by: Katie Childs, UW-Extension Master Gardener Volunteer
The sap is running and the bees are buzzing...A big cheer for Spring as many of us have suffered from snow and cold fatigue. However, I have some good news to share about the beehives on Golden Pond. Let me bring you up to speed with a bit of a review…
Last November I ‘blogged’ about “Project Honey,” an experimental operation whereby in May, a beekeeper installed a couple of hives near my Gardens on Golden Pond. The colonies not only survived, but thrived near an oasis of perennial beds, along with vegetable and fruit gardens, in an extreme woodsy environment. Over Labor Day, it was
time to harvest the honey from the hives; the process taking several hours, resulted in an abundance of liquid gold!
With the temperature dipping in the fall, the hives were prepped for winter readiness. Along with a honey reserve and protein packs to supplement their winter nourishment, each hive was bound securely with an insulated Mylar type wrap, foam insulation and duct tape. With the temperature falling to beyond minus 30 degrees at times, this
method proved to be sufficient to help maintain the hive temperature during the exceedingly harsh winter months.
Along with the outer protection, the bees had to do their part as well.
Let me explain - the worker bees form a “cluster” surrounding the queen to keep her warm and safe. With thousands of bees shivering and vibrating their wing muscles they can maintain the cluster temperature as follows: the optimal core temp in winter time is 95 degrees; 81 degrees is the average observed in the inside, while 48 degrees is the average temperature for a cluster exterior shell. Who knew, in the winter the workers insulate - in the summer they are a cooling agent.
While the calendar says its spring, our garden scapes and woods may be still covered with snow. However, with the melting well underway, we will soon be checking for daffodils, crocus and tulips popping up. On March 22 the temperature rose to 50 degrees and much to my surprise, I heard a buzzing in a very sunny protected spot a short
distance from the hives. I soon had a confirmation that a honey bee was out and about. On the 23rd - again a warm and calm day - dozens of ‘scout’ bees were seeking pollen and nectar, albeit a bit early. Had they been successful, they would return to the hive and ‘dance’ on the honeycomb. The beekeeper came by to examine the hives and I am happy to report he was pleased at the colonies survival rate and overall hive condition. We are optimistically looking forward to another season of ‘cohabiting’ with honey bees at Gardens on Golden Pond!
HONEY BEE FUN FACTS
FEED THE BEES PLEASE!
Photo Credit: Carla TePaske
California is experiencing a fabulous Spring! California received rain, wonderful rain to make everything grow.
With that the painted ladies enjoyed a fantastic early season.
Do you remember Wisconsin's Autumn of 2017? We also had painted ladies visit our gardens as they took a break during the migration.
Continue to read on about the current butterfly news happening in California and some Wisconsin butterfly history.
Substantial rainfall in the deserts near the Mexican border, where the North American painted ladies lay their eggs, is the reason for the unusually large swarms. The rain caused plants to thrive, giving the painted lady caterpillars plenty of food to fuel their transformation, said Arthur M. Shapiro, a professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Source ~ The New York Times ~ click here to read more
An unusually wet winter in Southern California has given way to a super bloom of wildflowers and an explosion of Painted Lady butterflies.
The black and orange insects usually keep a low profile as they make their annual migration from the deserts of western Mexico to their breeding grounds in the Pacific Northwest. But this year, they're hard to miss. Scientists say that extra plant growth has allowed their population to boom into the millions.
Source ~ WBUR ~ Click here to read more
September of 2017 Wisconsin was blessed with a similar event. Our mild spring weather allowed for an early northward migration. In 2017 Painted Ladies were spotted in Iowa as early as March 10th, which is earlier than normal. With such an early arrival, the butterflies were able to have two generations instead of just one.
For us Wisconsinites, the abundance of butterflies would not be visible to us, because they typically migrate at an elevation several thousand feet in the air to take advantage of favorable wind currents. Using the wind they can travel up to 100 miles a day, and reach speeds of nearly 30 miles per hour. September of 2017, Wisconsin had strong southern weather flow that brought the Painted Ladies down. It is not efficient for a tiny butterfly to try and fly against the wind, so they took a break and were busy refueling on Autumn flowers such as goldenrod, asters, zinnia and sunflowers. It truly was a magical September for Wisconsin and I am sure that is how California folks are feeling this Spring!
Carla TePaske, NCMGV
During our North Country Master Gardener Membership Meeting on February 28th, Mark Nupren of the Friends of Namekagon Barrens gave a presentation.
