Updates

Hey there, I thought it was time to look back at a few posts and share some updates with you. Today’s post includes a success, a failure, and a modification.

The Failure :

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I made a space for native bees, and they never came! I was really bummed, because I was so excited to have Alex, our little bug lover, watch the bee activity all summer. I was also hoping to share updates with you all summer, oh well. Fortunately, the bee house is in great condition, so I took it down for the winter and will hang it again next spring. I’m going to try a different location.

The Modification :

 {warning : dirty glass walls ahead!}

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That’s an close-up of what I did, but let me take a step back and explain. When we lived in PA, I had great success keeping my orchid happy, healthy, and blooming. Then we moved to dry (dry,dry) Colorado, and it became such a struggle. I finally got the conditions right in our rental last year, and then we moved into the new house.

After moving, I was keeping the orchids in a corner of the living room. They were getting plenty of light, but they were dry. I tried to stay on top of watering, and I even added a big pan underneath that I filled with water to try to raise the humidity level in the air around them. Unfortunately, it was just too dry.

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So one day I had the brilliant idea to move them to our shower. The shower in the master bathroom is huge and gets plenty of sunlight. Before starting the project, I did a quick search online for “orchids in shower” and learned that I am definitely not the first person with this idea. And seeing those posts, I gathered my supplies : a wire container to hold the orchids and suction to the wall (we already had this one), some moss to fill out the container and look pretty, scissors, yarn and cheesecloth (I thought I would need the yarn and cheese cloth to create a little bag around my orchids to keep the soil in, but as you’ll see, this was unnecessary).

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The orchids were in plastic pots that sat inside of clay pots. I took them out of the clay pot and carefully cut off the plastic pots. As you can see in the photos above, even without the pots, the orchid roots and soil were solidly contained within a layer of moss. This setup was so sturdy that I didn’t use the cheesecloth.

I lined the wire basket with the green moss and tucked the orchids in the basket, adding more moss where necessary to fill the space. After suctioning the basket to the shower wall, I added a few to the outside of the basket.

*If you’re interested in air plants (the easiest plant to take care of), we showed you how to make an artistic air plant display and how to use them for decorating an outdoor shower.*

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As you can see, the basket sits up high and towards the back corner of the shower. I was worried about it being in the way, but when Calder showered and didn’t even realize it was there, I knew we were safe.

The exciting news is that we have new growth on the orchids. One, in particular, is going crazy and sending up two new flower spikes! I’ll consider this one a full-blown success once we actually have flowers.

The Success :

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Our mold & mildew spray made with essential oils has been the most effective shower cleaner I’ve ever used! We’ve been living in this house for almost 8 months now, and have not had to scrub mildew from the tile wall yet! They are absolutely clean.

And to give you some insight into our shower usage : Calder showers at least once a day, sometimes more if he goes on a long bike ride; I shower about once every 3 days (no joke, but my skin thanks me). I’m the only one that uses the shower spray, so it gets sprayed on after one out of every four showers. And that’s it, no other tricks…. now to come up for a trick to keeping the water stains off the glass walls.

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Making a Space for Native Bees

Happy Earth Day (again)! We’re excited to check in this afternoon with a second post, especially one about making a space for native bees in your backyard!

You may not be aware, but the honey bees that we all know and love for the pollination services and delicious honey are not native to North America. The bees arrived in North America by Europeans in the 17th century, and they are such efficient pollinators that over time our agriculture became dependent upon the insects. This dependency is due in part to honey bees living in such large colonies that we are able to easily move from field to field in portable hives. I love the idea of fostering different habitats in our backyard for a variety of animals from birds to insects to mammals; especially since observing these animals in our backyard is such a simple way to introduce and connect Alex and Luc to nature. As such, one day I would love to have a colony of honeybees in my backyard, but I know that requires time that I don’t have right now to learn about their care and monitor the hives throughout the year, not to mention the work that would be required to collect the honey. Meanwhile, our native bees are really interesting insects that receive relatively little attention yet are the perfect guests for a low maintenance backyard! Knowing that, we thought Earth Day was the perfect time to encourage everyone to invite these gentle creatures into your yard!

