Thank you all for the wonderful comments on yesterday’s bee discussion.
Winter here went out cold and wet. We’ve had a wet winter, wetter than I remember since I’ve been living here. I’m certainly not complaining. The plants have loved it.
This year I’m on the fence about spring in the garden. Spring has brought with it a handful of pests. So far I’ve got aphids, mice stealing newly planted seeds, cutworms, and grasshoppers. All that wind and water has brought unwanted creatures to my garden.
There are lots of good things too though! Like baby apples and cucumber sprouts, zucchini and sunflowers. The heat has come with spring too so I will plant okra again (mice) tomatillos and melons. Replant my basil as well (cutworms). Being gardener is not for the faint of heart. I am covering those strawberries and the baby meyer lemons!
Lastly we finished the fence extension and installed a gate. All that is left is to paint it to match the rest. Finally the project for this week is to install the drip system. By next Saturday we are supposed to see highs in the mid 80’s so water and mulch are much needed.
Tell me about your gardens. Has the snow melted yet? Or is it just starting to fall?
In my backyard, overhanging my garden, is an enormous acacia tree, and right now it’s in full bloom, which means there are thousands of flowers on it. It looks like a pom pom ball tree. I love it and I am glad I’m not allergic to it. The only thing that is missing from this tree are bees. In the past two weeks since it’s been blooming I’ve only seen or heard a handful of bees.
Now move down to my garden and the strawberries are blooming, my calendula is in full bloom, the lavender have wonderful little flowers all over it, and the cilantro has bloomed. No bees.
I put out a saucer of water with stones in it for the bees to come and drink from. No bees. Where did they go? I have the most bee friendly garden, clean water, flowers, and free of pesticides and yet there are no bees. I even went to the nursery nearby and asked them if they had bees buzzing around and they said they hadn’t seen many.
So I started doing research. I am fully aware of Colony Collapse Disorder and of mites and parasites and pesticides all taking their toll on the bees. But what else is going on? The farmers tell me that the high winds we’ve been having dry up all the nectar in the flowers and the bees don’t come because the nectar is absent. In Nepal bees are all but extinct. They have tried hand pollinating apple trees and have found it takes 25 women to do the work of one bee.
That made me think about California and the drought they are in. They are not normally a drought prone state like we are. They are also one of the biggest sources of produce in the US. Majority of the produce in stores in Arizona comes from California. When I was traveling last summer, in the Northeast, I noticed that all of the Whole Foods I visited carried the same organic produce that it does here in Arizona, Cal-Organics. How is that going to be okay for all the people in the Northeast if the bees decline and droughts continue?
My point in all this is to open a discussion about food security. So many of my peers do not understand that they can go their own food and they should. The scary fact that all the bees are disappearing is really scary. What many people don’t know is that any vegetable the has seeds inside it is actually a fruit and has a flower that needs to be pollinated. So if there are no pollinators to do this we have to pollinate by hand. I doubt we can pollinate enough food by hand to feed the world.
What do you think about the bees dying off? What about food security? Why do you or don’t you grow your own food? Do you keep bees?
We welcomed Spring this past Friday. What a glorious day it was. On Thursday we started by dying eggs we bought from our friend with the goats and chickens. We left the blue eggs blue of course. I made a small batch of onion skin dye and turmeric dye. We used those to dye the eggs.
Friday morning we did a small egg hunt and I gave the girls new playsilks I bought from Stephinie of Gypsy Forest. Her silks are wonderful! The way she dyes them makes them so shimmery.
After the egg hunt I turned the eggs into egg salad and we headed up the mountain for a family hike. I had to stop and do a bit of yoga. I couldn’t help myself!
I hope spring has come to you. If not I’m sending warm thoughts your way to melt the snow. And if you are reading from the Southern Hemisphere welcome Fall! And I hope you get to cozy up next to a fire.
Yesterday we had the greatest pleasure of hugging goats and chickens. It was by far the highlight of my week to see my girls being enamoured with farm animals. I have made a new friend whose kids have started their own egg-selling business. Since Spring is coming up on Friday and we do our egg dying and hunting then, I thought what a great opportunity to go see some chickens! We drove out to their house to pick up eggs and fortunately other really cute things too.
While I was there I scoped out the chicken coop, trying to get an idea of what I wanted to do for ours. I think it’s nice to see, in person, what other people have constructed for their coops. We had a lovely lesson in chicken handling too. The girls were very gentle and responsible while holding the hens so I feel that when we get chicks they will show that same respect for our birds.
As for the goats I am totally smitten. I’m fairly sure that we will have goats with in the next few years.
