DO YOU LOVE YOUR BUGS?

No, this has nothing to do with the virus.  Today, I am back to talking about chemical-free gardening stuff.  We are officially into the spring season, which for us means prepping, planting, and planning.

Our home has started this season as it should:

  • Flies and spiders sneaking into the house.
  • Little bunnies hopping all over to test our predator defenses.
  • Rhubarb, tulips, iris, and several other things, popping out of the ground.
  • Like every year – we have the Odd Thomas poking up out of the ground. Later it will be determined friend or foe and dealt with accordingly.

baby bunny

These are the standard spring bits of proof.  Then we have the oddballs:

  • I spotted my old nemesis – A WASP (Yellow Jacket) – grr!
  • A skunk has already invaded our chicken barn for the barn cat food, pee-u.
  • What would spring be without Miller moths (stay out of my hair!). It just seems a bit too early for them, but they are here.

skunk

We cut the cord a couple of years ago, so I rely heavily on the internet for my valuable data.  My email box receives tons of information – daily – that I have specifically requested (vs. T.V. which bombards with junk I did not ever want to see).  One such request is from my Joe Gardener.com, which originated on our local PBS channel while we still had satellite T.V.  His name is Joe Lamp’l, and he is just full of excellent gardening stuff.  The best part of his shows is the guests.  If he doesn’t know a lot about a specific subject, he is not afraid to go to a guest source for the nuts-and-bolts of the issue.  This email was about the Monarch Butterfly (one of my favorite good bugs – also endangered species.).

Several years ago, we were lucky to be witness to a Monarch migration.  They came in the hundreds and landed on our trees, bushes, fences, house – you name it, they were on it.  IT WAS OUTSTANDING!  They did not stay long, but we felt gifted that they chose our little piece of heaven to stop for a rest.

That one-time massive visit threw me into a frenzy to find out more about them and ways to help them survive.  I was not the only one that was enthralled by them.  Dr. Agrawal is a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Department of Entomology at Cornell University, was one of his guests, and spent time learning all he can about the Monarch.

This recent post by Joe shares a ton of great information, and EVERY gardener should learn.  It doesn’t matter if you grow for beauty, for food, or both; you need to learn to save our nature’s helpers.

147-Monarchs and Milkweed: A Precarious Struggle Between Life and Death

MARCH 12, 2020 | GROWPODCAST

(Please feel free to join me in the Monarch Watch group to help monitor the migration and population.)

The big thing that caught my eye was “monarchs and milkweed,” of which I had forgotten how much the two are connected.

milkweed and monarch

A couple of years ago, a milkweed plant sprouted in our front yard – all on its own.  I took that as a sign and saved the pods.  Remembering back to my childhood, we used to love popping the pods and watching the feathery seeds fly everywhere (F.Y.I. Dad hated it when we did that because they are a weed, and as such, he did not want them in his food fields.  Nothing worse than having to walk a field and handpick weeds – wait – picking rock was worse.).

The milkweed is crucial to Monarch survival.  Knowing this, I cherished the newbies on our property and encouraged them to continue.  We do have hay and corn farmers around us, not for human food but animal food.  We also have bees and a Beekeeper, that has our blessing to use our place as needed to allocate his 600+ colonies of honeybees every year.  The bees love the milkweed just as much as the Monarch, but for a different reason.  The article goes on to explain this in more detail was some fantastic pictures.  I hope that all of you read his article – gardener or not.

HAPPY SPRING – HAPPY GARDENING!

You can also check me out at:  https://lifelessonslived.com/ for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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Where Have All My Birds Gone?

We received a really great bird feeder from my sister and her husband just before she passed away in 2018.  The ends sat empty until last Christmas.  I began placing hardened, spoiled, or just unwanted bread pieces in those ends.  My feathered friends went crazy over the bread bits.  It seems they love that even more than birdseed (which is in the center of the feeder).

our-bird-feeder-w-bread.jpg

I find great enjoyment in watching them messing around with the feeders.  Fighting over who gets what first.  Scrambling to catch the snippets that fall to the ground.  I have even noticed them watching me, watching them.  One little beauty even tried to come to me through the kitchen window one day (darted at me as if to come and visit several times before realizing there was glass between us.