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Today when discussing native bees, we’re referring specifically to Mason Bees, of which, there are over 100 species in North America. Unlike honey bees that live in large colonies, Mason bees are solitary insects and they do not produce honey. Another difference between the two types of bees is that Mason bees do not sting unless squeezed or stepped on. For that reason and for their interesting nesting habits (read more below!), they are a great bee to encourage to nest in your backyard; kids will enjoy watching them create their nests without the threat of being stung!

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Welcome April

On the first Wednesday of every most months, you can find us checking in with what’s coming up on the calendar, both literally and figuratively. 

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Don’t you feel like April is the month when we have at least one foot firmly planted in Spring? Sure, there was a little snow shower up in the mountains last week, but it didn’t seem to dampen any spirits, because there’s no going back to winter now : the first flowers are blooming, and spring is definitely on its way!  I love seeing the definite transformation from winter to spring.  Tiny buds, blossoming flowers and pollen in your sinuses.  It really is a beautiful world we live in. That and it’s finally dress and moccasin season.

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I’m so excited to see how the perennial gardens develop at our house in the mountain. Currently, the daffodils and grape hyacinth are in full bloom. The larger hyacinths are starting to develop, but I think it’ll be a couple of weeks until we have flowers yet, but down the mountain in Boulder proper, I saw a few hyacinths in full bloom just in time for Easter! It’s expected that peak bloom for the National Cherry Blossom Festival will be April 11-14th this year, again later than the average bloom date of April 4th.  In Sarah’s neck of the woods (North Carolina) the magnolias, dogwoods, crabapple and cherry blossom trees are blooming already.  The weather has hovered in the seventies for the past week and looks to be warming up even more next week.

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I have to be honest, we have bees on the brain this season (maybe we need an insect of the season category!). During last month’s welcome we highlighted bees and talked about some of the early spring activity that you may observe in their colonies. When introducing nuts as our ingredient of the season, we mentioned the valuable services bees provide as pollinators to the country’s almond crops, but their work doesn’t end there. Migratory beekeepers have many miles yet to travel this spring as they move their hives across the country. Around this time, hives have been placed in the cherry, plum, and avocado orchards in California, some have moved north to the apple and cherry orchards in Washington state, and others have traveled east to pollinate the tupelos and gallberries in Florida.

In other buzzin’ buddy news, hummingbirds are on the move! I spotted my first of the season earlier this week, which prompted a post about filling and hanging hummingbird feeders. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any drinking out of the feeder yet, but I’m hoping that’s because they hit the nectar early in the morning.

Besides birds, I’ve seen lots of reptile and insect activity this past week.  There was an enormous black snake in the driveway of the pottery studio and I saw a tiny green garden snake in my yard yesterday.  Spring is a popular time of year for our slithering friends.  They’ll be boppin’ about during the warmer days this month and next so watch where you step!  In insect news, I spotted my first tick yesterday *groan* while I was hiking with Cash. It was crawling on my leg.  If you’re a dog owner, vaccinate your pup!  It looks like we’re getting a little bit closer to preventing Lyme disease for humans too.  I’ve also dealt with my fair share of fire ants this past week.  Apparently my yard is full of fire ant mounds, which became apparent after a few barefoot escapades. Ouch.  As the season rolls on I’ll let you know if I take action or try to ignore the enormous underground anthill that is my yard.

Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, which is the 24th this year and the eve of baby AMax’s second birthday! We’ll have to plant a tree in honor of that little guy and all the growing he has done over the past 24 months.  If you’d like to plant a tree or ten, you should become a member of the Arbor Day Foundation. It’s only $10 and you receive ten free trees when you sign up! Sounds like a steal to me.

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Earth Day – It’s the 45th anniversary of Earth Day this year and we think focusing on the health of our environment is of utmost importance today and every day.  We also love a good Earth Day celebration.  There’s an Xtreme Zero Waste event going on in Boulder that we may have to check out.  How will you be celebrating? Planting any trees? Walking to work?  Every bit counts.

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Welcome March!

On the first Wednesday of each month we like to pause and take a look at what’s going on in the world around us, with a particular focus on animal activity, celestial events, and our farmers’ fields.

Wow, our first monthly welcome post took place one year ago, and we had just started Live Seasoned a couple of weeks before that, which means we’ve had our first anniversary and didn’t even acknowledge it! Sarah and I make the perfect old couple.

