Purslane, Arugula and Flea Beetles

Purslane, purslane, purslane.

It’s pronounced purse-line, I believe. It’s scientific name is Portulaca oleracea. Is it a nuisance or a blessing for gardeners? I can’t seem to find a straight answer.

It is a weed, but some people eat it as it contains more omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable, according to David Beaulieu’s article “Edible Landscaping with Purslane.” It’s alarming how fast it grows and I tend to wait until it is quite large because it is easier to pull out. But apparently it’s a culinary delicacy for some and there are whole cookbooks dedicated to its various uses. One friend at the farmer’s market told me I should sell it. I might try that. It has a tangy, zesty taste to it, almost like radish leaves, but far more succulent. It grows like crazy, even in dry soil. And when it rains? Fugghedabouddet! It takes over my garden in any space that doesn’t already have something growing in it. Apparently, it has some serious staying power.

Here are a couple of photos to familiarize yourself with it. I would love to hear from my readers what they think of it and whether they pull it and throw it away, pull it and eat it, or leave it to provide essential ground cover. I am hoping that when we get our chickens (Yes! We’re getting CHICKENS!) that they will enjoy it as they forage around the yard.

One photo is of purslane with another much-hated New Mexico weed tribulus terrestris, also known as goatheads, the second photo is of it growing next to my fennel plant, and the third is purslane next to its not-so-distant cousin, portulaca grandiflora, which people purposefully plant as a pretty ground-cover flower.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Arugula & Flea Beetles

My second nuisance of the day is the flea beetle, a small pest that has completely annihilated my arugula. I first noticed them gnawing away at my newly transplanted arugula starters about a month ago. When I tried to touch one of them it sprang away like a beetle. So, on a hunch, I looked up “flea beetle” on Google and viola! There the little buggers were. I don’t spray pesticides on my plants so I decided to try the organic treatment and sprinkle diatomaceous earth, which warded them off for a short time but eventually they returned. Apparently they can be controlled if you plant garlic, onions, and chives around the crops that they like. I will start some seedlings again in my hotbed and then surround them with green, yellow, and red onions and chives. We’ll see if that works. Sad. I love arugula. [Sad-face emoticon here.] Above are a couple of photos of what they look like and the damage they did to my poor plants.

Other than that, the garden is progressing nicely. With just the right amount of water and lots and lots of sunshine and heat, our veggies and herbs are taking off. I love walking through my garden and smelling basil everywhere. It’s heaven.

Advertisements

REPOST Importing Bees: High Demand Creates a Huge Dilemma

Great article by Melanie Kirby of Zia Queen Bees in the Green Fire Times this month. Please read and share.

IMPORTING BEES: High Demand Creates a Huge Dilemma.

Beekeeping is not for everyone. Educate yourself first.

Being a novice beekeeper is challenging. The constant feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing is compounded by your sudden responsibility to these small creatures swarming in your backyard. As Zen-like and comforting as beekeeping is, there’s always that hint of stress induced by your wanting to do right by these little insects that give you loads of sweetness and joy.

Before I even considered buying a hive I read books about beekeeping. Lots and lots of books. The first one was “A Book of Bees” by Sue Hubbell. My husband bought it for me. Then it was “Sweetness & Light” and “Robbing the Bees.” These were by no means “how-to” books, but they did give amazing detail and insight into what it meant to be a beekeeper. I also found a mentor — Ken Hays of Hays Honey & Apple Farm — who’d been keeping bees for 25+ years. We talked often and he allowed me to shadow him on his daily yard inspections. He was patient, joyful, inspiring, and encouraging. He said I would be the best type of beekeeper: loving, nurturing, and serious. It was only after a couple of months of this research that I finally bought my first hive. I continued to read. I called Ken and another mentor, Jerry Anderson, regularly to ask questions. They were always eager to help.

At this point, Albuquerque had a decent community of hobbyist beekeepers — beekeepers with 1 or 2 hives in their backyard. Now, seven years later, there are an estimated 400 backyard hobbyist beekeepers in the city. A group of energetic and well-meaning volunteers have gotten the Albuquerque Beekeepers group to a functional organization that provides workshops, mentors, forums, and other resources for beekeepers of all levels.

Still, it’s disheartening and somewhat alarming when you hear one of these newbie beekeepers ask basic questions like, “What do eggs look like?” “What does the queen look like?” “What’s a wax moth?” “My bees are all dead. What happened?” In my opinion, this is essentially the equivalent of giving birth to a child and then asking someone how you identify whether its a boy or a girl.

