Welcome, Honeybees!

Welcome, Honeybees … bringers of spring and bountiful fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Today, my husband introduced two new sets of bees to the meadow hives – one Italian and one Russian. Queens Isabella and Natasha. The honeybees are already scouting the field, checking out our peach, plum, fig, and apple trees. They’ve done fly-by’s to my chickens and are giving our beagle the side-eye. They’re synchronizing GPS’s and already bringing in pollen. #squad 

Everything seems to be in order and we’re excited for the forthcoming growing season. Shout out to James Fogleman at Silk Hope Bees for the packages. Let the 2021 Victory Garden season commence!

PS. Two of Queen Isabella’s henchmen stung the mister, so it looks like we’ve got a protection racket happening downfield. lol

Lovely Narcissus

Poor Narcissus, the handsome fella doomed by the avenging goddess Nemesis to fall in love with the water nymph Echo, who could only repeat the words of others. The early-Spring flower is said to have sprung from where he died by the riverbank–it’s fabled to have been the last flower Persephone picked before being swiped by Hades. It’s also the scene of Sigourney Weaver’s final battle with in Alien.

I love a good story, particularly when it carries over to my other favorite pastime, gardening. The narcissus is a great example, in mythology and gardening and art, of the concept of vanitas … the idea that every living thing must come to an end. Like Narcissus’ young life, narcissus flowers have a very short blooming period. Narcissus is one of dozens of varieties of daffodils, all of which are pretty easy to grow.

According to the American Daffodil Society, “plant the bulbs when grounds have cooled, in some climates September and for warmer climates in November.” They need well-drained soil in a sunny spot, and will grow well in hilly landscapes. Plant them at least a foot deep, and make sure they have plenty of water the year you plant them. They acclimate pretty quickly and will multiply on their own. I’ve had some bulbs bloom five or six years in a row, and them some that never bloom more than one season. Crucial to the survival of bulbs, in my experience and by growing tip, “do not cut the foliage until it begins to yellow (usually late May or June).”

Keep in mind that daffodils, like many other bulbs, are great flowers to share with family and friends. They’re perfect spring companion plants for things like roses, hellebore, peonies, hyacinth, and astilbe. They’re the flower for the month of March, and since my son‘s birthday falls in March, we have them all over the yard.

Pesky bugs in your houseplants?

It’s cold outside, y’all, like really cold. So it’s no surprise that a couple of our houseplants are hosting a couple tiny terrors. Nothing bad or swarmy, just irritating little gnats. Mr. Sickles did a little research and came up with Safer Brand Houseplant Sticky Stakes. And they work! I put them in a couple plants on February 6, and by February 24 we had a little gnat graveyard. I like these because they’re quick, clean, and chemical-free. Can you hear my evil laugh?

Behind the Scenes: Fall and Winter Garden Prep

In this week’s Optimistic Gardener, I’m signing off for the 2020 Victory Garden season and sharing tips for getting your fall and winter garden prepped. We cover annuals, perennials, bulbs, trees and shrubs, vegetables, herbs, mulch, grass, and houseplants. Shazam! It’s a lot.

Because the article was lengthy, I didn’t include any links for more information–so here you go.

Fall garden prep: mulch

Over the weekend we finished spreading our first truckload of shredded hardwood mulch from Country Farm & Home. We’ve joined the ranks of so many gardeners I interviewed this summer who were fans. My husband is a fan of their beekeeping and chicken sections, and we bought some really healthy fruit trees a couple weeks ago. This mulch validates our decision to shift gears to a local garden shop. But back to the spreading … I think we’ll need at least two more loads to cover all of our garden beds. Cross your fingers that we won’t need four (my back will thank you)!

Microgreen harvest

Yesterday I harvested our first batch of arugula microgreens. They are D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. But they are a pain in the ass to harvest. Tiny trims with sharp harvest scissors, just a couple shoots at a time. I have a new-found respect for microgreen farmers, and could totally get behind the microgreen union raising the prices for these tasty superfoods. The process made me happy that our family are subsistence farmers and the community-at-large isn’t relying on me for microgreens. But like I said: tasty. I can feel their superpowers surging through me now. So thank a farmer, and find a microgreen farmer in your community to support. You’ll both be happy.

Behind the Scenes: KIWI

I caught up with my friend Lindy last week to talk about her kiwi vines. She and her husband have lived in Chatham for years. He’s a pilot and took my son up so he could get a different view of the county last week. Those things are pretty awesome, let me tell you. To think that her mammoth twining vines started out as tiny little plants is amazing, particularly since being near them feels like standing in a copse of kudzu.

Beyond my local grocer, I didn’t know anything about kiwi until I talked to Lindy. Then I did some research. Healthline said that kiwi:

  • can help treat asthma;
  • aids digestion;
  • boosts the immune system;
  • reduces the risk of other health conditions;
  • helps manage blood pressure;
  • reduces blood clotting; and
  • protects against vision loss.

And Good Housekeeping adds to that list of benefits by sharing that kiwi may:

  • promote healthy skin and hair;
  • support immunity;
  • promote good digestion;
  • support healthy weight loss;
  • slow aging and help prevent chronic diseases; and
  • benefit moms and babies.

So whatever reason you choose to eat kiwi—whether it’s one of the points above or simply that you love the taste of it—get some kiwi the next time you see it at the store. Here’s hoping she’ll share one or two at book club next month!

For more information:

We’ve got eggs!

On August 23, one day shy of 22 weeks old, we got our first egg from our chicken squad — Scarlett, the biggest of the Rhode Island Reds was super surprised when she went for a drink of water from their hanging water bucket and laid an egg beneath. We had a good time visualizing the rest of the girls backing away from her like maybe she’d been abducted by aliens and dropped back in the coop with a thing that fell out of her ass. Well, her cloaca, but you get my drift.

Scarlett’s petite egg was so cute, so well-formed. And so tasty. Two days later, Maude laid her first egg. Two days ago, little Nemo, with her stunted short-feathered wings, rounded out the dependable Rhodies and laid her first egg. And yesterday, sixteen days after Scarlett led the pack, we got our first Americauna blue egg. We think it’s June Carter Cash, but that’s because she’s the biggest of the three Americaunas. It might’ve been Lady Gaga, the mouthiest of the bunch, but we’re certain it’s not Lilac, the little princess. In these seventeen days of eggs, we’ve gotten nearly two dozen eggs for our family. We’ve worked hard this summer to share vegetables and now eggs with our family, and our small extended social pod of extended family and friends. And it makes me think, now more than ever, how important it is to thank the farmers in your community.