The Struggle To Keep Our Bees. What Is Really Happening To Honeybee Hives?

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Our two honeybee hives at the farm provide us with so much more than just incredible honey. They also help to pollinate many of the fruit trees, vegetable crops and flowers in our garden and landscape. In addition, they are simply

The post The Struggle To Keep Our Bees. What Is Really Happening To Honeybee Hives? appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.

4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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Birds are spectacular creatures — full of grace and elegance, truly creatures of beauty that God placed on the earth for our enjoyment and to showcase His magnificence.

Ever since I was a small child, I have loved to watch birds as they battle against the wind, climbing almost out of sight and return moments later to snatch some seed from a feeder or rest upon an outstretched tree branch to sing a song of joy.

Birds just seem happy — unencumbered and unbothered by changes in temperature, light or season. They make me and millions of other people happy as they put on shows of color and poise in our gardens or along our windowsills.

Besides their tremendous entertainment value, birds do serve a number of purposes, which makes attracting them to your yard that much more important. Birds provide:

Pest control. A great number of birds enjoy dining on insects such as aphids, spiders, mosquitoes and other bugs that we don’t really want hanging about our yard. Attracting birds will keep these insect populations under control.

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Pollination. Birds such as hummingbirds, orioles and others sip the nectar from flowers and play an important role in pollination. Without pollination we would not have thriving gardens.

Weed control. Some birds such as sparrows, finches and towhees can be very helpful when it comes to controlling unwanted plants in your landscape.

Education. Besides entertainment, watching birds in your backyard gives an upfront chance to study local wildlife. This is a wonderful experience for the whole family and makes for a very worthwhile nature study.

4 Ways To Attract Beneficial Birds To Your Homestead

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Conservation. As more and more habitats are being disrupted from development and human intrusion, birds, like other animals, need places to land. This is equally important for local birds as well as those that are migrating.

So, for whatever reason you see fit, here are some ways that you can attract more of these amazing creatures to your yard:

1. Food. In order to attract a wide variety of wild birds to your yard, it is imperative that you offer a diverse buffet of seeds, suet, nectar and other fitting treats. To know which type of food to offer, it is first important to learn about which kind of birds are in your area and which birds might stop during their migratory flight. A variety of feeders are also important — platforms, suet feeders, hanging feeders, etc. – in order to attract a wide variety of birds to your yard. Confused about foods? Then check out this North American bird feeding chart.

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2. Water. Many people may offer a variety of food but forget about water. Water is essential for birds just like it is for humans. Birds prefer moving water, but just about any water source often works. Install a moving water feature or even a bird bath, and watch the birds flock to your yard. Be sure to keep your water source clean and in good repair for best results

3. Shelter. Birds need a place to get away from predators and foul weather and a spot to birth and care for their young. Plant native bushes and trees, and put up birdhouses and nesting boxes according to the type of birds in your area.

4. Habitat. It is imperative that you create a welcoming habitat for birds if you desire to attract a variety to your yard. This will include trees, shrubs, grasses and plants. Native plantings are always best. Do research on what types of plants are native to your location before planting. The more you can mimic what is found in the wild, the more the birds will feel at home.

Have fun with your bird visitors!

What is your advice for attracting birds? Share it in the section below:

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Grow Your Own Apples: 9 Varieties That Homesteaders Simply Love

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9 Apple Varieties Homesteaders Simply Love

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Lots of homesteaders grow their own apples, but many people choose not to do so because they don’t understand which varieties of apples will grow best on their property.

There are several things to learn before you choose which variety to grow. You will need to consider your Zone, which will tell you what plants will grow best in your immediate area. You also need to consider whether or not he variety you pick is self-pollinating – and whether there is space available.

So let’s look at hardiness zones first.

Generally, if you choose a tree that is termed “hardy,” then it will grow best in Zones 3 through 5. However, if your chosen tree is termed “long-season,” then it will grow best in Zones 5 through 8.

Once you know what Zone you are in, you are ready to choose your variety. Following are nine of the most popular apple varieties in the US:

1. Red Delicious

  • Originally called the Hawkeye, this is the most popular of all the US apple varieties.
  • Having been bred for long shelf-life and being “pretty,” the flavor has pretty much been cultivated out of this variety.
  • The skin is thick, the flesh has a single note of sweetness that is not at all “apple-y” and the texture is quite crumbly.
  • These apples grow in just about every Zone in the US except for the tundral and the more equatorial regions.
  • Despite their popularity these apples are used more for animal feed than for baking or canning.

