Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Potato Barrels

We've started playing in the dirt again!

Debbie has started 128 pots of seeds in the house. Steven has been buying toys to plow the fields. And we took the advice of Mother Earth News and started 2 Potato Barrels.


We bought a couple plastic garbage cans at our local big box hardware store, drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage, and put down a layer of soil. Then we added seed potatoes (Yukon Gold, Red Kennebec, and something purple and exotic), and another layer of dirt.

We'll let you know how this goes!


Steve got an unexpected bonus at work last month. Debbie said, "Go buy yourself something fun! You never spend money on yourself!"

So he did.

He went out and bought himself a KingKutter L-60-40-P-Y bush hog:

And a Woods RB60 blade:

And a John Deere 5 foot tiller of unknown model:

And now he gets to ride the tractor some more!

Bees, Redux

And then there were none.

They had food in the hive which they never touched. They just...died, shortly after it started to warm up.

So now, we have NO hives of bees. We are going to remove ALL the old wax, all the little bee bodies, and clean the interior of the hives. There's nothing apparently wrong with the bees in the hive, except for being dead. Again, we suspect poison.

And behold!

Honeybee Deaths Linked to Corn Insecticides

What was killing all those honeybees in recent years?  New research shows a link between an increase in the death of bees and insecticides, specifically the chemicals used to coat corn seeds.

The study, titled "Assessment of the Environmental Exposure of Honeybees to Particulate Matter Containing Neonicotinoid Insecticides Coming from Corn Coated Seeds," was published in the American Chemical Society's Environmental Science & Technology journal, and provides insight into colony collapse disorder.

Colony collapse disorder, or the mass die-off of honeybees, has stumped researchers up to now. This new research may provide information that  could lead to even more answers.

According to the new study, neonicotinoid insecticides "are among the most widely used in the world, popular because they kill insects by paralyzing nerves but have lower toxicity for other animals."

Beekeepers immediately observed an increase in die-offs right around the time of corn planting using this particular kind of insecticide.

Pneumatic drilling machines suck the seeds in and spray them with the insecticide to create a coating before they are planted in the ground. Researchers suspected the mass die-offs could have been caused by the particles of insecticide that were released into the air by the machines when the chemicals are sprayed.

The researchers tested several methods to make the drilling machines safer for bees. However, they found that all variations that used the neonicotinoid insecticides continued to cause mass die-offs of bees.

Honeybees are critical for pollinating food crops. Scientists say the disruption of pollination could dramatically affect entire ecosystems. In addition, as the researchers wrote in the study, "In view of the currently increasing crop production, and also of corn as a renewable energy source, the correct use of these insecticides within sustainable agriculture is a cause of concern."

Pets, Part 3

After 2 years of collecting, we finally loaded BAGS of aluminum cans into the car and took them for recycling. On the way home, we stopped by the local Animal Services center. We picked up forms for licensing and registering our pets (finally!), and decided to see what the available dogs looked like.

BAD idea.

Some of them were EXTREMELY well-behaved, sitting quietly to gain your attention and praise. Others were EXTREMELY shy, and would cower away if your hand twitched (poor things!) Some were quite loud, although on the whole it was the quietest shelter I've ever been in.

Debbie fell in love with what had to be a purebred yellow Lab male. Stray and already under a contract, she wanted to bring him home. By the next day, she had already named him "Ben".

But "Ben" went home with the earlier applicants. Now Debbie is looking at ALPACAS.

Maybe I should have got her the dog...