What Do These Bees Know?

Well, we didn’t get our first frost the other night, but we will most certainly see one this Thursday night–if not a freeze.

When I went outside to do my chores today, I couldn’t help but notice the mason bees were everywhere.  They were on every flower, sometimes more than one to a flower, having a big knockdown drag-out trying to get the last bits of pollen and nectar before the flowers are all gone.  I’ve never seen so many mason bees before!


What do these mason bees know that we don’t know?

There were four fighting over this dahlia.  (I did get to enjoy a few more, by the way!)

And four more on this one!  The little bee at the bottom didn’t stand a chance against these big guys.


Here’s a moth trying to get in on the action…

There were hundreds of them on my morning glories.

Even in the withered ones!

I have always had flowers wherever I lived, but I have only been a serious gardener for about 7 or 8 years now.  Never have I seen them like this.

According to the mason bees, I’d say we’re in for another long winter.

Which reminds me, I need to take the honey bees some more sugar-water tomorrow.  My buckwheat is finally ready to bloom, but it will not make it after tomorrow’s frost.  The bees did not get the benefit of it, which really bums me out.  I should have either planted it a couple of weeks earlier or perhaps if I had watered it well during this recent dry spell it would have made it in time.

Well, the hornet’s nests say we’ll have a big, snowy winter.

And the wooly bear caterpillars say we’ll have a never-ending winter.  Ha.  (You really can’t trust the wooly bears.  They like to play practical jokes.)

In addition to the asian lady beetles swarming against the south-side of my house on these recent warm afternoons, there have also been dozens of dang-blasted wasps trying to get inside.  I am allergic to wasps and don’t want to share my living quarters with them this winter.

The spiders have also been bad.  We sprayed for them this year and I have still seen a few in the basement.  Normally we don’t like to spray because of the young’n and the doggies, but after my daughter found a giant wolf spider in her bathtub and nearly clobbered herself trying to get out of there in a big, wet, slippery hurry, we decided it was probably a good idea.

So, if the old wives tales have it right, we will have another hard winter this year.  Last year was one of the snowiest winters we’ve had here in West Virginia that I can recall since I was a kid.

What ill portents have you noticed this fall?  Do you think we’re in for it?  Either way, I’m stocking up!


SeedsNTrades Shareware

I have a lot of trouble keeping myself organized these days now that my toddler is hitting her full stride.  We have been cooped up in this house together for several weeks between the bitter cold, snow and now the inevitable winter sickness.  The knowledge that Spring is literally just around the corner (33 days from today) keeps me sane.  It’s the goal-line I am pressing toward.  I spend a lot of my free time each day working on my plans for this year’s garden.  I like to have all my ducks in a row before I start.

Today I want to pass on some very helpful software that I was introduced to this winter by a friend on a gardening forum I frequent.  It is called SeedsNTrades and it is a wonderfully simple program that will help you get your seed stash organized.  It is geared mainly toward tomatoes, but you can use it for all of your seeds.  It will help you keep inventory on what you have, what you intend to plant, what you are trading off/receiving, detailed information for each variety and more.  I have three 1-gallon Ziploc bags full of seeds, so I have really gotten a lot of benefit out of SeedsNTrades.

Here are a few screen shots to show you what it does.

This is your main screen when you start the program where you select to enter either the trade info database or the seed inventory database.

SeedsNTrades Main Screen

The following is a screen shot of the details I entered for my Cherokee Purple tomato seeds.  As you can see, it stores quite a bit of information about the plant and you can even insert a picture if you like.  You can enter multiple seeds sources with the specific seed age and quantity for each.  Be sure to check the box if it is for planting or trade.  This will be necessary when you go to create and print lists later.  I like that I can quickly pull a trade list without having to dig through my bags of seed to see how much I have of what.  The planting list is nice to have for various reasons.  I can see what I have and what I still need to buy.  I can see if I have several varieties of a bean, pepper or tomato and plan ahead for where I want to place them in my garden plan, especially for things that need spaced out to prevent cross-pollination should I intend to save seed from them to trade later.

