Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bountiful Harvest!

With a late start, well into June, 
after rebuilding all the frames and fence, we still managed to have 
a successful season and a bountiful harvest. 
(See July 1 blog entry for the back story)

The tomatoes were amazingly delicious, especially the cherry tomatoes, which were like eating candy. It was our first year for butternut squash, which grew well and we still have one more on the way.

The 4 eggplant matured late and are still producing, despite the beetles, with at least 8 more
to grow larger.

The 3 green pepper plants did well and produced 5 fruits each, even though they were in
the shadows of the basil plants.

The only issue we have is that the deer are somehow managing to jump or climb into the garden the last couple of weeks, eating the last few tomatoes and plants. Luckily, everything else is still intact. I added more fencing, more wire, but sadly still found hoof prints this morning.

As I was shooting these photos, the suspects were watching me from behind the pines and also eyeing my neighbors garden. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Positive Monarch Fall Migration Update!

I have been keeping a close eye out for monarchs all summer. There has definitely been an uptick of adult monarchs passing through in the past 2 weeks here in Doylestown and also down at 
Cape May, NJ with fall migration having officially started. 
I never spotted any eggs or larvae on our milkweed.


I was curious what others were seeing. I visited Journey North's migration maps and found this:

According to Journey North, as of September 4th, over 13 roosts, with one having as many as 500 individual butterflies, have been observed. There had been only 2 reported at this time last year. There are many more adults being seen on the move and Dr. Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch predicts the population to be twice as large as last year.

Join the party 
and report your sightings 
by logging in here: 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

More on Deer-Resistant Plants

We have tremendous deer pressure here and our plants are constantly under fire. Although, forsythia and peony are considered "deer resistant", this summer, the deer have eaten both to the point of killing the plants.

In Ruth Rogers Clausen's excellent book, "50 Beautiful Deer-Resistant Plants",  a helpful rating scale is provided for each plant. The scale is just 7-10 with plants under 7 not even included in the book, as those plants are regularly browsed by deer.  So, 7 is described as "deer sometimes nip off flowers but leave foliage alone", 8 is "deer occasionally nip off one or two flowers but mostly ignore plant", 9 - just browse new spring foliage and 10 - rarely browse and usually avoid plant altogether. Bloom times, and growing and design tips are also included.

So, I was curious if my 2 plants were listed in the book.  Forsythia is not even included in the book! The Peony is included in the list of 50 but with a rating of 7-10.


For the most part, I find most of her choices and rating scales spot on, for example the Lenten Rose and Fringed Bleeding Heart have a rating of 9-10, which I completely agree with.

Some plants I didn't realize were deer resistant and I look forward to planting outside the fence include, Blue False Indigo, Yarrow, Castor Oil Plant and Hybrid Sage.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Population Crisis of Honey Bees, Monarchs: Whose next?

(pic from :

An excellent article from the NY Times,"Our Bees, Ourselves", explains succinctly the Honeybee crisis and also what this means possibly for the human race. As the author, Mark Wilson, states, honey bees are a resilient species having survived for over 40 million years and what is effecting them most definitely will impact us.

There are over 120 residues from different pesticides found in honey bee hives which reduce the effectiveness of the bee's immune system and make them more susceptible to disease. Certainly humans are exposed to these residues too and what impact is that having on us?

An the end of the article, he offers a positive note and solution.  He sites a recent study which shows that if sizable acreages of cropland are left unspoiled or uncultivated to support wild pollinators, there are higher crop yields and then in turn, higher profits. This concept also overlaps with what we are seeing with the Monarch population crisis and how it is critical to provide wild habitat and protection of milkweed.

Here is the link to the article:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Unexpected Common Milkweed Expansion

(Picture from Washington Post)

Monarch butterfly populations have been in steady decline since 2003 caused in part by loss of habitat. The director of the organization, Monarch Watch, created a recovery plan which includes the planting nationwide of thousands of milkweed, the primary host of monarchs. The organization has shipped over 30,000 milkweed plants, see blog article:
Although, this is a very important issue to me, I never made the time over the winter to order milkweed to increase the numbers we already have.

