Japanese Knotweed - Lime Bars and Native Mason Bee Housing - A Primer on this Ubiquitous Weed

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese Knotweed Lime Bars

Japanese Knotweed utilized as part of a Mason Bee House

I just love utilizing invasive non-native plants.  I can feel good about harvesting them because I know it helps other plants that are native and/or not invasive by keeping down the growth and spread of the invasive AND I know I won't hurt the plant's ability to survive (try as I might). In some instances, like Garlic Mustard, you just can't eradicate it even if you want to.

Up Close

It's that time of year when Japanese Knotweed Polygonum cuspidatum sends up it's new stalks from the Earth.  These can be eaten like Asparagus, though they also work well in deserts, and have a lemony type flavor, as we shall see...
The roots are used medicinally and are called Hu Zhang in TCM; they have been used for an assortment of issues such as cancer, cystitis, Lyme, and traumatic injury (see a qualified practitioner for this).

To make this delectable desert:

Harvest the stalks before they have done much leafing out, remove any leaves and the very top where the leaves are forming (these can be added to an omelette or the like); chop the remaining stalks up into small pieces.  You want about 4 cups of chopped stalks, a little more or less is fine.

Leaves and tops to use for another dish.

Chopping into small pieces.

Splitting the larger ones lengthwise before chopping.

Preheat oven to 350.  For the bottom layer:  melt a stick of butter in an 8" x 8" pan, once melted mix directly in the pan with the butter:  one cup of whole wheat pastry flour and one cup of raw cane sugar.  I like to use all organic ingredients so I'm not ingesting pesticides or contributing to their being sprayed on farms and poisoning the water and land (along with the food).  Mash this dough evenly into the bottom of the pan covering the entire bottom.  Bake for 15 minutes. Allow to cool so it hardens.

The top layer mixed and ready to pour onto bottom layer.

In the meantime, make your top layer:  mix 3 eggs, 1 c. raw cane sugar, 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 c. lime (or lemon) juice until well blended then stir in the chopped stalks.  Pour this over the cooled bottom layer and spread evenly.  Bake one hour, turning oven to 400 for last 15 minutes.  Make sure the topping is set up; it might need a little longer cook time. 


If you build it they will come:  the Mason Bee House on the art studio, L'Atelier.  Netting is to keep birds out.

A...n...d....  another use for those stalks after they die back in the fall (they persist through winter so you can harvest them right up into early Spring) is housing for Mason bees.  These solitary bees nest in tubes, whether that be hollow plant stalks, holes beetles have drilled in trees, or anything similar such as holes we drill or tubes we put out.  They live for 6 weeks in the Springtime right at the moment fruit trees bloom.   
***If you have fruit trees, you want these bees on your property.***  They are easy to care for and do a better job with fruit trees than honeybees because of how they gather nectar.

Drilling the starter holes in 7" pieces of Fir 4" x 4", then on to using a hand-held drill to finish them.

Mason bee cocoons gifted from a friend, thanks Laura!  Males on left, Females on right.

Mason Bee cocoon, they hatch from the nipple end, so this needs to face out if placed in a tube.

Here is a great book if you want to learn more.  Here is one of many houses you can purchase for them.
If you want to make your own, they prefer 5/16th size holes 6" deep (don't use pressure treated wood).  And of course, if you have access to a stand of Japanese Knotweed (bamboo also can work well), you can harvest your own as I did (seen collected in the 4 black pots in above picture of large Mason bee house).

A simple, smaller house can be made too, such as this one upper left.



Telling the Truth through Rorschach Collage

"Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know." - J.R.R. Tolkien

'Cosmic Mitosis' 2015

"In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell

'From Dust, To Dust' 2015

 “You can recognize a pioneer by the arrows in his back.” - Beverly Rubic

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand and melting like a snowflake." - Francis Bacon 



"Let the Beauty You Love Be What You Do." - Rumi

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, 
for going out, I found, was really going in.” - ​John Muir

The front yard at sunset a couple nights ago.  Major seeding happening in the greenhouse to the right today.

 “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” -
​ ​
Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

Today's Infusion:  Hawthorn flower and leaf, Nettles, Hibiscus, Raspberry, Mulberry, and Sarsaparilla.