There’s basic knowledge that fledgling beekeepers should have before even starting a backyard apiary. Knowing how to spot the queen, workers, drones, larva, eggs, swarm cells, disease, pests, etc., are all included in that essential information. To start keeping bees before you can answer and identify these issues is irresponsible at best and egregious at worst. I have seen some hack beekeepers around these parts. One person had their hive in the 3-foot wide easement between his house and his neighbors, in full slight of the street. When we visited, the bees were pouring out the front for lack of space in the hive, and they flowed out onto the gas meter, which was right next to the hive bodies. He seemed not to be alarmed by this at all. Once when a swarm landed in our neighbors yard, a man showed up, walked right into her backyard without asking or introducing himself, hacked away at her bushes only to get about 1/3 of the cluster, and left without saying a word. More recently, the threat of Africanized Honeybees has encroached on our peaceful existence, and still we have beekeepers who know not the warning signs or causes for AHB or how to deal with them. The beekeeping community should not have to encourage them to send their unusually aggressive bees to the extension office to be examined for the AHB gene. They should know to do this.

Beekeeping is an amazing experience. Even now after seven years I’m still educating myself. I’m still learning every day. I’m working toward my master beekeeping certification, and love to share my knowledge and time with anyone who is interested in this mission that is so essential to our own survival as human beings. As urban beekeepers, we cannot take this lightly. Read, read, read, and read some more before you go out and snag a swarm or mail order a box of bees. Yes, the bees are operating on millennia of instinct, but that doesn’t absolve us from our responsibility as partners in this endeavor. Lack of knowledge and a willful refusal to educate yourself BEFORE you get your bees only makes it more difficult for the other beekeepers in your community.

Insect Rodeo

Food chain. Darwinian providence. Insect rodeo. Call it what you will. I witnessed this very interesting (and very humorous) interaction between a dying fly and two ants. Hilarity ensues. Sadly, but as expected, within about 15 minutes of shooting this video, the fly had succumb and was covered with about 15 ants, who began dismantling his wings, legs, and antennae.

Preparing for the Honey Harvest

Ryan putting together all of our new honey supers. He’s preparing for the harvest, and getting some hive bodies for the new nucs that he’s creating.

We are Langstroth beekeepers, which means we use the stackable box hives as opposed to top-bar hives, and instead of using the shallow honey supers we use regular deep-hive bodies for the honey supers as well as the brood boxes. We didn’t do this for any¬† particular reason, just a matter of choice. There’s only one disadvantage to using deep-hive bodies for our supers: our extractor only fits three deep frames, whereas if we used the shallow supers it would take six at a time. It just makes the harvest take a little longer.

We’re eager to rob our girls!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Beekeeper’s Spring

As you can guess, springtime poses the greatest challenges for beekeepers. It’s a make-or-break time when you could easily lose a colony to cold snaps or starvation or swarming. This spring has been a particular challenge as Ryan has discovered that three of our colonies have become queenless in the past couple of weeks. Normally, the colony will notice if their queen is on her way out by her sparse laying pattern (or no laying at all). Their instinct is to rear a new queen so that she can begin laying eggs and building colony strength and numbers in preparation for the nectar flow. You don’t want your colonies to go queenless for too long, as it weakens the hive over a very short period of time. We’re not too certain what happened to these queens, but Ryan has instituted a queen-rearing project and hopes to have at least five new queens within the next couple of weeks. It will be interesting as this is the first time he will be doing this. As usual, he’s the consummate beekeeper — always equal to the task and ready to help his girls in any way he can.

On a lighter note, this spring has been a presentation spring for us. We were called upon to do a beekeeping presentation for Marissa Hamilton’s second-grade class at Hawthorne Elementary School here in Albuquerque. Ryan has been planning to make an observation hive for some time, and this was the perfect motivation for him to get the project completed. It was so great to see the looks on the childrens’ faces when we brought in our “glass” hive with the bees hard at work inside. Of course, I forgot the camera. {Post sad face emoticon here.}

We do have photos of another presentation we did for the Albuquerque Urban Beekeepers Association (ABQBeeks). Chantal Forster and Jessie Brown, co-coordinators of the group, invited us to the Spring Maintenance Meeting, where Ryan and I talked about maintenance of our Langstroth Hives. My presentation was pretty straightforward, but Ryan did a great talk on how he over-wintered a very weak colony by placing it on top of a stronger colony with a screened bottom board to allow for the warmth to sustain the weak hive during the coldest months. He also introduced his two-sided nuc hives, which were a great hit.

We hope to do more of these types of educational programs in the future, as we are both working toward our Master Beekeeper certification through the Washington State Beekeepers Association (New Mexico does not have such a program).

The greatest hit of all was the Observation Hive. Below are photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.