Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sometimes My Feng Gets In My Shui, But I Just Work Around It.

 As usual, social infections like "Feng Shui" arrive late on the frontier. Like many pathogens, as they spread, they mutate and weaken, until sometimes they are reduced to nothing more than a minor irritation.

That's pretty much how my recent bout with FungShway went, a barely noticeable blip in my usual routine.
It started with the pump house project, in which all I had to do was put the roof on ... as it had been before the well repairs of June.
But no, wouldn't my head and the pump house rafters be much more harmonious if I raised the roof up a foot or so, thus avoiding unharmonious head bumps when inside the pump house?

And wouldn't a light metal roof instead of heavy plywood and shingles make a future well repair necessitated roof removal more harmoniously easy?

And a redo of that siding stain would harmonize the view from the kitchen bay window quite a bit.
(note this view is from the oak tree nearby)

I had to harmonize the oak's branches lately, you may remember that high altitude post.

The FS infection was spreading inside me and I didn't even know it in the beginning.
It all seems so clear now.
It even impacted my relationship with my JEEP.
She has had her own issues lately, ... not wanting to start, and I had successfully started her 3 times by rolling her down the hill and leaping in to pop the clutch and get her going.
Two days ago, as I went to do that one more time and drive her to the repair clinic, I both failed to start her and ran out of the slope needed to do this by myself.
That seemed so unharmonious to just accept failure after 3 successes ... that odd number 3 was bugging me.
So I used the "come-a-long" jack and some rope to crank her back up the slope for one more try.
And failed, unharmoniously.
The next day, she rode a wrecker into the shop, but the wrecker driver was both a JEEP guy and a Labrador Retriever guy, plus AAA picked up the tow cost, so I felt sort of harmonious after that.

Then there was this bit of disharmony.
The ancient outdoor shower faucet combo was tired and done.
The two faucets and one ball valve were all broken or about to go and the shower outlet had long ago been stuffed with plant matter by some critter.

At the bottom end of the shower setup, ferns had colonized the lowest foot or so of pipe by taking advantage of the slow leak from the ball valve.
(Actually, I found this quite harmonious, but practical?

This fern, in harmony with the green moss that had colonized the drip first, had thrived on the moss-created "soil" that surrounded the lower pipe like a sleeve.
Okay, this is pretty FS to me.
Just sayin'.

To balance the competing harmonies of a need for a working faucet at this location with the clever harmonizing by the moss and fern, I decided to keep the pipe, moss, fern complex intact after I cut it from the undergound pipes.
I then carried it out to the goldfish pond where the lime rock boulders lay around harmonizing with the pond.
I tucked the pipe,fern, moss unit under the shade of a sago palm there and wished it luck.

Where the ferny shower unit was ... harmony to come.

These pre-Thanksgiving days off have allowed me to knock off, or at least work on a zillion disharmonious little jobs that were not urgent, but needed.
Some actually are not "needed", not in the usual sense anyway.
I give you the Pollinator Bee House for example.

All I had to do to it yesterday was start stuffing its spaces with habitat material for our native bees and wasps who work harmoniously with my blueberry blossoms to ensure a good crop.
I THOUGHT I was going to just put log chunks in one section and bamboo in another, but then this mild Feng Shui infection flared up and the whole project took twice as long.
It all started when I used a piece of bamboo to prop up a log chunk on the log shelf.
"Hey, that's kind of harmonious", I said to the dogs, Fang and Shway.
(Well, no... that's not really their names, we all know they are Bear and Coquina, but wouldn't that have been harmonious names for them?)
Hindsight is harmoniously 20/20.
So, fever raging, I pulled everything out and started over, MIXING the bamboo with the logs in a harmonious pattern.
And I liked it.

Back in the shop, I furiously cut more 6 inch sections of bamboo using a precisely and yet harmoniously placed stop block to guarantee length harmony among the bamboo pieces.

My fever was reaching its peak now.

I think I'm over it now ... wait, is that log in the right place?

Feng Shui, Y'all.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Native Pollinator Bee House Kind Of Day

 Yesterday, November 21st 2015 was hot, humid, and grey with clouds promising, but not delivering a rumored, and much lusted after, cold front.

We are almost to December and my datil pepper plants are still blooming ... that should not BE.

Speaking of BEES, last year, my science students built a habitat, a "bee house", for native pollinators. The plan came from the University of Florida 's website, Native Buzz. This is a great website, check it out if you are propollinator.

The kids built it, loaded it with bamboo and drilled log chunks for nesting sites, and then, contrary to my assurances ... nobody moved in.

I was perplexed about this at first, since anytime I hang a bundle of bamboo sticks under my eaves, the tiny natives find it and seal off every tube entrance within a few weeks.
(They lay their eggs and then seal the bamboo tube)

But, at school, nothing happened, even after the summer.
Hmmm, what the heck was going on?

One day, after yet another search for signs of native bee use of our school beehouse, I decided to straighten up the bamboo stacked on the house shelves.

Instantly I got bit.
Not by a native bee, they basically don't participate in such unlikable behaviors, no, the biter here was the invasive fire ant.
They poured out of the bamboo ... and suddenly the vacancy sign at the bee house made perfect sense.

Mark down yet another negative impact of the imported fire ant. Ants from a fire ant nest nearby had discovered that the bamboo tubes held food ... aka bee larvae, and had taken advantage of them.

Now I looked closer and sure enough, some of the bamboo tubes held dirt residue around the openings. So some bees had tried to use the nest tubes, but the fire ants dug through the plugs of dirt and ate their young.

A dilemma, and not one to be solved by spraying the bee house with pesticides for obvious reasons.

I've been brainstorming a few barrier ideas that involve a pesticide barrier application very low on the structure, axle grease painted on to the lowest portions, or some combination of both... along with neutralizing any fire ant nest nearby.

Me and my freshly (yesterday) installed bee house at home. It will face the same problems as the school bee house... the fire ants are firmly established here at PFHQ.

The bee house in the grand scheme of things.
The garden is a mess. 
Much of it is overgrown with St. Augustine grass and Bahia grass.

I spent much of yesterday disrupting the grasslands and hauling wheelbarrow loads of grass to the gun range where it can stabilize the earthen backstop.

At some point, tired and sweaty from grass tugging, I decided to mount our bee house. I built it months ago, but it had remained prone in the garden until the weather "cooled off ".

A close up.
The recycled fish pond behind it holds gambusia fish and anacharis, but usually is full of blue flag iris and other blooming water plants.
I cleaned them out recently after they completely took over the pond.
They are now down at the real pond, and soon I will restock this one with just a few iris, lizardtail, etc.

This is an old picture of a simple native bee nest project that can be hung from an eave or any sheltered spot.
Bamboo sticks like these will be used to fill most of the shelves in the big bee house, along with some log chunks drilled with appropriately sized holes.
I grow the bamboo here at PFHQ.

Updates on this project will occur sporadically. Input on barriers to fire ants that I haven't proposed in this post are most welcome.

BEE good y'all.