Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Perfect Spot

I heard a great story on NPR this afternoon about a wonderful lady, Joan Graham who lives in Michigan. She plans to bequeath her beloved wooded land to a local conservation group in order to preserve it. She is truly a woman after my own heart saying "I just like the earth, I like the smell of it, and I like green, and I like trees." Ahhhhhh!

Not only does she plan to leave her land in order that it may be to be preserved, she also wishes to be buried there as well, beneath an oak tree.

"They have deep taproots, wouldn't it be nice if that oak tree would ever reach my remains, and the tree would take nourishment from that? And it's kind of like I never died, really. I just morphed into a tree or something."

This idea led to an individual at the conservation group who have the good fortune of inheriting the land, to think about how it could become an actual green burial site for others who wish to be buried in this way.

As it turns out this wasn't quite such an easy undertaking despite the growth in the green burial business over recent years.

To find out what happened next you will need to read, or listen to the full piece here.

Sounds like the perfect green burial spot to me.

The First of the Swiss Chard


We have just started eating the first of the swiss chard. I absolutely love this vegetable and look forward to finding many new ways to use it.

This past year was a mixed one for my veggie growing endeavours. Some things thrived, others not so much, but I have learned a lot.

Here are the grand totals in poundage, (for what it is worth), of everything we grew during 2009. The different types of each vegetable are combined into each grand total.

Swiss Chard- 42 lbs 7 oz's
Spinach- 18 lbs 10 oz
Ichiban eggplants- 8 lbs 6 oz's
Beets- 6 lbs 6 oz's
Tomatoes 84 lbs 8 oz's !!!! (I had a couple of beef steaks that weighed over a pound each!)
Zucchini's- 19 lbs 9 oz's
Cucumbers- 8 lbs 8 oz's
Tomatillo's- 6 lbs 9 oz's
Chili peppers- 3 lbs 7 oz's
Peppers- 4 lbs 2 oz's
Leeks- 1 lb 9 oz's
Carrots- 2 lbs 9 oz's
The green beans and peas are hardly worth mentioning, just a few handfuls of each.
Cilantro, basil, parsley, and many other herbs did well.

I was amazed by how many tomatoes we got. It didn't seem to be as many at the time because they were stretched over several months. We had a lot of cherry tomatoes towards the end of the summer.

The main thing I have learned is to use my limited space wisely by concentrating on veggies that we use, and also by planting those that don't take a lot of space for the amount they produce. I love peas for example but they simply take up too much space in order to produce any significant amount. I have also been reminded yet again that there are no certainties with gardening, and that luck is a major factor!

The hybrid seeds that I grew of course did much better than many of the heirlooms. However I will continue to keep planting these valuable heirlooms, and I plan to get better at recognizing their particular needs.

I still have a lot of seeds left over from last year which is good. I have been storing them in the bottom the refrigerator and I am sure they will be fine. I start seeding again January 1st believe it or not. This is one of the perks of living in such a warm place.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas Everyone!


I made mince pies this morning. This, (along with some very sherry doused, and tipsy trifle), will be my only British contribution to Christmas mainly because I loathe Christmas pudding and traditional Christmas cake. I do however have very happy memories as a child of helping my Mum to make both of these months in advance of Christmas which is the right way to do it!

I was never a huge fan if mincemeat until recently and now I love it, although I will probably be the only one to eat these mince pies in our house.

I am not cooking this year. I am working and so we have been invited to friends for dinner which is very kind of them. It will be a little strange not to have all those leftovers with which to concoct many suspect looking meals, but I am sure we will survive, somehow.

Whatever you all do, and wherever you all are this year, I wish you a wonderful and happy Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Solar Heated Christmas Present


Last Wednesday we got a new 80 gallon solar water heater installed. After the electric company rebates, and the federal and state tax credits, (which we wont get back until next year), it cost only a little more than installing a new gas water heater of which we were in dire need anyway. (Our old one was fourteen years old and was on it's last legs).

We also had a circulation pump installed so that we don't have to run the faucet or shower waiting for the hot water to arrive. I anticipate that we will save a lot of water as a result which always makes my day.

Here are the panels on the south facing side of our roof. You can hardly see them from the street, not that I would mind if you could.


Now we have lots of lovely solar heated water, and it feels really good each time I take a shower knowing that we are using the sun to heat the water instead of gas.

