Seattle saving bees?

I just stumbled on this Seattle honey producer and advocate for healthy bee habitats and had to share it here. They are called Urban Bee Company and I love their goals, stated here:

Simply put, we have three goals:

  1. Healthy Bees: Support health and biodiversity of bees, by using best practices inside the hive and providing plentiful and diverse forage outside of it.
  2. Informed Humans: We aim to educate the public about agriculture and pollinators, using the hive as a focal point to discuss our local and global food systems. With knowledge and positive examples, may we choose to do the right thing together.
  3. Resilient Habitats: Diverse, local forage will help not only bees and other pollinators, but humans as well. We can repair what we have ruined and participate in the mutually-dependent, permanently-sustainable system generously offered by the planet.

Sara, maybe you can open a Bainbridge Island branch? ;0)

Plums, Zucchini, and a Pretty Pantry (not mine)

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Ok, friends. Several things to share here.

First, even our resident mama raccoon cannot eat enough plums to make up for our tree’s surplus this year. Can you help? I’ve already given some to neighbors, and canned a few jars of plum sauce for holiday meals or cocktails (I am still debating the taste; maybe you’ll like it. If so, I’ll share).

I think I’d like to make Shiro Plum Wine (ideally something that looks as beautiful as this, and tastes good enough to warrant a nifty Seeds & Bees wine label). Anyone care to help? Hmm? I know experimenting can result in fabulousity or flop, and I have never tried to make wine. Several recipes seem to have potential.  I’d like to go straight to the EASY version from Home Brew It, but I guess my yellow plums call for their Versatile one. Then there’s a plum cordial recipe from Bon Appetit, which calls for vodka, but also uses tiny red plums instead of big, fat, juicy yellow ones.  Considering the harvest so far, maybe I should plan for a big, 5-gallon batch o’ wine? Thoughts? Other resources?

Next, have you read the blog, A Garden for the House, by Kevin Lee Jacobs? My mother-in-law sent a link to me with the author’s recommendations for what to do with excess zucchini, which I intend to try if our plants produce (they haven’t yet; they look healthy and they have blossoms, so I am hoping they are on their way soon. Our cukes are on fire, though). I also read through Kevin’s other zucchini recipes last night after finishing a meal of fresh zucchini pasta covered in butter and grated parmesan, of which Brooks ate a whole plate. I plan to make Kevin’s zucchini fritters next.

Last, my friend’s wife, Shira Gill, is a home organizer. She lives in a lovely, old Craftsman in Berkeley and makes the place look ah-mazing by keeping things completely clutter-free in a way I will never achieve, and yet I still aspire to a small level of her polish. Her article, Get Your Family Organized With These Easy Tips, outlines a few favorites, especially in the pantry. Her site, Shira Gill Home, is full of equally useful tips and photos that make me feel both inspired and depressed.🙂

Hard Work and Harvest: Frog Garden

Seeds and Bees has been on a general pause lately while its members work en masse on various projects. I’ll let all members weigh in on the hardy projects filling our time this summer (buying a farm, perhaps, Zuzana?), but I know for sure that much of our July over here was spent on the final stages of our garden–wheeling in 12 yards of organic soil and compost to cover our hugelkultur beds; putting up a big deer fence; and planting veggie starts (too late in the season to plant seeds for most of our veggies).

Awhile back I remember saying I would post pictures of the entire process. So here’s a photo diary of the creation of our garden, from start to finish.

As I look over it, I am struck not only by the amount of work that it took, but also by the fact that the initial photos are of a sweet, but never used, piece of wet woodland. The soil beneath the hugelkultur beds is so full of decomposed wood and compacted clay that the kids used the dirt to sculpt vases that turned rock-solid when dry. The addition of branches, straw, and soil has transformed the land into a sustainable space for a more diverse community of plants and insects. As the garden grows, I look forward to seeing evolve into a bee and flower haven. We dusted the ground with wildflower seeds yesterday, and the area surrounding the garden is always alight with birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and frogs checking on our progress. Our yard in general is full of such a variety of frogs this time of year that we unanimously decided to name our little piece of bounty Frog Garden.

So, without further ado, here’s our photo diary.

There was a great deal of sweat and salmonberry and sword fern removal:   DSC02816 DSC02780

…followed by moving a shed to provide more visibility to the garden from the house, and to bring in extra light (we used our XTerra and a rope and pulley system). This is stage two of the process–the final resting place of our shed is not documented here: DSC02783 DSC02782DSC02788DSC02784

Then we spent weeks dragging branches from the far-reaches of our yard and piling them high to even out the land:

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…followed by adding a thick layer of straw to aid in the heat and decomposition process, adding nutrient density to the soil for years to come:


And then finally wheeling in 12 yards of organic fish compost and topsoil (not documented), amending it with organic fertilizer and Kombucha, and and adding a series of log borders and a deer fence:

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And raking the soil and gathering starts: zucchini, yellow squash, celery, kale, beets, lettuce, corn, green peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, rainbow chard, pumpkin, runner beans, sugar peas, tomatillos, cantaloupe, leeks, green onions, sage, dill, parsley, cilantro, several varieties of basil and mint, and rosemary:

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And finally planting…followed by artistic contributions by Cora and Brooks using pea gravel to create a main path and branches that mimic the form of a tree:

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Here it is a few weeks later. It’s thriving!


Goodbye Snowy and Wild

This week started out badly with the loss of two of our chickens. A raccoon pulled Snowy and Wild through the cage and made a terrible mess of our little baby birds.

I am not made for this. The loss of Sara’s bees and the loss of our little chicks makes me incredibly sad. I am too much of a softy. And I am not a farmer. I am not accustomed to the burst of life and noise and then the empty quiet. I felt sick with the awareness of the fragility of life.

Judging by the looks of the lurking raccoon I chased up a tree yesterday, I think she is a new mama trying to provide for her kits. I get it. She is merely doing her job. But I can’t stand my role in keeping chickens captive and leaving them as sitting victims. They are too small to freely roam outside their cage, and I feel  guilty that they are in such a restricted environment. After the attack, I felt all week like a failed mother who left my little chicks in an unsafe home.

I am much more comfortable with the world of vegetables and earth. I much prefer to grow vegetables and fruits. And after cleaning up the mess, I felt a deeper connection to the pull of reality that happens when we come face-to-face with our food sources. If we were all responsible for butchering our own meals, would we consume as much meat as we do?

Garden Exchange

Remember those little lettuce plants turning into large? Well, now they magically turned into a gorgeous bouquet of roses! Thank you Alorie! This kind of exchange is exactly what I had in mind when joining this little group. Let’s keep it coming. Seeds can be transformed into hugs or friendly advice too!


Oh my, how have you grown!

IMG_1628My favorite garden season is here – eating tons of greens! Tender salad crops prefer cooler weather, and with the temperatures climbing, everything is racing to maturity. I have greens, coming out of my ears, including spicy tender mustards and wild arugula, which does not bolt in hot weather. I brought my first of the year contribution to the Helpline House – five pounds of green things. Check out the before and after pictures, and watch out friends, I’ll be burdening you with my surplus!