How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Making Kombucha

While my daughter Katie was home she turned me on to Kombucha. It is a fermented tea that supposedly has beneficial bacteria and other things that are supposed to be good for you. First of all I love anything that is fermented, and I instantly fell in love with the flavor of this drink.

I don’t really know what Kombucha has to do with my yard, but one of the things I enjoy most is that you can flavor the drinks with different fruits, herbs, and spices, some of which I am sure will come from my yard. I love making stuff like this, and try to get creative in the flavoring.

So what exactly is Kombucha?? Kombucha is a fermented tea that is often drunk for medicinal purposes. There is limited scientific information supporting any health benefit. Kombucha is a living health drink made by fermenting tea and sugar with the Kombucha culture. The culture is called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). The results can taste like something between sparkling apple cider and champagne, depending on the tea. Actually I was talking to a friend about the flavor today and I described it as kind of a dirty sock kind of smell, which really isn’t that appealing a description. I guess it is kind of an acquired taste, but I love it!

The first recorded use of Kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as “The Tea of Immortality”. Kombucha tea has been reported to be a cure-all for a wide range of conditions including baldness, insomnia, intestinal disorders, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and cancer. Supporters say that Kombucha tea can boost the immune system and reverse the aging process. Between the Kombucha and the bee stings I should live forever!! Kombucha tea is said to contain antioxidants, a compound that blocks the action of free radicals (activated oxygen molecules that can damage cells).

I have been thoroughly enjoying making Kombucha tea. I bought some old Grolsch bottles on Ebay to bottle my tea in. They are perfect because of the hinged closure, great for the fermentation process. Just like in brewing or wine making there is a secondary fermentation when you add the different fruits etc. After I bottle the Kombucha, I flavor it with things like Gogi berries, raspberries, ginger, chai spice, etc. I leave very little space at the top of the bottle, and the sugars that are in the fruits allow for a secondary fermentation to occur. I let the bottles sit on my counter for 3-4 days, and then I put them in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation process. You need to be careful when you open the Grolsch bottles, remembering in the fermentation process CO2 is released as the yeast feeds from the sugars. The Kombucha can become quite effervescent.

I am really grateful that my daughter taught me about Kombucha. Not only do I enjoy the thought of the possible health benefits, but I love the fermentation process. The good news also is that it has very few calories because most of the sugars are fermented out.

So I hope I turned you on to making some “Buch”!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Yard is a Mess

Remember when I first started writing this blog I didn’t claim to be a Master Gardner, just a backyard gardener trying to help all pollinators. It is a good thing, because if I was really a true Master Gardener I would be “Fired” as Donald Trump would say. My yard is truly a mess. I put so much work into the yard in the early spring, but now everything is overgrown and out of control!! I am actually depressed about it. Since my bees stung the yard guy several weeks ago, they are now refusing to mow my yard until I get rid of the bees. Well I have no intention of getting rid of the bees. Do you really think that having no yard guy will make me get rid of my bees? Well, I feel very badly that Francisco got stung, but I truly think something happened that day. I’ve seen him literally run the weed whacker in between each hive. I think the girls were feeling particularly temperamental that day, and he must have gotten a little too close for comfort. It has only been a few weeks since the yard was mowed but now it is starting to get way out of control. My little Chihuahuas can hardly walk through the grass. I called Oscar, who helped me earlier in the year, to see if he wanted to help me mow the yard. He is friends with my normal yardman, and he was the one who called me when the bees stung Francisco. I think he is a little afraid he might get stung also. He wanted to mow the yard at 6 A.M the other day before the bees were out foraging. I told him: first of all, it is still dark at 6 A.M, and secondly, people are still sleeping. He has said he will try to come on Saturday, but I am not sure he will. He really doesn’t need to mow around the hives since the grass doesn’t grow very quickly on the west side of the yard. I am actually thinking about planting a good ground cover on that side of the yard so the grass won’t need to be mowed at all. That will solve the problem of the yard men getting too close to the hives with their machinery.

Although Isaac was only a tropical storm it still wreaked havoc around my yard. The Cassia Senna tree has now completely fallen over and the popcorn Senna is leaning from the fence. Part of the problem is that my yard guy, who is supposed to maintain my yard, and who I pay extra to maintain my yard, has not been doing a very good job with the maintenance. Since I don’t use any pesticides in the yard I do not allow them to use “Round Up” to weed. I have asked them to help me maintain but that doesn’t happen. Several times a year they expect me to pay them extra to cut everything back. If they just did a little bit every week things could be maintained, but that never happens until things get so out of control that I have to pay them to clean everything up. I think that is why they don’t maintain, because they know they will make extra money when things get out of control. Well maybe Francisco getting stung is kind of a blessing, because I need someone that will do a good job and care about what they are doing. A prime example of their lack of maintenance is the bougainvillea over by my pot belly pig “Moo”. It has totally taken over his fenced in area. It provides shade for him during the hot summer days, but now he has no sun light at all. In fact we cannot even get into his fenced in area to feed him.

It is very frustrating, because unless I do the yard myself, it doesn’t get done properly. I know I am kind of bitching here, but it is very frustrating to pay for a service and not receive it. I have to admit however, I cannot do it all in my yard. I definitely do need reliable help. It is so important in Florida to keep things maintained and cut back, because everything grows very quickly. Especially this year with all the rain we have had. The plants have grown like weeds, and the weeds have gone wild. Many of the trees in the yard are completely overgrown, and that is why the Cassia Senna is now completely split in half.

It has been difficult for me because since I had the anaphylactic reaction to my bees, I have been cautious about gardening in the bee’s flight path. That has left my garden in major need of weeding and pruning. I am disappointed in myself that I haven’t been able to maintain the yard through the summer, especially because it looked so beautiful at the beginning of the season.

I called a friend, Cindy David, to help me. Cindy and I go way back. Our children actually went to preschool and kindergarten together at the Heritage School. Through the years our paths have crossed because of my interests in Butterfly Gardening. Cindy is actually a landscape artist, and has been lecturing on Butterfly Gardening in Miami for years. She has helped me many times with consultation for my garden. I have tried to hire her to maintain my yard but she is extremely busy. Well I called her again out of desperation to see if she had any time to help me. She has agreed to find some time for me several times a year just to maintain the yard and cut back the trees and bougainvillea that grow so quickly here in Miami. I look forward to Cindy’s expertise and help in my yard. Since Cindy is a perfectionist like me and understands butterfly gardening, I know she will do a great job helping me. I am going to a plant sale this Saturday at Veber’s Jungle in Homestead that Cindy is sponsoring. Hopefully she will recommend a good ground cover to plant around the bee hives.

Speaking of the bee hives the new Italian Queen is doing well. I checked on the hive on Sunday of last weekend, and again today. The population is being maintained, and the Queen was out of her cage. I still don’t see many new eggs but I need to give her time to start laying. I will keep you updated in the weeks that follow!

Despite the yard being a mess the butterflies continue to love it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Little Bee Plate

While I was in Boston I found the most adorable little round plate in Marshall’s. On the plate was a little beehive with a bee that says Play. I love finding things like this. I am using it as a spoon rest in the kitchen since mine is broken. I was also thinking I could put my jewelry on the plate when I cook and clean in the kitchen. Whenever I look at this little plate it will remind me of my trip to Boston and moving my son into his apartment. Best of all this little plate cost $1.99, what a find, and it adds to my collection of honey bee art. What a priceless find!!
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