All around the best Christmas present we have ever had I think!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Feeling More Festive


The girls decorated the tree on Saturday and it is making our house seem a lot more festive.

We always get a real tree, and although I wont go over all the environmental benefits of a live one, if you feel so inclined you can read them here from last year.

The city of Phoenix offers free drop off points after the holidays for live trees which are then taken away and mulched. This contributes significantly to their benefits, and is a great service I think.

We had a small holiday get together last night with some of our friends. I made Nigella Lawson's "Choc Chip Chili" from her new Christmas book with some of our grass fed beef. I have been assured it was delicious, and because I made way too much we now have a lot frozen for later.

I was most pleased to see a picture in the introduction to Nigella's Christmas book showing how beautiful packages can be when wrapped up in brown paper and newspaper, and tied up with string. They are decorated with cinnamon sticks! I hasten to add however that I have not been nearly as virtuous, and have been using Christmas paper I bought on sale last year that will probably go straight into the trash. (Shame, shame). I am definitely slipping this year, environmentally speaking!

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Season of Giving


Last year I did a really good job of buying more sustainable gifts by shopping locally, buying from fair trade organizations, contributing to charitable organizations, and even by making a few of my own. I have not done quite as well this year, but I have still managed to support some of the organizations I love by purchasing gifts from them during this holiday season. Here is a brief list of my favorites.

SERRV is a "non profit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide." I highly recommend that you check out the amazing variety of beautiful and unusual gift options they offer. You can buy your gifts with confidence knowing that the skilled individuals who made them are being rewarded fairly.

I also love Heifer International which is an organization that helps "children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant." By buying animals, or shares in animals for individuals in developing countries around the world, you can be sure that your gift keeps on growing from one generation to the next. I love that!

The WWF fund offers symbolic opportunities to sponsor threatened species. Your adoption supports "WWF's global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats." These gifts are especially good for children.

You may feel that you wish to provide a gift that keeps on giving throughout the year. You can easily sponsor a child through Save The Children. Your monthly contribution pays for healthcare, education, and other vital needs within communities around the world, including many right here in the States. We have been sponsoring a little girl in Malawi for about two years and share regular correspondance with her. It is a lovely thing to do, and it shows our girls that we really can make a difference in other peoples lives.

There are many other well deserving organizations that make it easy for us to give meaningful gifts this holiday season. I always feel better knowing that some of the gifts we have bought are creating change for good somewhere in the world.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Big Clean Up

A huge winter storm blew through the state last night. It dumped many feet of snow onto the higher elevations, and brought lots of rain and extremely high winds through the lower elevations including Phoenix. I heard on NPR that wind gusts of 75 miles per hour were recorded at Deer Valley airport which is just northwest of us.

It was truly a momentous storm that kept us all awake. I feel very fortunate today that we didn't sustain any damage. Our neighbourhood looks like a hurricane blew through with downed trees, structural damage, and flooding. There are clean up crews everywhere.

One of my young acacia trees was leaning over somewhat, but I have trimmed it, and put it back in place. It wasn't uprooted, so I have every hope that it will be OK. Amazingly enough all the bigger trees are fine. I was surprised because I expected much worse when I went out to check this morning. I am glad we got some much needed rain. It has been such a dry year for us desert dwellers.

I have finally started my big holiday clean up. I finished my health policy class last week and now I feel like I can concentrate more on what needs to be done around the house, and it is a lot! I have cleaning and sorting to do, the decorations to get out, veggies to clean and either store, or cook, gifts to buy, etc etc. Just the usual holiday stuff. I am trying not to get overwhelmed with it because all that matters really is that we are OK, and all together this year.

Ironically we were all set to get a new solar water heater installed today and of course they can't do it because of the rain. It made me smile because we get so little rain here. Anyway, they are all set to come out next week instead and I am very excited. It is a small but positive step towards us becoming more energy efficient, and that always makes me feel happy!

