Moving Time: AppleJade Now Lives at www.brainripples.com

AppleJade has moved! Please update your links:

http://brainripples.com/category/garden/

New Beginnings, Copyright © 2010 Jade Leone Blackwater

I am excited to announce that AppleJade now has a new, permanent home at www.brainripples.com.

My blogs Brainripples, Arboreality, and AppleJade will all live together under one domain. For those who prefer the original channels, my blog will be simply categorized by Studio, Forest, and Garden respectively. You can read more details here.

All AppleJade content published at applejade.wordpress.com will remain as-is for the time being, so that no active links will be broken. In coming months I hope to republish the best content at my own website including reviews, articles, features, and other goodies.

I wish to extend my thanks to the great folks at WordPress.com, without whose free hosted blogging services, friendly support community, and awesome technology, the AppleJade blog could not be possible.

Onward!

Book Review: Plan Bee

Plan Bee by Susan Brackeny © Copyright 2009Plan Bee: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About the Hardest-Working Creatures on the Planet

by Susan Brackney

The book for today’s review was provided by: Perigee Books, Penguin Group (USA)

The harvest bounties, floral comforts, and kitchen creations that I share at AppleJade would none of them be possible without the bees.  This is why Susan Brackney’s book Plan Bee is one of my favorite book reads so far this year: it is fun to read, useful, and relevant.

Plan Bee tells us about the biology, history, lore, and functions of bees, emphasizing the honeybee and its place in agriculture.  Susan Brackney writes Plan Bee from her own honeycomb adventures, such as they were launched at the intersection of curiosity, love, and a fateful garage sale.

Plan Bee by Susan Brackney, Queen Bee, © Copyright 2009Brackney affords her readers the unique opportunity to learn about the art and science of beekeeping by candidly sharing the fruits of her own learning process along with a spoonful of humor.  Brackney provides meaningful scientific information including physiology, habitat, and ecology, as well as domestic beekeeping (apiary) and its history.  Although she details the nuts-and-bolts of bee workings, Brackney provides no indecipherable scientific diagrams, and no unpronounceable terminology.

Throughout Plan Bee Brackney interlaces cultural context, folklore, mythology, and the many uses and applications of bees, their activities, and their byproducts.  The reader’s focus is aligned to incorporate flowers, table honey, pollination, and agriculture.  Brackney helps attune the reader to the significance and importance of bees and their well-being for the health not only of humans, but also the environments of which we are all a part.

Plan Bee by Susan Brackney © Copyright 2009In addition to the wealth of what I learn in its pages, what I like most about Plan Bee are the little moments of recognition that I feel as I read: wild flowers that I recognize from my Pennsylvania gardens, wild bee homes that I find in my Washington gardens, and raw, local honey that I search out in farmer’s markets and local stands wherever I go.

In Brackney’s book I hear the balance of practicality and sustainability that I attempt to achieve in my own life.  Although she provides great information for aspiring apiarists, she also offers simple suggestions which everyone can try.  For example: she suggests that an easy way to help all bees might be to leave a corner of the lawn to “go wild” with weed flowers, or to raise the lawnmower blades a few inches in order to spare the violets and clover.

By helping her readers to understand Why Bees Matter, Brackney inspires us to action.  I came away from this book knowing that I’m not ready to be a beekeeper, but that I am prepared to grow more flowers, provide the trappings of wild bee homes, and offer bee-baths (located away from the existing bird-baths).  Brackney provides a measured sense of doable action with suggestions for anyone who wishes to improve – or at least not worsen – the fate and survival of bees.

In Plan Bee Brackney titles her Final Note, “Who Needs Chickens Anyway?”.  We learn at the beginning of her story that Susan Brackney ended up on the honeybee path when she first decided she was ready to try something new; a garage sale which offered a beekeeper’s gear cast the deciding vote in the toss-up between chicken-raising and beekeeping.

For this twist of fate, I feel that we are all fortunate: Susan Brackney’s Plan Bee invites its readers to re-approach the world with curiosity in order to explore, investigate, and notice.  Like a bee, Brackney gives careful attention to each subject as if humming from flower to flower, connecting insects with habitat with agriculture with humanity with choices with actions.  Plan Bee leaves its readers with a sense of wonder for, and belonging to, the natural world and all its honeyed sweetness.

 

Wild Bees and Wild Flowers, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Pre-Solstice Garden Updates

Dianthus Awaits the Butterflies, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The June solstice is just around the corner, and my garden is ready:

Sunflowers and corn have each been transplanted out of the cold frame and into their respective beds.

Sunflower at Sunset, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The heliotropes (flowers which turn with the sun, including sunflowers) stand healthy on three-foot-tall stems lining a new flowerbed located along the northern fence line of my yard.  These sunflowers are the progency of my Pennsylvania garden including both the giant and the shorter, red sunflowers.

Flower Bed Beginnings, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What was once a barren stretch of grass is now home to flowers selected from all around my yard including daisies, dianthus, bee balm, columbine, carrots, daffodils, and many others.  I’ve packed a lot of plants into this small space, which is also the new home to 10 trees (originally received from The Arbor Day Foundation some eight years ago) including dogwoods, hawthorns, and crab apples.

North Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The corn (which, if you didn’t know, is a really big grass) now lines the western fence line in two long beds of approximately 40 plants each.

