Friday, August 22, 2008

Sleepy Bees

I once had a friend who was fascinated by sleeping bumble bees. She would step out into her garden in the morning and marvel at them all, clutching their preferred blossoms, their fuzzy bodies often glistening with dew. She said she wanted to reach out and pet them and that if she did that they would "grumble" like they were groggy and grumpy and didn't quite want to be woken up yet.

I've been feeling sort of like a sleepy bumble bee lately. As though I've been working all day to the point of dozing off in the middle of my work and that I am waiting for the sun to warm me back up -- to give me the energy to keep going.

Sometimes the people in our lives can have the warming effects that the sun has upon the slumbering bumblebees. Our friends and family can see our visions and our toils and shine new light on our paths. Last month we were delightfully awoken to a visit from PeakEngineer and his lovely wife and beautiful child. More than just energy, they brought with them some synergy of perception that has strengthened our resolve. Because while they have wisely found an amazing community of like-minded individuals in which to live, my husband and I have plunged forward to go it alone. That was not a reasoned decision on our part to do it this way, just a decision to do what we felt we could when we had the opportunity. And while we have found people who share our core beliefs in a simpler lifestyle, our bigger picture views are not always the same.

Shortly after our delightful awakening, we had a visit from my grandmother. She looked at our yet unpolished projects and immediately saw the long-term dream. There was no doubt in her mind as to what we were doing or why and her enthusiasm was contagious.

And so, back into our projects we have plied ourselves. For all the disappointment of a lack-luster growing season, a few too many wild predators, and the aggravation of shortening days, we at least know that we aren't completely nuts, even if we have bought the farm.

But in the words of (yes, the ever-philosophical) Steve Miller* "you've got to go through hell, before you get to heaven."

*of the Steve Miller band, of course. ;)

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Brewing Up Some . . . Veggies?

If you still have a Starbucks in your neighborhood, and you've been working on your green thumb, you might want to stop in for a bit of an unusual to-go item -- used coffee grounds.

Spent coffee grounds aren't just a great addition to your compost pile, they also make a nutritious and, oddly enough, lingeringly fragrant garden mulch. The benefits of using grounds as a mulch, beyond the typical moisure-retentive and soil cooling effects of other mulches, are the rapid release of nutrients (most notably nitrogen, but also calcium, magnesium and potassium) and slug and snail deterrence.

Mulching with grounds will noticeably perk up any of your sulky or neglected plants and help prevent late blight in tomatoes.

Starbucks policy is to give "customers*" grounds for free on a first come-first served basis. When I asked around at locally owned (non-Starbucks) coffee shops, I quickly found out that most had pre-arrangements with other gardeners.

If the Starbucks store in your area does not already pre-package their grounds for your use, the baristas will give you their trash bags full of grounds. These bags do not contain any wastes that are not compostable and typically only consist of grounds. After making several requests for used grounds, the Starbucks we visit most regularly has begun to bag them in the nifty packaging pictured above. Honestly, I don't mind the grounds in a trash bag (no unecessary bags or extra labor), but if it helps get the message out to other customers and gardeners, then I am willing to cope with the spiffy packaging.

* I have never been asked to purchase anything in order to take away the spent grounds. After all, we gardeners are doing them a service by recycling the grounds and greening their image. It's a win-win for everyone.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Know Your Friends

July has offered us many interesting guests. I'm hoping for a relatively quiet August and time to update this blog.

For now, I just wanted to share a chart that I found on identifying beneficial insects in their various stages of life. Often, what looks like a frighteningly nasty little bugger is really a teenage version of an insect ally.