Blythe Barbo

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since May 27, 2012
Sequim, WA USA - zone 8b
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Recent posts by Blythe Barbo

I am not recommending any particular one because I haven't tried them - but if you search for Garden Journal or Gardener's Journal, some come up that might give you ideas. Personally, I am looking forward to trying out Maddy Harland's Biotime Log, which sounds like a whole lot more than just a calendar entry notebook.
7 months ago
Thank you, Maddy Harland, for this thoughtful post.  I really like the idea of keeping an individual Biotime log for the bees. I currently do that on a spreadsheet to keep track of which hives swarm and when and where they go, along with notations on weather and other conditions. It also helps me to recognize when a hive might be weakening. A Biotime Logbook would be an easier way of tracking these things.

I also really like the idea of tracking weather and different plants & animals you see. With so many changes we are experiencing in climate and extreme events, the information we take down now could be extremely valuable 10 years from now. It would also help in seeing the changes we might create, for example, by planting a grouping of shrubs and trees. I am seeing so many more birds now after planting some willows that I have sculpted into a structure of sorts.  The microclimates in our garden have definitely changed over the years, readily visible with the first frosts. Making note of the various dynamics would be a good thing to add, I would think.

Thank you for all this inspiration!
7 months ago
Have you seen those diary/notebooks that have 10 years for each day on a page? (they are available through Amazon and other outlets). That way, at a glance, you can see exactly what you did on any particular date over time. I would think 5 years would give more room for writing, and it would be easy enough to make your own. Just an idea.
7 months ago
I, too, have struggled with jumbled up messes of logbooks in which it is difficult to find the info I need. I have also gone the other extreme, noting all info in spreadsheets. I have come to the conclusion that a logbook is a tool. We have to ask ouselves, what is the purpose? to keep us on schedule or in alignment with goals? to track what we've done & other progress? a designated place to record assorted observations? a place for inspiration, sketches, ideas? Maybe even all of these things. If we provide a specific space for data, for sure, that info is easier to find. If we can keep it up, we might be surprised by the insights we gain as a result and what a beautiful book we have at the year's end. I wrote a blogpost about creating a logbook / garden journal (Barbolian Fields: Garden Journal) that throws a lot of ideas out there on what you might want to include. I created a Word template & printed copies - but ended up entering notes electronically so I could also include photos. It was very organized and kind of like filling out a form. I have to confess, though, despite good intentions that year, I once again got way too busy about mid-summer and dropped it. I have since gone back to a simple calendar diary that has enough space to briefly jot down the daily accomplishments and maybe a sentence or two about something I observed that really stood out in the day. Sometimes it is a detail - like the dew on spiderwebs that reflects the garden magic - or maybe a fact - like NW wind 30 mph. I no longer keep a to-do list in a column that gives me my marching orders; I don't need to be told when to plant peas - I just wait for the right break in the weather in early spring and go do it (besides, I have countless to-do lists on yellow scratch pads, just so I don't lay awake at night thinking about what needs to be done). I don't keep track of how many pounds of berries I picked, for example, because I don't have a market garden where that kind of accounting might be necessary and I just don't take time to weigh everything. I will, however, jot down when I planted peas & what varieties. More importantly, to me, at least - (it's my tool, after all) - I jot down when I see the first dandelions bloom; when we get a good rain (and how much); what is blooming in late summer when there is little forage for the bees, and where I see the bees congregating the most (plant more of those!); when the first light frost hits...and when we get a hard freeze that terminates the tender. The more I customize the journal to my own needs, without making it overwhelming, the more likely I am to keep it up. I like being able to carry it with me if I want to. It is interesting to look back over several years and see trends. Information might be a little harder to find in a paper version, but when it comes down to it, a logbook is a very individual thing, and the best one is the one you can actually keep.
7 months ago
I think I have been keeping a biotime log for many years, but have not called it such. Every year I try to keep a garden record of what I plant and harvest and also what is happening around me. However, every year I get bogged down in it and fail to keep it going. I think it is because I try to record too much (see my blogpost on Garden Journal - Do you have one? How to make one, and why).

I go back and forth as to where to record things: in a notebook/diary, on a regular calendar, in an electronic calendar, electronic notebook, Internet garden blog...etc. The electronic versions are much quicker for me (I am a fast typist) and easier to search for things like, "when did I plant which varieties of peas?"

I once took a Google image of our property and used it as a base layer on a drawing program on an iPad, and then on the 21st (or close) of every month in the year, I sketched the shadows of buildings and trees several times during the day in different colors and on separate layers of the program. I then combined them in a slideshow to see how they changed throughout the day. (See Barbolian Fields - Site Analysis, Solar Sector - scroll down to the bottom of the page). It made it very easy to see the dramatic changes from one equinox and solstice to the next and proved to be a very revealing exercise!

However, despite the advantages of electronics, I find myself going back to the hand-written versions. The slower pace of writing things on paper seems to bring garden observations better into focus, and I feel I spend too much time at the computer already. They are certainly more entertaining to go back and read. Perhaps what I need is 2 journals: an electronic one to be able to find something quickly - the nuts & bolts of daily tasks; and then another paper version log where I note the sitings of hummingbirds, when the first crocus blooms, the comings and goings of bees and what is available to them to eat, etc. The latter, to me, is the real connection, the place to capture the wonder of the world around me, nature's patterns and relationships. I like the idea of "Biotime Log" - a simple log of observations without the "me" factor, i.e., details on what I happen to be doing.