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Bee Business:

March is a tricky month for bees.  Bee colony activity usually starts up again during late February or early March depending on the temperature.  Temperature is the determining factor as far as honeybees are concerned. As the weather gets warmer, the days lengthen, and pollen becomes available, the queen starts laying eggs, and the bees become active gathering nectar and pollen from early flowers and storing honey in combs.

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If you’re backyard beekeeping, March is the month when colonies can die of starvation if their honey stores aren’t big enough.  There is a lot of activity and lots of hungry bee bellies to fill, so you may want to take a peek into your boxes to make sure there’s enough sugary syrup for your bees to feed on.  Later this month, bee colonies increases brood combs and populations reach their peak capacity.  The brood combs are the beeswax structure of cells where the queen bee lays her eggs.  When the hive gets too crowded, the colony gets ready to swarm, which sounds terrifying, but it is actually the natural method of reproduction of the colony.

When the colony preps to swarm, the drone population increases and a few queen cells are built to produce a new queen.  A few larvae that would normally develop into worker bees are fed a special gland food called royal jelly, their cells are reconstructed to accommodate the larger queen, and her rate of development increases. If you’re new to this bee business, a drone is a male bee and the product of an unfertilized egg.  If the egg was fertilized it would be a worker bee not a drone.  Worker bees are female, they have stingers and they help collect pollen and nectar.  Drone bees exist primarily to mate with a fertile queen, which brings us back to swarming.  Swarming usually occurs in March to June. The old queen leaves the hive with about half of the bees to a new home elsewhere. The remaining bees in the colony continue their work rearing brood and collecting pollen. When a virgin queen emerges from her cell, she stings the remaining queen cells and kills any other queen she finds – real nice lady that queen. Six to eight days after mass-murdering the other queens, the virgin queen flies out to mate with drones and return to the colony as the new queen. A few days after mating, the queen bee will start laying 1,500-2000 eggs a day.

Night Sky Watch:

As you may know, I’m lunar obsessed and while I remind you guys all the time to check out the moon, THIS IS THE MONTH! Ok, every month is the month, but during March the full moon hangs out in the sky all night long. On March 5th we’ll see the full crow moon rise around sunset and set around sunrise.  During the rest of 2015 the moon will spend some time in the daytime sky. It’s no super moon (it’s actually the smallest full moon of 2015), but it will be glowing allllll night long. So take a night hike or at least spend a few minutes gazing up!

Venus is visible as an evening star in the southwestern sky this month.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, Mercury is your morning star during March.  Last month, Jupiter was in opposition (meaning opposite the sun) and this month it will still be shining brightly most of the night!

Starting on March 8th and continuing for a couple weeks, a faint zodiacal light will be visible just after sunset.  Find Venus and Mars (I use Star Walk for help) and you should see the zodiacal light that’s being reflected from interplanetary matter.

In a few weeks we all celebrate the Equinox, which means the start of Spring or the beginning of Autumn depending on which hemisphere you reside.  Friday, March 20th is a day for celebration as the sun crosses the celestial equator – pull on your rain boots and go splash around in the snow melt.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, appreciate each and every Autumn day this year 🙂

Venus and the moon buddy up in the western twilight sky on March 22nd.

On March 24th, the first quarter moon passes close to the red giant star Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster.  The moon passes in front of Aldebaran if you’re an observer in northern latitudes: Kazakhstan, Russia, northeastern Scandinavia, extreme northeastern China, northern Greenland, northwestern Canada, and Alaska.  More on Aldebaran and the Hyades cluster here.

Earth Days:

There are a handful of great environmental holidays to celebrate this month!  I plan on participating in each one, wanna join me?!  I am so thankful for water and woods that I feel like every day is international river, forest and water day, but I’m going to try to do something extra special on those specific dates this year.

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Do you have kiddos? Teach them the importance of forests and rivers this month.  At least read The Lorax or watch the video!   During the Meatout, I plan on eating these scones, cold oat salad and maybe a rice pulse.  I can’t wait to relive my days without power (when I first moved into my current apartment) during Earth Hour.  Maybe we’ll make it a whole Earth Night in our household.  Whatever you do or don’t do, at least spread the word to your family and friends about these environmental holidays this month.  The bottom line is getting the word out, someone needs to speak for the trees 😉

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