I never cared for birds in cages (even at the zoo), they just do not seem happy in there to me.  But I do love watching them in the wild.  On an average day here on the plains of Colorado, I can view a variety of birds doing all kinds of things:

  • Hawks catching snakes and prairie dogs
  • Owls catching rabbits, and
  • All my little buddies in the front yard looking for food, water, or just playing around.

The only time I remember not seeing any birds is when it is a bad storm.  It makes sense as they would be seeking shelter just as we do.  However, today is a day with NO BIRDS and it is freaking me out.

ABSOLUTELY NO BIRDS – NO SONGS – NO SOUNDS – NOTHING?

This has never happened before.  Usually, they are in our front yard, back yard, near the barns looking for left-over scraps from the chickens, or down in the hollow making tons of noise.  Every day I spot at least one hawk circling around or at least testing their wings in the blowing winds.  Today is very quiet and calm outside and personally, I find it very unsettling.

My birds let me know how things are doing on an “earthly” level.  They and animals can sense changes in our environment, unlike we oblivious humans.  I would love to have their sense of changes in the earth, sky, seas, or any earthly shifts.  Since we humans do not have this amazing sense, I watch the critters constantly to try to judge what’s going on around me.  A day with no birds is scary, to say the least.  Today (date of posting this 1/9/20) is actually day-2 of no birds and it is starting to really creep me out!

I checked the weather channel and know that we have a storm coming in, but it is not even supposed to start until about 11:00 p.m. tonight – so where are they and why?

I guess I am just going to have to wing it (pun intended – sorry) and try to watch for other local signs of what’s up.  Please let me know (if you have a moment) where you live and how your birds are doing.  This really has me spooked.

You can also check me out at:  https://lifelessonslived.com/ for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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WAY TO GO MINNESOTA!

All-in-all, it’s sad that we have had to come to this.  But I do give major kudos to the state for finally doing something to support our natural critters, even if it had to involve money.

The Smithsonianmag.com email that I recently received posted this new report:

Minnesota Will Pay Residents to Grow Bee-Friendly Lawns

It’s part of their “Smart News” series which I love reading.

We try to do as much as we can and promote others to do the same, in all ways natural.  We saw our first Bumble Bee of the season just a week ago.  It was having a hay-day on our Honeysuckle.  I could not get close enough (or get it to slow down enough) to see if it is a “Rusty” or some other species.  I just loved that it chose to visit us.  The stupid boxer, Pig (yes that is his name) dog, spotted it and thought it was worthy of chasing – idiot!  Caught him snapping at it, so I had to chase him off of it.  His is supposed to be a smart breed, yet I constantly catch him doing really stupid stuff?!

bumble bee

I had a wonderful, beautiful wandering thought.  What if everyone in the world grew flowers?  They could be as simple as a single Daisy in a pot, or a rail basket full of marigolds, or a ton all over your yards (kind of like our home – we try to put flowers in everything).  Imagine not only the beauty but the benefits.  Feeding good bugs and birds naturally (FYI: I love it when our Humming Birds come to visit our Honeysuckle).

We also love to use companion planting with as much as we can in our gardens.  When I initially started learning about it, I was amazed at how many ways you can protect and encourage your own little space of land, just by using “buddies” while you do it.  Isn’t it nice to know those good friends work best together in nature, not just in humans?

Happy Gardening!

You can also check me out at:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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WHAT WOULD OUR WORLD BE LIKE IF…

Being a small farmer/gardener and doing it all as chemical free and natural as can be, I watch all the signs.

  • Weather: Current, future and even past.
  • News: Any changes current or future that may affect what I grow and why.
  • Critters: This is my biggie! I watch what the wild and natural critters are doing around me.