Corn Sprouts: Fairy's-Eye-View, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Once the corn was put in place, the beds were sown with beans, pumpkins, zucchini, and melons, with a few sunflowers and nasturtium seeds to artfully anchor the ends of each.  I am pleased to say that the corn is well ahead of the requisite “knee-high by the Fourth of July” benchmark.  This is my first real attempt at growing corn; after three years of living around Pennsylvania farmland for inspiration, I am eager to see my results!  Beyond the fenced yard is a healthy wildflower patch containing foxglove, fireweed, daisies, and brambles, which I have carefully encouraged for some 10 years.  I hope that these flowers will help to attract the wild pollinators that I need for the vegetables.

South Corn Bed, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Why are the growing beds all fenced in, you may ask?

Blackfoot Troublemaker, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Tomatoes, peppers, basil, and marigolds which once in habited all free window spaces inside the house are now safely settled in the vegetable garden.  Although the tomatoes were looking a little scraggly indoors, they positively exploded outside.  I’m sure that flowers are only a week or two away.  The basil hardly seems to have noticed the move, and the peppers are slowly catching up thanks to the warm weather we’ve enjoyed.

Happy Tomato Starts, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Meanwhile, back in the cold frames the arugula, lettuce, assorted salad greens, and cilantro have all made a great showing, and are ready to bolt like nobody’s business.

Late Spring Cold Frame Harvest, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

I plan to dig them out in chunks and pop them in the flower beds so they can flower and seed to their hearts’ content.  Personally, I think arugula, radish, and cilantro flowers are lovely.  So too for the furry purple flowers of the chives plants which welcome me to the vegetable patch each morning.

Welcoming Garden Chive Flowers, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

The peas also need to come out of the coldframe and into the garden – they’ve grown big enough to create a trellis out of each other for support!

Renegade Pea Plants, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

And of course, summer wouldn’t be complete without the sweet, ripe strawberries swelling like so many rubies in the vegetable garden:

Summer's Ripening Strawberries, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

What’s next?  Believe it or not: autumn.  The efforts needed for summer vegetables were all completed in winter and spring.  Now that those tasks are behind me, there’s little else to do but water and weed and watch and harvest.  What’s important now is to plan, prepare, and plant for the coming cool seasons.

For me this means moving things out of the cold frames so I can begin successions of lettuce, greens, onions, carrots, and other small veggies.  I want to get these started now and continue sowing seeds at roughly two-week intervals from now through October.  These will provide the food supply for autumn, and ensure that I have plants at several stages of maturity (rather than one, big, massive patch of lettuce that’s ready all at once).

In addition to the food plantings I am also focused on developing the flowers which grow throughout the gardens.  I have healthy seedlings of calendula, borage, and marigolds, and recently added mature bergamot (also called bee balm or monarda), lavender, and rosemary to compliment my existing collections of mints, thyme, parsley, chamomile, and other flowers and kitchen herbs.  Thanks to my mother and eldest sister I was able to stock up on seeds via Seeds of Change, so my personal seed bank includes hollyhocks, dahlias, bergamots, sages, and many others.

Ahead at AppleJade I’ll be sharing ideas for creative ways to reuse packaging for seed starting, earth-friendly ways to reduce your slug and pest populations, and plenty of ideas for recipes to make use of your garden bounty!

Quiet Bird Retreat, Copyright © 2009 Jade Leone Blackwater

Sun-Gardens

Greetings from sunny, southern California!  Blogging will be light until the autumn while I travel, but I will be sure to stop in from time to time and share garden finds and recipes.

Later this year we’ll check back in on the Kitsap garden and see what comes up!

Green Blogging from the Evergreen State

Pink Columbine, May 2008, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

Greetings from the Emerald City!  I am settling in to the Pacific Northwest after enjoying a most excellent roadtrip from Philadelphia to Seattle.  I will resume blogging in June with a post frequency of 1 – 2 times per week on each blog: AppleJade, Arboreality, and Brainripples.

At AppleJade we will be discussing healthy, happy lifestyle through attitude, gardening, cooking, and simple, green living.

At Arboreality we will be exploring the woods of Western Washington and other localities within reasonable driving distance.

At Brainripples we will be sharing methods of creative exploration, successful approaches to working independently, and unique perspectives from featured artists.

You will also find me blogging at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ, a new blog created as a resource for writers living in and around southeastern Pennsylvania.  I will be blogging with other Pennwriters about local news, events, information, and of course – writers!

If you are a writer in the Puget Sound Area (Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Kitsap Peninsula, Bellingham) and would like to join my newly forming Seattle Pennwriters Critique Groups, please contact me for more information.

More to follow!

PS – Today’s image is of the columbine flowers still growing happily in my Washington gardens.

PPS – Please bear with me as I acclimate to the new WordPress interface, and please let me know when things don’t look *quite right*.

AppleJade Returns in June

Cherry Tomatoes, Summer 2007, © Copyright 2008 Jade Leone Blackwater

I am returning to Seattle this May, and AppleJade will be on vacation until June 1, 2008 while I pack and travel.

Once I am settled in Seattle you will be able to join me here at AppleJade as I create a new vegetable garden from seed to table.  Until then, have a wonderful, productive season, and feel free to stop by and consider goal-setting, attitude adjustments, and easy ways to simplify your life.

See you in June!