Mark shared the beauty of the unique flowers, animals and birds that live in the Barrens.
Taking time to be with nature, looking close for new plants to identify and watching Sharp-tail grouse all can be enjoyed hiking in the Barrens.
Click on the above link for more information regarding Northwest Wisconsin Barrens.
Maps, photos and stories about the Barrens can be found on the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens web page.
Thank you Mark for your presentation. We look forward to having the Friends of the Namekagon Barrens at the Annual Twilight Tour in the Teaching and Display Garden, Tuesday, August 13, 4:00 to Twilight, Features guest speakers, demonstrations, displays, vegetable tastings.
Carla TePaske, North Country MGV
This is an other entry for activities in 2018 , this one in Sawyer County
This year six new raised bed gardens were created at the LCO Ojibwe Elders Center. Along with creating the beds, Master GardenVolunteers worked cooperatively with UW-Extension FoodWise Nutrition Educators on teaching children in a summer LCO Boys and Girls Club program on how to care for the plants in the beds.
This project provided an educational opportunity for both the elders and the children along with food used in meals at the Elder Center.
The worker bees have a tiring and dangerous job laboring from sunrise to sunset with a lifespan of about six weeks. Based on their productivity, periodically additional components called ‘supers’ were added to the hives to ensure their high rise had adequate frames for construction of combs and honey yield. Each super holds ten frames where the bees create mass hexagonal prismatic wax cells to store their honey.
Labor Day weekend the beekeeper was as busy as the bees! As the photos indicate, it was time to harvest the excess honey. The process was as follows: first, the frames were removed; followed by scraping the honeycombs; third, the extraction process took place through centrifugal force in a barrel and the finale -the jars were filled with liquid gold!
Since the harvest, the bees have continued to produce more honey, which is their food source, for the winter months ahead. In October, the bees began receiving an additional sugar syrup supplement along with protein patties. Also, with a hard freeze and bitter cold fast approaching, the hives got a very techie “spaceship” look. They have been cloaked in an aluminum flexiwrap -similar to what is used in outer space - that is ¼” thick and has a R-6 value. Also a vapor board has been placed on the top of each hive along with a one inch styrofoam section on the bottom to ward off drafts. Along with all the protective layers, the thousands of bees in each hive must do their part as well. The “heater bees verses the housekeeping bees” maintain the warmth in the hives by shivering or vibrating their flight muscles, raising their body temperature thus elevating the surrounding air by several degrees. Note, it has been a common practice for some apiarists to transport their bees in the hives to warmer climates over winter, to continue pollination of other crops such as the California almond groves.
It is a fact, nature is not an exact science. However, optimism remains for the honeybees who buzzed around the Gardens on Golden Pond to be the official greeters next Spring in search of tulips and daffodils!
For more information, please refer to wihoney.org; abfnet.org (American Bee Federation) and pollinator.org. Also plan a visit to the new Tashjian Bee and Pollinator Discovery Center at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska next year. It is the first building in a planned “farm to table” campus where the buzz is all about the bees!
“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.”
Master Gardener Volunteers helped Ruby's Pantry in Siren this spring with their hoop house. Ruby's provides fresh vegetables and volunteer opportunities to their clientele so their hoop house was very important to them. They needed help getting the plastic cover installed properly which was a multi-day endeavor. This was also a learning experience for Ruby's and the volunteers they provided.
For more ideas on extending the season - see these website:
Background information on the project: The Heinz tomato variety is called H9478 – a plum tomato (sometimes referred to as a “Roma” tomato.) The variety was developed under the leadership of horticulturalist Dale Smith, a member of the original Science Committee on the Tomatosphere program team, and a supporter of the Tomatosphere Project. The Heinz seed tomato variety, was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) on board SpaceX’s Dragon. They were on the ISS from June- July 2017, then brought back to Earth for classroom use. New initiatives in tracking, germinating and growing tomatoes on the ISS will further enhance the Tomatosphere experience over the next few years. Each classroom is sent two packages of tomato seeds. One package contains seeds that have been sent into space and the other package contains “control” seeds, which have been kept on Earth.
How does it work? Through the Tomatosphere project, students learn how to conduct a scientific experiment and compare the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. Tomatosphere relies on a “blind test” in which educators and students do not know which of the two packages are the “space” seeds and which are control seeds until the germination process is complete and results have been submitted. Watching these seeds germinate and grow encourages classroom dialogue about the elements of life that support the requirements for space missions – food, water, oxygen and the need to consume carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts. Travelling to and from Mars could take more than two years, therefore it is vital to know how to grow food while astronauts make the journey to the Red Planet, spend time on Mars and make the return journey back to Earth. The results from the Tomatosphere science experiments help scientists understand some of the issues related to long-term space travel. It’s an out-of-this-world opportunity for students!
