Tuesday, May 31, 2011

10,000 Maniacs - AKA The Swarm

Interesting fact:  There are roughly 3,500 honeybees in a pound.  This may not be scientifically accurate.  But, it is Google accurate.  That's good enough for me.

Yesterday, I had, I'm guessing, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 maniacs swirl around my body while rising higher and higher into the air before landing waaaay up in the tippy-top of our 30+ year old oak tree.  It was a sight to behold.  It was an experience like none other.  And, by some miracle, I was right smack dab in the middle of it.  Oh, and by maniacs, I mean honeybees.

This is commonly referred to as a swarm.  It happens in the spring.  For the beekeeper, it is not ideal.  Some call it mismanagement.  Some focus on the reduction in honey production that can result.  When a beekeeper declares that her hive has swarmed, words of consolation and then encouragement are offered.  However, for this beekeeper, the swarm was nothing short of amazing.  And, to Mother Nature, it is my gift. 

I can't explain why I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time to bear witness to this.  I was agitated.  It was late afternoon and I just had this urge to be outside to enjoy the beautiful day.  I had no plan, no goal, no objective.  I just needed to breathe fresh air.  I meandered through the garden.  Checked on my lazy garden (post about this coming soon).  Peeked on the bee friendly perennials.  Eventually, I found my way over to my bee chair.

My husband gave me the chair five years ago for Mother's Day.  The intention was for me to have a place to relax while keeping my eye on two toddlers playing on the swing set or in the yard.  Five years later, it has become my perch for watching the bees.  In the late afternoon, honeybees do what is called orientation flying.  It's when the new bees head out, test out their wings and their sense of direction and then return to safety.  It's pretty fun to watch.  I noticed that one hive had quite a bit of orientation flying going on and the other was relatively quiet.  I found it curious, but being new to this gig, didn't think that much of it.  Then, at 4:15 pm, past the usual swarm hours of 10 am to 2 pm, there was a mass exodus from the quiet hive.  It surprised me.  They were pouring out from everywhere.  I stood in the midst of it to try to get a closer look at this orientation flying.  It was unlike any orientation flying I had ever seen before.  I looked up and that's when I realized.  It was a swarm.

The sky was literally peppered with honeybees.  I walked-as-fast-as-I-could-without-running into the house, grabbed the camera, inserted the memory card and battery, switched to a zoom lens and hustled right back out the door, stopping briefly at the threshold to declare to myself as well as anyone who would listen, "It's a swarm!  They just swarmed right in front of my very eyes!"

When I got back out, this is what the sky looked like:

The very first photo of the swarm.
This may not seem like much, but this was after many had already landed in their temporary home.  I am guessing the swarm was two to three pounds of honeybees, roughly 10,000 honeybees.

As I stood there in, on the one hand, awe and, on the other, in control enough of my faculties to know that I needed to document this, I was moved.  I don't know how else to say it.  They could have swarmed at any time -while I was at the pool, while I was at the grocery, while I was lying on the sofa reading a magazine.  Yet, it happened while I was right there.  I got to see every single second of it from flow through frenzy to flight then finished.

Once they had landed, I got busy figuring out what to do next.  I consulted experts (Thanks Beekeeper Linda, Cassandra Lawson and Cindy Hodges!) on my next steps.  I did as they suggested, setting up lure hives to try to bring the girls back, rubbing them down with Lemon Pledge (Thanks to my amazing hubby who ran to the store to buy this!) and lemongrass cut straight from the garden because bees are attracted to the scent, inserting old comb and hoping.  I knew it was a long shot, but I wanted to know I had tried everything.  I finally bid the bees goodnight and crawled into bed for a restless night's sleep.