2. McIntosh

  • Similar to what you expect when biting into a Red Delicious.
  • The skin is soft as is the flesh, and the flavor strikes a level balance between sweet and acidic.
  • This variety grows well in Zones 3, 4 and the upper regions of 5.
  • They are best eaten raw, in fruit salad, or made into apple sauce, apple butter, or for juicing and making cider.

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3. Golden (Yellow) Delicious

  • No relation to the Red Delicious.
  • Usually the least expensive apple sold at grocery stores and is considered an all-purpose apple.
  • The flesh is juicy, the skin is thin but the flavor is similar to the Red Delicious in that there isn’t a lot of apple flavor there.
  • This variety grows well in most regions of the country.
  • These apples are good eaten raw, chopped into salads or baked into desserts.
9 Apple Varieties Homesteaders Simply Love

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4. Gala

  • This is a New Zealand breed that has grown in popularity in the US over the last 15 years.
  • It is a cross between a Kidd’s Orange Red and a Golden Delicious.
  • The skin is thin with a pinkish-orange striping over a gold base.
  • The flesh is crisp, fragrant and fairly sweet.
  • It grows well in Zones 4 through 8.
  • It is best enjoyed raw, in salads or for making juice and cider.

5. Granny Smith

  • Neon green and fairly small considering its girth. Probably the most easily recognized of all the apple varieties.
  • Originally cultivated in Australia, it grows well in Zones 7 through 9 in the US.
  • If you like tart, then this is the apple for you. The juicy flesh is crisp and it will sweeten when it is stored for a while.
  • These apples are best raw, in pies or in salads where the tartness can be offset by other ingredients.
  • Granny Smith apples work very well with nut butters. This is the go-to apple if you want apples with peanut butter.

6. Fuji

  • This apple was created in Japan and is a cross between two American varieties: Red Delicious and Ralls Genet.
  • It is dense and crisp. It is considered the sweetest of all apple varieties.
  • This apple grows best in Zones 5 through 7.
  • Best enjoyed raw, chopped in salads or baked into pies.

7. Braeburn

  • Braeburns were discovered rather than bred in New Zealand. It is thought that it is a cross between the Lady Hamilton and the Granny Smith.
  • These apples boast the textbook apple flavor and balance the sweet and tart expected from a good apple. Many consumers say there are faint notes of nutmeg and cinnamon in the flavor profile as well.
  • It grows best in Zones 6 through 9.
  • These are excellent raw but they are highly regarded as one of the absolute best baking apples since they release very little juice during baking.
9 Apple Varieties Homesteaders Simply Love

Image source: Pixabay.com

8. Honey Crisp

  • This apple was developed for a line of cold-weather apples. It is the official state fruit of Minnesota.
  • The overall flavor profile is more sweet than tart. It is also juicy and moderately crunchy.
  • These apples grow best in the region they were bred for: Zones 3 and 4.
  • Known to be hardy and versatile, these apples are good for just about anything.

9. Empire

  • This cross between Red Delicious and McIntosh was introduced in New York in the 1960s.
  • It blends the sweetness of the Red Delicious with the tartness of the McIntosh.
  • Considered a crisp, juicy everyman’s apple.
  • Grows best in Zones 3 through 5.
  • Best enjoyed raw, chopped into salads and cooks better than most, so they will make really good apple sauce, butter and chutney.

Did you pick your variety? The next step is to do some extra research on your particular choice to determine the blooming overlap time and whether or not your variety is capable of self-pollination. This website has a great deal of good information on those two topics, as well as many others you might find of interest when building your own orchard.

If you are considering putting in an orchard, you will want to plant the trees about 15 feet apart to allow for spreading branches as the trees mature. However, if you only want a few trees on your property, then they will still get pollinated if you keep them within 50 to 100 yards of each other. The closer they are, the easier it is for the bees to find and visit both trees during the pollination time.

Which is your favorite apple variety? Which grows best where you live? Share your advice in the section below:  

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