The Truth about Bats

Bats have been the cause of fear and trepidation for centuries, as well as the subject of scary stories and horror films. Over the years, scientists have proven that bats are vital to a variety of ecosystems, though. This knowledge, hopefully, has allayed some people’s fears about bats, and some have even gone so far as provide roosting places for bats in their own backyards.

bat

Many scientists and organizations work to preserve bat species throughout the world, as well as educate the public about their value. Bats play a key role in many ecosystems by providing insect population control. According to S. Chambers and N. Allen in “Create Roosts for Bats in Your Yard” (The Wildlife Garden set, Oregon State University), “in North America, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects. Some species of bat can capture several hundred insects an hour, including insect species that can devastate valuable plants and crops.”

In tropical or desert areas (even in the United States), some species of bats are important for pollination and spreading seed of a variety of plants, including such important crop plants as bananas, peaches, and mangoes.

With 1,100 species in the world, bats count for about 20% of all mammals. With their key role in insect control and pollination, it is plain to see that it is important to preserve bats’ natural habitats and protect bats in urban settings as well. Check back later this week to learn what you can do to protect and encourage bats in your garden or backyard.

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Top Reasons to Use a Warre Beehive

#1 Healthy beekeeping equals healthy bees resulting in a little more balance in the ecology

#2 Simple construction of stacked boxes…you can easily add to, clean and maintain these hives and the health of your bees

#3 The Warre hive creates less moisture due to the quilt structure – Also air circulation disperses moisture through the vents

#4 Less expensive than conventional hives

#5 A Warre beehive allows bees to build more efficiently

#6 Simple and easy to use

#7 The Warre bee hive is built to resemble as close as possible to a bees natural home.

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Varietals of Honey

Honey can come in a variety of flavors. The flowers and nectar available to a bee colony can affect the flavor of the resulting honey. Honey created in different parts of the country can have drastically different tastes, and certain areas of the world are known for specific varietals of honey.

Honey Combs

Nectar collected from several sources – or a number of different flowers – the resulting honey is referred to as “wildflower” or “mixed flower” honey. But when honey is made from nectar that is 80% of the same type of flower or plant, it can be labeled as a specific variety of honey.

Though each variety of honey is made of the same elements – sucrose and water – the different flavors are due to a variety of organic acids that give each type of honey its distinct taste.

Honey 1

Here is a sampling of honey varieties that you may not have heard of:

  • Acacia: Hungary, Italy, France. Light in color with a delicate flavor. Good for baking.
  • Avocado: California, Florida, Chile. Dark amber color with rich, floral flavor. Nice table honey, good for pancakes.
  • Cranberry: Wisconsin, Oregon, Quebec. Medium amber color with hints of an intense, tart berry taste. Excellent with yogurt.
  • Fireweed: Washington, Alaska, Oregon. Light gold color with mild, spicy flavor. Excellent for making honey butter or as a table honey.
  • Lehua: Hawaii. Off white color with a distinct, complex flavor Overtones of butterscotch and lilies. Excellent with green tea.
  • Rosemary: Spain, Italy, France. Light amber color with fresh herbal, slightly smoky flavor. Nice in glazes for chicken and drizzled over focaccia bread.
  • Sunflower: Georgia, Italy, Spain. Pale yellow to light amber color with nutty, apricot flavor. Drizzle over yogurt or serve with fresh fruit.
  • Tupelo: Florida, Georgia. White to light amber color with floral flavor and rich, buttery texture. Nice in glazes for pork.

To learn more about honey varietals, check out these books: Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper by C. Marina Marchese (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2009) or Honey: A Connoisseur’s Guide with Recipes by Gene Opton (Ten Speed Press, 2000).

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Where Do They Go in the Winter

We all know that many of our feathered friends bulk up to survive the colder temps (or they migrate south if it is too cold).

You also may know that many of the other critters in the yard hibernate or slow down their pace in the winter months.

But what happens to bees? Well that depends on what type of bee you are talking about.

For bumblebees most of the colony will die and only the new bumblebee queens will survive. They will mate with the males and feed to build up fat reserves ready for their winter snooze. They like soil banks and sometimes even soft potting soil in a plant pot or a compost heap…so be careful when you begin to start prepping for the spring.