I jumped out of bed early and rushed outside to see what the bees were up to.  They were still there.  The sun was rising on them and some were flying, but mostly they were just clustered on the branch.  Some hours went by and I took my daughter to camp.  When my son and I arrived home, I noticed that the neighbors had a crew at their house to remove a tree that had been damaged by the recent storms.  I was out taking more photos of the bees when they fired up their chainsaws.  Well, that fired the bees up.  They immediately loosened their formation and before I even had a chance to realize what was happening, they were off again.  I tried to track where they went, but it was hard.  My eyes are good, but not good enough to track the bees flying 50-60 feet in the air.  I took a brief walk around the neighborhood hoping that I might see them hanging on a low branch at a neighbor's house, but no.  I said my good-bye to the sky and went back inside to check on the boy.

More hours went by and I got an email from Cindy Hodges, a local beekeeper who does swarm retrieval.  It read, "If your swarm is gone, it just left someone's shrub on Cedarhurst."  Cedarhurst is one street over.  My response, "Yep. It is gone. Left this morning. I tried to find where it went, but couldn't...  ...They are the world's bees now."  Oh, but they were always the world's bees.

As the day has worn on, I have had a song stuck in my head.  I find myself humming it in my mind and aloud.  It's the soundtrack of my day, of the past two days-  'These are Days' by the 10,000 Maniacs.  So fitting because I will have those 10,000 honeybees swirling around in my memory for a long time to come.

These are days you’ll remember
Never before and never since, I promise
Will the whole world be warm as this
And as you feel it,
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you
Are touched by something
That will grow and bloom in you

These are days that you’ll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You’ll know it’s true
That you are blessed and lucky
It’s true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you

These are days
These are the days you might fill
With laughter until you break
These days you might feel
A shaft of light
Make its way across your face
And when you do
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
See the signs and know their meaning
It's true
Then you’ll know how it was meant to be
Hear the signs and know they’re speaking
To you, to you

Sunday, May 29, 2011

CSA Box + Iron Chef Style Challenge = Dinner

This season, I signed up for a CSA with Riverview Farms.  They came very highly recommended (Thanks Pattie and Kathy F!).  Honestly, we have been in a bit of a rut.  While I love what we grow and what we typically eat, we aren't really trying anything outside of the raised bed box.  And, I am getting a little bored.  So, I decided to get inside the box- the CSA box- with the hope of trying some new stuff to spice up our usual routine. 

My mom collected the first box for me on Wednesday because I was occupied at the hospital with my son's surgery.  When he was released from the hospital on Thursday, I couldn't wait to get home and see what was inside that box!  I know.  Priorities, right?

The first box came with the following:
  • Radishes
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Lettuce (Romaine?)
  • Arugula
  • Pak Choi
  • Collards

I think that's all of it.  So, I quickly began thinking of what I could do with all that luscious produce.  And, it was luscious, let me tell you.  This is what I came up with for the first night:

Radish, Onion and Shrimp Salad
This recipe serves 4, but can easily be tweaked for additional or fewer servings.

  • 6 radishes, scrubbed, cut length-wise into thick matchsticks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 shallots
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined and skewered
  • Spike seasoning
  • Maytag Blue Cheese to taste (I used half of one wedge)
  • 1/3 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
  • 1 head of lettuce, washed and ripped into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups (approximate) arugula, washed, large pieces torn
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Part 1:  Radish and Onions
Take the sliced onions and matchstick radishes and toss them with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, a large pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Once everything is coated, put it on a large baking sheet and spread it all out.  Roast this in the oven for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Part 2:  Make the Dressing
Finely dice the 3 shallots, set aside.  In a container large enough to fit a whisk (I use a 2 cup measuring cup), add the red wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.  Whisk.  As you are whisking, drizzle in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil very slowly to make an emulsion.  Add the finely diced shallots.  Add in salt and pepper to taste.

Part 3:  Grill the Shrimp
You should have about 6 shrimp per skewer.  Shake some spike onto the shrimp and grill.  Shrimp will cook very quickly.  You should only need about 3-4 minutes per side.  Take care not to over-cook them.  Once they have finished, set them aside.

