I am the bee whisperer…

Hi my name is Lola and I talk to  other living things.  And  myself.   When I was little the joke about me grumbling about having to do some chore, or taking too long to do it was that I should “just talk to it” . So I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I’ve always done these things.     If there is a small spider in the house I tell it “Don’t let The Husband see you there”.   The other day The Husband told The Destroyer to get off the rock and into the house. “I’m communicating with the ducks Daddy”. Yep. He’s mine.  The Husband says I spoil those ducks.   I just like to make sure the Mommies can easily feed their babies.   I like to spoil the ones I love.  And I have a soft spot for nature.  I have even been known to make certain spider haters leave webs up so the spiders could safely lay their eggs in the fall.

There was that one time I got a little overly attached to a little moth that landed on my finger and just kind of hung out turning his furry owl looking  moth head back and forth at me.  While he cocked his little moth front paws like a dog or a cat that would sit on you.   I might of worried about him not making it out of the spider infested garage for a day longer than I should of.  And that might of happened last month when it was so hot out…. I dunno.  I think I spent so much time as a kid in the garden or alone that I just got really good at feeling a connection with everything living around me.   I’ve had several praying mantis conversations in the garden this summer.

We are all beings and I am not nice to everyone. The last thing the Japanese  Beetles hear from me is “DIE DIE DIE”.   I didn’t have  any this year.   I am barely tolerant of whatever the hell it is the nasty ants are doing to my pumpkin vines.  But I try  to adopt a if you aren’t  hurting me I’m not hurting you and after all, outside IS your home not mine attitude.  The other morning, not long after I wrote in exasperation that I might have to sex my pumpkins myself, I saw a bee on one of my sunflower blossoms. I walked over and watched him work. And then I told him that he needed to go over THERE (I was pointing. Yes I WILL be the crazy old widow  lady in the garden across the street.  Lefty and One-Eye will make sure no one takes advantage of me. I will likely have a  garden boy named Raoul or Julio or Sanchez, or maybe they will rotate.)  by the peppers and pumpkins and do his part. And could you please send your friends as well I told him, I give you bees plenty of things to gather pollen from and I want a little love too.    God and Karmic Retribution man, get to it.  The next morning there was a giant furry bumble hanging out on a boy blossom.    Since that post I now have 4 pumpkin babies and 1-2 maybe babies.  And there are some little peppers starting to form on some of the pepper plants.  For now the message has gotten through. I’m communicating with the bees.

Wanted: Bees to come frolic on my blossoms.

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I have been hesitant to show you my veggies, mostly because they are a pretty sorry lot of plants.

This is my fourth summer trying to grow vegetables. I have always  had a garden in my life, even when I lived in apartments  I tried  to have a patio with some dirt on it somewhere so I could grow flowers.    Once we built this house I quickly decided I would have an actual garden patch for veggies and try my luck.  How hard can it be right?  My parents did it for years and years.   I have numerous friends who are on their 2nd+ years of doing Square Foot Gardening and I  got the book for Christmas last year from one of my MIL ( I have two) .   After  the three previous summers of mediocre to nothing yields I was determined that THIS  gardening season would be different. I would plan ahead like I always do, but THIS year I would plan better, I would plan smarter, I would vow to get my seed started in time, to nurture them lovingly ( keep the cats and kids from killing them)  until it was planting time, to get them in the ground not too early and not too late.  This year I would make the garden pretty and functional.

In spite of all of that, this year the veggies have still been a comedy of  “errors”.

I painstakingly planned and organized, on index cards all of my seeds and space.  I planned for 7 kinds of peppers, 3 kinds of tomatoes,  2 kinds of peas, 1 kind of beets,  2 kinds of spinach and one lettuce. 3 kinds of pumpkins and 1 kind of watermelon.

Some of these are cold crops, which I did not get in this year, oops.  I blame the weather and  the mini marathon training.

I started two+ trays of seeds, I got most of them to grow. and then I got confused about which plant is what hen it was time to place them in the garden.  Veggie wise I’m not good at marking each little seed and then keeping the chaos out of planting time.   So what I ended up with is a garden with some tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins in it.

I had no idea which tomato  plants were what until they finally set fruit.    all but one is fruiting, and almost all of them have some kind of curled leaf funk going on.  It’s hard to know how much to water in a heat wave drought.   I tend to over water, but I haven’t killed them yet and some of my fruit is even ripening. Which helped solve the mystery of the which plants are which.   They appear to be as good as they are going to get.

I still have only a small idea of which pepper plants are what. I keep getting blossoms but not a single pepper fruit.  I am so bummed because I have plans for all those exotic peppers.  we cook a lot of recipes with peppers, I greedily wanted to use them to make  my  green tomatillo adobo sauce, and to roast and freeze for other uses.

The pumpkins are doing a great job of growing up the vertical trellis we made for them.   I only had one pumpkin actually growing  and I was getting a LOT of blossoms.   They just seemed to bloom, then die and fall off in a really ugly pumpkin herpes like fashion. Plus the ants in that bed have decided to just make my pumpkin vines their own playground. They  are either laying eggs on the plants or stealing and eating the eggs other bugs are laying on the blossoms and vines.    This was really perplexing me. I haven’t grown pumpkins before. and I know tomatoes can get blossom rot.  If there is a plant disease or plague in existence I’ve gotten it on my vegetables at some point or another during my numerous attempts to finally be a veggie grower.

