Archive for the ‘Creatures’ Category

The Bug Hotel: Free City Accommodation!

In Creatures, Improvements on October 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm


This Wildlife Stack, or Bug Hotel, consists of recycled construction materials like wooden pallets and perforated bricks combined with natural materials to create various habitat opportunities for invertebrates. An ad in the bug classifieds would read: “accommodation free on a first come first served basis, extended family occupation encouraged, utilities included; located amidst 1 acre of private gardens, with gated entry, and a garden penthouse on the roof!”

“Rooms” include natural habitat like hollow phragmites reeds (ideal for pollinators like orchard mason bees, Osmia lignaria and O. cornifrons), straw, earth-packed perforated and cellular bricks, broken clay pots, sphagnum moss, bamboo, panicum grass stems (winter habitat for the beneficial minute pirate bug Orius insidiosus), stacked pine and maple bark, spruce cones, pine needles, stones and gravel, oak and maple leaves (for overwintering ladybugs), and even recycled inverted tactile pavers at the ground level which make this hotel ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant for blind or visually impaired bugs like ground beetles and earthworms!

Wildlife Stack The Wildlife Trusts UK“Wildlife Stack”, The Wildlife Trusts, UK

Insect Hotel at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust Jersey“Insect Hotel” at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Jersey

Insect Condo in Scotland“Insect Condo” in Scotland

my initial salvage for a bug pallet stack hotelour initial salvage ~ ironically (see the Open Letter to the DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development on our main page), these materials, including wooden palettes, iron gratings, and various pieces of fencing, nails, and wire, were all salvaged from the ongoing gentrification in our community…

initial construction 1initial construction ~ hollow phragmites reeds, straw, earth-packed perforated and cellular bricks, broken clay pots, sphagnum moss, bamboo, panicum grass stems, oak and maple bark, spruce cones ~ two more storeys to go and then the “roof”…

initial construction 2“this building under construction”, three out of five storeys completed…

initial construction 4th storeyfourth storey underway…

initial construction ADAand now we are ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant ~ as required by DC law for all pedestrian crossings, we salvaged inverted tactile pavers from the road renovation on K St to place in our Bug Hotel at the ground level for the blind or visually impaired invertebrates…

initial construction 5th storeythe fifth and final storey including stacked pine bark, sphagnum moss, pine straw, and perforated bricks holding packed earth ~ next up, the penthouse garden…

finish 2and finally, as of April 2013, the penthouse garden which will be planted with various sedum salvaged from the new NPR building greenroof project on North Capitol St.


New Entry: the Bug Hotel with penthouse garden compete (and now some solitary bee spp. already moved in!), October 2013



The Third Gender

In Creatures on May 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

worm farm

“without the work of this humble creature who knows nothing of the benefits he confers upon mankind, agriculture, as we know it, would be very difficult, if not wholly impossible” (Charles Darwin)

Eisenia fetida, known under various common names such as redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, and red wiggler, is a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. These worms thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure. At The Farm at Walker Jones we raise these worms to produce vermicasts which is the end-process of the breakdown of organic matter by these worms which acts as a super fertiliser. We either add the vermicompost directly to our crop rows, or use it as our potting soil for germinating our seedlings.

As with other earthworm species, Eisenia fetida is hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female sexual organs however two worms are still required for reproduction. The two worms join clitellums, the large orangeish bands which contain the worms’ reproductive organs, and which are only visible during the reproduction process. The two worms exchange sperm. Both worms then secrete cocoons which contain several eggs each. These cocoons are lemon-shaped and are pale yellow at first, becoming more brownish as the worms inside become mature. It takes about two weeks for the up to 12 young to emerge.

For the Birds

In Creatures on June 28, 2011 at 10:58 pm

While some gardeners would prefer not to see so many birds in their well-tended spaces, we welcome our fine-feathered friends to the farm. As we tell the kids, they eat weed seed (less work for you, kids!) and certain insects that could potentially wreak a little havoc with our plant life. And perhaps most importantly, they are pretty. Lest our young urban dwellers start to think that pigeons are the only birds around, we encourage them to notice and maybe even identify the birds they see on the farm.

The winsome creation you see above is the first of what we hope will be many birdhouses on the farm. Our farm operations director, Sarah, picked this one up in Berkeley, California a little while back at an inspiring place called Berkeley Rustic Birdhouses. Where recycled materials become new digs for birds.

The website is a treasure trove of beauties where the difficulty of choosing just one may drive you to distraction. So hard to pick a favorite with choices like this lovely below.

But we will not be buying all the birdhouses we envision for the farm. Our hope is that come fall when the kids come back to school, we can challenge our students to design and build birdhouses of their own, composed of recycled materials that we offer them. Can’t wait to see what our creative and energetic bunch dream up.