We've had a bee hotel (or Mason Bee House, if you will) for a number of years, but the past two it has been sort-of 'out of service'. It fell from the its perch and has been laying on the ground. For 2024, I'm going to push myself to renovate this thing. It needs a new bottom and some replacement bamboo pieces. Why did I suddenly think of my Bee Hotel? Because the University of Illinois is (right now...) conducting a " Bee Hotel Project " where they're calling for people to donate their Bee Hotels to science. Check out the details here and sign-up to donate your Bee Hotel here . U of I researcher Timo Wayman (an Entomology graduate student at University of Illinois ) is looking to help better understand native bees. I'm not sure our Bee Hotel will be of any value as it has been sitting on the ground for two seasons, but I'm going to fill out the form and see if they'd like to take a look.
Two days ago, I posted a photo of a new "Desire Path" in our backyard that appeared during Winter and was a result of walking back-and-forth from our house to our compost bin with our kitchen compost material. We kept up with composting (thus far) through the cold weather and have been stashing the kitchen scrap material in the new 3rd storage bin. The one with the "feed me" compost bin sign on it . I just brought out a load of material and dumped it and thought I should document the state of this bin - pre-mixing this material. Here, below, is a photo showing the top of the bin. The bottom 98% of this bin is filled with autumn leaves. The top 2% that you see here is pretty colorful. And comprised of vegetables and fruits, cut flowers, egg shells, avocado peels, onion skins, coffee grounds and some spent hydrangea blooms. The temperatures have STOPPED any decomposition the past 30-or-so-days and kept the colors vibrant. I've left this material on top
I was out in the backyard this week and after walking around and being bummed about all the rabbit (dang rabbits!) damage , my emotions turned back upwards when I walked over to the little colony of Hellebores we have planted underneath some large trees (Walnut and Catalpa). All of the Hellebores are showing their new 2024 growth emerging from the soil with pink, almond-shaped buds. Here's a few photos showing this year's growth: Ivory Prince Hellebore Emerges in early February in Zone 6a. As of this Spring, we had six (6) Hellebores in the garden. I bought two (Merlin variety) at the Morton Sale and planted them along the existing four (1 Sally's Shell, 3 Ivory Prince) . As noted in late August, both of the Merlins died . Didn't even make the Summer. Bummer. My first real, true (and VERY FAST) failure from the Morton Sale. I lost a Maidenhair Fern that I bought in 2021 that very same year, but I think that was due to neglect. These were something else. Di
Before the snow totally melted this week, I noticed a phenomenon in our backyard: I had created a ' Desire Path ' between our house and the compost bin in the back of our yard. What are desire paths? Check out this post from U-W Madison . They talk about desire paths are an example of the relationship between people (me) and place (our backyard): But desire paths are not inert histories. Once established, they influence how pedestrians use and interact with their environment going forward. To the dismay of some planners and to the fascination of others, desire paths are representative of the constantly evolving relationship between people and place. Below is a photo showing our 2023-2024 Wintertime Compost Bin Desire Path: Speaks to the continued kitchen-scrap composting that we've done all Winter. Egg Shells, coffee grounds and vegetable scraps all found their way to the bins and put in the bin with the "Feed Me" Compost Bin sign . To date, that bin hasn&
I really do NOT like the dang rabbits that live in and around our yard and garden. I've done my best to protect against their damage, but I didn't do enough this Winter. With the snow melting, I took one VERY small walk through part of the garden to see how things have fared in the past month-or-so. I don't want to walk on the wet ground and didn't walk in any of the beds to avoid compaction. But...from the edge of the beds, I was able to see some serious rabbit damage on a number of my Oakleaf Hydrangeas. Even on one that I wrapped in Chicken wire. What the heck!?! Here's a few photos showing the rabbit pressure - and gnawing of the tips - on my SnowQueen and Alice Oakleaf Hydrangeas. The problem is that these flowering shrubs bloom on old wood. That means...2024 will be a year of limited flowers. Bummer. Weather-permitting, I'll go out and grab more photos. Coming up with a real plan on rabbits feels like a 2024 project. This aggression will no
Yesterday, I posted a photo of the 'drywell exploration' that I conducted to find the edges and depth of the drywell to discover if it would serve as a suitable subsurface for my diy backyard wood-fired pizza oven. I've also recently posted about some brickwork inspiration here . When thinking about the oven, the facade is a big part of the 'looks', but so too is the roofline. I recently came across this Tiktok from RustyVanRanch - embedded below - that shows a barn roof that has an extended peak out front at the top of the gable: @rustyvanranch ♬ original sound - Rusty Van Ranch Here's a screenshot of the roof in question: A little digging revealed that those are called " Hay Hoods ". Some call them "Crow's Beaks". It serves a purpose of providing a little bit more shelter over the hay loft door. For my pizza oven, there's appeal in a little bit of protection WITHOUT creating a huge, overhead roof. Filing this awa
A few weeks ago, I posted a couple of items related to my 2024 goal of building a wood-fired pizza oven in our backyard including a look at a couple of locations , some brickwork inspiration and how I could build the stand out of cinder blocks - including corners . With the snow melting away this week, I went out to look at one of the locations and remembered...that ahead of the snow, I was digging around trying to find the 'edges' of the drywell. Below is a photo showing a number of locations that I dug down to see 'how deep' the drywell is located and how I was probing to find the 'edge' of the well. The drop from grade to drywell is variable across this six-foot-by-six-foot section. Surprisingly so. I also found (I think) two of the 'edges' of the drywell. Which...if I sited the oven where I *wanted* to, would have a small portion of the foundation OVERHANGING the drywell. That would mean that I'd have to bring in some gravel - which i