, is a honeybee. I rarely see these in my yard, it is a major event when I actually see one, there are so few of them around here now.

But, to get at the point I’m trying to make, all bees pollinate plants, not just honeybees. By killing the carpenter bees, people are limiting the amount of pollinating bees that are still out there. Hold in mind the thought, without bees and the various other creatures that pollinate all the plants that we get food from, people would have to pollinate all those plants by hand. Plant by plant, flower by flower, all by hand, probably with a soft paint brush or a feather.proxy.duckduckgo.com.jpg-Eastern Carpenter Bee#4So, here above, is another picture of an Eastern Carpenter Bee, busy collecting nectar and pollen. Please don’t kill them! They are not public enemy number one! They’ll only be about for a short while, just long enough to mate and make sure their babies are okay. Many of them don’t live very long past July, it’s like they enter old age and start slowing down. They rest often and fly less and less  So, from the second part of this post’s title, please…”SAVE ALL THE BEES!!!”  All of them, not just the honeybees, all the different kinds of bees! They pollinate the plants we get a large percentage of our foods from. The least we can do is protect them and grow a few flowers for them in our gardens. The benefits of having them around, far outweighs any problems they might cause. So, I imagine I’m doing the Lorax’s job, I speak for the  carpenter bees because they can’t speak for themselves! I had to get the bee pictures from Duckduckgo.com  images, because the bees in my yard aren’t real keen on having cameras pointed at them, they fly away before I can click the button. The mailbox picture is one I took last fall. I’ll get down off my soap box now. Thank you for reading my bee post. I hope you all have a nice day. GROW FLOWERS FOR THE BEES!!!!!!

SNOW…OH NO!!!!

20190305_072859 (2)20190305_072826 (2)20190305_072932 (2)20190305_072944 (2)20190305_073216 (2)20190305_072843 (2)This is very unusual for here! Bleck!!!! As you can see from the above pictures, I had a big surprise when I peered outside just as it was getting light this morning! Fortunately, it’s not freezing, so I went out and brushed the rosemary off, blotted it dry as well as I could with paper towels and covered it up to wait until the temps go up some. A weather rock is more accurate than our weather forecasters around here, they said in the forties and rain. Yeah right! As I was standing outside brushing off the rosemary, the snow was still coming down in big hand-sized clumps. Our thermometer on the patio said the temperature was 34 degrees, so I’m thinking the air higher up is much colder than it is down here on the ground. So the snow formed higher up and didn’t melt as it fell but made the big clumps or something like that. All I know for sure is;  there is a lot of “not rain” all over the area. The bluebirds were looking less than thrilled as they were going to and fro from their house. I imagine they can still find some bugs hiding in the nooks and crannies on the bark of the pine trees. As they made the return trips to their box, they had wiggly somethings in their beaks, so they were still finding creepy crawlers to eat of some sort.20190305_074427 (3)Last night was a cleaning, laundry, sheet changing, and quinoa cooking time, so I didn’t get a whole lot done craft-wise. Though, I did squeeze in some work on my zombie rocks, muddied them up some. I got another coat of black paint on the first wood ladybug’s body section and some white paint on the wood ladybugs’ eyes. So, there you go! An unforeseen weather event and a tiny bit of crafting activity. I hope you all have a nice day! Stay warm, try to stay dry and HAPPY CRAFTING!!!!

The Rosemary is still trying to make flowers! And some more work on the ladybug figures…

20190303_174715 (2)A few more flowers have appeared and some definite growth is happening over the whole plant. As you can probably see behind the rosemary, the grass out in the yard hasn’t really greened up yet, except for a few clumps of clover and some dandelions. I’m wondering, since the rosemary is trying to bloom now, what’s it going to do in June when it is supposed to bloom? I guess I’ll have to wait and see.20190303_174801 (2)The violas are still growing really well and the ornamental kale is… still not doing a whole lot. I’m getting the two pots at the end of the row ready for spring planting, mixing in organic matter and fluffing the soil up.

