Here’s The Buzz

I love bees and still dream of humming hives of honey. But I am allergic to the stings and daunted by the intricacies of maintaining a healthy hive. As the yard becomes more bee-friendly, I hope to have a friend set up hives in the back yard and apprentice myself to his expertise.

Meanwhile, I entertain the native bees and provide spots for them to nest and find refuge. Bumble Bees are my favorite—I can watch their antics for hours; however, attracting them to  nest is fraught with challenges. In spite of promises from well-intentioned products, research reports a mere 7% success rate. So  if you have a Bumble Bee nesting in your yard, you are quite special. I expect to attempt a nest for them anyhow, and I will report any progress.

Today I gathered last season’s Sunflower stalks to make nesting places for the other important pollinators, native and solitary bees. Any other hollow-stemmed flower would work as well.
20150328_142811Using pruning shears, I cut the stalks into 8-inch lengths. With a long screwdriver, I removed the pith about halfway down the stalks—leaving the rest as nesting material for burrowing. I bound the stems tightly with natural jute with all open ends facing the same direction. I will hang them under a protected eave—facing the morning sun.
20150328_142805These bees are important pollinators–often overlooked and purposely destroyed when misunderstood and labeled a nuisance. Spraying or removing their habitats leaves a vacuum which attracts more aggressive, less beneficial varieties of Hymenoptera.





Winter Gardening

Gourds dry on their trellis–six of them this year, and the survivors will become birdhouses. The seed catalogs arrive and lure with the siren call of green buds and summer gardens.

To thaw frozen toes, I take  MasterGardener®  classes, learning of soils, and trees and pruning…grasses, annuals, perennials. Insects,  diseases, and fungi haunt my dreams. I prune the shrubs on a warm, windy afternoon—the hardy six survivors—hoping for blossoms and fruit.

Wielding a hoe awkwardly, I poke at the compost heap to assess progress. My grocery list changes from produce aisles to garden centers. This week I will plant tomato seedlings and scheme to keep them from kitten paws.

I search for pictures to share and words to plant, so the blog will awaken after its long winter sleep.

Basic Habitat Elements

 Here’s the sketched out plan:

FOOD – Planting native shrubs and trees that bear fruit, nuts, seeds, or berries. Bird feeders and ground feeders. Plant nectar-producing native wildflowers. Insects are important, too. Avoid using chemical pesticides to rid insects…many wildlife species, especially birds, feed on them. Maybe a beehive.

The Challenged Yard (But Great Native Buffalo Grass)

The Challenged Yard (But Great Native Buffalo Grass)

WATER – Provide a water source for drinking and bathing (not for me, silly). Create natural sources of water where possible. Use clean birdbaths and change the water daily. Install a small pond or stream with some of the great do-it-yourself pond products? Perhaps a Bird Pond Kit with cascade.


Gourd Vines Growing On Junk Pile

COVER – Meet the cover/shelter needs of wildlife. Evergreen trees, native vines (wait—there is a Trumpet Vine sprouting in a corner…) shrubbery, brush piles, rock piles (I have tons of rocks), meadow grasses… Perhaps this year’s gourds will survive to become nesting boxes. The rickety privacy fence in the backyard and proximity to neighboring house provides some shelter from harsh winds.

PLACES TO RAISE YOUNG – Birds need tree cavities or man-made nest boxes—my large front yard tree provides some of those elements. What about toads and tortoises—how can I keep them happy and from roaming onto a busy street? Burrows or dens, and some need tall grasses?

Did I Mention Challenges? Power Lines...Concrete Driveway

Did I Mention Challenges? Power Lines…Concrete Driveway

Provide the best food and cover sources for wildlife
Use the least amount of fertilizer, water, and pest control.
Plant native plants suitable for region
Use captured rainwater for plants
Work on more efficient watering methods
Use mulch to conserve soil moisture
Eliminate all chemical fertilizers
Control pests with natural pest control products and predator species

Hello There—It’s Been Awhile

I have missed you. My apologies for dropping off of the planet, but I needed some time to rethink the blog. Backstreets and Alleys began in a small town on the plains of eastern Colorado—gosh—it has been seven years now. I initially wrote to survive culture shock, loneliness, and horrid treatments for Multiple Sclerosis. Although the blog was then titled Tumbleweed Alley, I merrily wrote about anything that came to mind. After a few months, a pattern emerged—plants, wind, trees, harsh temperatures all came to the foreground, and the blog formed its personality.

Four years ago, I moved to a rental house on a small lot in a small city. The blog name changed, and I chronicled the seasons, my community garden plot, and the startling nature just outside the door. Then I became a little stuck for a theme with the blog, so I let it rest for a season, planted many failures, composted some ideas, tossed in a few new seeds. I believe the time yielded some new ideas.

The new, long-term project is creating a Backyard Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Guidelines for the certification program are aimed to help transform outdoor spaces away from lawn-dominated areas that contain invasive exotic plants and chemical pesticides/fertilizers. Instead, the habitat moves toward a native plant-based, chemical free, wildlife-friendly habitat. As a result, a yard, a school, or even a balcony (if you’re a city apartment dweller) can receive national certification as a wildlife habitat.
photoGoals are simple: Provide basic habitat elements for wildlife. The property must include: 1) food, 2) water, 3) cover, and 4) places to raise young for local wildlife. In addition, the site must meet sustainable landscaping practices. This involves practices such as water conservation, growth of native vegetation, building healthy soil through composting and other methods, and eliminating chemical on the property. (More details will follow in subsequent blog posts.)

I find I have moved in this direction all along, but the property presented many immediate difficulties that needed resolution. My target is my backyard (of course), so you will step along with me in this journey and perhaps advise me on overcoming challenges, rerouting directions, and redeeming a small plot of this planet.
20140802_111253_resized_1(1)Along the way, I will showcase a myriad of challenges, blunders, and failures. Some of those challenges are personal—like my tiny retirement income, knotted/arthritic joints, and Multiple Sclerosis. Other hurdles have been imbalanced nature: ants, weeds, rotten soil, itchy bug bites, extreme temperatures, and a herd of squirrels. What to do with a backyard junk pile? Or the biggest challenge of all: What if for years, a property owner’s idea of landscaping was to roll out landscape fabric (and shower curtains and carpet remnants…) then dump rocks on top of it. When weeds grew, the process was repeated (as near as I can tell–four times on the ENTIRE property).
20140802_111200_resized_1So come along with me to my backyard, backstreets, and alleys—where the only success has been the Buffalo Grass, and the wildlife consists of chiggers, mosquitoes,  and abandoned feral cats hiding in a junk pile.

the blog of a poet and wanna be naturalist


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