Honey bees don’t really hibernate, but are not really out and about. They become less active, when the temperature falls and huddle together in a temperature regulating cluster called a ‘winter cluster’. By this time, there will be no males (drones) in the hive or nest.

For solitary bees, like mason bees, they overwinter in hollow place such as plant stems or other small spaces in the garden. It is a good reminder not tidy up everything in the garden and leave some things for the critters to survive the winter.

The Decline of Bees

In the last decade or so, bee populations of all species have been in decline, a fact that will not only affect the natural environment, but also is taking a toll on the agricultural industry. Bees are important pollinators for many of the foods that we enjoy every day. In California alone, there are over 50 crops dependent on honeybees for pollination, including strawberries and almonds, which equals billions of dollars of produce every year. As honeybees decline, the yield of these crops goes down, and prices go up. Another side effect as the crop yield goes down is the loss of jobs.

Honey Bee

The main reasons for the decline of honeybees and other species of bees are disease and pesticide use. Diseases, spread by mites and parasites affect both domestic and wild bee populations. The spread of these diseases is being studies by researchers around the world, and strategies are being developed to decrease the spread of the parasites and the diseases affecting bee populations.

While the spread of disease among bees is left to scientists to deal with, the issue of pesticide use is something that all of us can help reduce and hopefully – someday – eliminate. Pesticides are commonly used as a cheaper way to rid plants of pests, but they often affect not just the pesky insects, but also the beneficial ones as well. Bees, in particular, take the pesticide-infused pollen and nectar from flowers back to their hive, affecting not just the individual insect, but an entire hive.

Though the problem seems much larger than any individual person, there are ways to help affect change as a single person, family, or farm. Choosing more natural pest-control options for your own garden or farm is a first step. These could include the introduction of beneficial insects, or the addition of nematodes to your garden’s soil, as well as many other natural pest-control options. You can also reduce, if not eliminate, the use of traditional pesticides by replacing them with organic pesticides that are friendly to bees and other pollinators. Check out this list from the Xerces Society.

Other more tangible options that both farmers and gardeners alike can take to help bee populations include:

  • Raising their own honeybee colonies, using healthier hives such as the Warré Bee Hive
  • Encouraging native bee populations such as bumble and mason bees by placing nest boxes on your property
  • Planting a diverse range of plants to attract honey bees as well as native bee populations

For more ideas for protecting bees, as well as other pollinators, check out the Xerces Society’s Pollinator Conservation Resource Center, where you can find lists of plants native to your area, as well as other ideas for helping to encourage pollinators in your area.

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Recipe: Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Ginger Bread

3 cups flour, sifted

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp powdered ginger

1/2 tsp powdered cloves

1/2 tsp powdered nutmeg

1/2 pound butter

1/2 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg together.

Cut butter into small pieces. Work butter into dry ingredients with pastry cutter or with fingers. When blended throughly, add honey and stir until completely blended.

Refrigerate dough for a minimum of 1 hour.

Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness on a floured board. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters of your choice. Bake for 12-15 minutes on a cookie sheet.

Let cool for one minute on cookie sheet, then cool completely on cookie racks.

Adapted from The Pooh Cook Book (Inspired by Winnie-the-Pooh) by Virginia H. Ellison, E.P. Dutton & Co. Inc, 1969. Click here to find this book on Amazon.com.

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Honey Cake

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinn.
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup orange juice

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinn.
3. In a large bowl (separate), combine sugar, honey, oil, eggs, & orange zest
4. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with orange juice, mixing just until incorporated
5. Pour batter into prepared pan
6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until cooked through.

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Beat Dry and Weathered Hair with Rosemary Honey Hair Conditioner

The extremes of heat and cold we endure throughout the seasons can make even the greatest of hair look and feel like straw. This nourishing conditioner blends honey for shine; olive oil for moisture and essential oil of rosemary to stimulate hair growth.

  • 1/2 cup Honey

  • 1/4 cup warmed Olive oil (2T for normal to oily hair)

  • 4 drops of essential oil of Rosemary

  • 1 tsp. Xanthum gum (available in health food stores)

Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour into a clean plastic bottle with a tight fitting stopper or lid.