This third point leads me to today’s post.  I read a lot and have “cut the cord” so I read even more now.  I get my news online and in print.  When I turned on my cell phone this morning, one of the first articles was this:

Since it is about the insects, one of my three main critter groups, I had to check it out.  WARNING:  If you follow these things like I do, and if you are a gardener of any type, is a bit disturbing.

multiple insects The Insect Apocalypse Is Here – The New York Times

Sune Boye Riis was on a bike ride with his youngest son, enjoying the sun slanting over the fields and woodlands near their home north of Copenhagen, when it suddenly occurred to him that …

We have a Bee Keeper that comes up every spring, unloads 600+ colonies of bees, and for three days distributes them around the northeast corner of Colorado.  Those three days are a ton of fun.  BEES EVERYWHERE!  I set out extra dishes of sugar-water so they can get a drink and a boost after their long trek.  I love that; once things settle down, they will land on me while I garden.  I leave them alone, they leave me alone, and all gardening is mutual love.

Then I received another article which caught my attention.  Again, it has to do with things that affect me – like weather (which has been way off whack this year):

Global Ocean Circulation Keeps Slowing Down: Here’s What It Means

Trevor Nace Contributor Science

I know a ton of people out there do not believe in climate change, I am NOT one of those.  I think it is a very real thing and it worries me. I have read some articles on historical documents and found that part of the problem with the past cold spells may have had to do with things just like this.  Part of the reason they are tracking it so much more closely now.  When you are a natural farmer/gardener, you try to grow in the best possible means available.  When the weather decides to turn cold – and stay there – it’s hard to get a good handle on your crops.  We cover when necessary, but to keep them covered for extended periods can also be a problem.  We also do manual pollination, especially in our greenhouse.  This is time-consuming but very necessary.  Yes, we have some insects in there that help – but not enough, and usually not bees.

I hope reading this you will join me in being conscious of your surroundings.  Please feel free to share with me if you have anything like this going on in your neck of the woods.  I am also interested in finding out how others are handling things like missing pollinators and extreme periods of unusual cold.  Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing!

flower and bee

You can also check me out at:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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HOW DO YOU TAKE YOUR WATER?

A farmer or gardener perspective for decades now has been to avoid plastics as much as possible.  They do not biodegrade which, of course, is not good for the earth.  This was my main concern when it came to plastics, specifically plastic bottles.

no plastic bottles

To-go containers for us are usually cardboard, paper bags, or reusable containers.  Yes, some of the reusables are plastic, but they are the good plastic that gets recycled.  We do love our redo, reuse, repurpose things on the farm, but most of these things are items that will biodegrade.  If they don’t do that then they had better last forever.

Well, my blog buddies at The Whoot.com have found a new danger from plastic, and it has to do with drinking water purchased in plastic bottles.

Plastic Bottled Water Does Damage With Every Sip

They share some fantastic info-graphics describing how the plastics are labeled, what the label means, and what the level of danger is.  I have saved several of these graphics for our own future use, and I hope you will do the same.  They even have a mini-video explaining how/where the plastic danger is.

We found it easier years ago to just purchase the heavy-duty refillable water bottles and carry them wherever we go.  We can load ice cubes in them more easily, and even freeze part on some of them.  Nothing better when working out in a hot garden than a cold drink of water.  We also have the huge advantage of our own well.  Some people don’t care for the taste of well water, but we prefer it.  To us, some city waters taste tinny or sterile.  We have the added benefit of natural minerals in our water, nothing cooked out.

This week my plow-share is all about safe, drinkable, water.  Simple, short, and hopefully refreshing.

good water bottle

You can also check me out at:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

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WITH ALL THE BAD COMES SOMETHING AMAZING!

With all the bad, scary garbage going on in the world, I love reading my emails from places like: SMITHSONIAN.COM.  It is a free signup for their newsletter and it is so full of “other stuff” that keeps me grounded.