Part 4:  Assemble the Salad - serves 4
Arrange the salad greens and arugula on each plate.  Top the greens on each plate with evenly divided portions of the roasted onions and radishes.  Top the onion/radish mix with a sprinkle of Maytag blue cheese and sweetened, dried cranberries.  Dress with 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing.  Serve with the shrimp on the side.

It was delicious and filling and just what I was hoping for.  I don't think I would have thought to put the onions and radishes together if they hadn't come in the box together.  And, the desire to want to use the produce before it goes bad is forcing me to get creative and cook beyond the boundaries of a recipe.  In fact, I found the challenge fun!  It's as if I am having my own Iron Chef CSA Challenge right in my kitchen!  Next up, conquer the Pak Choi...

It Takes a Community to Grow a Garden

Things have been crazy for me the last two weeks.  There have been visitors, illnesses, recitals, workshops and even a surgery thrown in to keep things exciting.  During this time, it has been hard for me to get to the garden to get things done.  I made my way to the garden this morning to do some weeding, fertilizing and watering.  I wasn't sure what I would find.  What I found was amazing.  All of a sudden, there are cages where there weren't cages (thanks, Farmer Bob!).  Weeding had been done.  Watering had occurred (Thanks, Regan!).  And, I think soon, we might be ready for our first harvest day.  We need to come up with a harvest team and schedule.  If you are interested, please email me and I will add your name to the distribution list -->  shawnbard@gmail.com

What was once this, a mere two weeks ago: 

Is now:
Tomato bed blooming like crazy and even one Abe Lincoln tomato growing.

Pepper seedlings growing and squash plants blooming.

Cucumbers trailing and dill and radishes flourishing.

Another view of the tomato bed.  Gorgeous!

Sweet potatoes doing their thing, getting bigger and bigger and aiding the soil.

Hard to believe this was a seedling two weeks ago.

This, too, was a tiny seedling.

The first jalapeno of the season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ladybug Farm - Let this be a cautionary tale...

I have visions of living on a farm.  There would be rolling hills and land enough for chickens, Nigerian dwarf goats, gardens, ponds, greenhouses and people.  Oh, no wait.  That's The Sound of Music playing in my head.  I have read this blog and I know that living on a farm isn't a picnic in the hills in handmade dresses with your favorite nanny.  Still, that doesn't mean I am not raising my own stock right here in the heart of Funwoody.  That's right.  I happen to be the proud owner of a thriving ladybug farm nesting in my parsley.  I didn't plan on this.  I didn't buy any bugs with the hope of starting a ladybug farm.  It just happened.  And, it is so exciting! 

I watched one little lady take off today.  She was just turning red, bigger sister to her little sisters who are still pale.  She didn't like my camera in her nest and decided to do something about it.  It was unexpected and awesome.  I didn't think any of them would be flying yet being so small. I have been watching them for a few days and even handled a few to get a better look and none have flown. But, she did.  I love being present for the little things.  It ranks right up there with the day the kids and I saw a bee being born out of its cell at a hive inspection.  I like to think bearing witness to a ladybug earning her wings is a sign and a gift- its meaning too deep, complex and personal to be able to explain.  It comes on a day of remembrance.

Scratch that.  All of it.  You heard me.  (Well, all except the very beginning.  All that is accurate.)  After mulling it over, I realized something wasn't right here.  It dawned on me that these bugs were reminding me of something else I had seen.  Something I learned about during my Master Gardener classes.  The dreaded CARPET BEETLE.  I came back to the computer to research it and, well, I have bad news to report.  I no longer have an adorable ladybug nursery.  Nope.  I have a dreaded carpet beetle infestation.  Joy.  So, my parsley will get a dunk in a dish washing soap infused pool.  Let this be a lesson, research and be sure.  You never know, you may be saving your favorite wool sweater, or sofa, or carpet in the process.  I am just glad I found these things outside and not inside...

