Category Archives: bees

I find the oomph in flowers and prose.

My first sewing teacher used to tell me that she found sewing relaxing. I have never become skilled enough that I ever found that to be true for me. Even when I generally derived great satisfaction from sewing darling doll clothes, my neck would get stiff doing the tiny hand stitches at the end. It would never occur to me to pick up a needle and thread for fun or sustenance, during the days of preparation for a big expedition.

My usual way is to endanger my overall health by snacking and forgoing exercise as I become more anxious about setting off, so I was surprised at myself for taking several walks this week. This morning I even walked the whole two miles of what was formerly my daily routine. I saw a family of quail, and some old favorite plants, but it was too early for the bees.

And now here I am working on yet another blog post, after reading and thinking and perusing this and that… one might think it a pretty inefficient use of my limited time, because I am up against looming deadlines. But, I am finding that these activities are as necessary to my overall well-being as the walking is to my legs and back — sometimes I think they are more so.

Evidently there is something about engaging in creative activity that is calming, and clears the mind. The preparations for a big social event also constitute a creative work, but that one is not my favorite, and requires a lot of extra oomph, plus a type of thinking that is a stretch for me. So I sustain myself with words and flowers. 

My first Love-in-a-Mist flower bloomed today! This was a Big Event, a project that started off with my longstanding admiration for these flowers, and a desire to grow them myself. It took years, and the donation of seeds from two friends, and then a couple more years, before I got them planted in the greenhouse in the spring. I put them in three different places in the garden, and hope that they will self-sow at least a little and keep themselves going from now on.

All the white echinacea are standing up tall and elegant, not losing their gracefulness even when the overeager asparagus fronds drape themselves on them.

When the sunflower that the bee sleepers were using began to fade, they rearranged themselves on others. The three above were seen yesterday morning, but last night and today, no bees at all were bedded down in the open — only this small creature was nestled in a sunflower bud:

I am traveling next week, driving nearly to the bottom of the state, which I’ve never done before. My trip will involve lots of visiting with friends and family, a wedding, and a mountain cabin. I hope to tell you about some of the bloggy details as they emerge, but once I’ve torn myself away from my desktop and my garden, there’s no telling what might happen!

A Friday in May, for May.

It’s the feast of Saints Constantine and Helen, and I was blessed to attend Liturgy, and afterward to meet a new friend there. Then a young altar server needed a ride home, and on the way I encouraged him to talk about his reading. He said that he’d read 40-odd Hardy Boys books but after about 30 realized that they were mostly the same, and getting boring. To make completely sure,  he read a few more. He is about to move up to The Hobbit.

We also talked about the fruit trees that his family has growing in their back yard. Which reminds me of my plum trees: I can report that at last sighting there were at least ten plums on my two Elephant Heart plum trees. They aren’t quite walnut sized yet.

After a warm spell, then a cold and foggy spell, then a high windy spell, the elements seem to be settling down to warm springiness. In the family of bees, this year I mostly have Yellow-Faced Bumblebees everywhere. They are, as last year, hard to photograph not only because of their buzziness, but because they are so heavy that when they light on a flower, it starts rocking and waving erratically from the weight. I did get one photo that is an improvement from last year.

Only a week after I yanked out the old snow-pea vines from October, I  picked a couple of pods from the new batch planted the last day of February. They are the same Green Beauty variety. I might rename them Giant Sweet Green Beauty, from their being substantial in every category.

The Cinderella (Rouge V’if D’Etampes) pumpkins I started in the greenhouse already have little fruits on them! As do the summer squashes.

Also from the greenhouse is the most spindly chamomile, and ground (hugging) cherries:

The Jerusalem Sage flowers don’t give up their nectar without a great effort from the bees, who burrow down inside and make the whole flower vibrate for a long minute or two while they finish their work and are backing out again.

