Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Protect our Pollinators - USPS Unveils Butterfly and Bee Stamp Art to Honor Native Habitat. Celebrate with Entertaining Honey Cocktail Recipe!





The U.S. Postal Service announced they are paying tribute to the beauty and importance of pollinators with stamps depicting two of our continent’s most iconic: the monarch butterfly and the western honeybee, each shown industriously pollinating a variety of plants native to North America.

The Protect Pollinators Forever stamps were dedicated at noon, August 8th at the American Philatelic Society National Summer Convention StampShow in Richmond, VA. And I was the first to buy the Pollinator stamps at my local Post Office!

“Bees, butterflies and other pollinators sustain our ecosystem and are a vital natural resource,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer Gary Shapiro, who will dedicate the stamps. “They are being threatened and we must protect them.”

Scheduled to join Judge Shapiro in the dedication are American Philatelic Society President Mick Zais; The Pollinator Partnership President & CEO Val Dolcini; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director for External Affairs, Midwest Region, Charles Traxler. U.S. Postal Service Director, Stamp Services Mary-Anne Penner will serve as master of ceremonies.

“We’d like to thank the U.S. Postal Service, not only for supporting StampShow Richmond, but for bringing stamps that are sure to be a hit with collectors,” said Zais.

Andy, husband of a favorite cousin of mine - Teri Lewkow - is a postal hero in Florida. For years I’ve heard the stories of how much his route customers appreciate and love him. I can’t help thinking with the introduction of the Protect Pollinators stamp art collection - we can now thank our Postal team, or mail carriers, for not only supporting our native landscapes but also for bringing such beauty right to our doors as a hopeful reminder to respect our environment. Sort of like the Johnny Appleseed of the plant kingdom; spreading love like so much native seeds and blooms.



The stamps feature a monarch and a coneflower (photo by Karen Mayford); a monarch and a zinnia (photo by Bonnie Sue Rauch); and a monarch and a goldenrod (photo by Justin Fowler);



Further, a western honeybee and a golden ragwort (photo by George D. Lepp); and a western honeybee and a New England aster (photo by Michael Durham).

These insects are go about their business every day, providing the vital ecological service of pollination.

“As with their fellow pollinators — other insects, birds and bats — they are rewarded with sweet nectar as they shuttle pollen from blossom to blossom. The plants are rewarded too. They can then produce the seeds that bring their next generation. Humans also benefit. We can thank insect pollinators for about a third of the food that we eat, particularly many of the fruits and vegetables that add colorful variety and important nutrients to our diet.”

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) and western honeybees (Apis mellifera), also called European honeybees, are two of North America's most iconic pollinators. Both travel far and wide. Monarchs can flutter thousands of miles in one of nature’s most wondrous migrations, a multigenerational round-trip that can cross southern Canada, the north-south breadth of the contiguous United States, and deep into Mexico, where they rest for the winter before returning north.

While western honeybees do not naturally migrate such distances, beekeepers truck their hives on long-haul migrations, accommodating agricultural growing seasons around the nation. These bees are far and away the continent’s most vital pollinators, servicing almond, citrus, peach, apple and cherry tree blossoms, plus the blossoms of berries, melons, cucumbers, onions and pumpkins, to name just a few. Surpluses of honey, created from nectar by honeybees as a nonperishable food source for their hives, is yet another benefit to humans.

Regrettably, in today’s world, “these pollinators need mindful human intervention in order to thrive. The hives of western honeybees have lately been raided by parasitic mites and plagued by Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious condition which disorients bees and causes them to abandon their hives. While monarch butterflies, utterly dependent on milkweed plants throughout their range and specific mountain forests in Mexico, face collapsing populations as these habitats disappear to accommodate farming, urban development and illegal logging.

Throughout North America, efforts to halt logging, study the effects of agricultural herbicides and pesticides, and plant long swaths of flowers along stretches of highway and other such rights-of-way offer promise. On a grassroots level, individuals and groups can help provide for pollinators by planting locally appropriate flowers — a win–win for people and pollinators alike.

“The Protect Pollinators stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce price.”

Joining the Pollinator Party

The USPS is joining a heroic network of organizations working to promote awareness and educate citizens about what we must do to protect the health of pollinators - critical to food and ecosystems through conservation and active participation.

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge was launched by The National Pollinator Garden Network, “an unprecedented collaboration of national, regional, conservation, and gardening groups to address the critical decline of pollinators by asking all Americans to plant for pollinators.”

