Certified pollinator friendly!

asters for bees

Runamuk Acres is now officially certified as pollinator friendly!

A passion for bugs

I couldn’t say why exactly I became so passionate about bees and pollinators–when I was younger I was like many other folks with an aversion to bugs-but I married an insect-lover who made me see that insects are beautiful in their own way.  That’s right, Keith is an amateur entomologist, with a passion for bugs that has inspired my own enthusiasm for pollinators.

Over the last decade, as I got deeper and deeper into gardening and sustainable living, I came to realize that insects were beneficial for my gardens, and that eventually spurred an inclination toward having a hive of bees to aid in the pollination of my crops.  I happened to mention this inclination in passing to a friend of the family, artist and veteran beekeeper, Lynne Harwood, and she responded by promptly gifting me a hive set up.  The following spring I installed my first colony into that hive, and was quickly consumed with bee-fever. Read more

Wildlife in the backyard

maine moose

A large part of our plan for the Runamuk farm revolve around wildlife.  In our home we love to watch the wildlife in our backyard: birds, bats, squirrels, butterflies and other insects–and so we garden with animals in mind.  After we’ve moved into our new home, I’m looking forward to increasing our efforts to invite nature to share our space.  We’ve been limited thus far because the property we live on is not our own, but soon that will all change–and we welcome it.

Meet the Needs of Wildlife

Natural habitats in many areas are already lost to urban sprawl, commercial development, and industries like logging and farming.  As a result animal populations are declining worldwide.  Recently, scientists have noticed a 40% drop in the numbers of migrating birds, and it is estimated that 30% of frog species are in trouble.  But we can help with the naturalization of our backyards.

tufted tit-mouseWild creatures have four basic needs: food, water, cover, and nesting sites.

Technically we have all of those things at our present location and so we have been able to enjoy wildlife despite being in-town.  We offer food by leaving the sunflowers in the gardens after the season has ended, there are also numerous berry-bearing shrubbery surrounding the property, as well some blueberries that were left behind after we picked over the bushes.

There is lots of brushy undergrowth about this property too, so that offers the animals cover and protection.  Some older trees with dead branches provide habitat for rearing young, as do tall grasses left uncut.

We don’t have a water source directly in the yard, but Getchell Stream and the Kennebec River are both within a stone’s throw from the house.

And  gardening without the use of harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers protects the health of the animals, ensuring that there will continue to be a thriving ecosystem in our backyard.

Enjoy and Learn More About Wildlife

mated pair of tufted tit-micetufted tit-mouse and sunflowerSome of our favorite homeschool activities have been based around our own backyard.  We’ve participated in the Audubon’s annual Backyard Bird Count, and this summer we took part in a firefly count.  The boys have learned so much from the garden, composting, and beekeeping–about insects and plant production and ecology in general.  We all share this love for nature, and at Runamuk Acres I intend to capitalize on this.

We will have a large meadow left wild for the native populous.  The grasses and weeds and wildflowers will grow up, providing habitat for insects like beetles, pollinators like bumblebees, sweat bees, wasps, butterflies, and so much more.  Birds will love the meadow, and maybe–depending on our location–we will see some deer.

Our ideal homestead will have lots of native trees and shrubs, a mixture of conifers and deciduous trees, as well as some berry-bearing trees and shrubs like the Maine-native choke-cherry, serviceberry types, and honeysuckle.  If these are not present I am prepared to plant some myself.

It would be wonderful to have a little stream running through the property, though I haven’t much hope of actually acquiring a property like that, so I will likely end up establishing some sort of water feature for the wildlife that frequents our backyard.

Keith is looking forward to constructing nesting boxes of a variety of types in his workshop–since different bird species require varying nesting conditions.  Basically we’d like to have at least one of everything–bluebird house, wren house, owl house, etc. and don’t forget the bat-house, native pollinator habitats, etc.  It will take some time to establish them all, but it will make for an amazing variety of wildlife when finished.

A picnic table in the shade at the edge of the meadow will make an attractive spot for farm-visitors.  We can use the wildlife meadow as a teaching tool with other homeschoolers and to promote agritourism, as well as for our own enjoyment.

To learn more about how you can invite wildlife into your backyard, whether you’re in-town or in a more rural location, check out these links:

How to Create a Wildlife Friendly Habitat – from the National Wildlife Federation.

Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard – a nice resource from the Missouri Conservation Dept which offers a nice planning guide for creating your backyard wildlife sanctuary.

Backyard Basics for a Wild Life Style – from Defenders of Wildlife; offers some nice tips and even more resources.

Wildlife Gaining Ground – a PDF resource from the Earthvalues Institute.

Gardening to Conserve Maine’s Native Landscapes – a publication from the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension; supplies a nice reference chart on native perennials for Mainers.

