Tag Archives: Apples

Top Ten Tips for Attracting and Supporting Native Bees

Bees, butterflies, and songbirds bring a garden to life, with their grace in movement and ephemeral beauty.   Bee and Monarch Butterfly ©Kim Smith 2012Many of the plants that are the most highly attractive to butterflies are also the most appealing to bees, too!

Bees are also a “keystone organism,” which means they are critical to maintaining the sustainability and productivity of many types of ecosystems. Without bees, most flowering plants would become extinct, and fruit and seed eating birds and mammals (such as ourselves) would have a much less healthy and varied diet.

Native bees come in an array of beautiful colors, size, and shapes. Some are as small as one eighth of an inch and others as large as one inch. They may wear striped suits of orange, red, yellow, or white, or shimmer in coats of metallic iridescene. Their names often reflect the way in which they build their nests, for example, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees, plasterer bees, digger bees, and wool carder bees.

Approximately 4,000 species of native bees have been identified north of Mexico. They are extremely efficient pollinators of tomatoes, apples, berries, pumpkins, watermelons, and many other crops.

Native Bee Pollinating Apricot Tree ©Kim Smith 2009Native Carpenter Bee and Apricot Tree

Listed below are what I have found to be the most successful tips for supporting and attracting native bees to your garden.

1). Choose plants native to North America. Over millennia, native bees have adapted to native plants. If planting a non-native plant, do not plant invasive aliens, only well-behaved ornamentals.

2). Choose non-chemical solutions to insect problems, in other words, do not use herbicides or pesticides.

3).  Choose plants that have a variety of different flowers shapes to attract a variety of bees, both long-tongued and short-tongued bees.

4). Avoid “fancy” plants, the hybrids that have been deveolped with multiple double frilly layers. This only confuses bees when they are looking for nectar and gathering pollen.

5). Provide a succession of nectar-rich and pollen bearing blooms throughout the growing season. Select plants that flower during the earliest spring, during the summer months, and until the first hard frost.

6.) Plant a clover lawn, or throw some clover seed onto your existing grass lawn to create a mixed effect.

7.) Bee Friendly–bees only sting when provoked. When encountering an angry bee, stay calm and walk away slowly.

8.) Plant lots of blue, purple, and yellow flowers, a bees favorite colors.

9). Provide a source of pesticide-free water and mud in your bee paradise.

The first nine tips are for any garden, large or small. The last is for people with larger land areas.

10).  Establish hedgerows, or clumps of native woody shrubs and trees, and wildflower fields. Contact the USDA NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Services) for available funding opportunities.

Tomorrow I’ll post our top ten native plants for attracting and supporting native bees.

Cornus alternifolia ©Kim Smith 2009One of the most elegant of all native trees is the not-widely planted Cornus alternifolia, or Pagoda Dogwood. Where ever I plant this tree of uncommon grace and beauty it becomes a magnet for all manner of bees and butterflies.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving!

Printabbey mathews apple spice  cake

Abbey Mathews is this weeks GMG Cook!

Abbey Mathews writes~ “I made Sista Felicia’s apple spice cake and it tastes amazing! It was a hit!”

Sista Felicia~ Your cake looks delicious Abbey.  Great job!  I’m happy to hear it was a big hit!

Click see more for recipe details Read more

Pick Your Own Apples at Russell’s Orchard

It’s that time of year. Joey in 2008: “Have you picked apples this year?” If you haven’t now is the time. Russell’s Orchard in Essex (Follow signs for Crane’s Beach) has trees loaded with crispy tasty apples that just taste ten times better than apples that have been sitting around in a grocery store. You think Gaia are flavorful? Taste one right off the tree.

If you have small children who need to pick their own pumpkin, take a hayride out to the fields, eat cider donuts fresh out of the machine, or pet a bunny you need to go next weekend to Russell’s Orchard. Click here for how Pick your Own. Hayrides are thrown in free on the weekends.

Find them on Facebook.

If you are an old curmudgeon who thinks a hayride is just for kids think again. The tractor drivers are comedians.

I take this guy’s photo and as he pulls even with me, “Hope my face didn’t break your camera!”

Go early on the weekend as this is very popular although Russell’s is set up to handle a crowd. Plenty of parking and plenty of stuff to do. I didn’t even make it to the winery. This time. Meanwhile I have homemade apple crisp with vanilla ice cream on the menu this week. 298 days until the Blackburn Challenge. Plenty of time to fit into the kayak.

Open 9-5 every day. You miss out on the hayride if you go during the week.

Did you know…..its National Pi Day! Get it??? 3.14

Yikes….

It is just a good excuse to give you my apple pie recipe………..with a disclaimer.

This is the way I make apple pie.  You can change up/add/subtract other spices if you want to, add more sugar or less sugar, add citrus juice, zest, whatever you want but this is the way I like it.  I have not won any big awards with this recipe but it works for me!

For the crust:
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup butter flavored shortening
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:
10 cups tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons heavy cream, divided
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Decoration:
1 additional pie crust for decorative accents (optional)
1 egg yolk (optional)

Using your favorite combining method, make your crust and divide in half.  Wrap and refrigerate halves until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine apples, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt, vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons heavy cream and stir gently until apples are coated.

Roll out one crust and place into a glass pie pan.

Layer coated apples into pie crust. Roll out second crust and place over apples.  Seal edge and flute.  Cut slits in several places in top crust. If desired roll out third crust and cut decorative shapes to enhance the pies appearance.  Use egg yolk as “glue” to adhere decorations to top crust.  Brush top crust with remaining heavy cream, sprinkle with granulated sugar and place pie in preheated oven.

Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown. After 40 minutes of baking time, cover crust edge with strips of foil to prevent excessive browning.

Apples From Russell Orchards

Have you picked apples this year?

I don’t know what happened to supermarket apples, but they don’t have one tenth of the flavor as the one’s that you pick at the orchards.  The Mrs hasn’t made apple crisp yet, but I’m craving it- with some vanilla bean ice cream!

Apples From Russell Orchards, originally uploaded by captjoe06.