Bridget

Posts Tagged ‘bees’

October Musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, herbal remedies on October 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

Watery sunlight shines through the jars of newly potted honey from our Bees. Less honey this year but it’s been so sunless and wet we are impressed to get anything. We have 14 of these one pound pots which will see us through Winter. Enough honey is left for the Bees food supply for the Winter. Some Beekeepers take all the honey then feed the Bees sugar syrup, but Andy prefers not to do that.

The big Sycamore tree has dropped most of it’s leaves now…

they fall conveniently on the developing Forest Garden area beneath…giving a perfect mulch to the plants.

A Sunflower produces a late bloom. A cheery sight on these drab wet days we have had throughout October.

On the laneway the combination of the Hawthorn berries and the lichen covered branches give a Christmassy look. The lichen seems to get whiter at this time of the year…or maybe I notice it more when the leaves have fallen. Lichens only grow where the air is pure…they are a good sign of  an unpolluted environment.

Sedum and Yarrow continue to flower in the shaded bed by the chalet. Yarrow is a medicinal plant…useful for nosebleeds and cuts and wounds. It can be made into a tincture which is useful for high blood pressure, weak digestion and heavy periods. The leaves can be dried and used to make a tea. This tea is particularly useful for reducing fevers.

The Fatsia which is in a big pot near the back door is doing well. Most books tell you this is a houseplant…rubbish…this one has been outside for the last 2 severe Winters and is doing great. It looks like it is going to produce flowers soon.

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A Gardener’s Rambling’s!

In Bees, Gardening, sustainable living on June 14, 2011 at 6:54 am

The polytunnel is getting to the stage I really like now, everything growing like crazy, plants merging into each other. Nasturtiums self-seed profusely here, I love their bright colours and the fact that they are edible. The Peach tree has put on lots of growth, I will prune it once or twice during the Summer. Summer pruning works for Peaches, Plums and Nectarines, Winter pruning can lead to silverleaf  and canker.

In the top orchard the Bees are happily working away. Andy checked them recently and the hives are good and healthy, no spare honey yet, the weather has just been too cold and wet. Hopefully the weather picks up and we will get some honey in late Summer. Our main priority is to have happy healthy bees.

Also in the top orchard we have been extending the mulched area. Up to now an area around each tree was mulched. Last week Andy strimmed the grass, we put down lots of newspapers and cardboard, then used the strimmings on top as mulch. When the weather gets better, (fingers crossed) we intend to plant this area with Pumpkins. They are already growing on in pots in the polytunnel. It’s just too cold at night for them so far. They can run rampant here and be pollinated by the Bees.

Foxgloves are in full flower now. I am often reminded of a picture of a painting I once saw in a book, of a gnome like being wearing a Foxglove flower as a hat. The painting was by Walter Thun, husband of Maria Thun who compiles the biodynamic calendar each year. I always have that in my mind’s eye as I gaze upon a Foxglove.

June Musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening on June 6, 2011 at 10:48 am

Californian Poppy among the Carrots. Don’t know how it came there, I did’nt plant it! It is a welcome sight though on this sunless June day. They self seed madly so maybe I will have a swathe of Californian Poppies in the polytunnel next Summer.

Trifolium pratense or Red Clover as it is commonly known is flowering now. An important source of nectar for bees it grows wild along the lane. Like all legumes it is a nitrogen fixer. The flower heads have long been used in herbalism. They are used in herb tea mixtures for chest colds and stomach problems. Externally it is used as a poultice or in bath preparations to treat rashes, ulcers, burns and sores. Some years ago I also read about research using Red Clover in the treatment of cancerous growths.

It seems like the Sweet Williams have been threatening to flower for ages. I think they are waiting for sunshine. Hopefully the wait will not be too long!

In the polytunnel everything is growing rapidly now. Lots of produce to be had, Lettuce, Rocket, Spring Onions, Beetroot and Sugar Snap Peas give variety to our meals. The bed you can see on the right was planted with Parsnips in March, however they did’nt germinate, due to the dry weather we had at that time, I think. Planted more last week so fingers crossed. The Pumpkins are Sunflowers are still in pots in the polytunnel. The weather was never settled enough to plant them out, although I think I will plant out the Sunflowers today as they are becoming potbound. The weather is so odd this year. On Friday last it was 25c, today it about 13c and the forecast for the week is for dull days with temperatures only reaching an average of 13c.