Successful first-ever meeting of Somerset beekeepers


It was originally scheduled to meet last Wednesday night, the 12th of January, but because of a messy Nor’easter last week I had to postpone the first meeting of Somerset Beekeepers to Monday, the 17th. So Monday night we all gathered at the Somerset County University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Skowhegan to establish the newest chapter of the Maine State Beekeeper’s Association.

beautiful beesThere were nine of us, including myself, my sister in-law who is my partner in beekeeping, and my beekeeping mentor. A couple of the participants had been involved in other chapters because there either was not a group established in our area, or because another chapter was closer. One of the individuals was interested in getting started with bees this year–I call these folks “wanna-be-beekeepers” (with absolutely no negative connotation implied-we like wannabees!!). Read more

Up Close and Personal With Bugs

As someone who values insects in my garden, I can personally testify to the stunning beauty of insects.

This slide-show from Planet Green will show you that once you get past all those legs, insects are not only beneficial, but gorgeous as well.

Check it out! Insects: Up Close and Really, Really Personal

Great Migrations on National Geographic Television

crabmigrationAs the Scientific Homeschool we love our science channels. We watch Mythbusters, How It’s Made, Planet Earth, Destroyed in Seconds (is that really science? or just the male desire for destruction?), Dirty Jobs, Bugging Out, Head Rush, Meteorite Men, Through the Wormhole, even “Punkin Chunkin” and more.  I even consider watching “Phineas and Ferb” on the Disney channel fair learning material, since it promotes creativity, interest-led learning, and individuality.  And I don’t feel the least bit guilty about allowing my kids to watch TV in the name of science, especially since my older son is a visual learner.  Truthfully these programs are how I justify the existence of a TV in my home (my husband was raised with television; I was not).  I draw the line at Sponge Bob, though–sorry kids, no credit there.

The first two episodes of Great Migrations aired Sunday and we saved both to the DVR for the family’s viewing pleasure; sometimes we like to watch our nature programs more than once (–okay-I like to watch them more than once!).  “Born to Move” and “Need to Breed” were entrancing, the photography was breathtaking and the films are everything I’ve come to expect of National Geographic.

This weekend the migration continues, with the “Science of Great Migrations” at 7pm on Saturday the 13th, and on Sunday the 14th “Feast or Famine” at 8pm, “Race to Survive” at 9pm, and a “Behind the Scenes” at 10pm.

A number of resources are available at the National Geographic website to accompany Great Migrations, including featured videos, slide shows, animals migratory profiles, episode scheduling, the science behind the migration and why scientists study migration.

If anyone calls me during any of the aforementioned viewing times for Great Migrations–don’t be offended if I let the answering machine take your message.  ;D

Some Other Resources to Consider:

National Geographic-the home page will lead you to all the different facets of NatGeo–including the magazine, photography, articles, teacher resources, and more.

Science Channel-videos, information regarding all the various shows and scheduling, lots of resources.

Discovery Channel-a myriad of resources, video-clips, show schedules, teacher resources, and more.

Animal Games-we’ve been playing these games at Sheppard Software quite frequently also, which make a nice accompaniment to the Great Migrations series.  I have the main page listed on our site’s links, but this will take you directly to the animal games, where you and your kids can play interactive games to learn about animal classification, producers and consumers, the food chain, herbivores, carnivores, and much more.

A Tubal for Earth Day

I did it, and I’m proud of it.

I gave the Earth the best gift I could think to give her this year for Earth Day (yes, I know I’m a little early, but she won’t mind)–I underwent Tubal Laparoscopy, in order to permanently prevent myself from incurring any other pregnancies in my life-time.

A little extreme, you think?

To me, nearly 7 Billion people on this small planet is extreme.

We have a problem with population control.

There–I said it.  It seems like no one in a political seat or position of power wants to address this “growing” problem.  And so I speak upon behalf of the Earth.  My one small voice, calling out to all the world from my small corner of cyberspace.  Please consider your position on the issue of population control.

This is a small planet.  We do not have unlimited resources, people already go hungry and homeless, and the idea of colonizing other planets to solve our problems is not something we can rely on–or should rely on (morally), for than matter.  It is time for humanity to step up and accept our responsibilities.

The folks at Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Maine, were all super nice.  I feel fortunate to have had them there for me.  My nurse was very conversational, she made me feel welcome and at ease.  The anaesthesiologist was very good looking (always appreciated!–yes, I’m married, but I appreciate good looks no matter who it is!  It’s the artist in me.) and he and a fifty-something year-old male nurse, who looked like he could have been a biker in another life, both wore bandanas that reminded me of those that bikers wear.  The whole crew were just fun and efficient, which made the frightening business of being on an operating table easier to deal with for me.

I was put out for the procedure, by my own choice, and when I woke up it was done.  After a couple of days taking it easy, I was up and going again.

I can’t tell you what a consolation it is to know that I won’t have any surprise pregnancies.  I have two children, both boys, which I am satisfied with (I have no desire to have a girl, so I guess I lucked out there!).  I don’t need more children to make me happy, and if there is ever a point in my future when I want another child for whatever reason, I know that there are many, many children all over the world, who need good homes and loving families.

For me, the  biggest reward from this whole experience, is knowing that I’ve done my part for the Earth.  In many ways, humanity has become a parasite upon her flesh, feeding off her, and if we do not correct our behaviour we are only dooming ourselves.

Laparoscopy for Tubal Sterilization