You can register your pollinator gardens and your personal eden will be added to the Pollinator Partnership Map.

I just registered our country house gardens! It’s fun. And you’ll be kind of deputized - to become an ambassador of the plant kingdom helping to reach the Million Pollinator goal.

You can also sign on as a volunteer to the Pollinator Action Team. And you’ll love the artful Monarch Butterfly map poster.

Here you can also get your hands on a planting guide, by region, to help the Monarch butterflies on their astonishing winter migration to Mexico. Hint: plant milkweeds. I do in my gardens and my clients’ too. Consider the apt-named Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa. They are gorgeous - a bright sun-kissed hue that you and butterflies will find irresistible.









And don’t forget the colorful daisy-like Native: Coneflower Echinacea.





I took this photo in a favorite garden client’s “Butterfly Garden” it is the ying to the yang of the garden’s other side, the “Dinosaur Garden!” Here the Echinacea seduces the Monarch.

I also belong to The Xerces Society. If you’re not familiar with this organization, please check it out. Xerces offers a fascinating peek into what I think is a secret world of invertebrates with their bi-annual publication, Wings, as part of membership.

Most folks are aware of the plight of the bees and their shocking colony collapse disorder. Xerces writes: “Alarmingly, recent work by the Xerces Society in concert with IUCN Bumble Bee Specialist Group, indicates that some species have experienced rapid and dramatic declines more than others. In fact, more than one quarter (28%) of all North American bumble bees are facing some degree of extinction risk.”

And Climate Chaos, especially, “is affecting bumble bees by changing bloom time and subjecting populations to fluctuating temperatures and weather extremes,” adds Xerces.

Overall, Xerces works hard and smart to conserve Monarchs, Bumble Bees, as well as some creatures you’ve probably never seen before!

Protecting our Pollinators is the critical element of the Xerces mission. Bear in mind, “Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of over 85% of the world’s flowering plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. The United States alone grows more than 100 crops that either need or benefit from pollinators, and the economic value of these native pollinators is estimated at $3 billion per year in the U.S.,” according to The Xerces Society.

We’ve all seen the slogan posted as a shield or poster at Farm to Table restaurants and as bumper stickers, “No Farms, No Food.”



But in truth, we should be sporting the tagline, No Pollinators, No Food.

No kidding...

Ordering First-Day-of-Issue Postmarks

Customers have 60 days to obtain first-day-of-issue postmarks by mail.

I got mine. In fact, Mary who was managing the desk the day the stamps were unveiled, wasn’t aware of the Pollinator stamps. I showed her my email from USPS. She asked her boss, who said they had indeed received them; he needed to register them so I could purchase a sheet. Paydirt! I was number one - the first to buy the Pollinator Stamps. They are almost too pretty to use. I love the stamp art.



You can purchase new stamps at United States Post Office locations, at the Postal Store usps.com/shop or by calling 800-782-6724. The USPS says you should affix the stamps to envelopes of your choice, address the envelopes to themselves or others and place them in larger envelopes addressed to:

FDOI – Protect Pollinators Stamps

USPS Stamp Fulfillment Services

8300 NE Underground Drive, Suite 300

Kansas City, MO 64144-9900

After applying the first-day-of-issue postmark, the Postal Service will return the envelopes through the mail. There is no charge for postmarks up to a quantity of 50. For more than 50, customers are charged

5 cents each. All orders must be postmarked by Oct. 3, 2017.

Ordering First-Day Covers

The Postal Service also offers first-day covers for new stamps and stationery items postmarked with the official first-day-of-issue cancellation. Each item has an individual catalog number and is offered in the quarterly USA Philatelic catalog, online at usps.com/shop or by calling 800-782-6724. Customers may request a free catalog by calling 800-782-6724 or writing to:

U.S. Postal Service

Catalog Request

PO Box 219014

Kansas City, MO 64121-9014

You may view many of this year’s other stamps on Facebook at facebook.com/USPSStamps or via Twitter @USPSstamps.

Share the news on social media using the hashtags #ProtectPollinators and #PollinatorStamps.




Entertaining with Honey

We celebrate Bees for their pollination prowess, of course. Plus, we couldn’t love their honey more!

Taste the terroir of local, natural honey -- some taste salty as does a honey farmer near us who borders the sea. Other honey suggests lavender or orange blossoms or native wildflowers.