Seed entry example, tomato

Although the fields are geared more toward tomatoes, you can also enter all of your other types of seeds.  The database will store them in alphabetical order, so it is best to begin the listing with the plant type (ie. Bean), then follow it with the variety (ie. Bean, Kentucky Wonder).  This way, when you go to print your lists, all of your Beans will be listed together.  Tomatoes, Peppers, Lettuce, Squash, Cosmos, Marigolds, so on and so forth.  Lists can either be sent directly to your printer or to a text file which you will find located under the SeedsNTrades program folder on your computer.

Other seeds, besides tomatoes

Here is a screenshot of the trade tracker entry screen.  Here you can store contact information and list what you are sending and receiving and whether or not it has been sent or arrived.  I’ve just started using the trade side of things.  It will be very helpful if you make a lot of trades (perhaps on different forums) and will help you keep straight what you have committed to send out or what you are still waiting to receive in the mail.

Trade listing

SeedsNTrades free software is available, along with three other similar programs by the same author, via a tomato lover’s forum called Tomatoville.  If you join the forum, you can download it there.  Or you can download it from me here.  It is a small file, only about 6 MB.  You will need to save it to your Downloads folder and extract it to your Programs folder using a Zip utility.  I use jZip, which is completely free with no hassle.

It is very important that you open and read the Readme file (located in the SeedsNTrades folder once you’ve extracted the program).  Instructions on how to use the software are there.  If you just jump in and start playing with it, you are likely to have a few error messages and possibly crash the program.  The Readme file will show you how to use the program properly and explain all that it can do, more so than I have explained here.


SeedsNTrades Software is Copyright (C) 2009 — by Ted Maiden.  All Rights Reserved.  It is written in Visual Basic Version 5.0 and is 100% new code.  The databases are in Access Version 2.0.  Some reports are in Crystal Reports Version 4.6.1.  This program is uncrippled Shareware and can be distributed freely as long as it is unmodified.  It cannot be sold for profit by anyone for any reason.  For questions about its operation, the availability of its source code, or other inquiries, send an email to tedmaiden@aol.com.

If you like the software, be sure to email the author and let him know you appreciate his work.  If you have any trouble downloading or installing it from me here, just drop me a comment and I will try to help you out.  I hope you find SeedsNTrades as valuable a planning and organization tool as I do.

Winter downtime

Can you feel it?  Spring is coming!  Yeah, my father-in-law used to tell me I was crazy too.  But no, seriously, now is the time to be thinking about Spring.  If you don’t start planning now, you’ll be way behind time May rolls around!

I have finally come out of recovery mode following Christmas and New Year’s and now I am ready to move on to bigger and better things.  The seed catalogs are pouring in and I have a stack nearly a 1/2 foot high that I have barely had time to go through.  But before I get all starry eyed and overwhelm myself with endless gardening possibilities (and monetary impossibilities), I better sit down and take stock of what I want and need to plant and what I already have in my seed stash.

January is the time for getting your seed orders in.  If you plan to start your own plants like broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers and bedding/container flowers, February and March will be here before you know it.  I am also hearing a lot of buzz this year about getting those seed orders in early because of an anticipated high demand.  There are many newcomers to home gardening now because of rising food costs, health-consciousness regarding how our food is grown and environmental concerns over how far out-of-season crops are shipped.  If you procrastinate too long, you may have difficulty finding the varieties you want.

I am currently finalizing what all I want to plant and consulting my West Virginia University ag extension service gardening calendar for indoor/outdoor planting times.  Next I will consider the layout of my 2500 square foot garden.  This year I plan to do a variation on the traditional row system and divide my garden into 4 sections, which will make it easier for me to manage my crop rotation for disease prevention.  One quadrant I plan to plant entirely with June-bearing strawberries.  The other 3 will be rotated with vegetable crops.

One thing I took note of last year as I did more canning than ever before was that I really need to examine my canning recipes and plant for all the ingredients involved.  At $2.89 for a seasoning packet, it becomes really costly to can 40 quarts of spaghetti sauce.  I can easily grow all the herbs I need if I plan for them ahead of time.

If it weren’t for full color garden catalogs, I do believe I would lose my mind on these gray January days. These are a few of my favorite catalogs with links to their websites to receive a free catalog in the mail.

Well, I just happened to look out my window and spotted a male blue bird on my curly willow. A definite sign that Spring is on its way! As I watch the cold, drizzling rain coming down outside there is nothing more uplifting than dreaming of the upcoming garden season and the lush abundance of things I plan to grow. I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt!

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