Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dr. Mark Winston is giving a lecture at Douglas College on Wed., April 2!!!!!!!

 Heads Up!

From the Douglas College Website:

Dr. Mark Winston, Director of Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, presents HOW DO WE KNOW?  Scientific information and public policy: GMOs, pesticides and the demise of bees on Wednesday, April 2, 1-2:30pm, Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, (Douglas College, New Westminster) Reception to follow.  Join Dr. Winston as he probes these connected issues and illuminates a way forward for science to more effectively contribute to public discourse.

Douglas College is 1 block north of the New Westminster sky train station.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sign Up for Our Workshop at UBC Farm: Healing Hedgrows for Humans and Bees

Healing Hedgerows for Humans and Bees: Seasonal wild foraging

Join the Artist Madame Beespeaker and Contemporary Herbalist Lori Snyder for a tour of the Agroforestry hedgerows of UBC Farm followed by hands on experience making simple home remedies from hedgerow plants. Madame Beespeaker will talk about the ways hedgerows can provide a solution to supporting the health of honeybees as well as providing habitat for our precious native bees. Lori Snyder will show you how to forage for seasonal wild edibles and make herbal teas, healing foot soaks and salves from hedgerow plants.

Sample herbal teas foraged from plants that grow abundantly around us like gingko biloba, peppermint, fresh strawberry leaf, uva ursi or blackberry leaf
Foot Soaks: treating your feet with external medicine can be an effective way of removing toxins from the body and re-invigorating your health
Salves: Beeswax melted into oils infused with hedgerow herbs can make balms to treat rashes, bruises, and muscular aches and pains
Taste:  Learn to forage for wild greens and experience their exotic flavours along with all the goodness they contain

What to bring & what you'll take home!
Bring along some raw honey and see what we might find to infuse into.  Time permitting, learn to make your own hydrosols. Attendees will take homea mind-map handout and their own infused honey.

The Presenters:
Madame Beespeaker aka Lori Weidenhammer is a an eco-artist with a passion for bees, birds and the plants that support them. 
Lori Snyder has been working with herbal medicines and wild foods for several years and she just completed her training as a professional chef.

Date: April 29
Location:  UBC Farm Centre
3461 Ross Drive
Vancouver BC

Really Important Park Board Meeting this Monday: Green Space Issues and Pollinator Proposal

Head up folks!

This Monday ( March 31) two very important topics are being discussed: the proposal for no net loss of green space and a proposal to use park space and staff expertise to create enhanced pollinator habitat.

I'll write more on these topics but I just wanted to let you know that if these issues are dear to your heart you can read the  relevant info and sign up to speak at the meetings to show your support for our bees! (The link is here.)

Highlights from Park Board Commissioner Niki Sharma's Pollinator Project Proposal:
Staff be directed to work with the VanDusen Botanical Garden
Association, Environmental Youth Alliance, Hives for Humanity and
other groups to develop a brand for promoting pollinators across the
city in spring 2014. 
Staff be directed to begin to test methods in 2014 for enhancing
pollinators in parks such as creating unmowed meadows, planting
flowering trees and shrubs, using more native plants in park planting,
and restoring overwintering habitats. 
Staff be directed to work with other City departments to enhance
pollinators in streets and development sites.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The UNIBUG Forum is this Weekend Featuring a Talk by Dr. Elle on Wild Pollinators


Dr. Elle will be speaking at Douglas College Institute of Urban Ecology as part of the 2014  UNIBUG forum:

This Saturday: March 29

10 am-12 pm

From the Douglas College website:

Douglas College is launching a new research initiative that explores the activity of bees and other pollinators in home and community gardens. The official launch takes place during the 3rd-annual UNIBUG (User Network for Insect Biology in the Urban Garden) forum, a free public event on March 29.

For the study, the college's UNIBUG project is working with community volunteers who will place small bee houses in their gardens to attract the insects. From spring to fall, the volunteers will periodically monitor insect activity in order to improve understanding about wild pollinator populations in the region.