This spring, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the mowing of our upper meadow after 3 years stimulated the small patch of Common Milkweed, that had already been growing in our meadow. Common Milkweed is the most prolific of the 12 native milkweeds in PA and is also know as Asclepias syriaca.

Our Milkweed have expanded to several patches and now includes roughly 1000 healthy individual plants.

Here is a simple map showing the location and expansion of the Milkweed in the upper meadow, which covers about 2 acres. The lower meadow is largely wetlands and has very little Milkweed.

Milkweed spread via seeds carried by the wind, birds or animals or by rhizomes underground. The mowing probably exposed fertile ground for the seeds and stimulated the rhizomes.

Milkweeds' milky sap contain poisonous glycosides, which the monarchs feed upon and can tolerate and in turn gives it the protection it needs from predators. Milkweeds' nectar and pollen are free of these poisons and provide food for numerous bees, butterflies and other insects.

It's well after May, and I have not spotted any monarchs coming through still. 

Here is a map of the first adult sightings for North America through June 20th:

The milkweed are blooming, mature and ready. Hopefully, the monarchs will show up soon.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rebirth of a Vegetable Garden with Cedar Raised Beds

During this year's early February snow and ice storm, we lost an old Cherry tree, that completely smashed and destroyed our vegetable garden.

For the past couple of months, after replacing the fence, we have been slowly rebuilding and replacing the old pine raised beds, that had also succumbed to rot and bugs, with beautiful new 2" x 10" cedar planks, 8' by 4'.

The untreated pine planks lasted surprisingly for 5 years, but hopefully the new cedar planks will last double or triple that long.

The raised bed was assembled outside the fence and then placed directly over the old bed.

  and then adjustments were made for a good fit.

In the last couple of weeks, parsley, eggplant, zucchini, squash, peppers, and tomatoes have been planted and are growing hardily. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

National Pollinator Week 2014: How YOU can help!

The US Senate, 8 years ago, designated this week, June 16-22, as National Pollinator Week to bring public awareness to the decline of pollinators.

Last year, in Wilsonville, Oregon, when 50 blooming Linden trees were sprayed with a systemic neonicotinoid insecticide, over 50,000 bumble bees died immediately while feeding on the contaminated nectar and pollen.

(Photo from:

The trees were immediately wrapped so other bees and other pollinators would not be subjected to the contaminated nectar and pollen. Because of this incident, many neonicotinoids insecticides have been banned.

(Photo from:

Neonicotinoid pesticides/insecticides are used by farmers, gardeners and homeowners and include products from Ortho and Bayer and others. They are systemic, meaning they are absorbed by the plant, including the pollen and nectar.  Bees, butterflies and other pollinators die when they come in contact with these residues.

You can help by NOT using these products OR follow labeled directions carefully, if you must use them. There are many of these products, just a couple are pictured below. See website link below for a more complete list.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't use pesticides/insecticides or herbicides when plants are blooming or when pollinators are active, during daylight hours.

The Xerces Society provides a list of these products and further information and excellent articles:

Please help save 
our pollinators, our bees and butterflies and moths 
and other important pollinators 
and spread the word.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hiveless Spring

After being a beekeeper for the last 5 years, it is very strange to start spring without the hustle and bustle of preparing beehives, installing bee packages and tending to their weekly needs. We are taking a break due to back issues and busy schedules.

The meadow looks so empty:

We moved the apiary from the middle of the meadow to the enclosed blueberry field, just in case there is a change of heart or to be ueber ready for next year.

Some questions emerge:
1. How will the vegetable and flower gardens be impacted with 90,000 more or less fewer honey bees?
2. Will native pollinators fill the pollinating gap again?
3. Will there be more native pollinators with less competition from honey bees and more diversity of them?
4. How will the blueberry plants be effected? Clover?
5. How do honey bees impact native pollinator populations, initially and then over time?

