Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Biophilia (page 1 of 3)

Rewilding Events – upcoming this weekend

Hey everyone! I decided that now is the time for us to get together and do a fall-oriented gardening session to prepare the garden for next year, and plant native species!

Six weeks before the frost sets in (traditionally, people consider Canadian Thanksgiving the first-frost date, but it comes later), gardeners can get an early start on the next year’s garden and crops. This time of year is perfect for doing transplants, as roots are not as subject to water and heat stress, and have a chance to establish themselves before the coming winter .

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Butterflies to see and links to share for Pollinator Week

It’s said that birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammal pollinators are responsible for one out of every three bites of our food. Pollinating flowers is a serious job. And thus, the Pollinator Partnership organization created an event called Pollinator Week, every year around the third week of June – this year, it’s June 19-25. I blogged about it a few years ago, with a bonus DIY Mason Bee house project.  So, to inspire people to do something to appreciate or even help our pollinators, I found a few links to share. Nature herself also motivated me: the cover photo for this post came from my recent trip to the Adirondacks, where I found a bunch of Eastern Swallowtail butterflies mud-puddling on the beach.

If pollinators had dating profiles, these would be those. This is an article by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, on my favourite publishing platform, Medium. It’s cute and clever and I learned a few species.

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Things you didn’t know about male wasps

I once wrote about small paper wasp hives at residences. You can read that short post here. Today’s post is because in August, wasps can become rather bothersome. Well, the reason why the wasps are so pestering lately is because (I read, need a refresher) they are male and they have served their purpose of gathering food for the larvae, so they’re no longer getting nectar rewards. Starving, they are looking for anything sweet to eat.

That’s not the only way in which the female wasps cut off the males. They also “stuff” them into cells to starve them.  

My neighbour’s tree was dropping apples all over the ground, so that’s where the wasps were. They were very peaceful, and were probably drunk (like moose get, too). In 2014, I had a bunch of hornets hanging around drinking sap from a wounded sumac tree. Of course, I was worried about the potential for stings, and I hosed the tree down several times a day and tended to the wound while the hornets were stunned. The sooner the wound stopped seeping, the sooner they would go away.

Here is a quirky anecdote from a city Brit transplanted to the country, about her habituation to paper wasps.

Not all wasps are dangerous to people. They can be beneficial, too. 

Moral: If you are getting bothered by wasps this time of year, put out some sugar water or juice a little ways away from you’re sitting, and don’t panic.

Garden bees, beasts, and plants update

Yay house slippers. 

Well, I’ll bee. I wish I had a camera just a moment ago. I went outside to dump this week’s litter box into the compost, and right away encountered a leafcutter bee in flight, with a leaf disc in its paws. Right over by the compost bin is a rose bush that was in bloom a few weeks ago, which has had subsequent growth (it will bloom at least once more; the established Cabot roses are blooming now, whereas the transplants, in their second year, are still just getting established). This rose bush has long been a favourite of leaf-cutting insects, and now I know that they’re native bees, using my rotting logs for nesting sites. They are welcome to it. I always have kept a couple of logs and some brush piles for wildlife to hide in or climb.

The Mason bee house is occupied, and I have also seen it being used as a source of fibre for other bees, gathering material for their hive. They chew up the wood and build paper for nesting cells. This includes the wasps who are again succeeding in occupying the upper corner of my garage door.

Middle hole
Middle hole
Bottom two holes
Fibre gatherer

As for beasties: Though I’ve seen scrapes and mowed-down day lilies earlier this season, last week my resident skunk kicked out a lot of dirt from under my deck. I had to take what she excavated, a pile about six inches deep on top of my penny royals and flagstones around the pond, and spread it out over the rest of my garden, rather than push it back under the deck.

Things grew while I was in Ontario a week ago. My ground cherry plants and some tomato plants needed transplanting from their pots into the plots that were too sparse; since I transplated them on the weekend, we’ve had some rain and some sun and they are all settling in and I can expect more growth. My lettuce bed is coming along despite being attacked by slugs; arugula does the best. I’m counting on a harvest this year. My peas grew and then got eaten by something that made the leaves look lacy. My beans in the front yard are bushing out or climbing the fence.

Flax is even growing!

The tomatoes are far from flowering (except one tomato is on the vine) but that is OK by me – so far. The cucurbits are flowering – a good sign. But, my marigolds have done nothing since I planted them. And the strawberry plant came up, but did nothing since. Maybe next year.

I’m considering what to do about my messy garden in the back. Its configuration and ability to grow stuff is just not the greatest. I’ve decided in the fall to do a soil test, rent a rototiller, and and lay on a thick layer of whatever will correct the soil, and then plant things that best grow in partial shade and sun and a decent amount of rain (the front yard is drier). Also, I look at other gardens and realize that it is probably wiser to buy seedlings than to start them from seeds yourself; if I build the garden shed that I recently conceived, then I’ll have a better space to start the seeds – but I’ll still buy more seedlings than I have in the past as I’m just tired of transplanting with a low success rate. And, if I build the garden shed, I’ll reclaim more space for a better configuration of food plants mixed in with ornamentals. I could have a prettier back yard and all I’ll lose (maybe) is a dining table that I hardly ever use. Plus, I have a grapevine starting that looks promising.

A new wildflower lawn

My dad, old farmer that he was in an extraordinarily conventional Ontario town, must have been applying an herbicide to the lawn, because this year, now that he’s gone, the lawn has gone to a heavenly variety of plants. Here’s a pictorial.

Tiny wild forget-me-nots

White and pinkish clover

Oxalis, something I don’t know, and forget-me-nots

A nicely filled-in patch where the rabbit hutch used to be

Lambs quarters, which are edible, by the fence. Lots of oxalis, edible with a lemony tang for salads

Creeping Charlie is the dark purple flower; the white flower would be open on a sunnier day

The white flower is just as unknown as the leafier one from above; you can see thistle on the right

Cultivated pepper plants where the ground is bare

Cultivated rhubarb, this patch about 4 years old. I have gathered seeds from a mature plant that I will hopefully harvest from in the next three years.

Unknown name, a less prickly thistle that is quite pretty
This here is ragweed, the kind that sets off people’s hay fever (allergies). I pull them up. Luckily the rabbits eat them.

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