The UNIBUG forum will also feature a talk from Elizabeth Elle, a pollination ecologist from Simon Fraser University. In light of bee population declines around the world, Elle will discuss the diversity of wild pollinators, their role in plant reproduction, and how gardens can help them survive and thrive. Another highlight of the forum will be a workshop on how to build bee houses for use in home gardens.

The forum takes place on Saturday, March 29 from 10am-12pm in room 2201 on the Douglas College New Westminster campus (700 Royal Ave., New Westminster). For more information about the Institute of Urban Ecology or the UNIBUG project, visit

New Westminster Campus
Room 2201, 700 Royal Ave.
1 block from New West Train Station

Check out the Facebook Page here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Birder's Guide to Everything

Here's a trailer for a new movie about birding teens. I can't wait to see it and I'm really excited about our thirteen year old son seeing it. Adventure, romance and birds . . . le sigh.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Victoria Seed Libary is Up and Running!

Madame Beespeaker recently travelled to Victoria BC to do some reconnaisance work on seed libraries. The central library in Victoria hosts a seed library open twice a month. Folks that want to "borrow" seeds must take a workshop to learn how the program works. I was excited to see the program up and running, so when I entered the library I was delighted to see a table with three smiling young people at and a big old tub of seeds to share. "Do you call yourselves seed librarians?" I asked. "Well, no, we prefer seed 'custodians,'" one gentleman replied. "We're starting with open pollinated and self-pollinating seeds," one woman explained. They've been donated by local farmers, including several mason jars full of all kinds of intriguing bean varieties. At an orientation session, potential seed library members learn what is expected of them and sign an agreement, committing them to saving and sharing seeds from their successful crops. During seed library hours, members can come in and sign out packets of seeds. They only need to take as many as they have room to grow. Gardeners can take home tips on the specific varieties of beans they are growing provided on the information sheets compiled by volunteers from The Lifecycles Project Society who have created this project in partnership with The Victoria Public Library. Members can sign out up to six varieties of seed at one time and they need to record their observation on plant observation forms for each variety. The Victoria Seed library rotates to several branches with the opening times on the library website.

Their colourful brochure contains a quote from Navdanya, food security activist Vanadan Shiva's seed sovereignty organization: "Seed is the storage place of culture." These new seed libraries are a fascinating way to share gardening literacy and culture in the growing movement to reclaim the victory garden spirit. I asked one volunteer how she got interested in becoming a seed library custodian. "I felt like I wanted something to fill my weekends with and I found out about this program on an online volunteer board," she said. She clearly enjoys sharing her enthusiasm with seeds with Victoria's gardening community, which has a strong reputation for local food security activism. When I went to a local garden store to buy seeds, many of the varieties had already been sold out in mid March.

In the fall, when members have successfully saved seeds, they are expected to bring some back in a container and transfer them to seed library envelopes. They will file their completed plant observation forms and note any new seeds they contribute. New seeds must be open pollinated and/or self fertile, for example tomato, lettuce, peas, beans, onions, herbs and flowers). Anything that needs to be caged to prevent undesirable outcrossing is verboten: ie carrots, and cucurbits. These are plants that require advanced seed saving skills to prevent unpalatable fruits that waste the gardener's time and space.

What do you imagine a seed library could look like? Village Vancouver has started creating seed libraries here in Vancouver and I will be working with the Moberly Arts and Cultural Centre to form our own version. I can't wait to create a seed librarian costume!!!!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Trio of Early Spring Bee Flowers with White Blossoms

 This weekend I was lucky to be able to visit the HCP : Horticulture Centre of the Pacific on Vancouver Island. We had a lovely brunch at the Nourish cafĂ© and then I took a quick stroll through the gardens. I discovered a couple of sweet early bee plants: a winter-blooming honeysuckle that attracts bees and hummingbirds called Lonicera standishii. It is originally from China and the corolla is short enough to provide nectar to early-emerging bees. (Be advised it can be invasive in some conditions.)