One recent issue offered an article about something I have never heard of before – nanowood?  The story not only explains exactly what it is, but how it can be used to replace things like Styrofoam (something I have protested since the 1970’s).  It comes from trees.  You can read the full article here: 

Could ‘Nanowood’ Replace Styrofoam?

nanowood

The first think I thought was what an outstanding contribution to saving our environment.  There is no Styrofoam in our home nor do we support it.  I have recycled plastics into tons of great farm ideas, and gladly purchase recycled plastic containers, but no to Styrofoam. This new source/substitute sounds awesome.

The second think I thought was it came from the University of Maryland – yes, Maryland here in the United States – WOW!  There are still scientists here in the US that are trying to think of ways to help not harm our planet – congrats people

Right now, it’s still in the early learning stages, but one day it could prove to be an outstanding insulator as well.

It is wonderful to know that there are those out there that still care.  Makes all my hand weeding feel worth-while

You can also check me out on:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

 
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Do They Really Think We Won’t Be Angry?

Yes, we live on a very small piece of land that we happen to love.

Yes, we struggle to get by year-after-year.

Yes, we love it and prefer to stay here.

cropped-best-tomato-rows-2012.jpg

Now that I have that out upfront let me just say that our new Leaders in our poor nation suck!

They seem to think that people like me do not exist.  It’s either that or the second thought I have (which is sadly more likely), they just do not care.  This ticks me off to no end.  We the people are supposed to expect them to represent us, our concerns, our needs and not their own.  It has been decades since I have felt that they represent me, my family, or our little farm.

This article popped up on my browser when I started up my computer yesterday:

$300m Puerto Rico Recovery Contract Awarded to Utility Company Linked to Major Trump Donor.

I urge all of you to read the article before finishing mine.  I then encourage you to come back to me and please share your thoughts and feelings.  Maybe I am out of line, but I don’t feel I am.

corruption

I am concerned, on a daily basis, for our continued existence as we have it.  I have worked on farms more than three-quarters of my life.  I love it and hope to carry on that love to my grandson.  The more time that goes by filled with self-centered, womanizing, liars; the more I fear for this way of life.

Up until this last year, I fully believed that our path of working naturally with Mother Nature was the right direction.  Now it feels as if this way of life is being sabotaged.  I don’t run around picketing the big corps, but it sure feels as if they are using their good-ole-boy-network to run me out.

Our little community here in Colorado also has its good-ole-boy-network, but they have not ever tried to do the kind of damage our current representatives are doing.  I have lived in small communities most of my life, and yes, the word-of-mouth travels fast.  If you do something illegal, you can count on the whole community knowing it within a matter of days (hours if it’s good gossip).   However, this same wonderful small community continues to come together on things of importance:

  • Fundraisers for our Fire Departments.
  • Fundraisers for the loss of a loved one.
  • Fundraisers for money to cover a serious injury, surgery, or cancer need.
  • Toys-for-tots donated to our local police stations to help out at Christmas.
  • Extra warm provisions provided to local Charitable Organizations.
  • Consistent donations to our local food bank.
  • Every one of our local Clubs donates services throughout the year (Moose, Elks, Masons, FFA, 4-H, etc.)

food bank

The point is that on the local level, we the people still stand together and for each other no matter what.  So what is the point at which our elected officials lose this ability?  Because, I swear, none of them have that same mentality when they get to the Representative level.  I would love to know at what point they turn from being chosen by we-the-people to help us, into the corrupt politicians that rule over instead of representing their constituents?

I used to believe that it was only a select few of very self-centered jerks that were this way.  Now I think it must be something in the water of all the political offices.

poison water

(Oops, got on my small farmer, female, soapbox again.)

 

HOW COULD WE HAVE A WORLD WITHOUT THESE?

Those of you have been following me know that I am a “natural” nut.  Our farm and gardens are all grown using natural methods.  We do not like or use chemicals, nor do we care for hybrids (as most will not produce viable seeds for the next year growth), or GMO’s.  We grow mainly heirloom fruits and veggies, and we try to encourage the natural vegetation for our area (Even the bindweed as long as it stays out of my gardens.  It passes that line, and I feel I have a right to use all the salt, vinegar, and soap as necessary.).