Undaunted by my looming failure I turned to the internet.   Only to discover that pumpkins have girl blossoms and boy blossoms. And if a bee or other such creature does not take boy pollen and put in on the girl  stamen then I’m not getting nay pumpkin babies.   You can go out very early in the morning and hand pollinate your blossoms, assuming you have boys open when girls are open and in need of pollinating.  I am NOT into this.  I closed my womb with an ablation  almost 2 yeas ago, I’m not taking on pumpkin  sexing as a hobby…so far.    The  girl blossoms have a teeny tiny pumpkin looking nodule on the stem below where the bloom will form.  The boys are just straight stems.   So I have 2.5 vines chock FULL of boy blooms, with  very few girl blooms to be found.  I lost a full half a vine with 2 babies in waiting on it to either a. some kind of nasty vine rot or b. the  trimmer got too close and hacked off part of the base and killed the  “best” part of the vine. So my 4 pumpkin hopeful harvest has been knocked back to just 2 that are growing.

Yes, I’m telling you my pumpkins aren’t getting enough plant sex=bee pollination.  Turns out that maybe our issue in the pepper front as well.  Sigh… Really?  I have Russian Sage, Oregano, Zinnias,  Sunflowers.  I have not one but TWO bird feeders. My flower garden is a veritable bee , bird and hummingbird pleasure palace. NONE of them can get their parts over there and root around on some  pepper and pumpkin blossoms?   These are some good looking plants? They have nice open blossoms, the blossoms seem to last awhile.    How besides planting things that bees like does one combat a lack of bee issue?    Maybe I should take out a personal add for my  poor pumpkins.


Small but tasty

There are a  lot of things my Dad taught me. And one of them was gardening.   I have had a garden in some form or another in my life since as early as I can remember.  There is a picture somewhere of me as a baby in a wheelbarrow full of cucumbers.   There is a picture of me as a small child holding a big bunch of dirty freshly picked radishes with my dad.   I would take my friends and boys on tours of the garden. NO one I knew at school had anything like it.

My Dad believed in forced child labor so I grew up weeding, and planting, and watering and picking, and hoeing.   I grew up with dirty toes and dirty fingers and scarred knees from kneeling in the dirt. I grew up swatting away mosquitoes and sweating my skinny little ass off in the hot and humid weather my state is so famous for.   We had  what felt like a HUGE yard growing up.   Lots of trees and the garden literally went from one end of the yard to another at about 30 feet or more deep.  It was separated by a wooden and wire fence that held grape vines, and there was a little gate in the center that you opened to walk through to get back there.   Once you stepped into the garden you were standing on a patch of grass about 8-10 feet wide, after that was nothing but lovingly tilled and worked and amended and weeded  Midwest clay based garden soil.  I can still picture every detail of that garden, all of its nooks and crannies, what went where, the place all of the dead cats and dogs got buried.  As I got older it got even better. My Dad bought the house next door and rented it out to tenants. But not before cutting off the yard by more than half and yes, adding more garden.   That next door house would later become known for a very large petite chou ( this is what I call weed) bust.   Our garden was so big and magnificent to my childhood eyes.  I have distinct and deep memories of gardening.  I can conjure any spot that garden vividly into my imagination at any given notice.  I do this almost unknowingly whenever I pick the strawberries in my little Square Foot Gardening garden.

One of my chores was “go pick the berries”. If you have never had large berry patch there are a few things you should know.  June is berry season here, yeah I know they make varieties that bear all summer,  JUNE is berry season here.   Those berries start coming in and that first early smallish batch gets ripe.  You will  pick them reveling in every first berry of the season, marveling at how many little and big green ones you see forming in front of you.   And then YOU NEVER STOP PICKING STRAWBERRIES  for maybe over a month straight.   You have to spend time when picking berries, you have to move slowly and carefully searching and gently pulling. You don’t want them to rot or get nibbles b/c you didn’t pick enough but you also want to wait until  each little/big berry is at perfect ripeness.  There are LOTS of bugs and other creatures that like berries.   They are by far the best berries you will ever taste.

My berry picking career every year went a little like this.

  • Be handed the bowl and told “go pick strawberries”  in late May early June
  • First day I am excited and want to see how much I can fill the bowl, there are way more coming than ready
  • Pick every day to every other day for the next 30+ straight days
  • The first week I am still excited by the amount I am getting and the family is eating most of them
  • The 2nd-3rd weeks the canning has begun, I sometimes participate in this and I definitely enjoy the basement full of berry jam. But I AM TIRED OF PICKING BERRIES
  • Weeks 4-5 and maybe 6 I am sick of the chore even tho it is waning and probably spend more time sitting in the garden staring at nothing than actually picking berries

That berry induced mind trip when our berries started coming in was  nostalgia at first.  It’s been a while since there was a healthy strawberry patch around here that actual got picked.  As we kept harvesting, (Yes I TRIED to The Destroyer (he loves food) and MiniMe to take their turn at the “go pick berries” job. It didn’t stick)  I grew to look forward to remembering being 6 or 8 or 10 or 12 or 14 and being in that garden, hopefully in the cool of the morning or the shade of the later afternoon.

This morning I got lucky and pulled about 2 cups of berries off to put in my greek yogurt, and they were delicious.