Monday, May 16, 2011

This is a Test

Pelleted Seeds
It started with a seed.  The concept was simple.  Give people who want it a chance to grow.  No cost.  No strings.  No catch.  Just an opportunity.  Make it possible for anybody. Make it possible for 50 anybodies.  Give them a community and resources so they are more likely to succeed.

Those seeds you see in the photo above grew into these:
50 Tomato Transplants

Then, it became this, twice:
Materials for the Grow Your Own Tomato Workshop donated by Smart Pots, Farmer D Organics and Home Depot.

The goal was this:
Photo courtesy of Cami Mitelman

Photo courtesy of Cami Mitelman

Photo courtesy of Cami Mitelman

Photo courtesy of Cami Mitelman

Photo courtesy of Cami Mitelman
You can read about the outcome by following this link --> click here! <--

It has been incredibly rewarding for me to be a part of this process.  The energy at the two events was so positive.  I wish I could bottle it.  It's more powerful than any drug man can make.  I am excited to stay connected with the workshop participants throughout the growing season to address any issues or concerns they are having along the way and to be able to cheer them on in their successes.  

You would think this would be enough.  And, it is.  But, at the same time, it isn't.  It isn't because there are additional people in our community who could use an event like this.  I am talking about the food desert in Dunwoody.  You can read about food deserts here and here.  It's just an introduction of the issue, but it will give you an idea.  I would like to scale this event so we can take it on the road, into the heart of the community where it is needed, and try to make a dent.  I don't know how that would work.  I don't know if it would work.  I don't know who would be involved.  I have no answers at this point.  What I do have is an experiment.  Here it is:

In the front is a reusable shopping bag.  In the back is a Smart Pot.  The shopping bag costs somewhere between $.50 and $1.00, depending on where you buy it.  The Smart Pot is under $6.00.  I have selected two tomato transplants.  They are roughly the same size.  They are growing in the same soil and the same amount of soil.  I will treat them exactly the same throughout the growing season.  It's any one's guess which one will perform better or even if one will perform better.

This time, it begins with a test.  And, we'll just have to wait to see how big it grows...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's a bug eat bug world out there!

Last year, I really started to see an increase in bug activity in my garden.  I think they finally found it.  Now, this is good and bad.  But, if the system works, it's good.  So, my goal is always to keep the cycle going on its own so that the good guys take care of the bad guys.

Last year, there were lady bugs and praying mantises, but the real highlight was this beauty:

This is a Garden Spider.  It will eat just about anything it can catch.  Isn't it just gorgeous?  Oh, it was a welcomed sight!  I wouldn't let anyone go near it for fear it would get harmed.  At one point, its web was damaged and it seemed to disappear for a few days, but then it was back in the exact same spot.

So, today, I was fumbling around in the garden enjoying the sight of my honey bees working some flowers when I saw an orb web and, in the middle, I found this:

Look at that perfect web!  It sensed my presence - I can't imagine why as I was only lying on my back underneath it to get this photo! - and it moved to the nearby echinacea plant.  Then, I snapped this photo:

It's a little hard to tell because it's tiny, tiny, tiny, but I wonder if it could be a baby Garden Spider.  I hope so!  It definitely has some interesting markings.  This spider was right in the thick of the garden.  His web was attached to the hardy geranium that sits right in front of my strawberries and the echinacea that is next to my corn/bean/potato bed.  From a predator's perspective, ideally located. 

I also spotted this recently:

Another tiny predator, the praying mantis.  This guy was maybe an inch if I am being generous.  The tomato plant it is on is a volunteer that can't be a foot tall if that gives you an idea.  But, there he waits for someone to be his dinner.  I love it.