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I’ve done the masking tape on the girl ladybug…20190303_175155 (3)And I’ve done the floral tape wrap on her and the first layer of paper-mache’ on her body. Next, to do the floral tape on her shoes.  Under the pile of rocks (the future rock ladybugs, shark, pig and girly bug) and under that ceramic tile they are sitting on, is one of the wood lady bugs. I’ve glued the main body parts together and the rocks are weighting everything down while it all dries. I’ve got the other two wood ladybugs also under piles of rocks while the glue is drying on them too. The ladybug rocks need about one more coat of the red paint and then they’ll be ready to embellish. The red paint seems to be pretty skimpy with the actual pigment in it, so it does not really cover in one coat, or even two or three coats. Very annoying! So, slowly but surely, the ladybugs are all coming along.The weather hasn’t been helping the drying process, it is raining, yet again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this last winter will go down as the wettest we’ve had here in North Carolina in quite awhile. It has been raining more days than it has been sunny or not raining. So, it is what it is. I hope you all have a very nice Monday and an even better rest of the week! Happy Ladybug Creating! Happy Creative Problem Solving! Happy Crafting!!!!

A bit of a product review #3 The garden & home product edition…

20181101_183818 (2)I used to use these NeemAura Citronella Sticks when I worked in my garden to keep the mosquitoes away. See the taller package, that is how the package used to look, they came as an actual incense stick that you could stick in the ground and you’d light them and they worked great. They would last for two hours. Now they come in the shorter package, there is no longer a stick part and you have to finagle them onto that metal thingy which is an absolute piece of cheap crap! They break and fall apart. If you actually manage to get them to stay in one piece and onto the metal stand/holder thing, the slightest breeze can blow them over and the burning tip breaks off. And all the while you are trying to get the product to work properly, the mosquitoes are coming up behind you and having a field day chewing up your backside and any other part they can get at! So, to make these “sticks” work after a fashion, I light them and put them in a tall can like the ones asparagus spears come in. I set the can next to one of my pots to protect it from sudden breezes and the stick stays burning and does its job like its supposed to do but now for only an hour. I’m really not impressed with the so called new and improved version of this product, I can make it work but I liked how it was originally a whole lot better. In my opinion the “improvement” the company made to this product should never have been made, it was fine the way it was. Now it’s almost more trouble than it’s worth. On a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 as worst and 10 as best, I give this product a 2. Before it was “improved” I would have given it a 10, it was that good! I got this from Amazon.com as it is no longer available locally in stores.20181101_183543 (2) “Dynamite Mater Magic”, in my opinion, works almost like actual magic for growing big healthy tomatoes and peppers. This is a SUPER GREAT product! I feed it to my tomatoes when I grow them and also to my pepper plants. This last growing season I was able to fill eleven gallon size food storage bags with peppers off my pepper plants and my last pepper plant was still loaded with peppers until we had a hard frost last week. The product supplies pretty much everything the plants need to produce vast quantities of tasty tomatoes and peppers and it helps protect against blossom end rot and cracking. On a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 as worst and 10 as best, I give this product a 10, it is that good! I buy this from Lowes.com and from their brick & mortar stores.20181101_183639 (2)It is the time of year when all kinds of crawly things want to come inside and hang out with you over the winter. We even have problems with centipedes getting in, can’t stand them and if they bite you it means a fast trip to the emergency room. So, I use Orange Guard, it is made with the oils from orange peels and works really well for killing and repelling creepy, crawly and flying home invaders. It will take down a fly with one direct hit, and it will kill a cockroach in ten minutes or less, depending on how much you are able to hit it with before it makes a lightening run to hide from you. I haven’t actually tried Orange Guard on centipedes yet, usually I wack them with my shoe, but it might work on them, but because they are so dangerous I would stick with the tried and true shoe wack method on them. Least ways with that method you know they’re definitely dead and not lurking somewhere close in a weakened state but still able to bite the crap out of you. So, a warning about Orange Guard, it can remove paint from all kinds of surfaces, so if you use this product, after spraying it, wipe it off the surfaces you get it on after it does its job killing the bugs you aimed it at.  And don’t spray it on plants, it can burn and kill foliage. All and all, Orange Guard is a very good product. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as worst and 10 as best, I give Orange Guard a 9 and that is only because it can remove paint off household surfaces. With careful use, Orange Guard is a very effective bug repelling and bug killing product. I buy this at various health & natural food stores.

