review: Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives

Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The easy and treatment-free way to attract and keep healthy bees by Rob and Chelsea McFarland

This approach to beekeeping is based on understanding bees and working with them in as many ways as possible (as opposed to putting the human’s needs/wants first). For a first-time beekeeper, this book recommends three crucial elements: community, education, and equipment. Of these, equipment will be the most expensive in terms of dollars – a basic first year’s worth of equipment will run approximately $500. Lots of detail is provided about the equipment and options available with special attention to why the authors recommend particular choices. All the phases of beekeeping are outlined, from planning all the way through to harvesting honey and maintaining healthy hives. I aspire to keep bees someday and this book is a great place to start.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Shiawassee District Library through the MeLCat ILL system


review: The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden

The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn

This book promises to help you “design an abundant, flower-filled yard that nurtures bees and supports biodiversity.” That sounds pretty good to me! The book lives up to its promise. Filled with easy-to-digest information and lovely photos of flourishing gardens, The Bee-Friendly Garden provides a wonderful start for a new gardener as well as inspiration and ideas for someone more experienced. As I am embarking on the design of the gardens at Firefly Cottage, I am sort of both – experienced but starting a brand new project pretty much from scratch. Throughout the book, the authors emphasize that a bee-friendly garden is a healthy garden and offers info on all the types of bees that we depend on and all the many things that we depend on them to do. I often think that the best plants for bees are perennial native plants, but there is also information here about annuals and using flowering bee-friendly plants in the vegetable garden. Reading through this, I can’t wait to work more on my garden plan. I am really excited about establishing a healthy, pollinator-attracting space!

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books.


autumn sedum

It’s starting to act like fall weather, and that means that the sedum is starting to blossom.


The pollinators in my garden are still out in full force. I was so pleased to see this bee making himself so easily photographed on the background of the still-very-light sedum.


I have a few varieties of this plant, and some are more colorful than others at this stage.


I love the delicate white-pink of the one in the first two photos, but this more intense pink one is pleasing, too.


pollen freaks

The morning glories I planted this year have been doing really, really well. They must like the soil in the back yard.

They keep blooming and reblooming, and both types I planted seem to be doing well.

out of control back yard and gardens

morning glories

morning glory

We have even had a few days lately where it was really overcast and they were fooled into continuing to bloom well into the afternoon.

The pollinators seem to love them as much as I do. I have frequently noticed what has become a common sight: a bee entering and then backing out of a bloom, totally covered in pollen.

these morning glories are very pollen-y

Even fading blooms are still attractive.

these morning glories are very pollen-y

I usually look at bees to see if they’re wearing their pollen pants, but these guys have been coated head to toe!

these morning glories are very pollen-y

Many days we also see blooms with a dusting of pollen on the petals.

these morning glories are very pollen-y


Honey Bee Hobbyist

Honey Bee HobbyistI would love to keep bees, but I haven’t been willing to make the space commitment quite yet. I do often see a lot of bees in my gardens, so they are certainly living somewhere nearby, but not on our property as yet. This book gave me a lot more insight into what we’d need in terms of space as well as effort, and I may get there eventually. Check out my post over at CPL for more details.


jive potatoes!

I spent almost all day today out in the back garden, which I’ve been neglecting while focusing on the front and driveway-side perennial gardens. The fence-side bed where I have corn and potatoes growing (also marigolds) was really looking weed-infested and the potato plants were all faded and ready to be pulled out. You can see in this photo from last week that it was pretty overgrown:

fence-side bed

And now, after today’s hard work, ta-da!

fence-side veg bed

As I pulled out the wilted potato plants, I gathered a few potatoes, leaving some (those buried deeper) in the ground for later harvest. From what I’ve read/heard, you can leave potatoes in the ground for quite awhile and they’ll be the same when you pull them out later. I also harvested a few ears of the Tom Thumb Popcorn I planted, which is tiny and adorable (and needs to dry for a month or so before it’ll be ready for popping, according to what I’ve read). The potatoes are theoretically Desiree and Red Gold, though I think that some of the taters I grew last year might have spawned some, too.

potatoes and tom thumb popcorn

What a haul! Karl got inspired and created a mega delicious dinner from some of these potatoes. Back in my undergrad days, my pal Moses used to make a dish called Jive Potatoes and we made a variation on that dish tonight. First, I sliced the potatoes pretty thin (you could also chop them into chunks, but thinner slices cook faster) and then Karl tossed them with olive oil, oregano, minced garlic (not fresh, alas, as my garlic isn’t ready yet), and some general Italian seasoning.


mixing face!

ready for the grill

After it was all mixed, Karl fashioned a pouch from aluminum foil (we didn’t have any of those ready-made pouches around the house) and put that on the grill. After awhile (20 minutes? I forgot to keep track), Karl determined that they were ready and pulled the pouch off the grill.

after being grilled

after being grilled


delicious jive potatoes

SO delicious! I dipped mine in ranch and Karl seasoned his with pepper (he likes things VERY peppery, to the point where it makes me sneezy). I highly recommend this dish, which was made all the more enjoyable by having grown the potatoes myself.

The mint that has taken over a small patch by the AC unit is in full bloom, and I seem to have two different varieties, one with slightly purplish blossoms:


and a taller variety with white blossoms that the bees really seem to be enamored with:


bee on mint

I haven’t made mojitos yet this summer but I definitely have more than enough mint. Anyone have a good mojito recipe?

More photos at Flickr.