Friday, May 20, 2016

Stepping Up Our Game

My husband built some "tiny" homes in our backyard and we now have occupants living there. Friendly and hardworking they are.....

John (my husband), my dad and his dad had about 80 hives in the 80's and they all loved them. Oh the stories I could tell you........there was this one time when my dad and father-in-law were moving hives from one place to another in my father-in-laws van. He didn't realize he forgot to nail the opening shut to the hives until he hit a bump and the bees came swarming out and filled the van. Cleverly they had on their bee suits and netted hats, but then he realized that he was out of gas (he always ran his van on vapors!). This was in the days of full service gas stations so he just pulled right in, toodled his horn melodiously and rolled his window down just a crack. "Five dollars of regular please but don't bother to check the oil." When the attendant hesitantly approached the van for payment...not sure if this was some kind of alien invasion, my father-in-law realized that his wallet was in his pants pocket inside of his bee just picture him wiggling around, trying to slide his arms into his suit and and into his back pocket all the while, bees are swarming and my dad is sitting on the other side guffawing (or so I imagine).....That picture gets me laughing every time!
So many little time.....

So with such a family heritage and history, John leapt at the chance to get back into the raising and caring for bees. He, and two co-workers who had no clue on beekeeping, purchased two hives to begin with and have added 4 more since then. It's probably like tattoos, once you get just one there is no stopping. At least with our small backyard, two is about all it can support, and not alarm the neighbors. Unless one can continue to build up, like high-rises.....oh dear!

We both love our bees, me at a distance, and he up close and personal!
I am definitely more in tune with the non-stinging, non-buzzing inhabitants of the garden but the bees are growing on me......not literally, silly!

This year, John and I went through the North Texas Master Naturalist Program and learned so much. What an extraordinary world we live in and there are so many great  places in the DFW area for the naturalist to enjoy! I had no idea of the hidden treasures so close to home.
One of our projects was to create a trunk with information about Pollinators to be used for educational purposes, which has inspired us even more to develop the perfect habitat for all the pollinators we can draw in.

There are so many great plants that are native or adapted for this area that are essential for the survival of us and the pollinators. Here are a few that we have been able to add to our yard.

 Apricot Agastache
 Black-eyed Susan
 Blackfoot Daisy
 Chocolate Daisy
 Coral Honeysuckle
 Echinacea & Lanceleaf Coreopsis
 Milkweed and Helenium
 Mystic Spires Salvia, Calyophus, & Phlox
 Scabiosa & Basil
Zinnias and Salvia
And oh so many more!

And here are some of the daily visitors to our never quiet, always something going on garden.

 Laying eggs!

 "I love you and never want to let you go!"

 "I don't need no stinking straw, I brought my own"

 And the really cool thing is how so much of nature takes care of its own problems. Some of our plants became infested with aphids so here comes the mighty ladybug, lays her eggs, that become larvae....that love to eat all the little aphids and voila!

It is so nice to have so much life happening all around us, in a beautiful setting! Please take the time, next time you're outside, to breathe and smell deeply and see all the wonders of the world. And come over and visit some time. There's just so much more to see in person!

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Life just ebbs and flows along, meandering, humming a little tune as is sweeps along, happy in the direction it's going, knowing nothing else.......until a storm moves in.......then things change. That happens in all of our lives and it happens in the life of the garden.
In our case, we worked peacefully, my husband and I, in our shade garden. We learned to adjust and love the plants we could grow in the shade. Sometimes I complained that I couldn't grow tomatoes or some extremely amazing plant that demanded full sun, but for the most part it was a haven from the hot Texas sun and a lovely one at that. That is, until that fateful day........the winds blew in from the west......and I'm not talking any plain ole ordinary wind, I'm talking the grandfather of all winds before it becomes something else......straight-line winds of 60-90 miles an hour!

Things have a hard time remaining the same when confronted with that kind of a force. All along the fence line, the hackberries have been growing for 60 plus years; our neighbors have been losing them a few a year, as have we. But.....this last event removed the top 25 feet of a couple and revealed the need for the rest of them to be removed before they fell on our house or the neighbors house.
So we had to start on the path of change, starting from the top, down.
The tree guys came, sawed, and conquered!
And then there were none....
Now comes the rethinking and planning. After several years of severe drought, loss of trees and then torrential rains we had to put our permaculture knowledge to test. My husband (and fellow garden lover) and I come from two different directions in the way we garden......he measures and draws and counts and calculates....and when his back is turned I dig a hole and plant something. So far, it has worked magnificently. We compliment each other, compromise and laugh! We get to spend quality time together and the reward is enormous, both in the relationship department and in the resulting garden.

We raised and leveled the back portion where all the trees were.
And planted some really great pollinator plants, a Fig tree, a Mexican Plum tree, a Methley Plum tree, and an Eve's Necklace tree. This was all last fall and so this year will be the first year to see what comes back and what starts to really grow........I have to totally restrain myself from going and buying new beautiful, fresh out of the greenhouse plants to fill in the spaces.......spaces that will fill in on their own as the plants do that thing they do!

Just a sample of what's to come.....and guess what else comes........
Bees on the oxalis and Oscar waiting to eat it......

And all the rest of the garden creatures that find their home in paradise......

So that we can sit on the deck, sipping whatever, and watch the live nature channel.

Just be sure you wear the proper attire and watch out for the sun!