I also subscribe to emails from the Smithsonian, and the Health and Science section of the Washington Post. (Nothing with politics as it stops me from sleeping.)  The email I received on 10/12/17 got me all upset.  This was the headline:

BANANAPOCALYPSE:  The race to save the world’s most popular fruit.

had heard about a month ago, the threat of a disease to the crops in South America.  I also know that is where the US gets the majority of its bananas.  I am a self-proclaimed banana-holic.  I love the darn things in so many different ways:

  • Banana bread (the obvious choice)
  • Strawberry-banana smoothies (Grandsons favorite choice).
  • Frozen Bananas dipped in chocolate (These were called “Monkey Bars” at a long-gone little drive-in, in Wisconsin, called the Tinker-Tot.).
  • Bananas sliced on cereal with milk cold.
  • Bananas sliced in oatmeal with a bit of honey and milk.
  • Banana malt (milkshake to most, however, I prefer the malt flavor best).
  • Just plain old bananas.

They have got to be my most favorite fruit, and they help keep up my potassium levels (bonus!).  So I am very saddened to hear of this latest epidemic.  I hope you all read and share the full article, then pray for a natural miracle.

I did not read in anywhere in the article if they have discovered where the TR4-resistant strain (disease) originated?  My first thought was if you know what it is, and you know what it does to the target plant (in this case my lovely bananas), then why wouldn’t you spend the scientific time and money to figure out how to kill the fungus in its tracks?  What good is all their GMOing if it just the fungus just catches on and comes up with its own new tweaked version of attack?

I do not want my amazing bananas to go away completely nor forever, but I also am not thrilled about the method the people in the know are taking to try to help.  I do not believe that in the long run, splitting and splicing, mixing and matching, is not the answer.  They knew that this first appeared as TR1 discovered in the 1950’s, found a unique variety in China and cloned it – why haven’t they been working on a cure for the fungus since then and not just a disease resistant temporary fix banana?

To me, it is like using makeup to cover up acne.  The condition maybe masked but it is still there, and without the proper medication it will continue to thrive.

Then again, we still do not know how to cure a common cold – oh well.

Thank you for allowing me to share my soapbox with you.

silly bananas

 

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You can also check me out on:  www.lifelessonslived.com for all the fun things I have learned in life.

DO YOU HAVE A SECRET YOU CAN’T WAIT TO SHARE?

I love doing research!  I seem to be always digging for something either new-and-improved or looking for the next helpful hint for the farm and gardens.  This blog is about one secret that I came across during my early research days (early meaning before we moved to this small farm).

One of the first things we knew we wanted for our farm was to be as natural as possible.  We thought about organic – but even that is not completely natural.  My wonderful little home in Denver had a huge back yard.  Part of that yard was my garden, so I was able to test a bunch of my findings on it.  The bummer was that it is higher altitude, which does make a big difference.

high altitude gardening

In my research travels, I came across a website that I had never heard of “PLANT NATURAL.COM”.  This was a God-send in my research for all  (or nearly all) natural gardening methods!  They recently sent me this little tidbit:  10 Garden Pests & How To Organically Control Them.  It is a YouTube video that is most excellent viewing on natural pest controls!  (Note: Looks like they do their research also as the video is from California Gardening, but the same pests are here in Colorado.)

Those of you have been with me for a bit, know that I do not have any affiliates on my Helberg Farm Stories blog yet.  This may change shortly as I would like to share with you the sites where we buy our farm and garden things.  A secret should not always be kept.  In this case, I want to share!

sharing is caring

There are a large number of websites that I go to in any given week.  Most of them are just to gain more information.  Some, like Planet Natural, are to purchase something.  Planet Natural also has a huge amount of information and a Forum.  Those of you that have not been to a forum, I strongly urge you do so!  If you garden at all:

  • In containers
    • A patio
      • A back yard
        • A big space
          • A greenhouse

I suggest you get involved in some of the forums.  You do not have to ask any questions if you don’t want to.  Just reading through the thoughts others, can help you a bunch!  Forums are nice because they are everyday people just like us that are asking the questions and getting/giving the answers.