Right next to the spider, I found this:

This is a ladybug hard at work.  She is actually working on a leaf of the same echinacea plant that the spider attached his web to.  It's a little out of focus because she was moving so fast up and down the leaf looking for a snack.  I have seen these in multiple places this year so far.  I hope that is a good sign!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spruill Art Gallery Garden Update (work in progress):

Newbee: 90 degrees + 90 degrees = 180 Degrees of Perspective

Today, on this bright, beautiful, sunny day, I am out of sync.  Just off.  Maybe it's the lack of sleep I have been getting lately.  Or my meals consisting mostly of Swiss cheese, strawberries fresh from the garden eaten while watering and diet coke.  I don't know.  But, I was a klutz in the bee yard and the bees were not happy about it.  It started with a series of bad decisions:
  1. I decided to rotate the hives 90 degrees.  It's not ideal to have to walk and/or work in front of the hives.  Rotating the hives enables me to always be at the back.
  2. I decided to add slatted racks so that the bees can have more room during the heat of the summer.  (After all, it is already 90 degrees here today.)
  3. I decided to start with the feisty hive.
I got the cover off the hive and it was loaded to the brim with bees, three boxes deep.  I thought about stopping because I was short on time, have the workshop preparations on my mind, blah, blah, blah, but continued.  (Why didn't I listen to myself?)  I got the first box off but it was sticking to the next box.  When I yanked it off,  I realized the bees had put honey in the space between the two boxes.  So, imagine if you will, here I am, standing, sweating, shaking (this could be due to my super nutritious diet) with a heavy box in my hands dripping honey all over my beekeeping boots with a frenzy of none too happy bees all around me because they have just been jarred out of their routine, literally.  I find a place to set it down and cover it with a towel to try to subdue the masses.  Second box comes off, so full of bees and honey, but a total mess.  I look in and I see they have put comb and honey everywhere.  What am I going to do?  I don't even know.  I get to the hive box and it is calm, quiet.  I enjoy it long enough to start to wonder if the queen, Juliet, is dead.  Then, the pinging starts.  One after another, they are pinging my veil.  I attempt to walk away calmly and TRIP over a hive body full of bees.  Oy!  As I am sure you can image, I am not so calm anymore, made worse by the fact that several angry bees follow me all the way to my deck which is quite some distance and a very bad sign.  I would have packed it in at this point and called it a day, but the entire hive is torn apart.  I took 10 and headed back out.

I manage to get the bottom board on the new base.  I place the new slatted rack on top.  But, in my hurry, because the pinging has begun AGAIN, I can't even remember if I put it on right!  Oops!  Then, I remove the small hive beetle trap and am surprised to see that it is empty.  Is this a good thing?  I hope so.  Then, I start putting the hive back together.  First up, the hive body.  I slide it on.  Then, the very heavy medium super.  On it goes.  Finally, the last medium super.  Sliding this on, I hear clang, ping, clang.  I realize that because of the honey, there is gravel stuck to the bottom of the super and it has now fallen through the hive.  I hope I did not do damage to Juliet, the queen, or squish too many bees.  But, at this point, I am not going back in to double check.  It is what it is and I have to let this go.  I get the inner cover on and the telescoping cover and it's done.  I take a step back and look and wouldn't you know it, the slatted rack is crooked!  Crooked!  I tried to shift its position, but the hive bodies are so heavy all up on top that it won't budge.  It will just have to be.  Today, I battled the bees, but I also battled my need for perfection.  It will have to do.  I will have to learn to let it go.

I took one look at Eloise and let the girls over there know they are off the hook.  They will get relocated another day.  I have had enough fun for today.  Honestly, I wouldn't mind a little break, coming back in January, when there are fewer bees to harass me!  After I cleaned up the area from the huge mess I had made, I sat in my chair near the hives -a spot that has become my favorite as it is almost hypnotic to watch the bees do their thing - and became re-energized.  I did it.  It wasn't pretty.  It wasn't my best performance.  At a few points, I was afraid.  But, I didn't quit.  I persevered.  This is something I am always telling my kids to do.  I listened to myself and did it.  And, as I sat there, watching the girls, I realized, these bees really are amazing, tolerant insects.  And, I felt very thankful that they didn't sting me.  Not once.  Lots of warnings, but no stings.  Today was a rough day in the bee yard, but not even 5 minutes into watching the girls, I wanted to be back at it.  Talk about 180 degrees!

