Site That Inspires Me: “The Bumblebee Blog”

bumblebee blog pic 300x225 Site That Inspires Me: “The Bumblebee Blog”

When I was 5, my kindergarten class spent weeks keeping a sharp eye on two incubators in our classroom while we studied the miracle of life. I can remember how waiting for the chicks and ducklings to hatch seemed to take so long, but I remember thinking it was all worth it the afternoon when I was finally allowed to pick out my own fuzzy chick and take it home. While that original chicken has long been in the happy-pecking-grounds in the sky somewhere over the DC suburbs, I confess, urbanite that I am, I harbor a desire to one day add chickens to my home and garden!

Robin, over at Bumblebee Blog has done just that, and carved out a divine little slice of Maryland heaven not to far from where I live currently.  As a devoted gardener who’s large country property provided a quiet escape from her city day job, Robin’s blog has evolved into a charming conversation over everything from her garden, to new chicken rearing feats, and her Papillon’s never ending struggle to keep pesky deer out of the yard. Her entries are filled with photos of her home and garden, or even the newest recipe she’s whipped up with her garden’s produce, and believe me, everything looks good! 

Bumblebee Blog is a great breath of fresh air in the garden blogging world. She writes with humor and wit, and is a natural storyteller.  Her posts inevitably end up feeling like a friendly visit over lemonade with a good friend, and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face every time you visit. 

This week make some time to visit Robin’s garden through the link above, and see if she can’t brighten your day, and give you a few ideas for your yard.  You may even discover a fondness for chickens yourself, if not at least an appreciation for one misguided rooster named “T. Boone Chickens.”

Happy Gardening!

My First Highway Garden

img 1420 1024x477 My First Highway Garden

I was encouraged recently to lead the charge designing and installing a roadside park on an abandoned field for Rebuilding Together. I joined up with Rebuilding Together Baltimore, a national non-profit organization focusing on community revitalization projects, to brighten up the entrance to the community of Dundalk, Maryland.

img 1432 300x225 My First Highway Garden

Working together with community organizers and a county planner, I came up with a design for the field that would incorporate flower beds along the roadside to welcome people to the community, and open turf space for picnics, and play areas for the neighborhood kids.  When I first walked the field to take measurements with the county planner the field was overgrown with ornamental grasses, and weeds up to 6 feet tall, with furniture, and all sorts of other odds and ends dumped in it. The field was about 60 feet wide and 115 feet long, so there was a lot of space to fill once it was cleared out, and only $2000 worth of budget money for the entire project.

dundalk ave bed1 160x300 My First Highway Garden

The volunteersof Americorps pitched in to initially clear the field, and I set to work designing a flower bed for full sun, that would be drought tolerant, and self seeding.  I broke the length of the field into several sections, and created three beds approximately 25 feet wide, and 10 feet deep, ten feet back from the road.  I spaced the beds 10 feet apart from each other to allow for air flow, and to break up the flowers a bit, creating the appearance of a fuller and larger garden overall.

Since the beds themselves would be very large I chose to focus on mass plantings of only 7 varieties of plants, arranging them in ways that would keep the eye moving, while providing blooms from spring through fall. The perennials I chose were Daylilys, Autumn Joy Sedum, Black Eyed Susans, Purple Coneflowers, Yarrow, Coral Bells, and Liatris. All of these plants do well in poor soil, are drought tolerant, and spread on their own.  En mass these plants will stand out on the side of the highway, and over the next two years will fill in any spaces between each other to create a really full appearance.

img 1406 300x191 My First Highway Garden



The design I created is pictured above, including the Euonymous bushes, and Crepe Myrtle Trees that provide the background to this garden, and the natural privacy fence for the open field behind them.


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All together we planted 520 plants, leveled the newly cleared field, planted grass seed, fertilized the area, and covered the field with straw in only a few hours.





I’ll be sure to include pictures soon with the garden filled out this summer, so you can see how it matured! Below is the entire field and garden bed when we finished 6 hours later.

wheel barrows 1024x768 My First Highway Garden

Happy Earth Day!

2926019659 b1403382ac 300x216 Happy Earth Day!

Some people make New Year’s resolutions, I make Earth Day resolutions. Every Earth Day I resolve to learn at least one useless fact about the natural world that I didn’t know before, in the hopes that I will become the well rounded person that my grandparents earnestly prayed that I would become. The jury is still out on how useful this fact is, but it’s quite possibly memorable – which is always an added benefit!