Perhaps both are needed together to see the entire picture? I have yet to find the perfect system and am looking forward to reading about what other people do. I would love to read Maddy Harland's new book. I am such a fan (and a great fan of Permaculture North America magazine!)
7 months ago
I agree - nectar and pollen sources in early spring and fall, when food can be scarce, are the most critical for pollinators. I, too, find that native plants are often best for these time periods for honey bees, native bees, and other pollinators.

I recently wrote a blog post about this time of summer dearth, which can be a time of real hardship for bees. (We live in Zone 8b, located on the Olympic Peninsula of WA State.)
If you'd like to read the full blogpost, go to: "The Return of the Bees and the Dreaded Dearth".  But to cut to the chase, here is a list of what we have blooming right now that are favorite hangouts:

Anise Hyssop (Agastache spp.)
Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
Beebalm / Bergamot / Monarda
Black Cohosh
Broccoli & other Brassicas that have gone to seed
Butterfly Bush
Echinacea / Coneflower
Fennel (Invasive!)
Comfrey (2nd flowering)
Joe Pye Weed
Lemon Balm
Maximilian Sunflower
Pineapple sage
Poor Man’s Orchid (Impatiens glandulifera) (Invasive!)
Queen Anne’s Lace (Invasive!)
Red Runner Beans
Russian Sage
Salad Greens that have bolted
Sweet William

Hope this is helpful! Thanks!
9 months ago
I love Jacqueline Freeman. I love her loving, common sense approach. Indeed - why would we put plastic or chemicals in our hives when our entire approach to gardening is "organic?" Does that somehow make us a threat to other bee colonies? I don't buy into the guilt trip from those who are obsessed with repeatedly "checking on things" and in the process, letting out the heat and scent, and/or providing artificial food and comb -- how very detrimentaal to the hive, as Jacqueline poignantly points out. And I liked how she said even the "Lang" method can be a natural way of beekeeping, with some modifications. This is an open-mindedness that we don't always see among beekeepers who seem so adamant about their way being the best. Personally, I have Warre hives. I rarely open them up and focus instead on providing the best forage area with as many medicinal plants for my bees as I can, especially over the dry periods, or "dearth" months when most of the plants are focused on making seed and little nectar is available. I have made mistakes. Some of my hives have not made it for a variety of reasons. So I also appreciated Jacqueline's sensitivity toward letting some hives go. It is, indeed, so very hard to accept that some won't make it, but we need to support and celebrate those that remain strong in the face of adversity. Thank you for making this available.
1 year ago

has anyone ever tried planting strawberries beneath & around blueberries?  

This thread is 3 years old, but I just stumbled across it & thought I'd share my experience with strawberries interplanted with blueberries. It did not work very well mainly because the strawberries grew like gangbusters & choked out the blues. The blueberries were small starts and just couldn't keep up with the strawberries, which I envisioned to be a nice groundcover. I first mulched everything with cardboard covered with woodchips, which provided nice habitat for voles - so between those two stressors, the blueberry plants really struggled. (In retrospect, I would not use cardboard, but I deal with a lot of quackgrass and bindweed). The strawberry plants also took over all the pathways. Seemed like I was always removing straw plants and trying to find new places for them. In fact, I am still taking them out. I planted lingonberries in between the blues instead, and it seems to be working better. Would be interested in hearing how it worked for you.
2 years ago

Jocelyn Campbell wrote:"who cares if I don't have all the things 'just so.'"

Exactly! The bees certainly don't care! As an update to my earlier post, the spiral garden with the salvaged PUD disk is completely covered with the thyme - and in full bloom, it is just covered with the bees! I can't see whether the bees are taking advantage of the water, but it's there for them. The bees loved the kiddie-pool waterer with all the duckweed earlier in the spring; now I don't see them there as much. It is in a rather shaded area beneath the willows. On the goldfish pond, though, I see them every day. I placed some moss over the rocks surrounding the pond. The moss droops into the water and acts like a sponge. The bees are all over it. Wasps come and go. Nobody seems to care. Another favorite place I see them in mid-afternoon is in some old 4-inch pots that I have in a tray; many have cuttings that I'm waiting to take hold, so I optimistically water them, but they don't look like they will make it ... and then I started noticing the bees on the surface - sometimes 6 or more at a time in one pot! I was thinking they must be getting minerals from the soil, because they prefer the old pots over any of the fresh water sources that I provide. They also like the water that drains out from the bottom. Go figure!

3 years ago
I agree with Mike Haych - the Magna Grecia hoe is an *amazing* tool. It is fantastic for loosening up hard-packed dirt, upending rocks, pulling out sod, building beds - all those rough jobs you need to do but don't want to use a tiller on or kill yourself with a shovel. In fact, it is much like a tiller - only better - it aerates the soil, doesn't create hardpan, and it doesn't chew up your worms.

My other tool of choice is the scythe. We have 3 of them and they are indespensible. They are great for cutting mulch, clearing pathways, and general "mowing" jobs. I use mine to pile the mulch up around all my shrubs and also in the orchard around the trees. I have a smaller blade for tight spaces; a longer one for the field; a stocky short one for saplings and brambles. We made a snath from a eucalyptus tree that didn't make it through one of our winters (I am in NW WA State) and a handle from a pruning on an old cherry tree. It fits my small hands perfectly and gives me a feeling of connection from the trees that continue to live through me and enhance our land. The scything is a quiet motion that is quite meditative. No animals are killed in the process.

I am just over 100 lbs and over 60 years old - so using either of these tools is really more about finesse than brute strength. We purchased them from Scythe Works ( in Victoria, B.C., Canada. Alexander Vido is a great person to work with and freely shares his knowledge and love of traditional tools. I can't recommend them enough.
3 years ago