So I hope my product reviews are useful to someone shopping for garden and home bug repelling and bug killing products and for SUPER GREAT tomato and pepper food! I hope you all have a very nice day!

Some cute little ornamental Kale and the Rosemary & Violas are still looking good!

20181113_133714 (2)My mom brought me these cute little ornamental Kale plants, YEAH MOM! I’ve never grown ornamental kale before, just edible kale. So, hopefully these will do okay and can handle freezing weather.20181113_133753 (2)The rosemary and all the violas are still doing well, even after going through two nor’easters during the last few of days. The lemongrass and the dragon cayenne pepper are still hanging in there and the pepper is still making peppers. My guard toads keep a wary eye on the garden for me.  So, HAPPY FALL / WINTER GARDENING!

Violas and Rosemary for the winter garden!

20181111_164139 (2)So, here is the little rosemary shaped up kind of like a Christmas tree. There was going to be possible frost last night so I covered this guy with a white plastic garbage bag to give it some protection. When I looked out this morning there was a little frost on the roofs of the apartments across from us, but it wasn’t bad enough to damage my remaining pepper plant or the lemon grass.20181111_164252 (2)Here are some of the new violas, in shades of yellow and orange. The pepper and the lemon grass looking not too bad off still. In the back ground you can see my neighbor decorated her front door like a Christmas package, it looks very nice!20181111_164216 (2)The rest of the violas in shades of blue and purple. The sticks that you probably have noticed I’ve got sticking up all over the place in the pots, are to deter the neighborhood cats from using my pots as a litter-box.20181111_164429 (2)And here is the arbor standing back up again, just a little shorter than it used to be. My dad has a special saw that can cut through metal. He cut off the remaining leg of the arbor that hadn’t been snapped off  by the winds during Hurricane Florence. Then he cut off the bottom cross bars and now the bits that stick out at the bottom are the new legs for the arbor, YEAH!!!!! I used my rubber headed mallet to tap the arbor down into place and now it is all ready from some plant to crawl up on in the spring. Now, our local mockingbird thinks the arbor is a good perch to survey the yard from, the resident wren really likes it too. As you can see in the background, we still have piles of tree waste left over from Hurricane Florence and that is just a small pile, I’ve seen some that are several stories tall as we’ve been out and about. It’s going to be a while before all the organic waste is processed just because there is so much of it. The hurricane really tore this area up big time.

So, there is the winter garden so far. I haven’t made a hard choice yet of what will be in the two smaller pots, just that it will be something that can handle being frozen and keep growing. So, HAPPY WINTER GARDENING!!!! Have a great day!