What worked?

What didn’t work?

Why didn’t it work?

How can I fix it?

Our recent US election gave me a purpose.  I have decided that I will continue to be fun and funny as often as I can; however, I will also be trying to share more “earth-friendly” information with all of you that want to know it.  As I said earlier – I love to do research, and I am good at it!  There was a time when I had no time to spend on it, now that I do I will be sharing!

If my paid Politicians do not want to care for things like Global Warming, Climate Change, and Clean Healthy food – then I will!

Please feel free to share with me anything gardening that you need help on!  If I don’t know the answer, I will happily find it and share!

no-worries-friend-590770

WHAT SONGS ARE YOUR KIDS SINGING?

Do you know what your kids are singing?  Especially your very young kids?  Now I am no spring chicken anymore, but I know that one of the first things that kids learn is music – specifically singing.  They are taught at the youngest age to do simple rhyming song.

  • Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
  • One that my sister was taught was Chicken Riding? I, personally, had never heard it before or after she sang it (sometimes I think she just made it up to keep me guessing?!)
  • Itsy, Bitsy Spider – and so on.

The one children’s song that came to mind this morning is about one of my favorite creatures – the Bumble Bee.  “I caught a little baby bumblebee, won’t my mommy be so proud of me.”  (It’s kind of tragic at the same time – stings the kid, gets squashed, makes a mess of the shirt, and in the end, the kid gets into trouble…ahh, kids songs?!)

We have honey bees that are brought up from New Mexico every spring.  A company (friends) has our permission to pull their huge semi-truck onto our property.  Park it there, unload, and distribute over 600 colonies of bees.  It takes about three days to get them all spread out here in northeastern Colorado.  Then in the fall, they do the reverse.  We have extra free great pollinators all summer long.  (They should be here in the next couple of weeks.)

We also spend a fair amount of time every spring adding more (or new) good-bug-friendly plants to our yards and gardens.  The first few years on our little slice of heaven were kind of sad.  A few spots out front with a few flowers in them, but nothing to really attract our good bug buddies.  I can still remember the first time I saw a Praying Mantis.  Got so happy I cried a bit!

Over the years and our continuous work, we have managed to attract all types of garden helpers.

  • More Praying Mantis (green & brown – for those that do not know – female and male in our territory.)
  • Walking Sticks
  • The continued Honey Bees
  • Humming Birds.
  • An ever-growing variety of wild birds.
  • Lacewings
  • Ladybugs
  • Soldier bugs
  • And a variety of beetles.

The one that is closest to me, in more ways than one, is the bees.  We have several varieties here now.  The one that I did not see until just last year was the Bumble Bee.  I didn’t even think about it until I read this email: Mother Nature Network (MNN)

Bumblebee gets a helping hand from Endangered Species Act

I didn’t know they were on the endangered species list?  I know the Honeybees have been declining, so we help them as much as possible, but it never dawned on me that the Bumblebee is was having issues as well.

Maybe they should start teaching kid song to save things like the bumble bee instead of squashing it?  Maybe we could help starting now?

music notes 1

There was a little baby Bumblebee.

So I sat real still as I could be.

The Bumblebee came and sat on me.

Oh, what a wonderful thing to see.

Then he turned and smiled with glee.

Don’t ya just love those Bumblebees!

music notes 2

(Can’t write right now, because I can’t stop laughing at myself!)

Ok, so I cannot write a song, but you get the picture.  The idea of teaching our kids not to be afraid of things like Bumblebees, Honeybees, and Spiders just appeals to me.  I though, have my work cut out for me with my grandson.  He is a big giant panzie!  He can’t wait for summer, but asks every day if the snakes are out yet?  If I say yes, it is time, then he won’t go outside – grrr!

silly friendly snake

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