I was just outside hanging all my frost cloths on the line in a pathetic attempt to try and get them dry before this evening. I didn't get them inside in time before the rain started yesterday, and it is predicted to be down in the 30's tonight so I am going to need them. Did I mention it is cold here!? Well cold by our standards at least and of course I am absolutely LOVING IT! :)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Phoenix Tour De Coops

Don't miss it folks, this Saturday, December 5th, is the long awaited, Phoenix Permaculture Guilds "Tour De Coops" from 10am to 3pm. You have the amazing opportunity to tour a dozen amazing chicken, (and other bird), coops within the greater Phoenix area. Tickets are only $10, and are available at the Phoenix Public Market Store, or online here.

A Freezer Full


This is what a quarter of a grass fed cow looks like in one's freezer.

Despite the fact that this is meat raised in the most humane, and healthy conditions possible at the wonderful Date Creek Ranch, I still feel conflicted about it. But then, I feel conflicted about many things so that's nothing new.

I haven't cooked any of it yet as we have been drowning in turkey for the past week or so, but I will be interested to see how it cooks. It needs to be cooked slowly apparently in order to keep it moist, so I am sure my slow cooker will be useful over the next few weeks and months.

All in all I am happy that we bought meat this way. I am completely impressed with Date Creek Ranch, and I look forward to hearing from my family about how good it tastes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Smell of the Earth


It is a funny thing. This past week, after receiving such awful news I have thought of nothing else. I am still carrying on with my day to day routine, but I feel like I am in another world, as if I am just going through the motions. I can't tune out the reality of what is happening however hard I try, and to be honest I am not sure I should be trying. I think this is what I need to do right now so that I can start to process it, and try to find a place in my mind and my heart that understands why these things happen, if there even is such a place.

I spent some time outside this morning, picking produce, and weeding, and pottering around the garden. I enjoyed feeling the warm sun, and smelling the earth, and I felt grateful that I can. It made me feel more grounded in a way, a little less uncertain and scared of what lies ahead, although I am still uncertain and scared of what lies ahead.

I want so much to do something, to help in some way, and yet I know that ultimately I can't. All I can do is be here, and do what I do, and keep on going so that I can try to be ready for what lies ahead.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I don't usually blog about personal stuff but it has been an extremely emotional week and what has happened is so much a part of me that I feel like I have to say something. If I don't this blog will be pointless because it wont really reflect who I am.

I found out last week that my cousin is very ill. It was a terrible shock. She is young, vibrant, and beautiful, and one of the most active people I know. And now she is ill. I was in a state of shock at first, but now I think I have moved through that to deep sadness and grief. I don't know what to with what I am feeling because I have never felt this way before, and it is hard. However, I keep thinking that however hard it is for me right now, it is a million times harder for her. This is what I have been thinking about a lot over the past week.

One bright spot that lifted the way I have been feeling was last Saturday when Kendra and Emily were so very honored to be flower girls at my dear friend Bo's wedding.

It was truly a beautiful wedding, full of love, and friendship, and happiness for new beginnings. I was so happy to be there and to share this, and so proud that my girls were a part of it all. Thank you Bo!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Almost Finished

At the weekend I commandeered Robert's help to get the sand box dug out completely. It was a task that has been hanging over me for months and I am glad it is done.


It will increase the area I have to plant veggies by a good few feet once I have filled it with more top soil. You can see my new City of Phoenix Trash can/ compost box as well. I have two now, and I need them because I always have a lot of stuff to compost and nowhere to put it.


Eventually the white fence will be moved forward to prevent the dogs from getting into the whole area. I am glad that it is almost done, and I am excited to have more veggie growing space.

On another note, I was listening to Barbara Kingsolver on NPR yesterday morning. She was saying that living in Appalachia among all the moisture and greenness, she feels secure in the fact that there are always things growing around her. This completely sums up how I feel, and may be why I can never quite relax living in an area where all of our water is borrowed. It was a real AHA moment for me!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Garlic


Yesterday I planted the garlic that has been sitting on my counter top for weeks. I ordered it from Ronniger Potato Farm and I am sure that it is very glad to finally be planted in the earth.

I have never grown garlic before so I will be interested to see how it turns out. I am growing two kinds, Red Toch, and Silver White both of which are said to do well in warmer climates.

I also planted onion seeds yesterday, and I currently have swiss chard, (my everlasting favorite), spinach, carrots, leeks, and beet seedlings that are growing well.

I also have mature pepper and chili plants that are beginning to produce, and pumpkins, tomatillos, cucumbers, and zucchinis. I am getting a handful of cucumbers and zucchinis each day now which is great because I was beginning to think that I wouldn't get more than a handful of each this fall.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Enough?