So, we survived the tropical storm version of Hurricane Michael

Pray for the people in Florida, they got the full fury of Hurricane Michael. It was one mile per hour short of being a level-five hurricane when it made landfall. It’s going to be a long time before they get back to any thing that resembles normal for them. My husband’s nephew and his family have a house just in from Panama Beach, Florida. They rode out the storm and were very lucky they weren’t killed, the winds ripped the siding off the house and the roof took extensive damage. They have no water or electricity and their house is now unlivable until it is repaired. We were very lucky, the storm had weakened down to a tropical storm by the time it got here. We were on the right side edge of the wind field and got the fifty mile per hour winds and some seventy to ninety or so mile per hour gusts. And about an inch and a half or so of rain, there abouts. The lights flickered a lot but we didn’t loose our electricity. Wednesday evening just before the storm got here, I was outside in the rain moving the plants up by the building to give them some protection from the wind. I laid the zinnia down on the ground so it wouldn’t get as beat up by the wind.20181013_145746 (2)So it made it through the storm without too much new damage, I set it back upright yesterday morning. The only plant that was blown over by the wind was the lemon grass, but it happened early enough that it didn’t get any new noticeable damage and my husband set it back upright for me when he got home from work Thursday night after the main part of the storm had moved by.20181013_145731 (2)I took our hose out yesterday morning and rinsed all the plants off real good to try to remove the salt spray and I drenched the soil in the pots to remove as much as I could of the salty rain water. The little resident lizards were running all over the place, they made it through the storm okay too.20181013_145741 (2)The malabar spinach stayed upright through the storm and my bluebird house is still firmly attached to the tree, YEAH!!! So, after I had cleaned up the tree limbs and bits and pieces of pine tree that littered the yard, I dragged it all out to the curb for the organic-waste removal people to take away.

It was a nice, cool and breezy day yesterday, so I took the Zomkins outside and sanded them down some to make them a little smoother for painting, as papier-mache’ can make a some what lumpy surface. Then today, I re-gessoed them. Spider boy has been base coated with black. Smiley has got his eyes in, I was trying them to see if they were going to fit and they stuck in place, seriously stuck in there, so I left them rather than risk breaking them trying to get them back out. I’ll use my little tiny nail art brushes that I use to paint my rocks to very carefully paint the ‘pupils’ in and the eye color and to do the area around the eyes.20181013_145813 (2) And I used the Celluclay to sculpt their lid ‘stems’ to make them look a little more real and less like a dowel sticking out of them.20181013_145851 (2)So, this is how things are going so far. I’ll prime-coat the Zomkins tomorrow. And like I said earlier, remember the people in Florida, it’s going to get worse there before it gets better. Without power, their houses, if they are still standing, are going to mold. All that, plus repairs, is going to have to be dealt with before their homes are livable again. From looking at the videos, it truly looks like a nuclear bomb had been dropped there. Buildings were reduced to what looked like piles of toothpicks. Pray for those poor people there and all the others that were in Hurricane Michael’s path. If you are so inclined, donate money to the American Redcross: ‘Hurricane Michael Disaster Relief Fund’. They are the real deal and will get money and supplies to the people who need it.

What’s left of my garden after the storm and some storm damage in my area.

Hurricane Florence is now well gone away, thank goodness. But the after affects are still being felt here and everywhere else it parked itself on. The wind blew all my pots over except the one with the spinach and the two small ones which I had moved to in front of the front door for some protection from the wind. 20180923_184024 (2)Of the two small pots, only the vinca is still doing well. The other one had a lettuce leaf basil which the winds kind of shredded to pieces and it died. 20180923_184007 (2)The habanero pepper had most of its leaves blown off, but it is growing all new leaves now. 20180923_183957 (2)The jalapeno pepper was looking somewhat okay until it died yesterday. 20180923_183921 (2)Of the two zinnia plants I had, this one, though pretty battered, is still hanging in there and is making new buds. The other zinnia got shredded by the wind and died yesterday.20180923_184034 (2)The dragon cayenne lost a lot of leaves but is still hanging on and is still making peppers. The havasu pepper got ripped to pieces by the winds and died.20180923_183908The malabar spinach stayed upright through the whole storm, it’s right in front of the front door and the building gave it some protection from the worst of the winds. And you can see back behind the spinach, my bluebird house also made it through the storm okay.20180923_184054 (2)My husband was like, “Oh no, the poor lemongrass!”.  I went out and looked at it and had to show him pictures of how it looked before the storm. It actually looks better now than it did before the bad weather.20180923_184121 (2)In this picture, above, is what used to be a very nice maple tree that I could see from my driveway. It lost three-fourths of it branches and since I took this picture, has been cut down. 20180923_184212 (2)This is a tree at the other end of my building.20180923_184304 (2)This is the tree that the bluebird house is attached to, that limb hanging down is huge and is on the back of the tree where hopefully, it can’t damage the bird house when it comes down or is cut down. So, we were very lucky, a lot of people lost everything they had when their houses flooded from all the rain or had their roofs ripped off by the winds. Our wind caused roof leak is very minor compared to what other people are going through. So, I’m getting the now empty pots ready for violas. I’m adding tea leaves and fruit and vegetable peels to add organic matter and fluffing up the dirt. Just waiting for Lowes and Home Depot to get some new plant shipments in. So, all things considered, my plants could have done without having a hurricane go through, just saying. But you know, stuff happens. So, happy planting!