Sycamore tree and other musings from Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 20, 2011 at 8:54 am

The Sycamore tree in our back field is almost in full leaf now. In a few weeks time the bees will be delighted when this tree flowers. I remember going into the garden last year and wondering where the hum was coming from. It was the Sycamore choc a bloc with ecstatic bees! Many people regard the Sycamore as a bit of a weed as it’s seed crops up everywhere, however they are easy to pull out and pot on or assign to the compost bin. I love this tree. I love how it’s “arms” spread out to shade part of the garden from the Summer heat. The goats love to sit in it’s shade and play around it when they are feeling frisky.

I was never happy with the shape of this Willow arch since we made it 2 years ago. A few weeks ago we undid it all, pruned it and retied it into a better shape. Much happier with it now!

Flowers on the Strawberries, these are wild ones I found when exploring the old walled garden at Kilronan. Maybe they are an old variety existing there since the heyday of that now sadly disused garden.

The Variagated Lemon Balm is growing strongly again, it is one of my favourite herbal teas. The Swiss physician Paracelsus believed Lemon Balm to be “the elixir of life.” He  believed the herb could completely revive a person, this view was endorsed by the London Dispensary in 1696:” Balm, given every morning, will renew youth, strenghten the brain and relieve languishing nature.”

In bloom @ Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 9, 2011 at 8:22 am

Blossom covered Plum.

The main soundtrack in the garden yesterday was the sound of bees buzzing busily hither and thither. The Plum above is covered in blossom again this year, and the bees are ecstatic. So much has come into blossom in the last week, they are spoilt for choice.

Victoria is the varietyof Plum and it has done well since it started fruiting 5 years ago. Last year we had to prop all the branches they were so laden with plums. I thought it might have a slack year this year but it seems not. The main point to remember with Plums is not to prune in Winter as this can lead to silver leaf which is a fungal disease.

Nasturtium seedlings.

Planted up loads of self-seeded Nasturtiums in the cardboard centres of loo rolls. We save these throughout the year, they make great plant pots, being biodegradable they can go into the earth without disturbing the roots of plants. They are great for peas and beans as they can have a longer root run.

Dicentra spectablis is in full flower now. Very early this year, I’m sure it did’nt flower until May last year. It only seems a few weeks ago I posted pics of it just emerged from the earth. Check out Daphne in the top right hand corner!

Lamium.

Lamium or Dead Nettle as it is more often called also seems to be flowering early. This is a great plant for a shady post and creeps along by throwing out runners, much like strawberries. It is easily propogated from cuttings. Dislikes dry soil.

Alchemilla.

Many people regard Alchemilla (Lady’s Mantle) as a weed, it is a prolific self-seeder. I love it, especially how it holds the raindrops in it’s leaf. The word alchemy comes from this plant, because of the healing dew that would collect overnight in the leaves. These dewdrops were used in many mystic potions. In herbal lore it was mainly used for “women’s problems.”

Garden progress at Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Cooking, Gardening, Herbs, sustainable living on April 8, 2011 at 9:02 am

Yesterday was a glorious day, blue sky and too hot to work in the polytunnel by afternoon. I managed to spend the whole day in the garden. Strawberries (Elsanta) and lettuces were planted out in the big polytunnel.

Tomatoes were potted on, these are Mexican Midget, from seed savers in Co Clare. They form a long gangly plant with trusses spaced well apart. Fruits are the size of grapes but so delicious, lovely sweet flavour. They were still producing late in the season last year. We are also growing Moneymaker which gives a nice size Tomato. Many people say they don’t have a good flavour but grown organically I do not find that to be the case.

Sweet Cicely at back, Lady's Mantle and Sedum spectabile in front.

I love how certain plants that complement each other in the kitchen come into season together. Sweet Cicely and Rhubarb typify this. Rhubarb is known to have a lot of acidity and not suitable for people suffering from arthritis. However when Rhubarb is cooked with Sweet Cicely it reduces the acid considerably.Reduction of the acid means less sugar is needed so good for diabetics too. It also looks good, mine is in a flower border. White flowers are produced later in Spring, the bees love them.