I have not produced enough of the bountiful harvest that I was hoping for yet this fall. Perhaps there will be more?


On the other hand I was cleaning out the big freezer in readiness for our grass fed beef, and I discovered that I certainly do have enough pesto stored in there to last us for a while.

There really is always enough of something.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Let's walk to school!

I was interested to hear recently about National Walk to School Day, which was celebrated on October 7, 2009. It was an event to promote "safe walking and bicycling throughout the year", and consisted of events held all around the country encouraging kids to walk, or bike to school.

Today we started our own "walk to school" event which will I hope continue every day as long as this wonderful cool weather holds out. It is only about a mile and a half to Kendra's school, and most of it can be walked via fairly quiet streets so it is a perfect opportunity for us to get some exercise, while reducing our carbon emissions by a very small amount each day.

We are actually walking Kendra home from school each day because Emmie's school is still too far to walk to unfortunately so I will still need to drive her there each morning.

The girls were very excited. It was a little odd to me that something as simple as walking home from school could be such an exciting event for them, but then I am sure that it is a novelty for them to be walking anywhere within this suburban sprawl in which we reside. This is the perfect opportunity to start changing all that.

Now to get my bike back in bicycling order!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Slither

I have spent the past two days tidying up the front and backyard. Today as I was moving everything on the back patio to sweep it I found this, nestled between the edge of the patio and the house, just outside the back door.


Of course it is a snake skin, and perfect too, completely intact which leads me to believe that it is fairly fresh, and that the snake that shed it did so quite recently.

About two years ago I was outside at dusk, and I came across a snake slithering across the grass. It was very scared, but I still managed to run inside, get the camera, and get a poor quality photo which I can't find now of course. It was enough though for me to make a provisional identification of a Common Kingsnake which is found throughout Maricopa County, is non venomous, and can grow to be five feet in length. I have not seen it since, however hard I have looked, and I assumed that it was just passing through. Now though I am not quite so sure.

I have no idea where a snake would be living in our yard because the dogs are always running around, and Tex is of course constantly digging for anything that moves.

I think this is the same type of snake as the one I saw because you can see a vague outline of stripes on the skin, like the black and white ones on the Common Kingsnake.

Here are more shots, very poor quality I am afraid, but they give an idea of how long it is at about 28 inches.



Look at the end of the tail and how beautiful it is.


As always, I am happy to think that it has a home here, and that it found the side of our patio to be a quiet and relaxing place for it to shed it's skin. I am also happy that it is most likely a non venomous snake that shed it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Selected

I was pleasantly surprised to hear recently that a photo of mine from my Flickr account had been shortlisted for inclusion in the ninth edition of the Schmap Phoenix Guide in the Desert Botanical Garden section. I didn't even know that things like this could happen from having a Flickr account.

Today I heard that my picture has been included to join many other beautiful ones of our ever photogenic Desert Botanical Garden.

I feel a little bit proud because it is a picture I love, and is actually the banner picture from this blog.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Kendra!

I am so sorry Kendra, I am late blogging about your birthday this year. I know we celebrated it a day late anyway, but that is no excuse.

Happy birthday for the 13th my sweet little girl! I can't believe that you are six already, and in kindergarten. You make me proud every day, and I love you always.

Potential Harvest

I haven't harvested anything from the garden, (except basil, and a few handfuls of cherry tomatoes), since July 11th, and it seems like an awfully long time ago.

I am hopeful that the following will soon result in a fall harvest of sorts,

Carrots, Leeks, and beets, small but growing every day,


Peppers,


Pumpkins,


and Tomatillos.


The zucchini and cucumber plants don't warrant a photograph because they are really unimpressive at the moment.

This is for you Dad! It is the not so little lemon tree we planted last spring. It is flourishing now as you can see. Maybe next year we will have lemons.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Its been a long time since I rock and rolled..........

I am not sure what has happened during the past two weeks. I know that I have been busy, very busy, and it has all been self inflicted busy-ness, nothing that I can complain about, although at times I have wanted to.