Apply a small amount at a time to slightly dampened hair. Massage scalp and work mixture through hair until completely coated. Cover hair with a warm towel (towel can be heated in a microwave or dryer) or shower cap; leave on to nourish and condition for 30 minutes. Remove towel or shower cap; shampoo lightly and rinse with cool water. Dry as normal and enjoy shinier, softer and healthier hair the natural way.

This recipe is courtesy of www.honey.com National Honey Board

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Featured Recipe: Honey Butter

Honey Comb

Honey is a great ingredient to use in cooking as a sweetener and sometimes as a replacement for sugar. With all the great recipes out there that use honey, we’ve decided to feature a honey recipe each month on our blog.

For our first recipe, we’re keeping it simple…

Honey Butter

1/2 cup butter

1/4 to 1/2 cup honey (to taste)

Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Refrigerate until firm.


Honey Butter tastes great on muffins, scones, pancakes, and banana nut bread. To make your Honey Butter extra special, check out these Food Network recipes:

Cinnamon Honey Butter

Orange Honey Butter (and Blue Corn Pancakes)

Blueberry Honey Butter (and Grilled CornMuffins)

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Feed the Birds

If you go into the feed or pet store, you will find a variety of options for your bird feeders…but which one do you choose? Well that highly depends on the type of birds you would like to attract, the area you live in and the time of year. Below is a list of feed items you can find fairly easily at any feed store and some grocery stores that have bulk are even carrying them. A big key to success is to try a small amount, wait and watch. Once you find what works for your area, you will be set. Like all of us, those feathered friends do like variety so don’t be afraid to mix it up a bit.

Do take note. Plan where you have your feeders please. Seed will fall and in the wet months (which is when the birds need it the most) they will likely sprout.

Mealworms

This is a nice option to provide for insect eaters in the winter months when the food supply is low, they will even feed them to their babies. You can opt for the freeze dried or live. Both can be found at most pet stores.

When Best to Provide:
Winter & Spring

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Mockingbirds, Robins, Bluebirds

Black Oil or Striped Sunflower

These are popular in most seed mixes. The black oil sunflower seeds are smaller and higher in fat. Birds tend to like these best. Striped seeds are larger, have a harder shell and do not attract as many birds.

When Best to Provide:
Any time

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
House Finches, Nuthatches, Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Jays, Goldfinches

Black Sunflower Seeds

Black Sunflower Seeds

Fresh Fruit

Fresh apples, grapes or oranges are a great treat for birds.

When Best to Provide:
Summer & Fall, when fruit can be found fresh and in season

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Tangers, Orioles, Woodpeckers, Waxwings, Robins

Fruit for the Birds

Fruit for the Birds

Nectar

This can be easily made at home. You can find several sources for a recipe online or here is one from the Domino Sugar website. Skip the food coloring, it is unnecessary and is harmful to the birds. This is not just for humming birds, there are several nectar lovers.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Humming Birds, Orioles, Woodpeckers

Millet

This seed is small round seed and there are several different types; Red, golden and white. The red and golden are not as popular with most birds. The white is the main ingredient in most mixed bird seed blends.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Sparrows, Juncos, Cardinals, Bobwhites, Quail, Doves, Buntings

Millet

Millet

Safflower

It looks similar to the sunflower seed but has a white coating. It is an alternative seed if you want to discourage Starlings or House Sparrows.

When Best to Provide:
Any time of year

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Chickadees, Nuthatches, House Finches, Jays , Goldfinches, Grosbeaks, Cardinals

Suet

This can be homemade or store bought. Suet can be simply just animal fat or a mixture of seeds, animal fat, berries and nut butter. It is a great source os fat and is highly important during the winter months to help keep those feathered friend warm. 

When Best to Provide:
Fall & Winter

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Chestnut-Backed Chickadee, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Thrushes, Orioles, Grosbeaks, American Robin

Nuts

Unsalted peanuts are best if you are going to offer them whole, as they are less expensive and easier to shell. If you opt for shelled variety, just make certain they are raw if possible and unsalted . They are a good source of protein and fat for the colder months. The warmer months they spoil faster.

When Best to Provide:
Fall & Winter

Birds It will Most Likely Attract:
Jays, Nuthatches, Mockingbirds, Woodpeckers, Chickadees, House Sparrows, Cardinals, House Finches

Nuts for Birds

Nuts for Birds

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