Juliet on the left and Eloise on the right.

Juliet's new position, rotated 90 degrees.  The white stripe near the bottom is the new slatted rack I added.

Eloise in her usual position with the two new hive stands on the right, waiting for her.  The hive stands are courtesy of the Spruill Art Gallery Garden.  These were blocks removed to make way for the new garden.

Be Chipper...

...and spread fresh wood chips at Dunwoody's newest community garden at Spruill Art Gallery!

In the middle of this pile, you will find happiness.  No?  Well, certainly, you will find adults and children alike nearby with the sillies from the labor.  That's gotta bring on some good feelings.

Come on by with a shovel, some gloves and a large container, bucket or wheelbarrow at 5:30 PM today, Tuesday, May 10th to help spread some mulch around the new beds!  F Bob, oh, sorry, I mean Farmer Bob will be there.  You won't want to miss that!  It's always entertaining when he's around!

Location:  Spruill Art Gallery Garden, 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Road
Time:  5:30 PM until we finish or get hungry or get sick of each other or the task.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dunwoody Community Garden Plant Sale @ Sandy Springs Farmers Market

If you are looking for a place to buy some edible and ornamental plants this weekend, please stop by the Dunwoody Community Garden booth at the Sandy Springs Farmers Market.  They will have a wide variety of plants for sale.  The proceeds will be used to support the garden's various eco-friendly, charitable and community-building missions.

They will be selling this Saturday (5/7) from 8:30 am to noon at the old Target.

Here is a link with more details about the market including the address and participating vendors -->  Click HERE!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When Words are not Enough

How do you say thank you?  I mean, when you really mean it.  When you feel gratitude with every heartbeat.  When you are so full of it that it spills over your eyelashes and renders you incapable of truly explaining what it means to you.  When the giver, maybe, doesn't even realize the depth of what they have given you.  I am not completely sure, but I imagine it has to have something to do with being the best caretaker of that gift.  Of being able to recall what that gift meant to you on the day it was given even as time passes -6 months from now, 12 months from now, 2 years from now- and acting accordingly.  Treasuring it as you do the ones that gave it.  Over the past several weeks, I have been the recipient of many gifts.  Truth is, they weren't necessarily intended as gifts for me, but it felt like it to me none-the-less.  Some bore gifts of time and knowledge.  Others bore gifts of plants, hoses and fertilizer.  Many others reminded me to laugh along the way.  Mostly, I received the gift of friendship.  And out of that friendship, the new bonds formed and the old bonds strengthened in clay and biodynamic planting mix, came something incredible, inconceivable and truly good.  Here it is:

2 raised beds, 3 in ground beds at the new Spruill Art Gallery Garden
So, thank you!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Even though it is not 100% finished yet and there is still work to be done.  I want to take a moment to say thank you for not chalking it up to a lost cause and walking away when so little money was raised.  Thank you for finding a way around the obstacles.  Thank you for your faith in this garden and your trust in me.  Thank you for making this fun.  And, thank you for being my champion.  I will honor your gifts by putting my heart and soul into our new mutual friend, The Spruill Art Gallery Garden with harvests of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, and sweet potatoes which will be donated to feed the hungry.  It's many gifts that keep on giving!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Bats are the new Bees

My first experience with a live bat was so ridiculously embarrassing that I can't believe I am going to retell the story here.  I was a freshman in college living in a dorm.  I happened to look out my window and down toward the ground and saw an adorable, furry, little creature hanging on the side of the stone wall.  I was immediately panicked.  I thought somebody's hamster had gotten loose and was clinging to life, literally, on the outside of the building.  Being an animal lover, I immediately switched into hyper-active-rescue-mode.  I began calling for help, begging someone to get on the ground underneath the poor desperate animal in case it fell.  People starting hovering.  What is it?  An animal?  A hamster?  Someone's hamster got out?  It's clinging to life on the wall?  Chaos.  Then, someone, I have blocked it from memory because it is utterly humiliating don't even remember who, but someone with more experience than me, looked out the window, down, and laughed.  Loudly.  I was told, "It's a BAT!  They are supposed to hang on walls like that!"  Right.  I knew that.  Duh.  Just kidding everybody!  Made ya look!