My Organic Garden In Great Big Pots

I live in an apartment and my landlord isn’t too keen on renters digging up the landscape for gardens. So I got around that by gardening in big 20″ and 18″ tall plastic flower pots that sit just outside my front door on the sidewalk and down the edge of the driveway. That first plant up close is a Jalapeno pepper,  you can just make out some of the peppers which are just about ready to pick.20180819_193132 (2)I have a cast-iron arbor for vine-type  things to climb up on.20180819_193050 (2)Right now this Red stemmed  Malabar spinach, which I planted from seeds on June 5th,  is growing up and up. Malabar spinach likes hot weather but is very slow growing.  I have two pots of zinnias which I’ve made supports for and tethered to the arbor to help keep the flowers from falling over. This variety, in the picture below,  is “Exquisite”, which I got from Burpee.com. The blooms are from 4-5″ big. They start out as bright red and shift to rosy-red and then mellow to a soft pink. They are an annual and they get 36″ tall. This variety is very drought tolerant. I started these from seeds that I planted on June 5th and now they are about 40″ tall and that’s without counting the height of the pot! So they are coming along nicely.IMG_20180819_201313_393 (2)Everyday pretty butterflies like to visit and sip nectar from the zinnias, which makes me very happy cause I picked this color flower to attract them and hummingbirds.20180810_123712 (3)He/she didn’t like me pointing my phone at him/her and kept flying off and looping around to get a better position on the flower that was furthest from where I was standing.20180819_193157 (2)This is a white flowered vinca that came up on its own from compost that I used from my father-in-law’s compost pile. Free flowers!20180819_193208 (2)This is a Habanero pepper plant that is peppering away and at the base of it is a tiny viola that came up from a seed left from one of the violas that I grew this last winter.20180715_203517 (2)This is a Havasu pepper, which is a medium-heat stuffing pepper and it is doing very well.

So, even though I don’t have a “traditional” in the ground garden I have plants in containers that I can shift around to catch the best sun or to move into the shade if they need less sun. I use a moisture meter when I water so I don’t over-water and drown the plants. I feed them once a month with an organic liquid kelp fertilizer. I use a cypress mulch to help keep down weed growth and to help keep the plants from drying out too much during hot weather. So far from my pepper plants I’ve harvested seven gallon size full bags of organic grown peppers which I give away to friends and family. I’ve been very lucky this year, there hasn’t been a major hurricane come through yet and tear up my plants. Other years haven’t been so lucky, though the plants usually survive major wind events pretty well. I pull them all up close to the building so they get some shelter from the winds and heavy rains.  So, this is this summer’s garden so far, other than some minor leaf-miner damage to some of the zinnia leaves, which I picked off and destroyed, things are doing pretty well. A female hummingbird comes every morning and evening and visits the zinnia flowers, I watch her from my living room window, she is very pretty. This winter I will grow more violas and probably some kale and maybe some snow peas. So, I hope you liked my garden pictures, please excuse some of them being a little blurry, I’ve only had a smart phone for a year and I need more practice holding very still while I take pictures while fighting off hungry biting bugs! So, happy organic container gardening!