It seems that the more I try to simplify my life and get back to basics, back to the things that matter, back to the things that I really love, the less time I have. I guess it's OK though really, because during the past two weeks of my uber busy life I have made the following discoveries-

1. The PTA isn't for me. I have really tried to get into it, but really, it just isn't for me. I can't seem to relate somehow even though the PTA women are generally outgoing, smart, assertive, go getting types of women. (Perhaps that is the problem because that description doesn't fit me at all!) I have decided to be happy with volunteering with Kendra's class every week, and getting involved with her school in other ways that suit me better such as helping the school nurse prn.

2. Vegetable gardening has no apparent rhyme or reason to it. This time last year I was getting bushels of cucumbers and zucchini. This year I have a few immature looking zucchini and cucumber plants with nothing on them except flowers. I have lots of bees doing their utmost to pollinate them too, but alas, nothing. I do have tomatillos though which is good because I failed in the tomatillo department earlier in the year. I also have many pumpkins, small but perfectly formed, and peppers, also small, but apparently growing which is more than they did last time. Everything seems to be very late despite my having planted it according to my low desert calender. Ah well, everything comes to he who waits right!

3- When volunteering ones time it is really important to ensure that the cause is something that one is really passionate about, something that one wants to fight for, and something that one really wants to be involved with because really, isn't that the whole point of volunteering?

4- And finally, sometimes one just has to take the time to play on a San Diego beach at sunset with friends and family, because that is truly what life is all about.



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finally Fall

After an intensly hot, long summer, my favorite season has at last arrived!

We celebrated at the weekend by continuing our exploration of apple orchards and farms within the state of Arizona, and drove down to Wilcox to Apple Annie's along with our friends who were visiting from the UK.

Not only did we find great apples, we also found a huge variety of pick your own vegetables, and a real pumpkin patch where the pumpkins were still alive and growing, and had not just been conveniently arranged for easy picking by those seeking a quick fall fix. (Although there were some of those as well).

A great day was had by all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Most Welcome Forecast!

Our local radio weather forecaster this morning stated that the temperature in the Phoenix area today is predicted to be 104. This didn't seem so great until he added that today is also expected to be the last triple digit day of the year.

Now that is the kind of weather forecast I can really get excited about!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Dream Career


I heard through various news outlets yesterday that the Chinese President, Hu Jintao stated at the United Nations that China is planning to plant enough trees to cover an area the size of Norway as part of that country's effort to reduce it's carbon emissions.

Now while I am lacking knowledge about the scientifically proven benefits of such an endeavour, I have to say that it really appealed to me as someone who is a lover of trees.

It reminded me of that lovely book The Man Who Planted Trees, by Jean Giono. If you haven't read it do, it is a lovely story.

It also made me think that perhaps this would offer my dream career opportunity. I imagine myself, an enormous bucket of tree seed, and unlimited time and space in which to plant them.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Long Overdue Independence Days Update

I am still doing this, just not getting enough flipping time to update as often as I would like. I never realized how much work Kindergarten was going to be............for me! :)

1. Plant something: Hurray, yes! Leeks, carrots, beets, parsley, and a little tomato plant that I simply couldn't resist. Not much time to get it to produce before it gets too cool, but worth a try.

2. Harvest something: Basil.

3. Preserve something: Pesto, which I froze. I swear I am totally obsessed with having enough pesto to last all winter. I will post a picture of it all soon. It takes up an entire shelf in the freezer. I am now quitting cold turkey because, (note to self), WE HAVE ENOUGH PESTO TO LAST ALL WINTER!

4. Reduce waste: All the usual stuff. I bought some extremely expensive compostable plates for a get together we had last week which is a little ridiculous I know, but kind of justified me being lazier than I should have been. Not a habit I will be getting into though. I have a ton of yard waste waiting to get put into compost boxes, so much that I could do with a third really, and I could definitely use more compost. May have to go down and get another bargain compost bin from the city of Phoenix.

5. Prep and storage: Bought a ton of bulk beans and sugar. General jobs around the garden like spreading compost for the fall season and my usual ongoing relevant reading.

6. Build community food systems: Nothing really I am afraid.

7. Eat the food: No.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Too Late For The Apples

Yesterday we decided to have a family outing and go apple picking. I even took the day off work so it was quite the occasion.

We drove up about twenty miles northwest of Wickenburg to a place called Date Creek Ranch. It is a place I have wanted to visit for some time because they raise grass fed cattle, and I have been trying to persuade Robert that it would be a good idea for us to order a quarter cow from there because of it's superior quality and taste. (Not that I will be tasting it of course!)