The Spooner 4th grade students were led thru a discussion of what seeds need to grow on earth and how it is different in outer space. The students brought up how in outer space there is no gravity, air or sunlight. If you planted a seed in a regular pot the soil and seeds would just float away. To grow food on the space station the astronauts would have to bring up soil, water and grow lights and figure out a way to secure them in a no gravity environment. They also discussed growing crops on Mars and the climate difference.
Nikki Halverson asked the students to draw pictures of what they think a garden would look like on Mars and answer the following questions with their drawing.
The next step was to plant the seeds from packets labeled “J&K”. Over the next few weeks they recorded the germination dates and submitted the data back to the Tomatosphere project. The project will inform us which packet was from the space station.
After three weeks 0 of the 11 J packet seeds germinated and 9 of the 11 seeds germinated from the K packet. We reported the data back to the Tomatosphere project and found out the J packet was from space and K packet was from earth. The students were a bit disappointed that none of the space seeds germinated. Each student got a certificate from Tomatosphere and got to take home a tomato seedling if they chose to.
We are looking forward to doing this project again in 2019.
Roseann Meixelsperger, MGV, along with Russ Parker, Vicki Gee-Treft, and Mark Fox developed a summer program for children that would span five sessions, repeated twice weekly, resulting in fifty (50) kids attending the very first year.
Topics that were covered:
Speakers for each of the presentations were found within the Spooner North Country Master Gardener Volunteers, one of our Summer Interns, and our UW-Extension Ag Development Agent.
A story walk was taken by the children prior to each lesson that was topic related. One of our MGV’s is a teacher by profession, and she provided the reading and interactive conversations with the children on those topics.
Nutritious snacks were provided that were companions to the lessons, along with cold water. The cold water was appreciated, as many of the sessions saw +90 degree temperatures, and the raised bed area where the children’s garden is located doesn’t have any shade. Vegetables and fruits from the garden were provided as they became available. One surprising note was that the kids were ready and willing to try anything we put forward - such as cherry tomatoes, rattlesnake beans, mild radishes, and grapes.
The children not only planted their garden, they refilled the hummingbird feeders and weeded the beds at every session after the initial planting.
After almost every lesson, the children went home with something to reinforce their learning of that subject. For instance, the bug hotels were placed in their home gardens. A repurposed 2-liter bottle was used to plant basil in compost mixed dirt, watered by a wick that was placed in the lower portion of the bottle filled with water. The hand painted friendship rocks also went back to the child’s home.
A program like this needs supplies - hummingbird feeders, shepherd’s crooks, watering cans, child sized hand tools, etc. The MGV’s generously donated to make this first year work, taking minimal dollars from our budget - mostly to pay for the books and snacks.
Lessons learned were that we need to network closer with home school parents, traditional school teachers, libraries, and publicize our offering in all three Counties that we support - Burnett, Sawyer, and Washburn. Our story walk posts didn’t make it thru the entire summer - so we need to convert from wood to something sturdier. Would also like to be able to move the story posts around the garden to be more topic related.
The kids who attended were eager to learn, and several of them came to multiple sessions. Their parents were supportive and engaged in the lessons with the kids. A survey sent out after the sessions drew positive remarks from the parents, and most indicated they would like to attend next year. All in all, I think we can modestly say “the Children’s Program was a hit!”
Mike Maddox will be a speaker at the Twilight Garden Tour on August 14, 2018 starting at 4:00 pm at the Spooner Research Station Teaching and Display Garden. For a preview, here are notes from the 2018 Upper Midwest Regional Master Gardener State Conference by Donna Amidon, MGV.
Some suggestions for adapting tools to avoid issues with arthritis might be : using ergonomically correct hand tools such as those with ratcheting ability; focus on your grip making sure the handle diameter is as large as the opening when you make the “ok” sign with your thumb and forefinger and that your thumb and knuckles do not overlap when gripping the handle; “stabbing” at the soil rather than pushing it away from you when using a hand digger (this will help you use your bigger arm muscles rather than the wrist and hand so much); making sure the handle length of longer tools allows you to stand upright; and using sprayers with button to turn on and off rather than squeezing the grip when handwatering.
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