Everything here is grown naturally, no boxes with skull and crossbones lurking in our shed! It works, plants want to grow, no mystery.

Meanwhile in New York 60 farmers,seed businesses and agricultural organisations have filed a lawsuit against Monsanto challenging the company’s patents on genitically modified seed. The plaintiffs are suing to prevent themselves being accused of patent infringement should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s seed. Monsanto has a history of this, with one Canadian farmer having to pay the company $28,000.

Growing Flowers Naturally @ Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Gardening, sustainable living on March 31, 2011 at 10:24 am

Galega.

Fruit and veg are not the only things we grow here in Arigna, flowers also have a large part to play. The flower is an essential part of every plant as it contains the reproductive organs without which the species could not continue. Sometimes this can be forgotten, we may look on flowers as nice colour shots in the garden.

Honeysuckle by garden gate.

Growing flowers naturally is easy if you accept them as they come, no tittivating and selection for the show bench. The biggest concession is to accept what does well in your area. For us this means no Dahlias, they don’t do well in our heavy soil, no Magnolias, they don’t like the winds we get here in the valley, no Bergamot, I don’t know why it does’nt do well here, several attempts have failed, I can cope with that.

Self-seeded Snapdragons in polytunnel.

What ever your soil type there are flowers that will love it. Gravel gardens, bog gardens, rock gardens, the possibilities are endless. The use of chemical fertilisers on flowers I find very sad, they don’t need it, they want to flower, it is their way of propogating themselves. People wonder why bees and other benificial insects are declining! Maybe that weekly dose od Miracle-Gro has something to do with it?

Verbena bonariensis does well on our ground.

The other great way to grow flowers is as companion plants for your fruit and veg. The right combinations can reduce attack from pests and disease.

Nasturtiums will repel aphids while Poached Egg  Flowers will attract hoverflies. The fave food of the hoverfly is aphids! Nasturtiums repel wooly aphids from fruit trees and chives will keep away fungal diseases. French Marigolds planted among your Tomatoes promote growth and repel harmful soil nematodes.

P.S: The plant in the last pic is of course Joe-Pye Weed not Verbena bonariensis.

Natural Beekeeping at Prospect Cottage.

In Bees, Foraging., Gardening, sustainable living on March 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

Langstroth Beehive.

Bees have been in residence here at Prospect Cottage for almost 2 years now. Andy did a beekeeping course in Summer 2009 and the bees arrived here that September. Since then we have had the 2 hardest Winters in recent times, thankfully our bees are well and healthy. Andy prefers to keep bees in as natural a way as possible, with minimum interference. Verroa mite can be treated naturally, with oxalic acid, but there is no need to treat unless it is present. Most beekeepers treat routinely with chemical strips.

Swarm, Summer 2010, caught and rehomed in Co.Clare.

At a beekeeping meeting on Monday Andy was appalled to hear that clipping the Queen’s wings is common practice to stop swarming. We had 6 swarms last year and still got lots of honey. Swarming occurs when there are 2 Queens and there is overcrowding. To prevent swarming the Queen larvae are killed, which we don’t do, or taken out with a handful of bees and reared to make a new colony.

Swarm on ash branch.

There is much concern in the UK at the moment about “neonicotinoid” pesticides, these are absorbed into the plant and are present in the pollen and nectar. Made by German company Bayer, they are banned in Germany! They are also banned or restricted in France, Italy and Slovenia. These chemicals work by poisoning the central nervous system of insects including bees who partake of the nectar and pollen.

We are fortunate here in Arigna that we are surrounded on all sides by an organic farm where, of course, no poisons are used. We ourselves do not use any poisons on our land or produce. I don’t understand why one would use something on your land that has a skull and crossbones warning on it! It does’nt make sense!

          I feel that Man has ruled this world as a stumbling demented child king long enough,

         And as his Empire crumbles our precious Apis mellifera shall rise as his most fitting successor.

         These words I speak are true. We’re all humanary stew, if we don’t pledge allegiance to BEES.

                                       ( Adapted from Alice Cooper song, The Black Widow.)