Earth Day 2009′s Useless Fact: Wood Duck babies are the only birds known to talk with each other while still in their eggs; egg to egg, and egg to mom, while in the last stages of growth before hatching! (Go ahead…. group “Awww” everybody)

I spent much of today working at a celebratory Earth Day  fair, splitting my time between manning my company’s booth, and visiting the other vendors, and local green volunteer organizations at their own display areas.

The past few years I’ve attended an Earth Day fair I’ve really enjoyed the variety of speakers, and organizations present there. As much as I like to learn something new every year about the environment, or a specific animal, I know that most of what makes this day of awareness great is that it isn’t just about    planting a tree anymore. Eco-fairs often stir something in me to find new products, services, or methods of building my garden craft, that are more responsible in their relationship with the environment.  Earth Day has become a bit of a New Years Day for me, and I see it as a day of inspiration to change one thing about gardening, or my daily life, that makes a difference over the course of time in the impact I have on the environment.

Last year my inspiration came from a local photographer, who’s nature photography was re-framed in second hand frames, and who’s photos now grace my wall.  This year, while there were great garden vendors in attendance, I was drawn to a home-made cosmetics company from my area that not only creates all natural make-up, soaps and perfumes, but that also runs their entire operation in a facility that uses 100% wind energy. I chatted with the owner and founder of the company, picked up a few items to try out, and am excited to include make-up as part of my green routine this year! Check out my post for a full review of Zosimos Botanicals coming up!

What about you: What did you find this year to excite and motivate you to toward living in a more “green” fashion?  What motivated you today to adapt your daily habits into something new?

Photo Courtesy of: roctopus

Sowing A Harvest Of Trout

img 1366 300x199 Sowing A Harvest Of Trout

I grew up watching the Disney Sunday Movie, and the classic cartoons that proceeded them each week, and was reminded of an old “Humphrey The Bear” cartoon Thursday, when I spent a few minutes with a trout farmer who came to deliver his load of fish to stock one of my large corporate ponds.

The original cartoon involved a hapless bear’s efforts to fish successfully, but the part that I loved as a child was the forest rangers method of sowing fish seeds in giant water troughs for the beginning of fishing season.  If only trout were as easy aquire as the cartoon made them look – sprouting in eager rows in the fish hatchery! Fortunately my spring pond stocking is almost that easy, and a Virginia trout farmer was able to deliver about 260 golden and rainbow trout right to my door, and down into into the pond on a special chute.

It’s not plant related, but pond stimg 1364 2 150x150 Sowing A Harvest Of Troutocking is just one more sign that spring is here. Go in peace little Trout!

Site That Inspires Me: March

picture 3 300x189 Site That Inspires Me: MarchSpring is finally here, and I can think of no one better to encourage us to dream big even in small places this season, than Fern over at Life On The Balcony!  

Fern’s site focuses primarily on container gardening, and landscaping on on the terraces of condos and apartments, and her articles range from small tips on achieving the best results inside the pots, to lengthy posts full of container combinations sure to wow the neighborhood! I make trips to Fern’s page on a daily basis to see what she has “growing on” in the southwest, and I’m sure that this is one habit you won’t be able to resist either once you’ve skimmed her page and gained inspiration from her archives, and her garden photography.

Although “Life On The Balcony” has been around for a little less than a year, Fern is committed to publishing new articles almost every day, to provide you with ample ideas to fill your spring notebooks with prospective plants for purchase. Whether you are looking for ideas to brighten up your balcony garden, or simply looking for pot designs to incorporate around your front door, from veggies, to cactus Fern is your girl!  Hop over to her site via the link above, and check out her virtual bookshelf while you’re there for further reading or gift ideas.

Happy Gardening and welcome back spring!

Swans In Winter

img 0565 Swans In Winter

Winter weather is heading up the East Coast today, and so like many of those in the Landscaping and Property Management field of work, I am heading in to work to wait out the storm, and make sure that the roads and sidewalks in the area are clear for foot and road traffic throughout the day.

There is a quiet beauty, that always preceeds a big snow storm, so I’m taking the time to enjoy a little of that at the lake by the office, and bringing “Federico and Maria Therese,” two of my Mute Swans, a quick handout to eat before the rest of their food sources get buried in the snow.  Mute Swans always look regal, but in the winter weather they look especially beautiful, although I’d imagine in a few hours they will be difficult to see once the snow starts getting underway.

img 0567 Swans In Winter

Site That Inspires Me: February

196171592 2deff48885 300x199 Site That Inspires Me: February

February’s “Site That Inspires Me” is A Tidewater Gardener‘s Blog. The site is run by a Nursery Manager named Les, who shares his daily musings in and around his garden, and who’s photography is beautifully prolific in all of his posts.  Whether photographing some of his rarer plants at home, or photo-journaling his travels to nearby historical sites, his blog is personal and intimate feeling. Les’ “Tidewater Gardener” site makes the everyday journaling style of blogging appealing and classy, and gives out a few gardening ideas along the way. 