Truth is, I didn't know.  I had never seen a bat before.  And, it didn't look anything like the creatures of my imagination from any of the scary stories I had heard about bats, the blood-sucking vampires who get tangled up in your hair and spread diseases.  This thing was cute.  Pet-grade cute.  I was immediately fascinated. Then, I quickly forgot.  More pressing things occupied my brain like parties classes and sorority events homework (okay, okay, and BOYS).

Until last summer.  I spent a lot of time in the garden last summer.  I found my favorite time to be in the garden was after dinner, right before dusk.  I would take to the garden and just be there to unwind for a bit.  When I say "a bit" I do mean "a bit" because it wasn't long until I was being eaten alive by mosquitoes.  Oh my stars, they were everywhere!  Being an organic gardener, I knew I would not just head out there with some spray in an attempt to resolve the problem.  Does such a spray even exist?  I have no idea.  Regardless, I had to find another way.  In numerous Google searches, I kept getting links for the same thing- Bats.  It didn't take me long to take the hint and begin researching the tiniest of mammals.  My fascination was re-ignited.

Fascinating facts about bats:
  • Bats are the primary predators of many damaging pests.  In fact, a single little brown bat can consume 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in one hour.  One bat, 1,000 insects, one hour.  Wow!
  • Bats are pollinators.  If you like bananas, avocados, mangoes, dates, figs, peaches or cashews, you should thank bats.  These foods depend on bats for pollination.
  • Bat droppings (guano) are a valuable, natural fertilizer.  Guano contains essential elements necessary for healthy plant growth in addition to adding healthy microbials to your soil.  These microbials work to control fungus and nematodes. 
  • Bats are doing their part to keep your grocery bill down.  The work that bats do to eat pests that harm food crops reduces the farmer's need to use pesticides.  This, in turn, reduces the cost we pay for the food.  In fact, some estimate that bats save US farmers $3 billion a year in reduced pesticide costs.

In short, bats are overlooked, under-appreciated heroes.  They do great things for you and I every single day and we don't even realize it.  You might be asking yourself, "What does any of this have to do with bees?"  Well, it is simple. Like bees, bats are dying in huge numbers.  Entire colonies are being wiped out.  It's in the news.  It feels like there is a new article written about this every day, each of them equally terrible.  Like, this one.  Or, this one.  Or any of these.  But, do we really pay attention?  Do we even realize what this means?

If this stirs you into action, then consider one of these steps:

  1. Vote for Bat Conservation International --> Disney's Friends for Change: Project Green.  
  2. Adopt a Bat --> Your contribution helps BCI protect and preserve bats.
  3. Make a donation --> Fund research and education projects
  4. Give to save bat habitats --> The Nature Conservancy and The Sierra Club work to save natural bat habitats.
  5. Install a bat house --> Give a bat a home.  Certified bat house vendors by state are listed here.  In Dunwoody, we have a local craftsman who makes beautiful bat houses -->  Workshop Creations, Robert May.  I bought my bat house from him and it is beautifully constructed. 
  6. If you are concerned about installing a bat house on your property, consider placing bat houses in your neighborhood or gifting a bat house to a local park or nature preserve.   Robert told me that he has worked with neighborhoods to identify locations within the neighborhood where they can place bat houses for the benefit of all the residents and the bats, of course.
My bat house which was made by local craftsman, Robert May of Workshop Creations, Dunwoody, Ga.