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.