"​Close some doors. 
Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because they no longer lead somewhere." 
- ​Paulo Coelho

Down the road from my house on the way to spend the day at the tattoo shop yesterday:  a gaggle of Vultures.  I did not see anything dead; there were just as many in the trees.  I take it as a sign from a totem of mine.  Their scientific name is apt:    Cathartes aura, meaning 'Golden Purifier."  Their medicine totem is very powerful.  They create life from death. Their riding of the thermals gives vision to the wind.  Graceful creatures, with little fear, doing what needs to be done and sustaining themselves from it - and in so doing supporting health for ALL.  <3

 I saw Grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, “It tastes sweet, doesn’t it?” 
“You have caught me,” Grief answered, “and you’ve ruined my business. 
How can I sell sorrow, when you know its blessings?”
- Rumi


"Why then have to be human?
Oh, not because happiness exists,
Nor out of curiosity...

But because being here means so much;
Because everything here,
Vanishing so quickly, seems to need us,
And strangely keeps calling to us...
To have been
Here once, completely, even if only once,
To have been at one with the earth -
This is beyond undoing."

– Rainer Maria Rilke



The Solution to Hive Beetles - or, Who's Living in my Hive?

"Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt – marvelous error! –
That I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
And sweet honey
from my past mistakes."
- Antonio Machado

Well, I think I may have found the solution to hive beetles and maybe even wax moth!  Ha!

Did she kill the bee or did she eat one that died naturally from old age or the horribly cold winter we had?  The hive was full of "fresh" dead bees.  I feed them to my songbirds at the feeders when I clean out a dead hive.

Black Widow spiders!  Ha!

I went into winter with 3 hives and one died so I split its contents (honey, pollen, and comb) between the other two to keep until Spring (as they and the freezing temperatures will do a better job of protecting it than any other means I have), but this meant that there was lots of open space in the hives.  Well one of them, Organza, had heavy winter losses and I was concerned she may have died (we had 60mph winds and lows in the single digits this winter), so I went in to inspect Thursday since it was in the 70s and sunny.  I found the hive alive and well (with Queen) though the bee ball was about the size of my fist and loose.  Since temperatures have warmed and the hive has plenty of food, I feel she will do okay.

Anyway, enough background info, get this, I found 7!  seven! Black Widows IN THE HIVE.  I have issues with hive beetles in my hives (no mite issues as many others do) and had seen a couple wax moth larvae at the top when inspecting on a cooler day (but not going further into the hive because it was too cold).  Well, not a single hive beetle in the entire hive!  and no signs of wax moth or their larvae I had seen earlier.

Such Sheer Beauty.

I think the huge population loss was from the weather, but I s'pose the Black Widows may have played a role too?  So maybe not truly an answer, but an interesting consideration nonetheless.  Black Widows are not hunters; they stay put in their webs, so any insect they eat has to basically go to them.  I imagine the bees could learn where they are and stay away (in situations such as this where there is lots of space in the hive).  Seems this type of thing would happen naturally in hives in trees.  Also, I have a feeling the Black Widows were merely being opportunists (food, warmth, protection from the elements) and not ravaging killers.

I took the spiders out gently and put them in the woods to go about their lives elsewhere.  I am just glad I didn't get bit as I know to be careful where I put my hands and bare feet in the yard, but never thought of the danger in my hive.  I don't wear gloves when working the bees and had put my hand right into the area where I spotted the first Black Widow, pictured above.  Ack.  Never considered there being something more dangerous than a bee sting in the hive!

Organza is getting renamed because of this, from now on she will be called 'Friend of the Widow.'  :)

Harvested Propolis for Medicine-making.

I cleaned up the extra supers and got Friend of the Widow down to 3 medium supers, two full of honey and pollen and one just open comb.  Some of this honey will go on my new packages that are coming soon along with the cleaned up open comb supers I took off - no Black Widows!


Collage from the Archives

Matthew 10:16  2010

"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, 
be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

"It is ironic that, while concentrating on the defense of our country from enemies 
who would destroy it from without, 
we should be so heedless of those who would destroy it from within."

​                                                                                              - Rachel Carson​