The peskiest “weed” I have is Showy Milkweed, which has grown a whole forest of progeny under the fig tree. A few of the starts have willingly taken to be transplanted to this pot, but most break off when I try to move them, and I have temporarily given up trying.

The Showy Milkweed is aptly named. If any of you lives close to me and wants the pot of starts, here’s a picture of it in bloom:

My friend May has been teaching me about plants and sharing her love for gardening with me for about 40 years now. I remember the first time she noticed that I didn’t know what to do with my basil plants, and she offered to snip the leaves (and use them) to keep them growing. Today she celebrates her name day. So I dedicate this post and the beauty of my garden world to YOU, May! God bless you, and may the prayers of St. Helen help to prosper us in our gardening.

How many burning bushes today?

I stepped just beyond my front door only to put a letter out for the mailman, but I immediately forgot myself and stepped farther, to gaze upon that small part of my kingdom…

Carpenter bees were working at the white salvia that has filled out so well and become a definite feature of the landscape. Only carpenter bees were there. What about the other flowers? On the wallflower, grown to a prominent bulwark of purple in that area that is squeezed between the street and the driveway, buzzed a half dozen different sorts of pollinators, among them honeybees (I hope), stripey little bumblebees, and a species new to me, with bright yellow abdomens underneath.

And what a quietly “burning” bush — to follow the metaphor of the poem below — this creature is. I’m amazed that I saw him at all:

I spent a half hour studying them and collecting blurry pictures to help me see them better. I pulled out the orange California poppies that I am trying to keep from taking over my pale yellow plantation of them. After peering into the asparagus beds that are becoming a forest, I spied a few spears that could be cut, and managed to remember them long enough to bring out a knife with which to do that.

The rest of today promises to hold encounters with several bright and human epiphanies. My world is illuminated and shining full of these transitory and eternal treasures. Christ is risen!

THE BRIGHT FIELD

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
the treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the burning bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

~ R. S. Thomas (1913-2000), Welsh poet

Drinking up this last one.

Some days the birds are so joyful in my garden that they appear to be beside themselves with exuberance. The finches and warblers gather at the chapel feeder, and then a few fly off into the trees to peck around, I assume for insects. A sparrow swoops toward the fountain, and then pauses, and twists midflight into a hairpin turn back the way it came. I have watched this fancy wing-work many times, as this morning from my spot by the table, which is now a sort of icon corner also. If the birds can have so much fun, maybe I should not worry about the way I flit about in my own little realm.

On a morning like today, when the sun is shining, it can be quite lively with titmice, chickadees and towhees, too. I’m afraid the hawks notice this activity; several times there have been brief encounters when they dive silently onto the playground of little birds, and the sound and size of their wings catches my attention — then they are gone.

But twice this month it happened. Once after the attack the raptor sat on the fence, backlit by the morning sun; I could see the shape and size of it, and the color of its breast. The next time I saw its dark gray back just before it disappeared. I think it was a Cooper’s Hawk. When I read about them, their habit of eating smaller birds was mentioned.

The last day of October is quieting my heart. I know, in the coming months it will be a struggle, to get myself outdoors as much as I know is sublime and profitable, but today was easy. Even the honeybees were enjoying my warm corner with the salvia that has many new little flowers on the ends of mostly dried-up stems. When I first sat down there, the bees were a little slow, but as the temperature rose so did their speed.

So many days of the month have been dreary and discouraging. I think at the beginning of it the plants were suffering from heat and smoke. Now they like the clean and cooler air. I forgot to water the succulents under the manzanita, and one poor specimen is showing just how it feels to be hanging on with one’s roots, conserving water, letting go of leaf after leaf while waiting for the gardener to bring refreshment.

But the majority are enjoying what might be their favorite, blooming time of year:

These last few hours of October are full to bursting with the beauty of the season. I know tomorrow will not be much different from today, in reality. But in our minds…. we remember that it’s time to turn the page of the calendar.

A jasmine flower just opened.