Sometimes as home learners you have to do typical “homeschoolie” things like bake bread in the shape of letters, or learn to count by playing hopscotch or learn about volcano eruptions by making a baking soda volcano. With spring practically here I decided we needed to study a little bit of insect biology first hand. I ordered a butterfly house and the accompanying painted lady butterfly larva.
While we waited for the day of their arrival in the mail we watched several videos about butterflies and other winged creatures. We read book after book, drew pictures, told stories and even flew around the backyard pretending to be butterflies.
When the day finally came there was so much excitement, we watched the tiny caterpillars crawl around in their small ventilated cup thinking how will they ever do their thing? Every day I got up to check on them and would remind the girls to look. It seemed like every time I wasn’t looking that is when they would do all the cool stuff, like shed their skins or hang upside down and form a chrysalis. They even emerged completely from their chrysalis without us seeing. We kept a close eye on them to try and catch them at the right moment, but oh well. We watched the newborn butterflies flutter around while I made pancakes yesterday morning. Then we released them. They flew away rather quickly, never to be seen again.
It was really fun to see this process unfold. I’m sure we will do it again in years to come.
I know many of you dear readers are vegetarians, so feel free to skip this post about bacon. I won’t judge. However if you do eat meat read on!
I’m pretty sure that if you have read this blog for any length of time you understand how much good food means to me. I try to the best of my ability to source all of my meat, eggs and veggies locally. I like to know the people who grow or raise my food. I like to know where that food comes from and even visit the farm or ranch to see the land in person.
For a long time I have wanted to try making my own bacon because the guy who was making and selling it at our farmers market for years has stopped. Only catch, there was no one selling pork belly at the time. Finally the same farmer I buy my eggs, chicken and lamb from started to raise hogs as well. I immediately ordered a pork belly from him and cured some of my own bacon.
I’m sure you are wondering if I used pink salt to cure my bacon? Yes I did and here is why: all charcuterie contains nitrates, whether or not they use pink salt. Most companies who claim to use no nitrates use celery juice. Celery naturally contains high levels of nitrates. So if you use celery salt instead of pink salt you will often times be consuming a higher level of nitrates than if you had used pink salt. Here is a really great article by the author of the book I used for my recipe.
How do you make bacon then? Basically you take the pork belly, rub it in salt and maple sugar, put it in a bag in the fridge and turn it over every other day for seven days. At the end of seven days you roast it in the oven at 200 degrees. When it reaches 150F, you’re done. Slice it up and eat it or freeze it.
This bacon is crazy good. It’s not smoked as I don’t have a smoker, but I’m not missing that at all. It’s also hand-cut, making it thicker, which I have come to love.
I’m pretty darn proud of myself and so thankful to the happy hog who got to roam about in the open grasslands of southern Arizona because I can just taste the sunshine in the this bacon!
When I was young I used to stay up into the wee hours of the the night drawing really complicated pictures. I remember it being so fun because right around 10ish my brain would wake up and begin to think of fun things to draw. So I would draw with just a pencil and paper with all the world asleep around me. My mom even kept a trunk at the end of the hall where I would put all my art work.
Eventually school and assignments got the better of my creative side. I wanted to draw and paint and create things with my hands everyday and so I took art classes, but for some reason I always felt stifled. Like I wasn’t a good enough artist. I think it was the process of being in an art class where you were given an assignment and told what you should do to be creative. What colors to use, what objects to paint or draw. After months and years of being told what to create suddenly they would open up and say do whatever you want, but it better be really good so you can pass this class and you have to do it in three weeks. I felt by the end of art school I had completely forgotten how to be creative. I was released into the world and had absolutely no idea how to go forward. No one was telling me the magic formula for an A+. The A+ meant a paying job or a show with my art in it. I graduated at a terrible time too, right at the beginning of the housing market crash when no one wanted anything to do with a college educated artist.
So I dropped art for art’s sake for a very long time. Not to say I haven’t made things, I learned to sew and knit, embroider, and even spin yarn. But then in January I found myself in New Mexico having forgotten my knitting basket, no sewing machine in sight, and a whole lot of time on my hands thanks to being at my mom’s house. I decided it was time to draw again. I bought a sketchbook and lots of pens, something I’ve never drawn with before. I’m trying to unschool my artistic side. I’m attempting to let go of all the inhibitions and expectations I placed on myself all those years ago. I’m excited to see where it leads because I don’t know, and this time I don’t care if I mess things up. It’s just a sketchbook and there are no grades or degrees depending on it.
All those years instructors kept telling us to think outside of the box… but inside of the syllabus. Well, now I am going to let myself paint wherever and mess up, to try mixing materials and see where it leads. I think I am finally ready to think outside of the box again.