Honey tasting inspired this cocktail from my upcoming book, Finishing Touches: The Art of Garnishing the Cocktail (available in pre-sale) and named for a favorite garden client, Maria - who has her very own honeybee hives! (Her beekeeper is the same man who tends Bon Jovi’s honeybees. Shhhhh!)

You’ll find the history of honey mead fascinating. Honey is Love.



Maria's Mead: Nectar of the Goddesses - Leeann Lavin

This heavenly cocktail is inspired by honey mead, the world’s oldest spirit; the beverage offering man his first “buzz!” The history of this sweet nectar - or Ambrosia as the Greeks called it - was believed to be descended from the heavens as the “drink of the gods” -- and goddesses! Bees were thought to be driven to the sky to honor the goddess of love, Aphrodite and later, bees were seen as the messengers of the gods. Delivering such sacred love letters it’s no surprise that bees and honey are tied to a fruitful marriage.

The very term “honeymoon” comes from the ancient tradition of giving bridal couples a moons worth of honey–wine.

The “recipe” for honey itself is eternal: honey is flower nectar collected by honeybees -- its different compounds give honey its distinctive flavor and aromas unique to a region’s flowers and blooms. Honey’s enduring properties of taste and healthful properties continue to reward us with a kind of intoxicating love potion.

Ingredients

1 jigger potato vodka- I recommend hand-crafted spirits such as LiV small batch distilled from 100% Long Island potatoes or Tito’s vodka.

1 jigger Sorbetta Strawberry Liqueur- crafted from LiV vodka and fresh homegrown strawberries

2 jigger Owl’s Brew White & Vine tea crafted for cocktails - blend of white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel, & watermelon

.25 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice

.25 oz honey -- locally sourced honey with its genius loci - or “spirit of place” - lends a unique flavor triumph to Maria’s Mead.

Method

Mix all ingredients in cocktail shaker over ice. Strain and pour into white wine glasses or wine goblet.

Garnish with fresh strawberry wrapped with lemon twist, held with a decorative cocktail pick - or as I did, with a bee-u-tiful Bee Jewelry pin.

Food Pairing and Cocktail Composition:

Honey Mead cries out for honey-dripping canapés that stand up to its sweet side, including strong cheeses, spicy soups and vegetables.

With the homegrown honey taking center stage, what better treat to pair it with than another star?

Goat Cheese & Mushroom Honey Stars:
Pizzettes with fig and tea preserves, culinary lavender, sea salt, goat cheese,

Raw honey drizzle

Ingredients

pizza dough

1/3 lb mushrooms

Fig and black tea preserves

12 slices goat cheese

honey

lavender salt

1 tbs olive oil

Sea salt and white pepper

Method

Preheat oven to 400F.

Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil, add sea salt and pepper and let cook until the liquid evaporates.

Roll the dough very thin, about 1/16 of an inch thick. Using a cookie cutter or a glass - cut the dough into shapes. Place the shapes onto an ungreased cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal (to prevent sticking)

Place a smidge of cooked mushroom mixture on each dough shape, topped with the preserves, then a bit of crumbled goat cheese.

Sprinkle with lavender salt (be sure to use the English culinary lavender), and honey drizzle .

Bake for about 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown and cheese has melted.

Can serve hot or cold.

Pair the canapes with dried apricots, Villa Cappelli Lemon Rosemary Almonds and shelled green pistachios.

Entertaining Tips

Everyone’s favorite pollinator, bees are captivating and beguiling. Set up a cocktail composition using some of the honey bee’s favorite habitats, especially fresh flowers. Fresh lavender in tiny vases, and sunflowers, for example, are welcome to bees and guests alike.

Decorate with honey accessories, such a glass honey pot filled with golden honey that also provides the amber gold for dripping on the cheese, canapes, and nuts.

There are a plethora of honeycombs, bee skeps, yellow and black candy kabobs, water-colored macarons, especially yellow, green, black and white, and bee-themed jewelry scattered throughout the composition that add a bee-utiful presentation sure to inspire all kinds of love. Position table setting holders with the local honey’s personally-branded gift logo (spread the honey goodness).

Sprigs of French lavender, and ivy or morning glory, clematis, or other vine twined around the composition and bejeweled with bee jewel studs, add to the garden ambience.

Use color-happy serving pieces & cocktail napkins.

Cheers.

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