Check back for some of my observations!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Crow solves a Challenging Puzzle

My dear friend, Margaret, shared this remarkable video from a 
BBC video series titled: Inside the Animal Mind
showing a crow solving a 8 step puzzle. 

Please enjoy:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Winter Challenge

This is the 3rd snowiest winter since 1884 for the greater Philadelphia area
 with 61.7" and 11 storms since December 8, 2013. 
The winter of 1995-6 had 65.5" and 
the 2009-10 winter holds the record with 78.7".  

The website, Bucks County Weather, reporting from Warwick, is an excellent site to 
view snow storm totals, temperatures and such, 
dating back to 2009:

Looking back, the 2009-10 winter's snow accumulated with mainly 3 storms, 1 in Dec. and 2 major blizzards back to back in February as this table shows, after having a 3-4 year snow drought: 

Table 1: 2009–2010 Mid-Atlantic Snowfall By The Numbers
Dec 19–20
Jan 30–31
Feb 5–6
Feb 9–10
Season Total
Previous Seasonal Record
Average Seasonal Total
Richmond, VA
Washington, DC
Baltimore, MD
Philadelphia, PA
New York city
Table 1 Notes(1) Individual storm totals are based on preliminary NWS data; (2) seasonal total for 2009–2010 includes snowfall from storms not shown in this table; (3) previous seasonal record based on data extending back to the late 1880's; (4) average seasonal snow total based on official records from 1971–2009; (5) all values for snowfall are shown in inches.


The following photos capture some of the major snow events experienced this winter season: 

A beautiful sunset 3 days after the January 22nd storm:

During this February 3rd storm, we received initially some light snow and then 

on the 6th, heavier wet snow and ice fell that stuck to the trees and branches and added up to over 17" in Doylestown, causing many limbs to fall and cause power outages:

This snow also had a bluish cast, as seen here: 

The iced trees were beautiful,

 but dangerous.

We lost a Black Cherry tree that was well over 200 years old, which completely 
toppled over from all the weight of the ice:

Already reeling from this storm, another storm came barreling down, adding an additional 17.8":

A couple of days later, the temperature increased up to 41 degrees and created this 
iced snowy bubble effect:

Temperatures held steadily cold and more than a foot of snow remained in place into March.

Only just this past week, have temperatures normalized and 
finally, the snow is melting ever so slowly. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Moments to Cherish!

I was reflecting on those moments in life that are rare and special. Moments that unlikely will be duplicated again. Moments that bring joy and wonderment. Moments or sightings that I might take for granted and presume will happen again next year or next season, but often don't. 

Such as . . .

 the bluebird at the window in the middle of a snowstorm taking shelter, 

the bunny teasing Sigi at the porch door,

the deer twins edging closer and closer, curious to know more,

a beautiful painted turtle crossing our path as Sigi and I took a fall walk,

the group of goldfinch in the spring eating the seed pods from the catmint at my window,

discovering a young fawn in the meadow, lost and confused and later united with her mother the following day,

finding a baby bunny hiding INSIDE my garden fence,

the fox in the upper meadow just hanging out,

walking out the front door and discovering the tiniest baby turtle right on the sidewalk,

finding baby bunnies huddled innocently in a mulch pile,

capturing the most beautiful afternoon rays of light shining through the petals of 
these Richard Ahren's anemones,

and watching one of our bee girls in the spring collecting nectar. 
(Our last hive died last week in the extreme cold).

Here are some quotes that I find fitting for these reflections: 

"The only constant in life is change." 


"Learn to flow with life like a stream. 
Change is the constant in our world, 
everything and everyone is always 
in a constant state of change. 
Learn to flow with life, 
relax and 
enjoy the ride.

(Kemmy Nola)