Tag Archives: bees

A boy and his loves.

Liam was with me for a couple of days last week. He is almost six and suddenly reads with astonishing fluency. Reading is downright fun for him, I guess that’s why, and the more you do something you love, the better you get at it. I was pleased to realize that he would be just the person at just the stage to appreciate The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, so I searched through my bookshelves to find it. We read it together with many giggles.

The artwork, by David Diaz, is much more pleasing to me than that in The Pig in the Spigot, another of Wilbur’s books for children which I wrote about here once. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet, with a short verse musing on what would happen to our beloved world if that letter were no more.

After reading the book, then eating dinner, we went on one of my creek walk loops. Immediately we began to practice our mutual love of plants and their names. My grandson is starting to understand that I don’t know every plant, and our nature study is more of a joint effort now, with him not saying, “What is this?” so much, and saying, “Grandma, look!” more.

But he brought up the subject of the alphabet also, as we walked along, saying, out of the blue, “If there were no letter N, we wouldn’t have pain! or lanes! — or extensions!”

Our walk took longer than I planned, because I had forgotten about how it’s our habit to meander and pick things, as I had started out with Liam in Flowery Town years ago.

FT P1090307

We ate quite a few new-green wild fennel fronds on this walk, and even some slightly older ones, comparing the flavor. And several times he reminded me that we must take the route home that passes by the pineapple guava hedge, because he was eager to taste the flowers I’d mentioned.

We ate flower petals, and got to bed late, and the next morning the boy picked more right next to my garden dining spot, which he added to our breakfast feast. Rarely is it truly the right weather to eat breakfast outdoors here in my city, and this may have been my first time to do it with company so agreeable.

The middle of this second day was spent at my church, where the end of the children’s week-long summer program featured a long session of water play, and Liam was delighted to get all wet and to eat a popsicle.

Even here, he drew my attention to a tree blooming right above, which I’m sure I’d never noticed before:

While children were settling down for the Bible lesson that morning, another boy showed me this fly that he was admiring on his hand. I think Liam was already waiting patiently on the other side of the circle so he didn’t see it.

Later that afternoon I had planned to have him help me clean the greenhouse, but then realized he’d like better to pick sweet peas to take home to his mother. I have only a little patch that I didn’t pull out yet. He was diligent about that task for nearly an hour, and collected a large jarful. I made headway on the greenhouse, and we took breaks to study the bumblebees that only recently decided to mob those flowers.

One day we had read Monarch and Milkweed, and the other, I showed him my milkweed plants; the Showy Milkweed is in a jungle behind the fig tree, where I hope, if Monarch caterpillars hatch out, the birds might not notice them…?

Liam helped me to see my flowers without a magnifying glass. As we were looking at some tiny succulent flowers, and I was trying to get a good picture of them, I began to notice little black dots on them. “Are those holes in the petals, can you see?” I asked him. He squatted down and looked hard, and told me that they were things on the ends of hairs coming out of the middle of the flower. Ah, stamens! When I enlarged the photo, I could see, too:

We washed rocks! Liam had been examining and organizing one of my collections of pebbles and cones and such in the house, and out here I had him put these larger stones from the Sierras and from the Sacramento River through some sudsy water and a rinse, so they could wait presentably until I find a use for them.

What other things did we both like to do while he was visiting? Eat ice cream cones, and judge matchbox car races, and read Winnie-the-Pooh. Many times during his last hours with me, lines from Pooh or The Disappearing Alphabet would come to his mind and he would say them again, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, knowing I liked them, too. He especially liked these from the page about the letter L:

“Any self-respecting duck
would rather be extinct
than be an uck.”

I was so grateful to Liam’s parents for making this intimate visit work out. Next time I see him, he will be more grown up, and a different boy. But probably not all that different. I hope we can always find a way to share our love for words and plants and many more details and gifts of this vast world in which our loving Father has placed the two of us as grandma and grandson.

Her head in the nest.

My latest bee study was this morning, and this busy girl won the contest after I sorted and cropped and compared my many photos. It’s the first picture I have taken of a bee on a blackberry flower. When I realized that, it made me curious as to what all bee-flower interactions I’ve captured before, and I started hunting through my files to create a list of bee pictures. Right next to this one, more bees were drinking at the privet flowers. Soon I will show you one of them, too! But now it’s past my bedtime, and I’m sure the bees turned in a while ago.

Water, watercress, and catsear.

Dandelions and false dandelions – Over the last couple of years the false kind, or catsear, Hypochaeris radicata L., has flourished in dead or dying lawns in our town. Many people have let their lawns go, because of the drought, and there’s no recovering them now just because the winter was wet.

The catsear is prettier, I think, because the flowers are on long stems that wave in the breeze. I had them before my re-landscaping project began, and several of my neighbors still have them in abundance; here I am showing Ray’s place, as good as it ever looks, because he never does anything but mow once or twice a year….

And below, Vera’s front yard. Unlike Ray, Vera likes to garden, and she gave me my aloe saponaria start many years ago.

I never see real dandelions anymore. They must need more water, and the recent conditions are letting the catsear dominate.

I walk by this rose bush several times a week. It’s not cared for, and looks generally bad, but on this particular morning there was one rare perfect bloom proudly standing out from the mess.