If you are in the mood for a laid back trip through Virginia, check out his site for a quiet moment away from it all.

Photo Courtesy of: Tom@HK

Playing Naturalist

blue bird1 225x300 Playing Naturalist As always at this time of year I am overly eager to begin spending more time out of doors, but since the weather isn’t cooperating yet, I spent most of today playing naturalist at work, and elimiating the avian housing crisis in the reforestation areas and grasslands that I’m responsible for. Every few years the bird and bat houses we built and placed warp and rot, so February is official “housing boom” month, and I’m making sure that all forty of our houses are in tip top shape, and cleaned out for new residents!

Thus far I’ve only had to replace four bluebird houses and one bat house on site, but we relocated a few bluebird houses for good measure to discourage the sparrows from moving in again like they did last year. Sparrows, as I’ve discovered, have a tendency to use Bluebird Boxes that are too close to areas where there are birdfeeders, or easy handouts, and have been plaguing the Bluebird houses near our storm water retention ponds. Unfortunately, while they clean up the cracked corn and bread left by visitors for the Swans and ducks they’ve bumped the Bluebirds out of a few houses, and need evicting this year. The nest box pictured above was one of the ones that needed moving due to the amount of interest the Sparrows are showing it already!

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The Chesapeake Bay; Bugs, Barf and Botany

1108230891 327937e41a The Chesapeake Bay; Bugs, Barf and Botany

The field trip I looked forward to the most in the sixth grade was a dawn to dusk outdoor education course on the Chesapeake Bay. I knew that field trips requiring parental wavers or signatures were always the most fun, and this particular trip required both and a mandatory change of clothes, which seemed like gift wrapped by the recess gods to me! The big yellow slip I presented to my mom had bold faced type on the bottom declaring “Sneakers may be lost in the swamp, wear an old pair that you do not mind leaving behind.” And on the day of the trip I’m pretty sure I half-heartedly tied my shoes, in the hopes that although I had given them a sporting chance, my sneakers would catch a hint and allow themselves to be lost in the bogs and Oyster beds.

My class and I packed on the school buses at around 6am, and headed off for morning nature walks and ecology sessions with park rangers.  In the afternoon we trolled the bay for fish and crabs, and studied each creature in a holding tank on the boat before returning it to the wild. I remember that although I was disappointed when my sneakers made it though the knee high mud in the tributary habitat, my mood quickly improved when I was skipped over for a live oyster eating contest that ended up sending a few of the participants running for the rails, hurling their lunches up over the sides of the boat.

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Going Strong And Still No Snow…Knock On Wood

Well, I’m looking forward to the warm weather at this point. The only action my hedge sheers have seen in months is through double duty use, trimming down rolls of insulation for my weekend projects around the house.  Saturday morning’s abnormally cold temperatures caused the pipes to freeze under the house, but I was blessed and using hair dryers, space heaters, and lots of blankets across our hardwood first floor seemed to raise the temperature of the water safely without causing the pipes to burst. I know I am luckier than most of the country, and today’s dusting of snow was as close to winter weather as we’ve had here in Baltimore, which suits me just fine!

img 0560 225x300 Going Strong And Still No Snow...Knock On Wood

Since it was noticeably warmer today I stepped out and pruned a large bundle of Rosemary off the bush in the front yard for a vase arrangement, and kept a few stalks for drying. I bought a beauty supply recipe book to challenge myself with for 2009, and plan to try my hand at making a few health and beauty products this year with supplies from the garden, so I couldn’t resist passing up one of my favorite dried herbs – well really my only herb that’s handy in January.

But! My herb supply is literally growing before my eyes. The Aerogarden I received for Christmas from my main squeeze Mr. ParfectGolfer, is plugging along happily, and showing promise of a great herb crop in the coming months. It cheers me up in the winter to see how much the herbs grow every day, and I like being able to grow anything really in the darker areas of my house. Thus far at least I’m still really pleased with the system, and love having it around – it makes a stellar night light in the kitchen for my late night snacking expeditions too!

What amazes me most is that my cat hasn’t attempted disassembling it!  Yet.