Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bumble Bees Love Borage

Pollen-legged Bumble Bee (upper right)
There's very little time to languish on the deck and relax these days as the garden is in full production. Not only is it necessary to tend to the plants, there's harvesting, then preparing the bounty. It all takes time, not that I'm complaining, mind you, but it leaves little time for other endeavors, like sitting on the deck watching the bumble bees, and blogging.

I've been fortunate to be sitting here in front of the borage plant captured in a wine barrel and witness the daily comings and goings of several baby bumble bees. It's peeked my curiosity about the fuzzy little insect, apidae bombus a relative of the honeybees I' am tending nearby. Like the honeybee, they feed on pollen and nectar. And like the honeybee, they sting. I understand, and not from direct experience, that their stinger isn't barbed, so they have the distinct privilege of being able to sting over and over. They make their nests in holes in the ground...not the elaborate colony concocted by honeybees, they often only house 50 bees compared to the honeybees tens of thousands. But my favorite fun bumble bee fact is that they can "buzz pollinate", that is, the frequency of their buzz releases pollen from plants, in particular tomato plants. I'm pretty smitten with their genus "bombus" as well.

Wikipedia informs me that bumble bees visit the same plant day after day. So the bumble bees visiting today are the same ones I've been seeing every day. Thus the bumble bees and I have got a steady relationship forming. These pretty little creatures leave scents on the plants they visit that discourages competition from other bumble bee foragers. Guess I can safely name them now. This little tidbit makes me even more intent on continuing my ritual of shooing my canine companion from his nightly pursuit of capturing baby bumble bees in his ferocious jaws.

It is truly awesome the amazing natural world that is as close as the edge of the deck. To imagine that we are an integral part of it is all the more awe inspiring. If more of our kind spent more time sitting on the deck observing the coming and goings of the insects, plans and animals we share the world with, we'd have a better understanding of our place in nature and feel less compelled to continue to contribute to its ruination.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Beautiful Broccoli, Entirely Homegrown Meal

Broccoli grows well in cool climates, hence it's a perfect crop for sometimes sunny, always cool, costal northern California. The broccoli bed was prepared with generous a helping of compost, another must.

Yesterday we harvested our first successful broccoli plant, yielding easily several pounds of broccoli. Last night's dinner was the result of the fruits of our labor:  yukon gold potatoes with broccoli, and strawberry rhubarb cobbler.

The broccoli not only looked spectacular, it was the sweetest and most flavorful I've tasted. The stalks are firm but not woody and the left overs will make excellent broccoli cheddar soup today. We'll definitely purchase these seeds (Premium Crop Hybrid) again next year from Nichols Garden Nursery in Albany, Oregon. Although we've ventured into saving seeds from our crops, since this is a hybrid plants from the seed will likely have completely different qualities than the plants we're currently growing.