Are You Guys Native?

bean poles

Our neighbor had been wondering about the poles in the garden and why we were apparently making two small teepees; he asked if we were native.

The long and the short answers to that question are the same: no, we are not native. Both my wife and I have heritages that hail from northern and north-central Europe – not the Americas.

We put a new vegetable garden in this year – eight feet by eight feet. It takes up a small section of the yard that the grass never really grew in and the hounds really were never encouraging to the grass that attempted to grow there. In this new garden, we are mainly growing vine-crops: pole beans, bush beans, and cucumbers; in the non-vine arena, there are red cabbage & parsnips and lavender for a border.

The garden has a couple interesting (at least to me) characteristics that led me to "teepee" the poles for the beans, which then led our neighbor to ask if we were native. The ultimate, underlying (literally) factor is the natural gas pipe that comes our house – it is directly beneath the garden – roughly twelve inches below the surface. We could not till the garden and I am slightly nervous even to use a shovel or pitchfork in this area. A lasagna garden seemed like an ideal choice. Cardboard was put over the existing weeds and grass, roughly a cubic yard of compost was spread over this and then another cubic yard of soil was mixed into the compost. With the gas line underneath and the cardboard above, teepeeing the bean poles was the option where I did not have to pound them into the soil – thus avoiding the gas line.

All the gardens are popping now; while the rest of Minnesota has been experiences abnormally high temperatures, those of us in the Duluth area have been experiencing pleasant temperatures in the low 70s. Cooler night temperatures have been causing dew to form on the plants – giving them a nice drink. The beans in the teepee garden are sprouting, as are the carrots, radishes, potatoes, cabbage, peas, lavender, cone flowers, cucumbers, tomatoes (which were started indoors before the snow left) and parsnips. The Haralson apple tree, that we purchased just this spring, is showing signs that it will bear fruit this season. The bilberry and currant bushes are showing nice, green fruit; the strawberry plants are brimming with flowers – the same goes for the raspberry bushes. The newly planted asparagus crowns have shot up thin spears already, too. The Georgian garlic plants are pushing twenty-inches tall. The only things that looks questionable are the Frontenac grape vines. It appears that nearly all of the vines did not make it through the winter. The roots survived, and are pushing out new vines, but it sets us back a couple years for decent grape production.


On the bee-front, things are progressing well. The Carniolans are showing their strength in building out wax comb as well as fast brood production. The Minnesota Hygienic Italians are, compared to the Carniolans, much slower at both activities. I consolidated the frames back into one brood super and now have eight frames (out of eight) with at least one side of drawn comb. I am hoping this will allow for a more speedily path to more brood, and more brood will eventually mean more workers for building comb and gathering nectar and pollen.

Sam Bradley – friend, co-worker and business partner, stopped by on the 28th of May. He brought his camera and was eager (as eager as Sam gets) to get the bee suit on and get into the bee yard. A video of the adventure can be found here.

On the technology & blog front, I am implementing a podcast management framework within It will allow for a straightforward way to setup and upload video and audio podcasts as well as allow for publishing via iTunes.

Night Fire – May 21, 2010

Earlier in the week, I trimmed up one of our large pine trees – it had had some branches that were hanging low and getting in the way when mowing the grass. Given that I have had a penchant for fires since I was a mere toddler, the obvious solution to the problem of getting rid of the cut branches was to burn them.

Over the course of the week, I had three fires. They always present themselves as good opportunities to clean up scrap lumber in the garage. The three and final fire of the week found me burning pine boughs – an amazing store of energy.

Semi-weekly Hive Check – May 20, 2010

I decided to give videoing myself while I checked the hives a try. I dug around until I found a video-capable camera. Panasonic DMC-FX07. The video shoot (I think that is what it is called in the biz) went well. The audio is kind of bad and when I stood up completely, my head was cropped out of the shot. In the end, it is roughly ten minutes long; I edited out the part where I got stung on the hand and let loose with a string of expletives.

Hives Alive and Gardens Galore!


Around two months ago, I looked at the calendar and decided that I would take vacation from work for the week of May 17, 2010. As it turned out, I picked the best week, so far – this year, to take off. In the evenings, the temperature has been going to down into the 40s, and during the day, the high 70s. Few clouds, cool breeze – fantastic bee-friendly weather.

With an omega block weather pattern over us – moving slowly east – we are supposed to have excellent this entire week. Yesterday, I spent the day outside with the hounds in the gardens. I realized that I have too many seeds; bean seeds, corn seeds, pumpkins, cucumbers, wildflowers, oats, buckwheat, chinese lanterns, peas, radishes, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, lavender, onion sets, tomatoes, and I am sure I am forgetting more… Much like when I see a neat looking notebook, or paper journal, I randomly and near impulsively purchase seeds. When at the co-op, and they have the High Mowing Organic Seeds displays out, I have to purchase at least one packet of seeds. H-a-v-e  T-o.

Seeds do not keep forever, so, I started, yesterday, to use them up. We have a nice plot of land – nothing like acres and acres, but it is decent. I decided to put seeds in places that "looked empty" This, for the most part, meant putting the perennial flowers seeds in the bee yard (MJ would be steaming mad if I was plant perennials outside of the bee yard – particularly any of the wildflowers). A row of beans against a fence here, a line of onion sets by the potatoes and carrots, another line of beans by another fence section, pumpkins by the back of the bee yard where there is metal fencing to climb on. I also leveled off the dirt pile behind the garage and hand-spread oat and buckwheat seeds. MJ has eventual plans for a chicken coop back there; I see more gardens – chickens next to the house, maybe.

On the bee-front, the bees finally seem to be enjoying (can bees "enjoy"?) the nice weather. They are all out and about doing their bee thang. I was concerned with the MH Italians because at the last check – after the snow fall on May 8, I found the bottom board covered with dead bees. I cleaned the bottom board off, topped off the feeder pail and hoped for the best. The nice weather and possibly the Honey B Healthy with its magic – are helping to strength the colony. I have not fully checked either hive since this time (this past weekend); I peeked into the Carniolans and was prompted greeted with a sting through my shirt on my stomach. And, no, I was not wearing my bee suit, and no I have not learned my lesson.

It is really calming to watch the bees come and go from the hives. I took several photographs – they are posted on

Snow in the Bee Yard


March came and went, then April arrived. Very little rain in April, but things were greening up nicely. The willows flowered, and then the dandelions started their bloom. April left, and May arrived. There are a litany of various quaint and tired things people say about the weather in Duluth. I am a bit of a curmudgeon today, so I am not going to list these trite -isms. I bring this up, because, today, it snowed. I rather do not mind the snow; it is slightly annoying that I am not able to go out, dig in the dirt and the like.

Instead, I quickly gave the bees a feed pail check: alls is good. I suspect, up until today, they had been venturing out to obtain real nectar. I slipped a pollen patty into each hive, too – just to be safe. I snapped the photo before venturing into the bee yard. (Still snowing, by the way, as I type this out…)

After supper, I busied myself with getting some things seeded; cucumbers, a few corn seeds (going to test to see how well they grow when started inside compared with starting outside), and a planter pot of miscellaneous wild flowers (from a packet included as a freebee from American Meadows). Pretty slow evening.