It was a beautiful drive, one of those that makes me appreciate the beauty of the desert. I love the color of the creosote in the foreground of this picture with the cholla, and then the mountains behind.


And look at these amazing ocotillo's in their natural setting. Gorgeous!


The ranch has apple orchards that open at the beginning of September, and as we discovered soon after we arrived we were a little too late in the season to get very many apples. What was left were very high up, and difficult to reach, but we had a great time nonetheless in the cool shade of the orchards.


The girls both took their turn riding on Daddy's shoulders and reaching up for apples.



They also had fun riding back in the wheelbarrow.


We visited with the young cattle for a while too, and that was enough to make Robert decide that we would order some beef. (And in my usual sentimental way it made me a little sad as well).


A quarter cow will last us a VERY long time at the slow rate my family consumes beef. I have very mixed feelings about the meat industry generally in relation to the environmental impact, and the truly awful way in which most meat animals are raised, and killed. However, these cows are raised humanely, naturally, happily, and safely. They have good lives, and that makes me feel a little better.

We chatted with the friendly lady farmer for a while about farming, growing veggies in the desert, and other such things, and we left with a few pounds of apples feeling grateful that we had experienced such a fun and relaxing day. Next year we will be back a week or so earlier.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Moving House

Yesterday I emptied out one of my compost boxes that has been cooking for about six months. It wasn't as composted as I had hoped, and probably needed a little longer, but I am desperate to put some nourishment back into this harsh, dry, desert soil before I start my Fall growing season in earnest.

I don't turn my compost at all, I just let it sit and cook, and although I think it takes a little longer to be ready that way, it also encourages my lizard population to take up residence within. I have been a little nervous about turning them out of their home I have to admit because I knew that there were many living in there, but needs must.

I gently turned the box on it's side and shook it a little, and then and watched as at least ten lizards made a run for it. I really hope none got squashed in the process.

These two were a little more reluctant to move, and staged a sit in. (They are actually really difficult to see in this photo despite me being up really close. It seems lizards are masters of camouflage).


See that one is shedding the skin on it's tail? At least that makes it a bit more visible.

After I was sure that they had all had escaped unscathed, I sorted through what was mostly compost, and what wasn't, and put that back in the box. Than I spread it on the parched, barren beds and thought how different it looked next to the desert soil that has not seen compost for about six months.


Really I need to be adding compost every two to three months to get the best results, but at least I have some areas that are ready for seeding now.


This morning I took a peep into my compost box again, and was happy to see that a couple of lizards have already taken up residence inside. They can relax a bit because they wont be disturbed for at least six months!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Those Dangerous British Biscuits!

"More than half of all Britons have been injured by biscuits ranging from scalding from hot tea or coffee while dunking or breaking a tooth eating during a morning tea break, a survey has revealed."

I had never thought of eating an English biscuit as being a particularly dangerous pastime, but this story has made me reconsider that assumption.

I will make sure that I am extra careful next time I dunk! :)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bees- The End

The bees have gone, not in the way I had hoped they would, but I guess that is just life sometimes.

The reasons I decided not to have them removed alive are explained throroughly here by Richard the Entomologist in a much better way than ever I could.

The bee man that came today agreed that they were almost certainly Africanized bees, and that relocation would be possible, but inadvisable. He was very nice to the slightly strange English woman, and answered all her questions patiently.

Now there is just a sad little pile of bee bodies under the tree, and I am feeling ridiculously bereft.

What a strange world we live in.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Bee Saga Continues

I received a really interesting reply to my last post from an Entomologist and Licensed Pest Control Operator called Richard. He obviously knows a thing or two about bees, and I am very grateful that he provided me with some education pertaining to the Africanized bees we have here in the Southwest.

I am aware of the fact that we have lots of Africanized bees here. Just a couple of weeks ago there were two separate incidents here where bees attacked people, and stories such as these are common here every summer. I however was not aware that almost all of the wild bees here in Maricopa County are actually Africanized, which means that the swarm outside in my back yard right now most likely are also. I have to admit I assumed that Africanized bees always attack whatever they can, wherever they are, and after having unknowingly spent a couple of hours outside with them yesterday, I assumed that our bees were probably regular honey bees. (Having said that I have of course been keeping the dogs, and the children inside).

