(1: Spring mason bee. 2, 3 & 4: Blueberry blossoms. 5, 6 & 7 : Plum blossoms. 8 : Honeysuckle. 9 & 10 : Currants. 11, 12, 13 : Nettles. 14, 15 : Cherry Blossoms. 16: Kale tops. 17 : Apple. 18, 19 : Elderberries. 20, 21 : Allium. 22 : Huckleberry blossoms.)
There are so many things blooming in the yard right now- blueberries, plums, cherries, huckleberries, and the apples aren’t that far off either. Looking around at all the blossoms, we’ve been wanting to get some mason bees in our yard. We didn’t really store our mason bee cocoons properly over the winter and weren’t expecting much from them, we put some out anyway, but I don’t think much happened. I was waiting until things were close to blooming, to know it was really time to get our bees. We went to the feed store and found out they were all sold out. Suddenly blossoms were everywhere and I felt like we needed the bees as soon as could be. Blossoms are here, gotta bring in the bees! Luckily, The Backyard Farmer had spring mason bees available and we were able to purchase some this week. Just fifty cents per cocoon and I figured twelve mason bees would be plenty for us, as they are such good pollinators. I consider that six dollars very well spent. (If you don’t have a source to buy mason bees in your local area, you can also purchase them online.)
Last year was the first year we raised mason bees here (spring mason bees and summer mason bees) and we noticed a huge difference in our garden yields. We got noticeably more fruit and vegetables. We knew we wanted to raise them again this year. When I mentioned mason bees this week (I can’t help but to talk about them), two friends showed me mason bee houses in their yards and you could see the holes plugged with mud, showing the bees had been busy there. They didn’t buy mason bees, just attracted them by putting a house out since they are native to our area. (Actually one friend put a house out and the other simply had shelves with holes a size the bees happened to like and they made themselves right at home.) I could have opted not to buy them. But honestly, I didn’t want to take any chances. I wanted to be good and sure that there were plenty of mason bees in our yard. I didn’t want to watch any more blueberry blossoms fall to the earth and wonder if they had been pollinated or not. Sure, we’ve seen bees in our yard, but not as many as I’d like to see. And we just really enjoy raising mason bees here.
I didn’t think ahead and bring a cooler with me and our car got warm while we were running errands that day, so the bees started hatching in the bag. They were fine until we got home and put them in their house on the side of the chicken coop, but next time I pick up mason bee cocoons, I will try to be better about remembering to bring a cooler to put them in. My dad called the other day and I talked his ear off, going on and on about mason bees. “They’re so amazing!” He’s pretty used to it. I’m working on a blog post about mason bees, so for those of you interested, watch for that soon.
Last night we had an evening harvest. I love those, coming in at twilight. (Though when the bats started swooping low by my head I was ready to go in!) We gathered the last eggs of the day, filled our colanders with oregano, chives, parsley, arugula, watercress, kale tops and kale. Jeff harvested the first nettles this week. We were so excited when we started our nettles patch and I must admit, it has gotten a little out of control. We hadn’t anticipated just how much the nettles would like the spot we put them or how much they would spread. But it is such a blessing for us to have so many nettles to eat. This morning we had steamed nettles with breakfast. Jeff set some aside for our soup for this evening. And we’ve been juicing them too. We’ve been watching and waiting for them to be ready so now that they are, we’re going crazy for nettles around here.
I love to take walks around the garden to watch the changes. To see the first leaves unfurl. The first blossoms open. Bracken points things out to Jeff and I if there is anything new to witness and he seems to notice everything first. When I’ve exclaimed to him “Look Bracken! The cherry tree has blossoms on it!” He says “I know mom.” It’s old news to him. I have to laugh.
We have two elderberries planted in the lower garden and they look happy, which we’re glad to see since we lost one last year. We love elderberry tea and there have been times we’ve gone to purchase dried elderberries and they’ve been all sold out. There’s an elderberry on the hillside that is very challenging to get to, so the plan with these two is to keep them pruned for easy harvesting. We’ve got a lot of garden dreams and plans around here. I feel like I’m boring my family and friends sometimes because of how much I want to talk about different kinds of fruit to plant, mason bees, and vegetables!