The most interesting thing I’ve seen in a long time on my walks was two Asian women down at the creek gathering watercress.

And the prettiest thing was bees on Russian sage. I can’t resist trying to photograph one more bee on one more flower, especially if it is a pairing of insect and flower that I haven’t captured before. I was so happy on my walk this morning, I didn’t want it to end, so I changed my route to add a few more blocks, and that’s how I happened to see these bees.

 

Back in my own garden, more plants are blooming. Kim gave me hollyhock seeds three years ago, and I planted them in my new greenhouse last fall and transplanted them to a spot that I think must be too shady, because the plants are diminutive – but the first bloom is out!

 

 

When designing my backyard garden, we deliberately planted the salvia near the dodonea, to get this color contrast. It’s working right now!

Above: fig tree, mock orange, and sea holly.

I have two kinds of lamb’s ears: the old ones that were propagated from my old garden, and which are all sending up long flower spikes right now.

…and new ones bought at a nursery, which have broad leaves, more green, and may not flower much. Lots of people have told me that their lamb’s ears don’t. But one of them is sneaking out a flower, only to send it on to the sidewalk to risk a trampling.

June has brought warmer temperatures, and I hope to spend more time in the garden again. Yesterday my dear godmother came over and we did sit eating our ice cream where we could hear the bees humming and the see the goldfinches at the feeder.

And we could smell the sweet peas! I ended up picking four bouquets of them yesterday, including one to send home with her. I also had to trim back some of the stems to keep them from squishing the pole beans. So this may be the peak of the bloom. There’s not much room for me to grow anything else just yet, because it’s the Year of the Sweet Peas!

The family celebrates Jamie.

When we were snuggling and chatting on the couch at her house last week, four-year-old Ivy introduced the topic of the faces of her grandmas. After we talked a while about red spots and wrinkles, she pointed to a tiny freckle on her wrist and said with pride, “This is my first brown spot!”

There was a good bit of cuddle time during my visit, because most of the family had colds and weren’t at their most energetic. One day in particular it was uncomfortably chilly outdoors, and snow fell off and on all day.

But my drive up the state had been mostly under sunny skies, which meant that I could stop and take pictures anytime I wanted — and I did want quite frequently. I had dragged myself away from home, wondering what had I been thinking, planning a trip when gardening and Lenten activities are legion. But as soon as I got away from my usual environment and wide views opened up to me, the spring-green leaves and plantations of wildflowers made me glad I was making  a tour of points north.

I saw hundreds of these Western Redbuds along the highways.

And twice, I got close enough to discover a bee enjoying them, too.

 

So many kinds of wildflowers were blanketing the slopes in swaths of yellow, orange, blue and white. I only managed to get close to some lupines. I don’t even know what most of the other flowers were – except the California poppies. I was flying past them too fast!

 

 

 

 

Another bush I saw on my journey was unfamiliar to me. It grows along the creek beds, and when its foliage comes out it is needle-like. It’s a softer, orangey pink compared to the Redbud…

Bear Creek in Lake County

…and its flowers are like beads:

I love the almond and walnut trees when they are bare.
The California almonds have already leafed out,
but the walnuts are still pale gray and venerable:

That freezing cold day at Pippin’s, we celebrated Jamie’s second birthday. His Aunt Pearl and three of those cousins came up from Davis, too, to spend a day and half, which made everything more festive. Maggie helped Scout make a glittery poster to hang near the dining table, and several of us blew up a score of balloons. Cupcakes were baked and decorated. When Jamie finally figured out that he was the center of attention, and that he was the one to blow out candles, he was quite pleased.

I also received a late birthday present from Pearl, with orange blossoms attached to the package by way of decoration. I kept them by my bedside, and then next to the driver’s seat on my way home. One of these Aprils I will go back to the land of my childhood and just live in the scented atmosphere for a few days, for old time’s sake, and for the delicious sating of my olfactory sense.

The next day was a little warmer, and dry. We could take walks, pulling Ivy and Jamie in the wagon. The Professor took the four oldest children to a shooting range for a while – who doesn’t love an uncle who will do that? One day he worked at burning some of the huge number of branches that fell from their trees during the very snowy winter, and Scout helped by dragging them across the yard.

At different times during my stay, both Scout and Ivy asked if I would come outside to see certain springtime happenings in their world. Ivy loves the tiny violets that pop up all over the lawn, dark violet and lavender. I see from an old blog post that I had also discovered those many years ago, but I was sure in the moment that this must have been the first time.

When I found out that Scout (seven years old) knows the names of most of the trees on the property, I brought my notebook outside and jotted down as we walked around the house: oak, maple, hawthorn, red fir, spruce, Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, locust, weeping willow… the ones I didn’t remember, maybe I will next time. He and I examined the thorns of the hawthorn compared to those of the locust.

The time went fast. Soon I was driving back, through the Central Valley that is heating up nicely and made me wish I were wearing something thinner than jeans. I thought about my future as regards expeditions in March. In the last three years I have acquired two grandsons whose birthdays are in March, so I think I better get used to this happy Happy Birthday routine. 🙂 Nothing could be sweeter.