Africanized bees are extremely aggressive, and understandably most beekeepers don't want them in their hives. It is apparently almost impossible to tell the difference between Euoropean honey bees and Africanized bees until it is too late, another fact I was not aware of.

This all leaves me in a huge dilemma. Am I doing the right thing by getting these bees removed alive, or should I just have them killed after all?

Just goes to show, the well meaning, but often naive actions we take can have far reaching, and detrimental consequences. I guess I will have to ask my bee guy tomorrow what he thinks I should do, and be prepared to do whatever I need to for the good of all.

Read here for lots more really interesting information about Africanized bees from Richard the Entomologist.

Thanks Richard!

Bee Update

honey bees Pictures, Images and Photos

Well, I still have my little backyard swarm of bees just hanging out in their favorite tree. It seems that any amount of Buddhist mindfulness is not moving them anywhere fast.

I have been getting a little stressed I have to confess. Roberts response has not been helpful and is along the lines of "well I can just go down to Home Depot on the way home from work and buy some bee killer." Yeah, great, thanks.

It also seems that most of the bee companies "bee removal" techniques range from soaping, to freezing, to pesticiding the bees to death, including Lady Bug, the "environmentally responsible" pest company who use freezing as their bee killing method of choice. One guy told me, (not from Ladybug mind you), not to worry because there are "lots of bees in Maricopa County, we know because we get called out several times a day." My polite response back was that there wont be quite so many bees in Maricopa County soon if they are constantly being killed off!

I know, I am a freak, but the thought of all those bees being killed makes me want to cry.

The good news is that I have found a bee man who will capture them alive, and release them elsewhere if none of the bee keepers in the area want them. He is from a company called "Bee Bustin", and although he can't make it out here until tomorrow morning, I think it will be worth the wait.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Buzz Off!

I was working in the backyard for an hour or so this morning while Tex was running around enjoying his usual pastime of chasing, (and never actually managing to catch), lizards in among the rocks.

As I walked past the Texas Ebony tree I noticed a dark shape on one of the lower branches. I looked closer and realized that a swarm of bees had formed on the branch. They seemed really mellow, not many were swarming around the tree, and so I took a quick photo, and then Tex and I went inside the house and left them well alone.


I really like bees. I have been very concerned in recent years reading about Colony Collapse Disorder which has been destroying colonies of honey bees around the world. I have been very heartened this summer to see way more bees than I did last year which is so important for pollination.

Most native southwestern bees, of which there are approximately forty five species I believe, are solitary creatures, but there have been several reports of aggressive swarms of bees in our area of late. Without wanting to overreact, I checked in with Lady Bug Pest Control , (which is an environmentally responsible pest control company), just to make sure that leaving the swarm alone was the best thing for the bees, and for us. They said it was fine as long as they aren't bothering us which they aren't, and that they will probably move on when the scouter bees have found a new home for the swarm over the next few hours, or days.

In the meantime I am enjoying watching them, from a distance. I nursed a patient many years ago who was Buddhist, and he taught me that if a bee is buzzing around and is unwanted, all one has to do is to say out loud "be gone, your presence is not required here", and the bee will fly away. I have to admit I have done this many times over the years for solitary bees, and I swear it has always worked. Now I just need to say it a few more times, for a few more bees! Hopefully it will work, and the bees will fly away unharmed to make a new home in a safe place that doesn't bother anyone else.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Big Day

This morning when I dropped Kendra off at school, I am pretty sure all her teeth were in place, intact, with not a wobble in sight. I know because I checked very thoroughly yesterday afternoon after she had bemoaned the fact that all of her friends had lost teeth, and she had not lost any.

Now, not even eight hours later she has COMPLETELY lost her first tooth, just like that!


I have been informed that I am responsible for this due to the particularly hard apples that I put in the girls lunches today.

I anticipate that tonight is the night that a certain long awaited, and much celebrated fictional fairy will pay a visit to our home.

Things surely are moving fast around here these days!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Blooming Desert

My favorite cactus is in flower again. It bloomed back in June too so I feel very lucky.

I adore the waxy look that the buds have before they start to open up,



The hint of the petals as it is half open,


And finally the white bloom that gives me a sense of coolness, even in the heat of the summer.