This fragrant Clematis armandii aka Old Man's Beard or Armand clematis was blooming profusely. I was very glad to see was a also lot of Indian plum (Oemleria cerasiformis) blooming along the roadsides, an important native source of nectar for orchard mason bees. These three plants would make enchanting additions to a white bee garden.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Buy Local B.C. Seeds!

Madame Beespeaker is in Victoria for some research and recreation and I am hitting the garden stores to find many seed varieties sold out! Folks, this is the time to buy all the seeds you need and I want to urge you to buy seeds grown by producers here in B.C. Seed saving is incredibly laborious, time consuming and risky work that requires a ton of experience and knowledge. Let's support our local seed producers. There's a list on the Farm Folk/City Folk website here. Ordering seeds online is a breeze and I know from experience that Dan Jason from Salt Spring Seeds sends them to you promptly so you can get growing ASAP!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

First Bumblebee Queen Sighting of 2014

Doesn't winter leave you hungry for color?
Doesn't it make you thankful for all those sweet gardeners who planted crocuses for the bees?

Just as I was wondering if there really is pollen in these crocuses, a bumblebee queen emerged with the answer to my question covering her head and thorax. Pollen? Affirmative! The rhododendrons are starting to bloom, along with pieris japonica and lungwort. Our local pussywillows should be just about to produce pollen. I saw lots of flower buds on my gingko walk today: plum, japonica, red flowering currant, and forsythia. Those crocuses are going to fade quickly and new buds on the block about to break out in bloom, so make sure you get outside and enjoy every bit of it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Happy Bee for a Dreadfully Rainy Day

Here's a beautiful bee one of the students in my classes made. Something to cheer you up on a wet, grey day.

Also, some topics to chew on:

Do we really need more honeybee keepers? Or do we need more ecologists, non-apis advocates and bee gardeners instead? Take the Pollinator Challenge at Honeybee Suite.

Are honeybees really native to the British Isles or were they imported by ancient beekeepers? Jeff Ollerton raises some provocative questions.

Are honeybee diseases spreading to other bee populations?  BBC News

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bee School with Brian Campbell Starts Next Week!!!

If you are interested in learning about beekeeping, check out Brian Campbell's Bee School:

"The Bee School Certificate Program is the first in British Columbia to offer a comprehensive program in sustainable small-scale organic and urban beekeeping.  With equal emphasis on hands on learning and classroom instruction the goal of the program is to teach best practices to beginners, to reinvigorate experienced beekeepers, to offer opportunities and experiences to take hive management and practices to higher levels."

Brian is a warm, funny teacher with a deep respect for the healthy and welfare of honeybees and native bees. He is also very respectful of humans, which makes him a valued mentor in our community. Brian has also been a tireless worker in the food security community and he has a deep knowledge of seeds, fruit trees, mason bees, bumblebees and of course, honeybees.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Do You Have a Lawn Fetish? It's Time for an Intervention

I was very pleased to see a wonderful post on the North American Obsession with the monoculture lawn here at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. I am in the process of digging up my lawn to plant bee forage which has been quite challenging, so I'm always looking for good tips. Then I watched the new documentary called Gimme Green by Isaac Brown and Eric Reed which is a scathing critique of the "perfect lawn" and I must admit the pro-lawn folks made me feel quite sick to my stomach, especially the dude who was a little bit too attached to his lawn--it definitely has become his fetish. Let's face it people, the suburban lawn is an American pathology and it's time we sought treatment.

Speaking of lawns, I saw the first open dandelion last Thursday on a south-facing boulevard. Even though we had a snow on March 1st, it won't be long until the lawns are sprouting daisies and clover. Go weeds go!

I also witnessed another beautiful sign of spring when I watched a male and female flicker perform a mating ritual atop a power pole on our street.

flickers air-kissing
nod, curtsey, bow and repeat
the woodpecker's waltz